By Laura LaVoie
“I mean, I don’t hate children or anything, but….”
Childfree people know this phrase intimately. Sometimes we don’t even intend to say it until has already escaped from our lips. Usually, it involuntarily follows the question, “Do you have children?”, and the uncomfortable silence that envelops the room after you reply, “No.”
It always feels so empty in that moment that you reach for something to say to bring everyone back into the conversation. However, everything else you think of sounds like a justification or some sort of deliberate statement against having kids. You quickly realize you don’t want to invalidate this stranger’s life choices, so what is left to say? As these things rush through your mind, your voice has already taken over, “I like kids, I just like it better when they live somewhere else…”
By now, it is too late. The cat is out of the proverbial bag. What happens after that statement could be anything. The conversation is already eternal and uncomfortable even if it has just begun. Sometimes, you can simply walk away. But, sometimes you’re trapped at that spot by circumstance.
Let’s take a moment to deconstruct this phrase in all of its forms.
We, as people without children, seem to always feel the need to justify our choices to the parents in the room. It might be a societal expectation that after a certain age, you should probably have kids. I even find myself saying those words when my mind is screaming, “No, in fact, you DO hate children. You don’t like them much at all. You feel uncomfortable around them most of the time!” And yet, I don’t want to come across as some sort of monster.
So, what should we say instead? That question, like my question about being bothered by young children, are the ones that eternally plague the childfree. I can’t avoid these conversations all the time, no matter how hard I try. How do we push past the expectations and the criticisms and answer honestly and confidently, speaking our truth as it is?
How do you answer these questions?
(Image Credit: Union Square)