The October issue of Women’s Health Magazine has an article by Carrie Anton that takes a clever angle on what to expect from others in reaction to the childfree choice. It’s titled, “What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting.” I’d say to aptly reflect being childfree it should be…
“What to Expect When You’ll Never Be Expecting!” In any case, Anton lists 6 things to expect; I’ll add a few more:
Anton’s “What to Expect” list:
1. Not to be taken seriously
Check. this gets at the ever popular comment, “You’ll change your mind.” In a childfree monthly On-the-Ground question, this was the top answer people gave when asked what childfree stereotype have they been subjected to most. Said another way, you can expect others to think they know you better than you know yourself when it comes to eventually becoming a parent!
2. Guilt trips
This can come in the form of direct and indirect pressure, such as comments that hint at disappointment that the family line will not be carried on, or with more sting, that you won’t be doing something for your parents that they want you to…and should. Guilt is a feeling that stems from the idea that “a good person would…” In this case, a good son would… or a good daughter would…give their parents grandchildren!
3. People to think that you hate kids
Most of the time, this is a myth. As I have said, just because we don’t want to raise them does not mean we hate them!
4. Everyone to think you’re infertile
Mmm. Not necessarily. More likely if you don’t make it clear that you are childfree, not childless, or childless for right now.
5. “Mr. Right will change your mind.”
This one relates to #1 above. People often think that you might be childfree until you meet the love of your life….when you do, that is when you realize you will want to make a baby with that person…also a myth! If anything, when you are childfree, finding Mr. or Ms. Right means finding a like-minded life partner who also does not to raise children as part of their marital experience.
6. To be labeled as “success-obsessed”
Yes, there can be the assumption that the childfree are materialistic, and overly focused on their career or work lives. However, it does not fit the profile of lots of childfree people. And many times it will be obvious because their occupations and lifestyles don’t reflect an obsession with wealth.
In the article Anton also lists what you might “want to say,” what you “should say” in response to these kinds of comments, and what you might “wonder.” Check them out. Childfree reading this -what do you think. What are your kinds of responses?And what do you think of the “wonder” sections – me, while being clear about your childfree choice is very important, these seem to subtly send the message one needs to question her choice.
To add 4 more:
1. Never to get inside the “Mom Club”
So many childfree women have told me that one of the biggest challenges of being childfree is they will never be part of a special kind of sisterhood that comes with motherhood. Not that they want the motherhood piece, but that they miss out on the connection and special bond piece their friends, siblings, and relatives who are parents have because they have children in common.
2. Friendships will change
When one friend becomes a parent and the other never does, the friendship has to change to hold two very different lifestyles. It is totally possible, but does take commitment, communication, tending and starting with love for your friend first!
3. To be perceived as knowing nothing about children
No, the childfree aren’t parents, but it does not mean they know nothing about kids, or that they can’t be a good ear for parent friends who need it.
4. A different kind of “mid-life crisis”
For women, mid life crises are very tied to the empty nest syndrome. Just because childfree women never experience the empty nest, does not mean they won’t reach mid-life and question where they have been and how they want to live the rest of their lives. It may not be a “crisis” – and more of a life assessment. We can go through this whether we have children or not. More on this idea soon…
What other “What to Expect’s” do you have to add?
There’s another big one, sort of hinted at in #2 and #6 in Anton’s list:
Expect for people to think you’re selfish.
Expect for other people to think you have a wild, partying lifestyle.
Expect other people to assume that you have lots of free time to offer parents.
Expect some condescension and pity from people who think you have a second-class life.
(Notice how these expectations can be contradictory to each other sometimes?)
I knew you’d have a few! The selfish thing is So common I feel I don’t even have to mention it!
where is the fun things?
what to expect when you’ll never be expecting:
FREEDOM. only one word to sum it all up.
Excellent idea for follow up post–on it! ~L
I’m not sure anyone should mourn not being in the mom club. Have you talked to these people for ten minutes?
Also, Scott added some really good ones to your list. Yes, I’m out drinking and carousing every night. *eyeroll*
And, selfish? It’s the HEIGHT of selfishness to think the world needs a copy of your DNA. Please, give me ONE reason someone has a kid that does NOT include the word “I”. I’l bet you can’t do it.
I think the mom club thing is more about not having a kind of sisterhood connection with friends that they see mom friends having…it is a kind of bond they wish they could have…but can’t because they have to raise a child to get it!
Good point, feli — what about positives?
Expect very little regret or loneliness.
Expect to be happy with your decision whenever kids around you throw tantrums.
Expect disguised and undisguised envy from your friends and co-workers who are parents.
Expect to like your decision more and more as you get older.
Expect – the pity response “O, that’s too bad, you don’t know what you are missing out on.” um… yes we do, that’s why we don’t have them.
In response to the “Mom Club” bit. I think it can be really difficult to find good friends who are also childfree. I think it’s wanting to have friends to be able to bond over that aspect that can make being childfree difficult and sometimes lonely.
Another one: Expect to pay taxes at a much higher rate than people with dependents, some of which will be used to fund public assistance programs that will not be available to you if you fall into poverty because you are not a parent.
I’m so happy I found this list and the comments supporting it because everything on here is so TRUE to life. Once my friends married and had children or just became mothers (with baby daddies lmao), they had NO time for any of their childfree friends. It’s annoying and disheartening. Then I always hear, “You wouldn’t understand, you’re not a Mother!” So I usually reply with, “You wouldn’t understand my life because you never graduated from college!” Mothers don’t understand how mean they can be sometimes!
How can it be selfish not to have children? The planet is overpopulated as it is, therefore we are less selfish than those who have children. Also, there are plenty of children who need adopting.
It is selfish to have children.. how can it be selfless? Woman wants a baby. Woman has a baby. What is so moral and selfless about that?
Carrie, pronatalism, baby!
You can also throw in never being taken seriously in a leadership position. The amount of crap Julia Gillard cops over not having children here is amazing. Clearly, nobody can ever know anything about poverty or the plight of the underemployed without having a child!
And also being told that you’re immature, because nobody can become a mature adult on their own.
In response to the ‘mom club’…I think people say that because they expect that every woman is having children around the same age, and they don’t understand that there are social spaces where the childfree do mingle, and social spaces where children never come into it. (Nightclubs are a good one. If there are parents there, they aren’t there to talk about their kids.)
But also they assume that you can only be friends with people who have the same lifestyle as you. Not true at all.
Expect your identity to be marginalized by your birth family. This is unexpected and painful.
Expect your siblings and their children to come first Expect to be treated as a spectator for the mommie-daddy-baby-grandma-grandpa show (MDBGG)
Expect to have conversations hijacked by the parent filter. Example: I’m really looking forward to my holidays. Answer: You’re lucky, you can do whatever you like because you don’t have kids. Or: It’s so great to not have to get up early on the weekends. Answer: I have to get up anyway because I have kids.
Expect the response to the question How are you? to be parent monologue about their child!
Thank you for your comment, Cynthia. I can relate to the marginalization and painful feeling of no longer being as important or valuable as my siblings and their children.
I recently made the decision to be Childfree as an acquiescer. As this has been an emotional journey that I’m still on, I am finding these “what to expect” articles and comments and the rest of the website to be so helpful and so true. Thanks!
Nicole, Thanks for writing. Can you write a bit more about your journey as acquiescer – it is not talked about enough and an important discussion when it comes to childfree relationships. When one partner wants children and the other does not it can lead to the end of relationships. I love hearing from those who make it, including the decision process, how you might fill the experience you were looking for from parenthood in other ways…anything you would like to share!
We have been together 8 years and married almost 3. I knew he was wishy washy on kids, and we almost broke up several times. But he did compromise before marriage that we would only have one child. We had postponed having the kid until I was finished with my Masters and CPA studies. I concluded those goals in December, so by now, I was fully expecting to be pregnant at a reasonable age of 27, especially since all my friends were popping out kids left and right.
Well February came and he expressed more concerns about having a kid. So I tried to research ideas on how to convince your husband to want a baby, but I ended up reading 4 books on being Childfree. So I started picturing my life direction without a kid. I read articles, found this website, and even tested the idea on friends and family. So far, it has not been received very well by my mom, and friends say it’s hard to believe because I had wanted a kid so bad.
We ended up almost getting a divorce in July. But I decided I wasn’t going to throw away a good relationship where the only flaw I see is the difference in opinion of a having a kid, even though I always said it was a dealbreaker. But the most motivational reason for me to be an acquiescer after I made the decision to stay with him had to do with the child’s future. No matter what anyone says, especially “everything changes when he holds the baby”, I absolutely could not bring a child into this world unless her daddy truly wanted her before he held her. It’s just not fair to the child. It wasn’t fair to me or to him. It wasn’t fair to my pregnancy.
I did feel very depressed during these past 9 months. I felt worthless. I felt unfulfilled. I felt I had no purpose. I cried and grieved the child I will never have, especially around mothers day. But 9 months later, I am working on putting more value in the loving relationship that I am very lucky to have with my husband. My value and worth does not come from reproducing. I think we have, at least for now, shut up the constant badgering pressure from family and friends. And I am educating them on how making babies is a choice, and ours is not to have one.
I hope to one day with time be as well-versed and very happy with my decision as many on this blog are. I am not there yet, but I’ll get there.
In the short-term I was going to fill my time with my precious doggy, but he passed away 2 weeks ago unexpectedly from a reaction to anesthesia while getting his teeth cleaned. He was my little baby. So I am a little lost right now. But the career is taking up some time and I look forward to some upcoming vacations. I do have a few neices and nephews to spoil too. And I really really enjoy sleeping in late and reading books in peace and quiet 🙂
Thank you so much, Nicole…This conclusion – “I absolutely could not bring a child into this world unless her daddy truly wanted her before he held her. It’s just not fair to the child.” is one I wish more realized. There are many ways to “mother” and I am sure you will find the ways that feel the most fulfilling for you~please keep in touch re your journey on this~L
I do believe I have just read the most transparent definition of pronatilism there is,
“It’s at the height of selfishness to think the world needs a copy of your DNA!”
“BRAVO” to Daghain (10/09/12) You deverve a Nobel Peace Prize for that one! Well said!
PCOS has made it difficult for me to have children but for 11 years I did raise my ex-husbands kids. But that didn’t count, did it??
However, the families never considered me a grown up. I was not even allowed to hold the babies.
My new husband and I did try and we had several miscarriages. No one gets the pain of that either.
Church is, well, forget it, don’t even start me on that.
Work, well, I hate it when the child card is played. “I have to pick up the kids” so that the childless can do overtime.
One more thing. I love the comment “You wouldn’t understand my life because you never graduated from college!”. I wish I could have been tougher and given them such a reply.