Last week I received an interesting email from a reader about some of the dynamics behind being childfree. She has observed that women who have chosen to be childfree often feel the need to profess how much they love and enjoy kids, but that they just don’t want any. Her question was: “Where are all the women who actually don’t like kids? I can’t be the only one.” She went on to say, “There seems to be a belief that not liking kids = bad person. The fact that I have a college degree, have been gainfully employed since high school, volunteer to feed the hungry at Thanksgiving…all of it is brushed aside as meaningless because I don’t like kids. I also wouldn’t want an elephant, because it doesn’t fit into my lifestyle.”
I’m sure she’s not the only one who doesn’t like kids, either. I’ve come across a few. I’ve actually uttered those words myself, usually half-jokingly. Half-jokingly because there are lots of kids I do like…just not all of them. Since I don’t really have a strong opinion about this, I thought it would be great for her to write a guest post on this very topic.
Here’s what Nissa has to say:
I recently attended the baby shower of a friend I’ve had for over a decade. As I struggled to smile through the “pass the diaper” game while kids ran in and out of the room, I could see that I was the only one who was uncomfortable. The others cheerfully spoke over the banging of the toys, the shrieking, and the drone of the kids’ video. I had to fight a desire to run to my car and drive to my peaceful post-divorce, childfree home.
This wasn’t always the case. In spite of all the realistic career, financial, environmental and overpopulation reasons to not have children, I grew up thinking I’d be like everyone else. I did get married. However, when I spent time around my friends’ kids I noticed….it wasn’t fun. I wasn’t having that “oh aren’t they cute” feeling. The feeling I got was, “no thanks, I think I’ll pass” and “how soon can I leave?”
When I mentioned this to people, they comforted me by saying “Oh, just have them – you’ll feel different when they are your own….I hate other people’s kids but I love mine”. Everyone spoke about how wonderful they are – sweet, cute, how everything is new to them, how it makes you appreciate life.
What worried me about this scenario was that babies are permanent. It’s not like a dress that I could return if it just wasn’t working for me. Maybe I just needed to try on a baby before buying?
Being an auntie seemed like a good compromise. You know, enjoy all the good parts and then reap the financial benefits of being childless. So I tried. I spent time with babies, with little kids and bigger kids, with ADD kids and “good kids”.
But the more I tried, the less I enjoyed them. I didn’t find babies cute – they were just uninteresting. I didn’t enjoy the crying, the smells and the random smears of what might be chocolate or poop. With the older kids, the sweetness that sometimes surfaced was quickly drowned out by the mood swings from happy to angry to tears every 10 minutes. The wonder of all-things-new was swamped by the incessant noise of toys, TV and questions about everything under the sun. Conversations, shopping trips or a visit to the bathroom were punctuated with interruptions, disagreements and whining.
My experiences with other people’s kids proved to me I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t enjoy being responsible for someone else’s entertainment, feeding needs, bathroom needs and emotional needs. The good parts did not come anywhere near compensating me for what I was giving up to be with them.
In the end, I just didn’t like them. I far prefer quiet, order and predictability. I enjoy offering my gifts of love, nurturing and compassion to adults, who are often in need of those very gifts.
So technically, children have made me appreciate life…the life I have without them.