To the woman who wrote, "I think people without children have empty lives, and I’m not sorry about it” — there is so much I want to say to you. I want to point out the inherent irony of believing you alone can access the one true meaning of life. I generally try not to judge other parents, but for you, really? You let your little kids watch Terminator? When I read the drivel you have put into words, a little part of my soul just throws up its hands and says, “I give up.”
You don’t deserve a response, but I reply anyway, not for you, but for anyone who feels, even if only for a moment, gut punched by your nitpicking, captious reasoning and your unwarranted pity.
Let me introduce myself: I’m a mom. I have a ten year old daughter and a seven month old son, so I am fully versed in what parenting entails. My kids bring great joy to my life, and I love them dearly. They have taught me patience, fortitude and strength, but I am not so self-centered and closed-minded as to believe my way is the only way.
I can’t believe this even has to be said again. Being a parent does not make you better, stronger, fly faster or straighter than anyone else. It is not a road to enlightenment. It is not a one-way ticket to happiness. Parenting, instead, is hard work. It’s a parade of endless, tedious details. It’s losing sleep, losing patience, and losing your temper far more frequently than feels right.
You will put yourself second constantly, and if you’ve chosen to become a parent not because you want it, but because of some half-shaped notion that parenting delivers happiness, you will resent it, badly. While there may be a lesson to learn in that, it certainly isn’t a prescription for the fulfilled life you deny anyone who chooses to be child-free.
Maybe there is a karmic yoga kind of goodness that comes with the endless cycle of household feed-me, wash-me, change-me, I-need-this — but again, you could also join a cult for similar effect. Yes, my two gorgeous children, I learn endlessly from them, and my profound love for them often leaves me irrational. Yes, I’ve learned to see the world in a way I never would have without children, but I’m also mature enough to realize that my way is not the only way to learn and grow.
I’ve thankfully also never had cancer or lost a parent. Those are experiences that define you, deepen your knowledge and teach you to understand the world in a way that someone who has not experienced them cannot know, but only a jerk goes around saying, “Hey, you should really try this or your life is meaningless.”
My friend Margarita — she’s a nun who lives in Argentina and she's devoted the last fifty years of her life to working with children and adults in poverty. There are literally thousands of people who eat better, have a roof over their heads, and have access to medical care because of this amazing woman. Do you feel sorry for her, too?
Some people just know they want kids. Some don’t want. Others, like myself, take time before deciding on which side of the line they fall. Such is the sophistication of the human experience. It’s what makes us so endlessly fascinating.
How misguided is your attempt to shame people into making the choices you have made? Are you so unsure of your own decisions? I’d also like to remind you that sometimes, it’s not a woman’s choice not to have children. Sometimes, you know, there is infertility. So you are not only shaming, you’re adding pain to an already open wound. Is that part of your concept of bringing meaning to life? What an entitled and offensive point-of view.
Then again, I doubt the article was written entirely in earnest. Well, maybe you do truly feel sorry for people without children, but maybe you love that you’re pissing people off. In doing so, you foment dispute and thus bring eyes to the page, mouths to the discussion, and ultimately clicks to advertisers. So, congratulations. You’ve done your job well. You’ve divided people into two distinct camps and pitted them against each other. You’ve created yet another situation in which no matter what we choose, we will also always simultaneously be partially wrong.
In the best case scenario, this sends us to therapy to work out exactly why we never seem to find happiness, no matter how much we have. At worst, it turns us into angry harpies who cannot relate to those who make choices other than our own. Or it sends us on a pointless quest to fill that void.
Those who sell ad space on your article only benefit as we buy faster cars, make up with better coverage , sturdier strollers, and long term life insurance to protect us from our fear of missing out. We go looking for salves and window dressing to brighten the choices we have made. They literally profit over our dissent.
To end, I’d like to share with you one of my own parenting insights. Last week, I attended an end of the year show for my daughter’s acrobatics class. She was amazing. Her level of facility and grace astounds me. As I sat there watching, the distinct realization that my daughter has surpassed me washed through me. I will never be able to do what she does. It is humbling.
I believe that to be the crux of parenting. We must be selfless enough to know we are not always right. We can open opportunities for our children to explore, but we cannot control what they find. We must support them without judgment, even when they take paths that are not our own . It’s a good practice to treat the others in our lives with the same consideration.
You do not win a special prize simply because you happened to have another human being enter the world through your body. That’s biology. What you do with the experience is up to you.