On the topic of what not to say to childfree friends (and why), I recently saw this article by blogger Nicole Ciomelc about one of the worst bingoes the childfree and childless in particular can get. It puts a spotlight on how the childfree and the childless have the experience of unintentional insults in common.
Ciomelc writes about how she read a blog post by a woman who, like her, "has had to come to terms with the fact that she is infertile. She wrote that a friend of hers, while upset, expressed the opinion that a woman who has no children has nothing." The childfree know this one, but it can be particularly hurtful for those who want children and are having trouble conceiving. Ciomelc believes this "nothing" attitude is what brings on the "cajoling" to try and convince those people with no children "that they do indeed want or need to have them." Indeed. But why? Because pronatalist doctrine tells us that parenthood is an "ultimate" and a "necessary" part of life.
I join arms with Ciomelc when she writes that trying to do this kind of convincing is "just wrong," and that "People know what is best for their lives. People know what they want and who they are. No one wants to be told that their way of living is wrong. Yet, people are constantly trying to tell people who don't have children that their way of life is wrong, and in the process probably accidentally insulting those who are infertile." I say not so probably, and not so accidentally...it is insulting.
Yet why do people hold this attitude? Ciomelc comments that it's because "all-in-all, we are still very traditional culture. Parenting is part of that." I would take it further. We are in a pronatalist culture in which so many people believe pronatalist assumptions about parenthood so strongly that they are unquestioned and believed to be true. When in reality, they are merely beliefs, and not necessarily the truth at all. The idea that a woman who has no children is nothing needs to be challenged along with other pronatalist assumptions related to parenthood and reproduction.
As part of this challenge, I'm with Ciomelc's advice to those who hold these kind of pronatalist beliefs when talking about those with no children by choice or not-- Please be more sensitive with your words. Understand that not everyone everyone is capable of having children. Not everyone wants them. And, "we are all wonderful as we are, that there's no need to judge. We all have our challenges in life. Let's try to support each other through them."
Here's to a childless woman who gets it, and the ways in which the childfree and the childless can join to help society see past the blinds of pronatalism.
Where else do you see how the childless and the childfree have the effects of pronatalism in common?
Childfree author of Families of Two
blogging at La Vie Childfree
book reviewing at LiveTrue Books
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