***UPDATE*** When I originally wrote this article I titled it “Dear Childless by Choice” when the preferred and proper term is ‘childfree.’ The title has been changed to reflect this preference. My apologies!
Dear Childfree By Choice,
Man, you guys sure are getting a lot of press lately, aren’t you? I guess I missed the memo somewhere along the way that said we all had to have babies or we wouldn’t get to level up in life. I guess some could argue that there’s that whole biblical commandment to multiply and replenish but not everyone is on team bible, and even the people who are aren’t necessarily equipped with the proper circumstances to have kids, and even if you have all the circumstances, who’s to say you even want them?
Parents usually say obnoxious things like “You’ll never know the joy of parenthood until you experience it yourself.” You’ll also never know the adrenaline rush of staring down a hungry tiger in the jungle or the rush of jumping out of a plane until you do it either but I don’t see people lining up for tiger taming lessons or skydiving class just because someone said they were awesome.
Maybe it’s unfair to compare babies to hungry tigers or jumping out of airplanes —then again, have you ever been around a baby? At least I know I can throw a steak at the tiger to get away and if I’m jumping out of a plane I at least have the option of being strapped to someone who does know what they’re doing. Parenthood is a giant bait and switch, where you think you have it figured out with all the books, pastel nursery decorations, expensive toys and birth plans then BLAM! you get hit with vomit, postpartum depression, an emergency c-section and your kid could care less about the expensive toys and would rather stare at the ceiling fan.
NO REALLY, PARENTHOOD IS AWESOME! WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE WANT TO DO IT AGAIN?
Then there are those people out there, the ones that guilt and shame other grown adults for not doing what they did. Maybe it’s because some of them are jealous that the grown ups without children get to go through life without stepping on Legos at 2 a.m. or knowing what getting peed on feels like. It’s like when you friend eats something that tastes terrible then offers you a bite. “Why would I want to do that, you just said it was terrible!” And it’s true, sometimes parenting is terrible, just like prime time TV can be terrible or our marriages can be terrible or our jobs can be terrible, but we stick with what we care about which is why I’m still here everyday when my kid gets off the bus.
Did I want kids? Eh, I was never totally opposed to the idea. Do I want more kids? Nope. Two is good, three you’re outnumbered. Am I glad I had them? Of course! Would I have had an equally fulfilling life without them? I’m sure I would have found something to do with myself, and been perfectly happy doing it. I’m one of those terribly obnoxious “everything happens for a reason!” people and the kids that I have happened to me for a reason. I have learned more from parenting them than I’ve learned from just about anything else. Some days I can feel my brain leaking out of my ear while other days I can feel a sense of pride that I’m not sending total assholes out into the world.
If you are childfree by choice? GOOD FOR YOU. Way better to know such a thing, go on living your life and doing amazing things with it rather than have kids out of some sense of biblical or maternally induced guilt and realize that they’re a whole lot of work you weren’t quite prepared for. Is motherhood the greatest thing you can do with your womanhood? NO. Absolutely not. Loving is the greatest thing you can do with your womanhood and anyone that tells you that you have to raise a child of your own to earn a mother heart is a liar and their pants are probably on fire.
Was Mother Teresa any less compassionate because she never passed a mucous plug? Is Oprah’s empire any less because she never soothed a newborn through colic or argued with a teenager about poor life choices? My mom has had two best friends forever, neither of them had children, one by choice, the other by consequence. My own step-mother never had children of her own, but she raised us and cares for her grandchildren with more love and care than most biological parents and grandparents do.
It doesn’t take having your own kids to make you a mother. Even Wikipedia agrees with me:
“Because of the complexity and differences of a mother’s social, cultural, and religious definitions and roles, it is challenging to specify a universally acceptable definition for the term.“
I like my kids. I’m glad they’re here. We wanted both of them around unlike some parents who got pregnant so their other kid can have a sibling then get pissed when they end up pregnant with twins. If you want kids it has to be because YOU want kids. Not because your parents want you to have kids, the bible wants you to have kids or society says you’re supposed to have kids. Last week a new dad in a prime time drama looked at his tiny new baby and said “I realize one day you will probably be the best thing that ever happened to me, but right now I kind of hate you.” While it may have been television, truer words have never been spoken about parenthood.
I heard some of you gasp from all the way over here.
You’re never going to like anything 100% of the time, not even sunshine or chocolate. The point is acknowledging that the image of parenthood being this easy breezy oh-so-natural thing is a lie. When new parents tell me “OH! IT’S SO GREAT! BABIES ARE THE BEST!” I want to pull them aside and whisper “It’s cool if you don’t like it all the time. There are moments I don’t even like Disneyland or naps all the time.” But so many new parents continue on with plastered smiles and declarations that parenthood is the best thing ever because we’re somehow terrible people if we admit to not fully enjoying every moment of these crazy little people who have been sent into our lives, the ones who pee their pants, pick their nose and are our sole responsibility until they turn 18.
I totally get why some people don’t want to do this.
What I don’t get is why some grownups feel the need to name call, judge or demean the life choices of others simply because parenthood is not the calling for them. There are people out there who want desperately to be a parent, but something or someone else has made the the decision for them. Perhaps they never found their person, perhaps once they found their person infertility was an issue, perhaps the money just isn’t there for IVF or adoption. Whatever the reason no one should ever be made to feel less because of the choices they’ve made when it comes to parenthood.
Even if that choice is to admit that parenthood sucks sometimes.
So you don’t want kids, or you never had them, maybe you have a dozen, whatever. Are you happy? That’s cool. Let’s be friends.
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.
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