Childfree 101: The Non-Parent Trap

[Content Note: Reproductive and choice policing. This piece is about women who choose to be childfree; those who are not childfree by choice may also be caught in this trap, as well as men who choose and don't choose to be childfree, but their experiences may look different.]

Here is the Non-Parent Trap in a nutshell: Prove you're happy without kids; you're a bitch if you say you're happy without kids.

One of the constant refrains to which many women who choose not to parent are continually subjected is that we can't possibly be really happy without children.

Whether it's some variation on the narrative that [cis] women's biological destiny is motherhood; or some implication that we are selfish assholes with empty lives; or some commentary about our lives being incomplete because we'll never understand the special, incandescent love of motherhood; or being straight-up told that we're not really happy, or that our happiness is a false one.

Basically, we're constantly obliged to "prove" that we are happy (or content, or satisfied, or whatever) with our decision not to parent.

But if we actually try to do that, by saying, out loud, the heretical words that we're glad we don't have children, we are immediately punished with accusations that we are judging people who do choose to parent, and/or that we hate children.

This is a game we cannot win.

And, frankly, it's a game I would prefer to be obliged not to play, and not just because it's one I can't win.

One of the reasons I chose not to parent is because I didn't want my life to be defined by parenting, so you can only imagine my reluctance to have my life defined by not parenting.

Yet I'm nonetheless routinely defined by not being a parent. And the only people allowed to draw conclusions from that fact are the people who impose this definition on me.

I can't really be happy—and, if I say that I am, I'm a monster.

Because being happy in my choice is never viewed as being a commentary on my own choice, but a judgment of theirs.

Which is why the whole frame is "happiness," instead of something more closely resembling what I (and lots of other people who chose to not parent) actually feel: I am content not to parent. I am relieved not to parent.

If a parent can imagine that I didn't want children as much as they did want children, then it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I am just as "happy" about my choice as they are about theirs.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I don't miss something I didn't want.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I don't regret a choice I had and have to be very diligent to make.

And I shouldn't be obliged to play this game that I can't win. If you are so concerned about policing my reproduction, and challenging my "happiness," then don't be pissed off when I tell you that I am actually indeed perfectly happy. That my life is fucking terrific without kids, because that's the way I wanted my life to look.

[Commenting Note: Please note that I am fully aware that this is not a thing that not all parents do to people who are not parents. If your instinct is to argue "not all parents!" don't. If the shoe doesn't fit, just don't wear it.]

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