Guest Post by LynnS "Well, I have two, and I can tell you, you
Childfree Irish Lass (yes, blogging from Ireland!)
Does being a parent make you morally superior? Why does this generation in particular act like they invented parenthood?
A few weeks ago, I was chatting to a woman I'd just met at a social function. She seemed very chatty and friendly and we were getting on really well. Until, that is, she hit me with The Question. Yes, you know the one I mean. The "do you have kids?" question. I responded the way I usually do - I calmly and politely replied that I didn't.
don't know what you're missing".
And just like that, her whole attitude changed. One moment, we'd been having a civilized conversation, the next she was literally looking down her nose at me. What could possibly have caused her to judge me and find me inferior in those few seconds? She is a parent and I am not. In her eyes, and in the eyes of most of society, that makes her somehow superior to me.
It's not the first time this has happened to me, and I bet it won't be the last. It does beg the question, though: exactly why do so many parents feel morally superior, especially to non-parents?
Popular wisdom has it that being a parent is the most important job in the world. I disagree. If parenting were advertised as a job, would you take it? Think about it: no sick leave, no holiday leave, no overtime pay, being on duty 24/7. Not to mention the fact that handing in your notice if it gets too much isn't really an option. Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that some parents are so self-congratulatory.
But wait a minute. Isn't parenting an option? For our generation, certainly. We now have the choice to forgo parenthood altogether, if we choose. Doesn't being a parent make you a better person? Not necessarily. I have seen people who are so stressed out from the unrelenting demands of parenthood that they certainly are not better people. The exact opposite, in fact.
One thing I have noticed is how often parents claim that being a parent makes you a lot less selfish and more concerned about the state of the world. Even if you feel you could do with a little self-improvement and contribute more to society, surely it shouldn't be necessary to become a parent to accomplish that?
What about today's parents, then? My gut feeling is that we live in such a heavily pronatalist world it's hardly surprising so many of them feel superior. No wonder they act like they've invented parenthood.
Society worships children. Society is obsessed with them. More than ever before.
Kids eat free. Kids fly free. Kids stay free. You get the picture.
If you have produced a little being, ta-dah! Instant status!
If you haven't. . . well, you don't know what you're missing. You're shallow/selfish/irresponsible/immature. Your life is incomplete without one. You're not a real adult, and you're definitely not a real woman. Or so society in general would like you to think.
People are still led to believe that children equal nirvana. Despite the thousands of children languishing in foster care. Despite the abuse statistics. Despite the fact that rapists, murderers, terrorists were once somebody's children. Despite the fact that studies are consistently showing the strain children place on relationships and finances. Need I go on?
Of course, there are superb parents out there. In my experience, these are the ones who will admit that children demand sacrifice and that parenthood can be exhausting and thankless. They will admit that parenting isn't for everybody, and they won't try to ram their life choices down your throat. They certainly won't think that the mere fact of being parents means they're morally superior.
Next time you find yourself bingoed, remember this: parenting is nothing new. It's been going on for millennia. Giving birth is no miracle when millions of women are doing that every day. As a childfree person, you don't need a Mini-Me to make your life complete. You've most likely thought long and hard about your decision to be childfree, rather than blindly following society's script. You realize that there are lots of other ways you can contribute, and that raising children isn't the only worthwhile thing in life.
Finally, it means realizing that some people just aren't capable of understanding and it's impossible to have a rational discussion with them. The only thing to do is ignore it and move on. Anyone who thinks they're superior to you simply because they're a parent clearly has issues. If, like me, you find yourself almost starting to feel guilty, remember that.
In the end, what you think of yourself is really all that matters.
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"Well, I have two, and I can tell you, you