by Susan B. Slotnick
Member of the National RESOLVE Board of Directors
Busted!: Choosing not to have children is no more or less selfish than choosing to have children. Describing a childfree person as being selfish is a subjective value judgment that does not consider the various other meaningful contributions childfree people make to the world.
The reasons for which children are brought into this world vary and some can be very selfish. Aspiring parents could conceivably be making an equally or more selfish a decision if their purpose is the expectation that their children will look after them as they grow older, or are trying to save a relationship already in trouble. At the heart of the decision to bring a child into the world often lies the parents' own desires, to enjoy the experience of child-rearing.
Living a childfree lifestyle is choosing to be for one’s self, rather than being selfish. It is being honest with the realities of the reason the decision was presented in the first place and understanding that the value of one’s self is not defined by the role of being a parent, but by the quality of the role played by being a human being.
Myth: Living child free is a choice, and they never wanted children.
More Myths – Busted!
Busted!: Living childfree is a choice, as is choosing to be a parent. Some people who choose to be childfree have done so knowing that they never wanted to be parents, while some people who are childfree have chosen not to parent after suffering from the disease of infertility. Both paths to the lifestyle are valid, but the end result was achieved through very different journeys.
People who have chosen to live a childfree lifestyle after infertility have thought more about the responsibilities of parenting than most people who become parents without having experienced any fertility issues. Most people struggling with infertility do so for several years before they reach resolution through either medical treatment, adoption or choosing to be childfree. During that journey, sufferers want nothing more than to achieve the dream of parenthood.
Societal norms of family are defined by the inclusion of children. Subconsciously, those norms invade every child’s perception and shape their image of what a family should be. Having the strength to go against that societal norm can only be achieved after thorough assessment of what one’s life outside of that norm will mean, dealing with its consequences, and then benefiting from its advantages.
Myth: People who live child free have empty lives.
Busted!: People who truly embrace a childfree lifestyle have just as happy, fulfilling and problem laden lives as their parenting counterparts. The key to having a full life as a childfree person is to appreciate the advantages it presents you and to take advantage of them.
Without the financial, societal or time commitments of raising children, people who live childfree can devote those resources to people, charities and activities that appreciate their availability and provide meaning and purpose to their lives. Having the freedom to choose which of those endeavors to pursue without the obligations of parenting may actually enable people without children to associate with organizations that are more honestly aligned with their interests (picking adult activities versus those associated with Girl Scouts or soccer, volunteering at night instead of watching over homework, or traveling abroad instead of to Disneyland).
Whether or not one’s life is empty or full is not dependent upon having children in the home, it is dependent upon what you do with your life.
Myth: People who live childfree have carefree lives.
Busted!: People who live childfree lives have the lives they determine to have, just like the people who choose to parent have the lives they determine to have. Whether or not one’s life is “carefree” cannot be determined by an outside observer unaware of the responsibilities and obligations of childfree persons. Nor would I suggest that any one person’s life is carefree all of the time, whether or not they are parents. The only person who can truly assign the carefree moniker to an individual is the individual him or herself.
To assume that simply because a person or couple has determined to live without parenting that they do not have the same obligations to do their best at their chosen profession; care about their loved ones and their health and well being; or are any less stressed in meeting their financial and societal debts is uninformed and inaccurate.
Describing a child free person as “carefree” is more telling of the narrator associating the responsibilities of parenting as a burden. All lifestyle choices come with challenges and rewards. How one chooses to describe them is a reflection of one’s own experiences projected onto the situation.
Myth: A higher-power is telling you that you should not be a parent.
Busted!: Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. It does not discriminate and affects all races, religions, men and women equally and people all over the world. Whether or not you resolve your infertility journey by choosing to become a parent is a function of your determination and not a higher-power.
Parenthood is attainable, if that is truly your goal. You may or may not be fortunate enough to have a biological connection to your child, but if you want the experience of being a parent, you can achieve that dream.
People who choose to be childfree after infertility have examined the avenues to parenthood, considered the advantages and disadvantages, and decided that being a family of two is also a blessing.