I’ve been seeing a word battered about lately to describe childfree folk and it’s been frustrating me.
SMUG: contentedly confident of one's ability, superiority, or correctness; complacent.
Are we confident, outspoken? Of course. We have to be. We’re constantly put in a position where we have to be. When you put someone on the defensive, you’re asking them to talk themselves up, to prove their point. I know in my experience if I respond with vagueness, without passion, out of desire to avoid confrontation, that’s when it gets the worst. I’ve learned through experience that my passion needs to match the passion of the person presenting the challenge, and parenting is something that obviously inspires a lot of passion.
Ours is a lifestyle that requires confidence. The moment people find out we intend not to have children, we’re anomalies, topics of discussion. Sometimes it’s respectful interest that motivates people to ask questions, and that I welcome. But I’ve found the people most likely to write us off as smug are those who egg us on, who force us onto the defensive so we have to proclaim “hell yes I made this decision and I’m damn proud because it’s the right one for me!” When we find others that share our views (like in an internet forum), we rejoice, we get excited, we relish the opportunity to share our story in the safety of others.
In the meantime, many of the mothers in my life (my close friends thankfully excluded) are incredibly smug. There are the breastfeeding Nazis who thrive on making even other moms feel inadequate if they don’t want to or aren’t in a position to breastfeed, nevermind the moms who adopt. There’s the pedestal moms, like my sister-in-law, who truly and honestly believe that the act of motherhood is the only way through which one can become a “complete” human being, or the martyr moms whom no one could possibly understand how much they sacrifice for their kids, and that sacrifice clearly makes them better people than the rest of us. These moms throw hypothetical arguments at us, designed to rattle us emotionally, that, when we throw them back, make us rude and smug. Suggest to them that they might regret their decision, or make them justify why they felt the need to go through expensive fertility treatments instead of adopting one of the kids that already exist (I have mixed feelings about this) and it just serves as confirmation that we’re heartless. But yet when we inflect our words with a confidence that says “don’t challenge me on this one” in hopes of avoiding a conflict, we’re being smug and self-righteous.
Am I the only one who sees this double-standard?
Here’s the thing; they’re not better than us. And we’re not better than them. We’re all just folk here, all making choices that suit our lives. We childfree are proud of being self-aware, unrattled (usually) by societal pressure and confident in the choices we make for our lives.
If that constitutes smugness, add smug to the list with selfish, I suppose.