Karen Malone-Wright is the author of www.TheNotMom.com. She lives in the Cleveland area and her childfree website took off and landed her many interviews. She was recently interviewed for a local radio show and after listening to it, I realized that there were some stereotypes about the childfree that wanted to share my thoughts on. (And the radio show was really great! Check it out here: www.voicesandchoicesradio.org).
First, something that really struck me as interesting is how the childfree can be devalued in the work place. If you work in the corporate world, there may be some late nights for you. If someone needs to stay over one night, who will be asked? The single woman or man with no children at home, or the mother who regularly talks about picking her kids up from daycare or watching their sporting events in the evenings? I think it’s often thought that the childfree have nothing better to do than work, so why not ask them to stay late. We wouldn’t want to keep the mother away from her children, or the divorced father who only sees his children every other week. Recently there were two people who were possibly going to get laid off from my company. Luckily neither of them had to be let go, but one was a single woman with no children, the other a married man with three children. The single woman told me that she was worried if they had to choose her or him, they would easily choose her because she didn’t have a family. My initial response to her was, “Oh no way! They wouldn’t even take that into consideration. It’s about the job that you do when you’re at work.” But right after I said that, I started thinking that she may be on to something. If we are talking about a group of childfree people making the decision, I don’t think it would come up. But when we get a group of mothers (most of the management at my company) together, they may very well take that into consideration when making a decision like that. She has no one but herself to support, he has himself AND three children. Any thoughts on this topic?
Some other stereotypes that were mentioned on this website: the childfree are looked at to be selfish, cold, heartless, focused only on themselves, and that they are going to change their mind one day. I have experienced all of these. At one point in my life (or many, many points) I have had people think that I’m selfish, that I’m cold, that I’m heartless, that I’m focused only on myself and that one day I will indeed change my mind. It’s amazing how a stereotype happens so easily. All groups of people are stereotyped in some way or another. No group, even successful, white, middle class, married, 2.5 children-and-a-dog males are free of stereotypes. However, in life I have found some stereotypes to be true. Does anyone think that any of these stereotypes are true of the average childfree person?
Maybe because I am a childfree person so I can see my personality and thought process very clearly, I don’t think any of them are true, but I suppose that maybe some are. I certainly don’t agree that the average childfree person is cold or heartless (there are people in every group that fit this description, but thankfully I haven’t met that many). But selfish? Well, the problem is that some people define selfishness differently than other people. I define it as only doing things that will better yourself, without thinking of the consequences of others. With that definition, I do not believe that the average childfree person is selfish. But others may define selfishness as not giving yourself 100% to another person; doing more for yourself than you do for a loved one. In this definition, I think I fit that description. While I was married and I felt like I gave my all to him, I am now getting divorced and I doubt I will ever get married again. So without children or a spouse, I have no one to give my all to, and that’s okay with me. I also do more for myself than for others. I regularly buy myself massages and facials and pedicures…I do not regularly buy anyone else anything. I regularly buy myself food and beers, but I do not regularly buy my friends and family dinner and drinks. At Christmas I do tend to go overboard on gifts for my family, and I regularly go over to my friend’s house with a small gift because I’m thinking about them when I’m out and about. But still, I do more for myself than for any one person in my life. If I had a child, I would certainly do more for them than I do for myself, but I have chosen not to do that, and one reason is that I CAN do more for myself than anyone else. Does that make me selfish? I guess to some people, yes it does. Do others feel this way?
As far as people stereotyping the average childfree person as someone who will change their mind…well, I have blogged about this before and I could blog about it until the end of time. But I get worked up and really irritated when I think about it, so I won’t go too far in to this, but I would say that is not at all true. Of all the people I have met who are over the age of 25 and have very seriously stated that they do not want children, exactly zero of them have changed their mind.
Another thing that was talked about on the radio show – it was mentioned that society seems to define a woman’s success as motherhood. I tend to agree. Not completely, but mostly. I think society tends to measure a man’s success on his job title and salary and a woman’s success on how well she raises her children. It’s crazy to think that we have come so far when it comes to men and women being treated fairly and women’s liberation and all, and yet women are still measured by their children and men are still measured by their salary. But I definitely think that men get more praise than women for making more money and women get more praise than men for raising children. Even though in reality there are a lot of women who are very successful and make a lot of money and there are a lot of men who are the primary caretakers of their children and they do an awesome job of it.
One last comment. It was stated during the radio show that often people try to pressure the childfree into having children. This is very true and not something that I will never understand. If I say that I do not want children, why would you want me to have them? Would I be the best parent I could be if from the start I didn’t want to be a parent? I love animals and if someone told me that they really didn’t like animals and did not want one as a pet, I would definitely not try to talk them in to having one because I wouldn’t want them to take care of that animal if they didn’t want it to begin with. And the average person probably wouldn’t try to talk that person into having a pet either. But when it comes to children, the average person thinks that everyone should have a child so they cannot understand someone who does not feel the same way. Thoughts on this?
I found that radio show to be very enlightening. Some things I had thought about before but hadn’t thought about for a long time came to the surface. And then there were some things that I had never thought of. It is definitely worth listening to. I would love some comments about some of these stereotypes. Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!