Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thoughts on Childfree versus Childless and Other Labels People Throw Around

I was at a book club meeting discussing Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In (GREAT book by the way, will need to write a blog post about it in the future) and the discussion of kids came up. A long time but not super close friend of mine mentioned that she decided not to have kids, and half of the group umped on her about how she "would be such a great mom" and her husband "would be such a great dad!" To which she gracefully deflected and changed the subject.

However, it got me thinking. Mostly about how childless (not by choice) and childfree (by choice) both seem to have some sort of social stigma. I selected these particular labels for ease of writing. I think anyone without kids for any reason should be free to make their own decision on what to call themselves, if they want to choose a label at all.

Childless may get more sympathy from the public. Those who wanted to have children and were denied by the universe are dealing with so many thoughts and feelings, it's hard to make sense of it and come to peace. Therefore, we tend to keep it to ourselves, making us look like we're simply childfree.

Then again, childless make evoke more pity than sympathy, more gossip than understanding. I also often feel brushed under the rug, because I am what every want-to-be-mom fears the most: failure. A living, breathing example that not everyone gets their happy ending. Nobody wants to have to look that in the face, so I feel forgotten. Left behind.

On the surface, childfree and childless face the same pushy, nosy people wanting to know why you don't have kids. But kids are so great! Who's going to take care of you when you get old? Don't you feel like your life is empty? If you made the decision to be childfree, you have answers to those questions because you believe in your choice. But when you wanted children... every one of those questions opens up another wound. Your heart screams "Of course I do! My life is empty and meaningless! My sorrow will grow until the day I die because I don't have offspring to check on me to make sure I haven't fallen and broken a hip!"

That's why I don't necessarily identify with those who made the decision not to have kids, rather than having the decision made for you. But I can respect their choice, and maybe we should work together more. We're both in the minority, and if there is anything I have learned from living in this country is that the minority groups need to stick together or else the majority will walk all over us. So I welcome you with open arms. And if you ever get accidentally knocked up, I will gladly take your spawn off your hands, because what are friends for?

4 comments:

  1. Great post... 'every one of those questions opens up another wound'. No one should go through this. That is a choice that shouldn't be made for you. It honestly doesn't make sense. I'm so sorry. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I'm here. Reading. Listening. Accompanying you on this journey. And now that there's an Anonymous status I can show you <3 Susy_Sama

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  2. Living childless is something I should be used to but I refuse to get used to it because then I will be living childfree.

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  3. I really struggle with the "less" part of childless. I don't want a term that constantly reminds me of what I don't have. I know my son died. I know that I couldn't have more children. Don't need anyone to remind me again - you are so right about the open wounds - those questions really can hurt!

    Thanks for your comment today.

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  4. I've been reading a lot recently about this issue and am learning a lot about how to respond to people and how so many of the standard responses to being childfree/less really aren't valid.

    I read a post recently where one line really struck me. "don't presume that my life is empty and i won't presume yours is a burden". A childfree/less life is such a full life, just with a completely different direction and focus. There can't be a comparison.

    And on the issue of "who will look after you in your old age?", there are plenty of elderly who don't have the joy of their children visiting them and taking care of them. While there are plenty of aunts out there who have their nieces and nephews regularly visiting. Having children doesn't mean that you will necessarily be taken care of in your old age. It's not a valid argument.

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