May 12, 2006

A New Parent Defends the Childfree

In her article Mama Don't Preach: Thoughts on Respecting Parenthood Decisions Salon editor and writer Amy Reiter had this to say:

I'm here as a new parent to stand up for all those nonparents out there -- the ones who haven't yet made up their minds about kids and the ones who definitely have -- and proclaim that there is nothing wrong with not having children. I did it for more than three decades and led what I'd consider a pretty rich life, filled with learning, love, travel, adventure, laughter...and other people's children.

You're not being selfish. Your life won't be empty. And you're certainly not destined for a sad, lonely end. People can find meaning in their lives in ways that don't include progeny.
This article was her response to conversation she had with another new Mom who gushed, "I don't understand how anyone can not have children. They're missing out on the best thing in life." We've all heard a version of those sentiments. Reiter makes the point that it serves neither parents or nonparents to endorse "parenthood as panacea." Reiter "isn't buying it"--even though she clearly has no regrets about her decision to parent-- because this type of rhetoric fails to communicate how difficult parenthood can be.

From my childfree perspective, this kind of talk also implies that the childfree are freaks for not wanting to parent and sets parents up for, what will likely be, some very unrealistic expectations around the Joys of Parenthood. People who have their first kid believing that all the trials of parenthood will be offset by an unlimited source of joy sometimes feel like they've been duped by a bait and switch scam. On occasion the resulting anger is misdirected to the kids, who didn't sign up for that shifty deal either, or the childfree friends who appear to gloat as they describe a recent trekking trip in Nepal.

Thanks to Amy Reiter for her brave honesty and support.

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nomadshan said...

Interesting article. Heavy on the physical side effects, but then no one ever talks about the incontinence. I guess you're supposed to be so blissed out that you don't care.

I read a similar article last year by a mother of three, defending the childfree. Her basic gist was, "We [parents] are obnoxious and so are the kids we're raising - can you blame them?!" I'll try to find the link again.

RS said...

What a terrific article! We need more people like Amy Reiter to help bridge the gap between the childfree and parents. I like to think we've all chosen the life we want and that gives us something in common which is much more positive to focus on than our differences.

And thanks for turning the anonymous feature back on Teri!

K said...

Thank You So Much for saying this!

I question my decision to not have children everyday. Not because I want to, but because I constantly hear I'm missing out. I might be.. But until I'm sure, I don't want to start a family out of fear of never having one. I think there is a huge divide between women with and without children. But it just requires a little consideration and respect for others choices to bridge the gap. I'll say it again. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

NomadShan - Yes, it would be great to read more articles like this. Such a balanced perspective. I have long felt that women get horrible care from the medical communities. More women doctors please!

RS -Awe, shucks you're welcome. We've already been rewarded with more commenters.

K - Welcome and thanks for leaving your comment. I really appreciate your honesty about how all the condescending feedback affects you. Try asking if those parents feel like they are missing anything, like sleep, sex, silence...ha, ha!

Anonymous said...

I have to say one more thing. I had to copy and paste the article into a MS Word document to read it. I found the MSN site so distracting and the 8.5 type size prohibitive. Also, I was having a hard time resisting the urge to click on the Starbucks ad. They provide a good example of exactly what I don't want to do with the Purple Women site/blog.

Anonymous said...

K - I would direct your attention to an article I place a link to in our sidebar by Dr. Carolyn Ray. Very long, but very enlightened.

ChrisR said...

And so nice to see a breeder use the words breeder and spawn without rancour. :)

Seriously though, most people put no thought into having children, so it would be nice not to have people demanding we justify our decision.

I wonder if this article might start a trend ....