Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Childfree By Choice

I don't have children. I won't ever have children. And I like it that way.

For lots of people, I may as well have just admitted that I have human hides lining my freezer.

I never wanted kids. Not even remotely. But there's a huge stigma attached to choosing the childfree lifestyle. People always feel they have the right to ask - when am I having kids? Why don't I have them yet? And they don't take no for an answer.

Oh, you'll change your mind, they say.
Which, incidentally, isn't true, and is massively disrespectful.

I used to feel that way too, but then I had kids and now they're the light of my life.
Which is an even stupider thing to say. If you change your mind, you were never childfree to begin with. 'Childfree' is not a waiting period or a holding pattern. It's not what you are before you have kids. It's what you are if you feel in your soul that it's the right and permanent thing for you.

I don't hate children. I don't hate the people that have children (or at least, not all of them, and not by default). But many of them have no qualms about expressing pointed hatred toward me and people like me, just because I don't share the same fertility goals as they do.

Here's the deal: children are not mandatory, they are not an obligation to all married couples. Some people cannot have children. Some people do not want them. Somehow, we manage to have very fulfilling lives anyway -

despite the people who tells us we're incredibly selfish (never mind that deciding NOT to have kids is exactly as selfish as deciding TO have kids - we make a choice and do what we want)

despite the people who tell us we deserve to die alone (meaning, Jason and I will check ourselves into an old folks' home instead of having our ungrateful children do it for us)

despite the people who look inquiringly at my stomach and ask oh, what's wrong with you? (because if it's not a physical plumbing problem, it's obviously a mental one)

despite the people who say that "people like us" shouldn't be breeding anyway (you know, because the world does not need more open-minded liberals, right?)

despite the people who cluck and say, oh, but you seem like such nice people (obviously, this opinion needs to be revised once our repulsive lifestyle is revealed).

When people ask about the kids issue, I'm pretty upfront about it. I don't want kids. We're not having kids. We're pretty damn happy about that. But it doesn't always pay to speak up.

Valerie Francescato, host of a childfree podcast, is under fire recently for daring to say that she doesn't want babies. She has been submitted to such indignities as these:

Look, if she doesn't want to have kids, that's fine, but there's no need to form an organization about it, which will inevitably escalate into demanding special rights and privileges. Besides, who'd want to procreate with these broads anyway? These women couldn't get a man if it was closing time at the bar and were the only guys inside of it.


I really wish here mother made the decision to be child free.


First, her thinly-guised childless self-admiration club is more practically a post-abortion guilt-avoidance club as in "I made the right decisions -didn't I?" These people are nothing more than narcissistic, self-serving oxygen thieves! Their voting rights should be rescinded.

Right. Except for the fact that the world is practically overrun by support groups for parents. Because nobody says boo about the 8 million Mommy Bloggers, but if a group of women get together and talk about their own experiences that happen to be opposite, suddenly it's terrible. There are television shows and sections of the newspaper and entire magazines devoted to the "joys of parenting" - but apparently the rest of us should just sit quietly.

It's hard to be a minority in this world. Personally, I'm not looking for "privileges" - I just like fairness. And there are a lot of things that just aren't fair. It's not fair, for example, that at Jason's work, he pays $8 a month for health insurance. To add me, the "family" premium is $42 a month, because though we are only 2 people, we are expected to subsidize families that have 17 children. Is that fair? No, it's not. It's not fair when a workplace offers the perk of free childcare without offering a childfree alternative to those of us without kids. Perks are a part of your income package. If you are excluded from cashing in on those perks, that's not fair either. I don't want anything crazy - I just expect equality from the world, and sometimes the world is slow to offer it.

But I think that if brave people like Valerie continue to speak up for what's right - and for a valid if somewhat uncommon choice - then maybe the world will advance by tiny increments. In the meantime, I'm happy to be a purple woman, and a member of the Toronto chapter of No Kidding. I'm not anti-kid. Since 99% of people have children, 99% of my friends have them also. I enjoy kids for the most part. I like being an aunt, or a god-mother, even an occasional babysitter. But once a month, it's nice for me to get together with a group of people who have conversation that at no point mentions diapers, or snotty noses, or the wiggles. It's almost surreal that for 3 whole hours, a group of adults can manage not to mention children. That never happens naturally in the real world.

It's much harder to not have children than to have them. Lots of people get accidentally pregnant, but it takes thought and planning to stay without. I don't know what drives people to have kids. I have no idea what compels a woman to grow a baby. No idea. I've never felt even a small stirring. I think pregnancy is a beautiful thing though, in the same way I think Renoirs are beautiful, and like to visit them in museums, but have no intention of hanging one on my wall, since they don't particularly suit my furniture or my personality.

I'm happy for the people who love their kids. I'm sad for the ones that never wanted kids but had them anyway, and let them know it. I knew my family was complete the day I married Jason. Maybe mine is a small family, as families go, but it's a happy one, and I like it very much, just as it is.

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