You don’t ever want to have kids = okay
You don’t ever want to be in a caregiver role with children (including babysitting) = okay
You don’t think other people should have children = NOT okay
You don’t think other people should have “too many” children = NOT okay
You don’t ever want to see…
I’m about to piss some people off (including OP, I’m sure), so fair warning.
This list? Pisses me off. It has taken many complex issues and over-simplified them, turning people who don’t want children into villains in the process.
Part One – The List Perpetuates Dismissal and Stigmatization of the ChildFree
By including these two points:
- You don’t ever want to have kids = okay
- You don’t ever want to be in a caregiver role with children (including babysitting) = okay
OP has essentially designated all of the following items as attitudes and beliefs held by those who don’t want children or don’t wish to be in caregiver roles with children (from here forward refered to as choosing to be ChildFree). By placing those two items on a list the is majorly negative and shaming, readers are led to equate those who choose to be ChildFree with these negative and shaming beliefs and attitudes. As someone who chooses to be ChildFree, I find this offensive.
It must also be noted that these first items are marginalizing of the stigma faced by people who choose to be ChildFree, as well as perpetuating the dismissive attitudes the ChildFree are subjected to on a regular (if not DAILY) basis. While OP may truly be one of the people who can readily accept that some people do not wish to be parents, most of our society does not. Given the tone of this list, OP makes it seem as though ChildFree people are making unnecessary and unrealistic demands by asking that people accept our personal choices. This is not acceptable.
Part 2 – People’s “Right” to Have Children
The points in question from OP’s List:
- You don’t think other people should have children = NOT okay
- You don’t think other people should have “too many” children = NOT okay
These points, too, have been oversimplified by OP. The points I think OP was trying to get at were these:
- You don’t think ANYONE should have children = this is in fact, NOT okay
- You believe there is a specific number of children that is appropriate for all people and no one should exceed this arbitrary number on which you have decided = again, this is NOT okay
The difference between OP’s list items, and my revised items is this: my revised items involve sweeping generalizations based on personal opinion, OP’s items dismiss the possibility of LEGITIMATE CONCERNS regarding who has children and how many children people have.
There are people who should not have children. The ability to reproduce does not mean a person automatically is a good candidate for parenthood. Personal freedoms are not what is most important to determining who should be allowed to have children, the safety and health of the children in question is. These are the requirements for pet ownership, why shouldn’t we expect the same from people who want to be parents?
A person who has violent tendencies, substance abuse issues, and/or does not have the means to provide for a child; a person like this should not have children.
Hopefully, I don’t have to explain why addicts and people with the potential for abusive behavior are less than ideal parents. Slightly less obvious may be the third characteristic “does not have the means to provide for a child.” Here I don’t mean, “can’t buy a child everything their heart desires” but rather, cannot consistently afford to provide adequate nourishment, shelter, clothing, and health care for a child.
Because people have the ability to change, a person’s right or lack-thereof to have children can also change. Programs like Child Protective Services exist to monitor those changes and intervene when necessary (in theory, practice leaves much to be desired). Therefore, if someone with personal knowledge of another’s potential to provide a healthy, happy life for a child makes a claim that that person ‘should not have children’ , that opinion should not be dismissed or seen as a bad thing. It is possible that they are right in that opinion.
When addressing the next list item, once again it must be taken into account that personal freedoms are not what is most important in this discussion. What is most important is the safety and health of the children in question.
The reality is: raising a child is also a question of monetary ability. Feeding, clothing, sheltering, and providing adequate healthcare for a child is costly. Therefore, there is such a thing as ‘too many’ children. There is not however an arbitrary number that applies to all parents. Some people can provide for a dozen children, no problem; others cannot provide for more than one.
Once again this can be equated to pet ownership; if a person has 12 dogs and all of them are healthy, receive regular food, water, attention, and veterinary care, that person has a legal right to own 12 dogs. If another person owns twelve dogs who do not receive regular food, water, attention, and veterinary care, they are considered an animal hoarder and lose their right to own those dogs. If these kind of distinctions can be made regarding animal ownership, why should we not be able to make the same distinctions about how many children people have?
If someone says they think a person who cannot provide for all of their children has “too many” children, they are not saying something that is bad or wrong. They are telling the truth. Those children are at risk for neglect in any number of areas. Protecting them should be more important than their parents’ “right” to have as many children as they want.
Part 3 – Children in Public Places
- You don’t ever want to see children in public = NOT okay
I agree that the point about never seeing children in public is NOT okay. This is an excessive and unrealistic demand; people who feel this way, just please, stop. You are not being logical or rational at all.
With that in mind, there are specific places that I don’t want to see children.
- If I am going to see an R-rated movie (especially a horror film) in theaters, I don’t want to listen to someone’s kids the whole time. Why anyone would bring children under the age of 10 to an R-rated film in the first place is beyond me, but I have seen (and I’m sure will continue to see) people with two and three-year-olds in theaters for movies like The Hills Have Eyes and 28 Weeks Later. Most recently, someone brought a baby in an infant carrier to the film Sinister. Why?
- If I am in a restaurant where I will be spending $25+ on the entrée alone, I don’t want to listen to screaming children and baby talk. I don’t get to ‘treat myself’ to those restaurants very often (once, maybe twice a year), and I want to relax and enjoy myself. Listening to children whining, throwing tantrums, etc. is not relaxing or enjoyable; not even their parents would tell you it is. If your child can’t handle behaving appropriately for a situation, don’t bring them into that situation. It’s a simple concept.
The next point is more complicated than OP seems to feel:
- You think children should always be quiet and/or perfectly behaved in public = NOT okay
The objection, I believe, should be with the words ALWAYS and PERFECTLY in that statement. Not the statement itself. By removing those qualifiers, the statement becomes perfectly acceptable:
- You think children should be quiet and/or behave in public
Children will never be “perfectly behaved” in public at all times. This is an unrealistic expectation. Similarly, it is unrealistic to expect children to be quiet at all times in public. That does not mean that it is ‘not okay’/bad/shameful to expect a certain level of conscientiousness on behalf of parents and their children. Parents are responsible for teaching their children appropriate behaviors in public, if the parent isn’t doing this, I will get annoyed. At both the child and the parent, mostly the parent.
If a child is misbehaving in public, it is the parents’ responsibility to deal with it. When a child throws a tantrum in the grocery store, I will ignore it. If the tantrum lasts 20min and the parent does nothing about it? I’m going to get annoyed and possibly ask the parent or management to do something about the situation.
My sister and I were taught to behave appropriately in any of the public situations in which we found ourselves. We knew how to behave in restaurants, stores, movies, the library, museums, etc. These were not behaviors we magically developed; my parents had to teach them to us through a combination of rewarding good behavior and disciplining bad behavior. When I get frustrated with the way children act in public, it is less the child’s behavior that annoys me and more about the parents not doing their job.
With regards to children being “silent” at all times in public, this is never going to happen, and should not be expected. Children are noisy by nature. Especially infants and toddlers; they cry when they are upset, it’s loud and unpleasant, I’m not particularly fond of it, but I’m not going to condemn the person or their child when it happens.
If I am in a free public space and a child begins crying, I may remove myself from their presence. If I paid to be in the public space I am in (a movie theater, museum, etc.), however, I will ask them to take the child elsewhere until they calm down. I also ask people who are on their phone to leave those situations. This is not “rude” nor is it something I should be shamed for doing; I have a right to enjoy the experience I have paid for and to request that someone who is disturbing that enjoyment leave until they are no longer at risk of doing so.
Toddlers and older children talk. A lot. Again this is not something I’m particularly fond of, but I tend to ignore it. However, again, I do have exceptions to this.
- If adults are expected to remain silent, or at least quiet, your child should be too. Think libraries, movie theaters, certain ceremonies, etc.
- If your child starts pestering me, personally, in public; especially if we don’t know each other. Yes, small children are curious and ask questions; I am perfectly willing to humor those children. When your child starts following me around and talking non-stop (especially when I was working retail, you know, trying to do my JOB?), I get annoyed. I may go so far as to tell your kid to leave me alone. I am not in public to entertain someone else’s children while they go about their day. I am there because I have things I want or need to be doing myself.
- If your child is being rude towards myself or another person and you don’t interfere. I’m not going to let an adult be rude to me, and I sure as hell am not going to let a child do so.
Part 4 - ChildFree Shaming Revisited
The statements addressed in Part 2 and Part 3 as well as OP’s final statement can be further examined in regards to their relation to society’s treatment of ChildFree people. Below is the collection of OP’s list items which have been addressed as well as OP’s final point:
· You don’t ever want to have kids = okay
· You don’t ever want to be in a caregiver role with children (including babysitting) = okay
· You don’t think other people should have children = NOT okay
· You don’t think other people should have “too many” children = NOT okay
· You don’t ever want to see children in public = NOT okay
· You think children should always be quiet and/or perfectly behaved in public = NOT okay
· You talk about how awful, terrible, or otherwise bad kids are, call them names, are otherwise venomous in your language about kids = NOT okay
The final five points on this list are often beliefs and attitudes equated with ChildFree people. There is, of course, some truth to such equations. It is not, however, the truth society seems to believe. ChildFree people, in general, do not make these (or similar) statements because they actively hate children, but because they need to.
Allow me to explain. Because ChildFree people are in the minority, society often marginalizes or outright ignores their assertions that they do not want children. As such, ChildFree people like myself, learn that in order to be taken seriously about our desire not to have children, we must provide an appearance of not only not wanting children but hating them. If you do not do so, as a ChildFree person, you leave your choices open to criticism as ‘just a phase’ or something that will ‘change when you have your own children.’ ChildFree people learn that making statements like the ones on OP’s list, even if they do not feel that way, make it easier for other people to accept their assertions that they do not want children.
I decided I didn’t want children around the time I had to take care of a “Baby Think It Over” (electronic infant used to simulate parenting) when I was 12. In the past 10 years my feelings on the matter have only strengthened. Despite that, my choices are not taken seriously by the majority of the people I know and meet. It took ten years to convince even a portion of my family to accept my decision, and it was not accomplished by simply making that decision known loudly and often. It was accomplished through adoption of defensive strategies such as:
- Complaining loudly about any friends or family members who choose to have a child
- Complaining loudly and often about dealing with children in public places
- Complaining loudly and often about children being loud and misbehaving in public
- Complaining loudly and often about children being: awful, terrible, annoying, brats, parasites, etc.
- Suggesting that children should be leashed, muzzled, dosed with NyQuil before being allowed in public spaces, etc.
By making these and similar statements often enough in their presence, people who were resistant to the idea that I was serious about my decision not to have children slowly came to accept my decision. It is a process that has worked over and over, with many different people. Unfortunately this also has the effect of making me a villain.
Yes, I made the decision to present myself this way knowing what the consequences would be. That doesn’t me that I am not allowed to be angry that society requires me to be an extremist for my decisions about my own life to be taken seriously. It also does not mean that I have to sit quietly while things like OP’s list perpetuate these expectations of ChildFree persons. Quit over-generalizing issues with parenting and children, and quit shaming ChildFree people.
You know, you’re perfectly right: you pissed me off.
But, I don’t want to address the author at all right now, or possibly ever. Just want to share this awful heap of “children aren’t oppressed, and saying they are is oppressing ME!” bullshit so hopefully at least some of my followers can sympathize with my anger.
I mean, there’s a few half-decent points in here, but they’re so fantastically overshadowed by the awful that there doesn’t even seem like a point in addressing them.
I will say that as a feminist, this author is one of the (too many) types of feminists who makes me embarrassed to also claim that term. I also find it kind of ironic that this author basically proved my point on all the awful things people say, and should really stop saying, about children.