Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Controversial Opinion on being Childfree

Over and over I read comments from infertile women being wounded by their fertile friends. It's a problem born from ignorance. Just yesterday I had a woman say that when I stop trying is when I'll have kids. Those comments don't bug me at all any more so I smiled and agreed.

In the infertility community those comments are discussed to help heal the wound they leave behind. No matter my opinion I would never directly disagree with another infertile (sorry, if that's you and you're reading this). That is the same reason I wish parents would keep their comments to themselves in public.  We tend to keep our mouths shut not to make you uncomfortable though that is changing. God forbid, the person who's (presumably) never suffered through years of torture to have kids be uncomfortable in my presence when I could take all the burden.  I believe the point of being silent is that my experience will rarely change your opinion if you aren't asking to know what I know. Many people wish they could be as naive as a fertile myrtle.  If you are a parent and you don't openly discuss non-parents or vice versa then good on you; this blog does not apply to you.

But there is one jackass comment parents often say (which should be kept to themselves) that I actually agree with. I can't know what it's like having kids so I can't judge. I recently read one infertile woman's response to this. She was insulted, and rightly so, because that is the verbal equivalent of slapping her across the face for not being able to keep up. The problem is that I agree. Yes, I can have as many opinions as I want and you can like it or not. I'm very good at having opinions about kids and their parents. My first instinct is to judge everyone, parent or not, even if I say I'm not judging.

By voicing my opinions on how to raise kids I'm being just as big of a jackass as the person slapping the infertile woman with words. It's not my fault that I can't have kids and it’s indescribably painful at times. That doesn't change the fact that I haven't raised kids. I'm breaking my own rules here but I observe bigger problems that happen due to non-parent's judging those with kids.

First, I've listened to years of my Mother telling me how judgmental the board is when she takes my brother to his IEP meetings. They tell her how best to raise her own child when they have none of their own.  They have no way of knowing the real issues going on, especially if the parent is not all that articulate.  We all know that an education is no substitute for on the job training.  I have no idea what it’s like raising a child and while I want my opinions validated, in most situations my business is to be silent.  If I were on the panel doing the IEP it's my business to work with the parents, not look down upon them from an imagined state of superiority.  That goes for anyone choosing to look down on another.

Second, just the same as the fertile can never comprehend the constant torture trying to get pregnant the infertile don't (yet) know what it's like being crazy busy every day with kids. You can be busy from 4 am to midnight every day but if you go down that road you will only start playing the "grief Olympics." In the grieving community that is where you compare situations to always make it look like you have it worse. We all suffer. You don't like it when someone makes you feel guilty for being upset so why do it to someone else? Don't diminish people. Try building them up with compliments instead.

Thirdly and lastly, parents need to focus on their kids, not a barrage of opinions being pelted at them. We all want a better next generation. If we concentrate on telling people how to do it they may lose sight of actually doing it. Parents may feel the need to defend their decisions. They may feel like bad parents and question themselves. They may end up worse parents because of your opinions. Unless you suspect child abuse it’s best to leave this kind of judging to professionals unless the parents ask you for your opinion. I want to see parent’s succeed just as I wish I’d have been a successful parent. Everyone has different ideas on how to do that. It sucks that I never got to prove to the world that my views on parenting are the best (which would undoubtedly have changed) but that is what happened.

I got a crap deal but you know what, you did too. My experience dictates that you may never be able to relate to my experience but I can tell you all about what I've learned from it. Rather than telling people how to change we can listen to what they have learned. Eventually, all that listening, learning and adapting will lead to a perfect you. You take the good out of people’s experiences and you don’t have to learn it the hard way. So next time you want to tell off your childfree friend of vice versa remember that. You are better off letting them learn on their own because you can’t force knowledge; they will probably be insulted and rightly so. You have to come to knowledge on your own.