Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hypocrisy and Respect

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 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.


FatSoSarah said...

Uh-oh, I guess I'm the rule breaker here, lol! After re-reading my last post and the rules you've written I see my faux pas and I apologize both to you and your readers. My intentions were never meant to be disrespectful of your choice or hypocritical of mine. I was merely trying to convey my understanding by giving some of my "back story" so to speak, but I now see in doing so I went about it incorrectly.

In light of my e-transgression, allow me to rephrase:

As a woman who did not choose a childfree lifestyle, I understand and support the childfree community. I feel it should all boil down to personal choice and not pressure or expectations. I agree with a lot of what you have written in the past and can relate to some of what you feel now.

You're a strong woman and no matter what, when everything is said and done, you have love and support from friends!

(And assuming you don't banish me from your site forever I look forward to reading more of your blog in the future!) ;)

Stasha said...

Oh, no no no no, you haven't done anything wrong!! You're respectfully starting dialogue, and that's important! I haven't taken offense to anything you've said and this post actually has nothing to do with your posts. I've just come across a lot of freaking out lately.

I don't think you've done anything wrong, so please continue reading and commenting. :) I'm sorry if this came across as accusatory.

FatSoSarah said...

No need for you to apologize, I simply wish to be respectful and after reading your rules I saw were I kind-of messed up. I just felt the need to apologize to you, cause even though this may sound dumb, I just feel better about it, lol!

Katie said...

I think you are so right on in criticizing the disrespect for parents that sometimes comes through from CF people. I am deeply uncomfortable with the name-calling that takes places, and the broad generalizations made about ALL parents. I wish more CF people felt comfortable enough in their own position to be able to articulate it without unnecessary cruelty toward others.

But where I disagree with you is that when parents (or people who want to be parents) make comments like "you will change your mind" ... it really doesn't matter if they "may" turn out to be right, it is still patronizing and condescending.

Yes, CF people need to be more respectful of parents, but parents also need to be more respectful of us. You personally may be comfortable with people saying those things to you, but that doesn't mean that all CF people "should" be or don't have a right to assert that they do not wish to be spoken to that way.

Stasha said...

I actually agree with you, Katie, and i think that came across as more harsh than I intended.

I still hate it when people say that. But I try to temper my anger with understanding that it's not coming without precedent. Everyone absolutely has a right to be offended and to their own emotions regarding it and it's taken me a long time to reach the point where I can let a "you'll change your mind" roll off my back without taking it quite so personally.

My main message is really to stand up for yourself, but to do it with empathy and understanding. And if someone's being rude, by all means call them on it.

Katie said...

sounds like we are totally on the same page then :)

In everything (including standing up for ourselves when we feel disrespected), empathy and understanding.

The world would be such a better place if we could all live like that.

Karen said...

It can be tough to be in the minority - especially in this because people tend to assume and make generalizations that everyone will have children. As a young girl I was raised being told that I would be a mother one day. Most (if not all) girls were probably told something similar.

Part of the reason I am child free is that my husband does not want children. It took me a long time to figure out how I felt about that. It didn't help that I was younger, I could hear my biological clock ticking loudly, and people frequently pried into our reproductive business (or lack thereof). I understand why childfree people get defensive and sometimes rude. It gets old when one has to keep answering the same extrememly personal questions about one's choices not to have children.

We do need to elevate the level of discourse on this subject. We live in a society that doesn't seem to value civility, respectful discourse, or privacy. So if we want to be heard and ultimately respected then we have to show respect as well.

I think childfree people will probably always be in the minority. Therefore we will have to keep explaining ourselves and dealing with nosey friends, co-workers, and family members, as well as their well-behaved (or not) children. If we don't like how they behave toward us and our choices why would we behave the same way toward them? We're adults after all. We should act like it.

sara star said...

I don't like being treated like a teenager, and it almost never happens, until the kid thing comes up. Then I am suddenly someone who isn't qualified to plan their life and career. Like an 18 year old with an undecided major. Considering how many childfree middle aged and seniors I know, each time that happens, I point to the nearest childfree older person and say, no I am going to be like her. Its a way of validating my choice a little more. Obviously the older person I admire is happily childfree as well.

* Valerie * said...

I just posted about this recently - it's easy for parents or child-free people to call each other names over the internet, but if you wouldn't use judgment or name-calling on a friend, then blanket judgment on the web is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree.

I understand why childfree people are often defensive, but it saddens me. I just wish we could respect others' choices, even when it's not what WE choose.

I, too, dislike the term "breeder." I love children and find many aspects of parenting appealing; I truly don't think parents are "lying" or "trying to get more people to be miserable like them." But I am choosing to be childfree, for a multitude of reasons. I just don't understand why it has to be such an us vs. them world, or why both sides feel the need to speak so disdainfully of the other. :P

Faith said...

Thanks for speaking out about the 'breeders' phrase and the name-calling. I like reading Childfree blogs, but it saddens me when I read blogs or posts full of hostility against parents. Not all parents are great, but not all parents are horrible. Just like with any other group of people, generalizing is inconsiderate, ignorant, and disrespectful.

And I don't mind the occasional "here's what I saw a parent do, yikes" kind of post, but when it's filled with rude names and cursing directed at those parents and their children, it's gone too far.

We're talking about fellow human beings who simply have made a different choice than we have. Does that really warrant such venomous hate-speech? NEVER.

Childfree Travel said...

I love the thoughtfulness of your posts. As I get older and settle into my relationship and see EVERYONE around me having babies or trying to I have to: 1) Accept that I'm going to lose friends, I'm going to be the odd one out. 2) Remember that I really don't want kids and all those happy family pics on Facebook are literally just a flash in time and 3) Be genuinely happy that people are getting what they want, even if I don't fully understand it and don't want it myself.

Yes, it IS hard but it's also great that I'm not alone!

P.S. I do have a few moms that I can have open dialogues with and it makes this process so much easier. Yes, is Childfree souls will miss out on a few things and the "Breeders" (LOL) will miss out on a few things but life is about choices and contrary to popular belief, we cannot always "have it all".

Kate said...

I... don't like children and I mean REALLY don't like children. I don't like being around them, I don't want to be near them, I don't want anything to do with them fullstop.
I'd never be openly unpleasant to either them or their parents though, that's just rude.

I more often feel sorry for he miserable looking mothers pushing prams around and swear that that will never be me. There is no malice to it though, I just sometimes wonder if they really thought about what they were getting themselves into.

I'm lucky though, my mum is 100% behind me having no kids and my bf is aware of how I feel (but is still on the fence until he gets a bit older.)

Temujin said...

I try to remember that when people tell me about parenthood and imply that I'll change my mind, often they're not really talking to me. They're talking to someone they think I am, or they're voicing their own issues. I try to remember the same thing when, as an introvert, I have conversations with extraverts who want me to "come out of my shell." (Apparently one cannot be happy unless one is outgoing AND a parent....)

I agree with you about trying to be patient with ignorance. It's hard, but we all make mistakes or put feet in our mouths.

Good point about how many people change their minds. Let's get out of the whole "with us or against us" or "true believers vs. posers" mindset.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to tell you that I'm very grateful for finding your blog. I'm a new immigrant, and child-free by my choice... I'm happy with it. However, I can't help but feeling lonely time to time.

I don't blame anyone, but just wanted to find someone who doesn't judge the life style -without children of their own-. So... thanks.


Happydog said...

"Lastly, don't be afraid to admit that there are things you're going to miss out on by not being parents." This paragraph is completely true at least for me...I'm a woman of a certain age (okay I'm 55) and childfree by choice. Young woman have asked me if I regret not having children and there are times when yes, it is a regret. But a regret I acknowledge, feel and move on from--not one I wallow in nor feel I need to get overly defensive about. I must admit I didn't think of this as a lifestyle choice until I read it on your blog. Nor have I ever felt upset at people saying anything about my childfree status. Mainly because while I may feel sad or even have regrets I don't feel ambivalent about my choice. I know that may sound like a paradox but there it is....

hailey said...

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Hailey William

Kalianne said...

Developing a balanced attitude brings peace and goodwill. Plenty of people who choose to have children make good parents. These folk were probably prepared and/or equipped mentally, emotionally and financially for the challenges of parenthood. They do their best and they do a great job. Sadly, other folk aren’t prepared for parenthood. They end up unhappy and have serious regrets.

I would not have coped with being a parent. I didn’t have the emotional or physical stamina for a start, and I’m OK about that. I don’t have feelings of superiority about being childfree nor do I feel inferior about it. I feel blessed and grateful. Society needs good parents and it needs people like us – young adults and/or middle-aged folk with time and energy to lend a hand in the community where mums and dads can’t, for a start. Being childfree isn’t better or worse, it’s just different. Feeling superior and defensive, whether you are a parent or childfree rarely brings peace or goodwill -it brings unnecessary angst and ultimately divides people.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Anonymous said...

I am in my mid 40's, work fulltime ( REALLY FULL) as a corporate lawyer and am CF as a result of a combination of choice and circumstance over the years. I find there is a sadness to being CF that is often overlooked. That is not fitting inside a selective "club". I've lost contact with my closest friends from uni days because, in all honesty, we have little left in common.I can't relate to ( and have difficulty showing interest in) the soccer mum/ canteen duty dramas, school environment stories and the "family fun"types of activities that prevail. And they really don't care about the capital raising or acquisitions I'm working on, my whining about hours / lack of holidays or the amount of tax I pay. We all have constraints on our time ( albeit due to different reasons) and priorities shift. Often it is like being on the outside, looking in. Being CF is neither good nor bad just is what it is.

Anonymous said...

Are you available for babysitting?

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog tonight, and I completely understand where you're at with these last couple of entries. I'm avowedly childfree, and my logical mind DOES NOT WANT children, but I've also had those momentary "twinges." It's a tough line to walk!

I'm adding your blog to my Google Reader, and I'm sure I'll be back to visit.

Take care :)

Anonymous said...

lol. Your like the complete opposite of me. i wanted kids so bad i spent seven and a half months in a bed carrying mine . I dont want any more obviously... it was really hard but i want you to know i think you think about your childfreeness way too much. I chose not to drink alcohol and i get flack but it dosnt make me upset like you are upset. Who are you trying to convince here ? think about it

Artemis said...

I think every one has the right to - respectfully - make questions. What many people Non-CF do not understand are the words "every one". So if they ask me why I do not want kids, then I have the right to ask why they had/want theirs. Simple as that. I believe in equality: I will treat people as they treat me in this matter.
About feeling I am missing some experience by not have a child, yes, for sure; as parents are missing experiences by having a child. I bet you many feel the same. In the end, feelings are not a reason to have/not to have a child nowadays, it is about mind and if you are mostly happy with that decision.
Remembering, of course, after you have a child, it is not possible to undo it, unless you give he/she for adoption, which can be taken as lack of personal knowledge, immature and selfish.

falfie said...

What a great post! I, too, cringe when reading bitter blogs that use words such as "breeder". I used to feel that way, but finally realized that I AM in the minority. Biologically speaking, most women are pre-programmed to want children. We just happen to not be, and that's okay too. I also think a lot of the negative mentality comes from feeling invalidated or attacked. I finally realized that those people don't get to decide who I am. I know what kind of person I am, and other's opinions don't change that. I really appreciate your honest and balanced blog about childfreedom!

Anonymous said...

An interesting post. I am late here, but I am going to write anyway.

See, I am CF. I WANT to stay childfree. I emphatically DON'T want children.

And I am afraid to change my mind.

See, to me, saying "You will change your mind" is like going to a happy, merry going person who is playing with his children in the park, laughing in a beautiful summer day, hot but not too hot, with their kids behaving wonderfully, everything is perfect... Then you look at them, shock your head and say:
"Your kids are going to die someday".

Peraphs it is true. Lets face a fact
Some, if not most, children die before their parents, too . And it is probably the Parent Worst Fear.

It doesn't make it any less terrifingly. And, the person probably don't want to be reminded about it.

So here. For me, the Worst Fear is changing my mind and becoming a parent.
Also, you can relate it with:
"Oh, you are against suicide, but you will change your mind someday. Wait till your life get REALLY hard to bear and you'll think about it too! And peraphs you will do it".
Yes, I equalle parenthood with you children dying and killing yourself. For me it is like that. And it doesn't matter what other person say. For me is the magic part.

I am saving for a tubal ligation.
I don't WANT to change my mind.