Establishing a Peace Accord Between Parents and Their Childless Friends

When you are my age, everyone starts caring about your uterus. Not in a fun way, where they send it text messages or memes featuring shirtless Jeff Goldblum circa Jurassic Park, but in a very critical, “what the fuck is wrong with your downstairs human factory and, by extension, you” kind of way.

Because if you are a 35-year-old woman without children, they assume that something is, in fact, wrong.

Gratuitous photo of me and my nephew because it’s my blog.

And maybe something is wrong. Maybe you aren’t talking about it because you can’t have biological children. Maybe you are secretly undergoing IVF and it doesn’t seem to be working and the discussion is too painful. Maybe you are in the process of navigating the sea of bureaucracy that is adoption and you don’t want to discuss it. Maybe you aren’t having them for a host of reasons big and small. Or maybe you just don’t want them.

Maybe that’s a big deal. Maybe it isn’t.

I haven’t written about this on the blog – the issue of what it’s like to be 35 and childless – because I don’t find there to be all that much to discuss. It’s a fact about who we are. George Harrison would always get asked what it was like to a Beatle. His response was, “I don’t know. What’s it like not being one?”

I always loved that, because it suggested that every experience is valuable. But it seems like all I read about is the unresolvable conflict between parents and their childless friends. It’s as though at some point, we all stopped being people with feelings, and just started being pawns in some weird culture war.

If you do any analysis of search patterns around this matter, you’ll find they tell an ugly history.

“childless friends don’t get it”

“why can’t childless people understand”

“when do children suck the life out of you”

“why do our friends who had a baby now suck”

I might be embellishing some of those. The point is, I feel like we’re constantly getting bombarded with messages that suggest there is an inherent rift between people who have children and people who don’t, and you are automatically on one side of that debate or the other.

Personally, I don’t think that’s true. I’m not going to stand up and be an advocate for not having children, nor am I going to tell you to have them. I love children. I think they are wonderful and often sticky and an entire lifetime of work and you will NEVER SLEEP PAST 8AM EVER AGAIN. I like spending time with kids because they usually they know all the good gossip and where the grown-ups hid the candy and how to work the TV. But when 7pm rolls around they turn in the Tasmanian Devil and I have no idea what the fuck that is about. I find them exhausting and agonizing and annoying and heart-breaking and kind and brutal and beautiful.

I think they make life fantastic and endlessly complicated. I wouldn’t even begin to tell you what you should do when it comes to having children because I cannot imagine a more personal thing than that. We’d never tell someone how to chew their food, or how to poop, or how to comb their hair, but for some reason, we feel it’s okay to weigh in on whether or not they should make themselves responsible for another sentient human being. And then, if they chose to have that sentient human being, we somehow feel that we have the right to weigh on how they should raise them EVEN IF WE ARE WHOLLY UNQUALIFIED TO DO SO.

The only thing that I truly feel strongly about is that if you really want kids, and for some reason can’t have them, then that fucking sucks. And I am so, so sorry. I wish I could hug you and then we could have a good cry and eat ice cream out of the container and watch old episodes of Star Trek until you feel better (wait, do other people watch Star Trek when they’re sad? Yes, they must).

And that when my friends do have children and still manage to hang out once every six months or so, or return an email, or are able to get the grocery shopping done and maybe take a shower over the course of several days, I’m damn impressed, because I can barely do any of that and I don’t have a tiny demanding roommate who wakes up screaming in my face several times over the course of a night.

But there is a small percentage of people on either side of the debate who are basically being dickbags about this whole thing, and I feel like they’re ruining things for the rest of us.  I would like to address those folks now.

Ahem …

—————

TO THE SMALL PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WITH CHILDREN WHO THINK THAT EVERYONE – ME INCLUDED – ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NEEDS TO HAVE THEM:

Firstly, my uterus would like to note that she appreciates all of your concern. She’s doing just dandy, except for when she decides to slough her inner lining monthly (which tends to coincide with any number of important events in my life) in what can best be described as an outtake from a particularly gory episode of Dexter.

And she would like to humbly request that you stop directing certain comments to us. I’m sure that none of these were meant maliciously (she is undecided on the matter), but they are not making us feel great about ourselves. Here is a brief sample:

“You’ll never understand love until you have kids.” Holy shit. This is poetically condescending. It’s also profoundly hurtful to tell someone that the depths of your emotions are far deeper than anything they’ve ever felt. Is every childless person just a sociopath, then? OH, AND ALSO, IT’S LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO DETERMINE IF YOU HAVE A GREATER CAPACITY FOR LOVE THAN I DO. I love my husband, I love my nephews and nieces, and I would fucking open my own veins for any one them if I thought it would make their lives better. I even love you, you belittling asshole, despite the fact that you say shit like this to me. So don’t tell me I don’t understand love, because the fact that you still have your head attached to your neck says otherwise.

“You don’t know what real stress is.” Yeah, you’re right. My paralyzing anxiety and history of depression are probably just me being self-centered. Thanks!

“You have got to have kids.” I’m always amused when people say this, as though it’s a novel idea and not something that society has been hurtling at me since those tender years before I even menstruated. This notion circles in my head on a daily basis. But you know what? I don’t, under any circumstances, have to do anything. It’s 4pm and I HAVEN’T YET SHOWERED TODAY.

“Well, some of us have children.” Someone said this as a means of shooting down my opinion. That person is an asshole.

“You and Rand would make great parents.” Thank you. Seriously. This is a sweet and kind thing to say. There are many other things I think I would be good at (a brief list: professional cake eater; kitten masseuse; mistress to Daveed Diggs), but likewise, these are skills that will go unrealized.

“You might not want them now, but just you wait!” Thanks for your insight on huge life decisions. You’re right. At the age of 35, I probably just don’t know myself well enough.

“How could you do that to your husband?” or “You just haven’t met the right guy.” The number of women who told me they got comments like this is ASTONISHING. Apparently, if we don’t want kids, it’s 1.) something that we are depriving our partners of and 2.) because of problems we’ve had dating. I can’t even imagine what my gay friends must hear.

“I wish I had your life” or “Must be nice” or basically anything that sort of passive aggressively says that my life is a cake walk. You know what? I could say the exact same things about your life, and your kid. So I guess we’re even.

“Don’t adopt.” Here is what happens: I will be made aware, by some generous soul who thinks that I don’t know rudimentary human biology, that my “time to have a baby is running out.” OH MY GOD THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME THAT MY INSIDES ARE SLOWLY TURNING TO DUST. Awesome. (Also? My time may already be up, assholes.) And when I note that we can always adopt if we decide we want to become parents, I have actually been told that I shouldn’t because “it’s not the same.” Fuck these people to the darkest corners of hell.

“Have you thought about freezing your eggs?” Have you thought about not vocalizing every thought that enters your mind?

“When you guys have kids …” Nope. Nope. Stop making it sound like a given.

“You wouldn’t understand. You don’t have kids.” A while back, someone close to us was describing a cancer scare they had. They were telling us about those few scary days when they were waiting to find out their results, and I replied that was something that Rand and I knew well. “Oh, no,” they said. “No. It’s totally different when you are a parent.” And I sat there, stunned. I was so overcome with anger, I could barely speak. Dismissing your friend’s hardships and cancer scares because they don’t have kids? That’s a really shitty thing to do. And when does it end? Are the emotions of a father of four more important than a mother of two? Are my opinion and my feelings and my experiences so entirely different because I don’t have children? Fuck anyone that creates a hierarchy based on shit like this.

“You’re being selfish.” Huh. Yeah. I’m a selfish jerk. I guess I should have kids. Wait, NO.

“Who will take care of you when you’re older?” Seriously? That’s your healthcare plan for your golden years? Considering that I just saw your toddler bite the head off a Barbie, you might want to rethink that.

“So … are you guys even able to have kids?” I don’t know – maybe we’re doing it wrong? I’ll send you a few videos and you can critique our form.

—————

Now, I understand that the flip side of this is that there are plenty of people who don’t have kids who are complete and utter assholes towards people who do. And I would like to speak to them, now.

ATTENTION, MY BARREN BROTHERS AND SISTERS!

KIDDING! KIDDING! Please put down that blunt object. Instead, how about we collectively make the following promises to our friends who have children:

We will not dispense parenting advice unless it is explicitly asked for. And guess what? IT WILL NOT BE ASKED FOR. Because the vast majority of us don’t actually have a FUCKING CLUE what we are talking about. Likewise, we are not allowed to give astronauts advice about what they should do in space because we “read an article about it” or watched Interstellar a dozen times. Nor can you perform surgery because you’ve seen every episode of ER. Just sit back and be quiet while your pals are trying to calm a raging human who may be covered in poo, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT HELPING.

When we want to see our friends with kids, we realize that means bringing over take-out at some ungodly early hour, that the meal might be interrupted by a tornado of crazy toddlering, and that we should get the hell out by 9:45 because that kid wakes up at the ass crack of dawn and doesn’t give a shit as to whether or not Mommy and Daddy are hungover. We acknowledge that any time spent with our friends might be squeezed between naps, interrupted by a torrent of “why” questions, and may involve a lot of bodily fluids. And we will do it anyway because in some disturbing way it makes us nostalgic for college.

When we have our friends over, we will not get upset when their kids touch/drool on/destroy things, because honestly, if we didn’t want it to get touched/drooled on/destroyed we should have put it away before they came over.

We will not compare parenthood to owning a pet. (I didn’t actually even know this was a thing.  SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE? NO.) As my friend Sara put it, “I don’t know too many babies that can be left in a crate all day.” Also, puppies don’t wear diapers and are WAY easier to feed.

Although, admittedly, I laughed so hard at this I nearly peed:

We will not highlight all the wonderful things that our friends used to do that are now more difficult or exhausting or flat out impossible because they are at the mercy of a wee diapered dictator.

We will babysit when they are in a bind. They, in turn, agree to be cool with us feeding their children candy and teaching them how to swear in other languages.

Later, I taught him how to say obscene things in Italian. It was real cute.

We will offer to help. Sometimes we will achieve this simply by shutting up. Other times, we will ask what we can do, or grab one of the twins before she turns completely feral in the grocery store or help put the lid on a sippy cup while they are trying to hold a toddler because THEY DON’T HAVE THREE HANDS.

We will ask to see photos of the wee ones and squeal about how goddamn cute they are.

“Well, you’re the one who decided to have kids.” Nope. No. No. We won’t even think about saying this.

We will absolutely not get weirded out when, after decades of friendship, we see our friend’s boobs doing what boobs are supposed to do. And if we are in public we will shoot eye daggers at anyone who gives a breastfeeding mother a dirty look.

We will never tell our friends to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Because we know that 1.) it’s not that simple and 2.) THE BABY DOESN’T ACTUALLY SLEEP.

We will not judge our parent-friends for: using formula/breastfeeding/buying disposable diapers/having food on their clothes/being unwashed/letting their kid use an iPad for several dozen hours/forgetting their child’s name/forgetting our name. (Actually, this is just a good rule for everyone, everywhere.)

“Was he/she planned?” Again, I didn’t even know this was a thing, but sweet Jesus, do not ask your friends if their child was conceived intentionally or not. At the point where the baby is a real live person, I can assure you, it does not fucking matter. (Ditto with the whole “Did you have IVF?” “Do twins run in your family?” Did you mean to space them so far apart?”)

“Are you having more?” Remember how annoying it was when we were badgered about not having children? Congratulations. You’ve become everything you hate.

—————

As I was working on this post, I sent out a couple of tweets and started a Facebook discussion about the topic. The experiences relayed to me from both sides made me a little stabby.

Most of us, I found, were told the same thing over and over again.

 

The one thing that bonded us all together was this: nearly all of us had had our opinions disparaged or our feelings dismissed. Nearly all of us had people who were entirely unempathetic to our situation. Sometimes, the ramifications of this were devastating.

And that’s when I realized something: the line of demarcation in this supposed conflict isn’t between parents and the childless people. It’s a result of people on both sides of the issue being insensitive to others.

In our diametric culture of good and bad, us vs. them, it’s much easier to look at it as two warring factions. I’m guilty of this as well – in creating this post, I divided everyone into two groups and addressed them separately.

The root of this problem isn’t about whether or not you have kids. It’s about being decent to one another, and respecting someone else’s life and the choices that they’ve made (or the ones they’ve been unable to make), even when they are radically different from your own. There’s no war. There’s just people being shitty to one another because they’re looking for external validation for really big life questions that don’t have a clear answer.

But putting down someone else’s choices won’t legitimize yours. Telling someone that they have to live their lives in the exact same way as you have won’t eliminate your doubts.

Instead, what we need to do is be empathetic to one another. To remember that we aren’t all the same, and that what’s good for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. It’s why we have different television channels and ice cream flavors and why everyone has a different favorite Beatle, even though George is obviously the best one.

It’s why some of us have children and some of us have pets and some of us have miniature York peppermint patties in the freezer. It’s why we all we need to be respectful of the opinions of others, and kind to those we care about, no matter how different they or their lives are.

I hope you join me in this effort to be less of an insensitive dipshit when it comes to the topic of having kids.

Do it for the children.

And my uterus.

—————

P.S. – Thank you to everyone who helped out on this post. I am so angry by some of the b.s. you have to put up with (seriously, what the hell is wrong with speaking to a child in multiple languages?!). You are all wonderful.

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  • Jodi Chase

    Fantastic post, I love it! To sum up: don’t be an asshole. Also, live and let live.

  • L. Unger

    gold.

  • http://www.somethingsaturdays.com/the-blog.html Elizabeth @Something Saturdays

    Awesome. Just awesome.

  • disqus_JCuGJwkD8g

    I’m in a bit of a halfway situation. I’ve been married 5 years but we decided to wait to have kids. Kids were always in the plan but we wanted to enjoy our marriage just the 2 of us for a while. Everyone knows we want kids eventually but they NEED TO KNOW WHEN. They just cannot go on with their lives without this information.

    I also find it funny how marriage flips the switch so quickly from DO NOT HAVE KIDS OUT OF WEDLOCK to GIVE ME GRANDBABIES NOW! Dude, get out of my sexlife.

  • http://www.emetrics.org/ Jim_Sterne

    Nieces and nephews are AWESOME!
    And yes, BTW, you *are* pooping wrong https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbYWhdLO43Q

  • https://twitter.com/Hihankara Hihankara

    1) My husband and I had theater tickets that we weren’t going to be able to use that night, so I offered them to a woman at work, who proceeded to scold me for being inconsiderate because didn’t I know she had kids and couldn’t just drop everything at the last minute?

    2) Some of the literature out there on this prefers “childfree.” I’m not sure I agree, certainly I’m not “less” for not having children, but I also don’t think of them as some kind of disease of which I am free (aka cancer-free, chicken pox free, tarantula free). Someone without kids and therefore possessing of a lot of idle time on their hands should invent a better word. 😉

  • http://seejulestravel.com/ SeeJulesTravel

    I love this post! I think my biggest pet peeve is when people assume you fall into the asshole group of either camp. After we had twins I felt like people kept expecting me to drop my childless friends or enter into some campaign to recruit everyone to the parent side. In truth, I couldn’t care less what other people do as long as it makes them happy. Also, as someone who loves her two twin toddlers to the moon and back I would like to add my vote in to the whole “don’t know love until you’ve had kids” debate. Love is love. Love your husband, love your parents, love your friends and love your kids or love other people’s kids. It’s all different but it’s all the same. Love is love and if you know any love, you are lucky.

    • Everywhereist

      That last line made me a little bit teary. Totally agree!

    • https://www.glasselements.org Marja Huhta

      That last line… perfection. Thank you for sharing!

    • http://camelsandchocolate.com/ Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate

      This is so perfectly put, Jules! I love everything about your approach to love =)

  • Kelsey Ann Yoki

    This post = amazing. I have so many thoughts in my mind, but all I want to say is thank you. I feel a lot of the comments regarding not having kids at my work, and each time just find it to be so disheartening. Being as empathic as I am, it is even hard for me to take in that someone is able to say any comment about it to me. And this: ““You don’t know what real stress is.” Yeah, you’re right. My paralyzing anxiety and history of depression are probably just me being self-centered. Thanks!”. This is EXACTLY the response I want to say back. I remember watching a talk (can’t remember if is was TED or not…) but she centered it around “hard is hard”, and that has resonated with me ever since, especially when you can interchange it with “busy is busy” and “stress is stress”. It has the power to bring us back down, and stop comparing. Because – at the end of the day – aren’t we all just trying to survive in this crazy, beautiful life?

    • Andi Plummer

      Yes- to the work comment! I always feel like certain people at my work think “well she can stay and work late because she doesn’t have kids, so we can leave at 4PM everyday”. Just doesn’t seem fair..dump all the work on the single woman because obviously her life is easier and less busy?

      • Kelsey Ann Yoki

        YES. This is totally my life. What a freakin’ relief to know I’m not alone in this. I’m always the last one here, and I realize being the newest person/lowest on the totem pole, I would be the one to stay late. But wouldn’t it be nice to leave early just once in a blue moon?

    • Everywhereist

      Yup. I totally agree. Grief is grief, love is love, stress is stress. But then again, I don’t have kids, so what do I know? 😉

      • Kelsey Ann Yoki

        EXACTLY. It is like since I’m not married (yet) and don’t have kids, I know nothing in this world.

  • http://camelsandchocolate.com/ Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate

    This is going on my permanent copy-and-paste shortcut because I can see responding in a thousand different scenarios with this link.

    Thank you for saying what’s been on my mind for, oh, 10 years now. (Also, this is why we’re friends. But you knew that already.)

  • J Tidrick

    Love this- the one thing I always found interesting is even if you have one kid, people always want to know when you are having the next one. I had a nurse ask me this after my son was born, via emergency c section, like an hour after the emergency c section. There is always something that someone wants to know, that is none of their business, While I would love grandchildren someday, if either of my kids decides they don’t want children, I vow not to take it as a personal affront to their childhood and will understand it is their life choice. (It is in writing now) I am completely supportive of childless persons as well as those who decide to have a single child ( the horror!!!) and those who choose to have 5 children or more

  • Andrew

    As a father to an adopted 7 year old girl, I would absolutely murder anyone who dared to tell me “it’s not the same.”…… it just makes me rage even THINKING about the possibility! Sure… some things aren’t the same – some things are harder, some things are easier…. but the overall parent/child relationship is exactly the same. Grrrrrrr… stupid people.

    • Everywhereist

      I know! It’s the one thing that makes me more rageful than anything else. Wait, is rageful a word? Anyway, it is now.

  • motomotoyama

    Celeste has said that I should have kids because I would make a great dad. I think she’s probably right about that.

    • Everywhereist

      Bwah ha ha ha ha ha. I love this.

  • michellers66

    We will not dispense parenting advice unless it is explicitly asked for.

    Even if you are a parent, do not give parenting advice. You are just trying to humble brag about how awesome your parenting is and how great your kids are and it sucks to hear it in a moment when your own parenting and/or child might not be fabulous.

    • http://www.nulldevice.com nulldevice

      The flip side is, of course, when you *are* explicitly asked for advice, and the answer isn’t one they want to hear. Then it’s all “well, you couldn’t possibly understand.”

      Then again, the first movie my nephew and I watched together was “Jaws” (he loved it, btw, and now sings the theme song whenever he gets in a pool) so maybe my judgement is always just suspect.

  • disqus_INGXYWF8w2

    As a mother (a phrase I cannot stand) this was a brilliant post. Me and my husband are in the position that we started having children very young. Now in our 30s none of our friends have children or any plans to have them. As none of us are dicks we all get on perfectly well despite this.

  • Kristine

    Best take I’ve seen on this topic yet. Thanks Geraldine. And as a 44 year old married woman with 3 cats, I can tell you I’ve read them/heard it all.

  • Jill

    Love love love this post, Geraldine! I’ve got another part to add: the experienced parent talking to the parent-to-be. We’re expecting our first and the condescending, patronizing crap I’ve already had to hear is infuriating. Questions about what I plan to do about birth/breastfeeding/being a working mom/daycare/vaccinations/etc. etc. and then replying with passive-aggressive answers such as “Oh, you want to use cloth diapers? Pssh…I tried that but BELIEVE ME, after a week, you’ll change your mind.” I refuse to go on Mom chat groups or follow Mom blogs because it’s just a constant barrage of “this is what I did, and if you aren’t doing the same, your kids are probably going to grow up to be deformed psychopaths.” So in closing, you’re right. It’s not just two camps against each other. It’s everyone being insecure about their life choices and seeing the opinions and decisions of others as a threat somehow. I’m nervous how my childless friends will be once this kiddo arrives, but I’m keeping this blog post in my back pocket for comfort. <3

    • http://seejulestravel.com/ SeeJulesTravel

      This. This drove me crazy. And now I’ve been a mom to twins for a year and a half and I still can’t imagine ever trying to give any parent-to-be advice other than that you’ll be just fine. The one I hated the most was when people told me to get sleep now because I won’t get any when the babies arrived. That one drove me crazy. Sleep doesn’t work that way; you can’t bank hours – they’re just being annoying. Congrats!

    • Dr. Pete

      As a parent of two who sometimes realizes a couple of minutes too late that I’ve gone from sincerely trying to be helpful to being a condescending ass, I’d like to apologize to you and all parents-to-be.

  • Chris L

    Great post. FWIW, our deliberately childless friends have been some of the best aunts and uncles to our two children and some of the best sources of support for us as parents – often more so than fellow parents.

    • JessLHutton

      As one of those aunts, thank you. It’s hard to know how to help or when or even if what I’m offering does help. I love other people’s kids, but may not ever have my own. #AuntJess

  • Carrie Jo Dowd

    I didn’t discover until AFTER I had my daughter (via IVF and a surrogate carrying her) that there are apparently a “right” number of children to have: two-to–three. Four kids are acceptable (particularly if the first three are the same gender), but you start getting the question “You’re done now, right?” My friend with nine kids (9!!!) is constantly asked if she knows how to use birth control…because of course she couldn’t have a big family because she WANTS one?

    Having an only child, I’m constantly told, “You have to have another one.”

    For a long time, I tried to be nice about it. Now I answer the nasty way and say: “Well, we tried to have more. We wanted more. But after spending over fifty grand, having two miscarriages, and two more failed IVF transfers, we decided our daughter needed emotionally sane parents who weren’t going into unmanageable debt more than she needed a sibling. Do you still want to discuss this with me?”

    I obviously wanted my daughter, but I get why someone would want to skip being responsible for a sentient human being who cannot use the toilet on their own and doesn’t understand the concept of sleeping in.

    Loved your post. Every word of it. And if I knew you and you offered to babysit my kid, I wouldn’t care how much candy you gave her…but I admit I wouldn’t know whether to laugh or be horrified if she knew how to swear in Italian.

    • Everywhereist

      I dunno, have you ever heard kids cuss in Italian? It’s pretty adorable.

    • http://seejulestravel.com/ SeeJulesTravel

      I think you should answer the nasty way… it’s the only people will learn. After about a million inquiries into whether or not I was breastfeeding my twins I wished I had the guts to start asking something equally personal and inappropriate like if their bowel movements were regular.

  • http://sarahlynndesign.com Sarah Shuda

    Wonderful post Geraldine! Don’t even get me started on all of the amazing things people say when you are having trouble having kids. We’re going through fertility treatments and it’s been a JOY. Here are a few things that have been said to me…

    1- When I’m done having kids, I’ll carry your child for you (even though I’m fully capable!).

    2- Just relax and quit trying so hard.

    3 – Have faith (yes because praying makes babies)

    4 – Just adopt, then you’ll get pregnant right after! (adoption can cost more than IVF, in case you were curious. You can’t just go to the baby store.)

    Don’t give advice if someone you know is going through fertility treatments. Listen if they want you to listen and ask questions to show you care.

    Thanks for writing this! I’m sharing it in hopes others will begin to see every side of the great kids debate.

    • Andrew

      Oh man….. you’re bringing me back to all the dumb crap we were told when we were going through IUI and IVF. #2 always really infuriated me so hard. But I need to add:

      5 – At least you’re having fun trying, right? (as if all we did was have carefree sex all the time, and it wasn’t a series of stressful waiting and monthly heartbreak)

  • Kimm Viebrock

    Spot on. Exactly this.

    Oh, and if you want to add an addendum for stepparenting, I’d be happy to help out on that one.

  • Lauren U

    Shortly after my best friend had her first baby, my dad said to me “isn’t it nice that she’s still friends with you?” Naturally, I burst into tears.

  • http://SEOAware.com/ Melissa Fach @SEOAware

    Great article as always, and please ignore the ignorant and tell them they are idiots for us 🙂

    Maybe you could write another article for those of us that are adopted. When I read “don’t adopt” above I was crushed, again. People talk about adopted children in front of me all the time. As someone that is adopted, and deals with some of the issues that come with that, it hurts me to consistently hear that adopted kids are nothing but a problem…or that my mom really isn’t my mom, despite the fact that she has had me since I was hours old. I would do anything for my mom and I love her more than I could express, but I have heard from kids, parents, teachers and relatives that it would have been better for me to be with my birth mom (who was 13 when she had me and had multiple kids she gave away).

    My MOM was always so afraid to tell people I was adopted because people told her she was not a real mom and she had no idea what it was like to be one. She cried all the time over things people said. People are so ignorant and stupid.

    I have heard how adopted kids have a rough life because they were never wanted my entire life. That helps a kid’s self-esteem.

    But what I really love is when people say adopted kids are low achievers and I get to give them the bird and say I have a B.A and M.A., created my own business, own my home free and clear, and they can kiss my extremely intelligent, adopted ass. Someone needs to write on this topic 🙂

    • JessLHutton

      My husband and I agreed before we were married that if we ever felt we wanted kids, we would only adopt. There are so many sweet, amazing, strong kids in this world that just need a home (and so many who are hurt, frustrated, and more that ALSO need a home) – and we have a home and so much love to give. I am SHOCKED at the things people feel they have a right or reason to say, especially to a child. Thanks for putting them all to shame by being such an awesome human being!

      • http://SEOAware.com/ Melissa Fach @SEOAware

        Thank you 🙂

    • Daria Darnell

      “Someone needs to write on this topic” – I think that someone should be you. Well said.

      • http://SEOAware.com/ Melissa Fach @SEOAware

        If I had a site like this where people would listen I would. 🙂

      • http://SEOAware.com/ Melissa Fach @SEOAware

        I may write it on Medium, Daria. You have inspired me 🙂 Not sure anyone will see it though.

    • http://seejulestravel.com/ SeeJulesTravel

      That breaks my heart for both you and your mom. I understand not always knowing the right thing to say, but for someone to say such blatantly cruel things is just crazy to me.

    • Gail Tighe

      As another adoptee, I found that comment very hurtful as well. I have heard so many insensitive comments over the years, from my Aunt telling me it was ridiculous for me to want to know more about my birth parents to a close friend implying that my adoptive parents were saints for taking a poor unwanted baby into their lives. It’s a complicated issue for everyone involved. Why do people feel the need to make it harder by feeling free to voice their ignorant, insensitive views?

    • Kiki

      My husband is adopted and your comment really struck a cord with me. My husbands parents let him know from the get go that he was adopted and read him bedtime stories about how loved and wanted he was, how they chose him, how special he was. I cannot understand anyone saying adopted kids are unwanted while potential parents are jumping through hoops to get them, adoptees are pretty much the most desired kids on this planet!

      Having said that my husband definelty struggles with being accepted within his own family and that makes me hurt for him. His family is full of very accomplished people, he has so many amazing talents but earning a mba isn’t one of them. I wish they would back off him for a minute and accept that it’s not in his dna to be an engineer / CEO.

  • Adina Marguerite

    That “when you have kids” comment makes me absolutely crazy! I feel like I’ve been hearing it since I was a teenager and as a married adult it makes me even more crazy now that I have the life experience to know that it’s just not all that easy for all of us to have kids! This one is insulting both for those who are trying to have kids and those who have opted not to. It’s so the worst!!

  • netmeg

    Everything inside my skin is my business and only my business. Luckily there’s a lot more stuff going on outside my skin than there is inside, and people are free to opine on that.

  • Jenna Francisco

    Thank you for all the love that comes out of this post. And honestly, after all the nasty words that people say about kids, I was happy to see the nice things you said about them. 🙂
    You are right, we are ALL wonderful and the root of any “conflict” could be solved with having more decency and respect. I have two kids but have lots of childless friends and honestly don’t understand why either side would attack the other.

  • jerrycolonna

    “You are all wonderful.” Oh my…you’re the wonderful angel here for saying things from so many views with love and humor. Thanks.

  • Ariel Altamirano

    Why do people have to watch Star Trek when they’re sad? Please tell me. Nice post..

    • Everywhereist

      Because it’s an awesome show and it makes everyone feel better. I think it’s because you get to glimpse the future and see that things turn out okay.

  • Gigi

    This is seriously THE SINGLE MOST BEST post I’ve ever read! And it could apply to much more than the parent/childless debate, i.e. politics, religion, working parent vs. stay at home mom, *insert any other issue here*.

  • Everywhereist

    Honestly, you are kinder than I would have been. I’d probably have started yelling right then and there. But I’m kind of a jerk. Good for you for being calm when you needed to be, and voicing your thoughts later.

  • http://www.zandria.us/ Zandria

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said (I’m 35 and childfree as well). I think the most discussion I ever received on a blog post was when I wrote “I’m 35 and I Don’t Know if I Want a Baby.”

    http://www.zandria.us/archives/main/2015/04/20/im-35-dont-know-if-want-baby/

  • http://www.bellebellebeauty.com Lindsay

    Beautifully written and thoughtfully unbiased. Thank you!

  • http://stressandstars.blogspot.com/ Katie

    Wait just a damn second.

    Is being childless NOT an orgy-filled booze cruise?!

  • Lisa @ The Drifting Desk

    Wow! Reading this was pretty life changing. I think jules epic last line in her comment sums it up nicely, along with the part of your post that said “The root of this problem isn’t about whether or not you have kids.” Decency, above all, wins.

  • Stacy Egan

    This is great…as someone that gets bluntly asked multiple times a week “so when are you having kids?” by perfect strangers, I wish everyone cared about my uterus a lot less.

  • Sharon Henry

    Ha! Excellent post and I feel your pain. I too am childless and I’m 42. The worst I’ve been told is, “Ah you can’t feel like being a proper woman until you’ve had children.” WTF?!!

  • Jennifer

    You are such a beautiful, brilliant woman! Thank you for sharing your wit and insight with the world! I could go on and on about this subject, but you have said all so perfectly. I wish you and your handsome man all the happiness and good health in the world. Please don’t ever stop writing!

  • Aliza Earnshaw

    You know, some people really do tell others “how to chew their food, or how to poop, or how
    to comb their hair.” I think I may have done it a few times myself (rueful facial expression). I’m really glad you wrote this post.

  • http://grace-filled.net jen

    Another level of hell is people who tell me how to parent my kiddo who has special needs. When he was diagnosed with autism, I actually had to spell out on my Facebook that unless you a.) have a kiddo on the spectrum or b.) have an advanced degree in Behavioral Sciences, I don’t want your advice. I’ve joked about marketing a shirt that reads: ‘”Yes, my kid is autistic. Yes, we vaccinated them. No, they are not on the GAPS diet. Please go away.” The scary thing: I know people who would buy it!

    • Gail Tighe

      Oh yeah. If I had a nickel for every piece of unsolicited advice I’ve received on parenting my ADHD kid, I would be a rich woman.

  • Ana Wolsztajn

    Hi there, I just wanted to thank you for this fantastic and well balanced article. As 1/2 of a childless couple in their mid/late 30s, I experienced all the silly/infuriating questions and it’s awesome how you managed to wrap it all up together and speak up for both sides, really. The truth is, there are two sides: those with empathy vs sociopaths, the latter group having nothing to do with the lack of the outspring, rather the lack of sensitivity.

  • http://www.countrymouseclaire.com Claire @ Country Mouse Claire

    This piece is brilliant. Here’s to laying down our weapons and just trying to be as awesome to one another as we can.

    • Jessica Voigts

      Perfect answer. And I agree…

  • http://runslikeaporkchop.blogspot.co.uk/ Jen

    Oh goodness, I get that “you’ll change your mind” ALL THE TIME. I reply by asking them if they love their child and when they say yes, I’ll tell them they’ll change their mind about that.

    • Everywhereist

      Holy shit, that’s evil and brilliant.

  • http://www.tagalongtravel.com Tag Along Travel

    Great post. I have to say that my husband and I, who are child free by choice, have not experienced much overt criticism about our status. Occasionally people used to say that we would make great parents/have beautiful kids, but that’s pretty tame. Now, at 48 years old, the question of “will they have kids?” is pretty much past so you have that to look forward to. 🙂

  • Gail Tighe

    Wow, such a great post. It has always astonished me (both before I got pregnant with my only child at 30 and after I had him) how insensitive people can be about such a personal issue. And don’t even get me started on the working mom vs. stay at home mom wars. Sheesh!

    I also TOTALLY agree with you about George. How can there even be a debate about that?!

  • Whitney Cooper

    Amen – add on the stigma when you find yourself single in your LATE twenties/ early thirties after the end of a long term relationship AND no kids… clearly indicating we have chosen the life of spinsterhood and barrenness, or that we’re just plain emotionally/socially inept, and there is, in fact, no hope.

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/ozairakhtar Ozair Akhtar

    Whenever I see Rand & Geraldine, I used to memorize when will the time come for me? When I can take my wife (a content writer) and me (a digital marketer) to places we both wanted to be and have a Child (a Girl or a Boy) of our own instead of playing with others kids :p

    If anyone is reading this comment. I just have a small request to him/her. Please pray for us that we both get married soon 🙂

    I wish both Rand & Geraldine will live a happy 7 prosperous life in future too.
    Thanks <3

  • Alison Kretschmar

    Fantastic! You are exactly right – it’s dickheads vs lovelies – having a child has nothing to do with it!

    I have a couple of awfuls to add:

    A friend told my sis & I that she was quite happy to give herself internal injuries having 3 kids in 4 years, because kids are badly adjusted & horrible if they are too far apart. Sis is 8 years younger than me…

    But the best was just for me – I have a severe auto immune disease which prevents me having kids. One Dr told me that illnesses like mine occasionally disappear after having a child, so I should make it my priority to get pregnant ASAP. So, basically, despite my single status, my inability to get out of bed some days and the foetus harming drugs I take, I should endeavour to fall pregnant on the CHANCE it could work. What exactly am I supposed to do if it doesn’t? Who will look after the baby? What about the harmful drugs I take? And truly, ‘the pregnancy might cure me’ is not really the best reason to choose to have a child, now is it. Yet when I voiced these, he couldn’t figure out what I was concerned about!

    Oh, and I get a lot of corkers aimed at my relationship with my nephew – I couldn’t possibly ‘understand’ because he’s not mine. Yes he bloody is!

  • Paddlingbetty

    My husband and I will be Childfree (NOT CHILDLESS) for life. I am constantly told that I know nothing about being a parent because I am not one. I want to punch people in the face when I hear this. My best friends wife walked out on him when his youngest was just weeks old. It was just him and his 2 girls. The oldest was 4. I basically moved in with him and helped raise his daughters for 4 years. They eventually called me mom. I know how busy you get. I know the sleepless nights. I know how to raise a baby, how to do everything that a mom would do while raising her children. The oldest was 8 when he decided to move to mexico to be with his parents. I was devastated to lose the girls. I loved them like children. I had brought the oldest to school for the first time, the youngest to preschool. I helped teach her how to walk and talk and say her alphabet. I read bedtime stories, changed all the diapers and did the laundry. But yet I know nothing because I’ve never given birth.

  • http://www.buzzfarmers.com/ @Amaaanda

    This was hilarious. As a thirty-something non-parent, the commentary from new parents is so cliche’ apparently because I’ve heard everything in your list! But hey, I do compare a dog to a baby. I don’t give an eff. I spend 24 hours a day with my dog, work, vacations, everything. More time than most parents spend with their kids. So yeah, I compare being a dog owner to being a parent. Most parents who say you can’t compare don’t have dogs, or crate them 12 hours a day, so I don’t think that’s fair to say they know the comparison either. Then again, I like dogs more than humans most days. 🙂

  • Beth

    Awesome post. Thank you. A family member said to me, “Why would you want another kid?” while I was pregnant with said second kid. Does it matter?

    But yes, can’t we all just respect each other and the paths our lives have taken>

  • Dr. Pete

    I was almost 40 when we lost our first pregnancy three months in – on top of the pain of the loss, there was that horrible feeling that maybe it just wasn’t going to happen for us, maybe we had waited too long, and on and on. Brains can be dicks.

    In those couple of days, I had maybe the biggest moment of clarity in my life, and I could see three futures ahead of me, (1) a future where we got through the loss together, had a child, and were happy, (2) a future where we got through the loss together, couldn’t or didn’t have a child, and were happy, and (3) a future where we blamed each other, never healed, and love died. In that moment, I knew that the only thing that was important was doing everything I could to prevent (3) – whether we had a child or didn’t, we would still be us and we could still be happy.

    I think so much of our judgment is really self-judgment. We all struggle and have those moments of doubting our own decisions, and too often that’s when we double-down and attack anyone who made different decisions, because they feed our doubt. I do it plenty – I see someone with no kids or one kid or three kids, and I wonder if I’m doing it “wrong” (what a loaded word) and then I suddenly find myself rationalizing why my choice is right and their’s is wrong, because it’s easier than facing my own doubts.

    It’s in that moment that I try to remember that I made my choice for my own reasons, and it was just one of many choices in that moment and one of millions each of us gets to make. We’re all doing the best we can, and we need to ease up on ourselves and everyone else.

  • Brynn Utela

    HEART! Though aside from comments from my high school students in my small-town school, and the now far-more-frequent-than-I’ve-ever-heard-thus-far-in-my-life comments from my foreign exchange student/temporary teenage daughter from Spain, I have to say that I don’t get the “When are you going to have kids?” question much. Maybe because my friends, most of them at child-having at his point, are so damn cool. And I know their lives are inexplicably blessed, and inconceivably challenged because of those beautiful young people. And because I know I’ll make a great parent, if and when I decide to be one. But I haven’t decided. And I’m at peace with that. And my friends are at peace with that. And I have more energy to help out my friends who do have kids, and I get to snuggle with their 7-year-olds.
    Reading this just made me feel lucky. Lucky that my friends are amazing, that they have amazing children, and that I am super-confident in my own mind and choices. https://grownandgathered.wordpress.com/

  • Andy Parker

    This post is absolutely glorious. I long ago decided to treat a woman’s decision to have or not to have children the same as I treat a woman’s decision to have an abortion: it’s none of my business. I’ll support whatever decision she believes is best for her, and I’ll pass no judgments. Okay, now I have to share one of my own experiences…

    I have a tattoo that honors my decision not to have children…because I’ve known all my life that I never wanted to be a parent, and I’m proud that I stayed true to myself. Some months ago while I was buying groceries, the cashier noticed the tattoo and asked its meaning. As I explained, the woman who had just been laughing and carrying on a conversation with me turned to stone and didn’t say another word (except to tell me how much money I saved with my club card). I was genuinely stunned, and then I spent the next half hour listing the possible reasons why someone would be offended by my decision not to have children. Or it’s possible she just felt my tattoo is in poor taste. She might be right.

  • Zhivko Stanev

    It’s a great post. Seriously. I agree with it completely… almost. When parents say “you wouldn’t understand” and “it’s not the same when you’re a parent”, I’d suggest you believe them. They know what it’s like to not be a parent and they can actually compare. It doesn’t necessarily have to be better, or harder, or anything… just accept that it’s different.

    I have never been able to understand the idea of having children being something mandatory. In fact, I always encourage my friends, who don’t feel like having kids, to stand their ground. I am pretty certain that having kids just because your parents/friends told you you should, would result in an unhappy life for you, your spouse and your children.

    By the way, there is a /r/childfree/ where some amazing stories on this topic are told…

  • http://twobackpacksoneadv.com Francesca Collins

    Yes! Unfortunately I am guilty of comparing child care to puppy care.. oops!!
    But, it does drive me nuts to get the comments about needing to have a child someday.

  • Erin

    This is such an important post and conversation! Just like the world needs parents, it also needs awesome adults who don’t have children! Those are the adults who make the best aunts & uncles and buddies and godparents and friends and everything else in between.

  • http://gigigriffis.com/ Gigi Griffis

    Yes, yes, yes!

    Thank you for this post. Let’s all just be kind to each other, shall we?

  • Cathie Wilson

    As a “late bloomer”, I’ve had both sides of the coin (and I have to admit to having said some of the sillier things, but only in a moment of drunken and/or sleep-deprivation induced stupidity). And I now have twins, so I get all the bonus questions as well. Hoo-fucking-ray for me. You know they mean well (they think they do), so you have to bite your tongue instead of saying what you really think (which is “Fuck You, Fucktard. Keep your ignorant fucking opinions to yourself!”).

  • Kait

    I love this more than you know!! Newest follower 🙂

  • Becca

    Omg I love this post so much! We’ve been trying to get pregnant for almost six years now. My answers to questions regarding when we’re having kids have evolved. At first I would dodge the question and be vague but then I would be open and tell people that we haven’t been able to get pregnant. Those questions have now stopped. But those don’t bother me near as much as the comments I get after sharing our struggles.

    I once had a woman (in one of my classes in my masters COUNSELING classes) tell me that if we are having trouble getting pregnant it’s because I need to work on my relationship with my husband and with God. She said to my face that God doesn’t give children to people that can’t raise their kids to go to heaven. Later in the semester when she disagreed with my opinion on our group project, she rolled her eyes and announced to the group that I don’t know because I don’t have children.

    I know that a lot of people don’t understand and I can be patient with the comments like, “it will happen when it’s supposed to.” I disagree with your comment but I know you aren’t trying to be hurtful. But that woman from my counseling class? I don’t think I’ll ever forget her words. I really hope she isn’t a counselor now.

    However, I’ve also had so many people rally behind me and those people have kept me going. Those are the people I focus on. Fuck the others.

  • Kiki

    My people! Just turned 33. Husband and I probably will have kids but we are planning an out of state move and want to get settled first. I gained 10 pounds over the holidays (way too much indulging!) A few weeks ago a person who works in my building patted my stomach and asked when I was due. Awkward! At least it got my butt back in the gym!

  • http://www.smallworldthisis.com Julia-Small World This Is

    Thank you for this. As someone on the fence about children, it is refreshing to hear an honest viewpoint on the whole topic.