Why is it so difficult to accept that some people just don’t want to have kids (second letter)?
I think I want kids. I’m not sure. The idea of adopting appeals much more to me than giving birth does, mostly because there are already lots of kids who need homes, and if I can provide a good one, why not offer it to a person who already exists? But who knows where life will take me. Right now, kids are obviously not anywhere in my realm of thought, and probably won’t be for almost another decade. But if I do or I don’t, who cares?
Apparently, Slate’s advice columnist does. A woman writes that she just got married, but that neither she nor her husband has any interest in having children. Yet their friends, relatives and aquaintances constantly lecture them about the benefits of child-rearing. Prudie writes:
As far as acquaintances are concerned, “I’d rather not discuss such a private matter” should do it. But family and friends are different. Yes, it’s true that ultimately it’s not anyone else’s business, but from a human perspective this is a loss for both sets of parents. No one has parents who say, “I hope my child grows up to marry someone wonderful and they don’t have children together.” With your intimates, next time they bring it up, explain that you understand this is painful for them, but you are both comfortable with your decision and lecturing won’t change your mind. Now I will join the chorus of people who are driving you crazy. You are about to get married, and as life’s circumstances change, it is worth re-examining your goals, especially this one (and yes, I know, I am offending all happy childless people). You’re only in your 30s—if you have children now, they’ll be grown by the time you reach your late 50s! You say you love children, but as close as you may be to your nieces and nephews, that’s no substitute for having your own. The people who know and love you best hope you and your husband have children—that alone makes it something worth considering.
Now, I’m not a mother. But as I understand it, having kids is no walk in the park, and parenthood is hard work — and a life-long committment. It’s probably not something that one should jump into simply because the people who love you think you should. And it’s probably not something that people should do just because it’s the “typical” life choice — children should be wanted, and parenthood should be voluntary.
And yet that simple concept seems to get people incredibly up in arms. Note the kerfluffle over at Pandagon a while ago, with commenters and other bloggers calling Amanda immature, selfish, and inferring that she’s baby-killer (not sure how one is a baby-killer when they assert that they want to avoid babies in the first place, but ok).
For some reason that I have yet to figure out (though I suspect the default response — Blame the Patriarchy — works pretty well here) the decision not to reproduce draws all kinds of ire. Say that you don’t want kids, and people are fully ready to cast all kinds of stereotypes onto you; some of them act as if, simply by not having children, you have personally insulted their life choices. Others assure you that you’re just immature, and in a few years that clock will start ticking. Still others will lecture you on all the virtues of child-rearing, and others will insist that it’s your duty to reproduce. Which is just bizarre, frankly. The general social consensus is that kids do best in families where they’re loved and wanted — not rocket science. So why the push for childrearing by people who have no desire to raise children? Why does Prudie care if I have babies or not?