42 – Debunking the Patriarchal Myth that Childfree People Hate Kids

We’ve been socialized to believe that the traditional “life script” is the ultimate path to happiness. And anyone who doesn’t follow it is doomed. Which puts childfree people, especially childfree Latinas y Latinas, at total odds with societal norms.

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But who made up those rules? What is behind these supposed ideals? The patriarchy! It dictates our sometimes ridiculous and suffocating social and cultural norms, such as:

  1. Centering and prioritizing only nuclear families with 2 parents and children
  2. The dreaded R-word: REGRET, and if parents express any then they’re automatically labeled “bad parents”
  3. The way the media portrays childfree people

How do we fight back? The first step is recognizing we’re all on the same team. Childfree people AND parents are all subjects of the patriarchy. Let’s stop dividing ourselves into us-vs-them factions, and fight the actual enemy—not each other.

Check out a bonus episode on this same topic on YouTube.

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In this episode

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[00:00] Paulette: And welcome to La Vida Más Chévere, the place where Spanglish-speaking childfree Latinas y Latines are learning to dismantle the toxic cultural bullshit we all grew up with. I’m your host, Paulette Erato.

[00:17] Today we’re debunking the toxic idea that equates being childfree with hating children. That is a myth, and I don’t know where it came from, but I do have a theory. Let’s just start by saying that the two are not the same. Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t automatically mean that you hate them. Yes, some childfree child haters exist, but some child haters also have kids, and I feel sorry for their poor offspring, but we’ll come back to that in a bit.

[00:44] I think both groups of the haters are much smaller subsets of their respective populations, but the idea that the childfree people are automatic haters is the problem, and it’s a pet peeve of mine.

[00:58] So to explore it a little further, I asked a few childfree friends and mom friends to join me to discuss it. That conversation is now on YouTube! Yes, La Vida Más Chévere has a YouTube channel now. Will episodes moving forward all have video content? I don’t know yet. I can’t promise anything, especially since I just started working with a great audio editor. Shout out to Rob Lopez at Crates Audio and video editing is not the same thing.

[01:26] But there will be some video content and once YouTube figures out what it’s even doing with podcast RSS feeds, then maybe a little more. In the meantime, I wanted to give this topic some additional thought and ask your opinion on the matter.

[01:40] If you wanna leave comments on the, I really did just say on the YouTube. If you’d like to leave some comments on YouTube. Great. We also have a free community on Substack! You can join it and leave comments on posts and in the chat. By the way, did you know that you can support the podcast with a few bucks each month now? Start for as little three bucks a month. The links for all of this will be in the show notes.

[02:04] Personally, I think this idea is dangerous because it perpetuates something darker. And that the people who believe this are either too dumb to know better, willfully ignorant, or haven’t yet learned the necessary critical thinking skills to recognize nuance. If I’m being really generous, then they’re probably simply just young and lack real-world experience.

[02:25] On the YouTube episode, we discussed how this idea got started. This binary thinking that having kids means you like them and not having them means you hate ’em. Cause there’s a huge valley of gray areas in between, which is why such black and white thinking is problematic.

[02:42] I’m gonna take a shot in the dark and claim we probably all know people who had kids and probably shouldn’t have. Either because they’re ill-equipped, they’re just not interested in their kids, or treat them like possessions, or because they’re just so damn mean. Not just to their kids, but to everyone.

[02:59] We all know somebody who’s a meanie. And then that pain and suffering that was inflicted on their kids, that gets passed on to the next generation who don’t know any better when it comes to parenting their own kids. But we probably also all know great parents, people who take active and healthy roles in their children’s lives. Yay for those people. Hopefully we all had them.

[03:20] You all know at least one childfree person. If you’re listening to this podcast and you aren’t childfree, well then at least you know me. And I can tell you that I do not hate kids. I may have said something dumb like that when I was younger, but I realized now that was just a lack of patience.

[03:36] As I got older, I gained more patience. Go figure. And on the YouTube panel, one of my childfree guests, Dilly, is a nanny. She spends all day with a kid that she loves. But then she goes home and recharges. She calls it being a mom part-time, and she’s providing a valuable service for the family that employs her.

[03:54] She’s helping raise their child, which means she’s influencing that person to become a solid, well-adjusted member of society. That was what one of the moms pointed out, that children aren’t property, they’re people. They’re not just accessories to parents’ lives. Just like you and me. They are people too, and we don’t have to like all people, you don’t have to like everyone you meet. Some people are just plain annoying and that’s fine. The kids are just people in smaller packages.

[04:23] Let’s rewind back to where this idea came from. In our video, we talked through a few ideas, but in this episode I’m gonna concentrate on something that, you know what? It struck a chord with me cuz at the very heart of all of the ideas we threw out is the patriarchy.

[04:37] And it’s nasty little side effect, internalized misogyny! Don’t believe me, allow me to elaborate. Being childfree is laughably and frustratingly seen as a progressive choice as opposed to a mainstream one. Because women having a say or a choice of what they do with their bodies is still something we’re fighting for 100 years after we even got the right to vote.

[05:03] Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that women couldn’t even open a bank account or get a loan without their husbands or their father’s signature. The Equal Opportunity Act didn’t go into effect until 1974, which is only four years before I was born. Which means anyone over the age of 50, so a lot of Gen Xers and boomers, and even people my dad’s age in the Silent Generation, they all lived in a world where that was normal.

[05:31] Women having options, making decisions, flipping the life script and living outside what is “normal”, and then having the audacity to be happy? How are we allowing that? Oh my God, the world is gonna end. I’m laughing as I say this, but this is what we’ve all been socialized to believe. It’s all around us in what might seem the most innocuous ways, but all of these seemingly harmless ideals and constructs are built on the flaws of the patriarchy.

[06:01] It’s a feature, not a bug. Here, let me show you. I’d say the top three ways this plays out in everyday life, people automatically equating not wanting kids with hating them, are these three things.

[06:12] One is the cultural norms that center a nuclear family with two parents and children. That idea is definitely a product of the patriarchy. Number two is regret from parents who want everyone to be as miserable as they are cuz you know, misery loves company. Also a product of cultural norms. And three is the way that media portrays childfree people, which has also then become a cultural norm.

[06:36] I’m sure you can think of a number of other reasons, and I invite you to leave comments on the Substack post for this episode, or DM me on Instagram, like I say to do at the end of every episode.

[06:46] Maybe it’ll lead to yet another episode on this topic because I would love to keep talking about it. So let’s get to debunking this terrible myth that childfree people hate children. First of all, let’s accept that it is probably true for some people. Like I said, both in the YouTube episode and at the top of this one: there are people who hate kids. They exist in this world, but they are not all childfree.

[07:11] So let’s talk cultural norms. First, what even are they? Cultural norms are those traditions and customs that we all follow as part of the social contract, and they’re usually more implicit than explicitly written down, but they’re baked into everything we consume.

[07:28] You can think of it also as life script of expectation. You’re born. Go to school. You go to college, you find a nice partner, you marry, you get a house, a dog, a few kids. You work for 40 years and then you die. Anyone who colors outside those lines or flips that script is then seen as a rebel or worse, a traitor.

[07:49] If you don’t hit the right milestones by a certain point, you know everyone else is doing them, then you’re the problem. You are failure. That is one of the reasons I wrote Benchmarks are Bullshit, to keep people from falling into this trap where they thinfk that they’re a failure if their life didn’t work out the way it was supposedly prescribed to. The patriarchy sets us up for failure. The life script is not a guarantee of happiness in any way, shape or form. By the way, you can get Benchmarks are Bullshit from a link in the show notes.

[08:18] For a more formal definition, I’ll read you this one that I got from the National Academy’s workshop titled, Addressing the Social and Cultural Norms that Underlie the Acceptance of Violence.

[08:28] Social and cultural norms are rules or expectations of behaviors and thoughts based on shared beliefs within a specific culture or social group. While often unspoken norms offer social standards for appropriate and inappropriate behavior that governs what is, and is not, acceptable in interactions among people. Social and cultural norms are highly influential over individual behavior in a broad variety of contexts.

[08:53] Did you catch the title? Because yeah, there are social norms that allow for us to make violence acceptable. For example, how often have you ever heard a story about a person who suffers abuse at the hands of their partners, but then they stay in the relationship because divorce isn’t an option. Hmm. So coming back to the topic at hand, what are the cultural norms that center the traditional nuclear family?

[09:19] Right off the bat, here are three: marriage, traditional gender roles, the emphasis, and not just in Latinidad, on intergenerational support. So let’s dive into those.

[09:29] One of the big bingos, if you don’t know what a bingo is, I’m gonna link you to an article in the show notes and I’ll show you what a bingo card is. But basically it’s the super pervasive questions and comments the childfree people get hit with so often we could play a game of bingo and just cross them off as we go through the conversation. Anyway, one of the big bingos that we childfree people hear is, Why are you getting married if you’re not having kids?

[09:54] Because in a traditional view, and I’m using that term in quotes, I mean the outdated belief or social norm, that marriage is only man and a woman, and they bear kids to continue to grow the population. You know, the kind of traditions that certain religious ideologies want to see codified into law? That. It’s a mask for misogyny, plain and simple.

[10:19] Anyway. So in a traditional view, the only reason to enter into marriage is to have kids forget the added benefits of marriage, like companionship. Improved health because you’re likely to live longer if you’re married. Financial stability, not to mention all the great legal and tax benefits. Also sexual fidelity and that shared intimacy.

[10:38] That’s also nice. I know it’s not for everyone. My guest a few episodes back, Rena, she talks about the opposite of that, but it does work for some people. So we might as well throw that in the bucket of benefits. Plenty of people nowadays have kids without getting married. So that right there is a shot against that idea.

[10:53] And nowadays, an individual can choose to have a child all on their own without another parent, regardless of gender. And I bet you dollars to donuts that more of those kids grow up in healthy and happy homes to go on and become well-adjusted and successful members of society then their counterparts. This idea that marriage is just for making babies simply doesn’t apply anymore. You marry a person. Not a baby maker.

[11:20] Moving on, let’s talk gender roles. Again, traditional gender roles can be suffocating for women because The Patriarchy. Honestly, why did we spend the last a hundred years fighting against this bullshit if it was still gonna exist nowadays?

[11:35] Cuz see, I heard someone’s wife recently say that we women should shut up already and stop fighting for the right to work and equal pay because who the fuck wants to have to work anyway? Stop saying you want the right to work. <angry noises> Honestly, imagine being so narrow-minded that you think all women get to make that choice.

[11:58] But folks, that’s what you get with the traditional values set of people. Do you realize how dangerous that ideology is yet? And for women that don’t get a choice or a voice, I’m here to fight for them to get the better pay, to have better opportunities for advancement and not have to be the ones worried about making a plate for their partner to eat while we’re all at a party.

[12:19] He’s got two hands. He can feed himself or she can feed herself, or they, you know what I’m saying! Gender norms, they mostly suck. Also, if a woman wants to stay home and can I support that for her too! This is about having the choice and being treated like an equal human being. I don’t get why that’s so hard to understand, but I’m working on my own internalized misogyny, so maybe that’s why. I highly recommend everyone does it.

[12:44] Let’s talk intergenerational support. Americans and Latines differ on this a little bit because multi-generational homes are more often seen in one culture than the other. But you know what bingo you’ll get hit with from both sides? Who’s gonna take care of you when you’re old? Like children are the insurance plan for old age.

[13:02] They used to be sure. Some societies still venerate their old people. I’d say Latinadad, Latine culture is better at this than the American culture. Because it takes a village, that approach is still alive and well. But nowadays we also have choices. Are you sensing a theme here? I saw the best response to this bingo on Instagram, and I’ll link it down in the show notes.

[13:24] It’s said, who’s gonna look after me when I’m older? It’s the same people who will be looking after you because your kids will be too busy living lives of their own. I mean, if we’re lucky, the money that my guest Linda taught us to put in the stock market is going to net us a nice retirement and maybe, even slightly better care. But go check out any nursing home today and you’ll find that 60% of the population there is neglected by their family. So yeah, good luck with that insurance plan.

[13:53] So those were three cultural norms that could make people think that quote unquote traditional family is necessary, and that deviating from that makes you hate kids. Marriage. Traditional gender roles. And intergenerational support.

[14:07] Now let’s talk about another potential catalyst for this theory that childfree people hate kids. It’s an R word: regret. For the people who bought into the idea that they had to have kids, that they had to follow this predefined life script for the ultimate prize of happiness, and then realized, wait, I don’t want to do this anymore.

[14:26] I want off this ride now. But it’s late. You made your choice, you made your bed, and now you gotta lie in it. I get it. That has to be hard. My guest, Deanna, on the YouTube episode mentioned that she doesn’t feel like she’s allowed to complain, that it makes her feel like she’s a bad mom. Why does she feel that way?

[14:44] Because the patriarchy has socialized us to feel that way. That you gotta suck it up and just deal with it, preferably silently, so you don’t pierce the veil that’s hiding all the other secrets about how difficult life really is. That’s some Wizard of Oz behind the curtain kinda shit. And why aren’t parents allowed to complain?

[15:02] I know if I had kids, I’d be super unhappy about it. I’d be fucking miserable. So I can only imagine how it must be even for someone that wanted it. I mean, I really love wine and cheese, but I can only have so much of that before I get sick and regret my choices. Did I just compare having kids to eating cheese and drinking wine?

[15:18] Well, yeah. I’m talking about something I love to do and can even regret. I’m not saying raising kids is as easy as drinking wine. I’m saying that even if you really, really, really wanted something, there can be days that you’re sorry you did it. But look, I’d much rather regret not having kids than make the mistake of having them, and then regret that instead.

[15:40] I do have a lifelong regret. It has to do with not sneaking out of the house to go to Lollapalooza in 1994 in defiance of my parents. But we’ll talk about that another time.

[15:50] Back to the regrets about having children, that could be a real thing that parents are afraid to admit. My guest, Breanna, who’s been on both this podcast and now the YouTube one, she mentioned that it’s an offshoot of fear too. That maybe parents are afraid to admit they’re overwhelmed or it isn’t working out how they imagined, and now they feel stuck. And that can make a person angry. With anger comes defensiveness. So yeah, it makes sense that someone in that situation would lash out and reduce our choice to remain childfree for whatever reason, to something easy to grasp at like hating kids.

[16:22] It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it okay, because childfree people aren’t the enemy. We are all subjects of the patriarchy. That’s the real problem we should all be fighting against, not one another.

[16:35] Lastly, media and the way it portrays childfree people. It’s one I’ve talked about a lot. I mention it in almost every interview I give on other people’s podcasts. I’ve talked about it here, especially in episode 15 of the Maker Muse podcast, which is titled, Yes, It’s Normal to Not Want Kids. All these links will be in the show notes.

[16:53] The campaign of demonizing childfree people begins very early in our consumption of media. Disney movies, you know, the ones that are marketed to and consumed by children? They’re full of villains who also just so happened to be childfree, like Scar, Ursula and Cruella Deville. Then were fed childfree people on TV or movies were either too dumb or flighty to have kids. To quote Brian Cox’s character, Logan Roy from Succession, they’re not serious people.

[17:23] Take, for example, that terrible show Friends, which had how many people of color on it? Yeah. I mean, none. But for some unknown reason, it’s suddenly gotten popular again. So let’s talk about it. Who didn’t have kids on the show? Phoebe, the ditzy artist who sang that song about the smelly cat and Joey, the thickheaded numbskull actor. But the serious people on the show, the ones with the real jobs, they were the ones that were allowed to have kids. Ross was a scientist, Monica was a chef, and I don’t even remember what Cha Cha Chandler or Rachel, what either of them did, but they both had white collar office jobs.

[17:59] Or here’s another show from the early 2000s. Let’s talk about Bones. I actually did like that show until, and if you watched it too, you know what I’m gonna say? Until they decided the childfree woman was gonna have a baby. The head scientist on that show always expressed her vehement dislike for the idea that she had to have kids just because she’s a woman. But then she finally has the one night stand with the hot FBI vampire guy and suddenly they’re together and they’re gonna have a baby.

[18:26] Come on. It’s no wonder that show got canceled after that happened. Well, maybe it didn’t get canceled, but I stopped watching it so it was as good as dead. Honestly, it wasn’t that great after Bones and Hot Vampire Guy got together it like it lost all of it, all its chemistry. I mean, yes, I’d also like to have sex with hot FBI vampire guy.

[18:45] That was the whole point of having him on the show after he did Buffy and Angel. He’s that idealized, good looking tall, dark, and handsome man. Hello. It’s another cultural cliche. But I wouldn’t have his baby much less than a fucking manger like they did reenacting the damn birth of Jesus. Oh my god I really hate that show now.

[19:03] And it’s not just the white people shows. It’s like I said in my last episode with Linda, we need our stories being told too. If the general public doesn’t see other happy fulfilled childfree people in the media, what models or examples do they have to point to? How will they be able to see themselves in that capacity?

[19:22] And not just childfree people, but everyone else seeing them too. If all they see of us in the media is that we’ll eventually change our minds, or secretly we did want kids all along, or we’re just evil and depraved villains, how are we going to change that perspective? How are we ever gonna shut down and end the childfree bingo game for good?

[19:44] I’ll tell you why representation is important. This is a funny little story from when I was a kid, but I hope it drives home the point for you. When I was little, there wasn’t a lot of brown kids on tv. We’re talking about the 80s, but all the kids on TV did have imaginary friends. You remember that.

[20:00] At least one kid on one episode on every TV show had an imaginary friend, but I didn’t. And do you know how I made sense of that in my little child brain? I concluded that it was only something white kids got to have. And since I wasn’t white, I didn’t get one, didn’t apply to me. Little did I know that I could conjure one up by myself with my own imagination!

[20:23] Because I didn’t see any models of that behavior that looked like me, I didn’t know to think that. I was just a little kid, but now I’m an adult and I made this podcast, so no other childfree Latines out there have to wonder what it would be like for them. You now have an example that proves the childfree people, childfree Latines, we can also live happy and fulfilling lives despite what the big bad media companies want you to believe about us.

[20:49] All right, let’s wrap this up. The patriarchy has set us up to believe that if you don’t follow the life script, you are the problem. It’ll make you believe you’re Taylor Swift singing, I’m the problem it’s me. But it’s not. The problem is The Patriarchy. And all the ways it seeps into and dictates are social rules, like cultural norms, traditional values, staying calladita about regret, and all of that is only further perpetuated by the media. Of which I am now a part of.

[21:19] Because La Vida Más Chévere is something you can consume. And I’ll be over here fighting the good fight, making sure childfree Latinas y Latines get the representation we need if only in my little corner of the world. I invite you to also keep fighting the damn patriarchy and their bullshit traditional values.

[21:37] The next time you hear someone say that childfree people must hate kids, feel free to correct them. And don’t forget to share your thoughts on Substack. I’d love to hear from you over there. And that’s a burrito.

[21:49] You got something to say about this week’s episode? DM me on Instagram at Paulette Erato. And if you’d like to be a guest on La Vida Más Chévere, check out the guest form on my website at Paulette Erato.com.

[22:00] All all of these links are in the show notes. While you’re at it, can I ask you a favor? I’d really appreciate your helping spread awareness about the podcast. So could you please share it on your socials or even send it to a friend? New episodes come out every other Tuesday. You can enjoy them with tacos or burritos! Muchísimas gracias for your support, y hasta la próxima vez, ¡cuidate bien!

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