The conversation is always awkward, and I always want to just stop the other party and say “please, just shush” because whatever they’re going to say is going to be weird. “Oh, you still have time”, with a languid hand-pat. “You still haven’t found the right one!” Semi-excited, as though we’re about to embark on a treasure hunt for The Perfect Man. And I’m no less awkward: “Oh, thanks.” “Oh, that’s okay.” “Oh, I appreciate it but…”
(but when I was a little girl all I wanted was to have kids but as my life is going on and on and on I just don’t think it’s going to happen, I don’t have a The Perfect Anything in my life and I would be worried that my kids would inherit my struggles, some of which are big huge struggles and I am probably sterile anyway and yeah okay I think that’s about enough. For now.)
Whether you have kids or not, whether you believe the magic of parenthood has shown you who you are through and through or you lavish unnecessary amounts of affection and money on your feline companion, the conversation doesn’t generally get any less awkward.
Here we’ll explore 6 painful myths about those of us without kids:
1. Our lives aren’t fulfilling.
Hey, I think it’s great when parents feel like having their kids gave them purpose in life, or greater purpose, but I actually am quite happy and fulfilled when it comes to the life I am living. Could it be made better by having kids? I don’t know. It would be different. Just because a person is happy and fulfilled as a parent doesn’t mean the rest of us are wringing our hands miserably and moaning into our graves. As a voluntarily childfree adult I have a life. I have an amazing family, wonderful friends and a baker’s dozen nieces and nephews (the collective word for “nieces and nephews” by the way is “niblings”. You’re welcome); I have really cool work I enjoy doing, the most adorable little tuxedo cat in the world and I love baking, gardening, rock climbing and cycling to boot. I am so richly blessed. My life is extraordinary.
2. It’s all because of modern feminist movements.
Boy, would that be easy to blame, I mean, you’ve got the advent of the Pill and women in the workforce so that must be it, right? Well, only if you discard the rest of the historical record, in which women used, to varying degrees of success, all kinds of crazy concoctions and potions to keep from getting pregnant. Even during the Victorian era, people used early attempts at condoms and sponges as birth control. The methods weren’t the best, but people did use them, and they used them to try to prevent pregnancy. Oh and also, women fought like crazy for the right to work, whether they had children or not.
3. We face more loneliness and hardship later in life.
I think that getting old anywhere these days is really hard, no matter how much help you’ve got. Everyone has periods of loneliness and hardship throughout their lives; it isn’t all reserved for the end. And many parents -my mom included- don’t wish to be a burden to their children anyway. The nice thing about living all of those years, my grandmother told me before she passed, is that you’re pretty well used to the hardships and the lonely times by then. You’re better at rolling with the punches. As for me, whether Mom feels this way or not, I can definitely see myself helping her out later in her life, even though I won’t have offspring to guilt-trip about taking care of me.
4. We’re weird.
We’re weird because everyone has kids, so what’s wrong with us weirdos that don’t have kids? In Western culture, it’s more common than you’d think. In the US about 15% of women haven’t had a child by the time they’re 45. In Germany that percentage is closer to 25%. Most women have children, that is true. But there’s a pretty powerful minority of us out there who are not, and have no plans to start popping out offspring just because some people think it’s weird that I don’t have any.
5. We’re selfish.
We have no interest in helping others to the point where we will deny being the vessel through which new life is brought into this world! Actually, this one is true. I am selfish. I’m not going to just go shack up with some dude and try to get knocked up so I can have some semblance of surety that someone will take care of me in the future. I’m SO selfish, in fact, that I think it would be extremely irresponsible for me to bring new life into this world considering I live in a 150 square foot studio with my cat and there is barely enough room for the two of us in here, much less another human. I am SO selfish that I will not bring a child into this world in a time where I am genuinely and truly concerned about the state the world will be in when I leave it, for how much longer it will support human life as we continue to damage it beyond repair. If you want to call me selfish for all of that, sure. I’ll take it.
6. We don’t contribute to the perpetuation of our species.
Hey, you know, it takes a lot more that a parent or two to raise a kid or a few. The adage is that it takes a village to raise a child. That means many aunties and uncles, cousins and friends and friends’ parents, teachers and mentors and spiritual advisors, and I’m a proud part of that assembly. Just because I’m not bringing them into the world doesn’t mean I don’t love them almost as much as you do.
So be nice to us voluntarily childfree people.
The honest truth is, “it’s none of your business” just like your choice for having kids isn’t any of mine. I’ll love them all the same, and I know you will, too.