Saturday, 8 May 2010
Child-Free by Choice
We live in a child-centred society, but I don't have children and never really wanted them. It was never one of my goals in life when I was young and I've never been maternal. I don't know when the exact moment occurred when I made the active decision as a definite "no", but throughout my adult life, I've never been "bothered". When I was a kid, I didn't like dolls, I played with Barbie, who never had kids, but had a cool boyfriend.
Luckily, I met a man who not only treats me with respect, love and kindness; he also has the same view as me. We are a normal, well-adjusted, happy couple who have decided to never have children. As far as we are concerned, we are a family of two, and that is no more or less valid than any other family. We aren't child-hating, nor are we career-driven selfish yuppies, nor are we self-absorbed or immature. Yet we are both made to feel like we should justify our choice not to have children. We are looked at and questioned like we're odd. Surely we'll "change our mind" or "regret it". Above all, we are WRONG!!
The nagging started several years ago, shortly after we got married. A colleague of mine (I was in my late 20's at the time) said, "I bet you'll have children within 5 years".
I was slightly offended by this, as if, as an adult, I was unable to make my own mind up.
Well we didn't have children and I'm now in my mid-thirties, and this year, we will have been married 10 years. My husband is 43. Don't people think that we would have at least started to try and have children by now, if we'd wanted?
Over the years, I've almost got used to the inevitable patronising, pitying comments and questions. Actually, no, I've got sick of it! I am fed up of people asking me if I have children, and when I say "No", people often then saying "Oh you will" or "Why not?" as if, once married, I'm automatically obliged to turn into a breeding machine. These parents then go on about how wonderful it all is, as they sit there red-eyed through lack of sleep.
Why do parent's - mostly women - just because I say "No", automatically think it's acceptable to start grilling me about why not? Or look at me as if I'm odd or selfish or wrong.
Do I start asking them "Why did you have children?" or "Oh my God, you have children?"
I imagine they might find it a surprising question, or even be offended. So why do people think the vice versa is acceptable?
If you want children, that's your decision and your business. As it's my decision to actively remain child-free. Actually, it's not an "active" decision, it's the default setting. And I am happy with that decision.
I've even been asked, "Why did you get married if you don't want children?" Love, security, because we wanted to?
Other offensive questions have been;
"Don't you worry you'll regret it?"
Do I ask them "Don't you regret having children?" No, I don't! So why is it acceptable you ask me?
I've been asked, "What about when you're old? Don't you worry about being lonely?"
Of course I worry about getting old, but having children doesn't guarantee they'll come every weekend to visit, they have their own lives to lead. They may fall out with me. Plus, worrying about being old and alone, isn't a valid enough reason.
I've also been told, "It's different when it's your own." So is rabies.
I've even been asked, "What would you do if you DID get pregnant?" Isn't that a bit of a personal question? Why don't they just turnaround and ask me what my view on abortion is, or even ask me if I've had an abortion, or would have one? Surely that's my own business. Would I ever say to them, "Why didn't you have an abortion?" Of course I never would! So why are you asking me?............ And, incidentally, I use something called "contraception". It's free and available to everyone.
Now, when asked, I just turn around and say, "We're happily child-free by choice." I say "child-free" because saying "childless" implies that it's something negative in our lives. When it's exactly the opposite for us. We are, in our minds, "free". I have never felt that I have somehow "missed out" on something. Nor do I ever look in envy at a mother.
If I did want children, I would adopt a child. There are thousands of children who have no one to love them, so why can't couples adopt if they are "so desperate"?
I also get fed up of how I am penalised by my employer and the Government for staying child-free.
Now I am all for child-friendly employers and support maternity leave, but why do employers fall over themselves offering maternity leave, but if I want to take a career break, I have to jump through hoops to get it?
Why do I have to take on extra responsibilities at work, for no extra pay, yet X person with children can't, because she's "busy at home with her children."
Why can Mummy or Daddy have paid time off to look after little Johnnie because he's ill, yet when my husband's mum died, and I wanted to support him, I was made to feel like I was "letting the place down" and was forced into taking some annual leave instead of my full entitlement of compassionate leave.
The Government gives tax breaks for parents, yet I have always worked and paid taxes, and this will not change.
I will always support the Government for supporting those who are less well off, and in times of need, and believe whole-heartedly in the welfare state, but this isn't about that. You chose to have children. It doesn't entitle everyone else to have to sacrifice themselves and work harder, while you get a tax break as if what you are doing is some kind of self-sacrifice. And no, you shouldn't get priority in the work place for the better shifts, more weekends off and first "dibs" at annual leave. I BELIEVE IN WORKERS RIGHTS, BUT FOR EVERYONE.
No doubt there are people who may read this, that are either puzzled, or even offended at what I have written, some people might think I'm a militant feminist. Or think I am selfish or weird.
But if I hadn't been nagged at to reproduce, or asked why on far too many occasions, on what is a deeply personal choice; this blog and the 101 Reasons on part 2, wouldn't have been written.
For Part 2 of this blog, which lists the 101 Reasons Why, see:
Incidentally, it is no longer 101 reasons, it's gone up considerably.