6 Assumptions NOT to Make About the Child-Free
I would never presume to speak for all of the child-free men and women out there, so I will say, right here, this applies to H and me.
But, if you are child-free, know someone who is child-free, love someone who is child-free, you can probably relate to one or more of the assumptions below. Humans have many emotional needs—no, I'm not talking the need to procreate (see below)—and feeling understood is foremost among them. So, feel free to share!
1. We can't have kids. I recently received an email from an old secretary who knows H and I have been married for four years now. It read, in part, "So, any babies or have you given up trying?" Huh? Given up trying? We never started trying! So, the automatic assumption is that because we don't have kids we somehow can't have them? Um, what about assuming that we can have them but have chosen not to? In fact, H had cancer when he was 21, saved his baby fishies for over 20 years just in case, and we recently decided that the, uh, case for kids was never going to be made for us. It's a personal decision, but it's our decision. Case closed. So, yeah, not only did we have the option to try naturally, we even had back-up! While we were grateful for the back-up, grateful for the army standing behind us, they can respectfully retreat now. Swim away, little ones. We got this. We're taking the child-free route! Thank you for your service, boys and girls.
2. We hate kids. Noooooo. LOVE LOVE LOVE KIDS! Love every bit of them, especially their delicious toes between the ages of 0 and 3. Love the funny things they say. Love them to bits. But, believe it or not, just because you love kids and enjoy them thoroughly, does not mean that you want to take on the monumental task of raising your own. It's that simple. Really.
3. We resent you for being a parent. No no no! Quite the opposite. R-E-S-P-E-C-T for every parent I know or have encountered. When your little one is screaming at Starbucks, I do not turn around and scowl. I make a point to avert my eyes. Parents have the hardest job in the world and anyone who has the job needs the whole village supporting them. Sometimes support comes in the form of pretending you and your little one are not there. When you're trying to discipline your child or calm them down or have a teaching moment, this villager knows looks in your direction do not help. At all. I study my phone and pretend I hear nothing but a babbling brook. You got this, mom or dad. I'm rooting for you. You've got the hardest and most important job in the world. My hat is tipped to you in respect. In the same vein, I don't want the job and hope you'll tip your hat in respect of my decision, as well.
4. We had unhappy childhoods. Nope. H's parents and my parents have each been married over 45 years. They proudly stood up on either side of us when we got married. Granted, married parents does not a happy childhood make, but we did. I'll spare you all the happy details but just because we had great childhoods does not mean we want to make great childhoods for someone else. And vice versa, back to the original assumption, just because we don't want to make the kiddies doesn't mean we were unhappy kiddies. Bit of an odd assumption to make in my opinion, but that's OK. We're all learning from each other.
5. We never wanted kids. Actually, I always assumed I would get married and have children because that seemed like a good plan. But, once I reached a certain age, I found myself indeed happily married but felt no need to have kids. I wasn't feeling that pull, that urge. When it occurred to me that it doesn't have to be an automatic next step, that we could choose not to have them, I felt a wave of relief. H, too.
6. We dote on our pets because we secretly want kids. If kids never grew beyond eight months (that age when they don't yet walk or talk and are like gurgling stuffed animals that just get passed around and kissed) and could be left alone for hours and sometimes days at a time and required minimal poop clean up and no college fund, then yes, we "secretly want kids."