Childfree 101: We Don't All Hate or Misunderstand Kids

[Content Note: Marginalizing narratives about childfree people.]

One of the most pervasive narratives about people who are childfree by choice is that we all hate kids, or that we all have no fucking idea what it's like to parent (even though many of us have helped parent younger siblings, nieces and nephews, etc.), or that we don't understand children.

And some people who are childfree really don't care for kids, or really don't know what it's like to parent, or really don't get or relate to kids very well, but, if we're honest, we all know people who are parents about whom we could say the same things. (Some of us could probably say these things about our own parents, unfortunately.) And we probably all know people who are childfree who are great with kids.

Most halfway decent people who give these things even a modicum of thought will agree that these narratives are garbage.

In the abstract.

And yet, every time another story about a crying kid in a restaurant goes around—currently, it's the one about the diner owner in Portland who yelled at a kid whose parents had reportedly let her cry without attention for a long time—virtually everyone I see discussing that story does in terms that are rooted in those very narratives.

That is, they define the two groups of people on either side of the debate—those defending parents of crying children and those defending people who complain about crying children—as parents and non-parents.

It happens every time. People reflexively assume that anyone who takes a position that isn't full baby access to all spaces at all times is childfree, and anyone who takes a position that defends children and parents must be a parent.

Which only makes sense if you subscribe to narratives about people who are childfree being (uniquely) hostile toward or ignorant about children.

Because some of the most aggressively judgmental people in these conversations, if you actually pay attention to them, are other parents.

And some of the people most desperately pleading for (some) childfree spaces are also other parents, who have far less flexibility to go out to dinner (or wherever) sans kids and thus dread their precious kid-free time being filled with the sounds of other people's children in spaces they didn't reasonably expect children to be.

This isn't an invitation to debate childfree public spaces. This is simply a request for people who engage in those debates to be a little more thoughtful when they do it.

It might seem like it's No Big Deal to shorthand the two sides as parents v. non-parents, and it might actually not be a big deal for lots of non-parents (especially dudes), but for a lot of us it's pretty important to dismantle those narratives—especially when women who don't like kids are still viewed as virtual monsters.

Which itself is a narrative that needs to be shoved into a cannon and fired directly into the sun. But I digress.

It's also a big deal because that narrative underwrites the drawing of parent v. non-parent teams in a way that invisibilizes the parents who advocate for (some) childfree spaces, which then functions to suggest there are never any valid arguments for childfree spaces, and certainly none made by parents—just a bunch of selfish, child-hating, ignorant childfree assholes who don't even have the right to weigh in on parenting issues.

It's a way to demonize people who are childfree so parents staking out a particular position can win, sheerly by virtue of claimed authority.

Look, argue these issues from here to eternity and back again, if you must, but at least do it honestly. Don't pretend that every parent shares the same opinion, and so does every person who is childfree.

And for chrissakes, parents: Stop misrepresenting who has the privilege in this context. I cannot even define myself in this context without referencing what I don't have. There is no word for my status that doesn't center parenting and/or children. Non-parent. Childfree. Childless. Not a mother. There is no word for my status that doesn't center your choice and how I didn't make it. That will never not be a marginalized position.

Which means, like any other privilege, you need to be responsible about how you talk about marginalized people on the other side of that privilege, and how you entrench narratives that are used to other and diminish them.

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