Childless by Choice – Expected Backlash Ensues
Being childless by choice is a conscious decision made by two intelligent, consenting adults, similarly to how the Duggars have made a conscious choice to have nineteen of them (okay, bad example… but you get my drift). In our particular case of marital bliss, it’s been a surprising choice to those around us, to say the least.
The first year after we were married wasn’t a big deal, by the second; people started mentioning that we should “hurry up”. By the third, the urgency became amusing, with not-so-subtle comments such as “you should have at least one, to make sure everything’s okay”. We’ve just passed the four-year mark and we’ve actually been sat down by a multitude of people warning us about how much we’re going to regret this, and how at 28, we’re getting “old”, and all that fun stuff you’d expect from well-meaning friends and family who want to see us spawn.
As a person who actively strives not to offend anyone, I couldn’t wrap my head around how someone can so brazenly ask me about the contents of my uterus, but really – when does it stop?
A Couple That’s Childless By Choice Is None Of Anyone’s Business
It may seem disrespectful/scandalous/a sign of the times to many that the carefully outlined plan stipulated by society isn’t happening for us, but then again; these matters are social constructs, and I’m not a stickler for tradition – neither is my husband. In recognizing that people usually mean well, it can take some of the edge off of the being childless for a while discussion and hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s just that it seems like some people think that insistence actually works in cases like these. Trust me on this one; people who don’t want kids shouldn’t have them. End of story.
I try to understand because I come from a culture where gender and societal norms are very carefully laid out since birth (scratch that, before birth). You get married and have kids, get old, get them married and wait for their kids, and then you die. Your decision as an individual here is irrelevant, you have to satisfy the tradition or else you’re a deviant. Oh and God forbid the first child is a girl; also in my culture, after you drink coffee, have a meal, or do much of anything, you’re supposed to say “To the birth of a boy!” which loosely translated, means vaginas are evil.
It’s all good until someone really outdoes it with the well-meaning jewels of advice: Having children guarantees that someone will take care of you when you get older!
It keeps your man in check”, or worse:
You’ll eventually be bored without them.
A quick Google search about real couples who are miserable at being parents is quite an educational experience, not to mention the sheer amount of people who are silently unhappy being parents, being married, being alive – and they never say anything out of fear of ridicule. Maybe it’s time to take a real look at how much we spend our lives satisfying the whims of other people?
Noticing that there was an issue with expectations in society pertaining to parenthood, and being a childless woman over 25, I realized that maybe I should ask people for their opinion. I conducted a slight (non-scientific) experiment in which I asked the individuals on my social media pages for their honest insight regarding children and and what their culture / background expects of them.
It was very telling that nearly all the responses I received, all went to my personal inbox. In less than three hours, the messages started piling in. Some excerpts I will paste here, modified to correct spelling errors and some are translated from another language. The post guaranteed their anonymity and confidentiality, and I believe that’s a big reason why the responses were these honest.
“In my culture, we marry and have children because that is what is expected of us. One or two years into marriage and no kids? People start talking”.
“Children are a blessing and we are encouraged to have as many as possible. We don’t worry about finances because God provides. We must have faith in God.”
“You have children for your old age. Who else is going to take care of you, a nurse who will likely abuse you and take your money? I would never put my parents in a nursing home, and my kids won’t put me in a nursing home. You have to teach them our values and to teach them to fear God.”
“I never wanted children. I was clear with my wife about this before we got married, and she felt the same way. Ten years later and we still don’t regret our decision”
“I can’t imagine my life before my daughter anymore. She is everything to me since I had her three years ago. ”
“Fatherhood made me a man. I was doing nothing with my life before my boy came into it.”
“I cried all though my pregnancy because I was not ready to be a mom. I still don’t feel like I’m a good mom but I love my baby. Sometimes I wish I didn’t get married.”
“I think it was to be expected. When I was a kid I thought you grow up , get married, and have a family. But if I could do it over again, I would make different choices, like having my children later in life.”
“Having children made my life worth living, they are my purpose in life. You’ll understand when you have them.”
“You never say you don’t want kids. That’s not even an option in my family at least.”
“I love my kids, but ever since I became a mom I’m a different person. I don’t have time for myself anymore. I’m always tired and I don’t look the same. My husband and I fight more. Sometimes I wish I was single again, but I would do anything for my girls.”
And so dear readers, what do you say to a society that does not want to respect your opinion, but only wants to assert its own? How do you address rude comments or questions that you don’t really answer, just evade? Is being purposefully childless until you’re in a better situation a bad thing? Is there a time when you put your foot down and just tell people to mind their own damn business?
Worst of all: why is it that the people unhappiest in their marriages and parenting roles impose it so much on others?