In countless areas of our lives, we are expected to calculate the risk/reward ratio. Starting a business is risky, but what of the rewards? Investing your hard-earned money in the stock market carries different levels of risk but the potential for amazing rewards are abundant. Getting married? That’s another area of weighing rewards against risks. It makes sense, then, that having, or not having, children would also be chock-full of rewards…and risks. I have already thoughtfully considered both parenthood and non-parenthood: the risks and rewards. Still, some people think I should reconsider my choice and recognize the “price” of childfreedom.
A man by the name of John left a comment on this site a few days ago. I read his comment a few times and then boiled over with anger. I posted it on Twitter, commiserated with fellow Twitterers, and explained to my husband what ‘mansplaining’ is (the irony is not lost on me). Although I ultimately sent John’s comment to the ‘trash’ folder, I did screenshot it in its entirety. Despite his cringe-worthy remarks, I did learn a thing or two. I’ve decided to post his comment here, in pieces, to make it a little easier to digest:
John knows what life is like as a childless person, a bachelor, and as a parent, but he makes a mistake at outset of his comment—one that made it very difficult for me to read what he had to say objectively—John conflates being childfree with childlessness. In some cases, childfreedom and childlessness are the same, yes, but in this situation, they are vastly different. Mainly because John was always a man without children (childless) and never a person who made the conscious decision to never have children (childfree).
His happiness as a bachelor goes on to evolve as he gets married and has a child. He looks back on his fulfillment as a bachelor differently now. He was happy then, sure, but he feels he was happy within a limited capacity. Marriage and children added more depth to his love, as his comment explains.
The ‘Who’s Happier?’ Debate
And here we could go on to play the ‘Who’s Happier?’ game—a favorite past-time of parents and non-parents, myself included. I have my opinion that, as a rule, the childfree are a happier bunch. I also look to the research of Professor Dan Gilbert of Harvard University to back me up 🙂
That being said, I can’t truly know what would make me nor you happier. I can’t split my life in two. I can’t operate in different dimensions, trying out parenthood in one and childfreedom in another.
John, the commenter above, makes the mistake of thinking he’s done that. He was childless so he knows what it’s like to be me, right? Wrong! He knows what it’s like to be a childless man named John. And that’s really all he knows. That’s all any of us know. He couldn’t know what its like to be a childfree woman named Brittany. I had to make an educated guess as to what decision would make the most sense for me, as did John. That being said, I can’t advise John to be childfree just as he really can’t advise me to have kids.
What’s Love Got to Do With Biology?
Many parents (and I include my own in this) talk about a type of love they experience after having a child. I’m not here to challenge that. I believe that parental (and perhaps mostly maternal) love is different—one that, in an ideal world, would prevent all mothers from harming their young. I am, however, here to knock John down a beg, or two, or three, for his comments on adoption.
As a woman who has always supported adoption over biological children, this makes me both sad and angry. It’s commendable that John stepped up and raised his nephew and took in other children. However, it’s asinine to propose that having biological children would make you a better adoptive parent. It totally disregards adoptive parents who tried and were unable to have biological children. It also disregards all of the men and women who don’t want to add more people to an already overpopulated planet.
Carrying a child in the womb or sharing biological data with them is not always the foundation of a close, loving relationship. In fact, the love that is shared between a parent and child comes from the mutual care, respect, and nurturing the parent bestows upon the child.
The Psychological and Physical Price
While I do have what some would call “childbearing hips” ;), I’m not even going to get into what my purpose (as a woman, as a person, or otherwise) is for being on this planet. I will just say that it’s absolutely absurd to suggest I’ll get cancer because that’s the “price” of childfreedom— the price of going against “nature.” That’s not how cancer works. That’s not how any of this works.
I weighed the risks and rewards of pregnancy and instead chose the risks and rewards of being childfree. John weighed the risks and rewards of parenthood and decided he was for it. So, here’s what I’ve learned from all this:
- My husband Colin has since decided he hates the term ‘mansplaining’
- John’s opinion was ill-informed (and a BINGO!) but I can still recognize how he feels
- John did what was right for him
- I did what was right for me
- We both have the right to talk about our experiences, but it has to be done without the aim of changing the other person’s mind.
- Except about adoption…and cancer. Because John was just wrong 🙂
I cannot convince anyone not to have children. I don’t think I’d want that power even if I could have it. Therefore, I shouldn’t try. There are risks and rewards of this lifestyle that I have chosen, just as there are to any other major life decisions. It’s not going to be the right course for everyone and our reasons for choosing, or abstaining from, parenthood will vary. My risks may be your rewards and vice versa.
So, what are your thoughts on all of this? Let me know by commenting below!