Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

When a Little Bit of Education Goes a Long Way August 17, 2010

A couple of years ago Jose and I went to The Museum of Tolerance here in L.A. My parents grew up in England during the Second World War, so I’m interested in that period of history, and I wanted to learn more about the Holocaust.  MOT is a beautifully designed museum, both the external building, and it’s interior content. But we ended up leaving after only half an hour. Here’s why:

The museum only offers guided tours. You have to travel in a group and stop for the prescribed amount of time at each exhibit and be given all the information either by audio, or by watching a video, or reading. There’s no lingering over especially interesting bits and no jumping forward over areas that don’t grab your attention. For me (and this is a highly rated museum, so this is just my opinion) I felt that I was being force-fed my Holocaust education. The Museum of Tolerance wasn’t very tolerant of my ignorance.

Now, I’m an adult who took a free day from work and chose to visit this museum for my own edification. I have a college education, so I know how to learn under my own power. I wanted to be trusted to take the information and form my own thoughts. I wasn’t given that chance, and so I left, sadly, with my education.

I think that the majority of people out there in the world don’t understand the decision to be childfree and don’t understand how it feels to be childless-not-by-choice. I would say that most of us didn’t understand it either before we had that experience. I believe that we have an obligation to educate, to explain, to show people the other side of the story, but we can’t force-feed that education. The people in the restaurant last week got my back up with their closed minded opinions, but stomping over there and giving them a piece of my mind would have accomplished what? Nothing. Those people didn’t want to be educated, especially not by a complete stranger.

What I can do is work with the people who do mean something to me. When a well meaning (genuinely well-meaning, because there are some actual mean people out there) says something upsetting I have the choice to take the opportunity and explain my side of the story and why I’m upset, or let it go. Getting my hair all on fire and yelling about how insensitive they are isn’t going to help.

We need to talk, educate, explain, show, but only when the audience is willing and only for as long as they’re willing to listen. Bit-by-bit, we can tell our side of the story, and bit-by-bit, we can change the way other people view us.

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6 Responses to “When a Little Bit of Education Goes a Long Way”

  1. Sue Says:

    I’ve made a commitment to myself recently not to let hurtful comments go unretaliated (is that even a word??? well in my dictionary of life it will be). Why should my heart continually take blow after blow while the ignorant ones get to ride off into the sunset feeling as though they’ve done some sort of good deed by educating me with their unsolicited advice and offensive remarks? I’ll have no more of that! From now on I’ll be wielding my sword of justice. “Touche you ignorant fools! Take that! Now get out of my way and crawl back under the rocks from which you came!”

  2. Hi Lisa,
    I agree with you whole-heartedly. I’m more of the ilk to take a softer approach. Beating anyone over the head never works nor does beating our own heads against a brick wall.

    Hopefully, The Forgotten Patient will help others understand the choice people like you and I made. The decision we made was the equivalent of picking our poison.

    My experience has taught me to be more tolerant and suspend judgement about others. We really never know what is going on behind closed doors and especially inside beating hearts.
    I’m with you, girl!

  3. You really hit the nail on the head here and I feel the same way. It took a long time for me to feel okay with my choice and really educate myself first before taking on other people. Now I am better equipped emotionally to handle insensitive (even though usually unintended) comments and discuss why those comments could be upsetting without getting upset myself. I’m also better at determining when to just not waste my time – some people will never change – but I can choose to limit how much I interact with them.

    I also think we need to gain better overall acceptance for all choices, including the Childless By Choice (or Not) couples. Often I have felt like my choice is still a bit taboo and nobody really wants to think about it. It’s where no infertile really wants to go, right? However, I am very happy and I want more women to know that and that’s it’s okay to be content, fulfilled and loved in any lifestyle choice you feel is right for you.

  4. happynenes Says:

    I think the easiest education comes through the ones we love. My sister-in-law is child-free by choice, and I just love her to death. She is totally unapologetic and matter of fact about not having kids. She is a child-free role model for me. I think it would be hard for another person to look at her and say that she is living her life wrong. She is a good person doing good things in the world. Take that, manic procreators!

  5. happynenes Says:

    I’ve been to that museum. It’s been years and I’m sorry to say I can’t remember the tour. I like the idea of a walk-a-mile in my shoes education, but the thing I remember most about that visit was a talk by a holocaust survivor with question/answer session after. It’s right up there with touring Bergen-Belsen on my moral impact scale. Maybe that says something for educating by testimony, too.

  6. lmanterfield Says:

    Great comments ladies. It’s really making me think more. It’s hard to bite your tongue sometimes, but biting strangers isn’t going to help much! I am going to start looking for opportunities to speak up and start that education process. Not going to lecture anyone, but I do feel that I’m at a place where I can calmly discuss my situation, and maybe pass on a little insight.


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