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I'm Childless, Not Child-Incompetent


Jul 26 2013
Healing the rift between parents and non-parents.

We hear a lot about the Mommy Wars. But there's another cultural throwdown going on in the parenting sphere, and that's the back-and-forth between parents and non-parents. This increasingly acrimonious debate gets summed-up in lists of ill-informed assumptions and casually dished-out stereotypes. Both sides fall back increasingly on the old "You just don't know what it's like to be us!," with blog posts like:

The assumptions we throw at each other are unfair and often hurtful.

Some parents, dealing with the grueling 24/7 reality of raising children, dwell on how the childless just can't understand them. That sense of belonging to a special, misunderstood group can make anyone who's struggling feel a little better. Most of us fall prey to that kind of temptation now and then.

Yet, speaking as one of the childless, the non-parents, the "non-breeders," the truth is: Just because some of us really don't know what it's like to be parents, that doesn't make us completely ignorant. Or inferior.

A few days ago, when a friend of mine thought that Prince William hadn't strapped his new baby into the car correctly (not being familiar with the newest models of car seat), someone retorted to her, "You must not have children." As a matter of fact, my friend has two children. But that's actually beside the point. You don't have to be a parent to understand a car seat—or do the sniff test on a dirty diaper, or tell bedtime stories until your voice gives out, or take half an hour to disentangle yourself from a sleeping baby, or wipe runny noses, or clean up spit-up, or bathe a wiggly toddler, or comfort a crying child, or answer 26 "But whys" in a row. Plenty of non-parents are doing it every day. Between years of church nursery duty, babysitting, caring for young cousins and neighbors, and now my taking care of my godchildren, I've probably changed more diapers than some parents have.

Still, the "non-parents know nothing" stereotype persists. Sometimes, we childless people in the family-centered evangelical church get the brunt of it. Mind you, I'm glad that churches spend so much time and effort encouraging and helping families. They need the support, and their children need the guidance. But when the focus on children and families is incessant—for instance, on some of those difficult Mother's Days—the childless Christian can feel left out and isolated, which is especially painful if your childlessness is not by choice.

Related Topics:Children; Parenting
From: July 2013

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