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!


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.