Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dear Prudence Advice Raises Objections

I came across an old article in Slate titled Terrible Twosomes: What's Wrong with the Childless? by Geoffrey Andersen.

This article was a compilation of comments that were posted when Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist suggested that a decidedly childfree couple rethink their decision not to have kids. Prudence wrote:
I will join the chorus of people who are driving you crazy. You are about to get married, and as life's circumstances change, it is worth re-examining your goals, especially this one (and yes, I know, I am offending all happy childless people). You're only in your 30s—if you have children now, they'll be grown by the time you reach your late 50s! You say you love children, but as close as you may be to your nieces and nephews, that's no substitute for having your own.
Anderson featured one comment from Lee63 who clearly understood what it was like to be constantly questioned about her decision by those who feel compelled to list all the things she’s missing out on:
I was angry by the response Prudence provided because I know how it feels to have EVERYONE second guess my decision. I don't understand why people think the decision to not have children is this sudden thing that came about with no thought. Sometimes I think I'll scream if I hear one more person tell me I can adopt, or tell me a story about a 45+ women who had a baby. I know what's available out there, but I also know me and having a child is not the right thing for me. When someone goes on and on about why I should have kids, it's the same as coming out and saying "you are wrong" and I find that offensive. I say hats off to all the parents in the world AND to all those who will not have children. There are ups and downs either way.
This comment reflects the frustration many childless by choice people feel when people try to change their mind on parenthood. There is an underlying assumption that you made this decision without much thought, or you made it without complete information, or without an understanding of some of the benefits of parenthood.

But based on my interviews with childfree couples and singles that assumption does not hold true.


flamencokitty said...

Oh man, I am not looking forward to the questions and conversations my thirties will bring. All I get right now in my 20's is "you might change your mind," which is annoying, but not as annoying as some of this other stuff!

Dorron Katzin said...

Please read the entire post before jumping to conclusions.

We have three children and wouldn't have it any other way (except that my wife and I might have had more children had we married at a younger age). My wife and I agreed before we got married that we wanted to try to have children. That was our choice. In fact, for each of us, one of the major criteria for a prospective spouse was: "Is this someone with whom I would want to raise children?"

Raising children is an everyday challenge. I'm not talking about the expense. I won't know if I did the right thing for many years. I was going to say "until my children have grandchildren", but I don't want to presume what they will choose to do, though our three teenagers have each talked about being married and having children.

Having said all that, people should (or should not) have children because it's what they want to do, not because of the expectations of others.

People who choose not to have children have just as much right to that choice and the right not to be harassed by anyone, including parents and grandparents.

Mark and Patty of Crystal Pyramid Productions in San Diego said...

I am SO GLAD I am now past the age when people feel that it's perfectly fine to ask "When are you two going to start a family?" Well, we ARE a family, and an extremely happy one, at that. My husband and I just returned from a spontaneous "staycation" up in Del Mar where we just relaxed and enjoyed the company of each other, and the people we met along the way. Would it be possible to spontaneously do anything with children? I think not. Basically when you decide to have a child, you are relinquishing your life for theirs. I have talked to many parents who told me that if they could do it all over again, they would not have children. I really appreciated their honesty. If only more people could be honest about the choices they make in life.

Laura S. Scott said...

We are past that age where people are expecting us to have children. However, we still get people who think we will regret our decision, so at any age the decision to remain childfree is challenged or not seen as viable.