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Friday, January 22, 2016

If You Ask Me: Childfree Romances, Where Are They?

I actually wrote this post a year ago after having a conversation with a friend of mine but I was so scared of making it public. Why? Because there’s this trend of attacking people who are different and have *gasp* the nerve to go against centuries old traditions. I know this, I’ve experienced this first hand and I come from a very traditional culture and live in a city where tradition is everything.

But I was recently inspired by this really awesome post on Heroes and Heartbreakers about feminist romance. Feminism is such a polarizing topic. There are apparently different levels and types of feminism and a slew of assumptions and stereotypes that go with it.

Anywho, that post inspired me to be brave and just GO FOR IT. So I sat up late and re-wrote, tweaked and edited this post and what you see is the result of a lot of hand wringing and fear of not expressing myself the way I wanted to and coming off as someone who turned her nose up at a certain group of people. I’ve read and re-read this piece and have come to the conclusion that I have expressed myself in the best and most respectable way I know how and that if anyone gets offended, well, that just might make them one of those people who isn’t happy unless they’re offended about something. So without further delay, here is what I wanted to say:

I’ve been a romance novel reader for a good 15 years now but it was only recently when I started reviewing them that I was introduced to all the sub-genres and troupes out there. Who knew there were so many romances that catered to the diverse fan base right? I have loved, hated and ignored books and sub-genres and in the past four years have been able to narrow down my likes and dislikes within the romance genre.

While the stories may vary, there’s almost always the inevitable post (sometimes pre) happy ending scene: The hero and heroine are expecting a baby/have welcomed a child into their lives and now all is right in their world and they ride off into the sunset, happy as clams. Or in some cases, the imminent arrival of a child is held off until the next book in the series as part of the familiar “Checking in On a Previous Couple” scenes.

I have enjoyed countless romances with these endings/scenes in them and I’ve come to expect them in pretty much every romance novel I pick up. It’s never bothered me before and it doesn’t bother me now, but I do have a subject I want to bring up:

Don’t people like myself deserve our own happy ending too? Can we be represented in mainstream romances where we ride off with our dashing hero (or heroine) into the sunset and onto our version of Happily Ever After? The Childfree community isn’t a fad or phase, it’s been around since before the written word, there just wasn’t a name for us.

One of the best articles I've ever read!
Childfree is a term used to describe people who for whatever reason have chosen not to have kids. Whereas a childless person implies that children are wanted but for some reason have not happened.

With so many sub-genres and tropes that romance authors happily write for like Friends-to-Lovers, Best-Friend’s-Sibling, Enemies-to-Lovers, Secret/Oops Baby, BDSM, m/m, f/f, m/f/m and many more, there is one that I think should be added: Childfree romances. NOT to be confused with ChildLESS romances. Please note the difference between the two.

Now before some of you start thinking about raising a fuss because you interpreted the above to mean that I hate romances where the couple has kids let me be 100% clear: I am NOT putting down romances that have couples who want/love/have kids at the end! Like I said in the beginning, I have and will continue to enjoy romances where the couple has children or are expecting a child. This is totally different to my aversion to the Secret/Oops Baby Troupe. I am simply wondering why can’t we have more romances where the hero and the heroine are clearly and happily childfree? Everyone else is being or has been represented in romance, from interracial couples to gay and lesbian couples. It’s clear that the changing times are being reflected in romance novels too. So doesn’t it stand to reason that those of us who elect not to have children should also be represented?

The choice not to have children is even now being discussed and met with varying degrees of curiosity, skepticism, mild acceptance and in some unfortunate cases, hostility. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been accosted by nosey people saying things like “You’ll change your mind when you’re older.” (No honey I won’t. I’m 31 and if I haven’t batted an eyelash about it now I won’t later), “It’s different when they’re yours.” (What if it’s not? You can’t exactly give a child back you know), “Every woman wants kids.” (A ridiculous statement in and of itself, have you met every woman in the world that you can say that as if it were a fact?), to one woman’s whisper of “Only awful people don’t want kids.” (I am not joking, I got this one time). People can be weird. It’s not a disease, it’s a choice. You know, like choosing whether to live in California or New York.

But I digress, I want to see more romance novels with childfree couples! To me it would feel like my lifestyle is more common than I think and that we too can have a happy ending with our very own stud muffin or lovely lady. I know it would go a long way into making childfree people feel more accepted. It might sound silly but think about it, when you see people who have chosen the same things you do and think the same way you do being represented in a TV show, movie or book you feel a bit better about living your life in the open and it can help you connect with others who feel the same way, especially if, like in my case, you come from a very traditional background where saying things like “I am childfree” can get you one long ass lecture about how you’re wrong and they’re right.

I don’t want a totally different type of romance novel just for childfree people. I happen to LIKE the formula in mainstream romances and in some of the indie ones I’ve read. Seriously, childfree people live just like everyone else, we just don’t want kids. Some of us don’t want our own kids but are perfectly happy being the “Favorite Aunt” to everyone else’s kids, or feel passionate about improving conditions for under privileged kids. Some of us don’t like kids (Which is okay too) and some of us don’t have any maternal instincts towards kids, aren’t terribly crazy about them and refuse to experiment on an unsuspecting baby to see if that “changes” because we gave birth to it/fathered it (Me).

But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to experience lust, passion and love like everyone else! We want to live vicariously through the characters of historical (I KNOW there were childfree women back then too), paranormal, contemporary, dystopian, erotic, m/m, f/f and romantic suspense too!

To date, I have only read ONE romance where the couple clearly stated that they did NOT want children. So help a girl out will you? Are there more out there? Have I missed them? Or maybe, you’re curious about this whole childfree business and want to know more, you know, so that if you ever meet a childfree person you’ll know what we’re about and of course, what NOT to say to us. Either way, hit me up with your comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.'

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