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. 😉