Can the childfree conversation really change?
Do we need understanding or just acceptance?
I’ve been thinking recently about whether I believe the conversation about having, or not having children can ever really change, and I honestly do think it’s possible. Sure, it’ll take time, just like any change, but it can happen.
A bigger question for me is, do we need people to understand our way of life or do we just need them to simply accept it and not pass comment?
Recently I’ve found myself listening to quite a lot of French playlists on Spotify. I enjoy the music and because I can’t speak French, I find that I don’t get distracted by the lyrics when I’m working, plus, they kind of make me feel like I might be in a cute café in Paris. My point is, I appreciate and enjoy the music, despite not understanding a word of it.
I don’t think you always have to understand something to the fullest degree to respect, appreciate, admire or discuss it; and sometimes even if you do reach a point of understanding, it can be a long learning process.
This week I was featured in an article on Bored Panda (you can read it here) and one of the questions the writer asked me was, ‘why do you think there are so many misconceptions about childfree people?’
I pondered it for quite a while and I think it’s a combination of many things – media portrayal, stereotypes, the fact that we tend to live very prescriptive lives, childfree people are still a minority across all societies, and that often people can struggle to accept things that deviate from societal norms.
But above all, I believe it stems from a lack of conversation. Think about it, parents talk about their parental experience and their kids all the time, and to be fair, that’s not terribly surprising given the enormous level of commitment involved in raising a child. However, when you don’t have children, whether that’s through choice or circumstance (hello if you’re childless, rather than childfree, you’re totally welcome here too), you’re often quietened. We’re told our feelings aren’t as big as those of a parent, our opinions don’t count for as much, and why, oh why, do we feel the need to talk about not having children?! In general, we should just pipe down.
It does seem slightly odd to spend so much of my time discussing something I haven’t done. I don’t go around endlessly telling people I haven’t run a marathon, haven’t become a heart surgeon, and haven’t learnt to play guitar, yet here I am creating an entire newsletter and subscription around not having children. So, I kind of get why people might find it strange.
The whole point of what I’m doing here though is to open up conversations, to broaden the topics and opinions, because the truth is, ultimately, I don’t want any of us to have to keep talking about this. I want it to be so accepted that if it does come up in conversation, it’s easy, it’s respected, and it’s totally normal. And I won’t stop talking about it until I know we can voice our experiences in just the same way as parents do – freely, openly, and without being told our lives are wrong.
When someone accuses you of being selfish, tells you your life is pointless, that you must be a disappointment to your own parents, or that nobody will ever love you (all of which have been said to me), it’s very easy to become defensive or upset. I’m not saying we should all just blindly accept having these hurtful comments made to us, but I don’t think we should shut the conversation down either, we need to keep the lines of communication open.
It’s not about right or wrong, who feels certain emotions more strongly or deeply, or about getting people to live the same life as us. It’s about seeing the full picture, all the options, and living a full life that you love, whatever that might look like. And if along the way some understanding comes from it too, then all the better.
I’ll be covering a variety of topics here and if there’s anything you’d really like me to write about, feel free to comment or email me to let me know. Likewise, if you’d be interested in submitting a guest post for a future edition of the newsletter, get in touch and let’s figure something out. I want to make sure this is a place you enjoy as much as I do.
In the meantime, what do you think? Do you think we can change the image of childfree people? Do you think we need understanding or just acceptance?
Let me know in the comments what you think needs to happen for conversations to change.