Fun With Unwanted Fertility October 19, 2012Posted by craftlass in women's rights.
Tags: breeding, childfree, childfree by choice, games
I didn’t start this blog to rant about children or my lack of desire for them but it seems I do come back to this topic a lot these days. When the headlines are filled with the War on Women and a Presidential candidate talks about how women who dare to work need flex time to get home to their kids (which is a nice perk, to be sure, but one most people don’t even have as an option) I can’t help but return to this issue. It’s central to my entire existence and I’m just so tired of being told that other people know best what I should do with my life and body. It’s not a laughing matter or a minor issue.
Yet, there are laughs to be had. I stumbled across this old “Breeder Bingo” post and game card and it’s a great summary of what childfree people (primarily women) deal with constantly. I’m definitely going to print it out and play, if I actually leave my house again anytime soon. First, I’m going to give some answers to all of the arguments right here:
- B-1: “It’s different when it’s your own!” Okay, I’ll admit this is the toughest one to argue. I have no way to compare my friends’ or relatives’ kids to having my own. I recognize that a flood of hormones during birth sort of forces women to love their kids but I also know too many parents who resent their children or even abandon them to assume that those hormones will be enough to completely change me. I’ve read enough stories about parents abusing or even killing their newborns to know that it’s not that simple. In the end, there’s a reason we now have “safe harbor” laws. There’s even a reason that those laws were abused by parents of non-newborns until clarifications were added to them. It’s arrogant to assume YOU know how ANYONE will feel about a hypothetical child.
- B-2 “Who will take care of you when you’re old?” Let’s answer this with a question, shall we: How many seniors do you know who are actually cared for by their kids in this day and age in America? My family does have that tradition and I plan to be as involved in my father’s care as he will allow if/when it’s necessary, but that doesn’t mean that a child I have will live up to that. Plenty of kids grow up to have little relationship with a parent and even more are not equipped to care for an elder. What are the chances a thoroughly unwanted child would want to take care of me? Probably pretty small. So, kids or no kids, I have to plan for myself and count on having no help at all.
- B-3 “You’ll change your mind!” As I knew from the age of 4 that I had no desire for kids I have heard this repeatedly for 32 obnoxious years. The most common age people say I would start feeling the tick of a biological clock was 30-35. I’m 36 and I have less desire than ever. The most annoying part of this conviction people have that all childfree women will change their minds? I’ve heard it from multiple boyfriends who genuinely believed that if I married them I would want to bear their children. That is a dangerous game of chicken to play and would have guaranteed that a few great dads I know would never have borne that title. Seriously, guys, if your girlfriend says she doesn’t want kids and you think you just need to wait out this “phase” you are setting yourselves up for major life-changing disappointment. Add in the fact that I’ve never had a desire to marry and you’ve got a big double-whammy for the men who thought they had a shot of a traditional family with this woman despite that fact that I told each one on the first date that these were deal-breakers for me.
- B-4 “People who don’t want kids are selfish!” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I have yet to hear a single reason for having kids that is not selfish. I’m not saying that selfish reasons can’t be perfectly valid, even wonderful, and you have to have a certain amount of selflessness to be good at parenting, but it’s not exactly selfless to add to our already-too-large population on this planet just so you can fulfill your own desires. Can we just go ahead and admit that everyone in the world is selfish on some level?
- B-5 “What’s the matter, don’t you LIKE kids?” Well, no, actually, not a big fan. I didn’t much like kids when I was one, I didn’t like being one, and mostly they just stress me out. That’s not to say there aren’t kids that I like or that I don’t have fun with them for a short time. I love teaching their little spongey brains and exposing them to new experiences when I can. The thing is, I have a very strict expiration point. After a couple of hours I just want to give them back and escape to my quiet and civilized adults-only life.
- I-1 “Your child could grow up to cure cancer!” Yes, but my child could also grow up to become a serial killer or even worse. It’s the biggest crapshoot there is. John Wayne Gacy had parents. Benito Mussolini had parents that he appears to have been close to as a child. There is nothing you can do to guarantee that your child will be a good person, let alone a success.
- I-2 “What if your parents hadn’t had kids?” Well, technically, biologically, mine didn’t. I was adopted by an infertile couple. As for my biological parents, well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am totally fine with the concept that I could have been aborted. There have been plenty of times where I really wish my biological mother would have taken that option, not because I don’t like myself but because she sentenced me to a life of unanswerable questions, depressive episodes that directly relate to being adopted, a missing component to my feelings of self-worth, and an inability to even begin guessing whether nature or nurture were larger influences on who I am. Granted, the last is a bit answered by the fact that I’m pretty much a perfect cross between my parents, but one does wonder, especially when one is interested in science and genetics. I will never know who I am. Finding the birth parents of a kid born in the 70s is a full-time job and I just don’t have the time or the vast amounts of money it takes to even begin. Overall, the world wouldn’t be any different if I wasn’t born and no one can miss someone who never existed.
- I-3 “If everyone didn’t have kids, the human race would die out!” Okay. I’m totally fine with us going extinct. It’s going to happen someday whether any of us procreates or not, especially if we don’t fully fund space exploration with a goal of getting all the way out of our solar system (which is a long way off even if we poured the entire Defense budget into the effort). Our sun has a life span, too. Nothing lasts forever.
- I-4 “You aren’t a real adult until you have kids!” A friend of mine with 3 children (2 now grown) answered this better than I could by telling me how I was lucky that I’d never really get old, because kids age you quicker than anything. Of course, in reality, once you move out of your parents’ house you are a real adult with real responsibilities, so it’s just a silly argument that is particularly funny in a culture that reveres childhood and encourages us to remain there as long as possible, even after taking on the mantle of “parent”.
- I-5 “The children are our future!” Yes, they are. What does this have to do with me, personally, having one? There are plenty of ways to contribute to the development of children that have nothing to do with bearing them. There is a place for those without children in the lives of children, we don’t think like parents and kids tend to trust us more than parents, as safe people to turn to who can still relate to their perspective. We are often an integral part of the village that raises every child. Many teachers are childfree because they want to devote their energies towards their students without distraction, for example (granted, some of them are also just glad to come home to a house without kids after a long day around a bunch of them). Me? I write songs about learning and exploring. One of my biggest fans is a kindergartner. That’s pretty cool. Maybe I can reach a bunch more of them and inspire some to become the great thinkers of tomorrow. That is so much more valuable than just adding another number to the population.
- N-1 “People like you SHOULD have kids!” I actually got this comment right on this blog awhile back. Some people apparently think I’m pretty smart and that should be passed on. There is a bit of truth to this in the sense that most childfree people tend to be intelligent, since it’s a decision that is often based on solid logic and a sense of purpose. If all smart people stopped having kids and only the less-intelligent kept having them we’d be in trouble. It’s hard to comment on intelligence but we do know that less-educated people are more likely to have more children, which is indeed a little troubling. Still, it’s really hard to justify ruining my life just so the world could have one more possibly-intelligent being. We are not in danger of running out of smart folks in the next generation, not by a long shot!
- N-2 “The only reason to get married is to have children. “ Well, I’m not fan of the institution of marriage, anyway, but let’s tackle this as if I was. The only real reason to get married is economic, whether you have children or not. Tax incentives, health care, inheritance perks – these are the mechanisms our government uses to push us into marriage and they are tempting as can be. Also, how does that statement make an infertile woman or man feel? Should we bar all infertile people from marrying? Should invasive testing be part of getting a marriage license?
- N-4 “Children are a woman’s greatest achievement!” If that is true then I just don’t want to live in this world anymore. I’m sorry, but Chelsea Clinton is not a bigger achievement than being Secretary of State, even though she’s grown up to be pretty cool (opinion based solely on her recent work). My mother’s own greatest achievement was certainly not me, it was turning troubled high schools into ones that produced college graduates. This concept is patronizing, sexist, and outdated.
- N-5 “Don’t you want genetic immortality?” Considering I have no idea what my genes really are, nah. I’m totally fine with whatever mix I have dying with me. Also, quite a few childfree people made the decision because they know they have genes that include mental or physical disorders and having a child risks passing those on. We know a lot more about genes these days and that leads some people to wisely want their genes to quietly die out, ending generations of suffering.
- G-1 “You were a baby once, too!” I’ve never understood where this one comes from. What does it have to do with having them? Please, if you have any clue, let me know in the comments. I can’t even counter it without understanding it.
- G-2 “It’s all worth it!” Well, great, I’m glad you feel that way. However, this opinion only applies to the person who is giving it. There are plenty of parents who disagree and no guarantee of which type I would be. The amount of older women with grown children who have told me they are jealous of my generation’s options and would never have had children if not deeply pressured into it betrays the nonsense behind this statement. Some of my greatest support in my choice has come from these mothers. Children are not an 18-year commitment, they are a lifetime commitment. If you don’t find it worth it there is no escape unless you truly abandon your child and that’s just cruel.
- G-3 “But the Bible said, ‘Go forth and multiply!” The Bible also tells me that I should submit myself to my men, never get a tattoo, never have bacon (oh, the horror!) or shellfish, never wear two types of cloth at the same time, and stone a bunch of people I love. Not exactly a great guide for living in modern times, not by a long shot.
- G-4 “Don’t you want to give your parents grandchildren?” This one did give me guilt for awhile (as an only child whose father is an only child, so I used to be his one shot at them) but then my father remarried and in the process got 4 grandchildren. He’s a great Poppy and loves it, but I think 4 is already on the overwhelming side for him. Since I’m not genetically his kid I can’t pass on his genes, anyway. Sometimes life really does sort itself out!
- G-5 “Nothing is better than ‘new baby’ smell!” I have yet to smell a baby I thought smelled good, this only really applies directly after a bath. Then the aroma of stale milk and the need for a diaper change creeps in and there are few smells in this world that disgust me more (I can’t even bear the smell of fresh milk). Add in the fact that they are babies for such a brief time and you have the world’s dumbest reason to have a child.
- O-1 “What about the family name?” If I had kids in the traditional in-wedlock manner I wouldn’t be passing on my name anyway. Besides, how many surnames are so in danger of dying out? I have a really rare one myself but there are still dozens of us scattered about the globe and most of the others have already spawned this next generation.
- O-2 “The biological clock is ticking!” Never heard it, still don’t hear it, and I can’t express in any amount of words how badly I want menopause to come. The horrible side-effects are more than worth never having to have a period again!
- O-3 “You forget the pain of labor and birth!” I was really lucky as a kid to have a riding instructor who was way more honest with her charges than most adults. She spent an entire long drive to a horse show telling us in detail about her own labor and birth experience eight years after the fact. I’m amazed anyone who was in that truck ever had sex, frankly. There is not a horror movie in the world as scary as her tale and she had a relatively easy time of it. A quick internet search will reveal that women recall all kinds of details about the pain and most baby showers are basically like sitting around the campfire telling scary stories, only the goal is to utterly freak out the guest of honor about her impending experience. This statement is pure propaganda without an iota of truth behind it.
- O-4 “It’s the most important job in the world!” No, it really isn’t. There is no way that a job that anyone with a functioning reproductive system can get, even by accident, is the most important job. There is NO “most important job” anyway. If you have children, yes, it’s most important that you take full responsibility and do your best with it, but I contend that even a lot of great moms do something much more important in their careers, things that truly affect us all.
- 0-5 “Aren’t you curious to see what they would look like?” Here we have it folks – the most vain and selfish reason to have a baby!!