Parents and Childfree: Let’s Stop the Fight About Who’s Right and Wrong

It’s no news that there’s lots out there from parents judging the decision to be childfree.  But here’s a piece that goes further;  from the Curious Dad section of the Vancouver Sun, dad Chad Skelton discusses  “Four reasons the “childless by choice’ may have chosen wrong.”  Let me summarize —

In so many words, Chad thinks the childfree might have made the wrong decision because:

-We may not have discussed or thought enough about whether being childfree is a good or a bad choice.   Uh yes, the childfree do.  They take the decision very seriously. And good and bad choice for whom? Inherent in his comments is clearly the view that having kids is clearly the “good” choice.

-We somehow don’t get that the childfree choice is not as valid as the choice to have kids, and that the childfree decision is not in our best interest–Skelton says, “We can all agree that people have the right to make their own choices. But that doesn’t mean we have to pretend that every choice is equally valid — or that the choices people make are always in their own best interests.”  Clearly according to Chad, having kids is the more “valid” choice.

-We somehow don’t get that having children is the most unique experience anyone can have. The childfree may think that they’ll miss certain experiences but get to have other great experiences instead, but those experiences will never match parenthood.  We make the wrong decision because we just don’t get that parenthood is the experience in life.   Really.

-We fail to fully recognize that procreating is “the entire basis for civilization”  (oh so this means everyone has to do it?) and that having kids is a “more monumental, and even primal” decision than “deciding where to go on your summer vacation or what to have for dinner.”   According to Chad, we make the wrong decision because we are disconnected from our primality, and only think about simple, vacuous things..ouch.

-We don’t think enough about how we might regret not having kids in the future. His anecdotal experience suggests that a person is more likely to regret not having kids. OK now I finally have to say something. Wrong. Anonymous surveys (including by Dr Phil) of thousands of people half or better say if they had parenthood to do over again they would not.

While I find Kelton’s article insulting, and want to come back with guns a blazin to make him wrong on all of these, I won’t. Why? It goes nowhere.

Instead–I continue to be struck how those who have kids just do not understand a different choice and find ways to judge the choice and make it wrong.  And it goes both ways -there is plenty of bashing of parents by childfree, and even  experienced as venom by some parents.

I say let’s stop the judging and try understanding instead.  Like a wise blog visitor has written me, “I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the judging part of being  a parent or childfree. It seems to me that when we find differences in each other instead of embracing the differences as a learning process we tear down the other person, culture, whatever without making ay attempt to look at if from another perspective.”

When it comes to the choice to become a parent or not, what would embracing the differences as a learning process look like?

Wouldn’t that be a way to connect, rather than create distance through judgment? Let’s stop the right and wrong. It gets us nowhere toward understanding and accepting each other and our different choices in life.

16 thoughts on “Parents and Childfree: Let’s Stop the Fight About Who’s Right and Wrong

  1. It especially bothers me that many people like Chad don’t see each person’s choice as an individual decision…they don’t seem to understand that each case is different and everyone has their own reasons for not having children. They simply judge any and all childfree people for making the “wrong” decision.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I think some people are crazy for having kids. I can be judgmental about people who accidentally got pregnant during a one-night stand with someone they barely knew, or deliberately chose to have kids even though they were in a terrible financial situation, or whatever.

    But I know plenty of people who decided they wanted kids, and they were in a stable relationship and a good place in their lives, so they went for it. They’re happy and the kids are happy and if they’re happy, I’m happy.

    What I’m saying is, I don’t assume that every single person who has kids is “wrong.” I recognize that everyone has their own reasons for having kids. I see things on a case-by-case basis and I wish people like Chad would offer us the same courtesy.

    I also really hate the “You don’t know what you’re missing” argument. Really, that’s fine with me – if I’ve never known it, how can I miss it?

  2. We childfree people know exactly what we are missing by not having kids. That is exactly why we choose not to have them. Any list of things is easily dismissed by us childfree people because all the items fall into one or both of the following categories:

    (1) What parents describe as positive things we childfree see as purely negative or at best having zero positive value.

    (2) Even if we childfree see them as positive, we can get them from other places which do not have any negatives attached to them.

    Instead, we childfree see our lifestyle choice as having only positive traits. For me, being childfree enabled me to retire in 2008 at the age of 45, something which would have been impossible if I had kids. And what do I do with my newly found economic freedom? I can do more volunteer work with several area schools.

    We childfree see having kids as a purely negative experience. We see having less money, the loss of peace and quiet, the loss of personal freedom, and the addition of stinky diapers in our lives if we had kids. THAT is what we are missing when we chose not to have kids. One does not need to be a parent to realize this.

    1. HI Deegee, ALways appreciate your thoughts. TChad sure seems to think that even if we think it is a negative experience, we “shoudn’t” feel this way..oy! ~L

  3. Articles like this really bother me, is he trying to convince us that we’ve made a mistake, or convince himself that he hasn’t? This argument goes nowhere, there is not a universal choice that is right for everyone. When someone questions another’s choices, it makes me think that they aren’t very sure of the choices they’ve made. A secure and happy person isn’t bothered by someone who takes a different path. Maybe parenthood hasn’t made him as happy as he claims. I’ve also read of several studies that show many parents have regrets. Maybe part of the problem is people not thinking it through enough before having children. I think the childfree put alot more thought into this huge decision than many parents.

    1. A lot of people just have to be “right” too. The right God, the right lifestyle, etc….I agree that it can ultimately point to their own insecurities…~L

  4. Ouch. It’s impossible for someone who is pro children to really understand someone who is choosing to be childfree. It’s like asking how long is a piece of string. I try to liken the thinking this way – when I was in my early 20’s a good friend of mine bravely admitted he was a homosexual. Being openly gay back then was not so common in the general population, and most people were ignorant, myself included. I am not the type to judge, however I really wanted to understand the way he was feeling and tried to relate it to the thoughts, emotions and behavior toward the same sex that I personally experienced. It spun me trying to “make sense” of it. Eventually I realised I never would. It was a thought/emotion/behavior toward the same sex that I didn’t have. By coming to this conclusion, THAT helped me understand it. Quote Amy above “…if I’ve never known it, how can I miss it?”

  5. Laura – I just re-read my post and I am hoping it makes sense and the point I was trying to get across is clear. It doesn’t seem to read very well (mental note to myself – avoid writing posts first thing in the morning). Thanks – Mrs Flowerpot

  6. I don’t think that childfree people are telling others that they are making the wrong choice to have kids… that would be silly since they (mostly) already have kids and can’t change that fact. If anything, we are just pointing out the benefits of OUR lives every time THEY attack US and tell us we need to drop everything and have kids. Perhaps I’m not seeing things clearly, but the “fight” is pretty one sided — them attacking our choice and us defending our choice. Except in the case of the Duggars, who is really attacking their choice to have kids?

    Sure, there is a lot of childfree folks, like myself, talking about bad parent behavior — all the parent whining and complaining, demanding special treatment, and just generally being bad parents and not teaching their kids to behave. It’s not an attack on specific parents, but the bad parenting culture in general. Those are things society NEEDS to talk about rather than ignore.

    But as soon as we start discussing those issues, there are parents on the attack again, livid that anyone dared to call out shitty parents on their shitty behavior (they don’t want any criticism of parents lest it somehow infringe on their “rights” to slack parenting) and again, the fight is pretty one sided. We’re talking about the issues, and they are attacking us.

    Admittedly, there are certain individuals will go to parenting blogs and forums and troll and pick fights, but I don’t think that’s the norm. Every group has folks they wish weren’t on their side.

    1. I agree that the fight can often feel one sided, but there are definitely those that are against “breeding” period out there that judge people for just having kids, not even getting to how they parent. Only coming down on bad parents seems to encourage the divide, not slim it. Maybe if cf talked more about good parenting, and not just highlighting the bad? And the same for the other side — getting parents to talk more about ineffective parenting is sure needed–tried to encourage this with this month’s on-the-ground question re: how parents are selfish. I asked folks for their comments, and comments from parents they know, and I am doing the same. From comments I am getting, it is clear parents have thoughts about this and some will talk about it….maybe more on the positive on our side, and more on the negative on their side would make it seem less of “them and us” -I’d like to see the day when it no longer felt like this…~L

  7. My response to Mr Chad Skelton is here:
    http://thebritgirl.com/2010/08/22/childfree-2-reasons-chad-skelton-needs-to-butt-out-of-the-childfrees-business-alreadyfe/
    I was a little more forthright.

    His article “clarifying his thoughts” is simply one big hairy bingo… but he probably doesn’t understand what that word means anyway.

    I really could care less about his (or parents for that matter)understanding my choice to be childfree. We con’t need their approval or even acceptance. What we want is respect for our choice – as any choice should be respected.

    We make considered, thoughtful choices (something that parents would do well to emulate)only to be pillored by people like Skelton who have no undertanding of the childfree and show it. The fact is he is a parent. He will never understand a childfree person’s reasons for bein childfree and his article proves it. Rather than wondering (or rather saying) that we’ve chosen wrongly he should perhaps focus on stuff he actually knows something about – like parenting and teaching his own kids not to judge the choices of others.

    1. While I get and agree with much of your rant, my ultimate point was not to come back “forthright” slam, which is tempting to do, and instead partly ask the question how responding with defense gets us anywhere except to feel just as right as they feel. I want to get past having to be on the defense, and find ways to encourage acceptance of differences. ~L

  8. Jacinda said:
    “A secure and happy person isn’t bothered by someone who takes a different path.”
    My experiences have shown this to be true especially when it comes to having children. I think this daddy doth protest too much.

    For all of his blathering about what we childfree may be “missing out” on he hasn’t addressed how these hypothetical, completely non-existent children that we childfree are “missing out” on would benefit from being born to parents who do NOT want them. People who like to tell us what we’re “missing” never address this… Maybe one’s presence (and basic existance)being genuinely desired by parents is a minor issue when it comes to child rearing?

  9. @Laura – (assuming your comment about ranting is addressed to me)If everything that isn’t gentle and probing and encouraging acceptance by parents is called a “rant” or being defensive when childfree folk say it then we’re in bigger trouble than simply defending our choices against people who think we’re wrong. But be that as it may,being forthright is for me the right response. Others may or may not agree, but that’s ok, we can always agree to disagree.

    It’s not really about feeling right, it’s about saying what is…(at least what is as I see it). I already know I’m right that childfree people don’t need approval not judgements from parents for their choices. I’ll leave it to others to encourage acceptance, the fact is we don’t need to be told “we may have chosen wrongly” in our life choices any more than parents do.

    As for defending the childfree choice… we’d be foolish to think we don’t, or no longer have to defend our choice to be childfree. We’re far from being there even close to that, and every time a journalist creates childfree comment fodder it reminds me of the same.

    But I am very happy that I have friends who are parents who do respect my choice as much as I respect theirs and who acknowledge that we live in a world where understanding of another’s choice isn’t necessary for that choice to be accepted.

    1. Dearest Britgirl! Totally get and respect your choice of response! We are on the same page ultimately–I am just ready to try and change the tenure of the conversation from so often negative and defensive on both sides when it just seems to get us nowhere in terms of mutual understanding. There is growing acceptance and I want to try and encourage more of that — hopefully supporting movement in a direction that people like Chad will be more and more the minority and seen as basically insecure, righteous and … ludicrous! ~L

  10. I too am SO tired of all the judging. Over the years, I’ve heard things like, “you need a child”, “you don’t have any stress”, “why not adopt a child?” (rather than an animal), “it will be good for you!”, and on & on.
    Like Jacinda, I too believe that oftentimes, we cause those with children, to question their choices. I may be wrong, but it seems to me, that jealousy is often behind their comments–
    I would never think of saying these things to others! I respect individual choices, and I wish they would mine.

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