Bella Online’s Lori Bradley recently wrote about the most annoying questions she gets about being childfree. Two questions have to with how the childfree spend their time and boredom: “What do you do with your time?” and “Don’t you get bored without someone (kids, grand kids, great grand kids) to worry about?” The assumptions behind these questions are a bit maddening. Here’ s why.
Regarding the first, to have to ask what the childfree do with their time seems to imply that they must have lots of free time because they aren’t parents. Not so. Now some might be like Ms. Bradley who has chosen a more “contemplative life” but many childfree would say their lives are just as busy as parents’ lives—what they do with their time just consists of different things, including but certainly not limited to dedication to their professional lives, sharing avid interests, volunteering to contribute to their communities and causes they believe in, tending to family (such as their parents, or their aunt and uncle roles). The idea that the childfree have loads of free time is just a myth, but there is truth in the idea that they retain more control over their time.
With regard to the idea that the childfree must be “bored” because they don’t have someone else to worry about reflects the ludicrous assumption that because they don’t have children, they must not have anyone else to worry about. Like everyone else, they have loved ones in their lives who are very important to them, that they do worry about. The childfree just don’t worry about their every move like parents need to do when raising children.
The idea that they are not worrying about their kids also reflects the assumption that the childfree must be worrying only about themselves. This notion points to the popular myth that the childfree must be self-absorbed people. Again, not so. Because they don’t have children, the childfree actually have more time to think beyond themselves and their immediate family, to larger community, national and global issues, and use their time to be part of solving these issues. Additionally, just because they don’t have children of their own does not mean they are not dedicated to their family, extended families, their friends and their children.
In reality, the childfree are just as likely not to have their lives be “all about them” as parents. Yes, parents. Just because one is a parent, does not mean s/he is not selfish, or s/he will never act selfishly. In surveying parents, even they say that it is selfish for example when parents try to live their lives through their children – to try and shape their kids to do what they always wanted to do, or be what they always wanted to be. And there are plenty of other ways parents can be selfish. “It’s about me” behavior can look a myriad of different ways, whether one is a parent or not.
Instead of asking the childfree questions that imply we only focus on ourselves and have plenty of time to do this, how about taking a genuine interest in the person’s life without bias or judgment around the fact children are not part of it? When the questions come from this place, we will have made progress on letting go of crazy childfree myths.
Childfree out there, have you been asked these kinds of questions?