I've noticed a change in how people respond to my statement, "I don't have kids." When I was in my 20's and 30's, people took this comment in stride, maybe because I seemed young enough to still have children or maybe because they knew I wasn't married, so it seemed right that I not be a mother yet. But now that I'm solidly in my mid-40's and finally married, my statement gets silence. I've realized that I now look like a tragic figure unless I follow "I don't have kids" with words such as "and that's by choice."
I could have done that before, but I always thought that saying, "Oh, I don't have kids because I chose not to," would make me sound militant or ideological. I didn't want to start a debate or seem critical of those who have kids. But now I see that people assume that a 44-year-old married woman who never had kids must have some sad story. Maybe I had a child who died. Maybe I was unable to get pregnant. Maybe I had children, but lost them in a custody battle. Maybe my children were taken by the state when I couldn't kick the meth. Although, I guess if those last two were true, I wouldn't say that I didn't have kids at all.
Anyway, in response to "Do you have kids?" I am trying to train myself to say, "No, my husband and I chose not to." I figure that's even better than "I'm child-free by choice" because it adds the authority of a MAN. A woman alone deciding not to have children -- and a Mexican American woman at that -- is crazy, right? But if her husband agrees, then it seems a bit a more sane.
I'm also realizing that I might want to avoid the phrase "child-free by choice" because it seems to be the name of a whole demographic (mostly women as far as I can tell) who are rather controversial. Or maybe I'm being wimpy by not entering the fray. This video on the blog www.momversation.com indicates that mothers feel some measure of offense at what the child-free blogs say. The mothers apparently feel some animosity and judgment directed toward them and their kids from us child-free people.
I can't say whether that's true since I haven't read much child-free opinion, but I did glance at this blog which looks pretty good: Sebastyne's musings. What I can say in response to the video is that it sounds like a lot of hand-wringing over nothing. It's not like child-free people have any true power to make people stop having kids or can come into your home and make you do certain things with the kids you have. What are they so defensive about?
I think it's just another variation of the conflict between women who have kids and women who don't have kids. I've heard it before centered on the workplace: women resenting each other for perceived freedoms that they don't have because they either have or don't have children. It's sad and it's pointless.
The video did indicate, however, that some mothers recognize the criticism that child-free by choice women face because we chose not to have kids. I appreciate that because sometimes I feel like women like me -- middle-aged, sexuality fading, didn't have kids, didn't want them -- are more invisible in society. Without the mantle of Mother or the appeal of youth, my value seems doubtful to others and will probably decrease from here.
Of course, I won't complain out loud about this since people might say that I made my decision to not have kids and now must live with it. Funny, how no one ever thinks that about women whose children grow up to kill people or rob banks or become drug dealers. No one responds with, "Well, you chose to have kids. Now you have to live with it." Well, I respond that way, but not out loud.
Anyway, maybe it's a new frontier to explore: the child-free by choice community. What I don't understand is why, with problems like overpopulation and poverty, no one's actually thanking us for not procreating. Without sons or daughters of my own, there's more for their children!