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Here’s to the child-free – there’s no harm in acknowledging that life decision is just fine

Michelangelo Signorile expresses how I feel about this issue — not having kids is A-OK. I’m happy to be an aunt and owner of fur babies.

I do not want kids. I never wanted kids. Even as a kid.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m really happy for my gay and lesbian friends who’ve always wanted kids and who now have them. I like children; often find them fascinating, cute, and cuddly; and have nieces and nephews I adore. I just wouldn’t want to spend a lot of my time raising them, and though each of us could master things we might think we couldn’t, I don’t think I’m particularly well-suited to it. Why do something just because you might be able to do it?

Parenting little humans was never something I desired either. What I did know, even as a young person, was that good parenting is HARD. And there’s a lot of evidence that too many people are procreating and they’re ill-equipped to parent well. Mike was responding to a NYT piece that framed the plight of gay men feeling pressured to have kids. Rachel Swarns:

Many gay men had resigned themselves to the idea that they would never be accepted by society as loving parents and assumed they would never have children. They grieved that loss and moved on, even as other gay men and lesbians fully embraced childless lives. So the questions can unearth bittersweet feelings and cause deep divisions within a couple over whether to have children at all, now that parenting among same-sex couples is becoming more common.

I guess the assumption is that lesbians, as women, are hot to shoot out babies by default because of the biological clock ticking away. Bzzzzzzt. One of the most satisfying days in my life was having a hysterectomy (2010). I finally rid myself of a womb that become dysfunctional and disabling enough each month to just want it gone. Not a single regret;  even the nurses on the ward I was on (irony – I recovered in the maternity ward), congratulated me on my new “freedom” as if I had just given birth!

Logically speaking, I probably made the right decision — given all of my health woes – and all of the time and effort required to keep myself functional enough to hold a job at this point — I cannot fathom being able to muster up the energy to raise a helpless infant or deal with the rigorous demands of a toddler — or have the capacity to guide a teen through their difficult years.

Deciding to live child-free — there shouldn’t be anything seen as wrong with that personal decision. It doesn’t make me any less valuable as a human being (or taxpayer — hey, we’re subsidizing all of you out there producing offspring) than someone who chooses to procreate, gay, straight, whatever. But it’s the message our culture sends every, fricking, single day.

Mike didn’t even touch upon the third-rail of the child-free/child-rearing divide — the fact that society and the economy tilts toward family-orientation in a way that often discriminates against those without kids — single people are often leaned upon to pick up the slack when co-workers go on maternity/paternity leave; are asked to arrange their work schedules around day care schedules of others, but rarely feel the latitude to take personal time in the same way without judgment.

I’m not talking about whether businesses adequately handle family leave — violations occur so often it’s why FMLA exists — and covers elder care and the like, which helps balance those scales (on the books anyway) for those with aging parents/relatives. I’m also not questioning whether mothers, fathers and children are getting the support they need from society – that can be debated all day long and has nothing to do with child-free folks. What is often overlooked, however, is that the life of child-free shouldn’t be seen as selfish, or their time away from the office as expendable, but it is a cultural message — your  “free time” can be usurped because it is less valuable than time needed to care for a child.

It’s not a zero-sum game — acknowledgment and respect for the child-free doesn’t have to come at the expense of anyone – it’s simply a matter of reserving judgment about why the choice is made and just give that decision equal value in society. One can have perfectly happy lives without procreating, that’s all.

Yet it is still a third rail.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding