Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Child Free By Choice

For a woman who has no children with zero desire to have any, I sure spend a lot of time reading "MommyBlogs". I read two "Mommybloggers" frequently, not because of their "MOM" status, but because I like their writing, what they have to say, and how they say it. Hell, for a couple of people I have never met, I like them.

Do I always agree with them? No, of course not.

Does it light this fiery desire to have children deep down in my soul? Fuck no. In fact, more than not, it solidifies my position to not have kids.....

If I were to classify myself, I would consider myself as "childfree by choice"; with step-kids..... So am I really "childfree by choice"? Well, I think so, because I am not their mother. I am a parent to them, in some respects; I give them love, shelter, food, clothing and I pick up after them, but I also value the times I can jet out and tell my Little Honey, "THEY YOURS, YOU DO IT". Plus I have no say in their education, health care, etc. I don't know. If you're confused reading this, imagine how I feel.

I am a confused step-parent who enjoys vodka and time alone. I also enjoy bike rides, taking the kids on new adventures, ghost stories, cuddling and cookie baking.

It's a pickle.... So I would rather not classify myself.


Today I watched a webisode of "Momversation" discussing the "Childfree by Choice" movement. "Momversations" are quick web interviews about motherhood featuring some of the biggest "mommybloggers" in internet land; Dooce, Girls Gone Child, and others. At first I thought the "Momversation" episodes were a little over the top with the "Mommyblogger Obsession" plaguing the internet. (You should read what the haters have to say about these women, it is truly an exercise in envy and cruelty. Fascinating stuff.) I then decided that I will do anything to procrastinate work for a few minutes, including watching something that is completely irrelevant to my life.

Just cuz.

I have to say what makes the decisions on having children versus not having them, the reactions to such decisions on either side of the coin, are what alienates the opposing sides. There is not a whole lot of sympathy or empathy going around. CFBC people are not sympathetic to a parent who has been up for a week straight with a cranky kid, and parents are not sympathetic to a CFBC person's annoyance at their child hanging out under their table at Starbucks, screaming at top volume.

I know these are extreme examples, that's the point.

I think what really surprised the women on this webisode about the CFBC movement is the resentment that people without children feel towards a society that is totally geared towards, and caters to, having children and the children themselves. I don't think that CFBC people hate parents, per se..... They hate marketing, media-bias, and disrespect.

From the moment a person or people have kids, they forget what life was like without them. Your life is not your own anymore, and you know what? That's great. That's your choice, and it is a pretty popular choice. You don't have to walk around feeling alienated, like there is something wrong with you because you don't have the desire to have children. You are not accused of being a "cruel KID HATER", or treated like a freak.

Because I am in my thirties, people think my ovaries are an appropriate conversation topic for lunches, brunches, cocktails, business meetings, what have you. Recently a clerk at the grocery store gave her opinion on my reproductive equipment and my plans for the baby factory. FYI, it is incredibly inappropriate to ask me when I plan on having kids when I am buying lube and tampons, BTW. When I tell people I don't want children, I usually get "Oh, I didn't know you didn't like children", which is just fucking stupid. Just because I don't want kids, does not mean that I hate them. I like them very much... I IDENTIFY WITH THEM.... Sometimes a little too much.

Which is probably why it is a good idea that I abstain from creating any.

I cannot count how many times perfect strangers I have met, have told me that I am ruining my life by not only not having my own children, but for helping my partner raise his...... Right to my face. It's completely disrespectful, gross and annoying. I don't know how many people I have told "where to go", after they have made an inappropriate comment about my baby status.

Also, the pontificating needs to stop.

I am so happy that many people discovered that having kids was their reason for living and that the act of procreating successfully was the most important thing they had ever done. Their biggest accomplishment; their opus. That's fantastic, FOR THEM.

I have been told over and over again by several mothers, all ripe with emotion, tears welling up in their eyes, trying to convey to me the importance of motherhood and how much I am missing out on; fervidly trying to convince me to change my mind...

Yet, not one has stopped to pause on how incredibly condescending and disrespectful they are being towards my decision. You have your children, why are you so concerned about my choice?

Not everyone should become parents. There are plenty of people in this world that should be caring for nothing more than sea monkeys, let alone kids, yet they have dozens. Some nut job in California just had eight babies, because deep down, she thinks she is going to get a TV Show on TLC for it.

Now, I am not excusing the needless vitriol that many of my compatriots spew forth towards kids and parents. I think it is completely ridiculous to call children "crotch fruit" or parents "breeders". It's stupid and completely anti-productive.... You can't scream "INJUSTICE!" when you perceive people as not respecting you, and then turn around and repeat the same kinds of behaviors. Let's not be hypocrites.

Now, I am going to try to put this delicately: PARENTS, CONTROL YOUR KIDS. The public should not have to suffer your child's terrible temperament because you can't get your child under control. I don't care what is wrong with them, it's not my problem. I have a right to sit in a public space and to not be excessively bothered by your child. P E R I O D. I do not love your child unconditionally, nor am I impressed with every little thing that they do. Stop expecting me, or anyone else, to feel that way.

I know I may run into crazy people on the street who will bother me, annoy me, etc.. They have an excuse. THEY are cuckoo bananas. Children who run around in public screaming and refusing to sit down, can help it by way of their parents taking control of the situation and disciplining them. Don't get me wrong, I would never disrespect a parent I did not know in public, and I have had strangers give me unsolicited parenting advice, and it sucks. Please know that I am taking things to the extreme here, in that I don't expect young children to be totally silent and still in restaurants, etc...... But I do expect them to be under control. If your baby is fussy and is screaming for more than thirty seconds, TAKE THEM OUTSIDE UNTIL THEY CALM DOWN. If that doesn't work, IT IS TIME TO GO HOME. I know it sucks. I know you were looking forward to a nice dinner, but the baby has other plans for you. Please respect your fellow patrons' dining experiences as more of a priority than your own. Having a child does entitle parents to many perks, but it does not make them the most important people in the sushi bar.

I began experiencing this phenomenon last year; parents who bring their children and their children's friends to the bar. THE BAR; a place for adults to enjoy adult beverages and conversations. Just because a bar has an outside seating area, does not make it an appropriate place for children. When I am relaxing with my friends smoking ciggarettes, drinking alcohol, and cussing, I don't want to see your children. I especially do not want them bumping into my chair, while they are playing tag on the patio.... AT THE FUCKING BAR. I also don't want to get a dirty look from you when Junior overhears me drop an F-bomb, while I am talking to my friends, relaxing at the bar, which is an establishment for adults.It's no place for children. DON'T BRING THEM. KIDS SUCK TO BE AROUND WHEN YOU ARE DRUNK.


When it comes to my step-kids, they are much easier in public than they were when they were little, but, I am still like a drill sergeant when we are out. Stores are not playgrounds and need to be respected as such. Not everybody is interested in hearing you sing at the top of your lungs, save it for home. Your hands do not belong on other peoples' bodies, ever, so keep them to yourselves. Chew with your mouth closed, stop yelling, and I swear if you grab one more thing that is not yours, I will tie your hands behind your back.

I'm harsh, I am strict and I am honest. The way that society treats kids and people with them, is as though we are all revolving around them and catering to their every whim. It is the biggest lie out there. The world does not revolve around your kids just because your world does. To harbor some sense of entitlement in yourself because you have children, is bullshit.

All it is, is marketing. It is a false sense of superiority put forth by marketing firms to create an illusion that they care about what you are going through. They don't. They care about selling you diapers and they will try any underhanded technique to get your green. It is all just ruse to get you and your kids to spend more money. It's all bullshit. Every person in our society is constantly bombarded with this message, day in and day out.... For those who are not subscribing to the whole "I want babies, yay me!" life style, it is a constant, annoying, and isolating experience. Hence the crankiness.

However, I don't think it is right to find some kind of smug, self-satisfaction while witnessing a parent struggle to deal with their children. If you see a parent struggling with groceries, a stroller, and three kids: HELP THEM. Give them your seat on the bus, help them make sure all of their kids are seated properly; if you see their child slip away from them when they are not looking, POLITELY tell them.

There are fine lines, people.... Don't be a dumbass.

I could really go on an on about this topic. I met a lady a couple of weeks ago that raised this question to me: Since we are no longer an agrarian society that depends on offspring for labor to sustain ourselves, what are the reasons for having children? Is it purely egotistical? Is it survival of the species? Are people who abstain from children hurting the species? Are they just being "selfish"? Or are they altruistically ensuring the survival of the species by minimizing their carbon footprint?

Whatever it is, I believe it is a personal choice that needs to be respected on all sides. I think that we, as human beings, need to be more empathetic and patient with one another, but also just a hell of a lot more respectful to one another.

Maybe some Mothers should realize that we female, CFBCers are the vast minority of women out there. For every one woman who decides to remain childless, there are hundreds of women who decide to become mothers. Those who abstain are quite often philosophically attacked, belittled, isolated, and are subject to having our "femininity" and "essence of womanhood" constantly scrutinized and dissected by strangers.

I know it is not an excuse to be overtly, or overly critical to mothers and parents out there..... But, if you were wondering where the anger that many CFBCers have comes from, you could probably trace it back to that. So next time a single woman rolls her eyes at your screaming child, just remember that even though she is acting like a twat, she may have just had some asshole cross examine her for her choice "Not to be a REAL woman", by not having kids.

Conversely, maybe some of us who don't have kids, can let a busy mom or dad cut in line every once in awhile, or be a little more forgiving when someone is not on their A-game because of sleepless, cranky baby nights or a three child, flu epidemic.....

The world may end up being a little better, if we just tried to respect one another.

7 comments:

  1. So I got here by way of the momversation segment on CBC thento Girl's Gone Child and saw your comment there for this post.

    *sigh*

    It's a very difficult topic to talk about because it's almost it's own mobius strip of an argument. There's so much going wrong on both sides and I can see them! I can argue them both...

    Still, it's not so much that we're not given equal rights... I think it's that we're not given equal...respect? The world at large supports Parents and not so much the rest of us.

    ANYWAY!

    ...not to rehash arguments made on both the momversations and the GGC sites, I wanted to say that I get what you're saying and I wish there was as supportive and NON-CRAZY a community for people like us with no kids. I've a couple of rambly posts about it on my blog(I can point you to them if you'd like)... it's s difficult topic to tackle in one post... Perhaps if it was done in a series? Going over it one point at a time? Hmmm...

    Maybe we start our own community? I guess that the hard part there is that, unlike moms who go into the troubles they have with their kids or the funny or weird things that the kids did, what do WE talk about? Would it focus on ... what? I guess it would be like Seinfeld, right? about nothing yet everything?

    Just wanted to say hello!
    I think I have a headache now from all these comments & posts I've been reading! Why can't everyone just get along? Why can't we just highlight the best about the other?
    Why why why???
    *it's like I'm 6 again *

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  2. It's odd - I am an american living in England and let me tell you, this is not a child friendly country, and I'm okay with that on the whole. Most mothers here go back to work, most mothers here like motherhood, but do not think it is the be all end all of existence, and most mothers I know think not having kids is a very valid choice. I have three kids myself - I almost NEVER take them all out at the same time and have only been out to dinner with all of them ONCE. For me, the work of keeping them quiet and trying to get them to respect other people just isn't worth going out, it's too futile a battle while they are still this young. Precisely because I have children, I understand why people choose not to. It's bloody hard work. But I have to say, I don't feel like I live in a world that favors parents. Again, maybe this is specific to England. But just this morning, once my 18 month old daughter started annoying people at Starbucks, I knew it was time to go. Yes, it does suck as I hadn't finished my coffee or my conversation, but that's the price I pay. Most parents I know actually feel that way. The anger from CFBC'ers does surprise me, I guess; I see unruly children, but it is generally the exception and not the rule. It makes me sad though, that people - on both sides of the argument - seem so mad. I don't think I am entitled to any sort of special treatment, I leave a public place if my kid has had enough - but are people entitled to a child free existence> I don't know. I don't like dogs. (I know, I know, I had a paper route when I was young and some pretty harrowing dog experiences....) but I certainly don't feel entitled to live in a dog free world, and I go out of my way to overcome my dog fear when my kids are around. The last thing they need is my dog phobia. YOu have to live in the world with other creatures - oincluding dogs, including children.

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  3. Thanks for comments ladies, I really like this topic and the different perspectives.

    I hope to hear more.

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  4. Amen. It sickens and saddens me that there is so much hate flying around... You are absolutely entitled to your lifestyle as much as I'm entitled to mine. Shame on those who think it kosher to belittle or make you (and any CFBC person) feel inadequate as a human being. All of this anger and resentment has to stop. We're ADULTS after all. I mean... aren't we?

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  5. Right on, Rebecca! I really can't thank you and the other Momversationers for bringing up this topic.

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  6. I am 34 and child free by choice.
    I knew at a very young age that I did not have interest in baring children. I LOVE children but I thought breeding was truly unnecessary, our earth IS overpopulated. I ached for the kids that are tossed aside. I expressed interest in adoption during child development class while my teacher watched me interact with kids and announced that I would have a ton of kids because of how capable she said I was.

    child development class was 16+ years ago. I still think having children on purpose is not something I would choose to do. and I guess I don't exactly know why people choose to have them... I've heard people call it narcissistic, maybe a little.

    I had a mother of 2 once tell me I was selfish to not bare children and I ask, how the hell am I selfish for not creating a new life... isn't it a selfish idea in the first place to think you are healthy enough to host a life with your body and do so!? she said she was selfless... well, AFTER you are prego you hope to be selfless.... but before you are prego isn't deciding to have a baby all about you!? isn't it about some sort of fantasy you have in your own head about what it should and could be like for you?

    I asked a friend who said he wanted babies but his wife didn't, why? why did he want babies... every answer he had started with "I" or ended with "ME"... who's selfish? it's not about the baby when the baby doesn't EXIST. it's about you.

    I am with a man who is the last of his name... he does not want me to bare his children and I respect him for it. I just don't think it's something I want to put my body through and hell, over the years I had defiled my body in so many ways that who am I to say I would be the perfect host to a being!?

    I will be a first time aunt this year (by blood - I am an "aunt" a number of times over by choice... I chose them or they chose me). My brother and wife are having a boy... they were together on birth control for 17+ years, said they didn't do anything different than they ever had... another friend, same thing and another and another.

    Although I DO know some folks who straight up "planned" their babies, more around me didn't and simply accepted and embraced the idea.
    I can say that I will diligently take my birth control but if it failed (please god NO) I would choose to let it all run it's course.

    Right now in my life, my child is my business... meaning I am a full time owner and operator of a small business. not having the interest to plant a seed in my body is one thing. But I do think that one day I will have time to offer to a child(ren) in NEED. a child who is already here without someone, to invite into my time and truly offer a selfless act of love and kindness.

    and a shout out to my mom! for not being an obnoxious woman pestering about when the babies are coming... she doesn't treat me (or her other kids) like that and I love and respect her for it and I truly appreciate it!! I hear of people acting this way... and people who ARE NOT my mom have acted this way and it IS unacceptable behavior.

    I think the people who are child free by choice are the most capable people to be having children which is why they are so damned smart NOT TO in the first place, which might be considered a shame because that means all you pushing them out are likely less capable but think you are. joy.

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