Being childfree is not an “interesting debate”

A little while ago, I was talking to my cousin when he said something to me about “When you have children.” I said “I’m not having children.” He was shocked, and said “Because you can’t, or because you don’t want to?” I honestly don’t understand why he was so shocked, because I had told him five years before this conversation that I was never going to have children, and I reminded him of that. He said “I didn’t think you were serious.” I asked him why he thought I wasn’t serious (because that wouldn’t be a very funny joke. There’s not even a punchline.) He said “Because it’s not just your decision.”

Um.

It is absolutely just my decision, because it’s just MY BODY. He then asked me “What if you meet someone and he really wants kids?”

This is disgusting and misogynistic. If a woman who doesn’t want children is in a relationship with a man, she’s expected to sacrifice her body and the rest of her life for something she doesn’t want? A man is entitled to force her to go through forty weeks of pregnancy, childbirth, and then 18 years of being the primary caregiver for a child that doesn’t even get her name? (While I understand that for most people this isn’t an issue because most people want to breed, and most women don’t seem to have a problem with the patriarchal tradition of men automatically passing their name onto children, for someone who has no desire or intention to use her body that way, it can turn into a violent form of torture.)

In fact, in the past two days, I’ve had two more people ask me a) why I don’t want children, and b) what I would do if I met a man who wanted children. Interestingly, both of the people who asked me this were men. I don’t understand why people ask this question as though it’s thought-provoking, or like it would somehow change my answer. I don’t know to make myself any clearer. “I’m not having kids” doesn’t mean “If I meet a man and he really wants kids then I will have them,” it means “I’m not having kids.”

My cousin said that it was an “interesting debate.” This isn’t interesting, nor is it a debate. I am an adult human being. I have the right to decide what happens to my body. My human rights are not up for debate, and my humanity is not “interesting.”

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8 thoughts on “Being childfree is not an “interesting debate”

  1. Andrea Kaitany says:

    I’m the mother of four and also a teacher. I’ve always wanted kids and now that mine are grown up I seek out other people’s kids to spend time with. That said, I also don’t see this as a debate. It’s your body and your life. Why should my decision to have children or your decision not to be subject to anyone else’s oversight? This seems to bmme another way in which women are expecged to bear the cost of preserving cultural practices that other people (read men) feel they would like to respect but don’t need to feel bound by.

    • Doreen says:

      You bring up a very good point- it’s always supposed to be women that sacrifice to preserve cultural practice. I support women who choose to be mothers as well, because it should be exactly that- a choice. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Mari says:

    Hello Doreen!

    I’ve been debating this with my family and random people who seem to believe that I will eventually want them also.

    Recent research says that those opinions are changing, at least in the US, as more people are single than married and choosing not to have kids. I think that’s a good thing. Hopefully it catches on. It’s something that I think has been a social norm simply for practicality’s sake for a long time but those practices are outdated now. In China, it’s similar, the expectation being that kids will care for aging parents, so it’s something that’s more required unless you want to be on your own in your old age. Sad thing is, there’s no guarantee, even in China, that kids will look after you once they’re grown and out of the house…at least not if they leave China.

    I’m a little disturbed by your cousin’s statement that it wasn’t “just your decision.” I get that a lot with my family, but the longer I stay single, they’re learning that it is my decision. But without knowing your cousin’s age, his statement just sounds a bit naive. As an adult, my expectation is that he’d be a little more experienced and understand that people make different choices for different reasons. Could the other men that brought it up with you have been people who were trying to date you? If so, then maybe that’s why they asked. I usually just get weird looks when it comes up in conversation, but no one says anything….I’m a bit too old for them to argue it at this point!

    I’m looking forward to reading more from you, Doreen! Keep it up.

    • Doreen says:

      Yeah, and Chinese people born during the one-child policy also have the added stress of having to care for two aging parents! Do you get the pressure from Americans, or Chinese people, or anyone regardless of nationality/culture/location?

      The two men who asked me most recently are both married with children, so I’m not even sure where they were going with that tedious line of questioning.

      As for my cousin, he’s pushing 40, so he doesn’t have the excuse of youthful naivety.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Mari says:

        I get it from all sides. The family is Mexican, my current home is in China so I get the “concerned” people looking out for my welfare, and then mostly it’s girls that don’t relate to me but I’ve been an “outside of the box” type for a long time so I’m used to being very different from the average girl at home (or anywhere for that matter). It likely helps that I work with kids so if I don’t want to debate on a particular day, I can always just say that I spend my whole day with kids, all day every day…. That settles some. For others, it doesn’t, but they understand a bit more as they frequently get tired with just the short amount of time they spend with their kids (when kids are hungry, tired, etc.). So it’s my “Get out of Jail Free” card. 😉

  3. madetomisfit says:

    OMG! All I want to do is take a print of this post and stick it in front of any person who asks me this. In fact, people have been decent to have at least asked you why you didn’t want kids. I had a bizarre incident at my office a few weeks ago when a colleague launched into a verbal attack on finding out that my husband and I had decided to be childree. It was absolutely manic, the way in which she thought it was her business to set me on the “right path.” I wrote a massive rant detailing the entire dialogue. Here it is, in case you’d like to read it: https://madetomisfit.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/of-logic-gone-bonkers/

    • Childfree African says:

      Thanks for your comment and I enjoyed your rant. I agree with your other colleague who said you gave her too much credit. People will do all kinds of mental gymnastics to try to force you to have a child when it doesn’t affect them at all. Thanks for reading!

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