Friday, May 15, 2009

On Respecting EVERYONE'S Right to Choose....

Who would have thought that deciding never to become pregnant could raise as many hackles and sermons as deciding to terminate a pregnancy?

When there is no conceivable (ha!) harm to any stage of human life, no breaking, bending, protesting, or changing of any law, WHERE do people get off thinking that the life-changing decision to reproduce rests with anyone but the potential parents?

Yesterday Amy ran a series of letters from readers responding to an earlier letter from a woman seeking a snappy comeback for people who insist on questioning her decision not to have children. The column in its entirety is below; my comments interspersed.

Dear Readers: Some time back, I ran a letter from "No Babies in South Dakota," about how to respond to frequent queries about when she and her husband would have children.

Because they don't plan to have children, they were looking for a "snappy comeback." Readers responded by the bushel. A surprising number of readers accused people who don't wish to have children of being selfish. [This is unbelievable to me! Selfish with respect to whom? Whose needs are not being considered? It just makes no sense!]

Other readers offered snappy comebacks or other responses to the age-old question: "When are you going to have kids?"

Dear Amy: Why is it necessary to have a snappy comeback? Most people ask out of curiosity.

Being a person who is decided against kids and marriage, I always politely but firmly say that was my lifestyle choice.

Only a Neanderthal would push the point, and then I still politely but firmly say, "These questions are getting a little personal." — Personal Choice

[ is so often the case, the vanilla answer is probably the only one that will get the inquisitor to realize that THEY'RE the one being rude. Snappy feels good, but just gives the busybody the chance to denounce you as a terrible person and rejoice that you're not choosing to multiply your DNA. Which I guess still achieves the same end.....]

Dear Amy: I'm a 49-year-old woman. When people ask me why I don't have children, I just say, "I love doting on other people's children, and with such a wonderful niece and nephew, that's enough for me." This has worked well for me, but on occasion I have had to set some boundaries with particularly insistent people. In those cases, I said, "It is a personal decision that is not open for discussion." — Elisa

Dear Amy: "No Babies" should more honestly rationalize her decision by just admitting, "I'm selfish, and I don't want to interrupt my lifestyle" or "I dislike children; they are so untidy," or "I'm afraid I'd make a child turn out as miserably neurotic as myself." — Disgusted

["Disgusted?" Seriously? I cannot understand why these people are SO BITTER and judgmental. "I don't want to interrupt my lifestyle?" A child is not an interruption--it's a paradigm shift. You shouldn't be having children unless family life IS your lifestyle. Choosing how you want to live your life, and how you CAN live your life, is not selfish. Having a child that you know you can't love or care for properly--THAT'S selfish.

You can LIKE children without wanting to be a parent. Or you can honestly DISLIKE children--in which case the decision not to have them would be well-founded--but that doesn't mean the only "honest" recourse is to announce this preference widely. Just as, in the company of a garbage collector, one wouldn't say "I could NEVER be a garbage collector, it's so DISGUSTING," tactful people who don't want kids are probably right to remain reticent about their reasons--not only because those reasons are personal and private, but to avoid giving the impression that they look down on the choices of their friends and relatives who ARE parents--something parents tend to read into these situations, but non-parents generally have no desire to convey.]

Dear Amy: If you don't have kids and you're happy with it, you're "childfree." If you don't have kids and you're not happy with it, you're "childless." — Childfree by Choice[

[Yay semantics!]

Dear Amy: My husband and I have known couples that have "elected" not to have children. It seems that these couples always replace the children in their lives with a very pleasant lifestyle that includes frequent vacations, nice clothes, fine cars, above-average homes, season tickets to sporting events, plays, concerts and a lifestyle that couples with children never dream of.

All to replace the emptiness of an empty nest. This all smacks of the '60s hippie culture through the '70s "me generation." — Not Buying It

[This, to me, smacks of the Depression-era/Greatest Generation, raised to sacrifice, adhere to one's duty, live simply and frugally--and that to do more than that is ostentatious and selfish. That there's something shameful about a "very pleasant lifestyle." Yes, couples who do not have children, in most cases, have more disposable income. That's just math. It does not mean that they're trying to "replace" children with luxury or embrace a profligate lifestyle that "couples with children never dream of." WHY would people without extra mouths to feed, bodies to clothe, and minds to educate stick to the same budget and lifestyle as people with them, while their earnings sit in a stack at the bank?]

Dear Amy: To the couple with concerns about inquiries: Bottom line — it is your private business! Remember, too, that you have the right to change your mind. In one case we know of, it took 17 years, but when the baby came, it was for all the correct reasons. — No Excuses/No Regrets

Dear Amy: I, too, have the same "no babies" problem.

Nothing infuriates me more than when people say, "You want them, but you just don't know it yet." I am 31, and my husband is 33. We know, and it's a no for us.

I am starting to think "We can't have kids" is the easiest response. — No Babies in Meraux, La.

[Right, until people start asking questions about your fertility and your attempts to have children or pursue adoption.....]

There are so many more complicated, troublesome problems in the world that need questioning and prodding....why on earth do so many people care about the choices that other adults have made--choices with which they are completely content, and which have no bearing on anyone else's quality of life?

This question of course could, and should, be extended to include any other number of issues where benign personal choices somehow become ammunition in any number of private and public, let live, and MYOB!


Anonymous said...

I can't really agree more with you. And honestly, I don't have anything else to add...except any other harsh words I can think of to the people who say choosing not to have kids is "selfish." WTF

Anonymous said...

Ugh! I have wasted a good portion of my life defending MY CHOICE to be childfree. I've never wanted kids. Cringe when I see a baby. Do not enjoy being around children. Hate listening to people talk about raising theirs. I thought when I reached a certain age it would stop. I'm 43. Instead of when, now I get how many do you have. Grrrr! Are people not capable of talking about anything else?!

Anonymous said...

Nothing to add but a ^5 for writing what so many of us would like to scream aloud. Funny how 'choice' has become solely aligned with abortion issues that it has completely been forgotten as a choice NOT to have kids.

MY WOMB, I'll do what I want with it!

Anonymous said...

In a completely unrelated note, I wanted to say thanks to Becky for using the gender-neutral garbage collector. I'm not being facetious in the least, that was actually something that popped into my head while reading, "Wow, I wonder if I still say garbage man?" So, thank you for making me think, as always.

I echo everything that you said, Becky, with my only addition being that I can definitely see in myself a little of the annoying person in question here. Never would I ask, out of the blue, especially of a stranger, why someone did not have children or when were they going to get the heck to it! But, being a person who loves children, I can see myself wondering when or if my friends will start families. Not because I am nosy, but because I love THEM so much I can't imagine why they wouldn't want to replicate their fabulous genes.