Childfree (again)

People are really pissed off at Shelly Horton.

Likewise at Holly Brockwell.

In fact, those two women have been subjected to more vitriol online than what I’ve seen directed at newbies in the gaming community back in the early days of social media, and that is enough to keep shrinks busy for a long time.

So what did those two women do that was so horrible, you ask?

Because they dared to say it out loud: Not all women want kids, and it’s our choice and right to be sterilized.

Oh, how near and dear this topic is to me.

I’ve not made a secret of my childfree leanings from an early age. My mom’s favorite story to tell is when I said, at twelve, that I’m never having a family or children.Honestly, I don’t even remember that incident, or if I do, I can’t tell you under which circumstances I said it. But the fact remains is that as I got older, I realized that it’s actually very much optional and not at all required in life to have a child. Of course, my ex-husband had a vastly different idea of what I was saying, and it’s one of the reasons he ended up as an ex.

Here’s the deal: you can’t have half a kid. You also can’t have a kid if one party is willing and the other is not. Depending on which party caves to the desires of the other, there is no winner at all if the decision to have a child is not wholly and mutually and completely agreed upon. In life, there are dealbreakers, and this tops the list.

And nonetheless, there is a marked pro-natalist attitude in the world that it’s absolutely no big deal if someone wants a child – regardless of their circumstances in life, whether or not the environment they’re in is conducive for a baby, etc. – but if a woman so much as hiccups about how she doesn’t want a child… well, you have seen that with the vitriol that Holly Brockwell was subjected to.

Seriously. A teenager in high school wants a baby, she gets thrown a baby shower. A twenty-something with a great career and life does not want a baby, and everyone loses their collective shit.

Seriously?

Let me just say the obvious here: if you never once asked someone why they want kids and are quick to lose it when someone says they don’t, then you’re a hypocrite, bar none.

If you are able to support someone having a kid when they have no business having a kid, then your excuses for not supporting the opposite side of the spectrum are wholly and completely invalid. If you get offended at the mere idea of the decision of having kids being questioned – which, incidentally, is why next to no one ever asks, “So why did you have kids?” – then what right, exactly, have you to denigrate those who are on the opposite side? Zip. Zero. None. So can it.

Every time I bring this up, people always go, “It’s your right not to have kids. Why do you have to talk about it?”

Look up some of the things that Holly Brockwell had to go through. That’s why we talk about it. Until we can say, publicly, outright, “I don’t want and don’t like kids” and not be vilified for it within five seconds, don’t expect this topic to go away.

I’ve said it before, very openly, and I’ll say it again: I’m glad I’m sterile, and I’m lucky as all ever-loving hell that I had a relatively short battle in order to get the surgery. My old doctor was going to do it, but he retired, and his replacement did not take a lot of convincing. I walked into the office armed with documentation supporting the benefits of not having children on a long-term and short-term basis, and laid it out on the table.

His reply: “Surgical or non-surgical?”

I was 23.

And oh yeah, I had some serious backlash about it. Can’t tell you just how many people thought I was straight-up insane. I’ve lost friends over this. I’ve had people laugh me out of a conversation when I said I was going to get this done – people I thought were friends of mine. My mother’s reaction I won’t even begin on; at the time you’d have thought I was committing some sort of a capital offense, the way she reacted. And of course, right up until the anesthesiologist knocked me out, I was asked, “Are you absolutely sure you won’t regret this?”

And I still went through and got it done. Recovery took a couple of days. I took almost no pain meds.

But here’s the thing: even right now, at 31, at the age where everyone and their best friend thinks that my bio-clock will go off and I’d cry rivers of tears for the fact that I never had kids, I have never once had a flicker of doubt that I made the right decision.

Regret is arbitrary, and is not at all measured equally across both sides of the kids question. Everyone wants to know whether or not sterilized people grow to regret their decisions, but if you take so much as a look at any anonymous mommy forum, you will quickly see many more examples of parents regretting their decision to become parents. And let me tell you: absolutely nothing makes a person feel worse than resenting their own kids’ mere existence. And it’s not that they don’t love their kids; they just wish they made a different decision while they had the opportunity.

And that’s. the. entire. point. of why this vitriol directed at childfree women is complete BS. Because it’s. a. choice. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up: to have a child or to not have a child is. completely. optional. But the sides are not equal. Having a child and then regretting the decision is infinitely worse and far more damaging than not having a child, because the effect of the decision on the individual making it is vastly different.

Not having kids can always be rectified. Look at Janet Jackson. Age doesn’t stop her from pumping her body full of hormones and using a donor embryo. But if you have kids and don’t want them, or if you have kids only to discover that being a parent is your idea of a nightmare, then what? Because that is the real irreversible decision. A tubal ligation only affects the woman getting it. A vasectomy affects the man who gets it, and no more. But having a child you later end up regretting affects everyone: both parents and the child. And everyone else in the family who is involved with the child.

So once again: exactly what reason is there to direct vitriol at childfree women like Holly Brockwell? Like myself? Because you know, there’s a hell of a lot more of them than you care to think, and truly: unless you’re directly affected by their decisions (hint: you’re probably not), why the backlash?

After all, we don’t do the same to parents, except for expecting them to raise a well-mannered kid who doesn’t get too crazy when they hit their teens.

And also, some people question why I use childfree instead of childless. Let’s make this clear right here and right now: Women are not “less” any-damn-thing because they don’t have a child. The term childless implies that something is missing. Childfree is much more appropriate – free from the responsibilities, the work, and the endless, sleepless nights of worry that children bring. I have enough sleepless nights worrying about my very much grown friends and family. I don’t need extra.

Let’s not downplay having children to a “biological impulse” – seriously, it’s also a biological impulse to think, and part of being human as opposed to being a wild animal is that we control our biological impulses. This isn’t just a pastime: you’re bringing another life into the world. That takes a lot of responsibility, and not everyone is cut out for it. And it goes to say something when an individual knows, whether through self-examination or in the same way that a musician knows from an early age that this is what they’re born to do, instinctively, that they’re not cut out for parenthood, that’s not grounds to vilify them like they’re committing a capital crime.

So let’s cut that out.

K.G.

 

 

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