Who Oppresses the Child-Free People?

Child-free folks keep complaining about all those societal pressures they experience to have children. As a childless person, I have to ask, who oppresses me? Also, can I have somebody come oppress me societally for not having children? It sounds like that would be fun. I totally dig feeling oppressed, especially when there is nothing I need to do to feel it.

Seriously, though, aside from a few comments of the “And why don’t you have a baby?” variety, it’s ludicrous to talk of any societal pressure to have children. What I see instead is a huge societal pressure not to have any.

Imagine sharing during a job interview that you are planning to have a baby within the next year (or three children within the next ten years, or two within the next five). Is such a person more or less likely to get hired than the one who can state they will never have children? Right you are.

Maternity leaves in this country are ludicrously short or simply non-existent. Paternity leaves are simply not there, which is a barbarity of a major order. How many people can say their careers stalled because they didn’t have children? Exactly.

Most job contract specify that you will get between 12 and 15 vacation and sick days per year. If anything constitutes pressure not to have children, this is it.

Pregnant women get hounded with unwanted intrusive advice from the moment they announce they are pregnant. If they don’t feel like sharing the news very fast, they are persecuted with intrusive questions and insistent staring on their bellies. They are questioned and criticized for their choices of how, when and where to give birth. They are badgered right into the delivery room if their choice of delivery method is not the most fashionable one at the moment.

So-called “lactation specialists” hound women in maternity wards and do everything they can to bully them into breastfeeding the “right” way.

Stores and restaurants often turn people with children away. Colleagues raise their brows and emit frustrated sighs when a parent shares that their kid is sick and they won’t be able to make it to the next meeting.

There are no breast-pumping facilities at most places of employment. Daycare costs are ruinous. Diaper-changing stations (especially for fathers) are few and far between.

And have you ever tried dragging a pram into a bus? Have you ever shopped for maternity clothes? If there really existed any pressure to have children, wouldn’t stores be filled with beautiful, fashionable maternity clothing?

All of the things I listed – and many more – constitute true societal pressures not to have children.

Not having children is an absolutely valid life choice. It’s a choice that I have made so far. However, it’s a choice that doesn’t make you particularly brave or non-conformist. Deciding to have children, however, does require courage.

P.S. The next post in this series will contain a list of psychological reasons why people do and do not want to have children. Stay tuned!

87 thoughts on “Who Oppresses the Child-Free People?”

  1. So childfree activists choose the wrong battle when they consider “societal oppression”. In fact, you’re absolutely right: having kids is way more difficult than not having kids. That’s another reason why we should not procreate, at least.

    Like

    1. “That’s another reason why we should not procreate.”

      I must disagree with the modern vogue for celibacy, as it is against the better interests of our commonwealth, whose forces are in substantial part diverted toward ease of satisfaction, with concern to the palates of its body politic, even well past the point of that body’s distention. You see, I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve when ground, salted, fried, and plated upon a roll.

      Like

  2. Oh, I don’t know…parents who wish to be grandparents, family members who think you need to have a child in order to be an adult, religions (“go forth and multiply”). Nope, no societal pressures there.
    How about TV commercials? Johnson&Johnson’s latest “Having a baby changes everything.” With everyone all happy.
    Friends with children who decide they can only be friends with other parents, “So when are YOU gonna have a kid?”
    Nope, no societal pressures. And I’m even plan on having kids one day.

    Like

    1. You seriously think that a couple of silly commercials plus parents and relatives with whom YOU didn’t manage to establish a healthy relationship equals everything I listed? Seriously?

      You can’t be that infantile.

      Like

      1. I find it fascinating that instead of validating others’ experiences as their own, you tend to come up with name-calling. Granted, “infantile” is much better than “doody head”, but nonetheless had the same infliction.
        I disagree with you, so you called me a name. Perfect.
        You know, you truly are a great thinker. You must be if you feel it necessary to invalidate others instead of keeping a semi-open thought process.

        Like

      1. I agree it comes down to personal preference. For some, parenthood is easy and a breeze. For others, it can be insanely complicated and difficult. Similarly, being child-free can be a breeze and relatively never questioned, or it can be a constant issue between one and those around them.

        Like

  3. David Gendron :

    I agree with you Annie, but I think childfree activists choose the wrong battle in this.

    I agree completely that I’m SO not the phenomenon we need to battle here. 🙂 🙂

    If all child-free people were like David Gendron, there wouldn’t need to be any conflict between childed and childless folks.

    Like

  4. David Gendron :

    “YOU didn’t manage”

    You don’t know about this, maybe it’s THEY…

    An adult is responsible for either working to make their relationship be comfortable for them OR sending the annoying people to hell. But taking the treatment you dislike and then whining about it is not an adult thing to do.

    Like

  5. Clarissa, religious people, like religious Jews in Israel f.e., are under huge pressure to have kids, if they wish to remain in their communities. Their faith and all rabbis will forbid using birth control, if they have no children or 1 child. Also finding a partner from similar background, who will agree to life without any children, is practically impossible. You can say “leave (huge part of) your faith and get out of your society”, but it hardly means no pressure.

    Like

    1. I honestly don’t think there are that many Haredim reading blogs, publishing blogs, and trolling my blog. 🙂

      Having children is part of their religion for Orthodox Jews. I wouldn’t call that pressure. Just like I wouldn’t say that a Christian person is pressured into not killing. 🙂

      Like

    1. I’d never conceal something like this from my readers. 🙂

      No, I’m not and I just prolonged my birth control prescription for the next 3 months. 🙂 So my position on this issue is completely disinterested.

      Like

  6. I have experienced a few moments of “oppression” with people like hairdressers and blood-taking pathologists, who have begun small talk with me along the lines of “do you have children?” I found it a little strange because it must mean they think I am my mother. I process a great deal of what I consider to be a little odd through the prism of mistaken identity. “They would not have asked me that unless they thought I looked somewhat like my mother.”

    Like

  7. A psychological reason why a person (myself) does not want to have children: I had to “bring myself up”. It was a huge effort and I didn’t always have the right strategies. I finally did it, however working with the raw material and trying to mold it into something is not anything I would like to repeat.

    Like

      1. llama :
        But now you know how to do it

        I think, on the principles of child rearing I have learned, I would grow a really wild child. If I lived in the wild and this were a possibility, I would consider it. But, actually I hate civilisation. I didn’t enjoy bringing myself up within it and I would consider it highly sadistic to impose civilisation upon a child, especially one that had my genetic proclivities.

        Like

  8. Many of my viewpoints were consolidated in writing my thesis. I studied somebody who lived very much on the margins of society and made it his point of honor not to assimilate. I made the link to shamanism a little bit along the line of this book: Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing (9780226790138): Michael Taussig

    My subject was “a victim”, as it were, of colonial storm and stress and was very critical of what he felt were the demands on him to conform to externally imposed mores. I found I had much in common with this writer. It seems likely that we were both products of the same forces, but in different ways.

    Like

  9. scratchy888 :

    llama :
    But now you know how to do it

    But, actually I hate civilisation. I didn’t enjoy bringing myself up within it and I would consider it highly sadistic to impose civilisation upon a child, especially one that had my genetic proclivities.

    Finally, we have found where we differ. 🙂 I love civilization. As a child, I took any trip to the nature as punishment. I still see “camping” as an offensive term. 🙂

    Like

    1. IMO, camping is the ultimate love test. My best friend goes camping every month for a couple of days because his wife loves it. He absolutely hates it. He says the only thing that makes it bearable is his kindle.

      Like

  10. You are childless. Therefore, by definition, you do want kids but for whatever reason do not. You have no authority to speak on child-free oppression.

    When I reveal that I never want kids, people always invalidate me. They always say shit like “you’ll change your mind,” “you’re too young to decide right now,” “you look very maternal,” (wtf?) And countless other statements from baby hungry breeders. So a couple months ago I got sterilized. Everyone always feels sad that I am “forever childless.” You cannot be less something you never wanted.

    All this because Julie wrote about a dream? And wrote her feelings about it? Gees. Someone has some growing up to do.

    Like

    1. “You are childless. Therefore, by definition, you do want kids but for whatever reason do not.”

      -Definition of what, exactly? Thank you for trying to tell me something new about myself, of course, but you are completely wrong.

      “You have no authority to speak on child-free oppression.”

      -And here is yet another creature who wants to tell me what I should or shouldn’t speak about on my own blog.

      “When I reveal that I never want kids, people always invalidate me. They always say shit like “you’ll change your mind,” “you’re too young to decide right now,” “you look very maternal,” (wtf?) And countless other statements from baby hungry breeders. ”

      -Once again, do you seriously think that a few comments like these even begin to come close to the true facts of oppression I listed here? Are you that immature.

      “All this because Julie wrote about a dream? And wrote her feelings about it? Gees. Someone has some growing up to do.”

      -I agree that this Julie and you need to grow up. And at least learn to read. I never mentioned any dreams she had anywhere. I was annoyed with her comment about “most women”. Which has been repeated maybe ten times already. Are you trying to look dense on purpose.

      Like

    2. My sister in law declared triumphantly (at 20) that she NEVER wanted kids. Didn’t need them. Didn’t see the need for them. Now at 30, she bemoans the fact that she doesn’t have kids. Lucky for her, she didn’t get sterilized when she was young and stupid. Her ‘decision’ can be reversed. That’s why people are sad for you – because your decision cannot be reversed. Come back in 20 years, and tell me you still think it was a good decision.

      Like

      1. Since methods of contraception are so easily available and very reliable, all I see in these early sterilizations is a preemptive strike against the possibility of changing one’s mind later on.

        Like

      2. This kind of attitude is exactly why us child-free folks moan. Ignorant, stupid comments like this ARE oppression, and if you can’t see it then you’re closing your eyes and jamming your ears shut.

        Pathetic blog entry which is ridiculously imbalanced and one sided, by the way. Comparing lactation choice decisions to whether or not you change your life to have kids or not, which is regarded as a pivotal, defining decision of your life? Are you really that idiotic?

        Like

      3. Sabrina – you’re missing the point – kids make bad decisions. It’s in their nature. Thinking that what you believe at 20 is what you will believe at 40 is a very immature and narrow view.

        My all-time favourite quote: If your 20 and not a socialist, you have no heart. If your 40 and still a socialist, you have no brain.

        In case you can’t get past the detail, the overarching theme is that priorities, values and perspective changes as you age.

        Like

      4. At age 14, I realized that I really did not care for other children and probably would make a bad candidate for a parent. Lots of people told me I’d change my mind.

        At age 21, as others around me began having children, I realized again that I REALLY did not care for other children, didn’t have the patience or the money to raise any, and was told by the physician that sterilization was out of the question until I was at least 35. Lots of people told me I’d change my mind.

        By age 35 it was obvious to me that I had made the correct choice in not having children. Other people’s children had gotten to actively causing issues due to parenting fails (stealing, trespassing, damage to property). Some people still felt I’d change my mind until I set them straight.

        By age 46 I was downright GLEEFUL about not having children. Several extremely serious genetically carried health issues had come to light in the family. I only had to worry about providing for myself when I was laid off. Nobody bothers telling me I’ll change my mind; they try the old chestnut about “Who will visit you in the old folks home” and typically get a “I’m planning to die of a heart attack first” response.

        I have never regretted or questioned being childfree; I’ve only ever been gladder and gladder that I made that choice, spared an individual horrible genetic diseases, and did my part to control the population.

        Like

  11. First paragraph concerns Patrick’s “input.”

    Also, “all I see” – yes, and you’re unable to see from a logical and balanced perspective. It’s why you make a terrible blogger. Contraception may be easily available and reliable, but it can have devastating side effects on some women. And do you know how ridiculously expensive it is to afford non-latex condoms if you’re allergic to the regular ones and in a relationship? Oh, my bad. It would be silly to think you thought through some of the rubbish you’re throwing around here.

    So if you’re sure about not wanting kids, there’s no problem getting sterilised. There are so many decisions like this you can’t take back in life that wouldn’t be criticised, so just let people be responsible for their decisions.

    Like

    1. “Contraception may be easily available and reliable, but it can have devastating side effects on some women. And do you know how ridiculously expensive it is to afford non-latex condoms if you’re allergic to the regular ones and in a relationship?”

      -The anti-contraception paranoia should be kept within the community of mentally imbalanced people. It has no place here.

      Like

  12. Patrick :
    Sabrina – you’re missing the point – kids make bad decisions. It’s in their nature. Thinking that what you believe at 20 is what you will believe at 40 is a very immature and narrow view.
    My all-time favourite quote: If your 20 and not a socialist, you have no heart. If your 40 and still a socialist, you have no brain.
    In case you can’t get past the detail, the overarching theme is that priorities, values and perspective changes as you age.

    I like the Bob Dylan quote: But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

    Like

    1. Oddly enough – I’ve never heard that quote! But I like it. I wonder if Bob would be offended if I were to steal it for my signature line. 🙂

      Like

  13. Sabrina :

    This kind of attitude is exactly why us child-free folks moan. Ignorant, stupid comments like this ARE oppression, and if you can’t see it then you’re closing your eyes and jamming your ears shut.

    Pathetic blog entry which is ridiculously imbalanced and one sided, by the way. Comparing lactation choice decisions to whether or not you change your life to have kids or not, which is regarded as a pivotal, defining decision of your life? Are you really that idiotic?

    I said a quintillion times already that I’m a feminist. This is why I do care about women being prevented from breastfeeding when, how and for how long they want by the lack of pumping facilities. Nobody is preventing you from practicing your choice not to have children.Many women, however, are prevented from practicing their choice to have children by objective factors. So excuse me for caring about women who are deprived of the opportunity to do what they want, unlike you who is not deprived of anything. This is what’s called political activism, my irredeemably stupid friend. Adults often engage in political activism, which is something you’d know if you weren’t an immature little fool.

    Like

  14. blockquote cite=”#commentbody-27333″>
    Sabrina :This kind of attitude is exactly why us child-free folks moan. Ignorant, stupid comments like this ARE oppression, and if you can’t see it then you’re closing your eyes and jamming your ears shut.
    Pathetic blog entry which is ridiculously imbalanced and one sided, by the way. Comparing lactation choice decisions to whether or not you change your life to have kids or not, which is regarded as a pivotal, defining decision of your life? Are you really that idiotic?

    Okay so historically and presently there are in some social groups pressures to marry and have kids and some of these have entered discourse to the point where it looks like having and raising kids is what a woman is supposed to do with her life and that’s frustrating for women who’d rather not. But you’re only being oppressed inasmuch as you are being made to do this thing. Is there a law you’re subject to that compels you to pop them out or are people just pressuring you to, and who is and how much? Are you an unwilling subject to Sharia or something like it in a country or community where it is rigidly enforced, or have you escaped from such a community? You don’t get to claim to be an oppressed group when there are no laws working against your choices to just not have a kid, unless you are or have been the victim of things like those terrible abortion regulations floating around. A woman who is forced to carry to term a child that she doesn’t want is oppressed. A woman who is wed against her will to become an effective breedsow is oppressed. A woman or man who must endure a few eye-rolling comments from hairdressers and grandmothers about when they’re going to spawn the next generation but otherwise is her/his own free agent is not oppressed, however annoyed s/he might be. Opinions posted on the internet by a blogger who takes issue not with the choice not to have kids but with vituperative comments by people who do not have kids against people who do, is not oppression.

    Like

    1. That takes the fun out of it. You explained it to them in a way anybody could understand. I am betting they aren’t stupid enough to come back after that.

      Like

  15. Anonymous :
    blockquote cite=”#commentbody-27333″>
    Sabrina : A woman or man who must endure a few eye-rolling comments from hairdressers and grandmothers about when they’re going to spawn the next generation but otherwise is her/his own free agent is not oppressed, however annoyed s/he might be. Opinions posted on the internet by a blogger who takes issue not with the choice not to have kids but with vituperative comments by people who do not have kids against people who do, is not oppression.

    I must confess, I’ve never really understood the American, or indeed middle class and higher concern with social judgments as a form of oppression. I’ve sometimes considered this to be a failing on my part, because the cumulative effect of certain negative types of social judgment can ultimately add up to some nebulous feeling of oppression. For me, engaging in contemporary society, with all of its semi-hidden rules and mores is like trying to look at needlework that my eyes are too unfocused to see. I know it is considered poised and graceful to be able to anticipate what those social judgments will be so as to head them off at the pass. Actually, I’ve deduced that this kind of anticipatory social action or proactive behavior is what is considered to be essential to effectively performing the female role. Where all of this anxiety about oppression seems to be coming from is the desire to play a harmonious role within society at large. Otherwise, I guess, one feels kind of ugly or undesirable, in terms of the traditional standards of femininity?

    Like

    1. “I must confess, I’ve never really understood the American, or indeed middle class and higher concern with social judgments as a form of oppression. I’ve sometimes considered this to be a failing on my part,”

      -No, it isn’t a failing on your part. These are simply very immature, whiny people who love posing as victims. That’s all there is to it. They lack intellect or any sense of achievement to form an actual adult identity, so they go around posing as victims because that’s the only claim to being special they have.

      Like

  16. Jennifer Frances Armstrong :
    Actually, I’ve deduced that this kind of anticipatory social action or proactive behavior is what is considered to be essential to effectively performing the female role. Where all of this anxiety about oppression seems to be coming from is the desire to play a harmonious role within society at large. Otherwise, I guess, one feels kind of ugly or undesirable, in terms of the traditional standards of femininity?

    I have seen this in action so many times and never given it a moments thought. But you have hit the nail on the head.

    Like

    1. There are so many men who feel “victimized” by horrible mean feminism and even more horrible mean modernity that I fail to see it as a gender issue.

      I think that, more than anything, this is an immaturity issue.

      Like

      1. I am victimized by the vending machine. It steals my money and mocks me at least twice a weak. It oppresses me sitting at the end of the corridor, watching.

        Like

  17. In my experience, questions of the “do you have kids” variety, are often simply small talk. When we engage in making small talk with acquaintances, we more often than not tend to look for something in common and chat about that. I have a child and people often ask how long I have been married. I am not but do not feel offended by the question.

    The other day, I was interviewing a candidate who had a bag from the l`Occitane store, so I asked her if she liked the company`s products and shopped there often. I was obviously not generalizing, discriminating or opressing her in any way. Sometimes people just want to break the ice and, unless they are really probing and asking millions of follow up questions, it is not a bad idea to just let it go and not over analyze.

    It is only those who do not feel comfortable about their life choices that feel opressed at any opportunity.

    Like

    1. “I was obviously not generalizing, discriminating or opressing her in any way. ”

      -Careful, or you’ll get a bunch of people come over here and tell you just how oppressive you were to that woman. 🙂 One can find oppression in everything if one so chooses. I had people here actually claim that when women get out of bed in the morning it’s because they are oppressed. Or was it coerced? It’s hard to keep track of the victim terminology.

      Like

  18. Anonymous :

    By age 46 I was downright GLEEFUL about not having children.

    That’s good. I’m 43 and really gleeful. For the first time in my life I understand enough about the world to feel truly masterful. As you can tell, it took me a really long time to bring myself up.

    Like

    1. >For the first time in my life I understand enough about the world to feel truly masterful.

      Masterful of…..?

      I haven’t acquired mastery of anything yet. Too many variables. Even grilling food can go horribly wrong if the temperature changes radically but you’ve done everything else right! I’m really good at a very few things, and downright suck at a huge array of others.

      Although I guess you CAN say that I’m the master of my part of the family tree, that would be true. Family tree ends here, and good riddance to the genetic train wreck.

      Like

  19. Oppression is a poor term to use in this case. More appropriate would be castigation, invalidation, and belittlement. “You’re not a parent, you wouldn’t understand” is one of the kinder phrases used on the childfree. Many childfree women have been told they’re “not REAL women” until they have had a baby. Most childfree women have heard “you’ll change your mind”, or “you’re so selfish”.

    In the workplace those without children get stuck picking up the slack when parents take time off due to illness, children’s events, or maternity leave. More and more often meetings are disrupted when children act up during a conference call when several people have dialed in. More and more often during the past twenty years the childfree have been told to cut parents more and more slack as children are being brought everywhere, including wildly inappropriate places and times.

    For those women who don’t stand up for themselves very well this can create issues; women who have more backbone learn to stand up and retort to those who prefer seeing their women in the classic role of motherhood. I’m female, I have no interest whatsoever in kids, and that’s just as valid as any other life choice.

    Like

  20. I’m glad to see you address this, because I don’t have kids (at 35) and yeah, except for the occasional question about why I don’t have any, it simply hasn’t been an issue for me socially–and oppressed? PLEASE. Granted, I live in New York City, where plenty of people don’t have kids, and perhaps it would be different if I lived in a more conservative place where people thought my boyfriend and I were going against the natural order of things by not having kids. I don’t think I’m rebelling against society in the least. If anything I’m smug because I feel like I’ve discovered a secret way to not earn much money but still have a healthy IRA.

    Like

  21. I’d say the huge increase in restrictions on abortion, in various American states, is a very alarming form of oppression against women who don’t want kids. As far as I understand it, there is even a trend toward limiting access to birth control. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a direct oppression of women. I’d say that’s quite real enough.

    Like

  22. Clarissa: Actually some of them might want exactly like that. Women who want the whole ‘marriage and babies’ package tend to be more conservative then women who want to stay childfree.

    Like

  23. I guess it depends on where you live. Where I live, most middle-class people have 1-2 children, or none at all. Their is definitely a racial and cultural breakdown regarding childbearing; Hispanics tend to have a lot, whites and Asians, much less.

    If you work in a professional setting and live in a middle class community, children take a backseat to other things in life (ie. house, car, vacation, etc).

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.