Passionate About Cincinnati
and the Moms Who Live Here

Dear Childfree-by-Choice People…

Don’t want kids? Don’t like being around them? That’s fine. Really, it is!  But I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Kids exist and you’re going to have to deal sometimes.

Have kids? Love taking them everywhere with you? That’s fine–but I’m also going to let you in on a little secret.

Not everyone appreciates kids everywhere you go, and you have to accept that.

It seems there is a lack of patience on the part of many purposefully child-free people, especially if you read any blogs or comments related to this topic. But on the flip side, there are just as many oblivious parents who can’t see the other perspective, either.

My husband and I were married for seven years before we decided we wanted a child. That means we had plenty of time to enjoy drinks at a bar, sleep off a late Friday night or roll into a leisurely brunch on a Sunday. We had many peaceful dinners and plenty of spur-of-the-moment travel. In other words, we fully and consciously enjoyed our child-free years, knowing they would possibly come to an end.

Admittedly, I sometime groaned inwardly when we signed up for a tour which ended up being full of kids. Or wondered why a parent would take a child to a nice, quiet restaurant full of adults on dates. I even became annoyed when a screaming child dared interrupt my Target browsing. But here is what I did: I kept it to myself. And when I became a mother, I realized that most parents are really just trying to keep it together.

I’m going to speak as my 3.5-years-ago-self for a moment. It is okay to not want to be around kids for certain things. It’s okay to want a nice meal without being seated next to the chicken nugget crowd. I fully understand and recall the desire for adults-only venues, events and experiences. What is not reasonable is to think you should be able to pass through life surrounded only by adults with nary a peep from a wee one. It is not reasonable to expect children to emerge at age 18 with a full set of social graces and good manners. They need practice. And as a society, we are all part of that education whether we realize it – or even like it.

Now, I am going to speak as my current self. I’ve made the mistake of taking my child somewhere I thought was kid-friendly, only to be stared down. My little guy has had a meltdown in a trendy store. He’s run off in a museum. We’ve been a spectacle, we’ve been the circus show. I’ve heard, “I didn’t know this place was going to be full of snot-nosed brats!” It is okay to want your child to have the full spectrum of human experiences and to hope that those you encounter in public will be a bit forgiving when it doesn’t go quite right. It is not reasonable to expect everyone to think your child is the bee’s knees and allow them to misbehave and disturb others who are trying to enjoy their own time. Kids need practice and examples from which to learn. And as parents, we are contributing to society whether we remain conscious of that fact or not.

It can be tough to be gracious in an annoying situation. It can be hard to realize that not everyone wants to be around your kid. Like so many things in life, it’s uncomfortable to step outside of your own little world to see what a situation is like for someone else.

So, I extend a hand to my purposefully child-free brothers and sisters. We have to meet somewhere in the middle.  Our contract needs to be mutual respect, or at the very least – tolerance. The child-free-by-choice crowd and those of us toting toddlers can coexist – as long  as we recognize that we’re all part of something much bigger. Though only parents sign up to parent – children learn from all of us, whether we smile at the little one next to us or respond to them with a scowl. And as a parent, I think it’s only fair that I hold up my end of the bargain by remembering my own pre-kid days. If we come across each other at the local coffee shop, let’s say hi, shall we?

15 Responses to Dear Childfree-by-Choice People…

  1. AMW February 16, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    As a childfree-by-choice individual. I am absolutely fine with having kids pop into my life now and again. I don’t HATE kids. I just don’t want any of my own. But I would ask parents to meet us halfway too. If we’re in a library and we “shush” your kid who is running around shouting, don’t yell at us. If we’re at a nice dinner and your kid keeps jumping around in your booth causing mine to bounce around, don’t get mad and sass at me if I turn around and say, “Could you please sit down, little one?”

    If you are not teaching your children the kind of manners society expects, then you have to be okay with society helping you teach them. I will never be mean to a child, but if you are not actively parenting, I will try to politely turn your kids bad behavior into a teaching moment FOR YOU. You want our help? This is how I offer it.

    • Jenny Reed
      Jenny Reed February 16, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

      I don’t disagree with your points. I feel that if we want our kids to learn from society, that they will interact with people in many different ways. As long as someone isn’t screaming or threatening violence (which is not what you are condoning) I don’t mind someone helping me out within reason.

    • TYU February 16, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

      Agree 100% AMW – it’s not the children that bother me, it’s the parents that don’t discipline or pay attention to their kids. No, it’s not okay for your child to run around screaming, yelling, disturbing people or messing with their property, and I don’t have to put up with it. Don’t tell me “it takes a village to raise a child”, then piss and moan about other adults calling you out for being a crappy parent. Don’t give me attitude when I tell you I don’t want children and make assumptions about the reasons for my choice.

      In short – raise your damn kids, discipline them, or don’t have them at all. They’re YOUR responsibility to parent, expecting someone else to put up with their bad behavior out of laziness is the worst and you WILL be called out whether you like it or not.

      • Jenny Reed
        Jenny Reed February 16, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

        Since I have been on both sides (was married for 7 years before deciding to have a kid) I can understand. We can’t have it both ways. If we want the rest of society to be part of our childrens’ upbringing, we certainly open up the floor for them to intervene. I have no problem with someone asking my child to stop doing something (usually because I didn’t see it) and I apologize/have my child apologize. I do take issue with some people thinking that any bad behavior in a child is a sign of bad parenting. Kids have bad days. Tantrums are part of normal development. We should not let them disturb others or wreck someone’s experience in an adult venue, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been dealing with something while being stared down (like a meltdown as I am wrestling my kid out of Target). I think it just calls for some grace/understanding from both sides.

  2. Finger11 February 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    “We have to meet somewhere in the middle.”

    You don’t seem to be offering any sort of compromise here between those of us that are Chilfree and parents. Your whole article is “don’t want to be around kids? Too bad! Deal with it!”

    Most Childfree people also understand that kids are going to be kids, and that kids exist in the world. That’s why I don’t hang out at a Chuck E. Cheese, and I don’t give the stink eye to parents who have their kids at the grocery store. I have no problem, however, speaking to parents who take their kids to places kids don’t belong.

    I don’t care if you think you’re doing the best you can trying to get your kid to stop crying a bar. I don’t care if it’s hard work to not let your kid disrupt a college course.
    I don’t care it’s a struggle for you to silence your kids at a 9:00pm R rated movie.
    I don’t care if life is just so difficult you feel you MUST bring little Timmy to the spa with you.

    Childfree people will be much more patient and understanding of parents when parents stop acting like their children belong absolutely everywhere.

    • Jenny Reed
      Jenny Reed February 16, 2017 at 2:27 pm #

      Hmmm, I think this was exactly what I was saying and I think we are actually in agreement. Please see this line directed at parents:

      “It is not reasonable to expect everyone to think your child is the bee’s knees and allow them to misbehave and disturb others who are trying to enjoy their own time. Kids need practice and examples from which to learn. And as parents, we are contributing to society whether we remain conscious of that fact or not.”

      Yes, it has a parenting slant as this is a parenting blog, but the purpose is to say that kids DO NOT belong everywhere but they do belong a lot of places.

      • Jenny Reed
        Jenny Reed February 16, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

        This point as well:

        “Have kids? Love taking them everywhere with you? That’s fine–but I’m also going to let you in on a little secret.

        Not everyone appreciates kids everywhere you go, and you have to accept that.”

  3. AML February 16, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

    This article takes an unfortunate condescending tone – that of “I’m a parent and therefore I know better, silly childfree people.”

    Otherwise, I think your message is one that childfree people – and many parents – have been saying for a long time.

    It’s hard to say what any bystander (parent or not) should or shouldn’t do – should they tell the child to behave? Should they stay out of it? The answer varies so wildly from person to person, some parents absolutely despise anyone else disciplining their kids while others have the “it takes a village” attitude.

    Not knowing, it’s often easier for bystanders to shoot for the middle ground and simply express general disapproval from a distance and attempt to move on. In the end, this is generally harmless and if the child is older they should get the idea that their misbehavior isn’t acceptable. I’d much prefer that to actively being a jerk or worse. You’re an adult, you can ignore the sighs and eye-rolls. Everyone has the right to their opinions too.

    A lot of what you said could be easily flipped back to parents as you briefly alluded to – parents need to understand that not everyone cares about their kids and wants to be around them, so it’s their job to make sure their kids are polite and behave in public.

    I know when I was a kid if I dared to act up I was removed from the situation and taken home immediately. I learned quickly if I wanted to be out and have fun that I had to follow the rules and be polite. I’ve employed this tactic as well and found it to be a useful and effective tactic, even if frustrating. As a parent, you have to accept that the majority of the time when you take your kids out it’s for them and not for you, so if you particularly want to be at an event it might be best to leave the kids with your spouse or a babysitter.

    Even if it’s family-friendly if you know your kids aren’t able to handle it yet then taking them along might not be the best idea. They need to be old enough to be able to behave and to understand – it’s not a child’s fault if they act out when their parent takes them somewhere they aren’t ready to be yet; somewhere too loud or uncomfortable for them, or where they are expected to sit still and quiet for long periods when they aren’t able to just yet.

    Are there people on both sides who take things too far to the extremes? Absolutely, I’m talking only broadly to the majority of people.

    Maybe a letter to humans to be considerate and understanding of each other (and of their own kids!) and to not bother each other would have been more useful/appropriate.

  4. Jenny Reed
    Jenny Reed February 16, 2017 at 7:16 pm #

    You said:
    “A lot of what you said could be easily flipped back to parents as you briefly alluded to – parents need to understand that not everyone cares about their kids and wants to be around them, so it’s their job to make sure their kids are polite and behave in public.”

    I said:
    “It is not reasonable to expect everyone to think your child is the bee’s knees and allow them to misbehave and disturb others who are trying to enjoy their own time. Kids need practice and examples from which to learn. And as parents, we are contributing to society whether we remain conscious of that fact or not.”

    I am pretty sure we are saying the same thing.

  5. Shania February 17, 2017 at 1:44 am #

    Your title is “Dear Childfree-by-Choice People…” therefore you’re writing to Childfree people as you have so many things to say to us and so little to say to fellow parents.

    Also you seem to have figured out all about childfree-life thanks to your childless’ seven years but let me tell you : your childless life is nothing close to my childfree life. As you don’t know, you’re not there.

    And just to let you know people are either Childless and you can add “by choice” to say they’re actually Childfree but Childfree-by-choice is redundant since the choice is already implied in ChildFREE.

    • Jenny Reed
      Jenny Reed February 17, 2017 at 8:54 am #

      Thanks Shania for the feedback.

      The title is meant to grab attention (which it clearly did). The twist is when I end up addressing fellow parents, too. I gave roughly equal time to parents and non-parents in this piece. Since so many seem to think I am only addressing people without kids, I did a word count. I addressed 215 words to parents and 266 towards non-parents. The rest were general comments/directed to everyone. I am glad that people who are different from myself ended up reading this post.

      Thank you for pointing out that childfree by choice is redundant. I do know this as I once identified that way. There are many people who read our blog who have infertility issues etc and so I wanted to make it clear what I was talking about. And yes–I was childFREE as during that time I did not want children (as in ever, not thinking I’d change my mind).

      I appreciate that every life is different, which is why I am sharing my experience. Thanks for sharing yours!

  6. Courtney Snow
    Courtney Snow February 18, 2017 at 10:01 am #


    I am glad that you put “by choice”, because it would have been very insensitive to leave that out, as I know so many who are devastated at being childfree NOT by choice.

    I was totally that single one that called out misbehaving kids that the parents were completely ignoring.. Now, being a parent, I don’t like others telling me how to raise my kid, but I also try to be as conscious as possible of keeping my child respectful of those around her and of the environment we’re in at a given time.

    Thank you for writing this in an attempt to have us all come together and be more respectful as a society. But, hey, there will always those that choose to ignore mutual respect, and to those, I tell my kid, “Just remember: not everyone is nice, so just make sure you are!” 🙂

  7. marta April 22, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

    I don’t have kids, but I do have nieces and nephews. I like kids, but I chose not have them since the world is groaning with over population and unconscious people spit them out as a reflex. But here’s the thing: since 50% of my property taxes by law pay for education, and my other taxes pay for numerous other programs for children, I deserve a voice–unless you care to write to Congress and make all of these expenditures pay as you breed. I believe in protecting children’s safety and caring for their welfare, but I don’t think having them makes anyone more special than the next. And I don’t think because you are a parent you should get a pass on the behavior of your kids. Also, if you take time off of work to raise them and someone who was there gets the opportunity or promotion, that’s on you. You don’t get special privileges because you had a kid. If your children are acting up in public, manage them. It’s not my job.

  8. Brie May 14, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    I am childfree by choice and it is not my job to teach your kids anything. I chose not to be a parent and I am not dealing with anyone else’s kids.
    Kids screaming at Target; I can ignore them and move on. Kids screaming in a restaurant; I will asked to be moved. Kids screaming during a movie; I am going to management to ask for a refund.
    Have as many kids as you want. But, they are the parents’ responsibility; not mine.

  9. Laura M. May 29, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    Hi Jenny,

    As a child-free woman, people tend to assume that I’m a child-hating jerk and must kick toddlers for fun. Au contraire~ I adore kids; I love my nieces and nephews (6 of them, all under 10) to bits, and my friends’ kids all call me Auntie. I just don’t want any children of my own, as they don’t fit into my life plans and never have.

    I thought I wanted kids at one point. I come from a big, close-knit family and always just assumed I’d have one as well. But, when I pictured my future, I saw a husband or boyfriend, cats, a cute house… but children were never part of that image. I wanted to want them, but I just didn’t.

    Before settling on the “affirmative no” at 22, I spent years wondering if I’d missed some major social cue because I never saw pregnancy as a magical thing; I still find the idea utterly terrifying and, at almost 31 years old, have never had ‘baby fever’.

    Having children is your choice, and not having them is mine. I respect your decision, and all I ask is that the parents out there respect mine in return:

    -by removing the children from situations that are 1) upsetting to them and 2) interfering with others’ experience.

    -by not immediately labelling me cold/selfish/unfeminine (all common insults directed at women who choose not to have kids), or

    -saying things like, “oh, you’ll change your mind” or “you’re not a mother, so you don’t understand” (i’m not a pilot either, but a helicopter in a tree means that whoever was flying that thing done effed up regardless).

    If you’d have addressed some of those misconceptions as well, I would have had more love for this post. But your opening line sounded just like the reactions that being a child-free woman usually elicits: as I mentioned at the start of this post, “you’re a child-hating jerk who kicks toddlers for fun” is what I hear when I read things like that. Sure, it bothers me, but not enough to make me overlook all the good points you made.

    I do agree with your closing paragraph, though. I see no reason that we can’t meet in the middle, and I would love to continue this conversation~ feel free to respond, if you feel so inclined. And, if we run into each other at a coffee shop (however unlikely that may be, as I live in a different country), know that I’ll be the first to shake hands with you and your little guy.

    Be well!

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