I don’t think that I could handle being that vulnerable to someone else.
September 16, 2014 11:03 AM   Subscribe

 
Childfreedom. Thank you very much.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:07 AM on September 16, 2014 [42 favorites]


This was really confusing for a moment because I thought "no surely liza minelli has a famous kid" and it took me embarrassingly long to remember that SHE IS the famous kid.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:08 AM on September 16, 2014 [22 favorites]


"I'm not going to answer that question. I'm not mad at you for asking that question, but I've said it before: I don't think people ask men those questions.”

What Zooey said.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:09 AM on September 16, 2014 [94 favorites]


Yeah, childlessness is kind of a crappy term. This quote wrap up has some gems though.
posted by sweetkid at 11:10 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, what? I am not childless. I am child free. I have two cats.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:13 AM on September 16, 2014 [10 favorites]


It encapsulates people who are without children not by their own free will, which this article does include. Applying "childfree" to those people can be insensitive to their true desire to be a parent.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I am thrilled to be in such distinguished company!
posted by blurker at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


It encapsulates people who are without children not by their own free will, which this article does include. Applying "childfree" to those people can be insensitive to their true desire to be a parent.

And applying "childless" to people who have made a conscious decision not to have children implies that they are somehow missing something from their lives.

To be honest, I was mostly taking the piss with my first comment -- because neither term is really right or wrong, I just prefer the "childfree" label (and wish it would be more of a default).
posted by sparklemotion at 11:17 AM on September 16, 2014 [19 favorites]


well I just hate the fact that my current lack of children says a whole bunch about My Choices anyway, so I don't know which term would alleviate that annoyance really.
posted by sweetkid at 11:17 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sans child.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:18 AM on September 16, 2014


I wonder how many of these that say things like "I didn't have room in my life for kids, I wanted to focus on being famous" are actually saying "I wanted kids, but I wanted to be successful more, so I chose success" and if there is any famous Hollywood male actor who has ever said something similar.
posted by bleep at 11:19 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I mean as opposed to finding a Middle-America-Approved way of saying "I didn't want kids so I didn't have any."
posted by bleep at 11:20 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Childless people such as myself are allowed to call ourselves childless.

I'm also catless for what it's worth.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:22 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't have children. Glad other people do. I probably should have been more productive with the extra time.

I thought the childfree movement were the ones who hate all children and people who have them.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:23 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought the childfree movement were the ones who hate all children and people who have them.

Sure, there are plenty of people like that who use the term to identify themselves, but to assume that anyone who says "i'm childfree and fine with that" is like that would be unhelpful.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:28 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]



I thought the childfree movement were the ones who hate all children and people who have them.


Ugh no.

What really gets me is the perception that you're not an adult or not a woman if you don't have children. Or you don't know love, responsiblity, etc.
posted by sweetkid at 11:30 AM on September 16, 2014 [49 favorites]


What really gets me is the perception that you're not an adult or not a woman if you don't have children. Or you don't know love, responsiblity, etc.

God, yeah. I don't have to deal with the "not a woman" part, of course (although I do see that firehose of shit aimed at my wife periodically, and there definitely is a less-intense male version), but society's definitely good at imparting those feelings.
posted by COBRA! at 11:33 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


i don't call myself childfree for the same reason i don't call myself an atheist - assholes abound. i tend to go with "we're not having kids" and "i don't believe in god."

i do get tired of people who think that because i don't have kids i must hate them and hate parents, which is really not true. it's been interesting to watch the shift from me being considered a great babysitter (when i was 12) to people not wanting to leave their kid with me while they go pee. i happen to love kids (and parents) but it seems like many people don't trust women who have chosen to not have kids.
posted by nadawi at 11:34 AM on September 16, 2014 [34 favorites]


Thanks so much for this. I've never wanted to be a mother and I've gone through the various stages of sans child in different ways. At times, I've been gleeful, apologetic, quietly proud, defensive, and finally, I am content. I can clearly see a life where I had kids, and that me is fine, she may not be happy every second of every day, but neither is the kidless me. But the me in this world is the one who made her decision and stood by it. I love her for it and I love her life and I will not regret it.

Seeing that other women, some of whom I adore and respect the hell out of have the same conversations with themselves is heartening.

Also, I love Marisa Tomei.
posted by teleri025 at 11:37 AM on September 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


What really gets me is the perception that you're not an adult or not a woman if you don't have children. Or you don't know love, responsiblity, etc.

This. This in a nutshell. Not to mention the "but whooooooo will caaaaaaare for you when you're old" line. Breed your very own indentured servants, that's the ticket! (Though by the time I'm old, there will probably be An App For That.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:37 AM on September 16, 2014 [20 favorites]


I usually just default to "I don't have kids" but have also made a personal decision to stop using the phrase "childless by choice."

After hearing and reading so many stories from women who have been in so much pain over their inability to have a child (for whatever reason) I realized the phrase was a way to deliberately distance myself from those "other" women when the reality is, from the outside no one knows why someone does not have a child, and I face the same pressures and stigmas as someone who hasn't had the child they desperately want.

Presenting it as a "choice" made me feel better, to be honest, but once I decided to align myself with women facing some of the same obstacles I realized that felt much better.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:37 AM on September 16, 2014 [16 favorites]


I thought the childfree movement were the ones who hate all children and people who have them.

That's like saying that the feminist movement were the ones who hate all men, or that atheists hate all religious beliefs and the people who have them.

I honestly doubt you'll find very many mature adults who "hate all children and the people who have them" anywhere, calling themselves anything. And lumping everyone who is childfree by choice in with the anti-breeder types is part of what's so chafing because it implies that people who have made that decision are somehow not full adults/proper women/proper men, etc.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


Not to mention the "but whooooooo will caaaaaaare for you when you're old" line.

- servants
- robots
- robot servants
- alien overlords
- my vampiric offspring

My ultimate goal is, as always, to make the smooth and easy transition from human flesh to brain in a jar controlling a spaceship that pootles around the cosmos having exciting adventures.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:40 AM on September 16, 2014 [57 favorites]


I also use childfree. It's been interesting to see how others react to it as I age--at 19, no one believed me. I'm approaching 30 and the reaction I get now is often defensive, like I'm critiquing the choices of others. But at least they believe me, I guess.
posted by almostmanda at 11:41 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not to mention the "but whooooooo will caaaaaaare for you when you're old" line.

Actually I wonder about this all the time, and frankly it terrifies me.
posted by Melismata at 11:42 AM on September 16, 2014 [14 favorites]


nb "pootle" is the sound that the jetsons flying saucercar makes
posted by poffin boffin at 11:42 AM on September 16, 2014 [16 favorites]


i happen to love kids (and parents) but it seems like many people don't trust women who have chosen to not have kids.

The opposite is that at the parties where all the moms show up and the kids are running willy nilly, I'm the only adult who interacts with the children. Because all the mothers have spent their lives with the kids and just want to have some grown up time. And me, I think some small people are interesting and it seems rude not to involve them in conversations.

Then at the end of the night you get, "Teleri! You're sooooo good with the kids!!! Why aren't you having any again? You would be a fabulous mother."

*eyeroll*
posted by teleri025 at 11:46 AM on September 16, 2014 [37 favorites]


like a lot of things, for me reddit has completely ruined the term childfree. i belonged to a variety of subreddits on that topic for about a week before i noped right out. i agree that it's wrong to judge everyone on what is a tiny sliver of people who have decided to not have kids but, like terfs have in many ways hurt rad-fems, i think those who identify as childfree via reddit hurt others who don't want kids.
posted by nadawi at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2014


Well, it seems as if we've solved the problem here at Metafilter. Use childfree to indicate by choice, childless to indicate not by choice. There.
posted by Melismata at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


I always just tell people that it turns out I don't breed well in captivity.

Actually, while I was married, I would respond to the question with sobs and a garbled "It must not be God's will" and that would shut them up pretty quick.

I like kids but never wanted any. Kids like me but none of them has had to depend on me for more than a few days at a time. Best to just leave it at that.
posted by janey47 at 11:48 AM on September 16, 2014 [49 favorites]


I'm the only adult who interacts with the children

oh absolutely yes to all of that. i just feel from people i know that while they're happy to have me entertain the kids at the party, they wouldn't trust me to babysit. also, i know why parents do it, but the constant apologizing for kids being kids makes me sad - like, i was a children's photographer for 10 years and i grew up mormon, i am not surprised that timmy is loud in the restaurant and i don't mind if he drools on me.
posted by nadawi at 11:49 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I mean, look at how many women on the list feel compelled to say, "but I really like children! and hardly ever lure them into my candy house, then bake them for dinner." Because the default stereotype is that if you don't want kids, you must be Lady Macbeth.

And while many women (such as my sister) do experience a lot of pain because they want to be parents and that doesn't materialize for whatever reason or is very hard to achieve, I think that pain is made even worse by the constant drumming refrain that if you can't become a parent, you are automatically and completely tragic and broken and less human than women who do.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:49 AM on September 16, 2014 [21 favorites]



I always just tell people that it turns out I don't breed well in captivity.

I love that! I may tell people I meet that I don't have kids (even though I have a 9 yo daughter) just so I can use that line
posted by TedW at 11:52 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]



I've been having a weird time with the whole not having children thing this past while. I'm 42 and have always been, well if it works out that it's feasible I might and if not oh well about having kids. Now life situation and age have made it as pretty much not going to happen, which I'm perfectly okay with. Thing is I look way younger then I am. People regularly peg me between 20-10 years younger then I am. I get more people asking about kids now then I ever have. I always just say no kids which regularly leads to 'oh no worries you still have time' and people that know about my recent marriage ending 'plenty of time to meet someone else comments.'

Even though it's really none of people's business I usually said something along the lines of 'oh no I won't be having any.' I've lost track of how many times people have said something about changing my mind or oh you'll never know. It's like the default should be that I am wanting kids.

It's really gets annoying and most times I just stop responding or change the subject because I don't like feeling I have to some how defend not having kids as a real honest to goodness choice. With people that persist in the conversation I now just freak them out by commenting about being too old to have them now, which leads to revealing my age, which usually gets some sort of amazed reaction and at times I know leaves them feeling jealous and like crap because of how I don't show my age and their feelings that they do. I know I shouldn't feel satisfied when that happens but come on, quit with the poor you np kids talk.

Anyways, it's nice to read some views on not having kids from many of those women that I respect a lot. Makes me feel like I'm in good company.
posted by Jalliah at 11:57 AM on September 16, 2014 [10 favorites]


"I'm not going to answer that question. I'm not mad at you for asking that question, but I've said it before: I don't think people ask men those questions.”

Yes they do. All the fucking time.
posted by kanewai at 11:59 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Let me clarify, folks: I remember in the late 90s/early 2000s I think, some sort of ChildFree Manifesto (there was something special about the capitalization, that may not be it and it's hard to google my half-memory) that was a nasty bunch of people who would pick people to bully online for being pregnant, or mock the parents of disabled kids (I am thinking of someone I knew at the time, specifically, who went many rounds with these people), and talk about how they would never be friends with people who had children and it was super gross.

I and everyone I knew at the time stopped using the term, and so it has been a word I do not use for other people unless they are really horrible.

But maybe I'm the only one who remembers that, and I haven't caught up with the fact that it's okay to call someone that now.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:59 AM on September 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


but: great article. I like the discussion a lot. Just the above comment stood out - now that gay marriage and single-parent families are becoming normalized I also find myself, unexpectedly, answering the questions why aren't you married and will you ever have kids?.
posted by kanewai at 12:01 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this. I have never wanted kids, and now I'm definitely at the age where people assume I am going to have them soon, and that there's something wrong with me because I don't want to. Like Jalliah said, it's nice to feel like I'm in good company!
posted by ferret branca at 12:01 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I went looking for the early 2000s issue of Bust or Bitch where I was introduced to the term childfree. I couldn't find it, but the name of this article made me laugh:

Haters Get Mad 'Cause I Ain't Gonna Procreate
posted by almostmanda at 12:04 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Growing old without a spouse or children, with my closest relatives at least a decade older than me, is a scary thought. I agonize over the prospect of getting ill without a close support system. But children are not a guarantee of comfort. I know too many elderly people whose offspring effectively abandoned them. I'm counting on the massive geriatric health industry for Boomers that should spring up in the next twenty years. With robots. Or robot servants.
posted by Cheezitsofcool at 12:05 PM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


Not to mention the "but whooooooo will caaaaaaare for you when you're old" line.

My neighbors and nurses will care because I will be goddamned charming.

One of the things that bothers me about 'no children' discussions is how careful many childless/free people are to say that they like and even love their friends' and relatives' children, they really really like them. As if that proves that they are capable of feeling tenderness and tolerance and unconditional love, and are not evil, unlike those poor sods who don't like any kids. Well, although I don't begrudge kids or their parents, for Personal Reasons I actually do have an intense aversion to children. Oh well.
posted by wrabbit at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2014 [19 favorites]


"I don't think people ask men those questions."
Yes they do. All the fucking time.


i got the sense that zooey was more talking about in interviews, and i agree with her - i don't think you'd be able to find a list of famous men being asked to explain their lack of children to the masses (unless it's a sideways way to ask why their wife doesn't want kids). it's much like people wondering how in the world hilary clinton could consider a run at the presidency because she is about to be a grandmother while it's a big ole joke that mitt romney couldn't remember how many grandkids he has.
posted by nadawi at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2014 [37 favorites]


Now that I'm 48, I can get away with saying "I just never got around to having kids." Even though the truth is that I never wanted them enough to make an effort to "get around to it", even during those (infrequent) times when I was in a LTR.
posted by matildaben at 12:08 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I'm not going to answer that question. I'm not mad at you for asking that question, but I've said it before: I don't think people ask men those questions.”

Yes they do.


Family does. Not these celebrity profiles where men talk about all the neat things they're doing, often in the guise of "he's just like you, only cooler". Whereas famous women are supposed to play this game by showing they have all the society induced anxieties that the same magazine tells non-famous women just like you. Famous men aren't asked if children are important to them, but they are applauded for volunteering that family is important to them.

Imagine the framing of say, a paparazzi photo of Brad Pitt pushing a stroller vs a celebrity mom doing a similar thing. Pitt would be called some sort of even more desirable amazing super dad; the mom might get some comment on her shoes. Because the assumption is that motherhood is necessary to womenhood.

I used to get a lot of "you'll change your mind" when I was 20, but no one says that to me now, and no one assumes I'm living some lonely, emasculated life. Some people assume I'm selfish, but no one denies my agency in the matter. Women are judged more fundamentally about this issue.
posted by spaltavian at 12:10 PM on September 16, 2014 [18 favorites]


If certain people die before their offspring are of age, I will instantly be with child. What's my label?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:11 PM on September 16, 2014


My first thought when I read Zooey's comment was how men [in interviews] are never asked if they're going to have children, but they are always asked how having children has "changed them", as if it were a terrible car accident.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:13 PM on September 16, 2014 [15 favorites]


If certain people die before their offspring are of age, I will instantly be with child. What's my label?

Guardian-in-waiting?
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:15 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


godparent, no? i think it's still the term even if it's non-religious.
posted by nadawi at 12:16 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


If certain people die before their offspring are of age, I will instantly be with child. What's my label?

Godparent, although I wish there was a more secular term.

On preview, I'd like to second guardian-in-waiting.
posted by papercrane at 12:16 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


celebabies



NO.


YOU STOP THAT THIS INSTANT.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:17 PM on September 16, 2014 [30 favorites]


" I didn’t realize you could place orders, I honestly didn’t realize it was like a drive-through, that you could talk to a little electronic voice.” - Jennifer Aniston
hehe

careful many childless/free people are to say that they like and even love their friends' and relatives' children,

I've had a few people mention in my vicinity that you aren't an adult until you have kids -- which I just chalk up to a trick of nature and a certain tone deafness. Selfishness comes up too -- which is even sillier -- a lot of humans have kids, and I don't think the world is lacking in selfishness.

how having children has "changed them", as if it were a terrible car accident.

No, the implication, again, is that now they are grown up. I don't see where you get the negative implication at all.
posted by smidgen at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would vote for "Damocles"
posted by smidgen at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Asking a former Secretary of State if she thinks she's led a full life despite not having kids is a little insane.

I really wish this list posted all the questions that prompted these replies because they are just as telling as the answers.

Also, Katharine Hepburn really is the coolest.
posted by dogwalker at 12:20 PM on September 16, 2014 [23 favorites]


nb "pootle" is the sound that the jetsons flying saucercar makes


Is that a standard pootle or a toy pootle?
posted by louche mustachio at 12:22 PM on September 16, 2014


My first thought when I read Zooey's comment was how men [in interviews] are never asked if they're going to have children, but they are always asked how having children has "changed them", as if it were a terrible car accident.

It seems to be a common enough question for George Clooney and Jon Hamm.

Disclaimer: I know woman get judged more harshly, at least in a lot of quarters, for not having kids. And this celebration of the Holy Royal Womb in Windsor is creepy as hell. I'm definitely not going for a derail here, or trying to minimize sexism.

Just wanted to point out that the need to justify being child free in America is something we all have to face.
posted by kanewai at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2014


nb "pootle" is the sound that the jetsons flying saucercar makes

In space no one can hear you pootle.
posted by ogooglebar at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Fortunately I've only had one LTR where people had time to ask me "so are you going to have kids", and that was when I was only 22 and it was my grandfather asking me, out of the blue, after Thanksgiving dinner once. And my grandmother immediately started smacking him in the arm and scolding him - "Edward, she doesn't want to think about that now!" (Thanks, Grandma!)

Since then I've not been with anyone long enough, and I think the family is just assuming that I just didn't have the luck for it. Plus there's my aunt who had her own philosophy about becoming a parent. (Last Thanksgiving she was really actively clowning around with my niece and nephew at one point, though, and a short while afterward was chatting with me about how fun that was - but then she leaned in close and whispered to me, "but isn't it great that they aren't yours?" and cackled.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:29 PM on September 16, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm also catless for what it's worth.


FOR SHAME!
posted by notreally at 12:29 PM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


Maybe we could head off the "what about the menz" train now? This is an article about the pressures that women - in specific women in the public eye - face about children.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:31 PM on September 16, 2014 [20 favorites]


I love how Betty White said, "I didn't choose to have children," rather than what seems to be the more general default, "I chose not to have children."

It's a subtle but large distinction, I think. I'm not choosing to not have children, like that is some kind of biological default from which I have to consciously sway myself. Isn't it a much more obvious choice to change your life in every conceivable way by having one? That's why I definitely know I don't want to do it, I suppose, because the thought of sitting down and considering it as an option and then deciding, "okay, let's do this," is completely outside my realm of comprehension. I guess that says something about people (like me and Betty White) who don't have the drive that seems to make it the default for so many others.
posted by something something at 12:33 PM on September 16, 2014 [24 favorites]


I like the idea of childfree meaning deliberately not having children and childless meaning you wanted them but didn't have them, but there's more than just a binary, here. I don't expect to ever have kids but I grew up with the expectation that I was going to have a family of my own and I still feel the loss of that very keenly. At the same time, I know that I am not in a good place to be supporting another human being and I feel grateful that I'm not in that position. So--what does that make me? A person without children, I guess, that seems more apt.

I would have made a very good aunt, but my brother also seems intent on not having children. He gets to be an uncle because his wife's sister has a kid, of course. I think it would seem like less of a big absence of there were children in my life regardless, but obviously I don't blame my brother and his wife for not. I do think that I never regard any of this as carved in stone. Now? Definitely not now. Ten years from now? God, I don't know. Ten years ago I was such a different person. Ten years from now I might be a different person again. I'm not sure I'd rule it out permanently until I hit at least mid-50s, or until my health declines in some kind of permanent fashion. Though, that doesn't mean I want to get asked about it in the meantime.
posted by Sequence at 12:33 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't know, I'm completely ok with people who don't want kids not having kids, so don't get me wrong, but some of these quotes are a bit sad since they speak to the perfectionistic attitudes so many women have imbibed about combining work outside the home and childcare. For example, Lily Tomlin: I really do like kids, but there wouldn’t have been room in my life to raise children. I was so involved with my career and I would have had to give up the career in large part because I could not possibly have shortchanged the child...
posted by peacheater at 12:35 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like my disposable income. I like being able to travel, even on short notice. I like being able to give the kids back after I've loaded them up on sugar and gotten sick of them.
posted by Talez at 12:35 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't like the fact that even though I'm childless, I still don't make enough to travel on short notice, because I'm a woman and was never taught to pick a career that makes tons of money.
posted by Melismata at 12:37 PM on September 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


We don't have kids (my preferred term), and I think that is one of the many personal choices people make that don't require justification. (I also think Zooey is right, far more women are asked to justify this than men.)

I sometimes seriously think about adoption (and I liked Ashley Judd's relevant comment) and I also think I would have been OK with being a mom of one or two if my husband had wanted that. I like kids a lot, and I found it very worthwhile to work with abused kids earlier in my career.

However, like many of those quoted, I don't think I was ever willing to put my career/success on the back burner in favor of having kids. And in addition, as a couples counselor pointed out to me a long time ago, I had a lot of life experience "raising" kids because I was the oldest of 5 and responsible in my family for a lot of mothering of my younger siblings, even before my mom went back to work full time. I never had much of an appetite for doing that again as an adult, and from what the counselor said, that is not uncommon.
posted by bearwife at 12:44 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Most of my family has long since been cowed by my witheringly disdainful gaze in response to child/relationship questions but for those who still persist, I am super glad that I now have the hysterectomy excuse to give them, although I guess people do get a little weirded out by how enthusiastic I am about having had major surgery. It probably doesn't help that I do the Ed Lover dance while chanting NO BABIES NO BABIES I AIN'T GONNA HAVE NO BABIES.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:45 PM on September 16, 2014 [14 favorites]


ha! EmpressCallipygos's comment reminded me of a conversation I had back in approximately 1982, when I was 22 and my mother was about 50.

We were in a cafe having lunch and a man came in with a baby in a stroller. At the time, it was still slightly unusual to see a man and a baby with no woman along.

My mother & I kind of cooed at the sight, and then she said to me, "You know what the best part is?"

I said, "You don't have to take the baby home?"

She said gleefully, "You don't even have to touch the baby!"
posted by janey47 at 12:45 PM on September 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


Sitting next to my husband, if the topic of children was brought up, it was always ME they would ask regarding when/if we'd ever have kids. Coworkers who, even after laughing at my response "Not today, I guess!", would then say, "No, really. Don't you want kids?" Point blank. In the middle of our small cube-farm office.

How fucking insensitive. There is a multitude of reasons why a couple might not have kids - many of which are intensely personal and NONE OF THEIR FUCKING BUSINESS.

Now we have a kid. People are already casually throwing out the "when/if are you going to have another one" question. And the heart-wrenching reasons that slowed us down from having the first are still there. And that question is just as INAPPROPRIATE.
posted by jillithd at 12:47 PM on September 16, 2014 [20 favorites]


Maybe we could head off the "what about the menz" train now? This is an article about the pressures that women - in specific women in the public eye - face about children.

And no one here is talking about the article in the context of being in the public eye. It's rare enough that these conversations happen; I have no problem with productive comments from anyone who has faced the pressure from society to have children.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:50 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


the comment that started this whole stupid derail did not read as productive to me. his followup comment was more measured, but to insist that men deal with this "all the fucking time" does seem to ignore the gendered way this expectation is reinforced. many men are sharing their experiences in ways that are respectful to that difference and i appreciate that.
posted by nadawi at 12:56 PM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


How fucking insensitive.

True, true, all too true. But not unkindly meant. People just love them some babies. Something to do with biology.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:58 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


My wife and I got married seven years ago and have been together for over fourteen. Just last week she was asked by someone who knows us fairly well when (not if) we were planning on having children.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:58 PM on September 16, 2014


This was so affirming. We are surrounded by people we love having kids they love, which is great, and I'm happy for them, but it's not for me. I actually brought it up on our third date and told him in no uncertain terms that we couldn't go any further if he wanted children. It's good to see that other (amazing! talented!) women have made the choice I have.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:05 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


nadawi, I wasn't referring to any specific comment that had already been made, I was responding to the exclusionary language in the comment I quoted re the ongoing discussion.

Hopefully that will clear up any confusion about my comment, as I don't want to start a derail.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:09 PM on September 16, 2014


I liked Cameron Diaz's response... basically she feels very nurturing and caring, and also is not interested in kids. So often women get pressured to be either/or.

I also really enjoyed this article in Macleans that describes (finally, without any woe-is-she lamenting) how women are exploring their identities outside of motherhood.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:16 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


i wasn't confused about your comment, i was discussing the context around the comment you were responding to. it is not exclusionary to want to keep "what about the menz" at bay.
posted by nadawi at 1:17 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I liked Cameron Diaz's response

I was surprised how many times I saw a name and thought, "Oh, right, she doesn't have kids." I can't decide if that's good or not, though!
posted by Room 641-A at 1:21 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I never wanted kids... child care just seemed like such a horrible grind. I couldn't wrap my head around focussing so much of my life on some needy little creature(s). Lucky for me, back in my 40s I settled down with somebody with 2 almost-grown kids - so now I get all the benefits and I've done none of the work. This suits me magnificently, and I can hardly believe my good fortune.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 1:22 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that the article covered a spectrum of situations. People seem to think there's a binary vis-à-vis whether a woman has kids, and that ain't necessarily so.

The circumstances thus far haven't worked out for me to have children. And unfortunately, I think the eggs have expired by now, even if I found a decent young man today who wanted to have bairns with me. Alas.

I would have been happy to have kids, but I was determined to not raise any in the circumstances I was brought up in; not just minus the mental health issues and abuse conditions, but I wanted to have enough money, and enough emotional and physical support. My birth mother nor guardian had none of those, so it was important to me that whoever I was with would be capable of sharing in providing those things, that I could trust him, that he would be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of a long-term relationship as well as wanting to care for children, and was prepared to make some sacrifices. Shared core values is important regardless, but with kids in the picture, it's more important still.

As I say, that hans't worked out thus far, ergo, no droplets. I'm OK with the situation. Not FANTASTIC! but OK. I'd rather have no kids than struggle to raise children in an non-supportive environment, and I'm glad I live in a society where the worst of that means getting the occasional side-eye from the Judgy McJudgersons.
posted by droplet at 1:28 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I thought the childfree movement were the ones who hate all children and people who have them.
like a lot of things, for me reddit has completely ruined the term childfree. i belonged to a variety of subreddits on that topic for about a week before i noped right out...

/r/childfree, for anyone whose interested. Labels like "breeder" abound there.

i agree that it's wrong to judge everyone on what is a tiny sliver of people

Unfortunately, the internet overflows with hateful little communities, and it's so tempting to use them to reenforce any bias.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 1:31 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


IndigoJones: True, true, all too true. But not unkindly meant.

Conformity enforcing is pretty unkind. It is judgemental, and about the best you can expect out the the sort of situation you responded to is pity that you're an incomplete person. If you question the underlying assumptions inherent in near-strangers demanding to know what you are doing in your personal life, you are met with disdain.

It's meant unkindly.
posted by spaltavian at 1:33 PM on September 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


some of these quotes are a bit sad since they speak to the perfectionistic attitudes so many women have imbibed about combining work outside the home and childcare.

Maybe it's because one of the many reasons I never wanted kids was because I saw what the women around me gave up to have them, and maybe it's because I think way too many people have children without really considering what being responsible for another human really means, but I don't see Tomlin's comment as sad. I see it as a women knew herself well enough to understand that she does things wholly without space for balance. And recognizing that she understood that she couldn't give what she thought was necessary to a child.

I wish more people would think that through before they had kids and try to think of the total impact. I know that a good deal of my mother's angst about being a good mother was in part due to society, but I also know her well enough to understand that it's just her way to need to be the best at everything. I saw the same thing in myself and realized I was unwilling to do all that would be required to be the "best mom" in my eyes so I chose not to take that path. Just like I realized that while I loved making pottery, I didn't have the motivation and wherewithal to be an exceptional potter, so I chose not to take that path as a career.

I could be wrong. Maybe if I was forced into being a potter, I could have stepped up and performed at a really high level. Maybe I would grow to love myself in a way that I would be okay with being a mediocre potter. Either way, if I decided wrong the only one to suffer would be me and possibly some clay. If I chose wrong on motherhood, not so much.
posted by teleri025 at 1:34 PM on September 16, 2014 [17 favorites]


Ashley Judd FTW.
posted by Decani at 1:35 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


like a lot of things, for me reddit has completely ruined the term childfree. i belonged to a variety of subreddits on that topic for about a week before i noped right out. i agree that it's wrong to judge everyone on what is a tiny sliver of people who have decided to not have kids but, like terfs have in many ways hurt rad-fems, i think those who identify as childfree via reddit hurt others who don't want kids.
posted by nadawi at 2:47 PM on September 16


As it happens, I'm a regular over at r/childfree, because I've found it welcoming and fun. It's not uncommon to be the only childfree person in your circle of friends/family/co-workers, so it's a great place to vent your frustrations to like-minded people when you have to deal with regular "bingo-ing" about having kids. I've also been really surprised at the number of parents who are part of the subreddit

The subreddit does tend to go through waves of venting, though, so if you come in at the wrong time, I imagine it can come across as bitter and angry. Some posters aren't above using the more repulsive terms out there for parents and for children, which I find juvenile and offensive. There are some posters who genuinely and openly hate children; r/childfree seems to be the only place they've found online (or, at least, on reddit) to gather.

Still, it's benefits outweigh its negatives (to me, at least). We've had interesting discussions about workplace bias (co-worker parents who get preferential treatment in work and vacation schedules), the difficulties of finding a childfree partner, how to talk to a potential partner about your childfree status, dealing with a partner who's changed his or her mind and decided to have children, finding doctors willing to perform sterilization on a childless person under age 100 (it's amazing how if you're 16 and say you want to have a baby, no one blinks, but if you're 26 and want to be sterilized in order to avoid children, you don't know what you're talking about), overpopulation issues, and so forth. And most of the time, people are less frustrated with children, and more frustrated with the shitty parenting that leads to misbehaving children.

YMMV, of course, but I think the subreddit's a great place. Especially compared to some of the other childfree forums online....
posted by magstheaxe at 1:35 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I spent enough time caring for children when I was one.
posted by elizilla at 1:49 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]



I wanted to add that I love, love, love being an aunt and echo the sentiments that have been expressed about getting to give the kids back when your tired of them rocks. I consider myself lucky that I lived in the suite of my sister's house for two years when my nephew was born so I did experience much of the joy and hardship of new parenting with my sister. It was so hard to leave him. He's 11 now and we have very close and special relationship. I'm biased but I do think it's great for kids to have relationships with different kinds of adults.

My other sister has always wanted kids and spent many years trying to have them. They finally decided to adopt and started the very long process. Two weeks ago they received final approval and the only step left is being matched with the child. So exciting. I get to be the rocking aunt with another little human. I can't wait.
posted by Jalliah at 1:52 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've always told people I'd eat my own young, with absolutely no inflection in my voice, and that tends to cut off questions at the pass.
I adore kids though, and can't wait to be Auntie Mame. Having them, though, D:
posted by Lemmy Caution at 1:56 PM on September 16, 2014


For the first time ever, I'm going to pick Zooey Deschanel as the best with her (noted above by others) comment: "I'm not going to answer that question. I'm not mad at you for asking that question, but I've said it before: I don't think people ask men those questions.”

So many of the other quotes were "Oh, I'm too selfish" "Oh, I'm too much a workaholic" "Oh, I could not be like those other women who leave their kids and go to work"--basically, at their core. most of these responses continue to deify moms while simultaneously judging them for having the audacity to remain fully rounded human beings who are capable of caring for and accomplishing something other than making lunches and changing diapers. It's dressed up in some sort of breezy self-deprecation about being unsuitable for the task, but it's gross because of how it frames the understanding of women as either Mothers or Not-Mothers in their nature, not in the outcomes of their choices, their health, and their situations in life.

So you go on, Zooey and tell people to fuck off until all interviews with famous men over the age of 30 are breathlessly about babies and you go on, Marissa and tell to people to fuck off if they can't recognize you as a full human being without bearing children or explaining in detail and moralistic terms why you haven't.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:57 PM on September 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


Oh, and as for Famous Men and the Celebrity Media Industry and Babbies, see Slate's Will Billy Bob Thornton Ever Find Happiness Now that Angelina Jolie is Married
posted by crush-onastick at 2:03 PM on September 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


"No, really. Don't you want kids?" Point blank. In the middle of our small cube-farm office.

How fucking insensitive.
posted by jillithd at 2:47 PM on September 16


Indeed. I've found that bursting into tears at such moments puts an end to those questions forever.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:12 PM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


when people say things like, "accidents happen, you can't plan everything!" i like to take that moment to express my pro-choice views. the most aggressive this got was when my mom told me she was praying for me to get pregnant and i told her she was praying for an abortion.
posted by nadawi at 2:15 PM on September 16, 2014 [38 favorites]


like a lot of things, for me reddit has completely ruined the term childfree.

nah, usenet did that a long time ago

but you know how it's so annoying when people talk about having children all the time and all the precious little things they do?

it's even more annoying when they don't have them
posted by pyramid termite at 2:19 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


My usual response to the people who still bother me about having children is "I don't like them," and that doesn't even take care of the folks who are like, "It's different when they're your own."

Hell, I didn't even like kids when I was one.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:21 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is something deeply wrong with a society where a not-uncommon reply to "I don't like children" is essentially "you should have them anyway."
posted by heisenberg at 2:24 PM on September 16, 2014 [32 favorites]


I realized very early --- definitely by my mid-teens --- that I was absolutely not maternal material. I don't have the sheer patience to be a decent parent, to just plain put up with the craziness it all means. Heck, I never even did much babysitting, simply because I was not interested in small children.

I've been an aunt and great-aunt for years though, and that suits me (and them!) just fine: I describe it as being like a grandmother, but without the first twenty years of heartburn.... I can borrow them, spoil them, then hand them back, before either of us gets homicidal.
posted by easily confused at 2:24 PM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


Having only one child invites just as many rude questions and assumptions in my experience. One acquaintance of my wife had the gall to tell her that having one child is child abuse.
posted by dr_dank at 2:42 PM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


Basically what I want from the world is for everyone to stop wondering and talking about and getting angry about and judging what goes in and comes out of all human vaginas ever. Literally unless you have at this very moment been engulfed in a cloud of angry death bees that have swarmed out of someone's vajeeper I just don't want to hear about your opinions ever. And then you can only ask for an epipen or perish sullenly.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:53 PM on September 16, 2014 [63 favorites]


... the most aggressive this got was when my mom told me she was praying for me to get pregnant and i told her she was praying for an abortion.
posted by nadawi at 5:15 PM on September 16


Heh. I tell women to imply that they've already had a couple.

It's interesting, though, how some people just have to insist that you get pregnant, regardless of your desires, or your conviction that you wouldn't even be a good parent. They "pray for you" to get pregnant, or make jokes about poking holes in your condoms, or even tell you to your face that they hope your birth control fails.

It's deeply frustrating, because it's so breathtaking in its arrogance. It's like they can't stand the thought you aren't going to have kids.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:59 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


i happen to love kids (and parents) but it seems like many people don't trust women who have chosen to not have kids.

We live in bohemian Brooklyn, among other pushing-40's, and our childcare budget is manageable largely because of our many friends who want kids for an evening, but not for their whole life.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:13 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, look at how many women on the list feel compelled to say, "but I really like children! and hardly ever lure them into my candy house, then bake them for dinner." Because the default stereotype is that if you don't want kids, you must be Lady Macbeth.

I hate this. I know I can't be the only person in existence who doesn't want kids in part because I find them to be boring and obnoxious little sociopaths (with a few exceptions). If I could have fully formed adult children I might reconsider.
posted by Jess the Mess at 3:13 PM on September 16, 2014 [15 favorites]


> There is something deeply wrong with a society where a not-uncommon reply to "I don't like children" is essentially "you should have them anyway."

I really think that for the vast majority of people, they just don't understand. They think that people who don't want children are just confused and don't actually know what they want, and that once the magical baby is in our arms we'll be like, "oh, now I get it, I did really want this thing all along." I think it's just such an ingrained thing for people on both sides that it's really really hard to understand that people can truly be so different on such an intrinsic thing as having a child.

That said, I also think there are people who have kids and don't really like being a parent and want the rest of us to join in their misery. But in general I try to believe the best of people and assume that is not the case.
posted by something something at 3:14 PM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


As a woman in her late 30s who decided a long time ago to not have children, I am thankful that my family was incredibly immediately accepting of that choice (even my super religious grandparents!). Now it's only strangers who are aghast by my choice.
posted by Kitteh at 3:18 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I waver on this topic a lot. I love kids. I love babies. I hate preteens, teens, and young adults. Where is my Sims in real life cheat code for permanent toddlers?
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:39 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Where is my Sims in real life cheat code for permanent toddlers?

It's "get a dog". Totally permanent toddlers.
posted by aclevername at 3:54 PM on September 16, 2014 [24 favorites]


The term childfree was ruined for me a long time ago on usenet and livejournal with the use of 'crotchfruit' and 'crotchdroppings' and 'breeders' and the notion that the very existence of children in the world is somehow offensive. That's what childfree means to me, and most of the people I come across who use the term to describe themselves are part of this movement and espouse this arseholishness. If you use this term and are not, fine, but that's what it connotes.
posted by goo at 4:09 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


So, for those of you who are reading past, what, 104 comments by now, here's a very excellent blog post which frames the discussion in terms of whether or not the desire to have kids is really a choice. You really do either innately have that desire or you don't. Some of us just don't, and that can be hard for the folks who do to understand.

Bolivia - The Fluent Self (blog)

Apologies if this link has already been posted above and I just didn't catch it.
posted by jazzbaby at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2014 [17 favorites]


If you use this term and are not, fine, but that's what it connotes.

Eh, I guess I'm okay with that then? Because the other option is saying "childless" which to me has the connotation of loss/regrets, and the very last thing I want is someone expressing sympathy over me achieving what has been very literally a life long goal, the permanent removal of my ability to have kids.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:28 PM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


Thanks for the link, Jazzbaby. I'm one of those who never really felt the pull. Certainly not enough to be able to love the kind of child who would really complicate my life - one with a lot of special needs, one who is severely allergic to cats (yes, really), one who leaves me grandchildren to raise guaranteeing that I won't have an empty nest until I go to the nursing home.

The "you'll love it when it's your own!" brigade never has much of an answer to "well, what if it turns out that I don't?" I wouldn't want to do that to a child. I'm not a nurturer.

Unfortunately, the nurturing angle seems to be yet another club to beat women over the head with. It's also an excuse to treat mothers with disrespect or, in the case of poor mothers of color, outright contempt. It's also an excuse to pay "women's jobs" such as teaching and social work poorly, because, after all, women nurture and care out of the goodness of their hearts and essential feminine nature, so why pay them better? It's a caaaalllling!

And it burns my britches that very accomplished women such as the ones in the article are STILL thought to have a piece missing in their lives because of their not having children. I don't care for Condoleezza Rice's politics at all, but I can't agree that her life is somehow pathetic because she is single and childless, blotting out all the other achievements she has made. All the women in the original article are more or less at the top of their fields, and yet the issue is that they don't have children? Bah.

I am so very thankful to live in a time and place where I had that choice to not have children. The Pill is a goddamn miracle.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:29 PM on September 16, 2014 [20 favorites]


I guess I'm the only person to whom "breeder" means "heterosexual" or "a member of Kim and Kelley Deal's band"?

When people offer me their kids, I like to say "no thanks, I'm a vegetarian."
posted by bile and syntax at 4:29 PM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


So many of the other quotes were "Oh, I'm too selfish" "Oh, I'm too much a workaholic" "Oh, I could not be like those other women who leave their kids and go to work"--basically, at their core. most of these responses continue to deify moms while simultaneously judging them for having the audacity to remain fully rounded human beings who are capable of caring for and accomplishing something other than making lunches and changing diapers.

Thanks crush-onastick for expressing so much better what I was trying to get at my comment above. More power to every woman to make her own reproductive choices, but I for one would appreciate the acknowledgement that there's nothing wrong with a woman who chooses to have both a career and children.
posted by peacheater at 4:30 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wish there was another acceptable term next to childless and childfree, and that is childphobic.

I too, got turned right off identifying as childfree, after joining a childfree email group, where someone said they'd found baby staring at them to be so unpleasant, that they deserved to be targeted by child molesters, and that would teach the parents for not training a preverbal child not to stare in public. Anyway, I figured they were crazy, but then everyone responded to... basically agree, about how horrible it was to have children stare at you. !

And I realized a large number of people on this group had issues. Makes sense that people with this phobia would join something like a support group, except one where they reinforced their issues, and talked about children in way that would be unacceptable to them if it was based on race or gender.
I have and had no problem with kids, I'm just not keen on adults telling me I must have them.

(Anyway, I'm heading towards the kid side now, way more interesting to train than dogs, and you can take them with you on planes. ;P
More seriously, I'm a guardian in waiting, and it's not like I have the freedom I would have otherwise. It's more like I'm deciding on whether to have a second child, with the ability to actually make the big decisions about, which is easier. Still terrifying, it isn't easy, and I don't think it should ever be the default position.).
posted by Elysum at 5:29 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Breed your very own indentured servants, that's the ticket!

or use them for organs, that is my plan

I already said this joke on here, so there is another good reason not to have kids, you start repeating yourself
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:47 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was recently at a professional event and making pleasant-enough conversation with a man I had met maybe 48 hours before. The man was almost ten years younger than me, unmarried, and childless. He asked, completely out of nowhere, if my husband and I are going to have kids, and when I said, "Probably not," he kindly explained to me that marriages only exist to have children and that I would definitely be a great mom.

This happened a few months ago and I'm still kind of furious.

What an ass.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:35 PM on September 16, 2014 [19 favorites]


It's been interesting to see how others react to it as I age

the reactions start getting a bit funny when you are a few years over 40 - people start being "tactful" about it, as though they assume that it must be a big tragedy in your life, so they shouldn't mention it and upset you. It's still pretty offensive of an attitude, but has the benefit of being so much quieter. The only people who bug me about having kids these days clearly have no idea how old I am.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:08 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


My son is a year old and people are CONSTANTLY asking when we will have more. It is astonishing. I am happy with one, thanks, I don't have any interest in having more, for Reasons that I have zero interest in sharing with you, random stranger/coworker/distant relative. Don't even get me started on people asking about "trying for a girl," as if my son isn't enough. Fuck people.
posted by gatorae at 7:28 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


how many women on the list feel compelled to say, "but I really like children!

I'm at an age and in a location where men I might date are pretty likely to have a kid or two. It is a super delicate dance to react to a date's first mention of his kids. If I gush too much, he thinks I'm baby hungry or too eager to start playing stepmom. If I don't gush enough, he thinks I wouldn't mesh well with the kids so the relationship can't go anywhere. If I explain that I have chosen not to have kids, he gets defensive about his choice to have kids, and if I accidentally phrase it badly, he assumes I don't want to be with him because he has kids.

"But I like children!" tends to go over well. Listing specific kids I know and like, and talking about my recent and upcoming interactions with them works even better. It's kind of like how you can't get your first job without experience, but you can't get experience until you get your first job. A lot of people won't trust you around their kids unless you're already around other kids.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:50 PM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


Biology is destiny, or so they say, until modern contraceptive methods came into existence. So glad to be a modern woman with real choices. And to see so many of my thoughts abt having children reflected by the celebrities, who are of course people first.
posted by Pocahontas at 7:53 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


The most depressing thing about the article was the number of women who said that they chose between having children and excelling at their chosen profession. I believe them when they say that it would have been impossible to have both and do them well.

I think about that and wonder what my choices mean for my future. I am a mom, but I am also a person who has ambitions for her professional life. There are only two other mothers in my well-ranked MBA cohort. Despite this, I received a fellowship this week that will set me on the path to achieve big things. If this is something doable for me it will be completely due to a husband who has stepped in to do the lion's share of childcare.

It is almost certain that it is impossible to be a fantastic parent and a fantastic anything else, so I'm embracing the idea of being the world's okayest mom and letting my husband pick up the slack. So far, no one has commented on my quality as a mother to my face.
posted by Alison at 8:44 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't expect to ever have kids but I grew up with the expectation that I was going to have a family of my own and I still feel the loss of that very keenly.

Becoming a foster parent to an older kid is always an option. There are a ton of LBGTQ youth who are either homeless or in group homes because a) their parents kicked them out for being gay/trans/etc. and b) many foster parents are motivated to become foster parents because "it's the Christian thing to do" but their brand of Christianity is not very LBGTQ-friendly.

Fostering teens gives you the opportunity to form a family with the potential for lifetime parent-child bonds without all the yucky boring parts of making your own kids from scratch and for a fraction of the expense and time commitment.

And given the suicide, OD, murder, etc. death rates for LGBTQ youth, being a supportive and LGBTQ-friendly foster parent could literally save a life.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:58 PM on September 16, 2014 [10 favorites]


A few years after we got married, my husband and I were in the kitchen before work one morning when one of us (I honestly don't remember who) said, "So, uh, we should talk about this whole having kids thing, because, uh, I'm having second thoughts…"

"OH THANK GOD, YOU TOO?" replied the other, and we both burst into tears. We realized that we were in a place where thinking about having children felt like looking at the biggest, nastiest term paper you never wanted to do, just to get to the starting line. Thinking about the actually having kids part, much less if any of them wound up with the various non-neurotypical stuff that's displayed among us and our blood relatives? Oh gosh no. No, no, no.

It took a while to get up the nerve to tell my father about it (Mom's been gone for years). When I did, he smiled and said, "I think I may have figured that out before you did."

"What," I asked jokingly, "you mean like when I was a kid and not playing with dolls?"

"Not playing with dolls," he said seriously, "and also not expressing any interest in any of your friends' younger siblings. You've never been drawn to kids."

My mother-in-law would deeply love to be a grandmother, but neither of her kids have obliged. I regret her sorrow at that, but it has less than zero effect on our not choosing to move to Bolivia (loved the linked article, btw).
posted by Lexica at 9:08 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Today is my 44th birthday, and I do not regret not having children in the least. I often say what I regret is that I never wanted to have children, but only in a very hypothetical "what if" kind of way. Like the way you wonder how your life would have been different if you had learned to play the violin.

If you put a small dog in front of me, I will go absolutely bonkers and coo like a maniac until my voice reaches a pitch that only bats can hear.

If you put a baby in front of me I might mistake it for a sack of potatoes. I feel zero, as in less than I would for any other living thing. They don't feel like people at all to me. I knew at an early age this was not a formula for good parenting.

For some of us, not having children wasn't so much a lifestyle choice as the recognition that we don't have some essential piece of biology that makes you want to sacrifice adventure, aspirations, and a good night's sleep for something that resembles little more than a squalling poo-bag to you.
posted by evilcupcakes at 9:25 PM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


the reactions start getting a bit funny when you are a few years over 40 - people start being "tactful" about it, as though they assume that it must be a big tragedy in your life, so they shouldn't mention it and upset you.

So true. There is a certain expression that crosses their face, as they struggle to think of what to say. So, I just jump right into the lull: "Nope, no kids. THANK GOD. I would've been a terrible mother." I used to try to smooth things over by saying something about being a fun aunt, or liking kids, but I'm over that.

(...and you might be surprised -- or not -- how many moms will open up to you with their own regrets after the "THANK GOD" comment. Esp. if they've been drinking some wine...)

I knew very early on that I absolutely did not ever ever EVER want kids -- on a visceral level, it felt wrong -- but it's only recently that I've come to stand my ground and not sugarcoat it.
posted by nacho fries at 10:08 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cultural pressure to have kids makes no sense to me. My wife just had our second, and it completely upends your life. I mean, seriously, it's like getting hit in the scheduling with a hurricane. It's really rewarding and hilarious and so many good things, but it's impossible to deny that it's a massive tradeoff - neither decision is unambiguously superior.
posted by Jpfed at 10:34 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I find it interesting that women are first pressured to become mothers, and if/when they do have kids, it becomes one non-stop guilt-trip about anything and everything related to their kids, no matter what they do.

E.g. "Are you breastfeeding? Why are you STILL breastfeeding?" / "OMG don't you know that breast is best?! Don't give him formula!" - "Don't puree her food, she'll get used to it and be a picky eater" / "Don't give her pieces of food, she'll choke on them!" - etc etc.

Basically any random thing about their kid is open to discussion by "well-meaning" relatives and even total strangers.

So even if you decide to have kids, the nagging/pressuring/guilt-tripping never stops. The subject is changed, but the tone remains more or less the same.
posted by gakiko at 11:10 PM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


I love you people.

My mother-in-law finally gave up two years ago at a family dinner where a cousin had brought her months-old baby. At this point I'd been her DIL for eight years. For the first five, she'd known that I was on the fence, open but extremely dubious. For the next three, she'd known very well that I was "Pretty sure I'm not interested enough in the potential positives of kids to outweigh the definite negatives of kids." So, MIL cradled the babe in her arms, walked over to me, and cooed, "Don't you want one of your own?"

"Nope," I said. I walked away.

Three separate casual acquaintance women (all mothers) in the past few months have asked me if I have kids. When I said, "No," they each replied, nodding understandingly, "Ah, not yet."

Me, aghast at their assumptions and, after the first time, that it was happening repeatedly: "Nope! Not for meeee! Not ever! It's not for me! Not my thing! It's fine for other people! Just not me!"

When the third one muttered, "Geez, I was just asking," I realized that this time, I hadn't been just vehement but had probably crescendoed into near-shouting.

"It's like the very concept of a married woman of child-bearin' age not having kids is all DOES NOT COMPUTE in their heads, like a spherical cube. 'Not yet,' Jesus Christ, what if I was like [name of friend who had trouble conceiving for years], what a hurtful assumption to make," I vented to my husband. He said, "Yeah, I wonder if they derive so much, like all, of their self-worth from the role as mothers that they can't imagine anything different."

Thanks for the post and discussion, y'all.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:35 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm a parent of an almost 3 year old. My husband and I very much wanted to be parents, and we're having a blast. We had our son in our mid 30's, and we've been together since our early 20's, so we had many years of drinking and partying and traveling and sleeping late and doing whatever the hell we wanted. So having a kid now is good in some ways because we got a lot of stuff out of our system, but at the same time we got used to having a ton of freedom. Giving it up is, in the understatement of the year, hard.

Even as much as I enjoy being a mom, I would never, *ever* second-guess someone who said they didn't want kids. Because it's hard, and you have to give up a lot. For me, it's a trade-off I'm happy to make. But if someone shudders at the thought of having to give up their life as they know it in order to take care of a child, then why in the world would I try to convince them? By all means, don't have kids if you don't want them - isn't that what's best for everyone involved?

Having only one child invites just as many rude questions and assumptions in my experience.

To quote my 3 yr old, holy moly guacamole, does it ever. We don't plan to have any more, for a couple of reasons - one of them is that we just can't swing it financially. Daycare for 2 would kill us ("So become a stay at home mom! My husband worked his day job and delivered pizzas at night!"), we wouldn't be able to afford to travel or maintain the kind of standard of living that we want to maintain ("That's just selfish! Love doesn't need money! What, you're not having a kid so you can have a fancy car or weekly manicures?"), and we certainly couldn't help two kids with college if they choose to go ("They can pay for their own college! I worked 17 jobs to put myself thru school and I'm the better for it!) And yet, even though we're clear that we can't afford it, the same people who would yell at "welfare queens" for popping out kids, would also yell at us for selfishly putting money before more kids. I just don't get it, because if we had a second and then couldn't make ends meet we'd get shit on for breeding irresponsibly.

People don't make sense. I rarely listen to them, and I rarely explain myself to them anymore. That way madness lies.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 11:52 PM on September 16, 2014 [27 favorites]


"I'm not going to answer that question. I'm not mad at you for asking that question, but I've said it before: I don't think people ask men those questions.”

I used a variation of this* on a coworker the other week and I have never felt better. It was polite too, and she took it well. I've been married 10 months and have been asked the question incessantly. Now I have my stock answer. It's wonderful.

I think I've shut the extended family down by saying "I can't have children" loudly and firmly to my uncle at a family dinner -- well if he was going to ask in front of everyone, I was going to answer in front of anyone and the look of shock on his face was TOTALLY worth it.

Well I can have children, but it's certainly none of their business. I'm still working on subduing my mother and grandmother (since I was four -- four!! -- I've heard from them what beautiful children I'll have and now that I'm married...).

*"I'm not offended you asked, but I'm not going to answer that. It's between me and my husband."
posted by prettypretty at 11:53 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, and another thing re: having only one child - I've found a growing number of moms online saying things like, "Um, are you really a mom if you only have one kid? lol" Haw haw, asshole.

It's really no wonder I don't socialize with other parents!
posted by DrGirlfriend at 12:14 AM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


The problem with not having children is then one has to sit at the Passover kid table in perpetuity because one has not committed visible adultery.
posted by Dreidl at 12:39 AM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I cannot say enough good things about being an aunt. I assume similar things would be said about being an uncle (though with its own unique charms!). As an aunt, you are IN the family. You get to see the kid grow up and learn stuff and get awesomer and they always know you and love you......... and then whenever you feel like it, "TA-TA, I'm going home!!"

Due to strange circumstances, my family tree is more of a precariously balanced cone: my parents' generation of ~8 has funneled down to ~4 of us 40-somethings with one (ONE) super amazing young kid between us and no more on the horizon. I hope that my generation can fully take care of end-of-life care for the elder members of our family during our own lives, and I hope that we can make things as simple as possible for Kid when it comes to my "middle crew.".

I, for example, will surely be moving someplace Scandinavian and will be eccentric and adored and wear large jewelry and take many lovers and run in juuuuust sketchy enough circles that I'll have more than enough morphine in my possession when the time comes.

Until then, I'm gonna love heck out of my sister's kid, and be loved back, and leave it at that.
posted by argonauta at 12:46 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've said all these things... Especially Ashley Judd's. But in the spirit of full disclosure, this thread makes me think I'd better hop to it and edit my profile page... but I liked being a die-hard nulligravida. It's just, one day, to my chagrin and for deeply personal reasons, I changed my mind. So, "surprisingly fertile nulligravida sympathizer?"

When The Question comes up to others, now, I am supportive of their child free plans, but I also tell them to feel free to change their minds. It's a hard 180 to execute.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:06 AM on September 17, 2014


On a less snarky and more personal note - I'm in my late 30s and get questions about kids a lot. I'm single, sterile, have mounds of student debt, and a more-than-full-time job that requires a lot of travel such that I can barely handle my cats. I honestly don't know why people think children would fit into this picture, and I've been trying to figure out what the best way to get people to stop pestering me about this is - no one takes me seriously when I say "thanks but no thanks" but if I tell people I'm sterile they react like it's a huge tragedy and for me it isn't and I obviously don't want to tell everyone about my financial situation or health issues.

For myself I feel like this pressure is part and parcel of compulsory heterosexuality because when I say "thanks but no thanks" people start in on the "oh you never know! you'll meet someone and change your mind!" like I'm not obviously lesbian or like there aren't other factors involved. It makes me more aware of how awful this would be for someone who wanted kids and couldn't have them, or who would have them but for the lack of a partner, and how insensitive this constant pressure is.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:58 AM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've got a trunk full of withering childfree reposts that I'm longing to use on nosy people - I had the snip at 21 and I'm in my late thirties now - but disappointingly I've never really needed to.

I constantly see other women feeling under pressure to justify their reproductive choices but it's never happened to me. I've come to the conclusion that people take one look at me and think yeah, probably for the best.
posted by Acarpous at 4:48 AM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Well put, drgirlfriend. People get downright horrified if you think of childbearing in financial terms. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "you'll never have enough money, go for it!" to handwave any reasonable doubt on more children.

Unless they're putting up the cash, they can take a flying leap.
posted by dr_dank at 5:47 AM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I guess I'm the only person to whom "breeder" means "heterosexual" or "a member of Kim and Kelley Deal's band"?

Was going to mention this at some point...the most vile, hateful, contemptuous use of the word "breeder" has come from gay men I have known, both in person and online.
posted by Melismata at 7:19 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not to mention the "but whooooooo will caaaaaaare for you when you're old" line.

Actually I wonder about this all the time, and frankly it terrifies me.


My wife likes to point out that even if you have kids, there is no guarantee that they will take care of you when you get old.

After a recent lunch with my parents where I suffered from a short dizzy spell and was then pestered for the rest of the day about how I was feeling and how I need to go to the doctor and how I need to drink more water and how I was feeling NOW, and how I really need to go to the doctor and here have some more water and am I feeling any better yet and how I need to call the doctor first thing Monday morning, I decided that I am perfectly content to die alone.
posted by malocchio at 9:08 AM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've been trying to figure out what the best way to get people to stop pestering me about this is - no one takes me seriously when I say "thanks but no thanks" but if I tell people I'm sterile they react like it's a huge tragedy and for me it isn't and I obviously don't want to tell everyone about my financial situation or health issues.

As in many other life situations, one solution is to paraphrase Raising Arizona: "I'm barren. My insides are a rocky place where a seed can find no purchase." I have used this to lighten up talk about related health issues, and people are generally either so amused, perplexed, or offended that they shut right up.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:24 AM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


You do have to say it with H.I. or Ed's accent, though.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:26 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed the article and liked that there were women with a range of thoughts and opinions. You can see it here too, many of us without kids, just as many thoughts about it and reasons for it. Which is why I find the assumption that "oh of course you'll change your mind" so annoying, people are different and want and need different things, there is no one of course about anything.

I'm generally pretty upfront about not wanting kids and my tone of voice makes it clear it's not some secret sadness or whatever. That's how I phrase it too, if someone asks if I have children I'll usually reply "No, I don't want kids". Sometimes it might be "we don't want kids" depending on my mood and the situation, but in reality I'd made the decision long before I met my husband and it has nothing to do with him. Fortunately he agrees, we wouldn't have got together in the first place if he didn't, which is great and all but still.

I've definitely had my share of shitty comments and judgement. I have noticed that at 39 I appear to have aged out of the 'you'll change your mind' bullshit, or maybe it's because I live in a different country now, which is quite lovely either way. What people either didn't realise or managed to forget is how damn stubborn I am, so that one comment is a sure-fire way to make sure I never decide I want kids. I even had it a bit from my parents (and my husband from his) when we were younger although fortunately they got over it - our siblings having children helped with that I think.

After years of those and similar comments I don't really care what people's intentions are at this point, I take any comment on why or how or when I should be reproducing as being just as sexist, nosy, and invasive as such comments actually are and am just as cheerfully rude as I feel like back. I realised at 16 that I didn't actually have to have children and have been very content with that understanding ever since (it's not even a decision really, I don't have to so I'm not going to), I feel no need to talk with someone who wants to judge me for that. The best part is telling people that actually no, I can't be pregnant or don't need to worry about being pregnant because my husband had surgery so that won't happen, then watching them squirm. Because oh no! I'm talking about my husband's genitals! in public and everything! While apparently them discussing both our sex life (that's how babby is formed) and my entire reproductive tract is A-OK.

(sidenote: the best part of your partner having a vasectomy which no one ever tells you about before hand is how they shave so much and such random real estate leaving bald patches and tufts of hair all over and for so far, and it's hilarious. I laughed and laughed. It took weeks to grow out too, so I got to laugh more than once. Totally worth it for that alone.)

And man, my life is sweet. We get to run things pretty much just how we want, why would I mess that up? I sleep a sufficient amount, work long hours, sit on my arse and play stupid games in my free time, keep a somewhat dirty house, have my husband cook for me, and go where and when I want. Last year I moved to a different country from my husband to further my career and we've been long distance for about ten months so far, something we could not have done with children. I live on frozen pizza a lot more without him and he has the cats but it's worth it. My life isn't perfect by any means but I am able to actively choose that in a way we never could if small people were relying on me (and lets face it, as the Mother they would rely on me in ways they never would for my husband, for the first something-number of years at least). I'm not giving that up for anyone.

Thinking about it, the two people I never had any negative comments or judgements from are my sisters, even when they were both single and desperately wanting kids through their twenties and early thirties while I as in the same stable relationship from 19. I should thank them for that. I'm happy to buy their children's love, they're happy to look at photos of my cats, everyone gets on with their life however they like, that's how it should be.

(whoa that was long, apparently I have Opinons about the whole not-having-children thing)
posted by shelleycat at 12:39 PM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


There's literally no way you can stop the craziness, though. Just in case anyone was wondering.

I got a tubal ligation in my 30s and made the mistake of telling my mother I was planning to do so. She freaked out, so I told her, okay you've convinced me, I won't do it, and then went ahead with it and never mentioned it to her again.

Later, after it was done, a friend asked me what I was going to do when I changed my mind. I said, "don't you mean 'if'? Because I'm not going to change my mind, considering that I've never yet wanted children." Nope, she really meant "when."

I have even forced people to listen to the analysis of: I have never wanted children. If I suddenly were to have decided in my late 30s that given that time was running out, I'd better go ahead and have children just in case, which would be the better considered, more rational choice? The 35+ year decision to not have children or the few months or so sudden emotional impulse to do so?

Or to put it another way: Let's say you hate strawberry ice cream. No big deal, you don't fuss about it, but when asked, you say, nah, not my thing. Now imagine that every single person you know tells you that you're a bad person for not liking strawberry ice cream, and they also all tell you that when you grow up you'll realize how wonderful it is, and in every way possible your own knowledge of yourself is denied or brushed off. It really sucked to grow up with that. You can only imagine how great it was to be taken seriously by my GYN when I made the appointment for the ligation.
posted by janey47 at 12:46 PM on September 17, 2014


If I choose not to have kids, it will be because of money, and that makes me sad. I like kids, but not so much that I'd choose poverty to have them.

But it will still be a choice I made, and I'm privileged to have the choice at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:32 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not to mention the "but whooooooo will caaaaaaare for you when you're old" line.

Not to be TOO cynical, but watching older friends and relatives die while their adult children mostly pay little attention to them, it mostly seems more like "but who will wait impatiently for me to die so that they can sell my house and go on vacation or buy a car with their share of the divided proceeds?" to me.
posted by aught at 1:42 PM on September 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Helen Mirren is quite a dame.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:49 PM on September 17, 2014


Coworkers who, even after laughing at my response "Not today, I guess!", would then say, "No, really. Don't you want kids?" Point blank. In the middle of our small cube-farm office.

Misery loves company peer pressure.

These are the same people who, the minute they find out a co-worker or their spouse is pregnant, start in on the "Better get your sleep in now, 'cause you won't get any for the next 18 years, ha-ha!", "Say goodbye to your life!", "Have you bought the minivan yet?" and "Hope you like being exhausted!" comedy gold.
posted by aught at 2:07 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


It is meant unkindly.

I've been on the receiving end of The Question (and us with a history I'd rather not share), but knowing the people involved as well as I do, I'm sticking with not meant unkindly. I try not to be judgmental not make blanket statements about what all people intend in what they say and do. YMMV
posted by IndigoJones at 2:17 PM on September 17, 2014


Eh, I guess I'm okay with that then? Because the other option is saying "childless" which to me has the connotation of loss/regrets

Yeah, I'll get used to it. I guess the difference is those people who seem to vociferously want a childfree world and those who choose to be personally childfree. It's really fucking sad "I don't have kids" isn't enough though, without any further clarification or explanation - I'm from an enormous, highly fecund family yet still never got any pressure or even any questions. Or maybe I did and just didn't notice, that's also possible. Anyway, people suck and it sucks that anyone has to justify their choices to anyone else.
posted by goo at 4:11 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The "Who will care for your when you get old?" line is kind of silly in the US. Most old people with caretakers aren't taken care of by their kids. Even if it was a cultural thing here, which it mostly isn't, most people's kids can't take care of them. The demands of a career and a job market that nearly always demands you move to find a good position make it impossible. You can't expect your kids to take care of you when they live 1500 miles away, work 50 hours a week, and have a mortgage and some kids of their own.

Plus, when you consider the chance of having a kid with a serious disability (which you could end up taking care of during your old age instead) or a severe illness that could wipe out your retirement savings right through your health insurance, you really are better off just putting more money aside instead of having kids if you are really worried about your old age.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:39 PM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


I agree, Mitrovarr, and I've also noticed that when people have children for a specific purpose (like to carry on the family business or take care of them in their old age), the children turn their back on their intended usage.
posted by janey47 at 4:44 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not to mention the "but whooooooo will caaaaaaare for you when you're old" line.

I usually derail that conversation by being overly cynical and reminding the questioner that many of us will die from climate change and the ensuing collapse before we get old enough to require caretakers. That shuts up just about everybody, or at least changes the topic.
posted by dogwalker at 5:00 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah seriously if the choice was between "spend my money on baby shit" or "spend my money on becoming an invincible cyborg" there is really no possible contest there.

see also: retire to a country with better healthcare, equal or higher standard of living, and lower cost of living
posted by poffin boffin at 5:42 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Was going to mention this at some point...the most vile, hateful, contemptuous use of the word "breeder" has come from gay men I have known, both in person and online.

They don't like Kim Deal? Maybe they're still blaming her for the breakup of the Pixies?
posted by bile and syntax at 6:02 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I never liked "breeder" because it implies that just because you have hetero sex, you WILL have babies. Ugh.

"Let's say you hate strawberry ice cream. No big deal, you don't fuss about it, but when asked, you say, nah, not my thing. Now imagine that every single person you know tells you that you're a bad person for not liking strawberry ice cream..."

Substitute coffee in that sentence and that happens to me for real, actually.

I love this article. Especially Dame Helen. And as for the infamous Jennifer Aniston, I am convinced that secretly she doesn't really give a shit if she has kids or not (as a friend pointed out, if she wanted to, she's had plenty of years/opportunities/money to try) and she can adopt at any time if she changes her mind, so there.

As for me: I don't get bingoed much because I am permanently single and obviously hopeless in that category, which is nice. (My shrink said she has used the "burst into tears and run" method and it works like a charm, but that's not me.) But I'm not super into babies or the horrible effects of childbirth and I'm about as nurturing as a piranha. I would be a cool aunt except I'm an only child. I feel sorry for my mom on that score, but oh well. I do kind of wonder if I ever dated again (HAHAHAYEAHRIGHTNO) how I'd inevitably deal with having to be a stepmom because finding a guy with no kids is rare to impossible, but I guess as long as I liked the kids on their own and dad wasn't hoping for more, I could deal. I just don't want to lose 5 years of life per baby to doing nothing but nurturing a baby.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:29 PM on September 17, 2014


I'll mark it on my calendar to stop saying "breeder" sometime after I kill the heteropatriarchy and no longer have to worry that I'm going to get my head smashed in for being visible in public. At that point, obviously, we'll have reached a point of enlightenment in our society where people's reproductive choices are respected and we can all just love who we love and live without people flipping their shit, so it'll probably be a dead topic.

Except for when we're talking about Kim Deal's band. That awesomeness will live on.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:45 PM on September 17, 2014


I'll mark it on my calendar to stop saying "breeder" sometime after I kill the heteropatriarchy and no longer have to worry that I'm going to get my head smashed in for being visible in public. At that point, obviously, we'll have reached a point of enlightenment in our society where people's reproductive choices are respected

Do want you want, but it seems werid to say you'll respect people's reproductive choices once we... respect people's reproductive choices. Not at all saying there's any equivalence between use of the term "breeder" and the discrimination and violence you face, it's just the sentiment you expressed seems circular. Unless you're not meaning breeder to be disrespectul, but it seems like people take it that way.
posted by spaltavian at 5:41 AM on September 18, 2014


I don't think it's minimizing anyone's experience with discrimination and violence to say using the term "breeder" for "heterosexual" is disrespectful and rude.
posted by sweetkid at 7:51 AM on September 18, 2014 [9 favorites]


The analogy I always use -- I've mentioned it in these hallowed pages before -- is that parenthood is like any other monumentally difficult and potentially rewarding task; if you really aspire to it and crave it, then by all means, go ahead. It's like climbing Mt. Everest, or opening a restaurant, or becoming a neurosurgeon or an astronaut or a professional musician. But just like any of those things, it is SUPER DUMB to do them if you don't want to do them, and nobody says "Oh, it's different when it's your own!" about law degrees or kidney transplants or houses built by your own hand. The big difference is that nobody goes to a party, spies a promising stranger from across the room, and wakes up a month later to discover that they have accidentally become a concert pianist.

I have two kids, and I worked hard to get them and I love them with every cell in my body. But man alive this shit is hard work, with drastic repercussions for doing it badly. Nobody should feel compelled to undertake such a project unless they want to, and the people who contribute to such an atmosphere of coercion should be ashamed of themselves.
posted by KathrynT at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2014 [10 favorites]


Oddly enough, this week at my office a third woman has announced she was pregnant. Afterwards, everyone turned to me, the last remaining non-parent in our department and smiled. One co-worker said, "Oh, watch out! It'll be your turn next!"

I just laughed and said casually, "Yeah, if that happens, there's a doctor in Nashville that will owe me a crapton of money."

*crickets*
posted by teleri025 at 2:29 PM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Loved this.

The remark I hate the most is "Oh, you'll change your mind." I've known for sure I didn't want kids since I was 14 years old. I'm 40 now. My mind isn't changing. Not to mention, it isn't remotely acceptable to go up to a pregnant woman (or woman with a young child) and asked "Are you sure you want that child? You'll change your mind once you realize how expensive children are/how much less sleep you get/insert reason here." That would be incredibly awful. So what makes it OK to say the equivalent to a woman without children?
posted by SisterHavana at 11:51 PM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


also, i know why parents do it, but the constant apologizing for kids being kids makes me sad

Me too. Kids need to be taught how to be people, and it's impossible to do that unless you take them out into the world so they can learn! My Monsters are grown, but boy do I remember well the craziness that getting them there entailed, and I make a point of being extra nice to the folks that are just now on that path.

A few years back, a friend and I were driving back home from a dance performance in Kalamazoo. We were so tired and hungry and eager to get home, that we didn't bother getting out of costume or makeup. We just determined that we'd get on the road, and stop at the first restaurant we saw.

That turned out to be a Perkins. We were seated near a very obviously travel weary couple and their young daughter. She was maybe 5 at the oldest, and wow, did we ever catch her attention. She stared, then jumped up out of her seat to come over to us. "ARE YOU FAIRIES???" Her mother apologized over and over again, and we just told her not to worry, we are mothers, too, and expect small children to be a little confused by the sight of bellydancers in full regalia. (And we had done a Tribal Style performance, so our hair was piled with feathers and flowers and cowrie shells, and everything was jingly and fringey and flowy. So. Sure. Fairies!)

We invited the little one to sit with us, so she could ask us questions and touch the flowers and feathers and shiny things. We coiled her hair up and each put a feather and a flower in it, and made her an Honorary Fairy. Her parents were so grateful to have a few minutes to relax and to have people NOT bitching about the (perfectly normal) behavior of a small child.

I never want parents to apologize to me for their 5 year-old being 5. It doesn't cost anything to be kind.
posted by MissySedai at 7:03 AM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Missy - you've just reminded me of a family outing when I was about twelve, and one of my cousins was only about two. And at some point had a two-year-old meltdown at the restaurant, which my increasingly-harried aunt was trying to quell before finally getting up and taking her out to the parking lot so she didn't freak everyone else out.

The thing was, I was watching her the whole time, and feeling increasingly bad seeing how hard she was trying to calm my cousin down. And about the time that she was getting up and taking her out to the parking lot, it hit me that "wait, I bet my own parents had to deal with this when I was two also."

And so a moment after they left the table, I turned to my own parents and said, "I'm so sorry!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


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