If you’re unfamiliar with the Childfree Movement, it’s a group of individuals and couples who have intentionally made the decision not to have children. They picked the term “childfree” instead of “childless” because the latter implies a life of wanting; a gnawing mortal sorrow pocked by regret and loneliness. If you think that’s dramatic, you’ve never been accosted about your choice not to procreate.
People who have children can sometimes be mean to those of us who do not. They don’t just imply our flawed moral character, some of the nastiest among them straight-up say that we are selfish, shallow and have never known true love.
When someone jabs at your life at its most basic — that is, the significance of your existence in its totality, it is the most harmful foul one human can inflict upon another. What these mean parents are saying, if you distill their coded messaging and passive aggressiveness, is this: I know better than you that your life is worthless, and you’re too myopic to know I’m right.
There’s not really a good comeback to that.
So I thoroughly understand why people coined the term “childfree.” They sought, very smartly might I add, to establish a counterculture with its own values and supporters who could enumerate all the ways in which our lives are enriched by the absence of children.
However, I can’t help but feel that both sides are operating out of insecurity, which manifests itself in uglier forms than almost any other monster powered by human emotion.
There are probably self-assured childfree peeps out there, but I am fearful and ambivalent. As my years-old count goes up as quickly as my egg count goes down, I feel moments of anxiety re: dying alone. I do feel angry and defensive when someone tells me that I’ve never known real love, because a small part of me wonders if they’re right. I am anxious about regret, because unlike getting an ill-conceived tattoo, there’s no laser to reverse my choice if I end up hating it.
But then I remind myself that I could never claim to know the deep maternal urge that other women seem to have had imprinted on their DNA. Furthermore, I am overjoyed with my life and if what I feel for my husband and friends is not what “real love” feels like, than sign me up for “not real love.” I don’t know how I could ever get tired of new experiences, ample naps and discretionary income with which I can pursue whichever career/lifestyle I want.
But I know I won’t ever convince those haters that I can know true love in my own terms and experience fulfillment daily. I cannot reason with someone who has presumed to be the scale of my life’s worth that relationships and lifestyles change weight from person to person.
And so defining myself as childfree feels not only fruitless but retributive, lashing back at someone who lashed at me. And living that kind of life is exhausting.
It’s the strangest thing about those mean parents. I have friends with kids who would never diminish my life. Maybe they put me down in the private judgmental sessions that coupledom affords, but they would never dream of saying it to my face. When parents have demonstrated visible joy in telling me about the wonders of life that I’m missing, I feel that they, too, might be missing some things in the ol’ personal life that would make them feel good about making someone else feel bad.
I am not “less” anything in my life, which I have constructed boldly to be exactly what I want, nevermind the conventions and opinions of society. I am also not “free” of anything. I feel the weight of life choices on me as heavily as I should, because as far as I know, I only get one go-round in this outfit. In the bitter exchanges between poles, I take comfort that I live somewhere in the middle, seeking to live a life so content that the haters can’t reach me — and if they do — I’m too happy to hit back.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a label, I like the ring of Badass Q. Motherfucker.
This post originally appeared on Medium.
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Kel Campbell is a content strategist for nonprofits and writes about women, religion, family and sexuality just for hoots.