Underneath my yellow skin

Maybe no baby yes?

The pandemic has been hell for many reasons. One of them is because parents have had such a hard time juggling work and caring for their children, especially when schools and daycare centers were shut down as well. Some companies have responded by giving more flexibility to parents, which is a good thing. But, some of that flexibility comes from demanding more of people without children. Which, in case you can’t guess, is bad. There was a letter at Ask A Manager related to this and one of the letter writer’s points was her frustration that people judged her negatively for her lack-of-child state. That elicited commiseration from several commenters, including me.

And it made me sad because I had recently read that there is still pressure on women and female-presenting people to have children. Most of the commenters commenting on the post (if not all) were younger than I am, which means this attitude hasn’t changed much or at all from my heyday. That’s depressing. I would have hoped that 30 years after my birthing years, we would have progressed beyond pressuring women to have children.

It’s so difficult to talk about this without seeming like an asshole, so I’m just going to embrace it. I don’t like kids. I don’t dislike them, mind, but I have never gotten the whole ‘kids are the light of the world’ thing that many women proclaim they feel.

I never got gushy and squealy over kids. Actually, I’ve never gotten that way over anything. I honestly thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have that proverbial ticking biological clock. It wasn’t that I had one and was stifling it or burying it in the back of my closet. I never had one and I still don’t.

When I talk to children, I don’t use a different tone of voice or dumb down what I’m saying. i mean, I’m not going to talk about quantum physics to them (not that I do to adults, either, come to think of it), but I refuse to say shit like, “Who’s a widdle-bitty baby? You are!” It’s just not me and would sound disingenuous coming from my mouth. I kept the discussions age-appropriate, of course, but otherwise, I didn’t change anything else.

And you know what? Kids like me in general. They want to talk to me and have me pay attention to them. I have long since thought it was BECAUSE I treated them like regular people and not like, well, kids. I could be wrong, of course, but the vast majority of them responded well to how I treated them. Again, it wasn’t as if I treated them like miniature adults, but I did not baby-talk them. I’ll baby-talk my cat sometimes (though, honestly, not that often. He does that ‘imitate a baby crying’ thing that cats have adapted in order to get their human’s attention, and it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me), but not human kids.

I like specific kids, obviously. My niece and nephews. My bestie’s child. Other kids I’ve personally known over the years (like various cousins). I didn’t like the random child in public who was misbehaving or screaming their head off. The one who asked very loudly in Cubs why my mother and I looked so different? I was fine with that. I live in a very white suburb of Minnesota so he probably hadn’t seen an Asian person before (this was decades ago). He was just curious; I can deal with that. The kid kicking the back of my seat when I was at a Twins’ game and would. not. stop. for the entire game? Yeah, no. That’s not on. Nor is his parents avoiding his behavior.

It’s interesting. There was an airline several years ago that floated the idea of childfree flights. In addition to the standard flights. I thought it was a great idea, but parents were furious. They said it wasn’t fair, though I can’t remember why. The idea was dropped, unfortunately.

I understand that kids are part of society. But does that really mean that they should be allowed everywhere? I know some parents don’t like childfree restaurants, either. It takes a village and all that. But I never agreed to be a part of that village. One advice column letter writer has stuck with me a year ever since I first read her letter. It was to Nicole Chung of Care and Feeding, whom I love. Huh. She used the word ‘coercion’ in the URL, which is exactly right.

The letter writer (LW) talked about wanting to plan for her child in case she (LW) died. She asked her best friend to take her child if she died. The best friend refused, saying she did not want to be a mother. LW was hurt and what’s more, wanted to override her ‘”best friend’s” objections. I put best friend in quotes because the LW was not treating this other woman like a best friend. LW speculated that the best friend (BF) was somehow rationalizing her lack of relationship by saying she never wanted to be a mother because she’s not conventionally attractive (!!).

LW’s question was not how to go about finding another guardian for her child. No, it was how she could either wear down her best friend enough so the latter would agree to take in her child or just write it in her will WITHOUT TELLING HER FRIEND.  She added that she was sure her friend would be a great mom because she was great with the LW’s child when she (BF) babysat.

I had to stop reading at this point because I was steaming. The absolute gall of this woman. Who the hell did she think she was? Without even reading Nicole’s answer, I  wanted to find this best friend and tell her to run like hell. The LW added that she was always able to wear down her “best friend” and make the latter do what she wanted.

Recently, I reread this letter (because it came up in the ‘you may also like to read’ section that Slate has) and I brought it up with my bestie. I told her that had she done that to me, I would have been so angry with her. Of course, I would have cared for her child, but it would have been very much against my will.

Nicole’s response was to eviscerate the letter writer and to make sure to salt the remains. I have never found an advice column answer as satisfying as this one and I could reread it on repeat because it’s just that good. She told the LW that what she wanted to do was appalling and she needed to find other options. Nicole added that it didn’t matter what LW thought about her friend’s mothering abilities–best friend had the right to decide for herself. When Nicole questioned if LW was actually being a friend to BF, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Yes, this reaction is outre, but it’s not that different in temperament than the countless women telling me that they knew more than I did about my feelings on reproduction. Whether it was to tell me I’d change my mind or that it was different when it was your own child, they presumed that I did not know my own desires. Or that I was denying the female instinct to be a mother.

I have said before and I’ll say it again, this is one reason I started questioning my gender. Other women telling me that something I thought, believed, or did was not feminine, female, womanly, whatever you want to call it. The example that really sticks in my mind was a woman I was talking about sexual attraction to. We’re both bi. I said that when I walked down the street, I’d look at someone hot and think how they’d be in bed. She looked at me as if I had two heads and said that women didn’t do that kind of thing.


She was telling me, a woman WHO HAD JUST TOLD HER THAT I DID THAT that women don’t do that. She said that she and her group of friends (roughly a dozen) had talked about it and not one of them did it. Or wouldn’t admit to it, at least.

My brain did a record scratch because first of all, the plural of anecdote is not data, but also, I had just told her I did it! I can’t emphasize enough how bizarre  I found this.

Sadly, I got used to women scolding me for not spawning because it happened often enough in my twenties. I had a million reasons why I didn’t want them, but I always thought the number one reason should have been enough. I didn’t have children because I. Did. Not. Want. Them. Thirty years later, I still don’t. I am joyfully childfree. As I’ve said before, I rarely call myself childfree because it still gives attention to my child-having status–which is irrelevant to my life. But if anyone wants to know, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.


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