I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer. I am not trying to offend anyone with the topics that I’m about to discuss, however I can understand why someone may take offense to my opinions. This post may come off as slightly negative because I’m releasing some pent up frustrations that have been on my mind lately. Please do not take my words as a personal attack or generalization of yourself or people like yourself. Due to this, I am not going to apologize if you don’t agree with something I say. These are my experiences, and as such are 100% valid when applied to my own life.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to make it clear that I’ve been a social misfit since early childhood. I was considered a “nerd” as early as Kindergarten because I was the only student in my class who could read fluently, and I was sent to a Fifth Grade classroom during designated reading times. I hadn’t ever been to daycare, preschool, or anything else. Being an only child, my first day of Kindergarten was the first day I was in a room full of kids my own age. Before then, I’d only dealt with adults or small groups of children. I think this is the biggest reason I didn’t like kids when I was a child. I couldn’t relate to them and therefore felt alienated and uncomfortable around them. I never grew out of this, and have never been able to relate to anyone in my own age group. I always gravitate to people older than me.
Let’s run through the list of all my social “labels” or “flaws”. Each of these labels below have given me some sort of social isolation, and I’ve been insulted, bullied, judged, or stereotyped because of all of them. If you’d like me to explain one in depth (or even dedicate a whole post to it) feel free to ask me in the comments section below or email me at RollsAndCurvesEmail@gmail.com.
- Visibly Fat
- Large Breasts
- “Alternative” Appearance
- Mentally Ill
- Person of Hispanic Origin That Appears “White”
- Sex Positive
Out of all these “labels” and “flaws” there’s one thing that’s given me the most backlash in life. It’s my choice to be childfree. This statement shocks many people considering the fact that there was an entire subreddit devoted to hating fat people.
If you’re not childfree, you might not have any idea how it feels to fall under this label. You might not even know what it really means to be childfree. If you do know what it means, you might have heard some generalizations or stereotypes about this community. To attempt to quiet some of these generalizations, I’ll post the definition of childfree from the subreddit devoted to this lifestyle.
“Childfree” refers to those who do not have and do not ever want children (whether biological, adopted, or otherwise).
That’s it. It doesn’t mean we all hate kids (although some childfree people do dislike kids). It doesn’t mean we hold black masses in which we sacrifice newborns. It doesn’t mean we want to take away the ability for others to reproduce. It doesn’t mean anything besides the fact that we don’t want to reproduce.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I think it’s difficult to be open about my childfree lifestyle. In short, it feels like a crushing social pressure and a pervasive feeling of isolation and judgement. As with all “nonstandard” lifestyles, you’ll have a lot of people make jokes at your expense or make up strange reasons to explain what they deem unacceptable about your character. I’ve heard some people say that others only pursue a vegan lifestyle because they’re anorexic and trying to cover it up. While I’m sure there have been people on this Earth who have used veganism as a “cover up” for their eating disorder, it is not the standard. It’s an offensive assumption that does nothing but stigmatize the lifestyle you’re misinformed about. The assumption most commonly made about childfree women is that we’re a bunch of barren and infertile spinsters who hate kids because we secretly want them and are upset that we can’t or don’t have them. Again, I’m sure there have been some childfree women who wanted kids all along, never had them, and now have a negative view of children and the people that have them. Most childfree women do not fall under this label.
Some more stereotypes are that we all hate kids, we’re angry lesbians, we have a medical condition we don’t want to pass to our children, we’re “selfish”, “noncommittal” or “too focused on our careers”, we all had horrible childhoods, we were sexually abused, or that we had horrible parents. I’ve even been told that if my boyfriend didn’t want to have kids with me, he’s either cheating or gay. Some “less rude” but still inappropriate assumptions are that childfree couples are only abstaining from having children until they’re financially stable, or that our partners are unable or unwilling to provide us with a child.
You’ll notice that none of these manufactured excuses cover one of the main reasons, if not the main reason someone will decide to not have kids. This reason is simple, and can be summed up in four words.
“I don’t want children.”
Regardless of the reasons someone may give for not wanting children, those four words should be enough to stop the prodding and teasing. Childfree people shouldn’t have to give a laundry list of reasons why they don’t want children.We shouldn’t have to pull out a socially acceptable excuse just to be taken seriously.
I understand fully why some just assume that everyone wants kids. It comes from the “nuclear family” idea, in which a husband and wife live together with their child(ren). It’s just “something you do” for some people, much like filing taxes is another thing we’re all expected to do. If you’re alive, it means every single person in your direct lineage has reproduced. If someone “fails” to procreate, they’re deviating from the norm which shakes up the societal expectations. Unfortunately, choosing to not have children can unintentionally hurt the feelings of other family members. How many women have joked that their children need to “give them some grandbabies”? How many men have told their sons that they need to “keep the family name alive”? The problem with this logic is that it essentially reduces a woman to her uterus and child bearing abilities, and reduces a man to his sperm. You should not have children with the expectation that they will grow up, get married, and have children of their own. You should have children because you want to raise a child, and in my opinion you should be prepared to deal with the fact that your child may not like the life plan you’ve laid out for them.
I’m sure some people will roll their eyes at the above paragraph and say “just ignore them!”, but it’s not that simple. It’s not like you can just stick your fingers in your ears forever. It tends to wear you down after the billionth time you’ve been asked about it. If you don’t believe that people are judged for their choice to not have children, go to a place where tabloid magazines are sold and look at some of the headlines. It’s like some people get off on the idea that celebrities are pregnant, even if they aren’t. Maybe they just ate too much Chipolte that day. How many dramatic headlines have you seen that say in all capital letters: “(INSERT FEMALE CELEBRITY) FINALLY PREGNANT!!”. This is used interchangeably with “(INSERT MALE CELEBRITY) FINALLY BECOMES A DADDY!!” Go to a wedding shower or wedding and count the number of times children are mentioned, usually in the “when are you starting your family?” context. Pay attention to the language people use. I rarely hear “if you have children”. What I hear most often is “when you have children”. Go out in public and tell a stranger that you don’t want kids if the subject comes up. Repeat this ten times and consider the responses you receive. It might not seem like a lot to you, but this is something that childfree people experience on a daily basis.
This paragraph is probably going to lead to some people wanting my head on a stick, but as I said in my first paragraph I’m not saying that all people are like this, I’m not saying a specific person is like this, and I’m not looking down on others for their life decisions. The group that gives the childfree the most trouble is parents. Not all parents, just some. When someone becomes a parent, their child usually becomes the most important thing in their life. It also becomes their biggest source of frustration, which is understandable because raising a child is hard. As a person without kids, you’ll undoubtedly hear someone with parents rant about their children. If you even make a slight remark of agreement, or let it slip that you don’t have/want kids they’ll usually make a comment about you not having kids of your own. It’s not always malicious, but sometimes it can be. In this case, they think you’re judging them, and they take your own childfree status as an insult to their status as a parent. Some even take it so personally that their minds must defend their status as a parent, and this is usually where things get messy. In response, they’ll use a phrase like “But it’s all worth it because I love my child. You just don’t understand. It’s different when it’s your own!”
This is where bingoes come in. The concept of social bingoes are not a new thing. They’re used in many contexts. In short, a social bingo is an overused social phrase that can be attributed to a group of people. The bingoes I’m referring to are the phrases like ‘You’re too young to know you don’t want kids”, “Who will take care of you when you’re old?”, “I didn’t want kids either. Now my child is the most important thing in my life, you’ll see”, or “How could you not want children? You must hate kids!”. It’s these statements that insinuate that the parent knows what’s best for you, a childfree person, solely because they decided to have children and you didn’t. It’s those sharp, condescending, biting phrases that only serve to make you feel guilty about your own decisions. The best thing I can compare them to is those phrases that fat shamers use when they’re caught being a jerk “I’m only saying this because I care about your health!” There’s a slew of bingoes parents use, so to simplify I’ll just post a sample bingo card from r/childfree.
You simply can’t get away from the idea that you’re doing something wrong because you didn’t have kids. When you try to explain yourself to someone, they cut you off and make assumptions about why you decided not to have kids (see above). They treat you like you’re a baby-eating monster simply because you’re not a like minded individual with children. There’s a common bingo that claims the childfree person in question will regret not having kids when they’re old. From reading tons of posts on r/childfree regarding childfree retirees, it seems like most childfree people live happy and fulfilling lives and rarely regret their decision. I understand that some people would regret their decision if they didn’t have children. To be an understanding person, you have to cope with the idea that you can’t apply your own experiences to other people. For example, my life would be ruined if I personally had an unplanned pregnancy. That doesn’t mean I think all children are mistakes, or that all children ruin lives.
One of the hardest parts about being childfree is trying to convince a doctor that you’re serious. I am only 20 years old, and in the 5 years that I’ve been speaking to doctors about desiring very long term or permanent birth control I’ve been laughed at, talked down to, refused service, and disrespected. The rule of thumb is that you can’t go through a tubal ligation until you’re in your 30s and have (usually multiple) children. I understand that it’s a liability issue because some people have been sterilized, regretted it, and then sued the doctor. That said, it’s a much more life altering situation to have children, although this decision is not nearly as stigmatized or questioned as the decision to abstain. If you’re 20 and childfree, you’re simultaneously told that you’re too young to decide to be sterilized, and then asked what you’d do if “Mr Right came along”, as if the right man is what will make me have children. If I had a child at 20 I would not be judged as harshly by the medical community. They talk down to you and laugh as if you just said you want to become a dolphin.
This is the reason why I become absolutely infuriated by the phrase, “If you hate kids so much, either keep your legs closed or get your tubes tied.” The reason for my anger is twofold. On one hand it’s extremely sexist and derogatory to use the phrase “keep your legs closed” as it removes responsibility from the man that has sexual relations with the woman in question and implies that nobody should have sex for pleasure. On the other hand, these people make statements like this as if it’s easy to get a tubal. It’s not like handing out candy. Some women have to go through years of therapy before the doctor decides they’re mature and emotionally healthy enough to get a tubal ligation. Some women even have trouble getting approved for an IUD. I’m not going to delve into it very much here (that’s a topic for another day), but it shouldn’t be easier and more socially acceptable for a sexually active person to have children than it is for them to not have children. Both should be socially acceptable choices.
I’m now going to tie this all together and describe why this post has been on the tips of my fingers for weeks now.
As a member of the body positive community, I’ve seen many women list their reasons for why plus sized women should love their bodies regardless of any aesthetic “flaws” they may possess. It’s not uncommon for these lists to include the ability to bear children. Even if you’re not a member of the childfree community, this way of thinking is still problematic because some women desperately want to have children and cannot. If I were plus sized and wanted kids but was infertile, I would feel even worse than I originally did. All of the things I mentioned above in all other paragraphs are even worse for women that can’t have children but want them, because they can’t escape the subject of their unhappiness, but are judged for it regardless. There’s this belief floating around that the only “real women” are the ones who have had children. You’ll see this way of thinking used against transgender women more than any other group.
When you approach it from the childfree stance, it makes you feel like you’re “the wrong kind of fat”. You’re not carrying extra weight because you dealt with pregnancy, you’re carrying extra weight for whatever other reasons apply to you. Since so many women cite their new found body acceptance with the realization that their bodies produced and carried children, it further stigmatizes both the fat and the childfree woman. I can’t say I love my stretch marks because I don’t have a child to show for them. It’s especially difficult to stomach if a woman says that she accepts her “saggy” breasts because they nourished her child. It makes me feel like my breasts aren’t acceptable to society because they’re “saggy” without going through breastfeeding. I genuinely feel happy for the women that feel empowered by their own journey of pregnancy and motherhood, but I think it’s a bit presumptuous to assume that every body positive woman should feel empowered by their ability to have children. This way of thinking also does something I’m not fond of, which is make excuses for your bodily “indiscretions”. It’s okay to be overweight or have conventionally unattractive aspects of your appearance without needing to choose a socially acceptable reason for it. A less loaded example of this is, “I’m overweight, but I run 3 miles a day and only eat salads.” It perpetuates the stereotype that fat women can’t love their fat without either working to lose their fat, or explaining it away.
I guess what I’m trying to sum up here is that society is so focused on babies that it forgets about the people who may not want babies of their own. Contrary to popular belief, women are worth more than their childbearing abilities. Men are worth more than their sperm. A family can be a family without having kids. A couple can be devoted to each other and madly in love without having a new human being to show for it. A person can be happy in their life sans children. A person can be a whole human being without replicating. None of these above statements belittle the act of reproduction and parenthood. All they’re trying to accomplish is the normalization of “alternative” lifestyles, like the childfree lifestyle. We’re not trying to stop people from having kids, and we’re not trying to make parents guilty for their decision to have children. We just want the right to exist without stereotypes and assumptions. We want our relatives to stop nudging us in the sides and asking when we’re having kids. We want our maturity to stop being tied to our reproductive abilities. We want to coexist. We want the ability to say why we don’t want kids without fearing backlash from parents.
*ALL PICTURES WERE FOUND ON BING. IF YOU OWN ANY OF THESES IMAGES AND WOULD LIKE THEM REMOVED, CONTACT ME AT ROLLSANDCURVESEMAIL@GMAIL.COM*