Continuing my ‘alpahbet’ posting series (use the tag at the bottom to find more), this one’s a bit more personal, exploring why I don’t have or want kids, and why that’s nobody else’s concern! I use the term ‘childfree‘ as a positive alternative to the usual negative ‘childless‘, which implies a lack. I only ‘lack’ children in the same way I ‘lack’ a hole in the head!
One of the most irritating arguments that gets wheeled out in the gay marriage ‘debate’ by the usual bigots is that marriage is all about having and raising children. Not to mention the obvious nonsense involved in this (gay couples can have children, and raise them in just as happy and loving an environment as straight couples), this annoys me for another, more personal reason.
My wife and I do not have, and do not want, children. We made this decision together before we got married and now, years later, we are if anything more certain that we made the right call. Our marriage is based on love and wanting to spend our lives together, not some social contract to raise a new generation of obedient workers for the state. So, in the eyes of the bigot brigade, does this fact mean that our marriage is invalid? That we should not have legal rights? That we are less of a marriage, less of a family?
Surprisingly, even in our supposedly enlightened society, many people still look askew at you and treat you oddly if you say you don’t want children. The life script of marriage=kids is so ingrained into most people’s minds that they can’t imagine anyone choosing otherwise. Oh, it’s different for people who can’t have children, they get met with sickening pity instead. But freely and deliberately choose not to, and you’re a selfish, immature, misanthropic freak.
No I don’t ‘hate kids’ (I work as an educator, with school groups, every day).
No, it isn’t the ‘point’ of marriage – not our marriage, anyway.What about love, friendship, companionship, commitment?
No, I don’t feel ‘incomplete’ without kids and frankly, if your relationship is incomplete with just the two of you, I would suggest that it probably isn’t a healthy relationship to be in anyway.
Oh, and we are a family. A family of two. And in the future, we plan on being a family of four, with a dog and a cat. Not as child-substitutes, but as companions, friends and family members in their own right.
There are many reasons we are childfree, from not wanting to contribute to the problems of overpopulation, to financial factors, to health reasons, but fundamentally, the only reason that matters is that IT’S OUR CHOICE. And no, that doesn’t make us ‘selfish’, it makes us responsible adults choosing our own life paths. Honestly, I think people who desperately want ‘their own’ children, when there are thousands of orphans who need adopting are the selfish ones. Especially those who have kids so they will have ‘someone to look after them when they get old’. Srsly. I’ve heard that one. Breed your own slave labour force! Yay.
Paganism sometimes has an annoying emphasis on gender roles and fertility. The iconic goddess image is the ‘mother goddess‘. In some traditions, women are forced into a ‘maiden/mother/crone‘ symbolism; their identity defined by their breeding capability alone. Birth and motherhood are held as sacred ideals. I’ve even heard stories from some branches of Wicca where women have been told they cannot attend rites if they are not a mother (or if they are a trans woman), as they are not ‘complete’ women.
Well, I call bullshit on that noise too. Ferility is not an a priori virtue, especially in an overpopulated world with scarce resources. I left Catholicism in part to get away from the assumption that a woman’s worth is defined by breeding, and marriage has to be about pumping out sprogs until your body gives way. I’m not about to embrace the same crap from a different tradition. While I am not a woman, this nonsense still gets me riled up.
As a trainee Druid, I would argue that whilst fertility was taken literally by early pagan societies, it is time we changed our views on it now. For one thing, we need to allow people more freedom to choose their own gender roles, sexualities and life paths for themselves. Also, we can look at fertility in a non-literal sense: we can experience fertile gardens, fertile creative minds, fertile loving hearts. Or we could ditch the concept altogether!
Now I’m not knocking people who have kids. If that’s your thing, then go for it. But please be responsible and think of the financial, emotional, physical and most importantly environmental impact of having more than one or two. But there has to be space in society for childfree and non-heteronormative couples too! We have just as much right to define our identities and relationships as anyone, and I for one will not be shamed into apologies for my choice to be childfree and proud!
I leave you with some humour, from the brilliant (and ever so dark) Cyanide and Happiness: