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Thursday, 21 May 2009 07:50
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[personal profile] earthbelow
While my decision to remain childfree has not changed any, I do find myself getting fed up with some of the childfree communities on LJ.

I get frustrated when some of the CF folk show just as much of an intolerance for anyone with children or children in general as some parents do for us. There are examples where people post on the CF comms about how a child dared to exist within fifty feet of them and how it was rude.

Which makes the rest of us, who have legitimate concerns and complaints about some of the prejudices and stereotypes we're up against, look very, very bad.

But another thing that gets on my nerves is when someone in a CF community will post about something parent-related that they thought was ridiculous. Someone in [livejournal.com profile] childfree posted about C-Sections and how women are being forced into them under the guise of "another reason I'm not having children!" and I've seen posts saying "oh, look at how ridiculous this baby toy is" or "look how gross this breastfeeding stuff is that I saw in a pharmacy window!"

It makes me want to scream. The entire reason I'm childfree is so that I don't ever have to deal with this stuff! Yes, it's sad for the women who are forced into c-sections at hospitals, but if you're childfree, it's not really your issue, is it?

I don't care if parents are buying ridiculous toys for their kids! I don't care if there's gross breastfeeding pumps in the pharmacy window!

Unless something that parents do (like writing articles like this about why childfree women are untrustworthy in the workplace) actually affects me, I don't really care. Okay, so some of the baby toys and strollers parents use are ridiculous and overpriced. Why should I even pay attention to what parents are doing with their own kids? Why should I feel critical of that? It's no skin off my back if they paid too much for it.

Okay, sure the spendthrift in me says why pay as much for a stroller as you might for three or four house payments, but hell, if you can afford it, more power to you! Hey, a lot of other people might criticize the fact that Andrew and I bought ourselves a Wii when he's still in debt for student loans (he does, btw, have a really good job and he's paying the debt off)! It's not their business how we spend our money, and none of our business how they spend theirs.

But just because a parent does something that a CF person finds to be silly doesn't mean it belongs in a community to discuss childfree issues, or that it's even worth making a fuss about.

While I'm not a believer in the "you can't know until you're a parent!" theory (I think it's crap, because I think any reasonable, compassionate, intelligent human being can find some understanding/empathy of situations that they haven't personally experienced), I do believe that some things probably look strange from the outside of parenthood that make sense when you're on the inside. And I think that some CF folk might keep that in mind when being critical.

Just as some things that, say, the government requires me to do on my taxes don't make sense to me - maybe they're essential to the poor person at the IRS who had to process the damn thing. Maybe checking that box actually allows the person to be able to know where to put my tax returns and how to file it so I get credit for it.

A small (and not completely parallel) example is in school, when we had to fill out bubble forms with nothing but #2 pencil. I got mad at that, because I had pretty sparkly pens I wanted to use them. And damn, I railed against it as teacher tyranny and stupidity. Not to a teacher's face, but I gnashed my teeth and wanted to defiantly use my pink pen.

A few years later in high school? I was a teacher's helper who ran those bubble forms through the grading machine. And the grader could only read bubbles that were filled in with #2 pencil. And my teacher, because she was nice, would sometimes transfer the student's answers from a test done with pen to a new form (done with pencil) so it could be graded.

Suddenly, what looked like tyranny to my younger self now made perfect sense. The point being: I'm tired of CF folks who seem to be as close minded as the people they're criticizing. Who can't take five seconds to imagine what it looks like from the other side.

Because yes, you can imagine even bigger things. You can imagine what it's like to have to take care of a mostly helpless person and what sort of things you might need to help you out with that so they don't die and you don't go insane. You really can imagine what it's like, even if you're not a parent.

I wish parents would never say the words "you don't know what it's like if you don't have kids", because they're really doing themselves a disservice and insulting the person they're talking to.

The thing is? I think it comes down to how comfortable people feel with their decision.

I think some CF folk, if they were downright honest, might admit that they have misgivings about being CF. I know that occasionally, I feel a bit of anxiety, wondering if I've made the right choice when it seems so different to what I'm being told I'm supposed to do as a woman. Sometimes, I think, "Would having children be that bad? Maybe I'd get used to it." Of course, "getting used to it" is not actually the basis for being a good parent. I think "I love my child and want the best for them" is probably a better foundation for motherhood.

I honestly think that if I had a child, I'd probably do something horrible to it in a moment of sheer frustration. Especially since I was raised with parents who often handed out corporal discipline in moments of anger. As much as some moments *might* be really happy (if rare), I also think that I'd probably raise my hand to a child in anger, or become resentful and sullen over the things that I feel were taken away from me because of that child.

No child deserves a mother who hates it's existence and feels like even holding it and feeding it is an imposition. Because even if that mother didn't hit or strike the child, that child would always sense it. Always sense that it's mother didn't really love it.

So, I think some (not all) CF folks get anxious when they have those feelings (I'll admit that I get a sick feeling in my gut when I consider that maybe motherhood isn't all that bad and I'm doing something terribly wrong by abstaining from it - but I get a sicker feeling when I think about actually having a kid), and so must convince themselves that parents and children and everything to do with them is stupid, miserable, annoying, and horrible.

But on the other end, I think that some parents, if they were equally as honest, might admit that they had their children at the wrong time, with the wrong partner, or for the wrong reasons, or that they're not sure that the choice to reproduce was the best one. They love their kids, they're just not as happy as they want to be. I think some parents have children because they feel it's the only real accomplishment they can have in life, and so feel threatened when someone comes along with an alternate theory.

I think a lot of parents have children because they think it might somehow give them status, garner them praise and achievement where nothing else has. I also think that some parents have them because they're told they're supposed to. And so they feel like, "Well, dammit! I've followed the rules my entire life, why shouldn't they have to! Why aren't they being punished?" I think some of these parents feel like CF people are saying "parenthood doesn't count, it doesn't mean anything".

Which is why I'd love it if there was a CF community somewhere that didn't do this. That instead focused on the things that matter to us. Workplace equality, and unfair laws that punish people without children for the benefit of those with children.

And it's also why I wish that parents would see that just because some people don't want children doesn't mean that they think children are wrong for everyone. Now, there are some really hardcore folks who think having kids is always the wrong decision (the Voluntary Extinction movement comes to mind), but most people just tend to think that children aren't the right choice for them, even if they are the right choice for other people.

Me personally? I still haven't felt anything or seen anything that makes me say, "Oh my god, I must have a baby! I simply can't be complete in my life unless I have children!" I might sometimes contemplate what-ifs and think about whether I might eventually adapt to a life with children and find a way to be happy despite it. I sometimes contemplate whether there is something wrong with me, that I don't want children.

I know that I feel stark relief when I think about all the things that come with being a parent and how I'll never have to do them. I think about pregnancy, labor, childbirth, breastfeeding, diaper changing, baby clothes, first day of school, parent teacher conferences, and all the rest and I think "whew. I'm glad I can dodge that bullet".

For me personally, I think it would be wrong to even contemplate motherhood unless I knew, in my heart, that I really wanted children. That I couldn't feel my life was as it should be without them. Because I think children deserve to have parents who earnestly believe that their lives are better because of that child's presence, who earnestly believe that this child is worthy of love, attention, and all the sacrifices - not for the parent's sake, not for the sake of having a kid who can do things that the parent wants, but for the child's sake alone.

I think parents should have children to have children. Not to fill a hole, not to keep a marriage together, not to fulfill a dream they themselves didn't get to fulfill, not to satisfy society, not to give them a direction they lack, not to pass the time, not because they have no other choice, not because abortion or adoption is too ugly, not even to better the human race.

A child shouldn't have to say, "Well, my mother had me because I was a slightly better option than an abortion or adoption" or "My mother had me because she wanted my father to stick around. Guess I failed at that job" or "My parents had me so I could go to Juliard like they never did. I suck at dance but I'm a hell of a scientist. Guess I failed at that, too."

The having a child should be it's own end.

For me, it wouldn't be. It would just be an end. An end to me, my identity, the things I want, the life I feel I'm going to lead, the journey I want to take with my existence.

I can't say that when I'm 80 and look back, that I'll regret not having kids. And until I can honestly and with no reservation say, "At 80, I'd cry every day if I had to look back and say I didn't do this", I'll be childfree.

Because there are other things in my life I can say that about. If I have to look back at 80 years of age and know that I never published a novel, I would cry. If I had to look back at 80 and say that I never married, never loved, never made a life with someone? I'd definitely cry every single day. If I had to look back and say that I never did anything, never accomplished anything, never saw anything beautiful? I'd weep a river.

But children? No. I wouldn't cry. And you should.

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