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Guest Posting: Your Child, Your Choice; 5 Things Non-Parents Want Parents To Know

naughty school children on bus stop

Guest Posting: Your Child, Your Choice
5 Things Non-Parents Want Parents To Know

I love children, more specifically, I love other people’s children. Ask any of my friends;  I’m the cool, pseudo-aunt every kid loves because I’m fun, talk to them like adults, I have dogs,  an air hockey table and painting projects. I let them eat ice cream at 11 pm, and I give them questions to ask their parents like, “Why did we abandon NASA” or “Why haven’t we had any women presidents.” But from a very young age, I knew that I absolutely did not want any biological children of my own.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom to four kids for most of my life. I saw the job up close. It looked exhausting, difficult, stressful, expensive, and smelly.  Since I also knew at a young age that I would be a lawyer, I figured I’d have my share of those things in my career, with hopefully less smelliness.

My decision not to have children doesn’t affect anyone’s life but my own (and the multiple men who have, for the most part unsuccessfully, asked me to marry them, but that’s another post). But I’m finding a growing expectation that the childless among us not just respect, but actively participate in others’ choices to reproduce.

Every adult has, at some point, been a child. Every person has, at some point, been a non-parent. No doubt that having a child changes one’s perspective, but does it require a loss of all perspective? I don’t think so. Here are 5 things I’d love parents to know, from the non-parenting set.

1. Understand Some May Choose To Help But Are Not Obligated

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If I see a mother struggling to open a stroller, keep one hand on her child’s leash, and not spill her coffee, I’m going to stop and help her (because it would be a shame to spill that coffee). That’s nice of me; it is not required. Recently I read a friend’s post on Facebook where she was upset that the stranger in the seat next to her on a flight wouldn’t accommodate or interact with her child. Her conclusion was that this was obviously a cold, unfeeling, unhappy person. But it's her flight too; maybe this was her only time to be completely unplugged from e-mail, phone calls, interruptions and read a book, sleep, or just have quiet.  Your child, your choice, your responsibility.

29 Comments

  1. Rene Syler

    July 17, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I LOVE this.. and I’m a mother! I do think parents (especially new ones) have a tendency to become quite myopic after that baby arrives. Years later (one hopes) they regain perspective. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Stacia

    July 17, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Love it!!

  3. Debbie Mitchell

    July 17, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I LOVE this post… especially- *WE ARE NOT, “MISSING OUT”

    I need to show it to my mom….she recently told me “you will better understand when you have your children”. I told her “that train has left the station” :).

  4. Holly K

    July 17, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Love this! I am a mom of 5, two of which are adopted. I totally get her points and respect them. I have intentionally non-parenting friends and I cringe for them every time someone gives them the well-intentioned, “when are you going to have kids or you’re missing out” speeches. They lead full happy lives and no, they don’t hate kids.

  5. Rene Syler

    July 17, 2012 at 8:10 am

    @Debbie: I know you personally and I KNOW you are not missing out! And if that train has left the station, rest assured, you would be in a first class car, sipping Champagne and eating canapes the whole time, bwahahah

  6. thedoseofreality

    July 17, 2012 at 8:50 am

    This is a great post, and I appreciate the honesty of the author so much! I happen to agree with everything she says!

  7. Ty Schrader

    July 17, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I would not trade my kids for anything. I do respect non-parents and agree with Lynda.

  8. Jim Walker

    July 17, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Amen! All true. I can handle kids for about 15 minutes, then I want them to go away or at least be silent and leave me alone. The worst, as you wrote, is in the movie theater, or in a closed space, like an airplane.

  9. BJonthegrid

    July 17, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I don’t disagree with the material but the tone is a bit condescending. Every parent has been a non-parent. Every parent gets irritated by other people’s children. Parents (shock) often dine out without their kids. There is nothing here that we didn’t know before the writer decided to put all parents in the proverbial “your kids destroy other people’s dinner” box.

    For every kid who is “having a moment” there are dozens that you encounter everyday that are not.

  10. Niahano

    July 17, 2012 at 9:11 am

    While I do agree with the author, there is something that overcomes a mother not long after she gives birth, that the author will never feel! It’s a love that I believe, succumbs a women the birth! It’s almost like, I never really knew what love was until I had a child! I felt the same way as the author before I gave birth! It wasn’t until after I had my child that I knew why some believed every woman should do it at least once! As far as them annoying people in the public at places such as restaurants, you have to expose your kids for them to learn proper etiquette. I said that about people until I had my own! In other words, some things the author says about the children & their behavior is easy for her to say! Had she made a choice to have them, they too would test their decibels in public with her!!

  11. Rene Syler

    July 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

    @BJonthegrid: You make a great point about the fact that there are some very well-mannered kids because their parents taught them. But I think, if I may be so bold as to speak for the author, she was speaking primarily about the kids whose parents are shirking their responsibility. But I have to say, I agree with the things she says here. It is astonishing to me that parents are not more mindful of their kids when they misbehave in public.
    THX for weighing in..

  12. Rene Syler

    July 17, 2012 at 9:19 am

    @Jim: Well I don’t think she’s taking it quite to that extreme. But the over-riding point here, I believe is that parents need to be mindful of their kids in public. I can’t say that I disagree.

  13. Melanie

    July 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Goodness, I agree with many points she makes. As a mom of older kids, I find my tolerance dwindling for the normal behaviors of babies and toddlers. But I must say, I find that a the ability to take a last minute trip to London or New York pales in comparison to the joys of seeing my own kids grow into hopefully wonderful people – wait, I need to referee a wrestling match between my DS10 & DD9 – Whew, no injuries to report, but the dog won’t come out from under the coffee table.

    And I have always agreed with the rule banning the discussion of normal bodily functions… the only exception is when the kid – or the dog – eats glitter!

  14. Sandy Seale

    July 17, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I totally agree with the author & her right to have her own feelings, desires, & freedom to live her life the way she chooses. It is utterly rude for those of us who have kids (some of which were accidents & not always welcomed or particualrly wanted but thats another story too) to try to force our life on others or insist that their’s is lacking because they’ve made certain life-choices that don’t include kids. I have 3 daughters & 5 g-kids…a .bazillion nieces/nephews, etc. whom I love dearly. That being said I have also said thru the years during these similar discussions that “any mom who won’t admit that she’s had days when she just wanted to get in the car & drive & drive is not being honest with herself or us.” As much as most of us love our kids & would never change our lives, we all have those days when we wonder why we ever had kids. At least thats my opinion. Its like marriage….24/7 is HARD!!! I tell new parents (expectant parents) it will be the hardest thing they EVER do; but also the most amazingly wonderful thing.” Wish someone had been honest & told me the truths about it 🙂 About the time you want to kill them they do something so cute, sweet or funny that you just melt. BUT thats not for everybody…..esp. the hardest thing you’ll ever do part….the 24/7 part. .And the part about kids who aren’t controlled & run wild, scream their heads off, kicks the back of your seat… drives ME crazy too!!! And she’s right in that it doesn’t mean she hates all kids…..just that she love “other peoples” kids Like being a grandma, you can love them, spoil them, then send them home when you have had enough LOL

  15. Liz

    July 17, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Very well said, yes not everyone wants to be a mother. Her points were well taken. As a grandmother I will have to do better about talking about the grands.

  16. Daphne

    July 17, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I love it and I agree with all but one statement…you don’t know if your are missing out because you have never been a parent. But, that’s cool, too. I’ll never know what it’s like to NOT be a parent…seems like I’ve been one forever! Lol…

  17. Kelly M

    July 17, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I’d add that if your kid makes a massive mess at a restaurant, ask your wait staff to borrow a rag or broom to clean the excessive mess up. If they tell you not to worry, fine, that’s a choice they made, but please don’t assume that it is the responsibility of the rest of us to clean up after you in public. My God does your house look that bad too?!?

  18. Sandy Seale

    July 17, 2012 at 11:25 am

    In reply to the comments about never knowing there are truthfully many things in life we will never really know about or how they feel. None of us will ever be all things or have ever experience. So that shouldn’t be an issue. I have a dear friend whose 10 yr. old son died of cancer. As much as I hurt for her & couldn’t imagine how I would ever deal if I lost one of my children, I can never really know how she feels or what she is going thru. I’ll never know what its like to be a man, fly to the moon, be a brain surgeon, win an Olympic medal; but that doesn’t mean my life won’t still be what I want it to be or that I won’t be fulfilled or am missing out on those experiences. I have no desire for those things so should the people who do say I should experience it?? I think not 🙂 People sometimes say too that when you’re old you’ll be all alone & have nobody to take care of you; but just because you have kids doesn’t mean you will either. I’ve known (& helped care for & visited) many elderly who have kids who don’t want to be bothered. So that reason is also out the window. Like most things in life it all has its pros & cons & we are not all clones so have different wants & needs. So I say lets just respect others period & not make judgements 🙂

  19. LRV

    July 17, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Thanks all for the comments! It’s been an interesting experience to put my thoughts onto paper (well, not exactly paper) and get feedback. When I was in college, there was a guest column written in Time Magazine written by a woman and it was called, “I’m not a Freak Just Because I Don’t Want Kids.” I taped it up to my mirror. This writing is sort of a follow up to that, and I’m encouraged that times have changed enough that not only am I not considered a “freak”, but that we can be open about some things that some parents do (or don’t do) which they could do (or not do) better when interacting with others.
    As an FYI, I did have a teenage foster daughter for a year, because, you know, how hard could it be to try to raise a teenager who has never really had a parent or stable home. Not sure I would have had that experience if I had to worry about the effects on my own bio children and believe me, that was an adventure!

  20. Rene Syler

    July 17, 2012 at 11:58 am

    @Lynda Well, you can see you struck a chord here, LOL. The website traffic has been through the roof, all because of this piece. I think it’s because, not only does it speak to those who make choices to have children but also those who choose to and try to rear them correctly. That means, controlling them in public, teaching them manners and being considerate of others who share their space, just as we as parents as of the non-parenting set. Anyway, I thank you for the posting. It was great!

  21. Carolyn

    July 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    No one seems to have mentioned the women who wanted to become mothers, but for whatever reason, were denied the opportunity. That takes this argument to another level. And yes, the “if you were a mother you’d understand” gets very old – especially when you don’t have any choice in the matter.

  22. Melinda

    July 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Ha! I agree with all of these except that non-parents are not idiots. You really are. Well, not idiots (not all of you anyway), but it is hilarious when non-parents start spouting off about what they would do and how perfectly they would handle stuff. Nope. Until you do it…you have no idea!

  23. Carrie

    July 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Love this! I always thought I would have kids and the I found out that wasn’t going to happen. And I am REALLY ok with it. Thanks for articulating what many of non-parents are thinking and feeling, but feel uncomfortable expressing to our friends with kids. 🙂

  24. Danielle

    July 17, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Excellent!

  25. Joyveline

    July 18, 2012 at 4:27 am

    She Is right. I had three children and now 4 grandchildren. The only thing I no is children like adult can be trained to act intelligence. We must start from birth to five yrs. Beause that s when their character is formed . I ook out for children in stores because they. can get away from you quick.k

  26. Rachel

    July 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    AMEN, SISTER!!! I’m 23 years old and I don’t want children!

    I don’t want babies, puppies, kittens, bunnies, untrained house guests (humans OR animals), acne or wrinkles.Okay, maybe the acne and wrinkles are inevitable. (I might adopt a teen when I’m older, though.) It’s the same reason why I adopted a (house-broken) 5 year old dog. I don’t have the patience to wait while they learn the very basic things that I already know. I don’t care.

    Some may say this is due to my age and I’ll eventually grow out of it. Maybe you’re right.

    Or maybe I’ll be taking all the fabulous trips and seeing all the amazing art shows and concerts, while sleeping as much as I want and living for my work instead of working for a living.

    I love my life too much to change that for someone else. That’s what my parents taught me and I think they’d be happy to see me follow through. 🙂

  27. LRV

    August 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Rachel –
    Everyone told me I’d change my mind too. Whether you do or don’t, it’s your mind, your life, and it sounds like you have a plan in place to make it as fabulous as you want it to be. Enjoy all of your options and great job on knowing yourself!

  28. Mary

    August 4, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Well done, LRV!

    The only thing I’d emphasize is this: for the parents who think that not having children is only so we can just jet off to Paris at a moment’s notice, I can only speak for myself in saying that reason doesn’t even make the top 700 list of reasons why I do not have children!

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