The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Been Around the World and I Been Called a Child Hater

Posted by Seeking Solace |

There's a lot of chatter in the blog world today about those with children and those without. Anastasia has a post which discusses the need for more kid friendly places. Shrinky also has a post about our society should rethink its view of children. These posts reminds me of a conversation I had with my mother last week.

Me: "Mom, I can't talk right now, I have a doctor's appointment."
Mom: "Doctor's appointment? What's wrong?"
Me: "Nothing is wrong. It's just a normal check-up."
Mom: Oh, I was hoping you were going to tell me you were pregnant. When are you going to stop this nonsense and have a baby."

Here we go again....

Husband and I do not have children. We do not plan to have children. Does that make us evil? To some, it does. I remember Husband and I attended a party for our godson's first Communion. I sat down with a group of women who were discussing pregnancy and their children. Seeing that I was new to the conversation, they asked me if I had children. I told them that I did not. One of them asked me if I was planing to have children, I again said that I was not. The entire group gave me a look that could freeze hydrogen. Then the one who asked me if I was planning on having children said "Oh, you are one of them!"

This woman didn't know me from a can of paint and she assumed that I was anti child. Some of you may say "Come on, Solace, how do you know what she meant." But, in my experience, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what she meant.

Why is a woman's worth based on whether or not she has children? Does it make me less of a woman if I don't have children? Would the conversation be different if I told that woman that I can't have children and we can't afford to adopt? (Not the reason why we don't have children, by the way) Would she have treated me any differently?

Why do people assume that if you don't have children, you are some evil freak of nature. Something must be really wrong with you if you don't have kids, especially in my case, after being married for 15 years and almost 40 years old.

We made the decision with the most careful reflection. We felt that some of my health issues would make child-rearing difficult. There have been people who told me that I should put aside my health concerns aside and that things will work themselves out. Forget that I have discussed my concerns with my physicians and they agree with my assessment. Forget that my husband and I know our circumstances better than anyone else. We should just do what others think we should do or what society and religion think we should do.

Another reason why we chose not to have children is because neither one of us really feels the desire to raise children.

(OK, insert "You're being selfish" argument....NOW.)

Look, I am just being honest. There are just some people who just are not cut out to be parents and I happen to be one of them. I have never felt the want or desire to be a parent. I think Shrinky said it best:

"Not everyone needs kids, not everyone should have kids (or at least not as early as they have them), and not everyone has the wherewithal to parent in a good-enough manner."

But there are those who suggest, "You'll feel different when it's your own child." Children are not things. You can't return it because you change your mind or "realize" that being a parent is not what it is cracked up to be. It's a life long commitment. It's just a commitment that I am not willing to make. Am I being selfish? Perhaps. But look at how many people have children and regret thier decision. At least I know where I stand.

But what really gets me is that there are those out there who call people like me who chose not to have children a "child hater." When one uses the word "hate", it evokes the strongest possible negative reaction. When I think of hating someone, I think of Hitler, Bin Laden, or child molesters, not people who chose not to have children.

I don't 'hate" children. What I dislike are those who assume that I 'hate" children because I do not want to have children. And just because I get frustrated with those parents who do not discipline thier children when the need arises, that does not make me a child hater. And if I prefer for some entities to be child free does not make me a "child hater". But what I gathered from some of the comments that I read on this subject is that I am a "child hater" or "anti child" becuase I feel the way that I do.

I think the bottom line on this issue is that we need to respect other positions, opinions and boundaries. No one should feel less than because of thier circumstance. And no one should feel superior or entitled because of their circumstance. This is true for BOTH sides of the issue.

It's time to stop the hatin'.


doggy mama said...

Yes, yes, yes... to everything you said - Yes!

I love children. I have many nieces and nephews. I love them to pieces. But I don't want my own. Not right now. Maybe never. I'm not sure. But let ME make my own decisions, people, and stay out of it! :)

I was at my sister's house the other day with some of her mom friends. One of them asked me if I wanted to have kids and I said I wasn't sure.

"Like, never?" she asked.

I answered that I hadn't made up my mind. What happens happens.

"It's the most unbelievable feeling, though. It's incredible."

I assured her that I certainly believed her, but that it didn't interest me at the moment.

Later that night, totally out of the blue, she was like, "So, like, you NEVER want kids?"

She wouldn't let it go!

A few nights later I went to dinner with my sister and a few other girls (that one included). In the middle of a conversation she was like, "So Jane, you really don't want any kids of your own?"

DROP IT!!!!!!

Sorry this comment is so long! Obviously your post spoke to me!

Being a mommy to dogs is just perfect for me, don't you agree!?

Oh, and yes, you're welcome about the Rockin' Girl Blogger award! :)

BrightStar said...

I agree with Doggy Mama. I love children. I was a teacher. I taught partially because I liked being around young people so much. I enjoy seeing children in art museums stomping around and enjoying themselves (see Scrivener's posts). I think Anastasia is onto something when she talks about it not being that difficult (and worth the effort) to make more public places child friendly. (In terms of the talk about women only / child free beaches in Italy, I think that's contextual -- has something to do with so much coastline in Italy, so some beach space for everyone, and also cultural relationships between men and women that are slightly different in the US than in Italy...)

That said, I have had a lot of interactions with people that suggest to me that I would be a more complete woman if I had children. This has always confused me. I won't get into the details, but I do have specific examples of this.

I feel like when my friends have had kids, I sort of lost them to parenthood. It's as if they feel like I can no longer understand them and it's more important for them to talk with other parents than with me... or that every interaction with them has to be with their kids, through their kids, or about their kids. I like their kids, but I want to be friends with the parent, not ONLY their kids, you know?

Anonymous said...

i certainly don't think any of you *need* to have children. that's your decision and your business and has nothing to do with your womanhood or your femininity.

I will admit to cringing a little bit at Shrinky's suggestion that abortion is the answer. I know she was being facetious but I really did cringe at the thought that these children should be...dead..? because their parents are inadequate? yikes.

losing friends to parenthood is a complicated issue. f rom the parenting side, i sorta felt like a lot of my friends abandoned me once I wasn't convenient (i.e. childless). It's really sensitive and complicated.

but anyway, yes. not everybody feels the need or the desire for children and that's really okay. I think it sucks that people give you shit about it.

Seeking Solace said...

Doggie Mamma: I love being a doggie mamma!!!!

B* and Anastasia: It's interesting that you both mention losing friends because of parenthood. I have lost friends because I "don't understand what it is like to have kids." On the other hand, I have friends with children who do feel abandoned, like Anastasia said.

Addy N. said...

Cheers to you, Seeking Solace! I think it's perfectly fine to NOT to have kids. When I was single, I used to always say that I would never have kids, but then I got pregnant (oops!) Being a parent of an only child also has a similar kind of effect, because everyone wants to know when you are having another one. How cruel for a child to grow up without siblings! She must be lonely! Well, I won't go quoting all the literature out there on only children, but I think whether you want no kids or one kid, it's nobody else's concern. Another aside to this- I was never been a big baby/kid person. I used to babysit and think they're fine, but I was never dying to have one. I don't usually have much interest in other people's kids, either. My daughter is great and I'm glad she is in our lives, and I can be with her day in and day out, but I've never gotten into hanging out with other moms and dads and being in a rush to invite other kids over. Maybe I'm just anti-social... But anyway- I support you all the way, sistah!

shrinkykitten said...

anastasia - that's hardly what I meant.

One thing that I know I've blogged about in the past is that society sees women without children as being not-women. If you are not in the motherly role, people don't know quite what to make of you anymore, as the ability to give birth to children, and the so-called inherent nurturing qualities are what make women women.

Anonymous said...

ss, people who call you child haters, or that woman who said you were part of "them" are clearly wrong. they do not understand that having kids is a complex issue and clearly they do not understand that. go you for standing by your principles! having kids is a choice!

Prisca said...

Oh! This topic fascinates me. I have two kids (whom I love!), but I can say with assurance that my life would have been perfectly wonderful without them. I don't regret having them, I just know that they didn't make me more of an adult or 'a woman.' I would have had a satisfying and rich life either way. Kids were right for us and we love the challenges of parenthood, but we certainly talked a long time about all the what ifs involved in having vs. not having kids.

I'm thankful for women (and men) who know themselves well enough to make the smartest choice for themselves and their partners. Good for you, SS!

childfreehomemaker said...

This is the first time I've come across your blog and I absolutely agree with your post. It's unfortunate that many people who choose not to have children for personal reasons are suddenly labeled as one of the "child-haters." I've belonged to some online groups with the haters and I had to leave because I couldn't be bothered with all the negativity and bashing. These people do exist but I think they are taking an extreme standpoint on the issue. What I especially found unsavory were all the negative terms they use for mothers (i.e. breeders, moos, etc.) and children (i.e. spawn, etc.) I don't really see the need for name calling... it's simply a personal preference.

I am not anti-child. I just don't want any children of my own and neither does my husband (we are quite happy with our cats.) We wonder why we can't just be respected for our decision instead of getting questioned and lectured about it.

Propter Doc said...

Wow, this post has touched a nerve. I don't want children, I know that. I get the usual comments regarding not understanding how wonderful it must be, that I'll grow up and want them, whatever. I agree with the comments that society is unable to deal with women who do not have children because we do not fit into convenient archaic categories such as 'spinster' 'wife' 'mother'. I would imagine that not having children historically was either a tragedy(infertility or similar) or rebellious behaviour (similar to the suffragettes in nature).

I also find that people tend to treat non-maternal women (maternal being those expressing desire to have kids, comfortable around kids or having kids or something on that spectrum) as some sort of museum exhibit. I am amusing because I don't want to hold the baby, I am entertaining because having to deal with someone elses kid does not make me feel comfortable.

I think the questions like 'so you never want to have kids' is intrusive and ignorant and usually highly inappropriate for the environment.

On some level women who do not wish to have children are viewed as freaks by some people. It breaks my heart to read SS say that part of the decision was based on health issues and yet some people still think they know more/better.

Seeking Solace said...

Childfreehomaker: Thanks for stopping by. I am a doggie mom and proud of my "boy".

I agree that the language by both sides is totally unnecessary and counterproductive.

Seeking Solace said...

Propter Doc: Yeah, I always feel like some kind of freak because I don't get excited about holding a baby. It's not that I am afraid or anything. I just don't get excited about it. People think I am nuts because I get more excited about puppies and kittens than babies!

rented life said...

I have two children. They are furry, have four legs and many people think they are "just cats." But they're irreplaceable, loving, demanding, and need to be taken care of. They have personalities. They remind of of childlike behavior. They're my kind of kids.

I recently posted on wanting a baby for ten minutes But in reality it's not happening anytime soon. Meanwhile (like many of us it seems) I lose friends to kids. I fear losing CR to her baby(on the way) I hear more about potty training than about anything real. And just because I'm uncertain on the whole issue doesn't mean I'm mentally ill or something. Seeking, you nailed it on the head with this post. We better remain friends so we both have someone to hang out with still!

StyleyGeek said...

It always really irritates me when people characterise not having children as selfishness. I don't see why it is any more selfish to want to spend your time and energy on friends, non-child family, and yes, yourself and maybe a significant other, rather than on children.

Characterising caring for children as selfLESS almost suggests that it is some sort of martyrdom, when in reality, all my friends who have children see them almost as an extension of themselves; sure, they aren't always FUN to look after, but you care for them because you love them and it makes you happy to, not out of some sort of charity.

Incidentally, the most irritating conversation I have ever had in my life went something like this:

(Male) acquaintance who has known me all of five minutes: "So, you've been married a few years. When are you planning to have kids?"

Me: "I don't know if we will. I'm not really a kid person."

Acquaintance: "You'll feel different when you are older."

Me: "Maybe. But plenty of people don't have children. I can't imagine feeling maternal, and I can think of so many reasons not to have them."

Acquaintance: "You're what, 25? You have no idea. Wait until that biological clock starts ticking."

Me: "Maybe. Right now, though, I'm just not feeling it."

Acquaintance: "You don't know WHAT you feel. Women all go gooey over babies eventually. You should just have them anyway, and then you'll realise how fulfilling they are."

Me: "Actually-"

Acquaintance: "No! Just don't even bother arguing! You'll just be embarrassed in five years time when we meet again and you are trailing a whole horde of toddlers. Come back and talk to me then."

He was actually suggesting that (a) I'm not capable of determining my own feelings and making my own decisions, and (b) I should just have kids 'in case' and hope for the best!

Seeking Solace said...

Styleygeek: I heard the same thing at 25 and 35. Now that I am 39, I hear "Oh, well now you and Husband will have to consider adoption because if you have your own kids they will end up retarded.

Sick...just sick.

Seeking Solace said...

Shrinky: I know I posted my thoughts on you blog but it bears repeating here and I am sorry that I did not speak up sooner. I know that you would NEVER advocate the killing of children and anyone who has read your blog knows that and if they don't, they better know it now! You raise some important points about the abortion debate and about the role of woman in society. That's what sparked me to write this post in the first place.

Abbey said...

I guess I'm one of 'them' too. For the most part I've not been pounced on too much about why am I childless still - my family focuses on my not being married yet - but when the topic comes up my mother is quick to say "I've already resigned myself to knowing I'll never have grandchildren" in such a voice the dissapointment just drips from every word.

The fact is, I don't have the patience that kids deserve and need on a daily basis. I know it, and there's no reason for me to put that on a future kid. I concur with most all the previous comments that, if we know ourselves enough to make the decision, the decision should be respected. Unfortunately, that's seldom the case.

joanna said...

Hi Solace,

I've just spent the afternoon reading essays and short stories about motherhood and writing, and I feel primed to throw in my two cents' worth. I can't believe that people still act as small as the women who ostracized you did. But I can. I see it everyday and experienced it myself--even into my early forties some people would chuckle and say "it's not too late, " you know. I hate using having a chronic condition to explain why I don't have kids (and I'm in no way judging you and your choices), but it does seem to work at shutting people up when I say "No, I have depression, and I never felt like I could be a good responsible mom and take care of myself, too." Of course, that response indicates that people with depresion shouldn't have children, and the only reason why I'm not a mother is because of the depression. Neither idea is true. The point is, depression or not, my decision to have children is not something that is up for judgement.
It's an interesting cultural construct that just because we can reproduce that we should want to, and if we don't, something's wrong.

undine said...

I'm astonished at how many people believe it is any of their business whether you have children or not. You've made a decision, and once that's known, it ought to be accepted and the subject dropped. This line of questioning would make me want to ask some really rude question in return.

Scrivener said...

By almost every pragmatic measure I can think of, having children is a bad idea--it's sure as hell a terrible thing to do to yourself financially--so why the heck would anyone who really doesn't want to have kids have them? I can't understand why people find it so hard to believe that someone wouldn't want to have kids. Well, actually I can--once it became a bad move practically to have kids, the society responded with all of this making children sacred. I think there's a certain amount of projection of fear and nervousness onto people who don't have kids. If people begin to actually think of the practical issues involved, they get upset, so instead they run around telling everyone they gotta have kids.

Honestly, the thing I've been most surprised about in these parenting threads (well, besides how willing so many of the commenters at Twisty's were willing to just come right out and say they hate kids) is how many childless people are saying they get tons of pressure about this issue. I just can't fathom it.

Frankly, I read this post about the clatch of mothers turning their cold stares on you and I want to ask them how they could fail to take into account that there are plenty of people who might want to conceive but for whatever reason can't. What if you weren't planning to have a child b/c you simply couldn't? They're going to respond to you with such viciousness? That's just heartless. It's like the depth of the assumptions they made about you are so outlandish that I find it difficult to believe that this actually happens in the world, but then I guess it really does.

I'm sorry that you have to deal with that crap.

Scrivener said...

If I can just add onto my comment...

I find myself thinking that the proper analogy is grad school--if you can think of anything else you could do to have a satisfying career, then for goodness' sake don't get a PhD in the humanities. If you believe that you can have a satisfying life without children, then by all means you certainly should.

I love being a father. I think I have learned some truly profound lessons from my children and I am a better person because of them, but that doesn't mean anyone else should have to do it. If I knew you well, SS, and we sat down face-to-face, I would love to have a long conversation about what it has meant to be a parent and about why you have chosen not to be one, but the point would be to try to understand your decision (and mine, too) better, not to judgmental. (I only bring this up b/c it seems important to me to articulate that the message here is "those with children and those without should never talk to each other about this stuff because it's a touchy issue," not that anyone is really saying that here. We should just be more empathetic and honest and less judgmental.)

joana said...

Scrivener, I wonder about people who say they hate children--they may really just hate the questioning and prying.

adjunct whore said...

great post....i share your general annoyance about people's assumptions and judgemental comments. i respect anyone's right to have kids or not have kids, it's nobody's f*** business, is it??

Czarina said...

I totally sympathize, as a fellow CFer.

However, I don't believe that we should be as polite as we are sometimes. Trying to nicely "educate" people doesn't work, like the guy in one of the respondents' comments who wouldn't even consider continuing the discussion because she was "embarrassing" herself.

No one is going to cut me off, treat me like a child, and tell me I don't know my own mind. For a long time I was quiet and tried to ignore it when people tried to tell me that, in my 30s, I still didn't know what I was talking about, or I was some kind of monster. The last straw was a rude friend of mine who literally snorted when I told her that after careful thought, the Czar and I would not be having kids.

"Oh, you're one of THOSE child hating, not-real women" now gets a "Oh, you're one of those obnoxious, self-righteous women who have internalized gender oppression and are passing it on to the next generation." It makes about as much sense, and they're not expecting it. They expect you to shut up, be quiet, and take the digs they give you. Uh uh. Nope.

Kristie said...

Are you channeling my thoughts or something? I completely and totally understand where you are coming from. If I have to answer the, "When are you two having kids" question one more time, I'm going to scream.

My parents and hubby's parents had children in their VERY EARLY twenties so they pretty much think we are selfish and abnormal because we are childless at 28.

Parenting: It's just not for everyone.