There are many articles about how those without children are constantly feel they need to justify their life choices. And as such a person myself, it is irksome, tiresome, and damn right bloody rude on many occasions how my life choice is instantly poo-pooed, dismissed, or challenged by someone who often doesn’t even know me well enough to remember my name.
Many of us sans-sprogs dread that inevitable thoughtless question ‘So, when are you having kids then?’. Yawn, FFS, here we go again… goes through our minds as we take a deep breath to politely but firmly tell someone where to go.
But in addressing this from a personal matter, I wanted to try to educate on why it is actually socially insensitive to ask the kid question, and perhaps it is simply better not to ask.
Warning – this article is a bit long and a little ranty in places. Best put the kettle on and settle down for a read…
Children are like Marmite – you either want kids, or you don’t. It is a simple as that. Honestly, there isn’t really much middle ground. And if you are of the pro-Marmite group you are likely to feel that there is no possible way we couldn’t like Marmite, because you LOVE it and think there is nothing better. But we don’t – we eye up Marmite with a feeling of indifference. Others may feel a mild repulsion. Some of us look at kids in exactly the same way.
Trust us – there are a million things we prefer to Marmite. Personally, the love for my husband has always been more than enough – he fills my world, is my world (though I must admit, I can be really crap at showing him sometimes). And no, I didn’t marry him for his genetics and/or bank balance, as a provider to look after me and our spawn until they fly the nest. I married him because I LOVE HIM. And yes, he is enough. Why shouldn’t he be? Even if you have children, surely you should be able to understand this point?
‘YOU WILL CHANGE YOUR MIND!’
Ah, that old adage. Because you, someone who often doesn’t know me well enough to know how I like my cup of tea, knows my mind and body soooooo much better than I do.
We are free to make our own decisions, and if we decide later that we want them, then that is OUR decision, and we will not be writing you a note to congratulate you on your prophetic foresight.
Thing is, many of us who have decided to remain child free have our reasons. Often deeply personal. And they are none of your damn business if we choose not to share them with you.
For me personally, I have never, ever liked the idea of children. I didn’t play with dolls when I was younger, and I have never enjoyed ‘holding the baby’ (despite having several thrust at me in my time). I don’t enjoy being around them, and can often be found in the kitchen sinking a bottle of wine at parties of the family children.
And then there are secondary reasons why I don’t want kids. I have a 6/7 chance of inheriting a genetic predisposition to bowel cancer, having grown up with a dad was given 6 weeks to live at the age of 34 after being misdiagnosed, with his only chance of living being a major operation (which he originally refused to have). I have had regular screening since I was 24. I grew up hard and fast at the tender age of 8. It also seems that my depression and anxiety has a strong genetic link, and I have battled for years. Why would I want to pass on these dodgy genes knowingly? That’s irresponsible, I wouldn’t want anyone to go through all that. I see it as an informed decision, albeit secondary to the fact that at a solid basic level I have never wanted children anyway.
Plus, to get pregnant I’d have to come of my antidepressant medication. The very medication which allows me to function and partake in life. Why the bloody hell would I willingly stop taking meds which have, at times, basically kept me alive, to carry something into the world which I don’t actually want? Makes no sense to me.
There is also this great article on why half of Millennials are deciding to not have children, which is well worth a read. Reasons vary from affordability, when so many millennials are still having to live at home with mum and dad, to the current affairs of the world and how they don’t feel it is a great place to bring up children, through to the issues of overpopulation.
We have a right to know our own minds at any point in time, and if we tell you no, either not now or never, then please respect us in knowing ourselves better than you do. I don’t question your love for Marmite on toast. Don’t treat me like a social pariah for leaving it on the shelf and buying vintage cheddar instead.
We Don’t Judge
It seems as if our decision to NOT have children is often seen as a judgement on you WANTING to have them. That because I don’t want them, that I must feel that you are wrong to have them.
My decisions and life choices should not make you feel the need to defend yours. Just because I don’t want them does not make you wrong in any way for having them. All that we ask is that you treat our decisions with respect.
You made the decision to have children because it was the right choice FOR YOU (I hope). Be confident in it. But please don’t jump down my throat telling me that I’m wrong; you often sound kind of desperate to convince yourself, let alone me.
And if I get too old and suddenly look back and wish I had, then that is my personal burden to deal with, not you. We are all entitled to make our own decisions, and to make our own mistakes.
I strive to champion safe sex and happy relationships in all their various forms. I want to encourage everyone to have the strength to do what is right for themselves and their own body, including making the decision about children.
I will say it again – if you love your kids and are glad to have them, then I am happy for you. But I am even happier with my intact pelvic floor, thanks.
A Waste of Humanity
I will deal with this very quickly. A person has the potential to do great things, and to have great influence, whether or not they choose to procreate. Because each person is responsible for their own actions. Any child will ultimately be responsible for theirs and theirs alone. You are someone’s child – make your mark, be kind, be happy.
I hope to be the person my nieces come to when they have a question they feel they can’t ask their parents. I aim to be that ‘safe place’ they can turn to if they ever feel in trouble, stuck or confused. I don’t need them to be my biological offspring to provide this. Gay, lesbian, bi, poly, trans, queer people can offer the same love and support as straight CIS people can, to a child who may or may not be biologically related. It is about the person and what they can offer to the world, not just some genetic metamorphosis during sperm-meets-egg.
Child-FREE vs Child-LESS
Now this is the important bit – listen up.
The first group include people like myself. We don’t want children, and see ourselves as free from the burden. We are neither selfish, nor a waste of humanity. We have simply decided that for us, in our own journey through life, that a child is not required to make that journey complete.
The second group are those who are child-LESS. They want children, perhaps desperately. But for whichever reason, they have not been successful yet. She may have had 3 miscarriages in the last 18 months. He may be feeling emasculated due to a low sperm count, causing rows or sadness at home and casting a cloud over every day. There may be a terrible underlying medical condition which they haven’t chosen to share with you (understandably) which means that children are simply not on the cards right now. But they are wanted dearly and their loss is felt.
And by being an insensitive twat and asking ‘So, when are you going to get round to popping one out then?’, all you are actually doing is ripping a massive plaster off a terrible wound.
This is what you could unwittingly be doing by asking the kid question. You don’t know if they don’t have children through choice or fate. So perhaps it’s best to mind your own business and avoid a potentially very hurtful question.
Have Children for the Right Reasons
I admire those who want to devote their lives to raising children, I really do. It’s a hard job, and the rewards are often so small and personal that only you see and appreciate them.
But I am also a firm believer in having children for the right reasons.
We know of couples who have had children where one partner wanted them, and the other either didn’t or was indifferent. The result has often been an uncomfortable relationship where one partner resents the children for their impact on their previously child-free life, and the other partner resentful that the other half isn’t more hands on and involved.
This is why my husband and I went into our marriage with everything down on the table – I told him straight up that if he wanted children or a church wedding, I was never going to be the one for him. Luckily, he is indifferent towards having children (and isn’t religious, either).
So we made a deal. Each year, usually around our anniversary, we ask each other if either one of us has changed our minds about having children. If we both say no (which has been the case for the last 10+ years) we simply raise a glass and carry on with our lives as before. But we have always agreed that if one of us did, or was even having an inkling of a maternal/paternal potential, that we would talk about it. If both of us felt the same way, we would discuss it further. But if the other was still adamantly no, that would be that. Acknowledge the change in heart, but respect our previous 10+ years and carry on as before.
This way, we both have the freedom to change our minds, but also have the security that we would only proceed if both of us are in agreement. Because we were so frank and honest at the beginning, we both knew who we were getting involved with, and as such will (hopefully) prevent any resentment later on. It might not work for everyone, but I am pleased to say that it works for us.
So I beg of you – think twice before asking the kid question.
But if you must ask it and someone answers no, just shut up and move along. Please.