I want you to imagine that these words are etched onto the screen not with pixels, but with my very own blood. No, truly visualize it. Imagine the little red droplets leaking down from every consonant.
You see, I suffer from a syndrome that inflicts its torture upon almost half of American women in my age bracket (25-29). This unspeakable syndrome is known as “Meaningless Life Syndrome.” Its most common cause: not using our uteruses to produce offspring. How irresponsible of us!
We victims of Meaningless Life Syndrome wake up every morning knowing that every noble deed we do, every friendship we form, and every elderly person we assist across the street are entirely meaningless. Sometimes, we wonder why we bother at all.
Why on earth would we go through the hassle of advocating for better treatment of animals when we could be enduring the miraculous physical trauma of childbirth? Why on earth would we dedicate countless hours studying the complexities of nutrition to improve the health of the global population when we could be cleaning mashed peas out of our hair? What in the world would entice us to invest energy into our romantic, personal, and professional relationships when we could be taking the iPhone away from our hormonal teenager for staying out past her curfew and calling us a stupid bitch?
In case the above paragraph did not make it clear, I am not suffering. And chances are, many of the other 49 percent who live sans children are not suffering either. A large portion of us chose this life. We are either waiting, or we have decided to forego it altogether.
And of course, parents can be activists and loyal friends even while they raise a child, and hats off to them. However, when you say your life was meaningless before having your child, you are implying that those of us without children are living meaningless lives. This is problematic and untrue for three reasons:
- You are directly stating your life was meaningless before this child came along and took over my Facebook News Feed. If this were true, why did you get out of bed all those years? Why did you waste your time making meaningless memories with your significant other? Why did you go to school? Why did you make friends? Why did you attend that march for gay rights, or whatever causes you supported? Why did you go on that vacation and take a million pictures of those meaningless moments? Those few decades must have been exceedingly tough for you. Thankfully, your life has meaning now. Phew!
- Some people want children and can’t have them. You just rubbed your pompous Pink Himalayan Salt in their wounds. Congrats.
- Some people genuinely don’t want children. You are implying the other goals we pursue instead are meaningless. Susan B. Anthony never had children, but she tenaciously dedicated her life to securing women’s right to vote. Beethoven never had children, but he mastered an art and enriched the lives of generations to come with his symphonies and concertos. Coco Chanel lived a childfree life, but she used her precious creativity to revolutionize the fashion industry by introducing liberating and iconic styles for women—who were previously shackled in confining corsets—and is considered one of Time’s 100 most influential people of the 20th Century. Nicolaus Copernicus also did not have children, probably because he was too busy contributing to the Scientific Revolution of the 18th Century and convincing people that the sun—not the earth—was the center of the universe. But their lives were meaningless, right?
Those of us who make a conscious choice to be childfree endure many insensitive comments, such as (but definitely not limited to), “You’ll change your mind,” or “But that’s your life purpose!” However, stating that your life had no meaning before children has to be the most insulting.
Certainly, having a child added meaning to your life. It indeed altered the meaning of your life. But—unless you formerly lived with zero hobbies, passions, and life goals—it is highly unlikely that your life was previously void of meaning, just as my life is not meaningless and will continue to not be meaningless as I age, sans children.
It may just be a clichéd expression at this point, but on behalf of all non-parents—whether by choice or not—I urge you to consider the implications of this statement. You are (at best) insulting my existence on earth, or (at worst) smacking someone across the face with the painful reminder that they unable to reproduce. There is no winner here.