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Only the Childless can change Society’s attitude towards childlessness

By Nina Steele 

There is something inherently wrong when society seems to send the message that everyone should aim to become a parent regardless of their abilities. There is an ingrained bias against anyone whose path is different to that of the mainstream, be it by choice or circumstance. I suppose in a way people find it difficult to go against the established norm and would rather conform and have an easy life than go against the grain. The reason why so many people who are childless by circumstance find it difficult to come to terms with it is in great part because of the fear they have of being seen to be different to the rest of society. Chances are that it is not because they desperately want children but rather that they are desperate to conform. When commercials after commercials and everything around you seem to be about being a parent, it takes absolute courage to comfortably live a life that does not include children.

The sad truth is that many people who have children have found the whole experience totally different to the one portrayed in the commercials. They have come to the realisation that far from being this ideal and romantic experience, raising children can be quite difficult and very unpleasant. I have heard many mothers complain that they feel overwhelmed by the whole experience and never anticipated that it would be so demanding and difficult, yet they are reluctant to speak out for fear of being labelled bad parents. You are meant to pretend that everything is fine and that you have absolutely no regrets, when in reality, many parents, if given the chance, would not choose to have children at all. What does this say about society that struggling parents cannot be honest and say they are struggling for fear of being judged? I suppose some might say that those struggling parents made a choice and that they have to live with the consequences. Even so, it is rather disturbing that many of the so called civilised societies are bullying couples into having children and then leaving them to bear the difficulties on their own.

The only way to change society’s attitude and allow people to choose their own path without fear is for the childless to be more vocal about what it really means to be childless. Many childless people are living happy and fulfilled lives and that needs to be talked about and promoted in the same way that we are constantly bombarded with images of seemingly happy couples with children, implying that having children is the key to happiness, when the reality is anything but. Once we had come to terms with not having children, I was rather shocked to find that we as a couple had found our voice and our path became clearer and unencumbered. The only explanation is that by trying to have children for 9 years so we could fit in with the rest of society, we were trying to force upon ourselves a different path to the one that was intended for us. My experience of anyone living an inauthentic life is that they are never happy. To try to be something you aren’t in order to fit in or gain other people’s approval, means that you will never reach your full potential as a person and will always feel deep down that something is missing. I have to admit that when we started on our journey to become parents, I was not mature enough to understand that we could remain childless and still be happy. I was too indoctrinated in becoming a parent to even accept that ours could be a different path. My husband on the other hand made it clear to me on many occasions that he thought the whole concept of parenthood was overrated and so was never keen on having children. At the end I came to my senses and embraced my path wholeheartedly.

It was quite an eye opener to realise that all this time, I was chasing a dream instead of enjoying the life that was already there staring at me. I suppose it is understandable in a way that it should have taken 9 years to rid myself of years of indoctrination. And so I made it my purpose to come forward and shout about it and encourage others to do the same. Only us the childless can change society’s attitude towards childlessness and by so doing, spare future generations the pain that many of us have been through. We have to send the message that there is another way and that it is as rewarding and fulfilling as being a parent.

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Comments

  1. I agree that living your life trying to please others is inauthentic and can only lead to more misery. There is something wrong with society when people with children feel they cannot be honest about how difficult the whole process of raising them is. This can have catastrophic consequences and there are many cases of parents who found it so difficult that they ended up harming the children. Having children is just not for everyone and to pretend otherwise is wrong. It is time that society started being honest about this instead of this rosy picture that is painted and that bears no resemblance to the real thing.

  2. There are many people and institutions with their own agenda and at the heart of it is to keep things as they are. Politicians obviously see more children being born as the next sources of tax revenues, while businesses see potential consumers and the church sees more followers and with it more contributors to its coffers. I do understand that tax revenues have to be paid to keep society going and that businesses have to survive in order to create jobs and with it wealth, even so, times have changed and with the current world population standing at over 7 billion, to keep sending the message that everyone should aim to have children and that it is the key to happiness is wrong. I wouldn’t mind so much if the alternative to having children was also publicly recognised, with a clear message that anyone who couldn’t or chose not to have children was as worthy as a person with children. That would take away the current stigma that is too often attached to not having children and by so doing make childlessness more acceptable.

  3. People feel threatened by anything that is different to what they know and childlessness falls into that category. With the number of childless people on the increase, attitudes are bound to change at some point.

  4. I have absolutely no doubt that attitudes will keep improving the more childless people there are. It is inevitable. I can already hear some people complain that we as a species might become extinct as a result. That is one of the arguments that I hear being thrown about by those who see childlessness as a threat to life itself. These people miss the point entirely, for no one is promoting the end of the human race. What we are promoting is acceptance and the end of the stigma that is currently attached to childlessness. Surely, there is nothing threatening in that, is there?

  5. ericanela says

    “. . . it takes absolute courage to comfortably live a life that does not include children.”

    This line really speaks to me.

    For me, the childless path has been a challenging one and it would be fantastic if acceptance was a bit more mainsteam. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I can’t see the stigma being eradicated any time soon. It’s so draining to have to constantly defend this choice. With that said, websites like this really help.

    • HI Ericanela, Happy New Year! I totally missed your post and only came across it today. I hope you had a Good Christmas and wish you peace and joy this year and beyond. Yes the stigma attached to childlessness can feel like quite a mountain to climb at times, but with more and more people speaking out I am in no doubt that we can make a difference. I work for an old people’s charity and I can categorically put to bed some of the myths that add to the stigma, for example that not having children mean you will be lonely in old age. In fact anyone can end up lonely in old age, children or no children. If anything, it is those with children who often find themselves unable to cope with loneliness because they had assumed that their children would be there for them in old age and so they never made alternative arrangements. People without children on the other hand, have no choice but to plan for old age and so never take anything for granted. There are many other myths and challenging them is the only way to lessen the stigma.

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