To avoid misunderstandings, please note that this article is:
- NOT anti-kids,
- NOT anti-parents,
- and most of all, NOT an attempt to tell people not to have kids.
It always starts with that seemingly innocent question — When are you going to have kids? Then comes the unsolicited advice and life coaching. Find out what couples who do not have kids have to put up with in this article.
- Here Comes the Question
- It’s Too Personal
- If You Really Must Ask, Please Accept My Answer
- When the ‘Concern’ Sounds Deeply Offensive
- Please Know Where to Draw the Line
- Let’s Practise Mutual Respect
1. Here Comes the Question
When Mr Wow and I first announced our intention to get hitched, a friend immediately asked if it was a shotgun marriage.
‘I’m not pregnant!’ I laughed.
‘Then why do you want to get married so soon?’ Another question followed.
‘Because I’m in love, obviously! What other reason could there be?’
I would find myself answering this same question from various people in the subsequent weeks. I guess 24 is young by modern standards.
Soon after our wedding, I found myself answering a different question, a question that I would have to keep answering for the next 15 or so years of my life — WHEN ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO HAVE KIDS? The question didn’t come from our parents; they totally respect our decision not to have kids. It came from relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even complete strangers. Over the years, I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t matter what my answer to the question is. Most people are not listening. They are just interested in telling me why they’re right and I’m wrong.
2. It’s Too Personal
What’s considered an inappropriate personal question to ask an acquaintance or a co-worker? Would you ask someone you barely know how much he or she earns? I doubt. What about his or her reason not to have kids? Is that too personal? I know what some of you are thinking. You think there’s nothing wrong with asking that question.
SERIOUSLY? You actually think it’s too personal to ask me about my income but not my choice or ability to produce offsprings? Hmm…
This is a true story. It was lunch time and I was at the food court with four colleagues. Let’s call them A, B, C and D. While eating, A and B (both mothers) were busy giving C (a mother-to-be) parenting advice. D (a 35-year-old married man with no kids) and I (still single then) just listened and ate our food quietly. Suddenly, the attention turned to D.
A: ‘Hey D, you’ve been married for years! Why don’t you have kids yet?’
D: ‘Nah, my wife and I don’t want kids.’
A: ‘Why! You don’t know what you’re missing! Kids bring a lot of joy into your life.’
D: ‘But my wife and I are very happy.’
A: ‘Kids will make you happier! It’s a natural progression of life. Think about your old age. You’ll be so bored!’ (I had to turn away so that A couldn’t see me roll my eyes.)
B: ‘And you should consider your parents. I’m sure they want grandchildren. You shouldn’t be so selfish.’ (Rolling my eyes again.)
D: ‘Actually our parents are fine with our decision.’
C: ‘I think your wife will change her mind. Women always do.’
A + B + C: ‘Blah blah blah…’
Poor D was under constant bombardment from every direction, but he smilingly took it all… like he had been through it a thousand times. Such a nice bloke he is. I would, in time, experience the same crap, but unlike D, I’m not so nice. I don’t smile, I don’t nod and I certainly don’t keep quiet.
After lunch, A, B and C went to buy baby stuff while D and I made our way back to the office.
Me: ‘What the hell was that, man! The three of them were darn intrusive, yet you were so calm!’
D: ‘It’s okay. I’m used to it.’
Me: ‘That’s not the point! They were bloody rude! People have different reasons for not wanting kids and it’s none of their business! And it’s not like they know you that well. Maybe you can’t have kids and don’t wish to tell them!’
Me: ‘Did I say something wrong?’
D: ‘No, you didn’t. It’s just that you are right. My wife can’t have children.’
I gazed at my colleague in astonishment. His face told me that he wasn’t joking.
Me: ‘I won’t tell anyone, I promise.’ (That was all I said.)
That afternoon at work, I felt my heart compress every time I looked at D. But when I looked at A, B and C, I felt an overwhelming urge to unleash my indignation, never mind that C was heavily pregnant!
People like A, B and C need to know that what they are doing is NOT OKAY.
3. If You Really Must Ask, Please Accept My Answer
Some people seem to think that having children gives them the special entitlement or majority privilege to probe into the private lives of those who are child-free. It always starts with that seemingly innocent question — When are you going to have kids? When you tell them that parenthood is not for you, they have no qualms about asking you why. So… you give them a reason that you’re comfortable sharing, BUT THEY REFUSE TO ACCEPT IT!
Some people seem to think that having children gives them the special entitlement or majority privilege to probe into the private lives of those who are child-free.
They will tell you that you’re wrong and give you 101 reasons why you should have kids like them. And they will go on and on and on… wearing you out to the point that you simply switch off and pretend to listen. Deep down, you wish these busybodies would just MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS and STOP EVANGELISING ABOUT THE VIRTUES OF PARENTHOOD!
4. When the ‘Concern’ Sounds Deeply Offensive
I know some of you will say that these people are merely showing concern. Please… let’s get real. Are you telling me that a distant relative I bump into once a year during Chinese New Year cares about me so much that she makes it her annual mission to ‘enlighten’ me about the joys of motherhood AND to remind me that my biological clock is ticking?
The worst is when the ‘concern’ or ‘gentle’ persuasion turns into an insult. Here are a few examples:
► Insult 1: Says an aunt after hearing from my mum that I worked too hard: ‘Money isn’t everything. Don’t choose money over kids.’
My thoughts: WHAT? Just because I work hard and don’t have kids, it means I choose money over motherhood? Have I ever complained to anyone about the cost of raising a child? Not even once. But it has to be about money, right? I didn’t know that my aunt can read minds.
► Insult 2: Says that annoying distant relative I see once a year during Chinese New Year: ‘You don’t know what it’s like to love another human being unconditionally until you become a parent.’
My thoughts: The love that parents feel for their children is indeed very powerful. But only parents know what unconditional love is? Only parents are capable of giving unconditional love? REALLY? So this distant relative of mine didn’t love her husband unconditionally when she married him? Before becoming a mother, unconditional love was but a foreign concept to her?
► Insult 3: Says the same annoying distant relative: ‘People who do not want children only think about themselves.’
My thoughts: Then who should I be thinking about? Nobody is suffering because I don’t want to have kids… although she seems to have a problem with my decision. And was she not thinking about HERSELF when she decided to expand her family? Was it not because she wanted to progress to the next stage of HER life, i.e. being a mother? Was it not because the prospect of seeing little versions of her filled HER with excitement? Noooooo… she was just thinking about the needs of the baby she had yet to conceive, right?
► Insult 4: Says an acquaintance at a Christmas party (not once but twice): ‘Why get married if you don’t want to have kids? Your marriage is incomplete without children.’
My thoughts: I don’t know about this wise guy, but I got married because I was in love, NOT because I had a burning desire to reproduce. I found my soulmate, NOT a person to mate with. A marriage is the union of two people who believe that one life together is better than two lives apart. It is a sacred bond, with or without kids. Children do not complete a marriage. Nor do they hold a marriage together. Get this into your thick skull, Mr Wise Guy!
► Insult 5: Says a friend at her baby shower: ‘You will surely regret your decision.’ (paired with a ‘I feel so sorry for you’ look)
My thoughts: W.T.F. I totally didn’t see that coming. How condescending! What if I told her that she would surely regret her decision to have kids? Would that sit well with her? Or would that make me a bad person? Let me just put on record that Mr Wow and I happen to think being child-free is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
The above scenarios are disturbingly common. So can you blame me if I say that I’ve told a good number of people off over the years? You would be surprised to learn that a few incredulous people actually asked me in what way they were being rude. I simply told them to imagine the reverse:
Them: ‘Kids are wonderful! Why don’t you want to have kids?’
Me: ‘Kids are awful! Why do you want to have kids?’
Them: ‘You really should have kids.’
Me: ‘You really shouldn’t have kids.’
Them: ‘You’re making a big mistake.’
Me: ‘You’ve made a big mistake, or rather three mistakes as you have three kids.’
Get my point now?
But after ‘defending’ my choice for nearly a decade, I got tired of talking to idiots… so I started telling people that I was infertile in hope that they would leave me alone. Guess what? Many continued to pry! Unbelievable!
Them: ‘Oh no… I’m sorry to hear that. What’s the cause?’
Me: ‘If you don’t mind, I rather not to talk about it.’ (Doing my best to look distraught.)
Them: ‘Oh sure… I understand… I’m sorry if I upset you.’
You know what this shows? If I can’t have kids, I get understanding. But if I choose not to have kids, I get shit.
I got tired of talking to idiots… so I started telling people that I was infertile in hope that they would leave me alone.
5. Please Know Where to Draw the Line
Now that I’m past childbearing age, I no longer have to put up with all the crap. However, it disturbs me greatly when I see younger couples being targeted. Just leave them alone, for crying out loud! It’s HARASSMENT!
To all the interfering busybodies out there, this is what I have to say to you:
- A woman’s body is her own business. Stop reminding her that she is not getting any younger.
- Please do not pretend to care. Admit it. You are just being nosy most of the time.
- You are not only irritating, but also rude. Please imagine yourself on the receiving end.
- You may hurt someone. You do not know the full story and you probably will never know.
- You have no right to pass judgment on others. People are free to choose their own path and they do not need to justify themselves to you.
- Stop trying to fix others when you are the real problem.
- Not everyone wants to be like you. Deal with it.
6. Let’s Practise Mutual Respect
If you’re a regular of this blog, you probably read my article about living with Asperger’s syndrome. I’m not known for my high EQ or social sensitivity, but I know what mutual respect is. It’s about understanding that everyone has different values and beliefs, and not imposing our own on others. It’s about understanding that every individual has the right to live life in a way that makes him or her happy.
I’m not a parent and I’m very happy with my life. Despite my choice, I have a lot of respect for parents as I know raising a child is no easy feat. I hope the respect is mutual. Live and let live.