In addition to three resolutions in the previous post, a piece by Mamajoy makes me think of one more.
We’ve seen a good deal of back and forth ranting between parents and the childfree out there. Parents have judgments and feel judged by the childfree and vice versa, so when they feel attacked they attack right back.
Now it is not often that a parent comes right out and contends that she does not care at all if people have no children by choice. However, recently, Mamajoy did just that. She contends that childless by choice authors think that “kids are all out of control, parents are selfish, every parent she comes across is astounded by the fact they don’t want kids, and people hate their cats.” In her piece, she speaks to why each of these points is off the mark.
As childfree author, and speaking for the hundreds of childfree out there, let me do a little aikido. It is not that childfree think that all kids are out of control; it is more that we observe parents allowing their kids to be out of control because they put their kids at the center of the universe, and expect others, parents and not, to do the same.
We do not experience all parents as “astounded” when they learn we don’t want kids. It is more that we experience parents as just not being able to understand a choice that is so different from what they want. This is fine, except when this inability to understand is really more about making us wrong for not wanting what they want, and what everyone is supposed to want.
We would not say as a rule people – parents and not– hate our cats. This assertion seems to imply the childfree are cat people. Not so. Many of us don’t like cats. We have dogs. And our pets can be something we have in common with parents and their kids, not another thing that separates us.
Do parents really care that the childfree don’t want kids? They may not say they “care,” but like Mamajoy, more often than not, they are not at a loss for assumptions and criticism about this choice.
If parents really didn’t care, there would be more acceptance, less judgment and less rant. If the childfree cared less about what parents thought, this too would result in less rant.
In the coming year, how about less rant and more mutual respect and acceptance?
Laura, what you describe as “assumptions and criticisms about this choice [to be chidfree]” is simply what we in the childfree world call “bingos.” In your list of links, you can find these in the “happily childfree” blog at
These are those overused and unoriginal insults we childfree get from the childed. Some of us, mainly married women, get them more than other demographics such as single men (like myself). But I have gotten them a few times over the years, and they are rather annoying. [Usually, telling those clods I do volunteer work with kids in several area schools shuts them up, but not always.]
These bingos often start when we are asked if we have kids and when we say we don’t, and are then asked why (“It’s our choice”), the bingos begin. And that doesn’t include relatives who can be even worse (thankfully, not mine).
Do the childed ever get hassled about their choice to HAVE kids the way we childfree get hassled aobut our choice NOT to have kids? No way!
As long as we childfree get hassled this way, we will need to rant about being put on the defensive all the time.
Hi Deegee, Yeah I know the term “bingoed” but am not sure it always equals the “rant” that goes on one or both ways…in any case, I like the idea of trying to play aikido instead — rather than get defensive, respectfully turn the energy back at them and them questions e.g., Re their judgment or pressure, why do they think that way? Why are they asking us this? Why is it they had kids? Instead of a defensive communication, I’d like to see more of trying to make it a two way conversation that can respectfully point out different people, different choices…We can choose to get defensive but that is not the only way to respond…
Such an interesting post Laura. This ‘ranting’ issue is a really important one I think and I like the idea of taking the aikido approach.
There’s a saying that goes something like, ‘we spend our teens worrying about what people think of us, our twenties not caring what people think about us and our thirties realising that no one was thinking about us anyway.’ I think on the whole it’s fairly true and I do wonder if both parents and adults whose identities centre around other passions are magnifying each other’s judgements in some instances.
I think one factor heightening the ranting quality of these interactions is that there seems to be a type of person in almost every walk of life who just feels really strongly that others ought to live as they live. For this type of person, the actual lifestyle choice in question is pretty much incidental – it might just as easily be oriented around religion or material consumption. Because they’re so forceful about their views, these individuals can always easily find their counterpart and set up a public debate, and so they often end up in a position to publicly define the identities they feel so strongly about – be it christian or atheist, mac user or pc user, ‘child-free’ person or parent.
But they really don’t speak for what I’m sure is a majority of people who are generally engaged in actually living out their choices, rather than making a hobby of defending them. I’m sure many people within this majority are genuinely mystified when they discover all the ranting and the often bizarre sets of assumptions and attitudes being ascribed to them, both by their ‘opponents’ and by those who assume themselves to be on the same ‘side’!
For me, for example, the ‘bingo’ idea would be a very, very reductive, impoverishing approach to take to potentially fruitful discussions about a topic of personal, political, economic and social importance, such as the implications of having or not having a child.
As a parent of an only child, I’ve sometimes been criticized for my decision. Of course we all know parents of onlies are selfish because they’re denying their child a sibling, raising him or her to be a spoiled brat, etcetera. Words like that used to bother me, but now I figure that if my critics are so unselfish, are they going to pay for my hypothetical second child’s education? Will they stay up late with a colicky baby to let me get some sleep? Unless they’re willing to do so, IMHO, they have no prerogative to call me selfish.
On the other hand, some people are genuinely mystified as to why I don’t want another child or why in the case that I do, I’m perfectly content to adopt. Then again, when I see my niece and nephew (whom I love very much) fighting over a toy muffin, I wonder how my brother and his wife decided to have two children within three years of each other. I know choosing to have an only child is a minority choice – and that doesn’t bother me. And I don’t mind if some people don’t understand it. And if they don’t respect it, then it’s their problem, not mine.