Lisa Hymas of Grist did a recent piece on how having no children by choice went mainstream in 2010–as much as I’d like to, I can’t agree with her. Sure, Oprah in her recent interview with Barbara Walters finally talked a bit more than in the past about her choice not to have kids. Sure, some other Hollywood types have spoken to it…
…the Sex & the City movie has a childfree couple, and there has been more in the media about the realities of parenthood, but being childfree remains in the tributaries, not the “mainstream” of society. If it were mainstream, it would mean that being childfree is now a “dominant course” in society (see dictionary.com), and that is a “widely accepted group.” In a nutshell, if being childfree were mainstream, it would mean that society has accepted this choice. We just aren’t there yet.
The good news: Overall, the childfree have never seen more exposure. The numbers are growing, and the digital world has been a powerful platform to get the childfree choice out there.
More famous people are speaking to this choice than in years past. And Oprah of late is a great and famous example of this. She explains that she did not have them because of how the demands of her career would not have been good or fair to a child – a responsible decision. However, I wish it could be more acceptable to just say it more straight out–either she did not want kids badly enough to have it affect her career, or she had little or no desire to have them at all.
Last year we did hear from some famous people on having no kids, but it is far from what we still see and hear about every details of stars when it comes to having a baby. The covers of rags remain inundated with baby baby baby news from the rich and famous.
And regarding what has come out on parents not being as happy as those without children, the “mainstream” takeaway is not “kids aren’t the key to happiness.” The message is more — “hey parents, you may not feel happiness day to day, but you will have amazing fulfilling moments along the way, and in the end, it will be worth it, and you will find true meaning in life.”
The trend on parents has been more about talking openly about the realities of parenting, which is a good thing. Even Ted Talks has speakers on getting the realities of parenting out there. However, the trend has not been about a childfree life being a mainstream choice.
The message still is–if you want fulfillment and meaning in life, become a parent. A mainstream message that is in the direction of accepting of the childfree would be — fulfillment can look many different ways, and parenthood is merely one path to fulfillment and meaning.
It’s a great angle on a post, but I say that childfree will be mainstream when the myths and judgments about this choice are gone, when getting pressure to have kids is the exception not the norm, and when not wanting to be parent is truly as widely accepted as wanting to be one.