Regarding my parental status, there are no two questions I come across more frequently than "Why don't you have children?" and "Why don't you want children?". The latter of which is often a follow-up to the former. I usually cite circumstantial reasons as an answer to the first question: my career, my relationship, my finances, etc. Those are considered "acceptable" explanations for my childlessness because they are considered temporary circumstances. Whomever is asking the question is making the assumption that I want to have children, and will do so when my career, finances and relationship are all in order.
However, citing the underlying explanation, which is that I don't want children, is an invitation for judgement and a slew of additional questions and pleas for me to procreate. Although, I believe that any explanation a person can give for not wanting children--whether it's a hereditary illness or a house full of white furniture-- is an acceptable one, many others disagree. If I say that I don't like children, people tell me "Yes you do. You work with them" (I actually work with teenagers). If I say I suffer from chronic migraines, they say "Your spouse/partner will help out" or "They have medicine for that" (The second response triggers an overwhelming urge to slap that individual). If I say that I doubt that I would be a good parent, they say "Sure you would. You're patient, kind, logical and responsible". Working with children is not the same as caring for one 24/7. Having a supportive spouse does not negate my parental responsibilities. Possessing a few qualities necessary for parenting does not mean I would be happy as a parent. There are also the intrusive follow-up questions which people think they are entitled to ask. Questions such as "Who's going to care for you in your old age?" or "Won't you be lonely?" or "What if you regret not having them?" are asked without hesitation or regard to courtesy.
When I give valid answers to the above questions such as "My end-of-life planning is my responsibility" and "I have friends. And family. And pets." and "I'd rather regret not having a child than regret having to care for one" the focus then turns to those closest to me. People often ask if my mom and my boyfriend know about my choice, as if their concerns about my reproductive future outweigh my own needs. It's astonishing how I can give such valid reasoning behind my choice, yet people will still plead for me to make a major life change that I don't want. Do these people who appear so invested in my reproductive future not listen to me? Or do they simply not care? Perhaps they don't like my answers and feel that if they pester me enough I'll change them. I've been told a number of witty and sarcastic responses I can use to answer they unwanted questions about my choice. I abstain from using them though, because I would then be as rude as the person asking the question, and I refuse to stoop to their level.
It hurts me to know that I may be fielding these same questions for the next 20 years. I would never try to convince someone to not have children, nor would I judge them for their decision. Yet, I do not always receive the same decency in return. The sense of camaraderie shared among the childfree provides a sense of relief from the judgement and shame inflicted upon us by societal norms. I only wish that others could not only hear our voices but also listen to them.