I’m Childfree By Choice: So Please Stop Bingoing Me!

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. 😉 

My Relationship is Over, but I Still Have Work to Do

Over the past year, several of my #sistascholars have experienced breakups to varying degrees. Given the pain and frustration I’ve watched them deal with, I felt it necessary to discuss healing and growth within the break-up process too. To illuminate ways in which heartache does not mean the rest of the world stands still with us. After all, I, too, experienced a breakup within the last year, so I consider this piece both healing for me and helpful for others.

Being in graduate school is a journey that can only be understood by those who have experienced it themselves. When we read about people who liken it to undergrad 2.0, we know those folks have not pursued formal graduate education and if so they did it without taking the process seriously. Even then, everyone’s experience is different. Given the fact that relationships are difficult in and of themselves, adding the graduate school layer can lead to a different kind of stress when things go awry. pexels-photo-236229.jpegLast month I wrote about maintaining a relationship while in graduate school. But what happens when things simply do not work out? The work that we do is extremely draining mentally and emotionally. Many of the women I know in this space are doing work specifically related to our Black womanhood. Attempting to grieve the loss of a relationship (because it can be a grieving process) makes it very difficult to perform that work when it is directly tied to our experiences and the work reminds of us the pain we are enduring.

We are in pain. We question ourselves and our ex-partner’s motives and intentions. We question how we even let ourselves get involved with that f*ckboy in the first place. We worry if we will ever get married if we will ever be able to keep a relationship. The sh*t hurts. The whole process of love to heartbreak–the emotions listed here and otherwise. Sometimes, all we want to do is wrap up in our bed under a nice cozy blanket, drink some wine, binge watch some Netflix, and cry until the ducts are dry. But, what is a woman to do when there are final papers are due in a week? How do you manage if the break up happens in the middle of comprehensive exams? When a manuscript is due to an editor? When you have to teach a class tomorrow? Your dissertation is due to your committee? When you’re a new faculty member on the tenure clock? All of these things continue and as the deadlines pile up we have to rise to the task even when our hearts are broken. So how? How do we show up when our primary support is no longer there? How do we find the joy that was once our own?

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The “how” partially depends on the type of person you are.

Can you compartmentalize and get sh*t done during crunch time, then let it out when crunch time has passed? If so, do your thing and apply the rest of this later. For those of you out there like me, this is not our process. As a Black woman who finds herself very in tune with what’s happening around her, I feel EVERYTHING very deeply. There is no concentration in these moments. So, for the those of us who are not so good at compartmentalizing our feelings, I feel the need to share a few ideas that may be helpful on our journey to healing:

  1. Allow yourself to feel it. All of the things listed above can wait just a little bit. We know, it doesn’t feel like it. We know, comps and the diss are defining pieces of graduate education… And still: one day of letting yourself be in your emotions is not going to ruin you. Go ahead and wrap up in your blanket with your wine and favorite snacks and just cry it out. Crying is healing. It can be a release of all of that pain that is built up.
  2. Carve out time to get some work done and make it very focused and intentional. Have specific tasks that you would like to get done in that time. Utilize a space with minimal reminders of what you’re going through. I personally prefer public spaces so that I am not tempted to crawl back in my bed. Once your work time is complete, take some more time to emote if you need it. Repeat this until less and less time is spent on the emotional healing process and more time can be devoted to work. Just remember to adjust for your programmatic needs!
  3. Lean on your village. I don’t know a single woman who has never been through a breakup. There’s some wisdom there. pexels-photo-197465.jpegLean on the women who support you most and let them be there for you. Let them know what you need. Do you need them to just be there and feel their loving energy? Or, do you need them to tell how much of a f*ckboy he was and how great you are? Whatever your style, express that and let them be there for you. Allow your friends to drag you out of bed, to the beach, to the pool, to that party, to a place that can be one of happiness and joy if only for the moment because you deserve to experience these things and it’s the role of our friends to help create these memories. This is especially true during the tough times.
  4. Go see a therapist! A therapist can help you work through those thoughts and emotions in an unbiased, supportive, healing way. And if you can, try seeing a Black woman– even if this means online/ phone only forms of support.
  5.  Finally, understand that it takes time. Cliché, I know… But there’s a reason people say it. It will take you longer to heal if you try to push it down and pretend that everything is ok. Acknowledge your pain and figure out healthy ways to ease it. Breakups are difficult, especially if you planned to spend your life with this person (e.g. broken engagements). Know that you are strong enough to get through it, but you’re also allowed to be vulnerable and feel the pain of that loss. Your emotional well-being is as important as (if not more so) this degree or career. Take that space for yourself. Lean on your village and do not be afraid to seek the support of a professional.

Remember there is no right way to heal. Allow yourself to enjoy the presence of friends and family, the joy of solace, and the immense relief that comes with cry. If all else fails, remember that joy cometh in the morning–maybe not a morning this week, this month, or even this year. But it comes. And it will be yours. You will know what it feels like again, because you deserve to.

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Peace, love, and blessings my sistas!