Do Parents Think They’re Better Than Childless Couples?

BY: - 15 Feb '10 | Parenting

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by Tara Pringle Jefferson

I have a confession: I think it’s harder being a parent than it is to be childless.

Since I have two kids, I no longer know what it’s like to be childless. Every single day I’m reminded just how demanding this gig really is. Just the simple act of keeping a child ALIVE can sap all the energy out of you. I see some childless couples – who yes, have very busy lives – and I still think, “Man, you don’t know how good you have it.” I love my kids and I’m soo glad they are in my life, but you do have to admit that being childless = some sort of freedom.

Without kids, you are free to come home and sit down after work if you so choose. If you don’t want to eat dinner, cool. No one else there to worry about.

Kind of similar to my post on married vs. singles, I don’t necessarily think I’m better than my childless friends. But I can openly admit that I think my life is harder. There. I said it. But do I think I’m better than them? Hmmm, maybe? I mean, if I think my life is harder, then that means that I feel like I do more, that my daily obligations are more important. Even if they are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and they are juggling other roles as well, if “mom” or “dad” isn’t on that list, I still feel like my life is just as hard, if not harder. Maybe I’m making two different points – does harder necessarily mean better?

Help me make some sense of this post. (LOL) What do you think? Is it harder being a parent than it is to be childless? Speak your piece in the comments.

Tara Pringle Jefferson is a freelance writer living in Ohio with her husband and two children. Visit her blog, www.theyoungmommylife.com, to read more of her observations about life, motherhood and love.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2191 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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34 WordPress comments on “Do Parents Think They’re Better Than Childless Couples?

  1. Donielle Michele

    I don’t know if I feel like I am better than a childless couple but I do envy them sometimes! I do miss the childess days at times but I L-O-V-E being a mommy to my little boys and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Reply
  2. Gwen

    I don’t think harder = better. I am part of a childless couple and all my female friends are either single moms or married with kids. They all say I have it easier, and I do not disagree with them one bit. Being childless has been a very conscious effort for my fiance and I thus far and we’ve agreed that we aren’t going to have kids anytime soon after we’re married either. But I don’t think that makes me better than my friends or my friends better than me. One of my friends loves being a stay at home mom. That would never work for me; I’d seriously go insane. I think it just depends on what you want and what your personality requires. My fiance and I aren’t ready to relinquish the freedom we do have currently. Whenever we decide to have kids, we’ll still be us…but not better than anyone, just in a different space.
    .-= Gwen´s last blog ..Why Mean People Are Nice For Business =-.

    Reply
  3. Aja

    I don’t think having a harder life automatically means that you are better. I think raising kids with my husband is not easy, but raising kids as a single mother was much harder. If having things be more difficult=better that would mean as a single mom I was better than I am now, which doesn’t really make sense. There are things about being married that are difficult, but sometimes in talking to or going out with single friends I think “I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with this anymore” which makes me feel like being married is easier sometimes.
    I guess its all in how much you actually want to be doing what you’re doing. Being childless might be easier day to day if you actually want to be childless, but really hard for people who want to have kids and can’t. In the end, I think its not even really worth it to try to compare harder/easier or better/worse because everyone’s life and challenges are different.

    Reply
  4. {JeLisa} @ Blogging Ever After

    My husband and I don’t have any kids, and I think we absolutely reap benefits from that.

    We’re free to sporadically run errands or go to the gym after work, spend the day hiking or movie hopping or driving through the city during weekends, and being selfish about our choices and our money.

    We’re planning on trying to conceive in a few months, and the thought of all of that changing makes me feel nervous. I don’t know how parents feel about childless couples, but I do know I’m a little bit scared to join them…

    {Yet that fear does nothing to stop my desire and excitement for starting our family.}
    .-= {JeLisa} @ Blogging Ever After´s last blog ..Groovin On A Sunday Afternoon {that happened to fall on that one holiday…} =-.

    Reply
  5. Tiffany

    Life is hard with or without kids. My husband and I are childless and are happy that way… for now. For us, life without kids is hectic enough with the demanding jobs we both have.

    I see a lot of my friends with kids (most of them single mothers) and I honestly don’t see how they do it. Waking up early, taking the kids to and from school, after school activites, then cooking dinner, helping with homework, disciplining the kids and dealing with life’s speed bumps EVERY SINGLE DAY is probably the hardest job ever because it never ends.

    And because I see how hard it is, it sort of encourages me NOT to become a mother because I’m not at a place in my life where I can handle all that. I enjoy my freedom. And so does my husband.
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Treat Your Spouse Like a 1st Date =-.

    Reply
  6. RW

    Thank you, Tiffany. You took the words right out of my mouth. My husband and I have been married almost 3 years and we have no children together (he has one from a previous relationship). My husband is very involved in his child’s life, we have her almost every day. So as a stepmother, I see all that being a parent really entails and I am not ready to go there with one of my own. A lot of people see that as being selfish, but I think that my choice is the logical, responsible solution of a long decision-making process. I don’t want to give up the freedom of my time, money, or other resources. Better lifestyle? No. The better lifestyle is the one that makes you and your family happy.

    Reply
  7. Candis

    @ Aja…

    What a great comment and I totally agree. I’ve been at every station. When I was single and childless I absolutely loved it. But when I was ready for a child, it was difficult to be without one. The comparision seems to just make people resentful. I think we should all make logical, responsible decisions that fit our lifestyle, whether that includes children or not. Only then can we find happiness in the place we decide to be in.

    Reply
  8. tepnlex

    First time commenter here, who really enjoys the site.
    My wife and I have two boys under five. We both realize the phases of marriage are : Married, Married with a child, and Married with kids.

    When we were married with no kids is basically being free as if you are single, each spouse living together, loving one another. Spontaneous activity, travel, date night, romance were constant and uninterrupted. You could be selfish, and not feel guilty. Go ahead and get that favorite Starbucks drink.
    But family is about legacy. Something bigger than yourself. And your parents want to be grandparents. so…

    Two becomes three. And the challenge of parenting is daunting. Crying, feeding, cleaning, sanitizing, wiping, and staying up with a sick child are tough. But the joy of seeing this little person develop is amazing. The personality, mannerisms, and smile of your offspring is unbelivable. You and your spouse begin to get the hang of it, and while you still may get your selfish streak satisfied, you are more selfless.Going to get a treat for yourself means bringing home diapers and wipes with you. A babysitter is essential, as well as a baby walkie talkie monitor. “That child needs a playmate…” is what we often heard. so..

    Three becomes four (or more)…Now this is work. All of the work from above times however many children are in the house. Multiple car seats, strollers, diapers, bags, and personalities. Cleaning up, and cleaning again. When someone gets sick, the others will too. Rules need to be established, precedents set, etc. Now you are running your own mini business model. You think back to your single, and married no kids days and reminisce. Wow…

    Look at it this way, being married with kids means you are not in the freshman stage of your marriage any more. You are not in your senior year by far, for that is when the nest is empty, and grandbabies are abound.
    You are not better, just more seasoned, or experienced than those who have no kids.

    Reply
  9. Tamara

    I dunno, to me, this comparison doesnt seem to match up…cause you could make this whole argument through any stage of life, single, married, single with a child, single with children, married with a child, married with children. Why does one person’s experience make them better than another just because its “harder”? My husband and I are both childless, for now, and we’ve been married going on 6 years and we’ve heard it all. Ive been discounted on being “less than a woman” because i dont have kids, some people dont even consider our marriage to be REAL because we dont have kids (yea, i didnt know marriage = kids lol) and it goes on and on. Not to sound defensive, but i dont see what it matters, is all. Putting on and walking in someone else’s shoes is always going to be different and harder/more seasoned/etc in different ways. Noone knows WHAT the next person is dealing with on the daily, period.

    And then what comes of determining one person’s life is harder than the other? Does that mean you get to treat others a certain way or that you expect to be afforded certain privileges and prestige? I mean, even within parenthood, you have the mommy wars and even in there lies the whole “Oh, my life is so much harder than yours” mentality, but for what? It doesn’t edify anyone at all but instead helps foster mommy guilt and the like.

    Even tho we want to have children someday, it makes me cringe when conversation hints at being married with kids = some sort of height of self-actualization.

    /rant

    Reply
  10. T D

    Tamara – you hit the nail on the head!

    I am a married woman with no kids and feel that those with kids look down on my husband and I. Right after we got married, people were asking us when we were going to have kids. I said, “Damn, can we get to enjoy each other first”. We are in no hurry to have kids, possibly within the next year or so. Marriage is a work in progress as it is and I feel that you should not being any children into the world unless you are able to meet their needs to the fullest extent.

    My husband and I work and try to build on our marriage each and every day. We do get to do things together and are not having to give our time to someone else, however we do have other obligations. Does this mean that our life is not chaotic and busy? Are couples with children at a disadvantage? The answer to both of those questions are no.

    I can only give an opinion from the standpoint of a childless couple. However, I am disgusted by couples with children who think they are better or should be given some recognition for that. When you have children you should be aware of the responsibilities that come with that. You should know that you life is no longer going to be the same, as with marriage. If you didn’t want to go through those things, there are various forms of contraceptives that can be used.

    I am very proud of the way that my husband and I decided to lead our lives. So for the women or man out there that think they are better because they have children need to open their minds to what is really going on.

    Reply
  11. Jonesi

    Tara, ok…I totally see where you are coming from, BUT, the issue I have at times in regard to couples (or single women) with children, is that it seems as though they feel they should receive recognition or sympathy points because of all that work that goes into raising children…yet, that’s apart of deal! lol…Does it make you better multi-tasker? Maybe. Does it make your daily struggle more relevent or significant? Absolutely not! Becoming a parent is a blessing, yet it is also a personal, conscious choice – planned or unplanned. While I understand all the work involved with sufficiently raising children (and WHOOO girl, you are def a superwoman/wife/and mom), you can’t hold grudges against those who have the more freedom and less accountability. I super applaud all you accomplish and continue to do, but knock the “kids.are.driving.me.crazy.I.wanna.sleep.in.and.hear.nothing.but.silence.” chip off your shoulder and focus on what a wonderful position you’re in as a supermom rather than comparing it someone who is childless.

    Def no love lost. I’m glad you were open about this – I’ve recieved backlash for being kidfree from many because I don’t feel oligated to deal with kid-associated activities when I don’t feel like it. Who knows, I may be able to fully relate once I become a mom, but embrace those who choose not to (or can’t have) children and realize not having kiddies doesn’t mean they don’t have their own daily struggles that are just as taxing or require as much as your children require from you – at this point I would be willing to trade my grad texts, research demands, etc. which those cutsey kiddies you have….but only for a few days. LOL :-)

    Reply
  12. Erika

    I definitely think it’s harder…which is why me and my husband are WAITING. We don’t want “hard,” just yet.
    Better?? I don’t know if that’s fair.
    I mean, you are still YOU, right?
    I think pregnancy/adoption/etc. not only BIRTHS a child, but it also BIRTHS a mom and a dad.
    Still being a parent doesn’t make you “better,”
    It DOES bring out what was dormant inside you (for better or worse, some people are great wonderful parents, others…will jack their kids lives up).
    I feel its useless to say you’re better, because you still had it inside you all along. The kids just brought it out into the forefront.
    Kudos to the parents…I’m in no rush :)

    Reply
  13. Maria

    its amazing how people forget the most important thing or are peoples priorities in the wrong order from what I see? If you have your children younger providing they are planned and not an accident you will haqve more energy to raise them they will grow with you and will be young adults by the time your in your mid forties. What are you waiting for kids need love enough to feed and clothe and raise they dont need the queens jewels. Ladies your biological clock is ticking some women think they are like men and can have children till they are 50, it doesnt work like that smart women use their time wisely no so smart women will have regrets.

    Reply
  14. Gwen

    I’ve got to disagree with you, Maria. Smart women do what they feel is best for them. They don’t necessarily rush out to have kids in their early 20s just b/c they MAY one day want them, but don’t at the moment. One of my bridesmaids is 27 and has 5 kids all under the age of 11 (yes, she is married to her husband and all the kids are by him.) She says she wants to be young when they’re grown and out the house. Snaps for her. As for me, no thanks. There is no way I want 1 kid, let along 5 at this point.

    Some women feel it’s smart to have their fun and freedom while they can and have children when they are more settled and ready to relinquish that (i.e. me) . Others feel they need to get it out the way before they get old (i.e. my friend). It’s a personal preference. What smart women do NOT do is succumb to what other people feel is best for them so they don’t have the regrets you speak of. They play by their own rules.

    My mother had my sister at 20. She didn’t have another baby (me) until she was 36. She did it both ways. My sister’s kids are 5, 7 and 16. Many people say having kids around keeps you young. Mom is 64 and doesn’t look a day over 45. Zero wrinkles and LOTS of energy. Has nothing to do with using time wisely. She, again, did what was best for her. Many people told her it was crazy to have one kid almost out of the house, only to intentionally get pregnant with another and have to start all over again. It’s what she wanted – so that’s what she did. Badabing badaboom.
    .-= Gwen´s last blog ..Personal Celeb Endorsement of the Day =-.

    Reply
  15. Christy

    Just the notion that being a parent someone “better” seems a bit silly to me. There are plenty of people contributing to society in powerful ways that aren’t parents. It is incredibly difficult, but there are rewards as well. It’s not as if parents are unselfishly toiling away with no personal gain.

    As for Maria’s comments, I completely disagree. For some women, it may be right to have a child at a young age, but being energetic isn’t all that parenting is about. I had my kids in my mid-30′s and while I have a harder time staying up all night, I also bring them a wealth of experiences. I have traveled, worked in a variety of settings and met some of the most interesting and diverse people. I am able to share that wisdom and experience with my kids. I am also more calm, less selfish and more confident than I was at a younger age. The choice to become a parent is a personal one and the “right time” is completely dependent on the woman (and her partner).

    By the way, I have never heard anyone say that having kids keeps you young! I think it could help you keep a fresh view of the world, but I can’t imagine anything more aging than being a parent!
    .-= Christy´s last blog ..Win a Celtic Women: Songs from the Heart Deluxe Experience CD =-.

    Reply
  16. Ems

    I don’t understand why people with children complain about how “HARD!” it is! You made the decision to have children — you live with it. Quit complaining and harping about how much “harder!” your life is! We do not care! You made the decision to bring children into the world all by yourself, and you get to live with it. Your childless friends do not care and do not want to hear your pity-party about how “hard!” your life is now that you’ve had kids.

    True, being a parent may be harder. But, being a parent is also a voluntary decision.

    Reply
  17. Nita

    Life at times is harder for parents but think on this one…we never were blessed to have children..Other people are age are beginning to enjoy grandkids…my own sister has nothing to do with us..my husbands sibblings have nothing to do with us…I took care of both my Mom and Dad when they became elderly and in ill health. My
    dad passed a yr ago in Oct and this past December my Mom passed so now we are totally alone..I am trying to deal with Easter and Holidays for the first time without family..Not just without kids but without family…It will just be my husband and I from now on..

    Reply
  18. Dawn

    I struggled with not having kids. This is my second marriage and I have no children and yet my husband has two boys. Did the mother feel that she had an upper hand over, certainly, which I struggled dealing with that insecurity. Not only did the mother of his kids, but even his family. So for me those with kids aren’t better than the childless, but society has pumped them to believe they are and unfortunate some of us had believed that. I am in progress for my healing and deliverance though and I know I will come out better than when I went in.

    Reply
  19. Charlene

    Claiming your life is harder or you are better than a CEO- really??? I don’t think you have any understanding of that level of “hard work.” Good parenting is what is expected of the billions of parents out there. It’s not special, it’s expected.

    Reply
  20. Anonymous

    wow this post was stupid….really is it that freakin hard to raise a child? ya its important but running a company is important too…what if that company was walmart and it went out of business? ur family would be fresh out of luck…no food, clothes, and you’d have to find another more expensive place…relax ur not that amazing cuz u raise a child…my mom went to school, had a job, and raised 3 kids (me and my 2 brothers), not to mention she helped my older sister plan her wedding and helped my other sister with her kid and helped her move…but she never complained that childless people had it easier, she was grateful to even be able to have kids…get over urself

    Reply
  21. Michelle

    This has been an amazing and elightening experience reading (almost) everyone’s opinions on the matter. I’m currently in the process of publishing an article in a psychology journal that began with my dissertation….the title was: Procreation: How Others view those who Can Not or Will Not. Basically it was a study about how college age students view parents versus an infertile couple versus a voluntarily childless couple. Meaning, did they stereotype or stigmatize the childless couples? Did they discriminate against the childless? And mind you, all of the people who took part in the study had no children and had never tried to have children; yet they viewed the mother more favorably than the childless women (even when they were described exactly the same, except one description said “mother” and the other description said, “tried and failed to have kids,” or “did not want children”). I find it a fascinating topic and I appreciate all of the candid responses on the site. It was ironic that i ended up with an unexpected pregnancy (had been told I’d need fertility meds to get pregnant, and thus wasn’t being careful with protection) before my study was finished–but it is finished now! I guess my point is that it isn’t always parents that are doing the “childless bashing,” but it is our society in general. We’re taught that the natural course of an adult’s life is to grow up, get married, have kids, have grandkids, be surrounded by them all and die contently. It is not the only script, but it is one that we’re taught to do from so many angles. Religion (barrenness is a curse, sex for procreation only, etc), belief that adults aren’t really “grown up” until they have a child, etc, we hear those things from so many sources. It is ASSUMED that each woman will grow to be a mother. We’ve really only had reliable and appealing means to not get pregnant for the last 40 years… we finally have a choice. It would be nice if we could all let our brothers and sisters make their own choices and get off their backs. I think it is natural to criticize others for their differences, especially when we don’t understand their choices, whether it is the choice to be a parent at 20, 30, 45, never, or to have 5 kids instead of 2, or to have an only child…. All of us likely live the reality that someone is judging us for making the choices we make. We can either be defensive, or realize they believe the way they do because of how our society is made up, what they were taught, or because they have some need to feel that way. We can only be proud in our own choices and mind our own business.

    Reply
  22. Mfonthill

    I think it is harder in day-to-day life, to be a parent. Children exhaust and deplete your thoughts, your energy, your money-everything. I am childless but it is hard in a different way. It's very alienating. I've lived in a lot of different places and wanted to make friends, but most of the friends I have are the friends I made in my youth. This is because, as a childless woman, you are
    a freak to other women. There is no way to connect with women your own age after a certain point, when they are involved in breastfeeding, preschool, teenager issues.. Everything revolves around school and play dates..w/o children you just don't fit into society in a very big way and you are quite marginalized. It's lonely.

    Reply
  23. Blazing_faith

    Is it really necessary to try to compare life difficulty? There's really no way to do that. Is a childless cancer patient's life easier than yours? Is the life a welfare mother, who has literally everything handed to her, harder than the life a childfree person working two jobs without insurance or paid leave? There are so many variables that using parent vs childfree as your sole criteria is flawed.

    Ultimately, people's lives are formed by their choices. Childfree people chose not to have kids, often because they are a lot of work. You chose to be parent and complaining about how hard it is now makes it look like you didn't think very hard about it.

    Reply
  24. Jakevin33

    I am surprised you have any friends at all given the self-righteous attitude of your post. The mothers of your kid’s friends are not necessarily your friends.

    Reply
  25. Regeta7

    I’m part of a childless couple and don’t have plans to have children. But I don’t think the post is self-righteous in ANY way. If you had any form of empathic thought or logical reasoning, you would fully understand her thoughts are not only normal, but perfectly fine. Certainly not self-righteous or in ANY way an “attitude”. Children ARE a responsibility that you CANNOT get away from. Even a CEO of a fortune 500 has control over their life, the ability to do anything they want (which includes quit), and plenty of money, time, and energy. Okay, perhaps not time or energy, but they have freedom to choose to live that life.

    Parents don’t. You cannot just “stop” being a parent. You are responsible for another human being in such a way that you will inevitably affect billions upon billions of future lives by every single action you take for or against your child.

    Childless couples don’t have this impact on the world– which is good or bad. They can’t mess a child up, harming the world and that child. Of course, they also can’t create a saint which benefits the world impacting the lives that trickle for generation after generation after generation.

    Jakevin33, before claiming someone else is self-righteous, try mentally putting yourself in their shoes, and think “Would I feel the same way?” If the answer is no, you need to improve your empathy and further your education in what parenting is like, even if you never become one yourself.

    Reply
    1. MrsRW

      I disagree a little with your logic. Just because you don’t have children does not mean that you cannot impact a child, which in turn will impact a child. I do not have bio kids, but I do have nieces, nephews, and little cousins. Because I don’t have the day to day expenses of raising a child I am in a place where I have the time and finances to “treat” the children in my life and expose them to things that their parents may not be able to afford (ie museums, plays, books, activities) on a regular basis. This is not a knock to parents. I totally understand that keeping a roof over your children’s heads and food in their belly takes precedence. This is just an example of how childless people can impact children in their lives.

      Reply
      1. MrsRW

        ” Just because you don’t have children does not mean that you cannot impact a child, which in turn will impact a child.”

        Should read: “Just because you don’t have children does not mean that you cannot impact a child, which in turn will impact the world.”

        Reply
  26. sunnyb

    Childless is not always a choice. I’m reading your story about how you can come home whenever you want. Try coming home painfully silent home every night, try waiting every month for a positive pregnancy test. I would love  to be occupied by something other than my job or freinds who all have children. Being childless is such an empty exsistance when you remember have such great but not perfect childhood

    Reply
  27. John

    Having kids don’t make you better than childless couples in any way, shape or form. That is just sheer arrogance to think so.   Some couples are childless because they biologically cannot have any kids. It is not their fault. You’re not better.

    Quit trying to make childless couples feel bad or guilty. Else just strangled your kids & there you go, your problem is solved. You’re welcome.

    Reply
  28. Lindi

    Just because you have kids doesn’t mean that you are better or that your life is harder. As a single and childless (and child-free) person, I am happy with that choice. I don’t want kids. It’s a huge responsibility and one that I don’t want. Do I want to get married? Sure but I’m not going to rush into anything. I also want to say that a childless/childfree person or couple may have responsibilities for family members that need their help. They may be taking care of elderly and/or disabled parents or siblings. That is a huge responsibility just like it is to care for and raise a child.

    Reply
  29. Rodan

    If it will make you feel better about having a “harder” life, then keep deluding yourself into thinking you’re superior over others with different lifestyle choices, OP.

    Reply
  30. Pingback: I Don’t Look Down On Other Women, I Raise Them Up (And I’m Not Sorry) | Strong Suit

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