Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dear Mandy...


Dear Mandy,

I wanted to let you know that I just stumbled on your blog and I love it! I am another woman who has no emotional or physical desire to have children. I am so glad I found your blog because it and the comments left there make me feel like I'm not a weirdo, cold, selfish, bitch like I thought. It has made me realize that I'm not the only woman who feels like this and it has given me the strength and peace of mind to continue with the decision I've (we've) made that I know is best for me and my fiance. It has made me realize that the reasons that I did want to have kids were selfish ones and I was only justifying and reinforcing these reasons to make myself feel like there really is a reason to have kids if you don't have a maternal instinct.

People have said so many crazy things to me, some of which are all too familar to you. I wanted to share one incident with you that is particularly irritating to me and still bothers me to this day.

My fiance has a chronic illness and due to this he is not able to work anymore and receives disability (one reason we are CF). We have been together for several years and I have stuck by his side through everything. I waited so long for him to be able to give me the wedding and engagement that I have always dreamed of. When this finally happened I was beside myself with excitement and couldn't wait to share with my family. We decided to tell my parents personally and also decided to announce it at an upcoming family gathering.

While most of my family was excited for me, congratulated us, and ooohed and ahhed over my ring, one person in particular managed to ruin it for me. This person was one of my relatives, who, when I was younger I always felt understood me and I thought she would be the most excited for me besides my parents. Lately though I had been a target of her 'baby propaganda' and I should have known better than to sit with her and chat with me alone. We discussed the arrangements we had so far, she managed to offend me twice in this conversation first suggesting that I change the date of my wedding since she would be out of town and in the next sentence asked me the dreaded baby question to which I replied that we weren't that interested and it wasn't something we had planned on doing.

Instead of just saying okay she told me, "Well, it's not something you think about, you just do it." I can't even believe this type of reasoning! I was so upset that I didn't show anyone else my ring and didn't talk about it with anyone else that day. I was so hurt and offended that she didn't even care about me or my plans that she just wanted someone ANYONE to pop out a baby so SHE could enjoy it! This isn't the first time she's cornered me at family functions trying to get me on the 'baby bandwagon' using such other phrases such as, 'it's not something you can plan' (managed to make to 30 without getting knocked up, so I disagree), it's not that hard (uh, don't I recall you trying to give us away to strangers?), it's different when it's your child, it's my responsibility to give my niece a cousin, among other equally annoying things.

Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to share my story and connect with someone who shares my views. Please feel free to share my email on your blog.

Thank you!

L.
___________________________________

Dear L,

It can be very painful when people dismiss and invalidate our choice to be childfree. How would your relative feel if you made a similarly dismissive comment to her after she announced she was pregnant? Such rudeness and insensitivity to a mom would never be tolerated, yet we childfree are expected to sit quietly and turn the other cheek when we are accosted, insulted and talked to like we are misguided idiots.

I've thought about the best way to respond to people like this and I have a couple ideas. Perhaps other readers can also chime in and together we can collectively come up with ways to combat the problem of people being disrespectful, invalidating and hurtful to the childfree.

The first idea I have, which I think would be highly effective (but it would require some serious acting chops) is to bust out laughing at the person when they make a stupid comment such as your relative's. "You didn't THINK about having kids or PLAN it!??? What are you out of your MIND!????" and continue busting out laughing like it is the funniest thing you ever heard. In fact, double over. Fall to the floor clutching your stomach to really drive the point home. After all, while your relative was trying to make you feel like an idiot, the truth is that anyone who commits to the monumental, life altering, burdensome, irreversible undertaking of parenthood without thought or planning is an idiot of the highest order, and if you really think about, not a person whose appraisal of you should count for anything.

Another tactic is to just smile back calmly at your relative with raised eyebrows, like the cat who ate the canary, nod and say, "Hm" (as in...that's an interesting viewpoint). And say nothing else. Stand up tall and remain unflappable. Don't get sucked in or let that person's idiocy ruin your day.

The fact is, people who make harsh, critical, negative judgements of you for your childfree choice are doing so because they are insecure and feel threatened by it. Why? Because taking the stance of not having children is interpreted as a negative appraisal of them, since they have selected the very path you are rejecting.

You and your fiance carefully considered being a parent. You undoubtedly weighed out all the pros and cons, did a cost-benefit analysis, and then rejected that path, deciding that your life would be better and happier free of children. Your relative (consciously or unconsciously) interpreted that as a rejection of her, since she is a parent and you are rejecting parenthood. She is not used to negative appraisals of parenthood, since most people reinforce and validate this choice at every turn, yet here comes this independent-thinking whippersnapper who is refusing to hop on the baby mania bandwagon and is instead taking an altogether different path. Just who do you think you are anyway?  So her hurt feelings at your rejection and perceived invalidation of her life path compelled her to lash out, hurt you back, invalidate your life path and put you in your place.  Now she feels better.  And you feel like shit.

As childfree folks, I think we need to remember that a person's negative reaction to our life choice is more a statement about them than us. If we can remember that their hostility toward us stems from their own issues and insecurities (and in many cases their own regrets and dissatisfaction with the path they have taken), and try to develop a sense of self worth that comes from within and that is not dependent on the appraisals of others, the harsh judgements and invalidations we face from the childed will stop stinging so badly.

27 comments:

beatlefreak81 said...

Thanks for posting this, it's my letter to you! I love the suggestion that I laugh at her! I will definitely try to remember to do this once I get over the initial shock of her bringing this up to me AGAIN. Thanks for the advice!

Bee said...

I'm still trying to get past the "It isn't something you think about" comment. I mean, seriously???

Roxie Harlow said...

Thanks so much for posting this and for your wonderful reply! I'm in a serious, long time relationship and my boyfriend's mother's only reason for disliking me is that I don't want children. She thinks that HE doesn't want kids only because I don't. I guess he can't have a mind of his own in a relationship. His mom had him at a very young age and so has been a parent for most of her life. You made an excellent point about being childfree invalidating those that are parents. This makes a lot of sense to me and could be the reason she dislikes me so much. My choice to remain childfree could make her feel like I'm saying she wasted her life raising children. Or some such thing. Thanks again, Mandy!

Julia said...

This entire weekend my CF husband and I attended family functions with loads of kids. Yesterday night we got home and both looked at eachother and said "thank GOD we aren't having kids!" haha we say this alot. Made me think though - how often do parents look at each other and say "thank god we did have kids!"? i don't think i've EVER heard any parent say that. Just wanted to share that thought :)

NoniWork said...

At the end of the day, I just roll my eyes when people do things like this. Sometimes directly in front of the people. Really, laughter seems to be a good idea. Unless the person is someone you don't like, try to make it polite laughter. Just let them know what they said is silly.

Also, you can let them know they're being rude. Like it's been said before, parents are pretty much used to being worshipped. It's almost like children who have never learned manners, and are used to being rude. Depending on the person, I'm quite upfront with picking apart the bingos. The "kids just happen" one is one of my least favorite. Probably because I know some many dumb people who had kids in their teens with losers who have no idea what they're doing. But I digress...

Most importantly, don't let that be the memory you take away from your special days. Be happy for you and your man.

shell said...

I like the busting out laughing response! The nerve of anyone asking you before you are even married when you'll have a baby! What about asking them a question like "do you know how much it COSTS now to raise a kid to age 18?". They probably don't so then you can tell them "it's about $250K and that's the no-frills upbringing. No ballet or piano lessons, no braces etc.".
Or you can say that you'll tell your reasons for not having children but first they have to tell you their reasons FOR having them. Why is it always on the childfree to justify their choices/decisions? Put it back on them.

Gillian said...

I can sympathise with Roxy Harlow - my partners mum thinks the same thing. She thinks back to family occasions where my other half would entertain the kids for a wee while and can't understand why now, at least 20 years later, he doesn't want any as "he used to enjoy being with them so much". She thinks its mainly down to me... I've got to the point where I really don't care!

I'd also like to pass on an incident that happened at the weekend. Alone in the house at the weekend, I saw a trailer for a UK TV show "One born every minutes - where are they now?". Basically it was a programme that was broadcast live from a maternity ward that was catching up with the featured parents and children a few years down the line.

One of the mums turned to her other half and said "what's the point of life if you don't have kids". Even though I was on my own I ended up hurling a ton of verbal abuse at the TV... Maybe it was just as well I was on my own!

Violet said...

i still- after 20 years of saying i don't want to be a mommy [i hate that word] to my friends and family- stilll hear:
"you will change your mind" ... NOPE
"you haven't met the right mate yet" ... NEVER WILL
"it is the best thing that will ever happen to you"... WTF!?

Rae said...

I've gotten to the point that even though I love playing with kids I have to stay away from them at family and social gatherings. I can't even look at a baby without getting ganged up on. And not just passing mention, cornered and bereated for the rest of the evening. I have even been considering leaving a nonprofit group I and my family have been active in for four generations just because of the extremely uncomfortable atmosphere.

Luckily I have a very supportive core group of friends who are either CF and proud, fencesitters (like us) who are open about our uncertainty about children, and one very excited to have kids couple who can't wait for them to have a ton of cool honorary aunts and uncles and teases that if we had kids who would spoil theirs? If it weren't for those people I wouldn't have a social life at all.

I wish I had the guts to just laugh in their face instead of go to response which is silence, 30 second pause, then asking if anyone has seen the latest movie.

There really isn't a point to this, other than I'm happy to see other people that are like me/us.

beatlefreak81 said...

Rea- I am all too familiar with that situation. It's sad that you can't even enjoy your nieces and nephews without being targeted. It shouldn't he of any concern to them what your life choices are since it's not their life and they don't have to live it. Some people will never be happy until everyone else is as miserable as the are.

I guess I can understand why my choice could shatter the world view of someone else. After all we are brainwashed all our lives as little girls to believe that being a 'mommy' (I hate that word too.) is the most important thing we can ever do. I hate that mentality, there is more to being a woman than popping out some babies especially if you don't want them. I think that's the worst thing you can do, have babies you don't want just to give into some BS pressure. When I tell our friends (some of them already parents) our child plans I describe it as 'opting out'. Some of them look at me like "Why didn't we think of that!" *sarcasm* What you didn't check that box at the bottom of the form? LOL!

Valerie said...

Laughing at them is the best suggestion ever. I am definitely filing that away to use in future...

Lucy Arin said...

This takes guts, but it is what I do when I have had it up to here with the baby bandwagon folks.

"You're not seriously asking about my sex life, are you?!?"

This must be done in the most horrified tones you can manage, as if the person had asked you to murder puppies. Be loud. Stop conversation around you in its tracks. It works because it embarrasses the person who is badgering you about having kids. Every time I have used this response, the person asking me about my choices in reproduction has stopped asking me about having kids. They usually sputter incoherently for a few seconds, blush bright red, and what a surprise, change the subject.

Dee said...

I just spent a week at home with my family in Indiana for my grandma's funeral and Thanksgiving. At my grandma's funeral, I was asked numerous times if I had children yet. I'm 36. My husband is 43. We have no intention of having kids. But people thought that my grandma's funeral was a great place to call me out and question my decision. I really wish I would have started laughing at the guy who pushed me particularly hard on the issue.

Temujin said...

Rolling on the floor laughing is a great response I never thought of. Find the joy wherever you can, I say.

Another possible reaction is to say they could be totally right:

"You may be right and I could be wrong, but there's only one way to find out. You have kids and I won't, and we'll see what happens. Let's check in again in twenty years and see how I feel then? I don't want either one of us to prejudice the outcome, so we'll need to break all contact for those 20 years. Can you do that, please, stop talking to me for a couple decades?"

Jackson T. said...

This site has some funny comebacks to the question, why don't you have kids. I have used a few of these.

http://www.ishouldhavesaid.net/2012/02/how-come-you-dont-have-any-kids-more-child-free-comebacks/

Jennifer McLaughlin said...

I get it all the time. People telling me I'm selfish, people telling me I'll change my mind, that I'm wrong and that children are oh so wonderful and how I'll regret it blah blah blah.
I've known since I was a child that I don't have a maternal bone in my body and that I would much much rather look after animals than some noisy ungrateful little brat.
I've started to tell people that I can't have kids because they usually shut up then and I don't have to have a big argument and be made feel like there is something wrong with me.
I just wish people could respect my decision and not feel the need to question me.

Stew said...

'We have to get a night nurse or we're going to get a divorce, because someone's got to sleep in this house or we're going to kill each other.' http://wonderwall.msn.com/movies/megan-fox-i-gained-23-pounds-while-pregnant-and-i-have-10-left-to-lose-1722782.story

Lady K said...

Violet; my response to the "you haven't met the right man yet" is always "if he's really the right man, he won't want kids either!" works a charm ;)

Jillitha said...

My BF and I say this to each other on a regular basis!

Olimpia said...

I'm at the point where my boyfriend and I of 2 years are getting a house together and planning out our next moves as a couple, which is new and exciting to both of us. My parents are starting to ask me questions about our future, such as if he is the man I think will be capable of supporting our children and me (assuming I'll be a stay-at-home mom, of course, like I double-majored in biology for nothing).

I finally admitted to them this winter that neither of us want children at all and the reply I got was a condescending "everyone always says that and they end up having kids at 40 and with complications." Essentially, get to it soon while you're still young.

So I am supremely surprised that I'm not being taken seriously. I've always gotten disbelief from friends but I thought explaining my reasons would justify my decision and it doesn't seem to make a difference. So I feel for L, it's surprising how little your family listens to you regarding this topic.

Childfreeeee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Childfreeeee said...

Olimpia,

Ask them to put their money where their mouth is. Bet them $1,000 you WON'T have or want children by age 40. Get it in writing and get it notarized. Then, when you turn 40, cash in.

cara said...

I also love those that claim that if they would waited until I could afford them, they would have never had kids!

Where is the common sense? If you cannot afford it, don't do it.

angel and lily said...

I love your advice and I love this blog! I personally pay no attention to people who want to come down on me and my choice to be childfree. I have been brushing everyone's comments and questions off for so long that no one even bothers me anymore about it!

Elena said...

I think the more at home YOU are with your choice, the more you create an invisible boundary around you that tells people you aren't interested in their opinion.

Sometimes I laugh and say, "I raised one alcoholic and one borderline parent. That was enough for me."

The person who hurt me the most with her comment was my favorite aunt who was mostly sympathetic to me, and she said something similarly stupid as the woman who said you don't think about having children, you just do it. My aunt said if I had had children, I wouldn't have had the "luxury" of being as depressed as I had been for most of my life. It provoked the only fight she and I ever had.

I just found this website and I realize the post is an old one, still . . .

Rachel Chatterton said...

I completely feel feel for L. My lack of desire to breed resulted in an abusive 4 year marriage and a messy divorce. Long story short, he felt that I would "grow out" of not wanting a child and lied to me about his not wanting one from the start. After four years of psychological abuse and no forms of affection I moved back to my home state. Now, four years later, I am scheduled to marry my best friend who shares my lack of desire for children. We both work to support our interests, passions, and to spoil our two cats. The only thing I feel missing in my life is the comfort of child-free friendships. Living in a small (17,000+ pop. county) area is the insensate need for every couple to have at least 3 little ones and a grudge against those who don't. Thank you for helping us all realize we are not alone!

Allison DeJordy said...

Just found this blog and I can't get over "It isn't something you think about." You "think about" getting a new haircut. You "think about" getting married. But when it comes to bringing a new life into the world you're supposed to suspend all reason and just jump into it halfassed with no preparation? No wonder kids these days are such terrors, their parents had them just for the hell of it and can't be bothered to actually raise them.