Erin is the married mother of two adorable little girls, Brontë, age 4, and Bridget, age 2. Erin is also the founder and author of the popular parenting blog Bubbles and Beebots. Yes, you read that correctly, a parenting blog.
Allow me to explain. Erin writes her blog from quite a unique perspective. After spending her twenties happily childfree and unsure if she would ever want children, an accidental pregnancy in her thirties catapulted her straight into motherhood, she details in her post “5 Points I Want the Childfree to Consider.”
I’m always a bit skeptical when I read an article about the childfree written from a parent’s point of view. I was however very impressed with Erin’s opinions, so much so that I had to find out more! So, without further ado, meet Erin!
What inspired you to write this post addressing the childfree?
Well, I’m in the curious position of living many adult years without children, as opposed to people who begin families shortly after leaving their own (for whom anything besides family life may seem unthinkable).
I remember how incredibly frustrated I once was by babies who endlessly screamed on airplanes or in public. I’d wonder why the parents wouldn’t stop them, take care of it… always imagining all the reasonable and obvious measures I’d take if I were ever a parent myself.
And then I was, and realized how much more complicated it is than I ever imagined. Now I see people scowl at my children on sight when I walk into grocery stores and restaurants, when my kids are doing nothing but sitting quietly, because many people seem reactively hostile to children.
I’ve also had my child suddenly throw a tantrum in a department store and been immediately lectured by bystanders about why I shouldn’t bring a moody child with me. Many people have little patience with parents who find themselves in that situation. When you have a child yourself, you’re bound to take criticisms of parents and children much more personally than when it’s a hypothetical child, because it feels hostile to YOUR child.
So, I’ve been considering these issues for quite some time, but what prompted me to write the article right then was a Christmas party I’d attended the night before. I saw many friends I hadn’t seen much in the past few years, most of whom were still single and without children.
At some point, a group started talking about how they couldn’t help but dislike children, how kids these days were terrible, entitled brats and how they couldn’t believe any women would choose to give up all their freedom and independence to raise a family. Further, they were angry about women who became bad investments for their employers by getting themselves pregnant. They felt we made employers less likely to hire us in general, and for good reason.
Of course this hurt, but I was also angered by the sense that women were, once again, turning on each other instead of showing solidarity. I believe it’s very difficult to raise a family now, and that viewing quality-of-life issues in terms of how much they inconvenience employers hurts everyone. Whether it’s pregnancy, a medical emergency, or reasonable labor laws, we should care about people’s health and welfare as much as the bottom line.
Speaking to your comment about women turning on each other instead of showing solidarity, one remark the childfree community hears fairly often is that they don’t understand true happiness or real love because they don’t have children. How do you feel about this?
Wow, that seems like a very harsh judgment to make. I certainly wouldn’t say people are incapable of “real” love before becoming a parent or question the validity of anyone’s feelings apart from those for their child.
I would say it’s a different kind of love, infused with a great sense of responsibility. You may love your spouse, for example, but you know your spouse is a grown adult that can fend for themselves, whereas the child depends on you. Our parents imprint on us so early and so intensely that people struggle with however their parents treated them for the rest of their lives… For better or worse, you will greatly affect this child and be extremely important to them. There is probably also a biological drive to nurture and protect your offspring that comes into play.
That being said, there are many parents who abandon or horribly abuse their children, so it’s hardly fair to suggest only parents can be loving, or that parenthood automatically translates to becoming selfless.
If you didn’t have an unplanned pregnancy, do you think you would still be childfree today?
I’m not certain, but I probably wouldn’t have had kids.
My husband and I had both been married before for several years, yet neither one of us had children or a burning desire to have them. There was a sense that we should consider it because having kids is something people do, so we planned on making a firm decision after we were married for a year. I wasn’t even comfortable around children, to be honest.
Then I suddenly found myself pregnant a month after our wedding. I was terrified and remember thinking “Well, if it’s ever going to happen, it may as well be now.”
I didn’t suddenly embrace motherhood after coming to terms with my pregnancy, either. I wasn’t awash in hormones that made everything seem natural and beautiful.. I was panicking, and the idea that a small person was taking over my body felt surreal. I was scared, and at some level, always wondering whether the whole thing was a huge mistake.
But when the baby arrived and I looked at her for the first time, I began sobbing with all this emotion I didn’t know how to handle. Not every new mother has this experience, but I bonded intensely and immediately.
That’s not to say there weren’t many horrible, sleep-deprived nights where I wanted to gouge my eyes out or have urges to tear away in the car, blasting angry music. But overall, I loved being a mother and we decided to have a second child on purpose.
Becoming a parent was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but I think it happened at the right time in my life. I may not have felt that way if I’d had children ten years earlier.
You ended your post stating that you don’t think parents and non-parents should stay on opposite teams. How do you think we can bridge the gap?
That’s difficult, because people often view life as a zero-sum game and sometimes feel that different choices somehow invalidate their own. It shouldn’t be which path is “better,” but which one is right for you.
Not every childfree person is hostile to children, of course, and many parents are quite judgmental about people who choose to never have kids.
I suppose that by sharing what it’s like to deal with a screaming child in a grocery store, I was hoping to help non-parents understand our perspective—that we aren’t oblivious to how obnoxious our children are being or feel entitled to making everyone miserable. It’s just hard, especially when people are also judgmental about parents trying to control their children, or don’t realize how irrational young kids can be.
I suppose some of my solutions are political. For example, we have very limited benefits compared to other developed nations. There’s a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality that applies to parents and non-parents alike, whether it’s sick leave, maternity leave, vacation time, college tuitions, or subsidized daycare.
It’s expensive and difficult to raise a family now, so parents become resentful when non-parents are critical—it’s easy to start viewing non-parents as carefree people with few responsibilities, loads of freedom and disposable incomes, who are nevertheless bitter when a parent needs to take off work to care for a sick child.
And, I think some childfree people resent feeling like they have to pick up the slack at work, or that they’re being demonized for choosing a lifestyle that doesn’t involve children.
Maybe more empathy is the answer, or recognizing that people sometimes project their own frustrations.
A parent who calls a non-parent selfish may be, on some level, actually angry about getting no sleep and preparing a breakfast that was thrown on the floor that morning, so they’re really trying to remind themselves that they’re still a good person. And the childfree person who scowls at child at the grocery store may be reacting to her family constantly suggesting she isn’t a real grownup yet because she doesn’t have kids. I can’t help thinking much of the hostility in both sides is defensive in nature.
So, maybe the answer involves recognizing that neither side is wrong.
Someone needs to have kids, but not everyone has to and that’s okay. Parents should be trying their best to raise well-adjusted kids who will someday become good citizens, but that’s very challenging, made much easier when bystanders are supportive, rather than critical.
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Thank you Erin!
I agree that empathy is the answer for bridging the gap between parents and the childfree. What do you think?
Let me know in the comments section below.
This article was mentioned on Married Without Children. Click here to listen.