I am child-free by choice.
It was an easy choice for me. I knew I didn’t want kids. Neither did my husband. It was part of what brought us together. But even though this choice was easy for me, the fallout from others’ judgment was a kick in the gut like, say, a mild contraction. Especially when I was in my 20s and 30s.
We live in a child-centric society. As such, there are assumptions about child-free people that are deemed as truisms. And people think it’s completely okay (which it isn’t, by the way) to make comments based on these assumptions.
Some of these comments include (but are not limited to):
#1. “You must hate children.”
Of course there are those who would choose an offensively exploratory colonoscopy over spending time with children. But that’s not the case for me. Nor has it been for any of the child-free people I know.
I love kids. They’re unedited – capable of singing about poop while running madly through the grocery store with their clothes on backward. Come on. That’s some serious comic relief.
I just don’t want one running around my house.
#2. “You’ll regret it some day.”
This statement, though often well-intentioned, is one of the most offensive. And we hear it A LOT.
We all make choices. And with each choice comes the possibility of a negative repercussion. Just as there are child-free people who have some regrets, so too are there parents who wonder how their lives would be different, for better or worse, if they hadn’t had children. I’m grateful for parents who openly admit this.
Even so, I’ve never ONCE told parent that they will regret their decision to have kids. Aside from it being paramount to sacrilege, it’s really none of my business.
#3. “How will you fill that empty space in your heart?”
Do we have an empty space in our living room unfettered by brightly colored contraptions or filthy little socks? Yes.
An empty space in our cupboards absent of reptile-shaped cheese crackers? Well, maybe.
But an empty space in our hearts? None of which I’m aware. Really. You can let this one go.
#4. “I see your choice as selfish.”
Understandable, depending on your definition of selfish.
The choice to not have children has certainly afforded me luxuries that many parents no longer have. I don’t have to work as many hours and my husband and I have a freedom that’s pretty damn awesome.
But assuming us selfish for choosing to have extra time and/or money is unfair. I don’t know anyone jetting off to Richard Branson’s island for the weekend. But I do know child-free people who utilize their extra time and money toward bettering themselves and helping others.
Furthermore, on a planet already overstressed by too many humans, I see our choice to not add to that as, well, not selfish.
But again, I guess that depends on your definition of selfish.
#5. “You will never know this kind of love.”
There’s no way for me to argue this. I haven’t made the sacrifice of being torn in half to give birth. Of course, neither have fathers or adoptive parents – though childfree people are frequently reminded of the many other sacrifices they make.
And we get it.
The only reference I have is the love I had for “my kids” when I was a nanny for a dozen years. I truly would have thrown myself in front of a bus for them. And I thought they were awesome and amazing in every possible way. They weren’t, of course. Not any more so than any other kids. But at the time, my ego was invested in the belief that they were. And that ego stuff was pretty heady. That’s all I got though.
We want you to love your kids. You’re supposed to love them. Otherwise you might eat them.
What we don’t want is judgment or unsolicited sympathy or pity for a choice we willingly made. I like to think that most childfree by choice people wouldn’t deny that having and raising children is a noble learning experience, not to mention a really tough job. But for me personally, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of others and myself that I don’t think would have been possible FOR ME if I’d been busy raising my own kids.
Of course, I’ll never know for sure. But I don’t regret my choice. At least, not today.
Steph Ruopp is a freelance writer/blogger, yoga instructor and educator who finds tribal connections to children much more easily than to adults.