I must be getting to “an age” because it happens more now than ever. People ask if I have children and give all sorts of retorts depending on my response. I’ve questioned male peers about whether they get grilled like this and some do but only by their mothers.
No, I do not have a child or children. Yes, this has been a conscious decision. I have my reasons. No, I will not explain them to you. I used to explain, though, upon reflection, I’m unclear why it is anyone’s business but my own. All my reasoning–which I still believe to be sound–was knocked away with easy platitudes. Essentially, I am in the wrong for not bearing children. Having children is a service to mankind.
I get frustrated and then angry when people try to brush away my reasons for not wanting to bear a child. Is there anything more intimate and loaded with consequences and responsibilities than this decision? Are those people going to be there if I run into financial hardship or can’t balance child care with employment? What if I experience medical complications? What if I can’t have children? Why would that be anyone’s business but my own? It is intrusive for anyone to believe they should be allowed input into my reproductive choices.
The argument that I am shirking responsibility to mankind is condescending. Are my tax dollars Confederate? I pay just as much in taxes, if not more, than parents, with a portion of my taxes going to schools, public playgrounds and other necessities for children that I will never personally use. I’m not complaining. I feel it is my duty to contribute to the raising of future generations. Schools are already overburdened and underfunded; imagine what they would look like if everyone who could have children did.
Many also forget or are oblivious to the additional contributions childless people make in the workplace. When a project is on deadline, who stays while parents go pick up their children from daycare or school? When a parent has to stay home because their child is ill, who performs the extra work the parent is not completing? I have had managers point out I have no excuse to not work late because I have no one to go home to care for.
As someone in a salaried position, hearing this after working sometimes 70 – 80 hours a week for months is not only not comforting, it lays bare workplace inequities between parents and childless people. I’ve also been told I can’t vacation during peek times because “no one is relying on me.” This is a moot point since the additional work I am given because “no one is relying on me” means I don’t have time for vacations.
We are a minority but I know I am not alone in my experiences or with the busybodies passing judgment on this most personal of choices. I have friends who are childless because of infertility issues. They would love to have a child but nature has deemed otherwise. Most come to accept this with time but imagine what they must go through being judged about their childless status? Their only defense is to admit they are unable to have children and this often leads to more questions.
Why do strangers feel it is permissible to ask intimate questions about someone’s reproductive function? I cringe every time I hear one of these exchanges. When is it ever proper for a stranger or colleague to probe into someone else’s health issues? The infertile person’s other option is to stay silent to inquiries about their childless status and brood about how unfair life is. Think about this the next time you are tempted to probe.
Lately I’ve been mulling over the probing, the judgment and the fall out from being a childless person. No longer are my occupational choices limited to school teacher, home maker or nurse because I am female. Few people, in our enlightened age, would have the gall to harass me for being Native American. No one in the work place would dare openly judge me for not being Catholic or Jewish or any other religion that is prominent to a given location or work place. I seldom get questioned whether I am a lesbian but when I do it is usually from people who have no filters and never in the workplace.
The above examples are all a result of civil liberties granted to people based on sex, race, religion and sexual orientation. I think it is time parental (or non-parental) status be included in those liberties. I am happy to work more so people with families can spend time with their families but it shouldn’t be taken for granted or required.
I am fine with parents getting benefits and deductions I don’t get because they need them. It is the probing and the condescension I can do without. It is none of your business what I chose to do with my womb or whether or not I can do anything with it. Just because I am a minority, there is nothing that gives anyone a right to openly rip apart my choices.