C for Childfree

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.

I’ve heard all the usual ‘Bingo‘ calls, and they are rot. All of them. No, I won’t ‘change my mind when I get older’.

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:

http://endlesserring.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/childfreecartoon.jpg?w=431&h=291

12 responses to “C for Childfree

  1. Another childfree person following Druidic tradition! Fantastic! Loved the post! I am currently a healthy 26 year old woman with a University degree and a well paying career and I get that dribble from people all the time. Like being an educated, healthy 20something in a strong relationship means I have some obligation to reproduce.

    • Thanks for your comment! It is annoying isn’t it? Like people can’t make meaning in their life any other way. Like you say, education and career are pretty meaningful things themselves. My wife and I both work in university education, but still get the ‘when are you having kids?’ question. Grr!

      It’s difficult with paganism/Druidry because there is so much guff about mother goddesses and fertility and weird fetishisation of heterosexual, reproductive, relationships I sometimes feel like I’m back in the Catholic Church all over again. I tend to take the approach of using what’s good in Druidry and ignoring the rest!

  2. Extremely annoying! I love life the way it is. I find meaning in my career, my relationship, and my hobbies. I don’t see a child fitting into that. I go on trips, I volunteer, I take care of ill family members. And yeah, I like creature comforts that people with children can’t usually enjoy, such as two hour long baths with a bottle of wine and wheel of baked brie. The other pet peeve is the inevitable 50% of the time when I say I don’t want children, if the answer is not ‘oh, you’ll change your mind someday’ it’s ‘why don’t you like children?’. I don’t want children the same way I don’t want a puppy. It doesn’t mean I hate them. I have friends with kids and I love to love the shit out of the little buggers, sugar them up, spoil them, then hand them back to their parents. I’d love to be the cool aunt that does amazing things with her teenage nieces and nephews because she isn’t too worn out or broke from parenting to do those things. Drives me nuts when people make assumptions!

    Funny thing, I grew up with Druidry. My father is nonreligious and Mom is a Druid, so I never had the Catholic background (though boyfriend’s family is very Catholic and I find Catholocism very confusing! It’s like if there is no self flagellating going on you are not a good Catholic!). I remember at 16 Mom gave me a letter saying I was leaving the maiden part of my life and entering the mother part as surely as she was entering crone and even then I had that indignant ‘I am NOT entering a ‘mother’ phase of my life! I will never be a mother!’ reaction. I do much the same as you, I accept what I like and discard what I don’t. But the funny thing I find with Druidry is once you explain your reaction to someone they typically accept it at face value. It isn’t so regimented, which is probably why I haven’t turned my back on it completely as I’m not particularly a ‘religion’ person, but very much a ‘history’, ‘culture’, and ‘structure’ person, and I find that taking part in the holidays is familiar and grounds me.

  3. The bottle of wine and baked brie does sound good!

    I’ve never come across anyone who was brought up with Druidry before, that probably gives you a different take on things. Catholicism is very strange and mostly all about guilt from my experience.

    The maiden/mother/crone thing is more pronounced in Wicca than in Druidry I think, but it is there lurking in the background. I find it unsettling, and I’m not even a woman! The thing that makes me feel awkward is that it’s so blatantly heteronormative and sexist. There’s no equivalent for men that I know of.

    I don’t see Druidry as a ‘religion’ either, heck, I’m an atheist! For me it’s more of a spirituality/philosophy/way of life, which makes it easier to just get rid of the dodgy religious bits!

  4. Brynhild Tudor

    I’m a single childfree-by-choice woman and resonate with every single word of this article! I’m drawn to Druidry for the artsy cultural aspects and I love history, but that’s as far as it goes. I’m turned off by Paganism’s emphasis on fertility and wish the concept could be ditched altogether. Then again, practically all of Paganism is fertility-based, so you wouldn’t have much left. Not to mention I believe in a spirit world but no god. I’m a hard polytheist in the sense I believe in all the Celtic/Greco-Roman/Norse/Egyptian deities, but I think of them as everyday entities living in the spirit world, not as “deities”. They probably gave themselves that title cuz they were power-hungry. So I’m not a complete atheist, but enough to not feel comfortable around Pagans. Thanks for a great article!

    • Hi, thanks for commenting and sorry it took me so long to approve you!

      I’m glad that the article made sense for you. I’m really reassured by how many childfree types there are in the druid/pagan world, not what I would have expected given the emphasis on fertility. I would like to hope that if one were to ditch the fertility stuff then there would still be lots of cool ideas in paganism: love of nature, self-actualisation, mythology etc. It may have started out as a fertility religion, but there’s no reason we can’t remake it for our modern, overpopulated, age.

      I’m intrigued by your interpretation of polytheism. What for you is the difference between a spirit-entity and a god? I’m just curious.

  5. Pingback: Taking a break | Endless Erring

  6. Sorry it took me so long to reply! Polytheism is the closest description I can think of to describe myself, but (how can I put this?) I believe they’re just spirits, just regular entities, not gods. I believe there are spirits, but no gods. Or rather, I believe the term religionists call “god(s)” doesn’t mean they are. It just means they’re more powerful spirits compared to us earthlings. But at one time, they lived on earth just as we do now. And someday, when we pass on, we might have those powers, and future earthlings will look upon us as “gods” as we’ll be entities, and appear higher to earth people. But in discussions with Pagans, I am forced to use the term “polytheism” not because I believe there are many gods per se, but rather because I believe they exist as spiritual beings with individual personalities and names in their own right, and the term “polytheism” is as close as I can get to best describe what I believe. Does that make sense?

    • No worries!

      You’ve explained your beliefs eloquently, and they do make sense. I’m much more of a naturalist myself, but I think your form of ‘polytheism’ has a consistency that some others lack. From what I gather with some early mythology, a lot of the deities are essentially ‘deified’ heroes, who probably did exist as humans at some point in history, but their legends have grown so much that they become seen as gods or demigods (Antinous, Herakles, Jesus etc). Sounds a bit like what you describe.

  7. Yes, exactly! I’m so happy you can understand what I was trying to say, because other Pagans can’t even comprehend it, much less find a name for it. I will share with you quite a long conversation I had with a blogger on this subject so you get an idea of how Pagans see me, which is sad, because I don’t seem to fit anywhere. Take note of the OP’s defensiveness at the end after my final comments. The words I used are harsh, but I felt they needed to be said:

    http://camillanightshade.dreamwidth.org/28259.html?style=light#comments

  8. Here is a Childfree by Choice, married, middle-aged, eclectic American Witch who understands! I do hope you feel the love I send you now! It’s such crap we get…even in this day and age. I will be following you and look forward to getting to know you better!

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