A couple of weeks ago there was a segment on a current affairs program about women who have chosen not to have children and the way they are viewed by society. The build-up to the story was intense, while the story itself didn’t really add much that was very meaningful.
There was a discussion on Facebook on the segment (both before and after the airing) and, wow, did people get nasty! I couldn’t believe the treatment people with extreme view from both sides (those who want kids and those who don’t) levelled at each other. It disgusted me really.
I have always supported a person’s right to choose whether or not to have children, and I added this to the debate:
Many people still assume it’s a choice to have or not have children. It’s not always – I’ve lost two babies through miscarriage and had three unsuccessful rounds of IVF. I wanted to have children, but it’s not going to happen. I was asked one time if I think people who could have children and don’t are selfish. No – I don’t – my blog covers this and other issues with being unable to have kids. With the pressure on people to have children in this society, I think it is incredibly unselfish and brave to stick with not having children, as the judgment on people who don’t want children can be very harsh. What I can’t understand is why hard core people from either side (who want to have children or who don’t want to have children) feel the need to judge each other, say cruel things about the other’s choices, and do not try to accept that people are different. We may not all have a choice about having children, but we do all have a choice as to how we treat each other.
I got an interesting response that indicated I was naïve about the situation (in terms of I don’t know how hard it is when somebody chooses not to have children and is judged for that choice), and that most of the judgment was from women who were bitter because they couldn’t have children. Basically I was told that people who want children and can’t have them are given far more understanding and support.
I was somewhat disconcerted about the responses I received. My point of the above entry was to say that as someone who couldn’t have children I absolutely respected people’s choices not to have children. I didn’t say I understood what being judged for that choice was like – it’s true, I don’t know what that would be like.
The thing that really got me, though, was the assumption that it is somehow easier for those who want children but can’t have them. I want to set a couple of things straight about that:
- · It is not always the case that every person who is unable to have children gets support and understanding.
- · IVF clinics (at least in our experience) don’t provide much support – especially when they realize you are unlikely to be a success story. They kind of dump you at that point.
- · Comments leveled at us can really hurt – such as insinuations that we gave up too easily, that we are putting money above having children, that we are selfish for not keeping on trying, that we don’t have enough faith that we can have children, that God has judged us as not being worthy to be parents – trust me – I have had all of these comments directed at me at one time or another.
I know it can be hard for people who choose not to have children – but it’s not always. People who can’t have children and want them may get more support – but not always. And, why exactly does it matter who gets more support and understanding? The pain exists for both groups – and as far as I know there are no gold medals given out in some kind of Pain Olympics for who has it worst.
Well – that’s my rant for today, except for one last thing. Why was it that the segment only interviewed women? Surely, there are men who choose not to have children – I would be very interested in their experiences too.