Weekly Geeks #4: I have issues.

May 18, 2008 at 4:56 pm (Weekly Geeks)

This week’s theme: Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.0811847977_9780811847971

I immediately knew what issue I wanted to use, but I was somewhat hesitant to post about it. It seems more “controversial” than any of the issues I’ve seen posted so far. While some of them are controversial, they at least all have a LOT of people behind them. My issue might alienate some of my readers. I really hope  not, but because it is so important to me, I’m going to post about it anyway. Please understand that I’m not judging anybody here. All I am hoping for is a little understanding. And maybe when you meet somebody like me in the future, you’ll be a little bit nicer about their point of view. So, here goes. 0312348657_9780312348656

My husband and I have made a decision in our lives that is surprisingly controversial. I have to defend my position over and over again, even within my own family. My grandmother chides me about it. My mother was disappointed in me over it. I’m sure my father, who is Mormon, thinks it’s a huge sin, though he hasn’t actually said as such. I even have friends who think I’m “weird” for living this way. The “big issue” that’s so controversial?

I am child-free by choice.

That’s right. The thing I take so much flak over? Deciding not to have a baby. I’m continually surprised – and frankly angered – by the way people treat me when they hear this. Suddenly, I become a pariah. It’s as if I said “I eat babies for breakfast and torture little kids in my basement.” This is ridiculous. I don’t even have a basement. (Ha ha…) But seriously, I don’t understand the problem here. I don’t begrudge anybody else having a child, Brat Book Cover as long as it’s for the right reasons. I will admit that I don’t think that you should have several children as it isn’t socially or ecologically responsible. One or two is fine, provided you care for them well and teach them some manners. (Kids these days…)

But here’s a list of questions I get:

“What are you going to do when you’re old?” Frankly, having a kid doesn’t mean they’ll care for you when you’re old. And even if it did, I’m trying to make it so that I can care for myself when I’m older. I don’t think “I want somebody to sponge off of when I get old” is a legitimate reason to have children.

“Well, what do you do with yourself?” What did you do with yourself BEFORE you had children? Surely you had a life of your own, no? Let’s see… I work. I read. I do crafts. I watch TV. I hang out 1416909885_9781416909880 with friends. I cook. I go to the movies. I play with my pets. I surf the net. I blog. I immerse myself in various projects. I go places. I do stuff. Theoretically, you probably do some of these things, too – I just have more time in which to do them. I also have more money to do them than a parent who makes the same income we do.

“Don’t you want to leave a piece of yourself behind?” I actually don’t really care about this. I’ll be dead. If I leave something behind, some way for people to remember me, that’s great. If I don’t, it won’t affect me much.

This next one is probably my least favorite: “But, don’t you want your life to be fulfilling?” This also manifests itself as “Don’t you want to have a happy life?” I have to tell you that my life IS very happy and fulfilling. In a lot of cases, the people that I know who have children – friends, family members, coworkers, etc – are LESS happy than I am. In fact, many studies show that couples who have children are likely to experience a “drop in maritial happiness”. 0060737824_9780060737825See also “Well, what do you do with yourself?”

I’m not asking anybody to give up their children. I’m not even asking you not to have children. What I would hope that you would consider is to possibly only have one or two. Or consider not having children at all. It isn’t a requirement in life. But mostly, I just want people to stop harassing me over my choice. It doesn’t really affect you. It isn’t a drain on society’s resources. Please consider that before you say something like “That’s so weird!” when you hear that somebody doesn’t want kids.

(PS – Some of these pics are clickable.)

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28 Comments

  1. kimmery4 said,

    Well, I can totally respect your choice and really don’t judge people for not having children. But in reading your post, I must admit, I felt judged. Why, you might ask? Because I have four children–I don’t fit into your idea of what is responsible. I frankly don’t care who has children or who doesn’t. And I certainly don’t think anyone has the right to tell someone else how many they should have. I also recognize that there are some really crappy parents out there, but there are some really great ones out there, and they are raising the future leaders of this country. I am sorry that you view other people’s children as a drain on society and brats–parenting is a tough job, but someone has to do it. I have spent 25 years raising my family–two are out of our house now and are responsible contributing members of society while the other two are still school age.
    In asking to not be judged and viewed with tolerance you came across as intolerant of others.
    You were right–this is controversial, but I don’t think you are as alone in your choice as you think.
    Kim

  2. Juli (Can I Borrow Your Book?) said,

    Hello! You don’t have issues!

    My hubby & I are childfree as well and gasp…he is 42 and I am 33. My eggs are whithering as I blog. I could have blogged your post. You are me…

    Except, we may want children in the future. We DONT know. We know we don’t want any kids right now. You are correct, we are treated like outcasts by many.

    Here is my new line
    Them “no babies yet?”
    me “Have you gained weight?”

    Boundaries…they need to learn some. They give me a funny look and I just explain I thought they wanted to have a very personal conversation about things that aren’t really their business (like weight). I haven’t heard any baby comments in awhile!

    The book title I Hate Other People’s Kids made me laugh.

    Just wanted you to know I know what you feel like and you aren’t alone. If your post alienates any of your readers than THEY have some serious issues for judging you on an issue so personal. I doubt they know enough about you as a person to make that type of judgment.

  3. dew said,

    Wow, I have to say, if you alienate readers over this, you’re better off with them not hanging around getting judgmental over every little thing.

    I think it is truly an unselfish and noble thing to know yourself and accept who you are enough to know that you are not a person who wants to be a parent. All those reasons people give you for having kids? Those sound selfish to me. None of those questions they ask you show any love of children or concern about them. I mean, I’m a mom because I love children. Not because I want to have someone care for me when I’m old or those other self-centered reasons. It seems cruel to me to saddle a kid with a parent who had them so they could have mini-mes around.

    I also love grown ups, so I don’t want to try to persuade or manipulate grown ups I know into dedicating at least two decades of their lives caring for people they didn’t wholeheartedly want in their lives. It just seems really dismissive of you as an individual for people to want to force you into some kind of mold. Everyone finds fulfillment in life in different ways, and it seems odd that people think their way is the only way.

    We have a few couples as friends, and a few single people, too, who have remained childfree by choice. Some of them are in their forties or fifties, and phew, now people have stopped telling them, “Oh, you THINK you don’t want kids now, but when you’re a bit older, you’ll change your mind.” But the younger ones hear that all the time. Do you?

  4. ravenous reader said,

    I experienced some of this about my decision to have only one child. Since I am an only child, as is my husband, I rather resented the people who insinuated only children couldn’t have a “normal” life.

    You’re quite right, having children (or not) is certainly a personal, individual decision, and should be respected as such.

  5. Rebecca said,

    Whats weird to me is that so many people care about how many children someone chooses to have or not to have. They’re both reproductive choices and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a personal decision. I can relate but from the opposite end of the spectrum. I have come under a lot of criticism for my own reproductive choices. I’ll never understand why people can’t 1) mind their own business and 2) ask questions before making snap judgments and stereotypes (like in my situation, people assume I must be either stupid or Catholic and I must not care about global population and diminishing resources and a whole slew of other erroneous misconceptions.People also automatically assume I am poor, on welfare and can’t possibly take care of “all those kids” properly and that they probably all feel unloved and neglected.)

  6. Heather said,

    Thanks for the great post. I think that people in general need to learn to think before they speak. I get lots of insensitive comments/questions about that fact that I only have 1 child (ie when are you going to pregnant again? or, don’t you think it’s about time for #2?) … when the truth is that I would love to have another, but it is not possible for me. So like I said, people need to think before they make judgments about others lives. (didn’t mean to rant -sorry! LOL)

  7. thisredheadreads said,

    @Kim. I’m very sorry if you felt judged. I didn’t mean for it to come across that way. It may have sounded as if I’m not friends with anybody who has children – that’s not at all correct. One of my best friends (who I met AFTER she had all of her children) has five children. The titles of the books are not necessarily indicative of my own personal opinions (not all children are brats, for instance, though some definitely are) but were the titles I could find. Please remember that while there are literally thousands of books on parenting, those of us who are childfree – whether by choice or not – have to look harder for books pertaining to our situation and the issues we face (it may not seem like there are many, but there are… how to field questions, how to deflect when we’re told, yet again, that we have to work the holiday because we “don’t have a family”, etc). Once again, if I sounded like I was judging people who have children, that was not my intent.

    @Juli. You are absolutely right about “boundaries”. It’s kind of tacky for people to ask questions about children. In addition, it can be a sore spot for some people: I know somebody who tried to concieve for 12 years before they adopted their first child (they’d been on the list for a couple of years). She had several miscarriages as well. I know that every time somebody asked her when she and her husband were “going to get around to having children”, it nearly brought her to tears. Very insensitive, indeed.

    @Dew. I ABSOLUTELY hear that all the time. But, I say, even if I WANTED to change my mind, I had my tubes tied when I was 21, so if I DO change my mind, I’d be trying to adopt. I understand that’s a possibility, but at this point, I don’t think so.

    @Ravenous Reader. I didn’t know anybody who was an only child (other than if they were a first child and then that was an “only only until…”, which is rather different) until I became a teenager. It was definitely a different feeling being at her place, but it wasn’t that she didn’t have a “normal” life. It’s just that some experiences were a little different.

    @Rebecca. It’s interesting how many misconceptions come across on both sides, no?

    @Heather. Oh, yes, I definitely understand that. I already talked about somebody I know (a close relative, actually) in a somewhat similar situations. People need to be a little more sensitive about such things.

  8. BookGal said,

    I hope this post doesn’t alienate anyone because it’s an important discussion. Too many people assume they have to have children and then don’t know what to do when they have them. I’ve watched this happen repeatedly in my teaching career and I applaud you for knowing yourself well enough to make your own choices.

    I had my first, and only, child at the ripe old age of 35 and was constantly being asked about having kids. My standard reply was “We are waiting until we retire to have in-vitro so we can spend time with our children.” That shut people up right away.

  9. thisredheadreads said,

    @BookGal. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve found that a lot of people never really think it through and end up “Oops. I guess I’m going to be a parent.”

  10. Renay said,

    Man, I think you are totally brave to post about this! I don’t have much to add to the discussion, besides that as someone nearing my 30s, I am starting to get the eyes and the questions over having kids, and it disturbs me that saying, “I’m not sure I want kids” causes people to get so ANGRY at me. Not judgmental, but ANGRY.

    I honestly don’t understand it, but I have a feeling it’s so ingrained in the sexuality of women that it will take a lot longer for it to come to be seen as a normal and acceptable choice in our society that romanticizes pregnancy and motherhood.

    Thumbs up for you for stepping out! Amazing.

  11. Mrs S | 50 Book Challenge said,

    I found your post via the WG comments – it jumped out at me as we too are Childless by Choice. Neither myself nor my husband want kids of our own. I love children but have never wanted any of my own – ever since I was a child myself. It bugs the heck out of me when people say – oh but you’ll change your mind when you get older. I’m nearly 32 and think that is old enough to make up my mind about such things!

    We are all different – some of us are born to be great parents and some of us are born not to want kids – and I can’t see the problem with it. What I do have a problem with is people not respecting my views – they would never question me on my choice of religion or politics so why do they feel the need to question my choice on kids??

    Now I have that off my chest I’m off to explore the rest of your blog as I’ve never visited before 🙂

  12. Nymeth said,

    THANK YOU FOR POSTING ABOUT THIS.

    “I’m continually surprised – and frankly angered – by the way people treat me when they hear this. ”

    I know, I know, I know. I don’t want children either, and it really upsets me that this simple fact makes people assume that 1) I hate children 2) I am a horrible human being 3) I am incredibly selfish (? this one puzzles me more than anything) 4) I look down on those who do have children.

    Thank you for this post. Really. It’s not often that I find people who understand, let alone feel the same.

  13. bkclubcare said,

    Hey! Is this the meeting for the bookblogger CBC group? Has anyone brought snacks? I’m CBC, too.

    I really don’t get any heavy flack for my decision except for the one cousin who grilled me about that selfishness thing – I too don’t GET that. I’m in my mid-40’s and I still get the ‘No kids YET?’ but there’s no ‘yet’ for us. Our families have been wonderful with no questions at all since making the big announcement.

    I love BookGal’s retort! Great post, nice to meet you all.

  14. Lezlie said,

    I am 43, married, and I am part of the “Childless By Choice” crowd, too. I don’t have kids, I don’t want kids, and I don’t know what’s going on on American Idol or Lost. I’m hopeless. 🙂 I have found more acceptance in the dog agility world where there are a lot more folks like me who prefer the rearing and companionship of the four-legged type. There are a lot of great parents in the world, and I admire them. I just don’t want to be one.

    Brave post! And a good one!
    Lezlie

  15. Jackie said,

    Actually, I think your decision shows how responsible and mature you are and if you’re family can’t understand that, then it’s their problem to deal with. As long as you’re honest with yourself, that’s all that matters. Having a child is a huge adjustment and you have to be mentally prepared to have one.

    My husband and I just had our first child and we’re ready to stop at one. We thought we were ready for a child, but it was a huge adjustment and I don’t think we were as ready as we thought we were. I love my son, don’t get me wrong, but having that third body in the apartment affected us in a lot of different ways.

    We’ve told our family that we don’t believe we’ll actively try for another one and that we’re happy with one child; but I keep getting the “oh he needs a sibling, you should have another one”…”he’s one now, time to start for his brother/sister”…”he’s going to be so lonely, he needs a brother/sister”. We’re happy with one and while we don’t have as much money as someone making the same income we do, we have more than someone with 2 kids and we will be able to do more things with, and for, Ian. We’ll be able to afford to involve Ian in outside activities, so he’s not going to be lonely. We’re comfortable at the moment, so why should we change that.

    I can totally feel for you, although maybe it’s not the same idea. 🙂

  16. Hev said,

    I understand where you are coming from completely. I have the same problem myself. I, personally, choose to remain unmarried & childless. These are my choices but luckily my parents stand behind my choices and understand why I have made the choices I have.

    You stay with the choice you have made. Remember that though it may seem like you are all alone, you are not. There are several people out there that have made this choice. We all stand by each other & support each other (or at least I do).

    I know you don’t know me, but I found you through Michelle’s (inthelourve.org) blog.

  17. Debi said,

    Posts like this tend to bring a lot of us out to comment “me too!” and you realize you’re really not the only one who feels this way. My hubby and I decided before we even got married that we didn’t want children. After only 2 years of marriage, we had quite a time finding a doctor who would perform a vasectomy due to our age and lack of children. It is such a personal choice and everyone is entitled to their own choice. I don’t know why this seems to get people all up in arms. As a Christian, I find the view that it’s a “sin” not to have children is out there also. After 10 years of marriage and spouting my choice, I don’t get much flack over it anymore. Fortunately my family is pretty supportive.

  18. Natasha @ Maw Books said,

    Wow, it seems like most everybody here is “Childless by Choice” so I thought I’d jump in and brand myself as a SAHM. And it wouldn’t matter if I had none, two, or ten. That doesn’t make me better or worse than anybody.

    I would like to mention though, that your statement ” What I would hope that you would consider is to possibly only have one or two. Or consider not having children at all” seems to negate your previous thoughts. By saying that you are passing on your own opinion to those who do have children when you yourself don’t want those opinions passed on to you. I would hope that I wouldn’t say the same thing to you about considering having 3-5 kids. Just food for thought.

    Having children is a choice that should be made between the two partners involved in the relationship and nobody else. Let’s face it. We’re all judgmental but it’s posts like this that help shed everybody of their ignorance. Kudos to you.

  19. Chris@bookarama said,

    I have an only child. We tried for years to get pregnant and not miscarry. It was incredibly stressful but brought us closer as a couple. Our girl is the star in our lives but we tried for #2. I thought it might be easier the 2nd time around but it didn’t happen. We weighed our options and decided that if it happened without help that would be great but no more tests/treatments. I had (have) trouble with that decision sometimes especially when I see other people getting pregnant. And sometimes feel bad that she can’t have a sibling.

    I don’t think people think before they speak. I still feel a pain when someone asks, “Are you going to have anymore?” or “Is she your only?” (Like I eat babies too!) There is a judgemental tone in their voices and I hear it. Wherever you are in your life, it’s your decision and no one else’s.

  20. Eva said,

    Over here from Weekly Geeks. 🙂

    This is an interesting post! While I bridled a little bit at your blanket statement that: “I don’t think that you should have several children as it isn’t socially or ecologically responsible,” because generalisations are dangerous, and generalisations without anything to back them up are even more dangerous, I enjoyed your discussion on CBC. I’m quite young, and I absolutely love kids (I’m a nanny right now), but I’m not sure I want any of my own. Mainly because, it seems every woman I know with children always feels guilty, and I don’t want to feel bad every day for not staying home with my kids. So it’s good to have some books to read to explore my hesitations further!

  21. Kristi said,

    My husband and I are also CBC and loving every minute of it, thanks ;>). The only other comment I have to add to this is that I also knew from a fairly early age that I wasn’t interested in having kids of my own. I never babysat when I was younger, I got really irritated when people I worked with thrust visiting babies into my arms just because I’m female (they never did that to our male coworkers – what’s up with that?) and I really hated the “Oh, you’ll change your mind someday” accompanied by the condescending hand-pat and the pitying side-glance that basically said we weren’t trying hard enough (thankfully that’s tapered off a bit since I hit 40. I think they’re beginning to realize that I was serious.) Thanks for the post. I enjoyed reading it and the comments it generated.

    P.S. I also came via Weekly Geeks

  22. Andi said,

    Great post. . . I’m single (with a husband who left suddenly) and am not at a place where I want to adopt children on my own . . . I may get to that place later (but will be with you on the 1-2 kids idea) – but for now, my life is full . . . for me, the frustrating thing is that when people ask “do you have kids?” and I say, “no,” the conversation seems to stop like a freight train that just run into the mountain. . .
    So thank you for this. I really appreciate it and will have to check out these books.

  23. Melanie said,

    Hey, my husband and I are CBC also! There are so many of us…I’ve found that after 13 years together I don’t get many comments anymore. Of course, I don’t really care what anyone says other than my family, who are fine with it (after a year or so to adjust…) But I do find that as a children’s programmer in my library job, people sometimes get upset, like why would I be doing programs since I obviously don’t like kids? I never said that! I find being around kids mostly fun, as long as they leave at some point! 😉
    I just knew from a very early age that I wasn’t interested, and fortunately so did my husband so it wasn’t an issue for us.
    PS – I’ve read a couple of the books you list, and each has its points. I also like “Why don’t you have kids” by Leslie Lafayette.

  24. Wendy said,

    GREAT post – I related to it because I am childless, although not by choice. I have always been astounded at how other people think they have the right to interrogate people without kids…asking very personal, judgmental questions. When I was going through infertility treatments (for THREE years) and crying every month because they were not working…I would be devastated when someone who I barely knew would ask me why I was waiting so long to have kids! For many years, I could barely look at a pregnant woman without melting down. I’m almost 48 years old now…and I am happy and fulfilled – I get my “kid fix” by volunteering with children, and being a pseudo-aunt to all my friends’ children. But, I still get those nosy, overly personal, judgmental questions when people find out I’m childless. My best response to “why don’t you have kids?” is this: “Well, after the state took away the first three, I decided to stop having them.” It usually shocks people into silence 😉

  25. Stephanie said,

    I have two children and enjoy motherhood, but would no way encourage a woman who has decided to remain childless to have children since it is a HUGE responsibility and not a choice to take lightly! I feel that my children have added to my life immensely, but understand that it is not the right fit for everyone. Good for you for sticking with what you believe in.

    Having said that, I don’t agree with your statement that people should only have one or two children. Having adopted my second child from China (which has a one-child policy) I know that restricting people to the amount of children they can have has dire consequences (and I know you said nothing about restrictions, but the Chinese government has and now there are too many boys and countless baby girls in orphanages). Luckily for myself and my husband, who chose to adopt not for fertility reasons but for the fact that we wanted to bring a child already born into this world into our family, we were able to bring our daughter home last year. I think that if a person wants to be a parent to more than one child, then that is their individual choice and I respect that.

    Thanks again for your bravery in posting about a controversial topic!

  26. Longitudinally said,

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Longitudinally.

  27. Nicole said,

    It was interesting that I found your post right after I finished reading Baby Proof last night.

    I have two little ones myself and love them dearly. I have to admit that I used to wonder why people didn’t have kids that were married, if I knew they didn’t have fertility problems. However, after becoming a parent, I would never push someone else to become one because it’s expected. I can definitely see the merits of being childless by choice. And, if you don’t want kids, it would be selfish to have them just because it’s expected.

    I agree with some of the other posters about your view on the number of children to have, if you so choose. It sounds like the “reverse discrimination” on some level. You don’t want people to comment on your choice of zero kids, so why should you comment on someone else’s choice of >2 kids?

  28. Baby Proof « This Redhead Reads said,

    […] 20, 2008 by thisredheadreads Remember the post about my decision to be child-free? Well, I actually got around to reading one of those books: Baby Proof by Emily Giffin. Bad […]

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