Sunday, 21 February 2010

Baby blues

It's funny how awkward it still is to ask someone why they don't have children. I always imagine, rightly or wrongly, that they're going to be offended, or sheepish, or distressed. I assume there might be very sensitive personal issues they don't want to reveal.

I don't mind people asking about my own childless state, in fact I explained it in detail in a very early post, but other people aren't necessarily so ready to blurt out their reasons in a society that still places such a high value on childrearing.

I know quite a few childless people but I have no idea why they're childless and I've never dared to ask. I could easily be opening a huge can of worms that would have been better not opened.

Couples may have had serious quarrels about the subject. One may be keen on a large family while the other has no wish for children whatever. One may be sterile and incapable of creating a child, causing resentment and frustration in the other. Or they may have been trying artificial insemination without success.

Someone may have had such a dreadful childhood (abuse, neglect, bullying) that they fear reproducing the same behaviour with their own children. Maybe they don't want to bring a child into what they see as a rotten and corrupt world. Maybe they just have no confidence in their parenting skills.

Whatever the reason, it's often something people feel inadequate about and they want to keep it to themselves rather than divulge it to others. They don't want to risk censorious and thoughtless comments by those secure in their own child-endowed existence and parenting abilities.

So I tread very warily on the absence of tiny feet. I don't want to wade into what might be longstanding personal anguish or disappointment. It's no concern of mine anyway why people don't have children, it's entirely their own business. I would only be enquiring out of idle curiosity. It's better to stay silent.

20 comments:

Liz said...

I must be really boring blathering about my gorgeous grandchild then! (Just read your explanatory post.)

Wisewebwoman said...

I remember your prior post on this Nick.
Oddly, most of my friends have no children.
I was very strict as a parent with my 2 and even with my grandchild(ren). I simply can't abide bad manners or running around in restaurants where others are paying for a meal in quiet solitude. I used "grandma's rules" with my grandchild which alleviates conflict with her modern parents who tolerate far more invasive behaviour than I ever would.
I get quite nosy with others' decisions not to breed so must do a post on that sometime, interesting stories.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Liz - Ha, what can I say? Children and grandchildren are naturally more fascinating to the immediate relatives than to outsiders. I like children in small doses - very small doses, lol.

www - Children's bad behaviour is a whole subject on its own. I get equally pissed off with wild, noisy children in restaurants. Some of us like to have enough peace and quiet for a serious conversation. Is that unreasonable?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I admire those who don't have children simply because they don't want them for whatever reason, and consider that far better than those who have them for the wrong reasons and are terrible parents. Too often, the wrong people reproduce.

tattytiara said...

I do wonder if people were as bold with their inquiries back in the day when there weren't treatments for infertility and it was assumed everybody was trying. Perhaps very very immediate family were more inquisitive, but beyond that people may have been more respectful knowing that it could be very painful territory.

Nick said...

Heart - Indeed, we always assume parents are going to do a good job but all too often they make a mess of it and the rest of us have to pick up the pieces. I admire those couples who accept they might not have what it takes.

Tattytiara - I can't remember whether people made those sort of enquiries when I was young, but I suspect as you say that they didn't.

Scarlet Blue said...

I don't have kids simply because I've never had the craving... and anyhow being a parent looks like too much hard work.
Sometimes I might ask: Did/do you want kids? - as this rearranging the question. I suppose I'm curious to find people who feel the same way as me - but I wouldn't ask a complete stranger.
Sx

Scarlet Blue said...

*rearranges*
Sorry.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - Those are more or less my own reasons. And asking a complete stranger really would be looking for trouble!

Rummuser said...

Nick, I live in India and am and Indian. We do not have such genteel issues. If you are sans children, everybody and his uncle will ask you about it and volunteer advise about what can be done about it too. I can write volumes about my exeriences after we stopped with one child.

Nick said...

Ramana - Ah yes, I had gathered that was the Indian way. And the Asian way too, come to that. It must be nerve-racking if you have very good reasons for not wanting children but everyone insists having children is only natural.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

Even in my current new baby bliss, I have profound respect for those who are self-aware enough to know they don't want to have children and am painfully aware of my new mommy ranting around my childless friends. I must admit, with the debates about overpopulation and the vast numbers of children who do not have anyone to care for them, I often feel a little guilty about choosing to have a biological child for what can only be described as selfish reasons (I wanted one!). I must admit, however, that I am at times frustrated by single friends who are unwilling to listen to me talk about my son without commenting on how boring my life is now that I have a baby. I refrain from commenting on aspects of their life that I no longer relate to - I think that childless and child-rearing folks should try to have compassion and understanding for both choices (or not choices as the case may be).

Interesting post as always.

Nick said...

Fate - I agree, people with and without children should show a bit more consideration for each other. I don't think having a child is necessarily boring, in fact it can be anything but if the child is demanding or precocious or humorous. Though I do get bored by detailed descriptions of projectile vomiting or filthy football shirts.

Likewise, parents are no doubt sick to death of snide comments about the population explosion or Ethiopian orphans.

Wordcheck: ranted!

Los Angelista said...

I never ask people why they don't have any kids because I figure if they want me to know, they'll tell me! What kills me are the people who ask me if I'm having another baby when I already have two kids! I'm like, really? Two isn't enough???

Nick said...

Liz - Very true, just giving two children the attention they deserve and making sure they grow up into mature and intelligent adults should be enough for anyone.

Baino said...

You know I've never even thought about it. But those who don't have children are definitely at a financial advantage! Apparently it costs $180,000 to raise a child from infancy through to 18 years of age.No wonder I'm poor!

Nick said...

Baino - We've certainly noticed the financial advantage over the years. If it wasn't for all that extra cash, we'd probably still be in a dingy flat in some raffish inner London 'hood....

Megan said...

I made the mistake of asking my cousin that question. Sort of a natural question at a large family gathering, when I hadn't seen her since the last previous one. Our families are not close, and so I had no idea that she is incapable. It was not a fun conversation. :(

Now I leave well alone, except for my sister. I bug her every year or so to hurry it up. :)

Megan said...

Oops, my lack of editing is showing! "Last previous" indeed!

Nick said...

Megan - Oops, that must have been very difficult, women can be very distressed that they can't conceive, especially if they think it makes them less of a woman.