I want to be childfree because I'm still working through my own childhood trauma — and I don't think I'm aloneYes, apparently she is not alone! As soon as I posted this article on my Two is Enough FB pages a flurry of comments followed; people citing parenthood neglect, abuse, school bullying, and general family dysfunction as one of the primary reasons they decided to remain childfree. Clearly, many years, or decades, later they were still struggling with this trauma and didn't feel ready to entertain the idea of being a parent. "Why would I go ahead and have a child when, some days, I can barely take care of myself ?" was the question that many of them had asked themselves, or their friends--who wondered why they hadn't yet jumped on the parenthood wagon.
It's a good question because gosh, parenthood is stressful enough. Do we want to heap on a pile of steaming parent stress on the top of unhealed trauma? No, that is certainly not ideal. Yet we see it happening all the time and many who shared their childhood abuse or neglect stories saw that their parents were clearly traumatized, or had mental health issues, as well. They observed how much of a struggle it was for their parents to succeed in the role of parent. They admitted that they were choosing not to have kids because they didn't want to take the chance they too would try, struggle, and fail as parents. Many felt that their own unresolved trauma meant that the odds were stacked against them.
I can sense some parents reading this are inclined to shake their heads and sigh, poo-poo, or resist that idea because they too had a less-than-perfect childhood and yet they cast their doubts aside and jumped on board, odds be damned, because they wanted to break the cycle. They were going to be different and perhaps they are. So I extend a hearty congratulations to those brave souls who beat the odds and raised healthy kids despite the scars of trauma. Yes, it's possible.
However, it's only possible if you really, really want kids, in spite of your own experience, and take actions to heal your trauma or otherwise protect your kids form the sharp edges of your pain. This heartfelt desire, and the ability to choose and embrace the role of parent, is probably the one thing that distinguishes the traumatized parents-to-be from those of us who are opting out. Most of our parents and grandparents didn't choose parenthood consciously, it just happened. The stork delivered babies and he didn't distinguish between those who were emotionally and mentally ready for parenthood and those who where not.
Now that we have the agency and ability to forgo parenthood, if we choose, I trust that our families, friends, and communities will accept that is our choice to make, based on our own self-assessment of our ability to parent, our desire, and our sense of what is right and healthy for us at this time in our lives.
So the next time a friend or family member says, "I don't think I will make a good parent" don't poo-poo them. Just acknowledge that it's their decision to make. Have the courage and candor to admit that parenthood is not always a bed of roses; that under those blossoms there are thorns and a mulch pile of poo-poo.