Grilling the Childfree: What if the Tables Were Turned?

As the childfree know, we often get asked some amazing questions or comments from others. It’s been awhile, but I got one the other day–related to the one about “meaning in life.”

She said she didn’t really find what meaning in life meant to her until she had a kid–she then asks me… “Hasn’t this been hard for you?”  Oy.

Blogger BritGirl recently listed some popular “bingoes” that the childfree can get:

“When are you going to have kids?
Who will look after you when you’re old?
You’re not really a woman until you’ve given birth.
It’s different when they’re yours…
Why don’t you have kids?
You’ll grow up once you have a child. (for the guys)
You’ll settle down once you have kids. (another for the guys)
Why bother getting married if you’re not going to have children?
Isn’t that a bit selfish? (There are many variations of this one)
But what will you do with your days/life/time/ if you don’t have kids?”

Indeed many, if not all of these kinds of questions and comments are very personal, and can be downright insulting.  But somehow many people don’t see it this way.

What would the corollary be like? How would parents feel if people asked them questions like:

Why is it you want kids?
Why did you have kids?
Why did you have your second kid? Third? Fourth?
Isn’t it selfish that you had another kid because you didn’t get the sex you wanted with the last one?
What needs of yours are your kids filling for you?
Did you really consider whether you were emotionally and financially ready to have a child? Or another child?
Aren’t your days filled with boring activities, from changing diapers to carting your kids to this class or this practice?
Don’t you ever regret that you had kids?
How are you getting to live your life through your kids?
Isn’t it selfish that you expect your children to make you a grandparent one day?

I wonder what parents would say about how they feel if they got these kinds of questions. Maybe then they would better understand the childfree experience in this regard.

Why don’t parents get these kind of questions? And what’s behind the kind of questions the childfree are asked? The answer for both is similar–it’s the assumptions that everyone should want kids, and that parenthood is “the” path to true fulfillment in life.

These assumptions are inherently challenged as they number of childfree grows, but they do need to be challenged even more. The reality is that not all people want the experience of parenthood in life, and find many ways to experience purpose and meaning. If everyone would realize and accept this, maybe these kinds of questions would be seen for what they are–personal and inappropriate!

Childfree, what other kinds of questions have you gotten in this regard?

24 thoughts on “Grilling the Childfree: What if the Tables Were Turned?

  1. “I wonder what parents would say about how they feel if they got these kinds of questions.”

    Adoptive and foster parents are asked some of these questions. Of course, they _want_ to be parents and are choosing to open up their lives to hopefully make this happen.

    What I find absolutely fascinating is how people who experience this type of questioning act around those who have made other decisions. Some people become (or remain?) very open-minded and would never dream of pressuring anyone else to make the same choices.

    Others become defensive after answering the same ridiculous questions over and over again. When they meet someone who has made a different decision it’s almost as if they feel personally attacked. X becomes the best choice anyone could possibly make even if they originally were pretty conflicted about it.

    (I’m sure there are many other ways in which people react…these just seem to be the most common in my social circles.)

    Here are some of the other questions I’ve been asked about being childfree:

    – If intelligent people like you don’t have more babies than the dumb people where do you think we’ll end up in a hundred years?

    – Why do you hate kids?

    – What will you do in 20 years when you regret this decision?

    – Who will you celebrate holidays with when you’re old?

    1. Lydia, I find it amazing that adoptive and foster parents get some of the corollary questions I mention, and biological parents never do–or it is rather taboo to ask them those sorts of things …and to the questions you mention–good ones. Maybe we are intelligent in that we think it’s best not to bring a kid into the world as it is today, and/or what’s up with the assumption that more dumb people are having babies than intelligent? Gotta love that assumption that if we don’t want them we must hate them! And of course we will regret our decision when we are old, lonely on holidays. Yah right. The assumptions are just crazily back to the pronatalist source~

  2. My sister had 6. (Two for each of us i guess, the other sis and i do not have kids.)

    From what she said, she DOES get some of these questions.

    Not defending those who are rude to us, but there are folks out there who ask rude questions of anyone.

  3. I have found that the one’s who are the most intrusive seem to be the one’s who enjoy parenting the least. The worst comment I’ve ever gotten was “You must not know how babies are made or you would have one by now”, as bad as that is it was followed by “I hope you get pregnant”. This all came from a very unhappy and stressed out mother of four, I think this would fall under the *misery loves company* category.

  4. I tend to get statements more than questions, the ones that annoy me the most are: “Oh you’ll change your mind one day” to which I say “No, I won’t” but this argument tends to go round in circles without an end…
    Another one is the assumption that because I don’t want children of my own that I must hate all children. This assumption really insults me. A coworker stated this to me recently when he announced that his gf is pregnant and I congratulated him… I had previously mentioned to him that I had no intention of having children so when I congratulated him on his impending fatherhood he looked taken aback and said “I thought you hated children…” I was shocked and had to collect my thoughts before explaining that just because I don’t want children doesn’t mean that I hate them…
    In fact I wish I had more contact with them to somewhat satiate the desire to nurture human babies that I have but am intelligent enough to realise is not something that I want to do 24/7 for the next 20 years. I do not understand why there are people who are so judgemental about parenthood and those who do not choose it for thier own lives. I don’t immediately judge people who don’t have a cat in their life as cat haters… It really makes me feel less than human when someone makes this assumption about me, as if being a childless woman must by default make me a hateful uncaring person as well…

  5. My partner and I (both childfree) have actually started to ask parents and wannabe-parents exactly these question: Why do you have/want to have children?. Just to shake people up a bit. And suaully they are totally flabberghasted, they never thought about it before. “WHat do you mean?” “What sort of quesiton is that?” “But it’s just natural” – these are the answers that we usually get. or people offer reasons like “I want somebody to look after me when I am old”, or “I want someone to love me unconditionally”…Selfish, much? Oh, and Lydia, you are right about adoptive parents. I was adopted myself, and my parents tell me that they had to put up with all sorts of bingoes. One of the “Nicest”: How stupid is that, to raise other people’s children for them”.

  6. The worst I ever got was “you don’t want kids… but you work with kids!” as if breeding is a requirement to like kids and a prerequisite to working with them.

    1. gryon–A lot of cf teachers I have talked with have gotten the same thing and would agree~working with them does Not mean you should want to be a parent!

  7. One comment I got was that my life would only change for the better if I had kids. The person who said this is a single mom of a special needs child. I know that her life isn’t easy, but honestly, I can’t imagine that it’s any better than mine.

  8. Laura, as usual, EXCELLENT!!!!!!!! Sometimes I ask my friends some of these questions. Especially if they hit the “selfish” button. It’s no more selfish to want kids than to not want kids. Plus, so many of my friends have kids for the same reason they go to church. They may not really believe in either or understand either, but everyone else is doing it and they don’t want to be left out. Some want them so badly, but then when they get them it’s not what they expected. Then they’re disappointed. And then they’re usually the ones who gun for me the most with the “Why don’t you have kids” questions, which really burns me up. And if I’m hot enough I’ll say, “Because I knew it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and I didn’t want to be miserable.” (I never have added “like you” at the end of that, but there’s been times I’ve been soooooo tempted!)

  9. I don’t get offended or upset when people bingo me most of the time. if they keep at it, it gets really annoying though. I had one girl at work who was also CF keep saying she thought I’d get pregnant first b/c I was sexual active and she wasn’t(still a virgin for religious reasons). I told her it didn’t matter if i got pregnant I wasn’t “having” a baby. I have no problem telling people I’d get an abortion without even thinking about it if I needed one. That shut her up real quick! but then she was worried about that, so she’ll be super happy when I get fixed!

    The holidays alone thing cracks me up. I spent last Christmas alone and I absolutely loved it. I went and got sushi and it was the best Christmas ever. I plan on doing the same thing this year! I’ll skip out on Thank giving too if my aunt/uncle are not in town.

    Usually I don’t have a problem convincing people I’m serious now that I’m older. when I was in my early 20s, no one took it seriously. I’ve only had one person recently who didn’t believe me b/c she though I was younger than I am. I’m still not sure she believes me but when I get my Essure I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops!

  10. What’s amazing to me is how many parents would have absolutely no answer to these questions beyond a kind of “well, we just did, I guess” or “it just happened.” I bet many would not be offended so much as taken aback at the idea that being a parent is a choice.

    Maybe I’m just too cynical or dark or something, but I’m not offended when people assume that I hate children. If I did hate children, would that really be the end of the world? If you think I hate children, then I can be confident you won’t ask me to babysit. Also, if my childfree life is without meaning, is that really a problem? Part of me thinks it’s juvenile or pollyanna to assume that life has to have some kind of deep meaning. Being alive is not enough?

  11. Well said, Scott. Most people are not comfortable with the idea that life has no real meaning (just look at all the religions out there), but for some time that is how I’ve felt and I’m fine with it. (Just being alive is enough for me!) I think there are many people who have kids because they feel that it will give their life meaning, I wonder if maybe they are confusing ‘meaning’ with busyness or even responsibility, but I suppose it is subjective. Also, I don’t really like kids, I just tolerate them and I don’t think that’s really so horrible.

  12. As I have commented here before, being single and male has made me somewhat immune from getting bingoed. Doing volunteer work with children from several area schools is also effective at deflecting other bingoes.

    I am so many “-free” things it is probably funny.

    Childfree – Never wanted them of my own

    Godfree – I am an atheist, so any religion-based bingo is irrelevant

    Petfree – I do like cats, but my co-op doesn’t allow pets; in a studio apartment I would not want to own one anyway

    Jobfree – I am an early retiree at age 48 (since I was 45)

    Cellphonefree – I hate those things; I have no use for them

    Blackberryfree – see cellphonefree

    So why would being childfree matter to anyone else?

  13. A new boss female asked me, “Why is it you can give love to a dog but you don’t have enough to give a child?” Usually I’m inarticulate when I’m that disgusted and angry, but I went on a chilly tear about how I was at least considering the importance of having children, when the real shame should be handed to irresponsible people who give life with no consideration, who won’t wear a condom, eho get pregnant by “accident.” She agreed with me (and backed away). Next day of course I met her aughter, sixteen years younger than she was.

  14. Well I’ve had pretty much all of those CF bingos on the list and even after I’ve firmly convinced someone I am not having children, ever, I still get the follow-on bingos:
    *You don’t know what you are missing out on/You will miss so much in your life
    * You’ll never know what unconditional love is

    For the first I usually say “I’m not missing anything because I don;t want to experience it in the first place. But I am getting experience so many more things I would not get the chance to do if I had a child”.

    For the second I say “I don’t want unconditional love, it’s creepy and suffocating; I want to be loved for who I am flaws of course but I want the people who love me to care enough that they can tell me when I’m being an ass or see I need help because I’m not perfect”.

    I’ve asked people why they wanted children and replies are usually along the lines of loving children and wanting to experience parenthood (like it’s an experiment?)… that usually takes me back to saying that I feel none of those thing and so isn’t it a great thing I chose not to have children”. That seems to stem the flow of enquiries for a while.

  15. You all covered most of what I’ve experienced. One day though I want to say “I’m not religious, I’m not political, I’m not having children and I’m a feminist. Deal with it!” Wonder if it would work ?

  16. I could have written the original post, as well as some of the responses! They’re so good, I can’t think of anything to add!

  17. Here here! I remember a few years back getting into a heated debate with my aunt(a mother of 10) over why I don’t want to have children. She said I was vain because I didn’t want to damage my body by getting pregnant! WTF? That’s the least of my worries; but isn’t she vain to be saying oh look at me I have 10 kids? I don’t even know how to respond to that.

    To Tabitha: Look into the Adiana procedure, a lot easier on the body than Essure. I had it on May 27th & love it! I practically did shout from the rooftops. 😀

    1. Mellie–Just asked you in response to your other comment to say a bit more about your experience with adiana–if you have a moment that would great. The more info out there from people who have done it the better! What did you hear about essure such that you chose adiana? Welcome to this site 🙂

  18. Hi
    I’m a mom of almost 3 and I really never wanted to have kids , well not so early !
    I kinda of always saw myself as a more adult woman adopting .
    Being a mom is a lot of f?’&@@!! Work
    Never mind the pressure and responsibilities !
    My mom was a single mom of 3 so I knew its was hard
    But it happen and to be honest the first was unplanned but very loved and wanted !
    All 3 of them are and yes it’s changed my life it’s turned it completely upside !
    And I wish I could answer all your questions as I ask them myself all the time ,
    And to be fair I hate people pressuring others about kids and marriage I have the opposite attitude ( maybe because I’m a mom) but I tell all my single friends !
    Enjoy your life don’t worry about kids the world is already overpopulated and I’m helping on that ! My sister doesn’t want kids my family keeps bugging her “saying why not ?”
    Honestly I would just tell them off but she ignores them
    Same when people who don’t have kids for some reason find themselves experts on how parents should raise their kids
    So like not every single person naggs a mom not every mom naggs a single person
    It’s a choice we all have the right to make

  19. I’m a bit late on this, but those questions for parents are great! I am sure that 3 or 4 in a row with the right/wrong tone would reduce many parents to tears.

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