It's something I see a lot in the childfree world, and it bothers me a lot. We scream and cry and say "don't judge me", "don't assume X about me", but then in the same breath someone will say something nice about parenthood and immediately the shackles get raised, or they'll say "I was childfree until I changed my mind" and the twitching starts.
Many childfree people find solace in the stories of parents who regret their decision. We look at the woman who resents her children and feel validation, seeing our biggest fears about parenthood happening. And, if we're human, we feel incredible sympathy. If we're not, we go "HA HA HA! Stupid parents" to their faces.
I'm not hopping up on a high horse here. I'm horrified constantly by situations that make me think parenthood should require some sort of licensing process. I get angry at people whose children misbehave and have zero tolerance once normal conversation about what we love and hate about our lives turns into preaching or, worse, accusations about our character. I make judgments all the time about people who I don't think have any business procreating. I have a very low tolerance for misbehavior; I'm highly sensitive, easily annoyed and overwhelmed and because of it I have a really hard time being around kids for more than a couple hours at a time. Sometimes I lose my cool. I bitch a lot to like-minded friends. I'm certainly not perfect.
My issue comes in with over-generalizations, the same ones that we get so angry about. The word "breeders" used as a slur makes me angry, as do many of the vulgar phrases used to describe children at some childfree blogs and communities.
I don't want you to presume I hate all, and specifically your children, but I owe it to you to not call you names. My desire to make the childfree choice a respected one involves respect on both sides.
This also includes not presuming all parents who love parenthood are delusional. I think a lot of people tell themselves little lies to make the hard situations in their life easier to deal with. I think many parents idealize their experience, and I think a lot of childfree women lie to themselves when they say they never think that elements of parenthood are kind of cool. But for every childfree woman who loves her childfree life and knows motherhood isn't for her, I promise you there are a dozen who were born to be mothers. It's an evolutionary fact. Those of us who choose not to have children ARE unusual, and the fact is it will take people some time to get used to us.
But let's try something new. Let's try not getting upset and uppity when someone presumes we're eventually going to have children. It's natural for that to be the assumption. Don't flip your shit when someone pushes the issue...in the beginning. If they continue to push boundaries, explain, calmly, your feelings but don't get bitchy and accusatory about it. Reserve your anger for when people really cross the line and actually intend to hurt. The more bitter childfree people parents meet, the more they'll be able to believe that we're horrible, soulless and defective.
Additionally, don't freak out when someone says they were childfree and they changed their mind, or they suggest that when you're older, when your circumstances change, etc., you'll change your mind too. Again, if they make the comment it's one thing; if they push, it's another entirely. NEWSFLASH: Many, if not most childfree people DO change their minds. I know I'm *gasp* not supposed to talk about it, but come on. It's a fact. Many of my friends who are currently trying to conceive were formerly my sisters in childfreedom. It happens. Blame it on hormones, blame it on societal pressure, blame it on maturity, but getting angry about a fact of life is just silly. Because of this I think it's acceptable that people presume we will change our minds, as annoying as it is. Yes, you can and should be offended when people are entirely dismissive, or they push the issue or are disrespectful. But be realistic, and especially to the formerly childfree who changed their minds: be respectful.
Lastly, don't be afraid to admit that there are things you're going to miss out on by not being parents. Don't be afraid to admit that this is sometimes hard. This is a lifestyle choice (although in many ways it doesn't feel like a choice because it's so natural and as much a part of who we are as parenthood can be for others). But we're never going to know just how it feels to watch a child of ours grow, and it doesn't make you a bad childfree person to admit there's a sadness to that.
As I've said in my post, The Rules: Open a dialogue. Don't lecture. Don't judge. There are still things that we'd like to be off-limits, but what I don't address in that passionate post is that we often need to adjust our expectation when someone breaks The Rules and educate people how to treat us respectfully. Part of mutual respect is understanding their prejudices and that those prejudices are normal, and working through conversation, not confrontation, to educate people.