As a childfree person, I feel like I often have to defend against the stereotype that childfree people hate children. Based on the comments from my last post about being a childfree person who actually likes kids, it's clear that this still surprises people, no matter how many nice intentionally childless folks they meet. Since I'm also vegan, I'm sort of used to people acting surprised when I say that no, I don't care what you eat, and no, I don't care if you have kids. I get that I'm making two non-normative choices, but I also get why both make people defensive: Because these sorts of choices in particular come with the implication, however incorrect, that my behavior alone casts subjective judgment on that of others. But why are some childfree people overtly nasty and others not? In my case, there's a story behind it.
Last week, Time published "Kid Crazy: Why We Exaggerate the Joys of Parenthood." This piece focuses on studies from the journal Psychological Science about parenting, and the take-away is the same as the New York article (so much so that it's mentioned in Time): childfree couples are happier, parents have it rough, and those who think they don't are sort of delusional. ("Delusional" is not my word, by the way; that's from the meta title Time chose for the article on their website and one tossed around in the article, based on the study findings.)
Some women I've written about before, celebs like Jennifer Aniston, sidestep the issue all the time instead of owning their ambivalence (or however they feel! Just own it!). Barbara Walters and Oprah talked about how it is a difficult thing. So why don't we hear more women talking about the flip side of having kids—or rather, why don't we have more proud childfree role models out there?
Oprah and Babs talk about how tough it is to have kids as a working woman—or in Oprah's case, the unambiguous lack of regret in regards to opting out. Skip to 7:30 in the video, where the discussion about having kids starts. Transcript after the jump.
When I think about the idea of celebrating children, I come back to the same question again and again: Why shouldn't an intentional choice be celebrated? When feminists talk about reproductive justice, it's often within the context of not just the ability to, say, have an abortion, but to raise a child the way you see fit, or to give birth on your own terms. The very notion that we should be in charge of our own bodies—that if possible, we shouldn't just wait for things to happen to us—is central to a conversation about rights, health, and justice. Don't you think intentionally opting out is worth a few streamers and noisemakers too?
In my opinion, the strangest persistent belief about childfree women is that we're selfish. From the jump, this is problematic as this logic negates the experiences of infertile women, women ambivalent about motherhood and parenting, and women who would—for any number of reasons and because of any combination of circumstances—perhaps like to be mothers but have opted out nonetheless. It's also a pretty big slap in the face to queer women, who may not face the same social pressures to procreate but may still be held to the same weirdo standard when they don't have children.