Reporting Back: March 2010 On-the-Ground Question

Thanks to all who wrote in their thoughts regarding the March On-the-Ground (OTG) question, “How are the childfree most misunderstood?”

Most comments revolved around…… the myths that the decision to be childfree is selfish, and that it must mean we don’t like children.

Lots of childfree couples interviewed for Families of Two talked about how they thought others thought of them as selfish. This myth still seems to reign today. One person’s comments get straight at one way to look at the selfish point:

“I think it’s more accurate to say that parents are assumed to be selfless, when in my humble opinion, many parents have children for selfish reasons. I have worked in social services (with teens) for about 11 years and nothing about me or my life is selfish. I resent that implication. No one who KNOWS me thinks I’m selfish. I think parents need to feel like we are selfish to justify the less glamorous and less satisfying aspects of their CHOICE (or to justify the choice itself).”

Others who commented take this point further by talking about the selfish reasons why people do have children, and why this is not talked about. Why? If this fact was talked about it would challenge the ingrained pronatalist assumption that having kids is the most giving and selfless act one can make.

From the time I interviewed many couples for Families of Two and in the years since, I continue to see that the childfree are from selfish. They give of themselves to others in a myriad of ways, to children (as aunts, uncles, mentors), their families, their communities, churches, and to larger social and political causes. Just because we are not parents does not mean we are selfish people. The myth that says otherwise just serves to uphold pronatalist values that really don’t reflect today’s reality.

Some wrote in giving a reason why they were not selfish as because their occupations revolve around children. One OTG commenter makes a great point that reflects what others wrote in as well, “Sometimes it’s assumed that if we work with kids, we would make great parents and therefore should become parents. First of all, just because someone would be, doesn’t mean s/he should be. I don’t think I would be a good parent because I DON’T WANT TO BE A PARENT. I’ve devoted my life to working with a very unpopular age group and I love it. But I would not love being a parent.”

I wish more people thought harder about the point that just because they think they would be good parents doesn’t mean they should become one. If you become one without really wanting to become one, research tells us that that is one of the worst things for the incoming child and his/her life.

And just because we don’t want to become parents does not mean we don’t like kids. Like one person writes, “..it seems to be the knee-jerk thought when people find out you don’t want/have kids. It’s as if they can’t conceive of a life without children as being ‘normal,’ so the childfree couple must REALLY dislike kids to go against the flow in such a flagrant way. I wish people understood that many childfree people do like kids, they just don’t want any of their own (for a variety of reasons).”

A host of things remain about how the childfree are misunderstood. One reason for this is a lack of research on those who make this choice.  There has been research done, but in relation to research done on parents, it’s no contest.

For this month’s OTG question, I want to ask about research:

Write in your thoughts on what research you would like to see done on those who decide not to have children?

For example, research on this group alone or studies that look at the differences between those who have children and those who do not by choice?

Or tell us about recent studies you have seen and share with the rest of us!

2 thoughts on “Reporting Back: March 2010 On-the-Ground Question

  1. Here is my canned response to the “Who is more selfish?” question.

    Let us assume for the moment that someone who chooses to have kids is making a decision which most benefits that person, or else that person would not make that decision. And let us assume for the moment that someone who chooses not to have kids is also making a decision which most benefits that person.

    The difference between these two people is that the childed person expects others, including those who choose not to have children, to subsidize (i.e. using resources, getting tax breaks, favors and benefits in the workplace, tolerating other’s children in places they have no business being in) the choice of the childed person, while the person who chooses NOT to have children neither expects nor receives any benefits from the childed people because of the choice he or she made.

    That is the essence of the “Who is selfish?” debate. Each is making a decision which best suits himself or herself, but one expects the other to bear some of the costs of that decision, while the other does not. This is why those who have children are selfish while those who do not have children are not selfish.

    1. Hi deegee, I like your rationale. Indeed childfree don’t expect or receive any benefits from childed people but it sure does not work the other way around…As long as our society remains so child-centric it will stay this way– L

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