Slate recently asked to hear from the childfree who are happy, and they have been posting on what they’ve received. “Combing through the nearly 300 submissions”, one of the posts talked about how “a constant refrain jumps out: People with kids do not believe people without kids when they say they will never have kids.” I want to put this notion to rest, but before I do…… a few words about Slate’s shout out to the “childfree who are happy.” While it is great to see a request to hear from the childfree, wanting to hear from the “happy” ones sure implies a belief that there are the “unhappy” ones. Who are more likely to be the less than happy ones? The childless, not the childfree — “childless” meaning those who want children but do not have them.
The first thing to put to rest: There are happy and unhappy people in both parent and childfree camps. How often do we see requests for parents who are happy to write in–with the implication that there are those who are unhappy too? Right. Not often if at all. The pronatalist assumption is, of course you are happy being a parent! And if you are not, it is taboo to talk about that!
But I digress.
Awhile back I asked an On-the-Ground question about the most common stereotypes the childfree say they have been subjected to, and the “You’ll change your mind” misconception came out at the Top of the list.
Now, parents, here is why it is time to put this misconception to rest. It insinuates that you know the childfree better than they know themselves–that they don’t know themselves well enough to know what they “really” want—and that of course, is kids! Believe me, the childfree know themselves and what they want better than parents who think they do!
Often this “You don’t know it now, but you Will want a child day” comes with the idea that the childfree will change their minds when they meet that special someone–that when they find him or her they will want to make a baby with that person. To this I say, Not true. What is? The childfree look for the mr. or ms. right who feel the same way they do about not having parenthood accompany what they want in married life.
Granted, people do change their minds about things, and it can happen that someone who is childfree changes his/her mind to have children as s/he goes along in life. But having the attitude that that is what is going to occur–that “You’re just like us, you just don’t know it yet” — is just not accurate.
More than anything it reflects a mindset that is central to pronatalism–that having children is what everyone is supposed to do in life. It is an example of the baby matrix – like in the movie, The Matrix, the matrix is something that feels so real, but we find out it is not.
The more you dig into pronatalism, the more you see that it is the same–pronatalism is a set of beliefs we have come to believe so strongly they feel so real we believe they are “true” – when really, either the beliefs no longer serve us, or have never been true in the first place.
What is true? Everyone does not want children to be the central focus of their lives. We are all not destined to have children. So parents, I say — believe the childfree when they say they never want kids!
Laura, if you do a search on the Net for websites containing posts from the childed who are unhappy/miserable/wish-they-never-had-kids, you will find a great many of them. But if you look for similar websites from childFREE people who are unhappy/miserable/wish-they-DID-have-kids, you will NOT find any. To me, this overwhelming if not unanimous differential tells me that the childed often (not always, but often) regret their choice but the childfree never do and are very happy and only very happy with their choice.
Hi Deegee, I do see more written online from parents who lament about the challenges of parenthood, even regret…Still, overall, it is taboo to do this. Maybe easier to write about it than talk about it….
Laura, I know it is definitely taboo for any parent to talk about the many hardships of motherhood. Which is why I bring up those hardships whenever I get the chance. Stupid rules on what NOT to discuss annoy me to no end, so I like to annoy the folks who make those unwritten “rules.” 🙂
Susan, in your experience, what are the biggest no-no’s for mothers and/or fathers to talk about?
Laura, I’d say the biggest no-no’s for mothers are mentioning how difficult pregnancy is (my own experience sucked, personally) and how hard the first two or three years after the baby is born are.
Mothers who do mention these taboo subjects in any detail on public discussion forums as I have done are usually slammed with comments like: “you must really hate children” or “you must hate your child” and other equally moronic remarks. Those are the most frequent “bingoes” I’ve read from people who don’t like seeing the hardships of motherhood mentioned in public, but by no means the ONLY ones.
It’s amusing most of the time, since DS and I have a pretty good relationship, but occasionally their stereotyping can be really annoying. And when I get annoyed, I tend to “give it back with both barrels,” verbally, of course. 🙂
Loved your article, Laura! As a 32 y.o. woman who has enjoyed 14 glorious child-free years with my wonderful husband, I have often heard “You’ll change your mind someday” from plenty of people. However, the likelihood of that is slim to none, since we are leading very happy and fulfilled lives without the stress of children. One thing I would be interested in finding is a network of like-minded couples. Are you familiar with any such groups?
Thanks, Lynn! For meeting other childfree, try NoKidding! nokidding.net and Childfree Meetups http://childfree.meetup.com/
I’ve never had the chance to try this myself, but one great rebuttal to the “you’ll change your mind” bingo is to ask if the person wants to wager money on it:
“Will you bet me $1000 that I’ll have a kid by the time I’m 40? Why not? If you’re so sure I’ll change my mind, then you ought to jump at the chance to make free money. Unless there’s a part of you that thinks I really WON’T change my mind….”
You could even lay odds against yourself, to sweeten the bet.
If you don’t believe in gambling, then the loser can donate the money to charity.
From what I’ve heard, no one has ever taken up this bet with any childfree people.