Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Unpleasant Truths

A growing number of people have been telling me I don't exist.

As hilarious as that sounds, I find the experience to be frustrating. Often it is angering. It isn't the statement itself that upsets me. It is the assumption behind the statement. Carte blanche statements carry weight only because the person making them believes, truly and fully believes, that s/he know me better than I do. I find this infuriating. Allow me a brief indulgence as an attempt to avoid future confusion.

I do not want to parent. 

Now that is said, I assure that I really do exist. It is uncomfortable to encounter others whose experiences and ideals diverge significantly from our own. People often respond with fear, anger, or disbelief if the incongruity is severe enough. That does not, however, make other people monsters. Nor does it make them nonexistent. If I were a linguistically creative individual I might try to invent a new word to describe these sort of beings. Fortunately I don't have to, as we already have one very suitable.


As scary as it may be, difference is more than just skin tone, the music we listen to, or even the political pundits we favor. Our differences can run so deeply as to effect the way we perceive, sort, and give meaning to our experiences in the world. Much more important than just knowing how thoroughly different we can be is knowing that's okay. Let me say that again.

We're different. It's okay.

What I find terribly humorous (here I display my gallows sense of humor) is how the differences that draw the most vitriol are typically the ones least scrutinized. When something one considers to be a given the shock is much greater when that assumption is challenged. A good example of this in modern western society is gender identity. For the overwhelming majority of westerners gender breaks down as follows:

Penis = Man
Vagina = Woman

Most don't give it much thought and leave their understanding of gender at that equation. When confronted by a person who identifies as gender queer most people are either confused or threatened. What's so hard about gender? See the equation above, problem solved, right? Wrong. More often than not the person who has grappled with the question at hand will have a much more nuanced, and often more sensitive, understanding of the concept being investigated. If gender is more than genitalia we have to ask what it means to be a wo/man. An invitation is given to deeply probe our understanding of ourselves, others around us, and the world at large. It is a daunting journey, but I feel a worthwhile one.

Deeply questioning status quo belief structures and patterns is something I feel all people can benefit from. It helps us develop our imagination as we try to understand how these beliefs shape not only ourselves and our understanding, but indeed how they shape and change the world around us. For my part, I'm tired of accusations about the moral quality of a person who thought and worked his/her way through a difficult question to better understand him/herself. Especially so when the accusations are nothing more than echoing the simplistic beliefs, like penis = man. In my experience the accusations become particularly base and hateful when sexuality gets involved. Whether we like it or not, that inevitably links to procreation. When procreation gets involved in the conversation things quickly get out of hand, just as when discussing sex. Instead of having a well thought out idea or a notion that needs more questioning, the conversation degenerates into "good" versus "bad" and "selfless" versus "evil". Frankly I'm tired of being told I'm evil because I'm honest about myself.

I genuinely believe that if hopeful future parents (inclusively, all future parents) were asked as frequently, judgmentally, or invasively about their plans to parent as I have been about my desire not to parent these conversations would go differently.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself; do you know what it means to be a woman, what constitutes woman-ness? No, making babies is not an acceptable answer. Dig deeper. Ask harder.

Do you know why you want to parent? Not why society wants you to parent, not why evolution wants you to parent. Do you know why you want to parent? Have you ever asked?


  1. This is a very interesting post, and one I can definitely see a need for. Do I know why I want to parent? Unequivocably, for me the answer lies in a deepseated need to nurture others. My notions about parenthood have certainly changed with time and understanding. At the time I placed my son I would have told you I wanted to get married and then have at least 6 kids. I realize now I was trying to overcompensate for the hole I felt without his presence. More kids would mean more distraction from the pain of losing him. Now that I am actually parenting my daughter, I realize that 3 kids in my home would be quite enough for me, and any more would be too stressful. I understand that my hangups on marriage had more to do with the social mores of how I was raised, and so parenting my child with my boyfriend no longer feels sinful. I have felt the need to mother those around me since I was young. I know several women who don't want any kids of their own, and it baffles me, but I still respect them for knowing themselves well enough to understand that is not a good choice for them. If my familial expectations for the future can change with my growth, why would it be strange that someone else might find they are not inclined toward that choice? I respect you and Athena for knowing your own minds well enough to make the choices that are right for you. Once again, thank you for writing.

  2. Awesome post. I appreciate you sharing and making us all think a little deeper.

  3. Hang in there. Sorry people are so ... whatever they are. Good post!

  4. The more and more I think about it, and see parents and children interacting, I am convinced that about 80% of people don't give any deeper thought about their reason or desire to parent than they wanted to continue their family line, they wanted a little kid to dress up, they wanted a "mini me" to look at, or their birth control didn't work. I see so much bad parenting, neglectful parents, abusive parents, immature parents, etc. For example the "Octomom". She has repeatedly admitted that she had emotional deficiencies and wanted to feel needed, wanted to feel unconditional love, and has now said it was a mistake to bring so many children into the world. I only know about 20% of parents who made a thoughtful decision to parent based on wanting to raise and nurture a human being, feeling prepared and mature and responsible enough to do it, to fully give their lives to their kids, to be a better parent than their parents were, to grow their family in a thought-out way, to add to their family in which they feel the need to adopt from a foreign country or in intra-familial adoption or foster care situations. Sadly those are not the norm. Everyday I see women yelling at their kids in Target or wherever and my heart breaks. There are so many people- men and women who have experienced pregnancy loss, the death of a child, infertility, birthparets- who would give their right arm for the opportunity to parent. Yet there's always those moms or dads who smack their kids for crying because they are too busy texting, or who don't understand how hands-on and hard parenting actually is, so they neglect them. Honestly it should be a mandate that everyone needs to take a full on parenting course and earn a license before being allowed to be a parent.

  5. thank you for this.

    i stumbled across your blog and found it interesting. i am due at the end of july and i'm placing my baby for adoption, for many of the same reasons as other birth parents. i'm young, poor, in college, not married or even in a relationship, i would want a better life for a child.

    but another of the reasons is that i have never wanted to be a parent. ever. ever since i rationally thought about when i was 12 years old, i realized it wasn't something people HAD to do to be happy and live a fulfilled life, and i would much rather not do it!

    it's difficult to reconcile that with my love for my unborn baby. at least i know i'm not alone.

  6. Ariel - It took me some time to figure out that my desire not to be a parent didn't interfere with my love for my son. But it is possible to fully love your child and prefer a non-parent relationship. Thanks for chiming in.


What do you think? I'm curious.