Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Why I Don't Live and Let Live
I know many of my readers will find this hard to believe, but there are some people who think I am doing a grave disservice (to humanity, perhaps?) by vocalizing critical judgements about parenthood.
The kind of comment I sometimes get (usually from parents, but occasionally from childfree folks as well) is along these lines:
You shouldn't be so judgemental of parents. You want people to respect the childfree lifestyle, yet you do not offer the same respect to parents. Live and let live. Some people are happy having kids. Others are happy being childfree. Some people regret having kids, while others regret not having them. Why can't we all get along?
So being that I get this comment from time to time, I thought it would be good to address it.
On the surface, much of this comment is valid. The live and let live, or to each his own philosophy is right in line with my own belief system. And I certainly would love it if the childfree lifestyle was respected and accepted like the parental lifestyle is.
But (sigh) then we have reality.
In reality, the idea of live and let live is - at least for now - a fairytale when it comes to the choice not to have children. Sure, there are some childed folks who support our decision and do not pass negative judgements on us - and we are grateful for those folks - but as of right now, the majority of childed people (which also happens to be the majority of the adult population) does not accept the childfree lifestyle choice as one that is desirable, admirable, viable or in any way positive. To the contrary, most adults view - and often deride - us as selfish, cold, immature, deviant, deficient, confused, pitiable souls who need to be enlightened by those who actually know what's important in life.
So starting out, we childfree folks are not getting a whole lot of warm and fuzzy live and let live vibes from most of the people we encounter in our baby-crazed, family-friendly society. This can put us on the defensive.
Then, we have the factor that parenthood is idealized, glorified and promoted to the point of absurdity in our culture, while the harsh and often soul-crushing reality of parenthood is kept hush-hush and swept under the rug so the fairytale can continue undisturbed in perpetuity. This leads many unsuspecting and unquestioning people to buy into the myth that parenthood is mostly bliss with a tiny bit of aggravation thrown it to keep it interesting, when in reality the reverse is usually true. The result of this cultural brainwashing is that many people who are not remotely close to being parent material, have no business having children, or simply would be much happier living a life sans kids, pop them out mindlessly because "it's just what you do" and because they believe all the messages about parenthood being the most essential and joyful role in life. Then they regret it. Big time. On the contrary, one would be hard-pressed to find a childfree-by-choice person who regrets not having kids. Go ahead and search. We just aren't out there. Despite this, rarely is a person who is embarking on parenthood warned that they may regret their decision, while the childfree - a group that rarely if ever regrets their choice - are constantly chided for our decision and told we will regret it later.
This relentless pro-parenthood propaganda (a.k.a pronatalism) needs to be counterbalanced by a more reasoned and critical view of parenthood because there simply isn't enough balance in the way parenthood is presented in our culture and that's where web sites like this come in. I am here to provide a little balance, to illuminate the other side of parenthood (i.e. the dark side that is swept under the rug), and to counteract all the sugar-coating that is force-fed to people (especially women) so that people can make reasoned and well-informed decisions about what type of lifestyle will best suit them - decisions they will not regret later. As evidenced by the growing hordes of mothers posting lamentful cries on the internet, many women are hopping mad. They are angry about the lies they have been fed. They are fuming about how they have been duped into the notion that motherhood is a woman's required path to personal fulfillment. Most importantly, they are resentful about how the dark side of motherhood was kept hidden from them. Many of them cry, "I wish somebody told me what it's really like." Well, here I am.
Then we have the third factor which must be stated plainly. The audience for this blog is the childfree and those contemplating the childfree lifestyle. I realize that some parents read this blog, and I welcome them here if they find what I write interesting. But parents, while you are welcome here, please realize that I don't write for you. There is a plethora of web sites, blogs and discussion boards that cater to parents and that support and validate the parenthood lifestyle. This site is not intended to be one of them.
Finally, while I work hard to counterbalance our culture's overglorification of parenthood by shining a spotlight on the well-kept secrets about the less-desirable aspects of that lifestyle, I do ultimately believe the notion of "to each his own". We all want to live the life that brings the most happiness and fulfillment to us during our short journey through life and if that involves having children, so be it. But for many of us, the path to happiness and fulfillment does not involve childbearing, childrearing and all the related drudgery that goes along with it. I am here to provide much-needed validation and support for our choice and make sure that the people who are on the fence about which path to take are doing so with the complete picture of what the life of parent is, instead of the rosy, incomplete, deceiptful "puppies and rainbows" portrayal that we are banged over the head with from the time we even realize what gender we are.