I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to write this for this platform. Everywhere I go I see post after post saying people without kids are “assholes”, “rude,” “mean,” “selfish,” and every other word in the book. This post originally appeared on my facebook, but I wanted to add it here and flesh out a few pieces for a greater audience because there just aren’t enough posts like these. I also feel like it can contribute to the conversation that is circling regarding Jeannie Mai and her husband’s impending divorce. With this ridiculous disclaimer out the way….
In the childfree community, we call it bingoing/being bingoed when people with children or those who buy into norms of having children say certain things to us because we have made a decision to opt out of parenthood. The decision of whether or not I wanted to parent became particularly salient for me when my ex-fiance and I went back and forth in the months leading up to our planned wedding date.
Well as you can guess by this post– that wedding didn’t happen. *Ba dun tisk*
Go head, laugh. I can *now* laugh about it myself; but it took a few months to get here. Anyway, I have been very forthcoming with people about the end of my last relationship and that at the core of this change was my lack of willingness to have children, to give up my dreams and goals associated with travel, and to stifle my career by placing another person’s vision of happiness above my own. Some people call this selfish, I call it self-awareness.
I think it is noble and nice that folks say their kids are the best thing to happen to them, and yet I see so many parents on my social media timelines and elsewhere who are utterly miserable. People who mention their lack of sleep, continued inability to save for a rainy day, find themselves consistently canceling plans because of a sick baby or unexpectedly busy co-parent, etc. and it’s touted as a badge of honor. I don’t purport to understand it and I have decided it’s not for me to do so. But gosh golly people. Canceling on the same friend every month? It sucks. Walking around a shell of who you are? It’s hard to watch.
Asking me for money? Well, that’s actually no longer an option for anyone because I cannot help you.
What I do know is that I did not grow up with the life I felt I deserved. My parents did everything they could and I am grateful for every sacrifice they’ve made to get me here. It is not lost on me that my parents contributed greatly to the woman I am today. My parents worked to their bones to provide for my sister and I. I have watched as they gave everything they had and poured into us with a selflessness that I honestly think should be illegal. I am hyper-aware of the fact that my parents, who are low income by every measure I’ve come to learn as a social class researcher, have worked 40+ hours per week for the entirety of my life and they do not have enough to retire on. They have not because they sacrificed for us. And in many ways I’ve already made the decision to make sure they do not have to suffer for it.
Make no mistake I am grateful. In fact, I want the best for everyone in my life, and if that means having 2972972982 kids and struggling or having no kids at all great. But I must admit openly and honestly that it is utterly exhausting being bingoed. I am tired and I am frustrated with everyone else’s preoccupation with what I do with my vagina, my wallet, and my willingness to sacrifice. People treat me as if my decision not to have kids is somehow an affront to them. As if I have somehow invalidated their choices by choosing to make my own. And the worst part of it all is how many people ignore just how many Black women, women who could be me, my sister, my cousins, etc. have died during childbirth and die at a higher rate than everyone else in this first world country we call home. I am exhausted by hearing–
“it’s different when you have yours”
“you don’t want to give your parents grandkids”
“You didn’t really love [ex-fiance] if you wouldn’t have his kids” (I’m no longer friends with this person.)
“Children are a blessing”
“What will be your legacy”
“You’re not a real woman until you have kids”
Etc. Etc. Etc.
I must admit I’ve been particularly sensitive this month. I was supposed to get married *and* I somehow forgot to remove the calendar invites going haywire to remind me about my “honeymoon.” I still love my ex-fiance and do not pretend as if this isn’t the case.
AND… I still don’t want to have kids.
I think the most frustrating part of all of this is how people question me as if I have not thought and calculated every piece of this decision. Do people honestly think that I walked away from a relationship that would have guaranteed me fun and comfort without weighing how much having a child because he wanted one would hurt and harm me? Do people think I am unaware of the exorbitant costs associated with daycare and private schooling? Do people think I am unaware that amongst even my closest friends those married, in a partnership, a relationship without legal guarantees, and even those who are single that the women *almost always* do all of the parenting work? Even amongst my friends in queer relationships, the person who is most femme presenting *often* does all of the work (this is a whole different dialogue for another day, btw).
I have thought.
I have researched.
I have made budgets.
I have remade budgets.
I have mapped career timelines from front to back with and without kids.
I still have no desire to have kids.
I write all of this to say stop trying to make me make the choices you’ve made. Stop trying to make me be with someone who wants kids (or is fence sitting) when I know I’m setting myself up for divorce. Stop talking to me as if my life is not as important as yours because you’re a parent. Stop saying “at least you don’t have kids” when I mention my annoyance about unexpected expenses popping up. I still have bills to pay and a mouth to feed: Mine.
I am a whole person. A living breathing individual who wishes to be seen as more than an incubator for a human fetus. Who wishes to have her accomplishments judged by their merit, not by the man or kids I am or am not attached to.
And stop trying to force me to qualify “I’m not interested in having kids” by following up quickly about how much I like them. Everything I do is for the good of other people. Nearly every desire I have is for the betterment of society. Every decision I make is so that I can get to a point of being more charitable and giving than I am today– things that are for the good of a future I don’t have children coming into.
And if you can’t do any of that, just please for the sake of my heart, feelings, and emotions stop bingoing me.
P.S. My ex is a great guy. Have at him. 😉
“I think it is noble and nice that folks say their kids are the best thing to happen to them, and yet I see so many parents on my social media timelines and elsewhere who are utterly miserable.”
SIS. All of this. MY exact feelings. Which message is the real message? I get sideways looks when I talk about how hard it is for me to tolerate [young] kids. I resent the fact that I’m also supposed to at least assume the role of babysitter because I don’t have kids. Like no, that’s not how I choose to spend my free, not having kids ass, time. And “it’s different when they’re yours” means nothing when you’ve popped one out and realize that you really can’t just send they ass back. I try not to rant about this too much on personal social media cuz like everybody I went to high school with has whole families. I’m just bursting inside sometimes at the memes and statuses and it gives me so many migraines. Like let my empty uterus be great.
Now, I have ranted enough.
Lissen! Sis! I don’t think folks know either and I think that love they have for their kids clouds a lot. I’ve seen so many “I wish I never had kids” posts in the last few weeks! Kids are def hard to deal with and people aren’t about to push them on me. Enjoy your empty uterus as you’ve called it. LOL. ❤
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Exactly. We just all need to be honest and accepting of everyone’s truth. Dassit.
I made the choice in my teens not to have a kid and made it clear to family and friends as they started to have kids that I am never going to be a babysitter and that I have absolutely no interest in photos, videos, hang out time, etc with kids.
Took them some time to get it but they do now. It’s done. Family and friends no longer bingo me and the few people who have over time are usually people I’ve only just met. They learn my stance quickly once they start down that line.
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LOL that’s how I feel. Perhaps i need to officially announce it to the people. I’ve been tagged in so many pictures and videos of family members with children and have merely blinked.
If I hear one more time that I’m too young to decide what I want with my uterus, I just might scream! First of all, I’m almost 30; quite sure I’m aware of what I want. Two, I said no to kids at 16; I don’t see that changing anytime soon. The main part I hate, though, is the underlying narrative of “you aren’t a woman until you have kids”. Please. Miss me with all that B.S. I don’t measure my worth on how many new consumers I can push out, and that’s my choice. So many folks have struggled (and died) for me to choose who and what I am…I’m not about to let society (or my mama) take that away from me. It is frustrating though to be constantly excluded from things these days because of my no-baby status….but not frustrating enough to have a kid I don’t really want.
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Absolutely sis. We gotta stay strong.
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There is nothing more satisfying than coming across childfree articles written by other Black women. To be black and female and to reject motherhood is to reject A LOT in the Black community. I’m surrounded by Black people who made themselves parents and now they regret it. I’m happily not one of those people and will never be. Children aren’t for me and that is that on that. Folks need to crawl back into their nursery with all of their ” you’ll regret not having kids” BS because I’m sure no one regrets motherhood more than mothers do.
And there’s research to prove it!
I firmly believe that many more women would opt out of parenthood or find non-traditional ways to parent (adopting older children, community parenting) if they consciously sit down and thought about what it would mean for the quality of their lives. Nice piece. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue.
I came across your blog and enjoyed your post. If I’m being honest, I really don’t want to have kids. If I’m in the company of certain friends, I notice myself hedging and saying “maybe.” Children don’t seem to fit into my lifestyle and I feel selfish saying this because so many people make space, time and money for their kids. Thanks for your perspective.