Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Who knew??

Who knew it was so great to be childless?

Every now & then (like today, lol), in search of undiscovered new blog treasures, I will Google Blog terms such as "childfree infertility" and "childless." The latter term invariably turns up posts by parents who, giddily, gleefully, announce themselves as "childless." As in "MIL took the kids, so we're childless for the weekend, woohoo!" (I made that line up, but it's pretty close to some of the ones I've seen.)

Good grief -- we're already sharing the "childfree" label with the childfree (by choice) crowd (and being lumped together with them by fertiles who don't know there's a difference) -- now we have to share "childless" with people who actually do have kids, but think that not having them (once in awhile, anyway) is a peachy-keen thing.

OK, I can understand the desire to escape from the responsibilities of parenthood for a little while now & then. And yes, parents deserve a break now & then.

But think, people, THINK, before tossing out a term like "childless" as you're celebrating. Your so-called "childlessness" can only be considered a good thing because it is temporary. Your brief escape is my permanent reality. Would any/many of these parents willingly give up their children & trade places with my dh & me? (I don't think so.)

This reminds me of an incident that took place five or six years ago, after dh & I had made the decision not to continue treatment & pursue a childless/free future. I had joined several Internet boards, including one for women like me who found themselves childless, although not by original choice. Another, for scrapbookers, reflected my interest in scrapbooking (despite the hobby's close association with all things mommy-related).

One day, I stumbled on a post by a scrapbooker who, much like the example above, was celebrating the fact that she was "childless" for the weekend. This was the first time I had ever heard the term being used in this way, & to say it stung was an understatement. I fretted & fumed about it for a day or two, and then did something that I didn't realize at the time was a no-no. I vented about it -- not on the scrapbooking board, but on my childless living board. I figured I was safe among friends who would understand how I was feeling.

Maybe a little too well, as it turned out. One of the other women on the childless board was also a scrapbooker who frequented the same scrapbooking board. She took it upon herself to head over to the scrapbooking board & tell them I had read this post & was very hurt by it, and to please use some consideration in the future.

To say all hell broke loose would be an understatement. Both the other woman & myself were pilloried. Oh, they felt soooo sorry for us and our childlessness -- they took great pains to point that out -- but how dare we suggest they didn't have the right to talk about their children, etc. etc. etc. Some of their members even came over to our childless living board to leave nasty comments. I remember feeling almost literally sick to my stomach as I watched the "conversation" unfold, hour by hour. Basically, the two of us were treated like trolls and made to feel totally unwelcome (although there were one or two brave souls who had also experienced loss & infertility and spoke up in our defense, about how difficult it was to deal with infertility in an unthinking, child-obsessed world). I don't think either of us posted there again.

Then, of course, there are those women who have been ttc for, oh, maybe three months without success and declare themselves "infertile"... but perhaps that's fodder for another post!


  1. This post is one reason why I longer visit forums or bulletin boards where people seem intent on drive-by slamming of other people. I only visited an infertility bulletin board a few days not but it was long enough to show me that it was more of a vent-your-spleen and take down as many people as you can take aim at kind of experience.

    Fortunately that doesn't seem to be the case in blog land. I have only had one case of a rather odd individual who left me a nastygram comment on my blog. It was clear to me that she was a bit unstable so much as it shocked me I got over it pretty quickly and she hasn't been back. Phew.

    More to the point, I agree with your frustration about how people loosely toss around descriptors that frankly define our life in ways we wish they didn't -- as "benefits." They wouldn't be so quick to do so if they actually had to experience the real McCoy.

  2. This post reminded me of similar experineces I have had on public boards - not arround fertility though. Your description of watching the conversation "unfold" brought back the feelings I have had-- both of a chest that was about to explode and of the damn draw to keep watching.

    There is always this sense that the lives of those with children are somehow more deserving than those without-- that those with children are entitled to be the "norm," the focus of all things. But it occurred to me last night that becoming a parent also involves a kind of loss, a loss of self. And that perhaps the women who went into "attack" mode on that forum did so out of a sense of self-exposure. Perhaps even the idea that their right to forefront their motherhood over all else is hurtful to others, is too much for them to understand or see. Because to create a tear in their identity as a mother is to expose what they have lost of themselves in the process.

    In my ongoing quest to become a parent, I think about these things a lot. Who was I before we were trying? Who am I now that I am struggling to have children? Who will I be if I become a mother? Who will I be if I do not?

  3. I completely see where you're coming from. The word "childless" also hurt me a couple of years ago, but in a different way. A young mother at church asked if it was strange for M and me to be a "childless" couple living in our area, because it was so family-oriented. I don't think we had begun TTC yet, and I was offended that she was making the word "childless" sound so negative and harsh. I think it's a word that just has so much emotion attached to it, one way or the other.

    Have you or your friends ever described your husbands as a "being a bachelor" for the weekend while you're off with the girls? I suppose a single man might be offended by that word choice, too.

    That said, I'm a hypocrite. I'm pretty much offended by everything I hear these days, and I let people know I'm offended by simply cutting them out of my life. :) So why am I to talk?

  4. Lori! I am so glad you have a blog. I can't believe you so modestly neglected to mention yours when we were discussing "childfree/childless after IF" blogs :) I saw the link in Pamela Jeanne's blog and had to come over. I have always appreciated your wise words over on INCIID - I will look foward to reading you here.

  5. Hi Virginia! I don't think I had set this blog up when we were talking about them -- probably shortly afterward. ; ) Glad to see you here!

    And thanks, everyone, for all the comments. Lots of food for thought...