Welcome to our new feature, “Dear Childfree Girls,” in which we do our best to answer your questions as thoroughly – and as honestly – as possible (even if it hurts). Do you have a question for the Childfree Girls? If so, see the instructions at the end of this post.
Dear Childfree Girls,
I am very open about my desire to live freely and without chains. I see having children as a HUGE burden and I am not afraid to vocalize it. I will also not hesitate to point out how neglected most children are and how messed up our childcare system is. I see these talking points as warrants for my claim, “I do not want kids”
I can tell it makes most folks uncomfortable when I talk like this. It makes me uncomfortable when people talk about their kids. I let them rattle off about their fuck trophies without interruption or objection, respectfully.
When I bring up my viewpoints on having children I am labeled a “baby hater”. It has happened on multiple occasions, different conversations, different people, at different times in my life, men and women have both presumed I hate babies. I admit, I do not think babies are cute, nor do I care to hold one, but that doesn’t mean I hate them. Hating them would require feelings, and I feel nothing when I look at a baby. Not even hate. I used to let people make me feel bad about that, like I was somehow damaged, and for a while there I didn’t speak my mind when the topic came up. That was more damaging than their insults.
My question to you is: How do we reach these people who are committed to misunderstanding us? How do we explain our side of the story without them shutting us out and labeling us? How do we open up the conversation to be two sided because it has been a one sided conversation for a really long time. How can we make talking about being childfree as socially acceptable as talking about having kids? I promise you have tried different techniques, approaches and language but it all seems to lead to “you hate babies” .
ISABEL SAYS: Hola, “Baby Hater.” The simple answer to your question, “How do we reach these people who are committed to misunderstanding us” is: you don’t.
If someone is committed to not listening, to showing no empathy or openness, and to make you feel bad in the process, do you really want to reach this kind of person?
In order for us to tell our side of the story without someone shutting us out and labeling us we need that person to be willing to listen to the story in the first place. They might not agree, but at least be empathetic enough to understand that their reality is very different to other people’s reality, and to know that that’s part of life and it’s perfectly normal.
My suggestion is: try to talk first to people who are open to listening, first. Stay aware of the language that you use. Keep the focus on the childfree lifestyle, and not on what life would be as a parent.
I think if you focus on what you know and how it has positively impacted your life, instead of talking about the potential negatives of a life as a parent, it will be easier to find an audience willing to listen and exchange thoughts.
KRISTEN SAYS: Hi, “Baby Hater.” You say it makes you uncomfortable “when people talk about their kids,” but that you “let them rattle off about their fuck trophies.” You then ask, “How do we reach these people who are committed to misunderstanding us?”
This makes me think of a scene from the movie St. Elmo’s Fire, in which Judd Nelson’s character is saying whatever he can to anger his girlfriend (played by Ally Sheedy) as she packs up her things to move out of their shared apartment. He does this until she finally walks out the door, then says to himself, “I just wish I could get her back!” (It’s funny.)
I understand that what a person thinks isn’t necessarily the same as what they say, but I have to wonder whether you’re giving them the impression that you question their life choice. Is there a chance the way you feel, and the thoughts you have (babies as burdens, “fuck trophies,” etc.), sneak out in your facial expressions or the way you discuss being childfree?
If that does happen, you probably come across as judgmental and unapproachable, which might inspire them to make a knee-jerk reverse judgment, and then they may not necessarily be inspired to want to understand you.
Delivery is everything. Someone who wants to be understood and respected (you) should be prepared to understand and respect in kind, even if simply by not communicating to a parent or future parent that you see parenthood the way you see it. (If you don’t do this already, you might try using the words “huge responsibility” rather than the more negatively connotative “burden,” for example, because people who want children don’t see them as burdens.)
Good conversations happen, and mutual understanding has more of a chance, when the parties are equally respectful of one another, and of one another’s feelings and circumstances.
LeNora says: Hey there, “Baby Hater”. Have you seen those posts on social media—“tell me you’re (childfree) without telling me you’re ‘childfree’”?
What if you bring the focus to your freedom and enjoyment of life and all the experiences you are having without mentioning “babies” and “burden”? This approach doesn’t guarantee someone won’t label you a “baby hater”, but people are more likely to be receptive to the childfree choice and engage in open conversation when they feel safe.
Creating an atmosphere when two opposing views can be heard and understood requires effort (consistency and patience). This is also the approach for making the childfree topic socially acceptable to talk about. You need to be dedicated. Firm in your stance and understanding towards those who won’t see it your way.
To submit your own question to Childfree Girls:
– Email CHILDFREEGIRLS AT GMAIL DOT COM
– Put “Dear Childfree Girls” in the subject line
– Let us know how you’d like to be identified, whether it’s a name or “Anonymous”
Remember: your letter may be published on our blog and sent out as part of our regular newsletter (don’t forget to subscribe!).