Since we’ve had to unexpectedly delay the release of Episode 3 due to some hardware and WiFi issues with the computer which has the editing software installed, we decided to give you another blog post to tide you over! Continuing our discussion on the article about adult bullying Balt shared in Episode 2, let’s look at the ways childfree by choice people and their needs may be ignored or excluded by our larger culture and individual parents (or their cliques) in specifically social settings.
Being Ignored or Excluded
As much as child-free people are put on the spot and harassed for their decision, one might think that being ignored or excluded isn’t a relevant factor in the bullying of those without children. But, on closer examination, it’s not uncommon for animated talks around the water cooler about family and children to go silent as we walk into the room. We often will receive glares and rebukes if we try to offer our views to participate in the conversation. Once valued friendships can become neglected and abandoned by new parents once the first child is born; there’s no more time for adult friendships with the childfree when there’s a baby and family to care for. Unwarranted pitying looks from those who have started having children are commonplace to those who are kid-free, followed by silence and solitude once old friends eventually accept that we will not give in to peer pressure to procreate. As the parents herd themselves together, the childfree are left to seek out other adults with similar freedom and interests because many of the supportive relationships we’ve fostered over the years have been discarded with the baby’s bathwater. New relationships can be hard to find and develop in a world which largely caters to those who have children. The unfortunate consequence for all involved is a cyclical cycle of segregation and a reduction in adult-only spaces; the result hurts all of us, childfree and breeders alike.
So often, in social or work situations parents will expect that their conversations must revolve around them, their kids, parenting experiences or other family-related matters. It almost seems as though, once becoming parents, these adults lose all of their ability to hold their own identity, interests and relationships separate from their child (socially, this seems to be even more true when the adult individual identifies as female). Should we offer an opinion or feedback to contribute to a conversation on such matters, we are frequently cut off or shut down (even if the childfree individual has specific training and expertise in the subject). We are regularly told to remain silent until we have children of our own- as though our minds and views are not valid until a mundane biological process has been completed. If most topics of discussion center around children due to parents’ priorities but those same people refuse to accept any outside perspectives from the childfree and work to silence or diminish us until or unless we “join their club” and “get in line,” it is bullying behavior. This trend effectively works to keep the childfree marginalized in larger society as a “lesser” class.
Social events organized by parents often involve either not inviting child-free people because they believe we wouldn’t be interested because they include children (in which case, given the opportunity, we could exercise our autonomy and politely decline if we didn’t want to go). Alternatively, they include invasive questions regarding our childfree-status and pressure to join the parenting cult. Should an adult event be organized by childfree individuals, we have to deal with many parents’ perceptions that all socializing and activities must also include and be welcoming for their offspring– thwarting the opportunity to have adult-spaces and relationships with those who are childfree by choice (and reducing the number of available spaces for specifically adult interactions, which is harmful to the childfree community as well as parents and families in the long run). Moreover, some parents will expect that event organizers (even for small private family events) do their job for them in finding and providing childcare providers and services specifically just for their needs– laying the responsibility for the child they chose to have on others around them under the guise of “accessibility,” as though the choice to have a child is in any way comparable to a disability or that having special spaces for adult-only interaction is “discrimination against children or parents.”
To be clear, just because we choose to be childfree does not (necessarily) mean we hate all children or don’t care about them, though that’s often the label or stereotype. As a whole, we are a diverse population and many of us have at some point, or still do, work in fields which involve regular interactions with children or families. Our choice to be child-free allows us to spend time, energy and resources on our own interests and to be involved in “adult” activities. In general, we likely prefer our interactions with other adults in grownup settings to be centered around mature subjects, but we understand that parenthood and children are likely to come up to some degree, simply because so many adults have chosen to have offspring. We don’t begrudge them that- unless it is forced on or used as a weapon against us. Asserting that we need more inclusion in society as well as the preservation child-free spaces is not detrimental to parents or families. However, breeders forcing their children (or even grandchildren) into those adult spaces can be harmful to us and our need for adult social interaction, free of children, and it is a bullying behavior which can make the environments designed for us no longer hospitable.
Some parents would make the case that the separation of the childfree and breeders is a chicken and the egg scenario. Did childfree people start shunning parents first, or did parents ostracize the childfree? But, in reality, the childfree by choice remain pretty constant; our lives, desires and needs didn’t change. We’re not the ones trying to change parents’ minds about having kids. You don’t generally hear us saying they can’t ever talk about or spend time with their families. We don’t try to force family-oriented spaces to conform to our needs. All we really ask is that breeders not try to change our minds for what we want in our lives, not force their kids on us in adult settings and that they remain capable of interacting with us as adults discussing mature topics that don’t always center around their children. And really, our position is supportive of parents because someday- in most cases- those kids will move out and start their own lives; it’s in everyone’s best interest if they remember who they are separate from their children and model healthy boundaries for their spawn.
Have you felt generally ignored or excluded by the behavior of parents in the personal relationships or social settings? Does some part of this blog article resonate with you? Tell us your story.