Why Do Parents Of Childless Offspring Make Waves?

Why Do Parents Of Childless Offspring Make Waves?

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Why Can’t We Just Get Along?

Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D.

Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D.

Practice Philosophy
Dr. Walker’s evaluation approach is based on gaining practical answers and solutions to the concerns you have. She will assist you by communicating with your physician or other referral source and/or helping you to seek out your own resources.
Dr. Walker is a solution-focused therapist. She strives to work with clients in achieving a greater understanding of how current and past thoughts, actions, and circumstances affect current emotions. Her goal is to assist clients in development and utilization of their individual personal resources in their treatment.
Background and Clinical Training
Dr. Walker’s first counseling experience came in 1983, when she began volunteer work as a telephone crisis counselor in Jackson, Mississippi and then Tokyo, Japan. She has been in private practice in Bellingham since 1991. Dr. Walker was a co-facilitator of the newly formed Adult ADHD Support Group in Bellingham back in the early 1990’s. She served on the board and was president of the Northwest Behavioral Health Independent Practice Association, an organization with over 150 mental health private practitioners.
Dr. Walker earned her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1986. She returned to school at Seattle Pacific University for her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, completing this degree in 2000.
Licensure and Professional Memberships
Dr. Walker attained her Washington State Psychology license in 2001. Every three years, she completes a minimum of sixty hours of continuing education. She is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), the Learning Disabilities Association of Washington State (LDAWA), Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). She is listed as a referral psychologist with each of these organizations.
Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D.

Why should potential grandparent makers not feel free to exercise their right to have childless marriages?

Not too long ago a client of mine picked up a copy of my book, Complete Without Kids(link is external): An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance, at the local bookstore. I saw her a couple of weeks later, and she shared with dismay that her teenage son had confiscated the book and was enjoying reading it. She said she hoped he wouldn’t get any “ideas” from the book, because she is so much looking forward to being a grandmother. I didn’t really know how to respond. Was I supposed to apologize for writing a book that may help a young person realize that becoming a parent is a choice, and that his life can be full and rich with or without children?

Later, I realized that I’ve felt a similar awkwardness before. It’s always been around women, usually friends and relatives who have teenagers or young adult children. It doesn’t matter if the children are male or female, the key is that they are potential grandchildren-makers, and these wannabe grannies don’t want anything to get in the way of their grandmotherhood. When reflecting on these incidents, my tendency is to feel like I should keep my mouth shut about my book and any discussion of a life without kids or risk damaging these relationships. But does it have to be this way?

Lately there seems to be increasing friction(link is external) between childless adults and parents, and it’s coming from both sides. Adults without kids are starting to speak out(link is external), to question why they are being discriminated against in the workplace and why they don’t get tax breaks(link is external)when they use fewer tax-supported services. Some are asking for childless seating areas(link is external) on airplanes and for parents to take more responsibility for quieting their children so that others on the plane are not disturbed.

Meanwhile, parents with screaming children are wondering what’s happened to the tolerant and usually compassionate passengers in the row behind them. Parents are in turn speaking out(link is external) in response to childless adults. Some parents take expressions of happiness from childless adults as criticism of their own decision to have kids. And when those of us without kids call ourselves “childless,” as opposed to “childless,” some parents likewise take offense(link is external).

This tension between parents and childless women has extended to the media.  English journalist Polly Vernon received hate mail when she wrote in an article(link is external) for The Guardian, “I don’t want children.” She never said, “I don’t like children,” so it’s not clear why anyone felt threatened by her remark. My guess is that when a woman says she doesn’t want kids it causes some women to question themselves. Many are probably saying to themselves, “You mean, I had a choice? I thought I had to become a mom.” Others simply feel criticized, as if their role as a mother, said to be the most important and most fulfilling thing a woman does in her life is perhaps not so.

What About Childless Men and Fathers?

The discord between moms and childless women does not seem to cross the gender gap. Men in our society have much more broadly defined life roles, and being a dad is just one of these. Fathers tend to be much more focused on their careers and even their hobbies than mothers are, so they have more in common with their peers who don’t have kids. Meanwhile, some mothers may feel threatened by their husband’s childless friends because of their freer schedules and extra financial resources. They may worry that their husbands will yearn for this less demanding lifestyle.

How Can Parents and Childless Adults Get Along Better?

It is possible for parents and childless adults to better understand and appreciate their differences, and to even celebrate one another. A starting place is to simply be tolerant of different lifestyles without judging that one way of living is superior to another. Listen and take time to understand how and why particular life choices were made. The reality is that we’re not so different after all.

It’s also helpful for us to spend time in each other’s worlds, and to recognize that there are positives and negatives in each. Try to resist thinking that the grass is greener on the other side.

If you’re childless, take time to thank your friends who are committed parents for their dedication to raising the next generation. If you’re a parent, show appreciation to your childless friends for what they can give society as a result of not having parenting responsibilities. Even though we live differently, remember: We’re all in this together.

© Copyright Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D., All rights Reserved.