"Any dissident is suspect: neurotic, obsessed by her career, selfish or a lesbian." These are the words of author Corinne Maier, as it relates to the French attitude toward the purposely childless. But I would say that's the attitude most of the world over.
Mme. Maier has written a book entitled No Kid: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children, which has sparked outrage in Maier's native France. Maier wrote a guest column for the British newspaper The Daily Mail on August 21, to explain herself to British audiences. In this column, she wrote:
The world is in the grip of baby mania, with celebrities flaunting their pregnant bellies in magazines, live births on TV and everyone demanding the right to have a baby at any cost.
To be a la mode, the must-have accessory is a baby. If you can't make your own, then a whole business has sprung up to service your needs and now as long as you've got the cash, you can buy IVF eggs, sperm or even children.
Anyone who dares to be different and suggest that being child-free is the better option is vilified as immature or selfish. It's a brave woman who will stand up for her right not to have children.
Indeed, but I would venture that it's not just childless women who are brave. To tell people you're a married man and childless also invites varying degrees of suspicion regarding your male virility or your wife's worth. When I first began talking to a new young lady at work, I told her I've been married for eight years. Her eyes lit up. "Oh," she crooned. "How nice." Then, without wasting a breath: "Any children?" No, I told her, matter of factly. Her smile disappeared and she looked at me as if I'd suddenly grown wings and horns. "Oh dear. Couldn't you …?" No, nothing like that, I assured her, before she could even say that filthy c-word: conceive. We just didn't want any. "Oh," she said quizzically, still regarding me like a rare specimen — which, to be fair, I probably am. "Well, children are lovely."
Yes, I thought, rolling my eyes. They're so lovely that there's no length I won't go to avoid them.
If you're prepared to sacrifice, if you've got the patience of a saint, if you're prepared for your life to change beyond your wildest imagination, if you're prepared to fork over a cumulative $100,000 dollars over 18 years to bring a child into the world and raise, nurture, and discipline it to the age where it becomes a polite, responsible, hard-working adult, then go for it.
Personal reason #1 for not having kids: Temperament
But could you parental types please stop assuming that everyone is cut out to be a parent? I decided a long time ago that I would become celibate, with my wife's approval. Sex is dangerous stuff, it can land you in hot water — hot water that baby takes his or her bath in. I would not make a good father. Remember what Bill Cosby said about "I brought you into the world; I can take you out"? That definitely applies here! Not everyone is endowed with a paternal or maternal instinct. Not everyone has the patience to deal with babies and little children.
Reason #2: Money
My wife and I both work full-time jobs. We don't have a car or gym memberships or anything frivolous that we waste money on. Yet, we both live from paycheck to paycheck. Mortgage rates keep rising, and we've had no end of things breaking down around here that we've had no choice but to fix. I am considering getting a second, part-time job myself just to get a bit more in the black. Now then, do you seriously think we're in good financial shape to have a kid? We'd have to move, for one thing, and the only place we could afford that would be bigger would be in a slum estate. Sorry, but I'm not moving to a ghetto just to contribute to mankind's out-of-control population! I know the government would give us tax breaks for children, but it just wouldn't be enough.
Reason #3: Quality of life
If your vision of a great life is children hopping into bed with you in the morning to greet you, fixing them their breakfast and sending them off to school, playing toys or games with them in the evening and all the little things that make up a parent-child relationship, then wonderful. Again, stop assuming that's everyone else's vision of the good life as well. Because it's not. My wife and I both like to be free to travel (whenever we can snatch a bargain trip, that is); we like the freedom to go out to eat, to the movies or for a few drinks whenever we like; we both like doing our own thing without anyone else around to disturb us. If this is selfish, then so be it. This is the only way of life we've known for nearly nine years now and we're not willing to give up our free-to-choose lifestyle. We both value our freedom very highly.
Reason #4: Time
I need lots of sleep. Lots. I need at least nine hours to feel refreshed. I have barely enough time to fit in writing, reading, playing the guitar, running and all the other things I enjoy, with work and my need for sleep getting in the way. And now I'm expected to fit fatherly duties into the mix? No thanks. There's just not enough time in my day as it is without some kid demanding even more of it.
Reason #5: Environment
Here's what really baffles me. We're supposed to fret over carbon emissions, solid waste disposal, water quality, land space, and a myriad of other things that we know humans beings are making worse or are at least likely to be making worse. And yet, as Mrs. Maier states, the world is in the grip of baby mania. Everyone wants a baby, demands a baby, thinks they have a universe-decreed right to a baby. Overpopulation of the world never seems to figure into the list of things that we should be concerned about. If the environment and the health of our planet is such a big concern — and it should be — then our attitude to our birth rate ought to be of some concern as well. But, it's obviously not. Can you say hypocrisy?
Reason #6: Social life
If you've got a kid, you've got no social life. Period. Being a doting parent means you don't care; your child becomes the center of your life. That's as it should be. There's nothing in the world more irresponsible than a parent that still wants to party.
But there are some people who don't see children as the center of their universe, who don't get all nostalgic or sentimental when surrounded by the creatures. I have often thought that someone with enough capital for a business would do pretty well for him or herself if they started up a child-free airline. Or a child-free coffee shop. Or, how's this — instead of holiday companies who constantly market themselves as child-friendly with free nights and free dinners and free entertainment for the kiddies, what about a travel company that markets adult-only vacation packages? Instead, everywhere we go, the breeders interact with the childless and think that their precious spawn should be seen, heard and appreciated by all. Call me selfish or immature or – *gulp!* – even worse, a liberal, but rare is the time when I'm out-and-about that I don't fantasize about my desire for a child-free refuge other than my own home to escape to.
We have never fully made friends with couples with kids. We have met and socialized with the odd person here or there who had a kid, but the great majority of people we are friends with have been childless adults like ourselves — people who've never had children, never regretted it, and never once felt that it impacted negatively on their lives. The fact is, we just don't identify with parental couples. We don't understand or desire their lifestyle any more than they they understand or desire ours.
I think the breeders — the "children are so lovely and you're nuts for not wanting some" crowd — have some growing up to do themselves. Nothing is more selfish than pushing children on people who just have no longing for them, for making any man or woman feel guilty or worthless for simply trying to life a happy life. For the fact is, some people are perfectly happy to not have children. There are more of us than you would like to believe. And when we see you with your kids — whether you're playing merrily with them or trying to control one of their zillions of temper tantrums — we do not envy you. We do not look wistfully at you. We do not think, "Aww, how sweet." It doesn't even register. It does not make our day that your path crossed ours. We're happy with our own lives, unencumbered by children as we are. We do not even think twice about you.
Deal with it. Start learning to respect people's choices in a free society. We are not endangering the human race by not breeding because you're doing plenty of it for us.
This is not the first time I've had to stick up for childless couples like us. But, assuming mainstream society's attitude doesn't change, I'm probably going to have to keep explaining my position for the rest of my life.
As for you, Mrs. Maier — merci beaucoup et bon sante! We need more women like you. A truly strong and independent woman is one that says "no" to being bullied by society into having children.