Real quick: I work with Child Protection Services. I am also childfree. I was childfree prior to this position, but everyone connects the two. They assume that seeing all these “bad parents” is what inspired me to be childfree and it’ll be different when it’s mine. I’ve had other caseworkers also argue this. A casework supervisor told me this week that it’s only our clients who don’t put actual thought into parenting and other parents are fine.
Okay, first? I’m going to defend my clients. Many of them have serious mental health and substance abuse issues which impair their ability to care for themselves, nonetheless other living creatures. Their needs are then minimized because they are obviously bad people if they can’t set these issues aside to take care of their kids. I don’t think you know how these issues work? Not to say that people with addictions and mental health problems can’t be good parents…but it can severely hamper one’s ability, and in the case of many of my parents, that is the case. Then we have young, inexperienced, overwhelmed, abused, uneducated people who have no idea what they’re doing and need help. Then we have the people who never should have been parents but were bullied by their lover or family to become parents, and then everyone wonders why they’re struggling to care for their kids. We have a group of people set up to fail, and then when they become involved with CPS, they are held up as Bad Parents while everyone else are Good Parents.
A lot of people who pose a safety threat to their children never become involved with CPS purely due to their class level. Money, race, neighborhood, etc. play a huge part in who becomes active with CPS. You have to do something extreme to be white and middle class and end up in CPS. A black, lower class family? The teacher only needs to hear that daddy spanked you last night.
No. I have many reasons to be childfree, and that casework supervisor ironically provided several good reasons of her own. Despite her education and career and pay and everything, she is still expected to be the primary caregiver for the children. In the same breath she discusses being so happy being a mom, she is revealing how stressed and overwhelmed she is, detailing how the father doesn’t help at all and sometimes actually sabotages what she is trying to do. If she gets upset? She just needs to relax! And while she is detailing this horror story? Another coworker chimes in about how she has almost the exact situation and even if she is ill, she needs to step up and be the primary parent while the dad play the fun, goofy parent, even if it is detrimental to what the mom is trying to do.
I’ve heard multiple other workers be on the fence about having children and then be bullied by their lover and family to have children. Once they have children they repeatedly assure everyone around them that they’re happy and can’t imagine life without their kids, even when they’re clearly stressed and miserable. Many were stressed prior to having children. For some, having the child made them happy. Others? Just tipped them closer to having a nervous breakdown.
I’m not childfree because I see bad parenting through CPS. I’m childfree because I’ve seen what happens to people who are wary about having children and then feel compelled to do it. I’ve seen the sheer amount of people who either shouldn’t have had any kids or should have waited to have children have children, and I’ve seen the results. I’ve seen otherwise intelligent people put up with bullshit because of all the expectations surrounding adulthood, particularly for women. For too many people, there is no thought that goes into becoming a parent. I put thought into it, I decided I am childfree, and I’m not so simpleminded that I base my life on my fucking clients.