10 Things Not to Say to Childfree People.

I am a childfree woman about to marry a wonderful childfree man. We don’t want children. Plain and simple. It’s not that we hate children, no, far from it. I have a 3-year-old nephew and a 7-year-old niece that my fiance adores, and they love him. Neither of us hate children. We just don’t want to have any of our own.

Of course this seems to irritate, confuse, and sometimes downright offend others. Never mind that this is really no one else’s choice but ours, and gods forbid we should actually exercise our right to free choice, but this seems to be something that 90% of the people we know can’t wrap their minds around. And because of this, we hear an array of comments, questions, and statements that make us want to pull our hair out sometimes. Sometimes people get really creative in their attempts to change our minds/insult us/guilt us/etc. But there are a good few comments that we hear pretty much regularly. Here’s 10 of them:

1) “You’ll change your mind when you get older.”

This comment is sometimes shortened to just “you’ll change your mind.”  First of all, this kind of comment suggests that the person saying it thinks they know our minds and our relationship better than we do. It brushes off the choice we made as something that is going to be fleeting. Having or not having children is a BIG decision, and it’s not something that we, or anyone childfree, considers in a fleeting moment of fancy. Having kids is something you cannot go back on. Once you become a parent, you are a parent for life. It’s a bigger commitment than marriage. And believe me, with a decision that big and life altering, it’s something that I have thought about extensively.

2) “You’re not old enough to know that.”

This is in a similar vein to number 1. It also brushes off the decision and invalidates the people who made it as not knowing their own minds. It reduces them to immature children who don’t know what they want out of life. I’m engaged and 24 years old. I was congratulated for my engagement. I’m old enough to get married, but not old enough to decide I don’t want kids? I have friends who are younger than me who have expressed the desire to have 4-5 children, and no one second-guesses them. So this clearly has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with going against the norm and making a choice that others don’t want you to make. As I said earlier, choosing to not have children is just as personal, and valid, as choosing to have children.

3) “You’re selfish.”

This just makes no sense to me. I’m selfish because I’ve decided to NOT bring unwanted kids into the world? I would be miserable if I had kids. It would ruin my marriage, and I would become a distant, bitter mother. My husband would be shouldered with the responsibility of picking up the slack of parenting that I didn’t. That’s not fair to him, it’s not fair to the children, and I refuse to have kids that I will resent just because someone else expects it of me. In some ways, yes, I am selfish. I want to live my life the way I want to, with my future husband. When you have kids, that’s what your life becomes. I’m not willing to make that big of a sacrifice. But y’know what? I have enough self awareness to know that and not make the mistake of becoming a parent when I really don’t want to. I know myself well enough to understand that motherhood is not something for me. My fiance knows himself well enough to understand that he doesn’t really want that life either. My mother always said that it’s better to know that you don’t want kids and not have them than to have them and resent them later.

4) “Why do you hate kids?!”

Just because I don’t want kids doesn’t mean I hate them. I said I don’t want kids, I didn’t say I hated them. If those words ever come out of my mouth, then this would be a valid question. A lot of childfree people don’t hate kids, they just don’t want to be parents. A lot of us CF’ers have many children in our lives in our extended families that we love and care for. Contrary to popular belief, there are indeed occasions where we find things that kids do very cute. Being childfree shouldn’t imply any kind of hate. Unless someone explicitly states so.

5) “You don’t understand how hard it is to be a parent!”

Yes we do. That’s why we made the choice not to become parents. Does it make us cowardly or weak? Taking the easy way out in life? No. It just means we made a different choice. It also doesn’t mean that our lives are easy, that we don’t have any trouble, and that our lives don’t mean as much as those with kids.

6) “But don’t you want a family?”

This one is rather infuriating because it implies that family is synonymous with children. We have husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends…all of those are family. This comment invalidates all of that. It suggests that we can’t be a true “family” unless we are parents. It’s rather insensitive.

7) “But don’t you want to give your parents grandchildren?”

That’s not their decision. It sounds like they are some kind of present to be wrapped up and opened on Christmas. Children are human beings. Having kids to please or satisfy someone else who doesn’t have to raise and take care of them every day is not a good reason to have them. If you’re going to have kids, you should have them because it’s what you really want. Not because it’s something someone else wants. Letting pressure from other people control your decisions in life, especially decisions as big as this is not a good idea.

8 ) “But think of all the people who want kids and can’t have them!”

…And? Am I supposed to have kids to fill in the hole in the population for them? Am I supposed to have kids and give them to these people? What bearing does that have on me? I do know a couple who really wants children, but because of the wife’s premature onset of menopause, she can’t have them. I feel sorry for her, because they are wonderful people that I have known for a long time and I know they would be great parents. It’s sad that two people who deserve to be parents are unable to be so because of unfortunate circumstance. However, it’s not my responsibility or obligation to make that happen for them. And what difference would it make to them if I have kids of my own? They’d be my kids, not theirs. They want kids of their own. So this logic is completely backwards.

9) “Who will take care of you when you’re old?”

Children should not be considered and insurance policy for old age. There is no 100% guarantee that your kids will take care of you in old age. I think it’s unfair to expect that from them. What if they live in a different city? Different state? Different country? Are they supposed to drop everything in their lives once you retire? What if they have kids of their own they are raising? What if they turned out to be total dependent dead-beats who did nothing with themselves? Hopefully that last one doesn’t happen…:( but what if it does? I certainly don’t expect my niece and nephew to take care of me when I’m old. Sure, I’d like them to come visit from time to time, but it’s quite likely that they will not be my caretakers.

10) “Children are a woman’s greatest achievement!”

This implies that those of us who have decided not to have kids will never achieve anything of worth in life. Like what we do or contribute to society doesn’t matter because we didn’t have kids. Everything we’ve done is invalid unless we squeeze out a kid. And even if we did have kids, everything else we’ve done in life is rendered unimportant. The actress Helen Mirren is childfree. The lead singer of Fleetwood Mac is childfree. As is Ellen Degeneres and her wife. All of them chose to be childfree. And I’d say they all achieved something of worth in their lives. Aside from that, squeezing the entire realm of potential for female greatness into a mommy-box sounds like a throwback to the 50’s when you got married young and had as many kids as your husband told you. Women didn’t have a social ladder so much as a footstool. We can achieve things outside of the motherhood realm if we so choose.

I realize that a lot of this might offend those of you out there who are mothers. That’s not my intent. I would sincerely hope that you’d read all of what I’ve said and realize I’m not bashing people who want to be parents, or who are parents. These are all things that have been said to me by parents who can’t fathom why I have chosen to not be a mother. All of the people who said them to me were very rude, dismissive, and insulted me in other ways I don’t care to repeat. These are also only the most common things I hear thrown at me. I’ve heard worse, far more insulting, far more irrational and as always, a heaping helping of zealous religious comments shoved down my throat. A good number of them didn’t even want to hear what I had to say before they cut me off and yelled at me.

A lot of parents demand respect for being parents. I give respect to those who deserve it. I can think of many, many mothers and fathers who are great parents, their children are pleasant to be around (some of them are good friends), and deserve loads of respect. My friends Jeff, Jen and Vickie Bristow come to mind immediately. I respect people like them and their choice to become parents because it’s clear that they are happy with their decision and they’ve handled that responsibility wonderfully. I also respect them because they respect my decision to not be a mother, and they respect me as a grown adult with a life of her own, and a good relationship with my fiance. They also know that I’m not the kind of person to hate on people with kids.

In a nutshell, people are different. We have different lives, we make different choices that are best for us. Not everyone lives the same way and no one lifescript is perfect for everyone. Respect others’ freedom of choice. Whether it be to have kids, or to not have them.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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