Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice
You don’t have to look around childfree websites for long before discovering what is known as ‘Breeder Bingo’ (breeder being a pejorative term for parent that you won’t find on this site except for purposes of critique). Breeder Bingo is based on the reality that you hear a lot of the same remarks when people find out you are not planning to have children. (For me, the most familiar are variations on themes of, ‘but you’d be such a good mother’ and ‘what if you change your mind?’) If you are not familiar with the concept, here are some places you can check out Breeder Bingo and some discussions about it. If you are childfree yourself, it is hard not to crack a smile at seeing so many familiar lines.
That said, I think it is worth thinking carefully about this approach to people’s comments on your choice not to parent. Some people can be rude, intrusive and pushy and they probably deserve whatever reaction they get. But others could easily use lines from Breeder Bingo without the slightest intention to be any of those things. Because of our own assumptions about what is ‘normal’, we all inadvertently bingo people in minority groups, not necessarily because we think everybody should be like us but because, through ignorance, we just assume that they are.
A blog I read a few months ago linked to a kind of bingo for mothers of twins and I was struck hardest by these lines:
Stranger: Do twins run in your family?
Mother: Is that a transparent attempt to ask me if I battled with infertility?
Reflecting back, I was horrified to realise that I have asked this question of friends and acquaintances with twins, truthfully without ANY thought of infertility or IVF, but just because I find it interesting that twins often do run in families and to me it seemed an impersonal, normal question to ask. But it is heard so often and is so loaded with extra meanings for some of these women that it can obviously come across very differently. Just as some of the lines in Breeder Bingo might for us.
Sometimes it is almost impossible not to take offence at what is said during a why-aren’t-you-a-mother conversation. (I will ALWAYS struggle with ‘I feel really sorry for you’.) But where ever it is possible, non-offence might be the best route to take. In contrast, the Breeder Bingo approach may actually set us up to be offended.
An alternative approach could focus on some of the supportive things parents also sometimes say, in my experience at least.
After all, it is important for childfree people to focus on these kinds of comments too.
If you’re interested in attitudes of and towards the childfree community, you might also be interested to read about the issue of rage in childfree groups, blogs and forums and the accusation that childfree women are making a fuss about nothing.