To the Parents Who Wonder Why Childfree People Also Decorate for the Holidays
It was October and political canvassing was in full swing. It seemed like I was getting doorbell alerts on my phone all day. I usually wasn’t home to bother, but one individual rang the bell on a Sunday. My husband answered the door thinking she might be one of our new neighbors. She wasn’t.
According to him, the woman was about 60 years old. Given her volunteer position it wasn’t shocking that she liked to talk. She told my husband a great deal of personal information in the 10 minutes they stood on the porch. I could hear them from the dining room, where I was editing and thinking my husband was a pushover for even answering the door.
“I love your decorations,” she said. My mother in law had given me a beautiful Halloween wreath. I had a few fake pumpkins on the steps and a little ghost hanging from the eaves.
“Do you have children?” was her next question.
“No,” my husband said cheerfully, not just because he’s proud of being childfree, but because you have to be cheerful about these things. Otherwise, people tend to “feel sorry” for us. Now that we’re in our mid-30s, some people even feel bold enough to speculate on our fertility. But she quickly changed the subject back to ballot measures, and I smirked.
Halloween decorations aren’t for my kids. They’re for the children who come to my door on Halloween. It’s quite a popular block for kids from all over the city. It’s well-lit, there’s almost no traffic and we put out some banging decorations.
That aside, I’ve always decorated for this holiday, even in college when all I owned was a bed and a desk. It’s the holiday that heralds the changing of seasons. It kicks off all the end-of-year holidays. There something magical about the start of a new school year, kids in costumes barreling up the steps, being reminded by their self-conscious parents from the sidewalk:
“Say ‘trick or treat.’”
“Tell them ‘thank you.’”
“Don’t forget to take some candy.” (I’m serious; that actually happened.)
“Skylar, don’t go inside! Skylar! I’m so sorry. Skylar, please don’t barge into their house.”
We’ll never forget the little girl who told my husband, “I’m a butterfly. I’m a music butterfly because my name is Melody.”
The community experience, the delight of families, the promise that this is just the beginning of the holiday season. What’s not to like about Halloween? Why wouldn’t I decorate?
Childfree women aren’t old hags tucked away in their darkened, derelict homes, practicing witchcraft to make all the families out there in the world miserable.
Not having kids doesn’t mean I don’t want to bring joy to the children of others. I get something out of that joy. Making other people happy is one thing, but for a kid the holidays are a magical time. Helping to create that magic is downright fun for me. That part of me doesn’t go away just because my spouse and I made a conscious decision not to have kids.
1. Our decision not to have kids doesn’t mean we dislike children, parents, families, family-friendly spaces, family-oriented entertainment, schools, teachers or any other things associated with kids.
2. Our decision has nothing to do with your situation, your life, your choices, your family, etc. We simply made the decision we think is best for us.
Childfree doesn’t mean:
1. That we resent other people’s kids simply for existing. I’m not “put out” by having to deal with kids or kid things — not any more than having deal with other adults and their related materials. Other people exist and there’s no fighting it.
2. That we don’t celebrate holidays. Of course we celebrate holidays. They’re not just for kids.
3. That we have no patience with children. In fact, I’d argue that we have more patience for children because we don’t deal with them that often. Things they do that are driving their mom crazy this week are just fascinating little quirks to us.
It’s important for me, as a childfree woman, to be seen and known in my community. I want other people’s kids to see what a childfree lifestyle looks like, so they feel like they have some knowledge of what it’s like. I don’t want them to picture an old spinster who resents the neighborhood kids, yells at them as they walk home from school for pulling a leaf off her rhododendrons. I want them to picture that patient and kind couple at the end of the street.
Follow the author’s work at the Poydras Review.