Wayne and Wanda love hearing from readers, and people had plenty to say about the recent letter from an unmarried, childless couple. This pair said that, while generally quite happy, they were growing increasingly weary and irritable over others' incessantly questioning their decision to not marry or have kids. Here's what folks had to say about that:
Sandrico Suave suggested the pair not be so sensitive. "Some comments are just to create a conversation," Suave said. Suave asks if the two are "truly" happy with their circumstances, why get so offended when questioned? Suave said the duo's "selfishness" shines through when they don't honestly respond to the questions. As someone who has been in LTRs and married, Suave defends marriage and lauds the incomparable experience of child-rearing. Yes, raising a child is stressful, Suave says: "My life prior to my daughter was bliss, easy-going and full of trips and lots of great experiences; however, the experiences that I have had with the birth of my daughter supersede anything I experienced before she came along. ... I suppose, don't knock it (bearing a child and marriage) until you've actually walked in those shoes!!!"
Wanda says: Well, our couple didn't exactly "knock it." But they also don't want to try it. To each his and her own, right? The Time Magazine cover on shelves Aug. 12 reads, "The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children." An online sneak peek at the article says the birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest on record, with 1 in 5 women baby-free after childbearing years, compared to 1 in 10 in the 1970s. Yet this carries a stigma in a society that "often equates womanhood with motherhood." Regardless of whether your past, present or future includes a ring and offspring, can't we all agree it's a personal choice, and as Suave said, let's not judge each other's differences. That goes both ways. A childless couple doesn't know what it's like to have babies, and a parent can't comprehend a present-day or future without them.
Wayne says: Selfishness? That's not so suave, Rico. You sound like one of those parents who keep annoying this poor, truly happy couple! And you also sound like you were singing a different tune when you childless not too long ago. Blissful and easy going, full of travel and fun -- what's wrong with a lifetime of that? Just look at that happy couple on the cover of Time! Rico, it sounds like you've found your version of the fairy tale. Why not bask in that and not knock the couple who are enjoying their own version of it? Peace Rico.
AKchic offered sympathy to our couple. She suggested responding to prying strangers with something as direct as "I don't recall asking your advice/opinion" or the very honest "It's none of your business." AKchic has four kids and says while it is "life changing," it isn't "some religious experience. ... The angels aren't singing to us ('regular') parents from our kids' diapers." (Ha!) Some people really are better suited for being the fun "aunt/uncle" and what's wrong with that, AKchic says. "Don't let the comments sink in. Let them bounce off as much as possible." And if all else fails? Deflect with humor! Try, "We're waiting for the apocalypse so we can repopulate the planet with polite people that mind their own business."
Wanda says: Good advice, AKchic, though it's easier to tell a stranger to "MYOB" than a grandchild-yearning grandma or kind and curious coworkers. I once dated someone for six-plus years and constantly fielded the "when's the wedding?" question. My secret response: "When's your divorce?" Too snarky? Probably.
It's also true that some aren't meant to be parents. There are many ways to be meaningfully involved with kids. Coach a sports team, volunteer at church, a camp, or for an awesome nonprofit like Big Brothers Big Sisters. Or sign on for awesome fun uncle duty, like Wayne here.
Wayne says: Apocalypse!!! Oh no! Even Cool Uncle Wayne knows it's every man (and child) for himself once the zombies start walking the streets!
Just kidding, of course.
Wow -- this conversation is more polarizing than any national political debate. Obamacare's got nothin' on happy childless couples!
I guess that's why we get paid the big bucks, right Wanda?
Reader Amanda Pope suggested that when questioned about marriage and children choices, our couple respond in a kind, perspective-prompting way: "I would say, 'We're happy. Are you?'" Way to scuttle the inquisitors into self-reflection mode!
OG_Lila couldn't resist cracking a joke: "The real underlying thinking? Misery loves company."
This final comment from jakinak was short and spot-on: "The cosmic balance won't be adversely affected because these two didn't reproduce."
Wanda says: True that. It's a big, big world -- with a lot of people.
Wayne says: Real talk, guys. I like your style.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.