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We’re Here, We’re Childless: Deal With It

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"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.

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  • Benjamin Cossel

    Here, here! excellent piece and let me just say – I have a little one. Having a child is an extremely personal choice and those who would call the childless selfish have got it all backwards. Deciding not ot have a child can be one of the most unselfish things outthere. If a person realizes they just aren’t got out to be a parent, or don’t want to be one, or whatever their reason and still do – what kind of a parent will they be? My little boy is at the center of ym really large universe, but that’s the thing…MY universe.

  • Doug Hunter

    Mrs. Maier wrote a book intending to offend the childbearing and she got the response (and publicity) she wanted. Her book and article are more about veiled insults at those bearing children than about the benefits of going childless.

    I rarely feel sorry for people who are baiting even though it has become very common in the modern media generated cult of the victim. Mrs. Maier is a perfect example, she claims to be the one who feels insulted and discriminated against but she’s the one writing books insulting those with children, not the other way around.

    For those of you not familiar with the insidious tactics of the cult of the victim let me break it down for you line by line using only those quotes presented here:

    Victim – ‘Any dissident is suspect: neurotic, obsessed by her career, selfish or a lesbian.’

    Translation – I’m a big victim. Since I can’t find any relevant quotes from the supposed antagonists I’ll put the insults in their mouth myself.

    What you SHOULD be thinking – Provide evidence that this is true. If society was this slanted would the book have an audience? If it does have an audience then obviously there are others out there like this woman. Perhaps she should quit bitching and make friends with them instead of insulting and using passive aggressive attacks against her friends who have children.

    Victim – ‘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.’

    Translation – I’m mad because others are happy with the lifestyle they have chosen. Me, I’m not bitter, remember I’m the victim.

    What you SHOULD be thinking – Isn’t Mrs. Maier doing exactly the same thing she accuses the childbearing of. Why is she obsessed with the activities of those with children? If her lifestyle is so great why doesn’t she flaunt that instead of tearing down others?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    At the individual level there is nothing wrong with choosing not to raise children. It is a wise man or woman who can recognize that he or she is just too selfish to want to shepherd another life onto the planet and care for it for some 18 or 20 years (or more if need be).

    And that is the bottom line of your article, from my point of view. You are too selfish to want to shepherd another life onto the planet (something that does require sacrifices), and you have enough wisdom to recognize that fact.

    That is not cause for me to be critical of you. Your self knowledge and awareness can spare some poor kid a miserable life.

    But.

    Put a half generation together of people like you and you wind up with a situation where the ruling elites import labor because the natives just are not providing enough hands to get the job done.

    You do understand what that means, don’t you?

    Can you spell H-I-J-A-B?

    Please do not misread me, Mark. You personally are not at the root of the thousands of Moslems pouring into the UK and other Continental countries. But millions of other decisions like yours help continue this dance with the devil both in Europe and America.

    And that is the point. YOU AND YOUR WIFE ARE NOT ALONE!

    There is something very wrong with a generation of people that does not want to continue the species. That is not meant personally, Mark. Please do not take it that way. But it is damned scary, and the consequences of that decision is proving disastrous in many societies.

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Ruvy:

    I don’t take any personal offense here at all; I know you would never intend such against me.

    Mark Steyn argued the same in his book America Alone, that Europe is ripe to be re-introduced back into the Caliphate because the natives aren’t reproducing enough.

    And that’s a very good point. The Muslim immigrants are having the babies that I and others like me won’t have. Very good and admittedly very worrying point. But

    Even if the native birthrate was through the roof, the Government would still be letting in loads of immigrants, including Muslims, because it’s a government that just can’t say no. No matter what the native birthrate was, the Government won’t stop until Britain resembles a real-life Silent Running.

    I won’t worry about it, for there’s always an “opt-out” option in case Muslims do control the entire politico-social fabric on this continent. I shouldn’t have to say what that is, but it will be highly considered by yours truly.

  • Doug Hunter

    Moving to Canada?

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com Elvira Black

    Mark, I basically agree with all you’ve said, and I too never intended to have children, and don’t.

    But one thing you said gave me pause:

    “I decided a long time ago that I would become celibate, with my wife’s approval.”

    Is this literally true? If so, I’m assuming you’re a devout Catholic who doesn’t believe in birth control?

    Also, there are a lot of unapologetic single people out there by choice or otherwise. If someone is stupid or tactless enough to question why you don’t have kids, they’re probably not worth the time of day anyway.

    Plus, sad to say, the way the world is now, who knows what kind of future children will have–if they have any future at all. And it is probably tougher to raise kids than ever before–both in terms of expense as well as control over the outside influences they are exposed to that can undermine even the best efforts and intentions of many parents.

    Ruvy, I see your point as well. Like most issues, it’s not as cut and dried as it may seem on the surface.

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Doug, are you kidding me? I’d move back to America, for Canada is just as bad, as wimpy and politically correct toward its jihadists as Britain is.

  • Nancy

    Only a fool would have kids just because everyone else does, or that’s what’s expected. Only a fool insists that everybody breed because “hands are needed”. NO hands are needed. We’re overflowing with “hands” – along with the concomitant parts that go with them – all over the world, because of relentless, uncontrolled, unthinking breeding – usually by those least genetically & intellectually qualified to do so. One thing that struck me a long time ago was that nearly every study on the matter, without exception, indicated that the higher the educational & intellectual level of the parents, the fewer kids they produced. QED. As Gonzo says, ’nuff said.

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Elvira:

    No, I’m not a devout Catholic. One of my best friends is, however, and he frowns upon my choice to be celibate within my marriage. From what I have come to learn with him, a lot of rumpy-pumpy is expected by Catholics if you’re happily married, because it leads to that very thing that Catholics are so damn fond of: LARGE families.

    So, no, obviously I’m not Catholic.

    I’m celibate, with my wife’s blessing, because it’s the surest way of ensuring she doesn’t get pregnant. Condoms fail, vasectomies fail, birth-control pills fail, “cycle of the month” planning fails.

    However, celibacy never fails and therefore never leads to unwanted children.

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Nancy, you’d be surpised by how many idiots get suckered into having kids simply because they think, “well, it’s the done thing, isn’t it?” I wish more people would have a mind of their own when it comes to having — or not having — kids.

  • Nancy

    Then what’s the point of being married? I thought the major part of it was having unlimited access to sex? You mean celibate all the time, or just when it’s “that time of month”? I’m not married, so I don’t know the intimate details of marriage, except by hearsay.

  • Nancy

    Oh, I’m not surprised at all. I’ve seen all my friends pressured that way, especially by whining, wheedling, demanding, bullying parents who want grandkids. They’re the worst of all pressures couples face, IMO.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com Elvira Black

    Mark, you could have a whole ‘nother article based on the celibacy thing. I did think that vasectomies were fairly foolproof–though reversible if you choose. I presume that abortion or the morning after pill are not considered viable options if all else failed?

    Just curious–please don’t take offense.

  • Athena

    Firstly, brilliant article!!!!

    Secondly I am married to a Muslim although I am white and non religious, even though I was raised Christian.
    He is not a terrorist but a decent man, gentle, kind, hard working and sweet.
    Neither of us want children.
    But not all Muslims are bad people even though some (obviously!!) are terrible and they have caused us a great deal of trouble – not only the same troubles they have caused society but also we have had to deal with Islamaphobia too!
    Well,
    I am NOT having babies just so there are less Muslims I’m sorry but I’m not.
    I don’t want them, I have some BAD genes and I just don’t think I could do the job justice.
    Plus I am not thrilled with the state of the world today and the state of many teenagers.
    ANYWAY if we
    DID have children, I bet HIS family want them raised Muslim and mine would want them raised Christian.
    If his family won, are you saying you wish our children had never been born just cos of their religion? Even if they were wonderful?
    Thanks a bunch!
    Just remember people often marry their own but NOT ALWAYS!! What about THAT – not all WASPS marry and have children with other WASPS!
    Anyway
    thanks for a wonderful article, Mark and it expresses a lot of how we as a couple feel.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Mark, I think this is the first time I’ve actually agreed wholeheartedly with one of your pieces (well, actually there was that one about the fox).

    My wife and I are coming up on six years of marriage and are childless. While we haven’t made the final, definitive decision, Not having kids is looking like the most viable and likely option.

    We have a number of reasons, not all of which are in your list, but the wholesale disruption is a major one. We recently adopted two cats, and even they have caused quite major shifts in our routines. They need to be fed, watered, cleaned, paid attention to and taken to the vet. Our clothes and furniture have to be lint-rollered and vacuumed constantly. When we travel, we have to find someone to look after them. And cats are by far the easiest and lowest-maintenance pets to look after. If they’re this much trouble, just think of the impact of human children in our lives.

    So we will very likely remain childless. You’re absolutely right about how much this seems to bother people, although in my case they tend to be humorous about it, telling us, “Oh, you’ll come around”. A few years back a friend of ours even had a bet with her mother that we’d be pregnant within a year. (Actually, I think she was shooting for six months. her mother went for a year.) Needless to say, they both lost.

    I do think the celibacy is taking it a bit far though. Of course the various birth control methods have failure rates, but the percentages are pretty good.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com Elvira Black

    Dr. D, I hear you about the cats. Thing is, there are some “animals” who can’t even take care of a pet, let alone kids.

    Cats are low maintenance, but they still have to be tended to as one would a child–if you take the responsibility to adopt them. Lots of non-pet owners don’t “get it,” just as some of us don’t “get” the appeal of a bunch of rugrats. (just kidding, folks).

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Dr. D: Thanks for the kind words here. Much appreciated, and more power to you and your wife.

    See, it just goes to demonstrate that it’s very rare when two people can’t agree on something. You would have to search high and low and probably never find someone who you would disagree with a perfect 100% of the time. We all find common ground somewhere. I’m glad we’re in agreement on this.

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Nancy: “Then what’s the point of being married? I thought the major part of it was having unlimited access to sex?”

    You could look at marriage that way, but I’d say it’s about a lot more than sex on tap.

    It’s about spending your life, and all it entails, with someone you can’t imagine being without. Because you love the other person so much and want to hang on to them, you seal it with a vow and a ceremony and a legal document.

    In short, marriage is about sealing your relationship with your soulmate. Then, you can guilt-free sex as much as you want. But neither the wife nor I are bothered about sex; we’re both pretty asexual people, it just doesn’t matter and isn’t a point that divides us.

    Just as you can have children guilt-free in marriage, but the wife and I don’t care for that either. Which is exactly why being celibate is such a wise choice.

    Elvira: “I presume that abortion or the morning after pill are not considered viable options if all else failed?”

    And Elvira? No offence taken, but to be perfectly honest, about the whole celibacy matter: neither of us are bothered about sex. We’re both pretty asexual. So I don’t worry myself with the best form of contraception because I’ve already found it and it does not stand in the way of my emotional, spiritual or physical well-being nor does it imperil the relationship I have with my wife. I’m celibate with her full assent and approval and with no hard feelings on her part.

    And, no, we’d never think about abortion as we’re both strongly opposed to it — as a convenient form of birth-control anyway. But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms …

  • Sean Mahoney

    Bravo Mark! I totally agree with your point of view in this excellent piece. As a gay man, I’m now feeling pressure to adopt kids!?! I love kids but they are not for me. Knowing this and saying it aloud in a society that expects us to keep up with the Joneses is empowering and strangely a revelation.

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Athena: You and your husband have your own reasons for not wanting kids and that’s good enough. You’re perfectly entitled to have the sort of marriage you want to have and if it doesn’t involve children, that’s perfectly all right.

    The point I guess I was trying to make is this: Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’re both happy and that’s all that matters. The world won’t end tomorrow just because there are people in this world who have no desire to breed.

    No, not all Muslims are bad. I salute your husband for making a responsible choice, along with you, re: children.

    Glad you enjoyed the piece, thanks for the kind words and best of luck to both of you — MEM

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Sean Mahoney: “Knowing this and saying it aloud in a society that expects us to keep up with the Joneses is empowering and strangely a revelation.”

    Now that’s an excellent point, Sean. To “keep up with the Jones’,” we must outspend them, out-consumer them, get a bigger car, build a bigger porch, put bigger trashcans full of unrecyclable plastic packaging that our latest expensive toys and gadgets came in out on the curb to announce our competitive streak to the world … and have kids. Then the kids get drawn into it, we sign them up for everything, dress them to the nines, boast “my kid is better than your kid,” and so on, ad infinitum. I really do wonder sometimes if this baby mania Maier refers to is really about honest love and desire for children or if it’s really about “Oh dear, can’t have people looking down on us, we’d better do what they expect and have kids, or they’ll think we’re not normal!”

    If this whole rotten, competitive, environmentally damaging “keeping up with the Jones'” garbage is what’s considered normal, then I’m proud and happy to deviate from that norm.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com Elvira Black

    Mark, thanks for your very honest response. Our society is so focused on sex as the be-all and end-all of existence, and as you said there are many other more enduring qualities that make up a happy, fulfilling marriage.

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Exactly, Elvira. Well put. Thank you.

  • Dr Dreadful

    See, it just goes to demonstrate that it’s very rare when two people can’t agree on something.

    I even agreed with Arch Conservative once – long ago…!

  • http://www.suelick.com Sue Lick

    Mark, your article is beautifully written and I see your point, but it scares me. As someone who has just passed menopause without ever having children–and regretting it, I am nonplussed by the number of young people who decide they will never have children for all those reasons you state. What other species consciously decides not to procreate? None. It just seems unnatural. Besides, they are not children forever. They turn into adults, and you’ll wish they were around when you get old.
    Even more unnatural is your decision to be celibate. Get a vasectomy. My husband had one 30 years ago. Believe me, they work.
    But it is a good article, and obviously, it has inspired lots of reactions. I wish you the best.

  • Miriam

    “You do understand what that means, don’t you?

    Can you spell H-I-J-A-B?”

    People are not having babies precisely BECAUSE the government takes that approach. We’ve known perfectly well, for over two generations, that the government just sees us as replaceable bits and their primary aim is to keep labour cheap. So why should we not give up? I come from a lower-middle class family of three children .We had absolutely no money for anything growing up and only one of us could afford to go to university. If our ‘leaders’ want to make our lives crappy and insecure, that’s their perogative but we are under NO obligation to procreate more workers for them. Besides, Muslims take care of each other and that’s why the government is terrified of them because their whole half-baked notion of a perfect society is one of competing individuals who do shit to each other while they sit like philosopher kings on top. We’re tired of it.

  • Friend Mouse

    Mark, thank you for writing this! (Now if you could only explain things to my mom …)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman diana hartman

    Congratulations! This article has been selected for syndication to Boston.com, where it will be enjoyed by even more readers.

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