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Responses to common claims made against childfree people

The Huffington Post helpfully aggregated some common assertions and questions people make against childfree people (in their case, it was women they focused on). Anyway, I wrote a response to each one on Big Think. I added some snark.

Let me know if they’re questions or assertions you’ve got. And, also, how often do you get them, in comparison to men/women companions/friends/lovers.

Update: Love the responses and comments. Please do keep them coming. Fascinating.

Comments

  1. sqlrob says

    “That’s a shame. You might regret it.”

    Better to regret not having children then to regret having them.

    1. “Who will take care of you when you get old?”

    People I pay.

    People you can pay because you haven’t spent all that money on children.

  2. sarah00 says

    I’m really lucky in this regard. I’ve never wanted kids and have said so right from when I first felt there was a difference between me and ‘children’ – around the age of 14/15. My family have always known I don’t want children and as I’ve been pretty much perennially single it’s never been something that’s been pushed on me. I’ve had the odd person (generally someone who hasn’t known me very long) give the old ‘you’ll regret it/you don’t know what you’re missing’ platitudes but those who know me recognise I’d be a useless mother!

  3. says

    I’m childfree, always have been, now 56, no regrets. I’ve heard variations of “you’ll be sorry” or “you’ll want them later” most of my life. The most oft asked question was the tiresome “what if you change your mind?” My standard response was to wait a three beat, then ask “what if you change yours?” It generally shut them up.

  4. says

    5. “You’re being selfish.”

    I’ve also hear this one to the point of nausea. There seems to be a sentiment among certain parents, that they are doing the great, right thing, sacrificing themselves on the altar of parenthood. No greater gift and all that crap. I’ve had it explained to me that childfree people are selfish because they just don’t want to grow up, they want to be able to buy expensive things for themselves, travel, do fun stuff, yada, yada, yada, rather than growing up, taking responsibility, and breeding. It’s silliness.

  5. MadHatter says

    My favorite is being told I have no idea what happiness really is without kids. I typically respond by suggesting that they just really want everyone around them to be as unhappy as they are. This works because all I ever really hear are complaints about how hard, how tiring, how expensive, etc kids are.

    I seem to have finally aged out of the “you’ll change your mind” though. I could still have one at this point (biologically speaking) but my mother has quit saying it now that I’m edging up on 40. Used to really make me angry as I had decided when I was about 15 I wasn’t having them and it hasn’t changed since.

  6. pensnest says

    The way some parents insist that everyone else should be parents too seems to carry some hints of “Why should you get off scott free when I had to suffer?” It’s very peculiar.

    I wanted children, and was happily able to produce them, and am just as happy now that they are out of the house as independent adults. They seem to be decent people, though I wouldn’t claim to have been a particularly good parent—and, well, babies come with operating systems installed personalities of their own, so it seemed to me that the job of parents is to instil a set of values plus decent table manners.

    But the vast majority of my current friends don’t have children, some because they’ve never wanted to, others perhaps because they haven’t reached the stage in their life when having children seems like a reasonable thing to do. And even if I think some of them would make very cool parents, I cannot imagine why it would be any of my business to demand that they reproduce. I mean, what?

    It’s almost as though people who have produced children think it’s a choice that has to be justified by everyone else agreeing with it and making the same choice. What nonsense. I think your answers to the points and questions were excellent.

  7. Don Quijote says

    Married for forty years and we have had all of those reactions. The latest one directed at my wife who is now fifty-nine was that her life had not been fulilled. My answer was that her life isn’t over yet and who is the judge of fulfillment.

  8. Nepenthe says

    It’s funny, #5 is the reason that, even if I liked children and thought I’d be a competent parent, I would not have biological children. Passing on my genes? Might as well give the kid the finger as it comes out too.

  9. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    4. “You think you’re tired? You don’t know what tired is.”
    I’ve gotten that. I’m disabled, with crushing fatigue that keeps me from most things deemed fun, most of the time. I will admit I can get pretty nasty about this one.

    6. “You’ll change your mind when you meet the right man.”
    Bonus points when this comes just after my partner of just under eight years has left the room. Yes, I do tell him that you said that.

    10 “Tick tock.” Also #22
    “Doubt it, my tubes were tied when I was 24.”

    15. “But you would be such a great mom!”
    I have gotten this, and I cannot fathom why. I like animals, and kids for short periods of time. But I need 10+ hours of sleep a night to not be in excruciating pain and sudden shrill noises make me lose my temper fast.

    I’ve also had men try to use “but you’d have such beautiful babies!” as a pick-up line. I mean, in all likelihood, they would be, I’m pretty nice-looking. On the other hand, they’d have a delightful array of annoying to intensely painful health issues and a parent who emphatically does not want them. And who can’t produce them anyway. But at least the line is a really good red flag for men who really should be avoided.

  10. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile says

    We’ve also heard a lot of this from people. My wife was always gung-ho on starting a family, but we found that as time passed, her level of desire for children started to wane. Within 3 years of having been married, we both found that we were just not 100% committed to the idea (as well as aging), so we pretty much abandoned the idea.

    We did think about adopting, as it seemed to be a better solution since we felt the world was over-populated with humans. But again, just did not feel completely committed.

    We rescued dogs instead. And the fulfillment we get from them is incredible. I think we made the right decision.

  11. AnotherAnonymouse says

    I find the bullying into having children to be so tiresome. If a couple does not want children–so what? Who suffers? Certainly not the hypothetical children who are never conceived. Not society; children who are never conceived will never scream in expensive restaurants, run around in movie theaters, or commit crimes ranging from vandalism to murder. Children who are never conceived will never be missed by anyone. And as far as being “selfish”? If a couple is so “selfish” that they don’t want children…why in the world would anyone think they would make effective, happy parents?

  12. Rawnaeris says

    My husband and I are childfree (heh, I like that better than ‘childless’) currently.

    I’m less for having children than my husband, but jesus, does everyone and their dog feel like they can walk up to me and ask ‘When are ya’ll having children?’ like it’s the only reason we got married. It’s annoying as fuck.

  13. Copyleft says

    One of my personal favorites:

    “Aren’t you afraid of dying alone?”

    “Heck no–I’m takin’ somebody with me.”

  14. =8)-DX says

    Loved the snark on all those items. “Cat lady in training” … *chortle*.

    My reasons for having a child:
    1) If you want to.
    2) Vague altruistic feelings of responsibility for furthering the human race (since there are already too many of us, that’s just irrational emotion) and one’s own genes (should only apply to world athletes, and nobel prize winners and other paragons and geniuses – it’s ego all the way).
    3) You value continuing your relationship while putting up with children more than breaking apart and not having children or your current partner (another irrational emotion).
    4) Wanting to fit in, “belong” in society – viewing a child as a status/group symbol, much like a car/house/partner/coffeemaker (part rational – a child could be worth the bother just to fit in with other people socially).
    5) Falling in love at university, then having noninterrupted sex with your fiance on the miscalculated last fertile day of her cycle partly because of alcohol, finished exams and lovely late spring weather followed by a strong resentment to abortion from your indoctrination as a child into the Catholic Church and her general feeling that “she felt it was going to happen” (my/my ex-wife’s reasons – oops, all’s good though).

  15. sqlrob says

    @Rawnaeris, #13

    My husband and I are childfree (heh, I like that better than ‘childless’) currently.

    “Currently” doesn’t really apply to childfree. The implication of that is not now, not ever. Conflating it with childless enforces the “you’ll change your mind” narrative that women often get hit with.

  16. Yellow Thursday says

    I used to get “children are different when they’re yours” and “you’ll change your mind.” On the first, I usually respond, “yeah, I can’t hand them back to the parent when I get tired of them.” On the second, I usually said “maybe” and left it at that. I even got “when are you going to give your mom grandkids” sometimes. That one annoyed me the most, for all the reasons already stated.

    I’m in my late 30s now, and I don’t get pressured into having kids so much any more. The only one I still get, though less frequently, is “they’re different when they’re your own.” No. Just no.

  17. Rawnaeries says

    @ Sqlrob, I was unaware of that distinction. I have been hit with “you’ll change your mind” trope before, from my husband, before he realized that having children was not mandatory (gotta love that Catholic upbringing).

    I would say that child free is likely more accurate for us than childless, as we have not agreed to have any yet, and that is not likely to change any time soon.

  18. rq says

    you don’t know what you’re missing

    hahahahahahaha, There’s a whole list of stuff that happens when you’re a parent that I would love to miss. Giving birth, for one.
    Anyhow, your list. Very nice! I like your responses, and below, I’ll add some of my own (which, granted, come from the point of view of a parent):
    #2 is what I hear from other people, with the partial assumption that, because I choose to ascribe meaning to my life beyond my children, I’m somehow lacking as a parent. Because I have children now. I should not have any other goals anymore.
    #4 and being tired – if someone is already complaining of feeling tired on a regular basis, you think foisting one or more children on them is a good idea??? Yeah. Holding down my two jobs would be a whole lot easier if I didn’t have kids, and I’d still be tired.
    #8 yes, my mom had me… Was I burdened with some divine duty to owe her a child in return? This isn’t a Greek tragedy.
    #14 was a statement I (we) got from a lot of people (incl. my sister) when we bought our house last year – look, there are so many rooms, now you can go ahead and fill them with children!! Yes, because the reason we bought a house was to have more children, not to gain a greater distance from our current children. Seriously, there’s a wonderful benefit to being able to shove them into the playroom on the second floor, and sip wine in relative quiet in front of the fireplace on the first floor.
    #20 is a confusing what? moment. I don’t even. Because it’s so easy to have the kids, and realize you never should have had any. That one can end so very badly, I wonder why people suggest it. Children don’t exactly have a return-by date.
    And #23, well, frankly, I don’t expect my children to be responsible for my upkeep in my old age. I hope they spend their time running around doing wonderful things in the wide world. As an investment into one’s senior years, I find the idea of having children is the most selfish of all. Breeding future servants and manual labour? Yeah. Your children will love you.
    Bonus #4 is nice, because I have a long list of things I could have done with my life if I hadn’t had children. And I’m not a parent who particularly regrets having them, I just find they get in the way from time to time.

    So yes. Want kids? Go for it. Don’t want kids? Go for it. Can’t decide? No rush. It isn’t and shouldn’t ever be anyone else’s business.

  19. allyp says

    I am sick of being told “But you don’t have a family” when folk come to know I do not have children. Umm, yes I do. my husband and I are a family.

  20. dangerousbeans says

    6. “You’ll change your mind when you meet the right man.”

    the hetro-sexism of this one bugs me, not only are they disrespecting my decision to be child free, they are also disrespecting my sexuality.
    and being infertile it’s not like i can help in the baby making process, regardless of my partners gender.

  21. Diana Tortolini says

    I have never wanted to be pregnant. Ever.

    I used to be morbidly obese. (275 lbs at 5’7″) and lost a ton of weight through my early-mid 20s. Now I’m at about 190. I’d gotten down < 170 but have gained some back. I'm trying to lose 20 – 30 lbs. Not doing so well with my eating but I've been playing racquetball, boxing, doing cardio or lifting weights 3 – 5 days a week for the past couple years, so I'm holding my current weight via exercise but not losing any lbs. I am, however, the most athletic I've ever been in my life, and lift more than any woman I've seen thus far in my gym. I've been a compulsive overeater, bulimic (still am, though my anxiety triggers are far, far rarer now and I haven't binge-purged in a trancelike state in years) and always had body image issues.

    The idea of being pregnant scares me unbelievably. I've worked so hard — so FUCKING hard — to get myself physically, emotionally and mentally to a healthy point that the weight gain, body changes, and hormonal issues that accompany pregnancy absolutely terrify me.

    I can't talk about my eating disorders with my family. I'm the success story and it's too embarrassing. I can't explain to them why (as a wealthy, single woman in my mid 30s) I haven't just done in-vitro with a sperm donor — which the younger people in my family are all encouraging me to do. And just being single is a problem for them and for me. I'm starting to be treated as the spinster aunt who's running out of time to either get hitched or have a playdate with a turkey baster, and despite regular online dating and just being out and about in the world, I haven't been in a serious relationship since I left my ex of 7+ years two years ago. Not being able to figure out if I'll be able to get through the psychological trauma of pregnancy is affecting the choices I make in the men I date and leaving me really confused. It's also hard because my father died in 2010 (he and I were extremely close) and I am feeling more and more pressure (entirely self-inflicted in this case) to have children to carry some part of him into the future. Apart from my food issues, I totally have my shit together and am great with kids. I'd be a good parent and role model and it would be exciting to see a mini-me grow up in this world. And coming from a huge, close-knit Italian family I enjoy that dynamic.

    I also have a great group of friends, almost all of whom are either parents or trying to become parents. And the ones who have kids never leave the house unless it's to grocery shop or run an errand. Unless they can bring the kids we can almost never spend time together, and when they do bring the kids, adults can't talk like adults around each other and my friends still have to focus their attention on their kids. Every conversation goes like this, "oh, I loved that show. We decided to get Amazon Prime instead of — Michael! Stop that now! No, leave your sister alone. I said stop. Yes, you can have a cookie. Just one, no . . . one. I'm sorry . . . what were we talking about?" The children are little vectors of disease, people are constantly sick and cancelling plans, and my house isn't childproofed for their visits. (Why would it be?) When I see how housebound they all are it just brings up fears of compulsive overeating again being indoors all the time, without the freedom to get out and do the kinds of activities that are keeping me athletic and helping me hold my current weight, and not being able to be an adult around other adults.

    I'm jealous of the people who have commented that are so clear about their lack of desire for kids. I WISH I had that kind of clarity.

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