The Children in Our Lives

“The world needs aunties and stepmoms, uncles and stepdads, who are willing and able to step up and be part of the village it takes to raise children, regardless of their own parenthood status. We all benefit when cool kids become excellent adults.” Ella Washington, comment, New York Times, September 15, 2017

I do not personally know Ella Washington, but I appreciated the comments she wrote in response to a recent New York Times piece, “Childless in a Houseful of Children” (September 15, 2017) written by Kia Abdullah, a novelist and editor who is child free by choice. My observation, validated by Ms. Abdullah, is that whenever women like her (it’s mostly women who write these pieces) write about their child free status, there are always the naysayers who call these women selfish, self-absorbed, and say “they don’t know what they are missing.” But increasingly, I read comments like Ms. Washington’s and am reassured that people are getting it—being a parent is not for everyone and people should not be harshly judged for their reproductive choices. In Ms. Abdullah’s case, she wrote “I have never felt a desire to bear and rear children.”

Count me as one of the child free. By chance.

When I was married, my husband and I could not have children. We talked about adopting, but our relationship ended before we could see that plan to fruition. After my divorce, I dated but did not meet anyone I could see myself settling down and raising a family with, though I tried to meet that person. So here I am. And folks who meet me don’t make a big deal out of my child free status. I have often been surprised at how many have said to me that I wasn’t missing anything by not having a child! Ouch!!

What irks me most about some of the naysayers is their insinuation that child free adults like me or Ms. Abdullah do not like children.

Nonsense! Many of us love and embrace children.

Granted, there are some child free folks who do not like children. But honestly, there are some folks who have their own children and don’t like them very much! They treat them terribly. Some parents love their children, but admit that they could have had good lives without becoming a parent. There are those who decide to forgo parenthood because they feel they would not be good parents and did not want to bring any harm to a child.

We have children in our lives through our siblings and close friends, through our occupations, like teaching, and through volunteer activities like mentoring and scouting. We love that we can be a support system to them. Speaking of her siblings’ children, Ms. Abdullah writes “I can lay claim to 21 children even though they’re not really mine.”

In my last blog post, I talked about my role as a mentor to my nieces. As I continue to navigate a society filled with racism, sexism and so many other isms and ills, I want to teach them vital life lessons. They will need many tools to help them lead lives of integrity and become good people in this world. Like Ms. Washington, I want the cool kids in my life to become excellent adults.

I take my place in the village seriously. If anything ever happened to my sister and she could not take care of her daughter, my door would be open to my niece without hesitation. There are other child free adults who would do the same, and have taken in and cared for children when necessary, including acting as foster parents.

Yes, the child free care about the children in our lives.

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