"You'll regret not having children."
Actually, no, you won’t if you don’t want them.
Going childfree is a more popular and acceptable choice these days. But childfree couples often face backlash from friends and family that view parenthood as a vital part of life. While good-intentioned, such fundamental disagreements often cause serious distress and chip away at formerly supportive relationships.
A brief foray into the online forums welcoming “childfree” individuals will leave many feeling stunned after reading what happens when confronted about their choices. Responses vary between general clichés:
“You’re wrong. You’ll want them when you get older.” (Minimization)
“Your (husband/wife/partner/family) will be so disappointed if you don’t have them.” (It’s your obligation)
“My kids are the best things that ever happened to me!” (You’re insulting my choices)
“Who’s going to take care of you when you’re older?” (Fear-mongering)
“Your future child could be the one to cure cancer!” (Guilting)
“You need someone to carry on the family name.” (Why?!)
...all the way to outright abuse:
“You’re just selfish!”
“Your doctor should be fired/sued (some commenters went so far as to say KILLED) for agreeing to that."
“I hope you get pregnant by accident.”
“You’re denying us grandchildren!”
“You’re not a real family unless you have kids. Why even get married?”
Then when people try to make that choice permanent, it’s pretty easy to find rampant stories of discrimination and outright denial from healthcare providers. Women who have never had children or are under the age of 35 are routinely subjected to intensive interviews and dismissive, paternalistic attitudes about surgical birth control options, leading to unwanted pregnancies, distrust of the healthcare system, and trauma that persists for generations.
There are many reasons, of course, why the #childfree movement makes sense. But that’s not the point of this article.
Bodily autonomy is a nonnegotiable human right. No matter how strongly a person feels about having children, threatening and berating those who disagree, or having a hand in them being forced to procreate is harmful and abusive. And it certainly doesn’t contribute to the nurturing of a healthy generation of children.
The real issue is when people, perhaps motivated by positive intentions, blur the lines between themselves and others, imposing their views without respecting that conflicting opinions are equally valid. Doing so means that we forget where they end and we begin.
So having children or not, vegetarian or not, pro-choice or not, religious or not, it doesn’t really matter what the subject is. Attacking and criticizing the personal choices of others simply creates hatred and division among us.
If you feel strongly about having children, then by all means, have children, knowingly taking on everything that comes with the immense responsibility of being a parent.
A person who chooses not to have children has already thought about those responsibilities and has decided that there is more to life for them than parenting. And that is perfectly okay. It’s the right choice for that person because it is a better reflection of who they are.
If we can get to a place where we understand and respect the diversity of thought and personal choices of those around us, our relationships will inevitably become stronger and more supportive.
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