Saturday, 8 November 2014

Childfree by Choice

There is an interesting article in The Guardian today which discusses reactions to the decision not to have children. 

Richard and I do not have children and are perfectly happy that way.  We have never had any desire to become parents.  This was one of the first things we agreed on when we initially became a couple some twenty years ago.  We wanted to do other things with our lives and neither of us have ever regretted that choice at any point.

Now I'm 50, people have finally stopped insisting that I'll change my mind about not wanting children as I get older.  Instead, I'm told that I'll regret it when I'm elderly as there will be no-one to visit me.  I know plenty of elderly people with grown-up children of their own, plus grandchildren and a network of other family members, who rarely if ever see any of them for a host of reasons - geographical distance, economics and family politics, for example.  Clearly, breeding additions to your family tree does not guarantee that you'll have company from them, and also ignores the possibility of a person enjoying quality company from friends, who can often share a much closer bond than many blood relatives.

Only this week I was confidently informed that if only I had children I'd now be looking forward to celebrating Christmas, and being childless was obviously the reason why I don't celebrate the festival.  The fact that I'm not a Christian didn't enter this person's head - and that has nothing to do with not having children either!

It's ridiculous that people who choose to remain unencumbered by children are subjected to this tunnel-visioned hubris, yet it's a common occurrence.  I find that other women are the main culprits, as if they can't imagine that someone might make decisions which they did not.  The human race is hardly heading towards extinction due to underpopulation - on the contrary, one wonders how long an increasingly polluted Earth can continue to support our global population explosion.  Mass hunger, famines and draughts are no strangers to news bulletins. 

Relatives and friends on both sides tried to put pressure on Richard and me to start a family of our own because society is set up that way.  It's what women are 'supposed' to want.  Well, women are also 'supposed' to love shopping but it bores me silly, and women are 'supposed' to be enthralled by celebrity culture and fashion but I couldn't care less about those either.  It's disappointing to me that women are still so generalised, pushed into one cookie-cutter mould when it comes to maternity despite assumptions about this being a universal ambition being patently incorrect.  Around one in five women are childfree, and many of these are so by choice.

There is a double standard.  When a man says he's not a father, he gets a matey slap on the back and is congratulated.  A childless woman, however, is pitied or informed that her opinions are suspect.  Yet so many mothers have told me they envy me my freedom, and if they had their time over they wouldn't have had children even though they love the ones they do have.  Many others have had only one child, as one was quickly deemed enough.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to be a parent, so long as you're a good, responsible parent.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing not be a parent, also.  It's that simple.

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