A while ago, I saw this post about common things religious people say to atheists, which can easily be turned right back at the person saying them:
Shortly after reading it, I realized the very same phenomenon occurs between parents and child-free people.
Actually, I'd realized it to some degree earlier, as readers of my "Abby and Norma" comic are aware. But only after seeing that article about religious hypocrisy did I become aware of how many pro-parenting arguments are easily redirected at parents.
For many years, reproduction (like religion) has been seen as the norm, and people who do not practice it have been the object of constant efforts to change their minds. Only very recently has the tide turned a little, with a few people becoming outspoken in their efforts to convince others of the value of the child-free lifestyle.
Both evangelical atheists and evangelical non-reproducers can get pretty annoying, just like their mainstream counterparts, so in person I usually try to keep my opinions to myself. But it's hard to stay quiet when the criticism foisted on you is so obviously true of the people doing the criticizing.
So, here are a few things parents say to non-parents, which they could just as well be saying to themselves.
1. Who is going to support you when you get old?
A common argument against remaining childless is that children could support you later on. Not only is there no guarantee of this, but it's pretty insulting to your children if the only reason you bred them was to serve you in your old age.
My answer: I am the one who's actually putting my money in a retirement account. You're the one who is gambling it away by spending it on supporting other people-- in the vague hope that these people will someday have enough money left over from raising their own children to support you. Did you know that the bare minimum for raising one kid to age 18 is somewhere around $100,000? Try putting that amount in savings instead, if you actually want to be supported when you get old.
2. You'll change your mind.
Some people seem convinced that I can't possibly have no desire to reproduce; either I'm lying, or my urge for children is buried shallowly below the surface and will burst out any moment. Their argument is that "nature wouldn't make anyone without that instinct; otherwise the species wouldn't go on." (They don't seem to realize that nature routinely makes people who are physically infertile, incompetent at finding a mate, or even incapable of living beyond childhood themselves.)
My answer: No parent would openly admit to regretting their decision, but more than one mother has told me, off the record, that she would not have had kids if she'd known what it was like. And which is worse? Suffering because you missed your chance to have children and regretted it? Or making both you AND your children suffer because you regretted having them?
3. You're being selfish.
According to some parents, the ultimate act of selfishness is refusing to bring a kid into the world.... even though, in reality, you can do much more good for others by not focusing your money and effort on your own reproduction.
My answer: Over the course of 18 years, you are going to spend at least $100,000 on caring for one person, just because that person is your biological offspring... even though that amount of money could save literally hundreds of lives if donated to charity. You are the one who thinks passing on your own genes is worth hundreds of people's deaths. How dare you call anyone else selfish.
4. You have to perpetuate the species! Do you want humanity to go extinct?
Some people seem to live in the Stone Age, thinking that every human must keep the genetic line going, or the human race will vanish from the earth. But seriously? In a world where the population grows by a billion every few years?
My answer: If there is any chance of humanity NOT going extinct in the next few centuries, it will be because the population shrinks to the point that we can actually sustain all the humans without creating enough waste and destruction to make the planet totally uninhabitable. Spoilers: You're not the one helping with this.
5. It's unfair to your husband to deny him children.
It seems hard for some people to believe that my husband and I agree we don't want children. If he suddenly declared that he actually wanted them, and that he'd divorce me if I didn't have any, I would accept that this marriage was not meant to be. But if that was likely to happen, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have been together 10 years already.
My answer: If you expect my husband to be harboring hidden resentment about our childlessness, and lying to me when he says he agrees with my choice, then your own experiences with marriage must involve a lot less honesty and communication than mine. I'm not taking marriage advice from you. Especially since a screaming infant that stops you from sleeping, saps your finances, and adds immense stress seems like the WORST thing to add to a marriage if you want both partners to be happy.
6. Don't you want to pass on your genes so there's something left of you after you die?
We all have a desire for immortality in some form. For many people, it takes the form of children, because somehow they have the idea that a person who shares random pieces of their DNA means they are living on after death.
My answer: Yes, I want some part of me to keep existing after I die. I don't want that part to be an assortment of flesh grown from my genetic material, because that's not what I consider "me." My identity is made of the things I know, the things I like, the ideas I have, and so on. The way to preserve these things is by being such a devoted writer that I have no time for kids. By having a kid, you're ensuring that those parts of you will be mostly lost, because child care leaves you no time to write them all down, and so the only parts of your personality that will survive are the parts that your kid happens to remember.
All these thoughts have gone through my head when I've seen a parent criticizing non-parents, in family, work, or online settings. Usually I keep my mouth shut and my hands off the keyboard, because people's business is their own. When I do rant about it, I usually take the precaution of putting my words in a comic character's mouth, so anyone who doesn't want to see my rants can just avoid my comic.
But if pro-parenting proselytizers aren't going to give others the same respect, and they're going to bombard them with such obviously hypocritical arguments... then I suppose they deserve what they get.