Saturday, April 21, 2007

Childfree by Choice

Addressing the highly taboo topic in our culture around the decision to remain childfree is difficult in a society that embraces “baby bump” celebrity sightings and ever mounting laws that deliver a message that women are only as important as the womb they possess. Libraries are filled with literature on the topic of babies and children; how to conceive or adopt, what to expect while waiting for the big arrival, how to raise them once they are here and how to move on once they are gone. What pales in comparison is the number of books tackling the topic of whether individuals SHOULD have children or not.

Millions of reasons exist on why people choose to remain childfree and it is important to address the topic. Choosing to have children is a monumental decision, however, more thought is often given to having, or not having, children by those who are childfree. Couples who explore being childfree face unique challenges in their decision; while few question couples, especially those in stable, healthy, loving relationships, on having children, couples who choose a childfree life are met with criticism, disbelief, suspicion, pity and anger.

Following the path of marriage and children is a common practice worldwide and universally accepted as the “norm.” Those who stray from societal standards are forced to investigate themselves and their relationships closely to truly understand why they are different and if they have the strength to communicate and embrace these differences. While many couples who are childfree remain “in the closet” on their decision, hiding behind a veil of assumed infertility, others “give in” to the pressures to have children because of the intense backlash of not having children often received from family, friends, peers and total strangers.

Never one to dream of marriage and family, acutely aware of being different then the females around me, I followed the challenging course in life of embracing my dreams of being childfree and openly talking about my decision. While it would often be easier to remain quiet on the topic, it is important for us as a society to allow women the right to choose life without children. The right to choose includes more then the abortion debate that divides our society or access to safe and reliable birth control.

The right to choose being childfree requires us as a society to honestly discuss the pros and cons of having children, allowing women to make an informed decision on whether to have children or not. There is incredible pressure on parents, especially mothers, to maintain the facade of the perfect family. Afraid of the impression total honesty would make on others, only the positive aspects of children are discussed openly. This creates a system where parents are unable to completely open up with issues and to discuss the the pain and heartache of being parents. Unable to gain the support necessary to survive some of the tougher times for fear of repercussions; perception of weakness, of being lesser parents or of not loving their children, we wonder why there are parents out there who snap and do horrific things to their children. Perhaps if we all could be more open to the ups and the downs of having children there would be fewer acts of violence against them. The guard of parental realities is especially high between parents and non-parents. The joke among some is this is how parents can get others to join the club, but in reality it is keeping crucial information from people on the realities of having children.

Treating families with and without children equally; legally, economically, socially and religiously, is vital to the right to choose. Can people make the best decision on having or not having children when there are cards stacked against them? If the choice to be childfree equates to being an outcast with friends, family, work or at church, is it really a choice?

At the same time as parents should be more honest to ensure information on parental pros and cons are shared, so should the childfree. As parents pretend all is perfect and life is harmonious 365 days a year with their children, childfree individuals are forced to tell lies of their own to protect themselves from opening up doors to parents and friends that are uncomfortable or unnecessary. It is easier to say “I hate kids” or “I can’t have children” then to go into the complexities that really exist for people making the childfree decision. Just as a mother admitting she is tired or bored does not automatically mean she is an awful woman, a childfree woman admitting she likes a certain baby name or would never make her kid eat lima beans is not to assume she is changing her mind (note to family: that means don't go out and buy baby clothes).

Everyone will benefit from a country and culture where people who have children, or choose not to, can openly discuss the pro and cons and make an informed decision on whether they should be parents. As I begin writing on the trials and tribulations of the Childfree, I encourage a partner in the “Mommy-blog” space to do the same. There are some important messages to share to ensure that every child is a wanted one.

1 comment:

Nursedude said...

As somebody who is a pediatric nurse by trade and a parent-as well as being a middle aged guy who has been around the block a few times, I think there is a VERY definite bias against couples who opt to be childfree. It's funny how with almost anything in life you need a certificate or diploma to do anything of a higher level-not so with having a kid. All you need is the working womb and with a sperm chaser. I see WAY too many people who should not be having kids. I think if a couple has though it through, it's a natural choice. It's actually a subject that is being talked about more. there are a lot more 20 something people who are opting to get sterilized.