Open Letter about Being Childfree

Originally published 12/8/2005. Links were valid at the time of publication.

This was an old post I wrote in 2002 in response to a post written by blogger John Scalzi regarding the Childfree. He followed up that post with another before I had a chance to write this reply. Recently I had need of the arguments here, and thought that I had turned them into an essay. Apparently I had not, so I include it here because not surprisingly all the arguments are still extremely valid.

Allow me to clarify some basic misconceptions regarding Child-free attitudes that you post on your website
(http://www.scalzi.com/w020422.htm). Let me first address why I’m posting here, on ascf, rather than in direct response to your site: 1) I can pretty much be assured that it will be posted in its entirety here and unburied, and 2) in a forum that will remain open to debate.

I cannot speak (nor do I pretend to) for other childfree members, but I can safely assume that the sentiments expressed here are shared by more than a few. You have experienced some of the more rabid members of the group and suffered through vitriolic expressions of disdain, which can cloud the issues at hand much more readily than they will clarify.

Personally, I do not hate children or parents as a rule. What I (and I think some others) hate include the following:

 

  • Parents who think they are “owed” something for having children
  • Parents who think their *children* are owed something
  • Dr. Laura
  • Children who grow up thinking that they are entitled to special
    privileges because they are not educated otherwise
  • Parents who think that they are not responsible for their child’s
    actions
  • Parents who think that the government should subsidize their child’s
    upbringing
  • Being limited in social and entertainment activities because of the
    “effect” on children who shouldn’t be there in the first place
  • Being forced to endure children in adult workplaces
  • Being forced to subjugate our own desires, wants, and needs for those
    who have children
  • Being expected (not even requested any more) to compensate for the
    inactivity and unproductivity of parents
  • Being financially and socially taxed for the benefit of parents who
    see it as an entitlement
  • Dr. Laura
  • Parents who hypocritically expect non-parents to forego legitimate
    behaviors and entertainment that they themselves engaged in before they
    were parents, simply for the sake of “for the children.” Examples
    include, but are not limited to, profanity, violence, and sex-laden
    movies that any adult should have the right to determine for him/herself
    whether they should attend
  • Having to endure children who intrude or behave inappropriately in
    public places and then be subjected to parental diatribes about “how can
    you speak to my child like that?” for not tolerating it
  • Parents who have kids for the sake of having more kids
  • Teenage parents who do not understand the financial, social, or
    political consequences of having children when they are unprepared
  • Dr. Laura
  • Parents who get tax breaks for having children, then want the
    government to give them money from people who *don’t* have children to
    receive vouchers for private schools.
  • Being labeled “selfish” for not having or wanting to have children,
    when there is nothing in the world MORE selfish than having kids in the
    first place
  • Working parents who believe they should be able to “have it all” and
    demand compensation when they can’t
  • Parents who tolerate behavior from their children when they wouldn’t
    tolerate it before they had kids
  • Parents who make a choice to have kids and resent others who don’t
    have the same time and life restrictions as a result
  • Parents who refuse to require their children to respect other adults
    (e.g., how many times have I heard a parent introduce me to their 5-year
    old child as “J” instead of Mr. Metz or Dr. Metz, as my parents taught
    me, and as I deserve? Teach your child some respect, dammit!)

 

and, of course, Dr. Laura.*

My guess as to why you receive blind vitriolic spasms from members of this group (and the child-free community at large) is due to the fact that patience is wearing too thin. Everywhere I turn there are more calls for “Family Friendly” fill-in-the-blank, often being a direct erosion of personal liberty, privacy, and financial independence.

To make matters worse, these children are growing up with an institutionalized sense of self-righteousness and entitlement that is infuriating. They *expect* to be given things for free (cars at 16, for instance). They know that they are surrounded by political clout and act accordingly (ever have a group of pre-teens ride their bikes in the middle of the street when you’re trying to drive and refuse to get out of the way?). And I’m not even talking about kids on the dole – these are kids with so-called middle-class backgrounds.

There are other, more direct consequences of childbearing and child-raising. As the only member of my group of college friends without children, I have watched as friend after friend has completely lost the individual identity that made them who they are. The distinct personalities which had made up my circle of friends are completely gone now, replaced by a generic “mommy” or “daddy” persona that makes them entirely interchangeable. Conversations no longer can revolve around interesting topics – no matter how esoteric – but instead degenerate into the one common denominator that marks all parents: their kids. So, in a sense, there is an element of loss there as well.

But perhaps more than anything else, the absolution of all responsibility becomes the most infuriating. Columbine is the result of negative influences of Marilyn Manson, or the Matrix, but couldn’t *possibly* be bad parenting or other, abusive teenagers. If I don’t like having a child come over and stick their fingers in my lunch at a restaurant, it’s *my* fault for not being “child-friendly.” If someone – I swear to God this happened – lets their child run screaming up and down the aisle in a movie theater showing Stigmata, the guy who complains is an intolerant bigot who doesn’t like children. If I don’t want a child to rubberneck over my shoulder to look at what I’m typing into my PDA in a waiting room, it’s my problem for being anti-social.

Then there’s the idea that somehow becoming a parent makes you a better person. That’s the argument – sometimes spoken, sometimes implied – that until you have kids you are incomplete, uncivilized, unworldly, un*selfish*, that is patently insulting and offensive. How many times have we heard stories of the Andrea Yates’ of the world, the Susan
Smiths? In Orlando a couple of years ago we actually had a story of a guy who put his step-child in the OVEN and killed her at 400 degrees. If this is *better* than what he was before…

The problem is, parents think that these bad examples of parenting are the exception, rather than the rule. They neither understand nor care that the opposite is the case, nor do they fathom that those parents who have gone before have left paths of destroyed goodwill along the way. Add to it the ridiculous notions of how parents aren’t getting their “fair share” in the form of tax breaks, school vouchers, voting rights, work-reprieve, etc., and it’s no wonder that the resentment and anger boils over.

But look, it’s really simple. A man’s beliefs are exemplified best by his actions; raise your daughter to show respect towards others, without an over-developed sense of entitlement, and perhaps another parent might do the same. Perhaps your daughter will teach *her* daughter to do the same. Understand that having children entitles you SOLELY to the responsibility involved in raising her within your means, and I’m sure that you will have the respect of not only myself and others on this list, but also their gratitude and encouragement.

Sincerely,

J Metz

*Why do I hate Dr. Laura in this regard? Because the philosophy she espouses goes something like this:

You shouldn’t have sex until you are married. When you are married the first goal should be to have children When you have children you have a responsibility to that child above everything else.

Therefore, according to this logic, there whole purpose of being in a relationship is to have children, subsume your own identity, and perpetuate the cycle. You are nothing, according to Laura, without children and have no rights either with or without them. There are, of course, more reasons why I hate Dr. Laura, but in regards to children this is my beef.

The Aftermath

 

Scalzi wrote a response to this message in which he actually agreed with the majority of what I wrote. There are still some sense of entitlement in his message, but I include his response to note the change in tone and at least a beginning approach to a meeting of the minds.

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