January 3, 2009

Childfree vs. Childful

The other day I ran headlong into someone who is highly annoyed by "mommies". I am always amazed when I see divisiveness in certain groups of women, the "us vs. them" syndrome. One of these cases that I recently got into was Childfree-by-Choice Lady vs. Scrapbooking Soccer Mom Lady. It ain't always pretty.

Many years ago, before I had two kids, I lived a very carefree lifestyle in the city. I could do anything, go anywhere. I was completely unfettered, self-employed, nomadic and pretty proud of it. That was my life and I had no intention of altering it.

My boyfriend-at-the-time and I went over to the home of friends. They were professional people with two boys. I was never that comfortable with children and didn't like being bothered in public by other people's screaming children. After our visit with our friends, my BF was talking to his pal and I was talking to the wife. She asked me if I was planning to have children. I told her definitely not. She smiled a very annoying "knowing" smile and said, "Oh, you'll change your mind. It's so fulfilling. It's the most amazing thing in the world having kids."

Yeah, right, lady. What's amazing and fulfilling is making a spontaneous trip to a fancy hotel in San Francisco and getting room service while I'm looking out over the ocean after sleeping in until 9 a.m. Top that, would ya? I was annoyed that she would imply that somehow, simply because I was childless, that my life was less fulfilling, less satisfying, and that I was less than whole as a woman. Frankly, I was insulted and perturbed.

So, fast forward a gazillion years and now I've met Mr. Right. We discussed having children and were ambivalent about it because of our busy lifestyle. We were getting older and could easily see the pros and cons of both sides: to have kids, to not have kids. We waited and did nothing.

To make a very long (and unfortunately dramatic) story short, two kids have come into our lives who needed something we had. We've become a great little family and I've turned into one of those women who writes silly stories about her kids on her blog. I don't go to fancy hotels and get room service. I'm not unfettered. Sometimes I can't even go to the bathroom without planning it ahead of time. The other day I had one last bite of cookie balanced on my leg while I was fixing something and suddenly a little pair of nibbling lips sneaked up and ate it while my head was turned. So I don't even get to have the last bit of cookie in the house without a little cookie thief stealing it.

But not only is it okay, it's WAY better than okay. It's, let's see, what was that? Amazing and fulfilling!

Here's the thing... it doesn't matter if you're childfree or "childful". I agonized for a long time about the fork in my road, but here is the secret about forks -- once you take the path you've chosen it's like someone comes behind you with a big metaphysical eraser and swipes away the other fork in the road as if it never existed. Once we were committed and had gone down the path a while I tried to imagine our life had we not done it this way. I couldn't. It was so far removed from me that it was like imagining what someone else's intimate life might be like. It was idle speculation, an amusing little time waster.

I have been on both sides of the "childfree vs. childful" debate and I can tell you with absolute certainty that the debate is irrelevant. Once you pick a side, the other ceases to exist. One is not better, more satisfying, more worthy. It's like asking which is better... pizza or a burger, apple or orange, mayo or mustard?

So instead, let's do what we women really should be doing -- sticking together in order to accomplish the task at hand... total world domination and the subjugation of men.


  1. I'll join the choir -- as someone who has one child and remembers those days when life was unfettered. What makes me sad is when people are so anti-child. We were all children once, and kids (like the rest of us, only more so) are works in progress. So let's cut the kids and parents a little slack. Good behavior does not occur overnight or even by the age of fifteen. At least not for everyone.

  2. Great post!
    After college I worked in the school system and the majority of the kids I worked with were in Early Childhood. So whenever someone asked me if we were ever going to have kids, I was like "hell no!"
    Obviously I changed my mind and you're so right about once you make that fork in the road, everything changes. And the debate is irrelevant! i don't understand why there has to be any animousity (spelling?) on either side.

  3. Yesterday I had no kids for 3 hours. Today I had no kids for about 5 hours. I have forgotten what to do! I really have.

    Or perhaps, since that was not enough time to do something REALLY life-affirming like write a novel or go white-water rafting, I had a lot of things competing for top of my list and that just made me kind of dizzy.

  4. I still think that woman telling you "you'll change your mind, it's so fulfilling" was out of line. Being child-free by choice can be really fulfilling too and I bristle at the "my way is best".

    Most of those debates are worthless, imo. Including the SAHM v. WOHM one.

  5. I think there is a fundamental problem about the way we perceive ourselves and each other. Our habit or our culture is to assign worth to our position or roles in life. Some roles are perceived as more "worthy" for whatever reason therefore the person who is in that role gets the benefits of the position.

    Instead, I would say we'd all be better off if we could evaluate people by HOW they are instead of by WHO or WHAT they are. For example, put more emphasis on service-to-others, selflessness, work productivity, how little of the earth's resources you waste, level of honesty, etc. etc. Unfortunately, those often get lumped into "moral values" which is a hotbed of misunderstanding. What's a "moral value" anyway, right?

    But back to the example of motherhood. I think the problem is that when you compare the "ideal" mother to the "ideal" single woman, the mom is going to appear somehow more noble, more selfless, and like she is filling some higher biological destiny whether this is actually the case or not. It's a bummer for the single gal, but I think it's our cultural bias.

    Anyway, blah blah blah. I talk too much. :)

  6. Marinka,

    I just went over to your blog to check it out. I laughed so hard my husband kept having to turn his movie off. Oh so good!

    Everyone go over to Marinka's blog and check it out!!

  7. I've had this discussion again and again with a child-less by choice friend of mine. We've discussed it in the context of what the Bible says about kids. (Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Psalm 127:3-5)

    Some take this as meaning that everyone should have children, making childless folks feel like they somehow are not blessed by God. Wrong! It doesn't say that those without kids are not blessed. It doesn't say that this is the only blessing from God. The Bible simply says that children are a blessing.

    I think this supports just what you've said. Both 'sides' should recognize the responsibilities, privileges and honors of both having children and being without children.

  8. Hi, just stumbled along your blog...great post. I am actually very much back and forth these days about the kid thing (I blame hormones) and found your insights interesting. I've defined myself as childfree for a very long time but lately there have been some changes in both me and my husband. Good to see I'm not the only one going through it!

  9. Aren't hormones tricky little things? They are like tiny, cackling gremlins that betray you when you're not looking.

    Just remember, either decision you make will be good. Both paths are awesome. I have a quite a few friends who never had kids and they have great, full, happy lives. And then there are those of us who took the really insane, scary path and that's good too. Just a lot more pressure to perform and we have to be on our best behavior. (Now THAT is tough!)


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