Friday, December 28, 2012

Childfreedom, Emotion, & Immaturity

I'm sick today, so if this doesn't make as much sense as it could, I apologize. I woke up feeling gross with an ear ache, sore throat, and stuffed up nose. So, I've spent the day playing Skylanders and Super Mario Galaxy 2 on Wii, and settling in on the sofa to watch Netflix on Wii. I've been watching Prison Wives, an Investigation Discovery show. It's interesting, but also sad. I really feel for these women, their lives are really hard. But it was during one episode that I heard something that got me thinking. An inmate's sister, when talking about her brother's relationship, said that his fiancé was overly emotional because she had never had children and, therefore, never had the opportunity to emotionally mature.

Okay, so you might see where I'm going with this. As a person who is both fairly emotional and without children, I find it insulting that this woman was judging her soon-to-be sister-in-law for being childless, immature, and emotional, as if those things should be mutually inclusive. As if being emotional is a sign of immaturity. It's ridiculous. But I looked around, at the things around me, and realized that maybe I wasn't as grown up as other women my age. Maybe I wasn't  as involved with being a grown up as I could be. But, you know, so what? I don't think there's anything wrong with being connected to your inner child, with children or without them.

I mean, I play video games (both online and console), some that are geared for kids, like Skylanders. I like Barbie and Monster High dolls, WoW plushies, and other "toys." I read YA novels and watch cartoons/anime. I collect dice and play role playing games. I'm also 34 and a half years old, and I don't have kids that inspire these interests. Taken together, does all of that make me immature? Does being childfree make me emotionally underdeveloped? Of course not. Things being what they are, because I don't have children, I don't know how I would be different as a person if I did. But, I like to think that I am who I am, that I would still be an individual, that children wouldn't have taken over my identity. I like to think that I'd still enjoy the things I enjoy, that I'd still be me. Children change people, of course, I'm not naive to that point, but think women can remain individuals apart from their children, too.

And you know what, I'm college educated. I have a master's degree and am seeking another. I pay my bills, spend time with my husband, and engage in the real world in the way adults do. I don't fly off the handle at strangers, I don't (usually) break down crying in public, I don't act like a petulant child when I don't get my way. I worry about very adult issues. I clean my house, wash clothes, take care of my husband so he gets to work with clean clothes, food to eat, and coffee to drink. I live a grown-up life, just happen to be quite emotional, and enjoy many things geared for younger people. That's not immaturity.

Frankly, that people without children are judged as immature and emotionally unstable is troubling to me. It seems like a very simple scapegoat answer when people are looking for something, anything, to blame when they think people are acting outside the societal norm. Being childfree doesn't make a person unstable, immature, emotionally damaged, or any of the other stereotypes that people like to apply to those of us who have made the conscious choice to be childfree. What's more, I think the opposite is often true. It takes a special kind of maturity not only to know one doesn't want kids, but to be able to knowingly prevent children from coming into the world. A heck of a lot of children are born to people who might otherwise have not had them, had they thought about it or been mature enough--and brave enough--to stand up and say no to a society where children are an expectation.

Just saying.


  1. I think that people with children are constantly acting as the authority figure for their children - they have to always tell their offspring 'don't do that, stop that, come and do this, behave, eat your tea' and it becomes the norm for them to feel like the responsible teacher/authority figure not only in their homes, but this spills over in life too. This is something which childfree women/men don't often have to do or be in such a close personal environment. Hence they may appear to parents that they lack a certain authoritativeness as they have never had to do that. I often feel that my friends who are parents are a lot less comfortable throwing off the shackles of the norm and having a laugh - they see this as immature, as a weakness, as if their children are always in the back of their minds judging them. Not sure if my point is making sense...or if that is true as you can only see things from one side of the fence on this one.

    I remember having to shout at my nephews once for fighting over the remote control, and it left me shaking. Parents have to do do that all the time!

  2. I think that the trouble is the media also perpetuates this idea that being a parent is the road to maturity. Think about all the movies and tv shows where that is the test, the thing that turns a guy (usually) into a responsible human being in their universe.

    It is like people have this checklist in their head of a set of milestones that people have to click through to achieve this manufactured definition of "maturity," when really, life is so much more complicated than that.

    I just think if someone is setting goals from themselves and actively working to achieve them and learning from life everyday, then maturity is naturally going to develop from that, and it sounds like that is exactly what is going on with you. You just have to live by your own standards, simple as that.

  3. I don't think that the opinion of the inmate's sister is representative of the general population (although I do agree with MC that the media embraces the idea that children=maturity). I have several coworkers in their 30s who are childless, and one 34 year old coworker who is childfree. They are very much respected and their opinions are valued. No one even thinks about that. I admire everyone at my work for their maturity and the way they take such good care of our patients. Actually, now that I think about it, there are more childless and childfree individuals at my employment than those with children, but again, that is never the focus. And this has been true for all the places I have worked. So even though the media tends to adopt this idea, I have never seen it play out elsewhere. Besides the media, the only other group that I feel DOES seize onto this idea is sanctimonious mothers who are consistently trying to look for more reasons to be self-satisfied.
    And by the way, there are (sadly) LOTS of moms and dads in prison!

  4. In a way having children can compel a person to snap to adulthood, because the life of another human being is now in your hands. When you go from being a carefree teen--dependent on others for your livelihood--to having a living thing rely on you, well. it can start that transition from childhood to adulthood. But I don't view kids as being the only means of this happening. I think taking responsibility of any kind (i.e. pursuing an education, starting a career, taking care of your household/spouse, etc.) accomplishes the same thing. Taking responsibility for your own happiness rather than relying on others is what forces you to grow up.

    I will say that I am so tired of watching people lose their entire identities once they have kids. I don't know how many times I've listened to a friend or relative gush about how their little angel went pee pee in the potty for the second time ever, and I'm just staring at them, thinking "Wow, you used to be an interesting person." As a mom, I don't mind hearing other moms' tales of wonder or woe, but I just wish they would mix it up with other things. Like, let's talk about real-word issues once in awhile, or have a lively debate about...well, ANY thing other than what over-the-counter medicine works best for teething. I'm perpetually perplexed by the fact that people let parenting take over their entire identity (oooh, nice alliteration for that last sentence--I should change 'identity' to 'personality' and I'd have a full-fledged tongue twister)).