10 Common Arguments Against Being Childfree - And How To Refute Them

by sockii

Those who are openly childfree are often forced to defend their choice not to have children.

People who choose not to have children and are openly "childfree" often are looked at strangely by the parents and "pro-natalists" who dominate our culture and society. It is ingrained into our minds from an early age that having kids eventually is something all people do, or should at least want to do. So to think differently, to choose a different path in life, means being confronted with frequent questions and challenges from others.

It can be very frustrating to be a childfree person and to be constantly confronted with people arguing against that choice, or questioning one's motivations. Here I've collected some of the most frequently heard "bingo"s (reasons to have children) childfree people receive on a regular basis, but also ways to respond to them and rebuke the questioner. Hopefully this may help those who are childfree deal with those who find it difficult to accept their choices. And also, hopefully it will help other people open up their minds to other ways of life and being more tolerant/understanding toward them.

Image credit: Nattu on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

1. "But who will take care of you when you're older?"

Elderly womanFirst off, this is an incredibly selfish reason to justify having children: to basically have them with the expectation that they will be your caregivers in your elderly years! (And people are always saying that the childfree are the selfish ones...) But it doesn't even make sense, because having children is no guaranty that they will be there for you if you are sick or need assistance later in life.

For one, it is entirely possible that a parent may outlive her children, sad as that may be to say. A child could die in an accident, in a war, or from a disease that kills him earlier than his parents.

But additionally, there is no guaranty that a child will have a close relationship with his parents as they grow older. Nursing homes aren't filled just with elderly people who never had children; many of those people are there because of their children, who would rather not have to deal with the day-to-day care of their aging parents (or are physically, medically, or financially unequipped to do so.) My partner is a physician who does house calls to homebound elderly patients and nursing homes and I can tell you, many of the saddest stories he hears are from seniors who rarely if ever hear from their children.

A person who never has children may have to put more care and planning into their eventual need for elder care. But they may also be in a better financial position to do so and dictate exactly how they want to live out their golden years, since they didn't have to spend money earlier in life raising a child (and paying college tuition costs.) This is a topic that's being increasingly talked and written about today. Here are a few useful links on the subject to begin investigating what you need to know:

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2. "Don't you like children?"

Some childfree people love kids - as long as they aren't their own. They don't mind at all spending time with children, provided at the end of the day they can return them to their actual parents to deal with 24-7. They might love being around kids but know that they aren't equipped to be a full-time parent, with the stresses and commitment that entails. 

Others, quite frankly, truly don't like kids. And there's nothing wrong with that. Isn't it better for someone to upfront admit they'd rather spend time with fellow adults, or even animals, than to try to pretend they like children when they really don't? 

3. The Bible says, "Be fruitful and multiply. It's God's will to have children."

image credit - the bibleMaking this comment assumes that the person being told it actually believes in the same God as you do, and also follows the Bible literally. Even many Christians today accept that the Bible is a product of its times and necessities, and contains many rules, statements and edicts that are not applicable to today's word. 

Additionally, the above quote is not the complete one. What the Bible actually says is, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Source) Many would say we have in fact done just that already. Scientists tend to agree that the Earth can only support 9-10 billion people, and we are already at more than 7 billion according to the US Census Bureau. Since we are so close to capacity, have we not already fulfilled God's order? Isn't it perhaps time to slow down?

Others have pointed out that "Be fruitful and multiply" can be interpreted as more of a blessing than a demand, a wish for good tidings, health and happiness and not a mandate that must be fulfilled in order to be a good Christian.

But going back to the population and the future of the world...

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4. "Think of the future generations. You need to do your part."

Actually, many people chose to be childfree precisely because they are thinking of the future of this planet and those who will have to inhabit it. They worry about overpopulation, depleting resources, and the difficult future we face due to climate change, pollution, loss of open spaces. They see an uncertain future and a world that already has too many unwanted children and chose not to contribute to that trend. If they were to ever decide to be parents after all, it would most likely be to an adopted child instead of bringing a new, additional life into this world.

5. "But you have such good genes/your child could end up curing cancer some day!"

It's true that I could, possibly, end up giving birth to someone who might some day cure cancer or some other great disease, or otherwise have a great positive effect on the world around me.

But it's also true that I could, possibly, end up giving birth to someone who is a perfectly ordinary, average human being like so many others in the world around us. And putting too much pressure on that child from birth onward that he must do something great, noble and earth-shattering with his life would likely put so much pressure on him as to doom him to failure. Many today are speaking out on this, on "Why Generation Y is So Unhappy" - and how so much of that is the fault of parents who have set overly high expectations for them.

I could also end up having a child who suffers from debilitating mental or physical illness. Or even becomes a murderous psychopath. We have no way of really knowing what our children will be like before they are even conceived. And a random stranger telling me about my "genes" or the potential of my theoretical children may know nothing about the illnesses that run in my family line that I might not wish to pass on to another generation. Many people who are childfree have chosen this path because they do not want to pass along conditions they've suffered with, such as alcoholism, depression, or hereditary diseases to their children. (They may also know that these conditions that they suffer from themselves would make them a less than ideal parent.)

Screaming rips

6. "But children are your legacy! You need to keep the family name alive!"

gravestonesA name is just a name, isn't it? To obsess in this day and age over carrying on a family tree is a strange kind of egotism that I simply don't understand, personally. It's not as if most of us are any kind of royalty; we aren't going to pass along a kingdom based on being genetically linked to some king, queen or duke from the past.

Additionally there are many ways to leave a legacy, some much more lasting and potentially beneficial to the world than simply passing along our genetic material. We remember the great artists, writers and scientists of past centuries for their creations, not their children. That is how they enriched our lives and continue to inspire us, keep us healthy, challenge our intellect. Leonardo da Vinci, to our knowledge, never had any children, yet look at the legacy he left us! In fact, if anything he was completely disgusted by the idea of sexual activity, let alone having children. In one of his notebooks he stated:

"The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions."

How long will we really be remembered by our supposed children and their ancestors, anyway? I only knew one of my great-grandparents when I was a child; I don't even know the names of my great-grandparents on my father's side of the family. Many people seem to think having children will ensure they are not "forgotten", but that may only be the case for 2, 3 generations tops. Unless we have done something truly memorable and important to the world beyond our families, then we are all doomed to eventually be forgotten as individual human beings. But it seems some people's egos won't allow them to accept that reality.

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7. "Don't you want to give your parents grandchildren?"

Why should my body and reproductive freedom be subject to pleasing someone else's desires? Wouldn't it be selfish of a parent to demand her child have a baby, because she wants to play grandmother?

Besides, if older parents feel the need to "grandparent", they can do so by offering to babysit a neighbor's child, volunteering at a youth-centric facility, teaching classes like art or music, getting involved in other ways in the community where there are probably a great many children who could benefit from extra attention and love.

8. "You'll never know love until you have a child."

This comment is both insulting and potentially extremely hurtful, especially if said to someone whom isn't known to be childree by choice and might be childless by circumstance/infertility.  

I can accept that the love a parent feels for a child is different than the love a person might feel for their spouse, a dear friend, their pet, their God. But to deny those feelings aren't really "love" is to deny a person knows his or her own true feelings. What, too, of a priest who took an oath of celibacy? Does he not know love because he chose to act as a parent to the people in his faith instead of fathering a child physically?

It's also a way to lessen those who are not parents and elevate the "cult of parenthood" above all else. And as far as being an insulting statement, it can be an incredibly insensitive and hurtful thing to say to a person who has battled infertility. She already may feel enough loss and pain in her heart for not being able to achieve the dream of being a parent. To tell her that she "doesn't know love" is just to rub salt in the wound.

9. "You'll change your mind some day."

Childfree people hate being told this. Why? Because it's a statement that we don't know our own minds and desires as well as the random person telling us this does. 

Would you walk up to a pregnant woman or mother of young children and tell them "You'll change your mind someday"? If not, then don't do the same to a person who has told you they are childfree.

Besides, if a childfree person does change her mind some day, there are ways to deal with that, even if he or she has undergone voluntary sterilization. There are reversal processes, there's fertility treatment, there's adoption. If a parent changes her mind and realizes she actually regrets having children? Not a lot she can do about it in comparison. It's a taboo subject, parental regret, but some whispers are finally daring to be voiced about it:

10. "It's selfish not to have children."

image creditI think I've done a pretty good job above illustrating how there are quite a few extremely selfish reasons to have children, not the other way around. To have kids so you can have a caretaker in your old age; to have kids to supposedly show off your "good genes"; to have kids because your parents want to be grandparents; to have kids to "carry on the family name". 

In contrast, many of the reasons to remain childfree are truly selfless: a person worrying about passing on bad genetics to another generation; a person not wanting to add to global overpopulation; a person choosing to devote themselves to another calling or career where he feels he can contribute more to the world and its future; a person knowing she doesn't have the financial, mental or physical means to be a good parent.

Many childfree people are not anti-children but hate seeing children not receiving the parental support and guidance they really need. They are advocates of women's health and reproductive freedom, and fight against seeing women burdened with children because of laws, religion and poverty that keeps them from being able to make real choices about their bodies and future. 

And yes, it's true, some childfree are without kids because they are "selfish" about how they wish to spend their time, money, and lives. Yes, they'd rather travel or spend money on other indulgences than on children. Yes, they value their freedom too much to give it up to become a parent. But at least they know what they want in life and aren't going to suppress it in order to fit into societal expectations.

And how many of the choices any of us make in life aren't motivated on some level by "selfish" desires?

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Others speaking out on the reasons not to have children

Updated: 01/30/2017, sockii
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