I Don’t Eat Babies for Breakfast

Hansel and Gretel 1911 Drawingby Ashli Scale

Feminist discourse on reproductive rights focuses on women’s right to choose, whether that choice be parenting, adoption or abortion.  But, what about women who choose NOT to have children?

( public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

I am one of those women and wow, people can be frosty about my decision.  Deciding to be childfree is not the same as being infertile because it’s a conscious choice not to procreate (Maher & Saugeres, 2007).  Personally, I deliberated for several years before making this decision.

And I’m not the only one.  Studies on childfree couples show that this decision is made after a lengthy, serious decision-making process (Kelly, 2009).  Yet the responses I most commonly get are “Are you sure?” and “You’ll change your mind”.   I am met with disbelief, criticism and perceived regret.  You may not realize it, but responding in such a way is not “harmless” – it is patronizing and infantilizing (Kelly, 2009).

Stigma and stereotypes about childfree couples are surprisingly common.  I have been called selfish, callous and cold for my choice (because of course, no one has ever known a selfish, callous or cold mother, right Freud?).  People often ask “Why do you hate children?” and look at me like I’m the witch straight out of Hansel & Gretel.  The truth is, I love children – other people’s children!

Another common assumption I hear about childfree women is that they must have had a terrible childhood or poor relationships with their parents.  I love my parents and spent my childhood baking cookies and making snow angels.   There’s no link for me.

Sometimes parents feel as though I’m attacking their decision to have kids by choosing something different.  When a parent is defensive or snippy with me, I just remind them that my decision to be childfree has nothing to do with their choice.  If that’s the life you want, kudos.  It’s not the life I want so I’m just asking for the same kudos back.

All I really want is my choice to be respected just as I respect others’ choices, whatever they may be.  The bottom line is that if we can’t respect the choice to be childfree we are undermining a woman’s right to choose.

*Side note:  Many childfree support groups and blogs have a problem with people choosing to be childfree and changing their minds.  I don’t agree with this.  If you want your choice to be respected then you must also respect an individual’s right to change their mind.  Just saying.

Want to Learn More?

http://childlessbychoiceproject.blogspot.com/

This blog has been around since 2008 and has excellent discussions about many topics surrounding the choice to be childfree.  Topics include how childfree women are perceived in other countries, birth control access and current childfree trends.

http://completewithoutkids.com/blog

Complete Without Kids is a blog written by Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D.  Ellen touches on a variety of important topics such as myths about childfree women, childfree dating, family-focused holidays and childfree celebrities.

References:

Kelly, Maura.  (2009).  Women’s Voluntary Childlessness: A Radical Rejection of Motherhood? Women’s Studies Quarterly, 37 (3 & 4), pg. 157-172.

Maher, Jane Maree & Saugeres, Lisa.  (2007).  To Be or Not To Be a Mother: Women Negotiating Cultural Representations of Mothering.  Journal of Sociology, 43 (1), pg. 5-21.

 

Posted on by Ashli Scale in Feminism 6 Comments

About the author

Ashli Scale

Ashli is a Bachelor of Social Work student in Ottawa, Ontario. Her professional focus is violence against women, women’s reproductive rights and youth homelessness. In her free time she works towards building awareness of the stigma and resistance childfree women experience.

6 Responses to I Don’t Eat Babies for Breakfast

  1. rebecca boone

    beautiful. thank you. i actually have two children but never planned on having children, when i got pregnant i didn’t know i had a choice in the matter. many of my friends are childfree by choice, i respect that. However, I have heard some of the same negative responses to their choice. it’s a shame really. Society is so geared toward women having children and then raising those children that many women do not even know they have a choice in the matter. Negative comments toward non-mothers, or telling them that they might change their mind is the same old societal control over women’s bodies. It’s as if we need to be told how to live our lives.

     
  2. Tina Price-Johnson

    So perfectly sums up how I feel too. I chose not to have children after a lot of deliberation and thinking around the issues on personal, family and societal levels. Still I get ‘oh, you’ll change your mind’ and told (I quote word-for-word) that having a child ‘proves you’re a women’. I wasn’t aware my womanhood was under question. I don’t hate children, I am not selfish, I am not unnatural, I am not any of the question marks over my femaleness my decision may raise. Thank you for putting into words what I have felt for so very, very long.

     
  3. Terry C - NJ

    I have the greatest respect for anyone who knows that they are not cut out to be a parent and resists society’s and relatives’ pressure.

    Far too many people nowadays sticking their noses in other people’s business….and bedrooms!

     
    • Jade

      I don’t think it has anything to do with ‘not cut out to be a parent’ …..I am a primary school teacher and I think I would make an excellent Mom. I just don’t want necessarily be that. I think saying ‘not cut out to be a parent’ again minimizes the ‘choice’ aspect here as you are providing the ‘excuse’ rather than taking it as a ‘choice.’

       
  4. Jade

    I really liked this article by the way. As a married 30 year old woman, I get so sick of mentioning feeling sick or tired and being asked ‘are you pregnant?’ ‘Are you sure you’re not pregnant?’ ‘How do you know you’re not pregnant?’ Can’t I just be fatigued and have a frickin belly ache??? The assumption is always there that I want to be pregnant, that I’m going to be pregnant at any time and that given my age It’ll be any second now…..Blah, just let me have the flu in peace please.

     
  5. Sharon M.

    If you change your mind about having children, you were never truly childfree.
    Whenever someone starts questioning my choice not to have kids, I throw the same questions back at them:
    You want kids?
    What if you regret having them?
    Or I tell them “oh you’ll change your mind!.
    Or I say why are you asking me about my sex life?
    I don’t want kids, never have, and one of the reasons is I don’t like them. I am through making nice with rude, nosy people

     

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