Childfree & Still Raising Other Peoples Barns

barn raising is an event in which members of a farming community band together to, ahem, raise a barn.

Childfree & Still Raising Other Peoples Barns childfree by choice childless by choice childfree life childfree living no kids life without kids life without children no children DINKS GINKS

I’ll raise your barn if you raise mine
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge…

Technically it could be to repair an existing barn as well, so there you go. It’s not all in the name.

Anywho, the point is that the community gets together to help each other accomplish a task that an individual or single family would be hard pressed to accomplish on their own. Now it’s important to note that in this context, building a barn is not a whim or desire. For farmers, the barn is a critical piece of infrastructure and without it they will fail.

This is a perfect situation for a reciprocal help arrangement to arise. Specifically IF we’re all farmers AND we all need barns AND we can’t build a barn on our own THEN we help each other build barns.

This type of arrangement works because everyone knows each other and everyone keeps track of who has helped who over time. I can guarantee you that the guy who never shows up for the other farmers’ barn raising will not be getting any help for his.

So why am I talking about barn raising on a childfree blog? Well, it struck me not too long ago that there’s an analogous situation that those of us who are childfree face on a regular basis. That is, the baby shower.


My following commentary is based on US baby showers. I’m sure that around the world the arrival of a new child is handled in many different ways. I’d love to hear about that in the comments!


When attending a baby shower all attendees – including the childfree – are expected to bring a gift to “shower” the expectant mother with. Attendees typically are told what to bring, if indirectly, as most soon-to-be parents register for the items they need. Makes sense…no one wants to give an unwanted gift, right?

But here’s where the barn raising analogy is relevant. (I’m pretty sure) baby showers arose out of a situation similar to the barn raising situation. Historically I’m guessing that most new parents did not have the means to acquire all the items that they would need for a new child, at least not all at once. And since pretty much everyone had children back then – “back then” being before effective, widely available birth control at a minimum – it made a lot of sense to essentially spread your costs out over time by participating in baby shower gift giving extravaganzas, i.e. baby “barn raising”.

Like barn raising, the baby shower’s roots lie in reciprocity whether people see it or not. Of course things are different now. We generally don’t help each other raise barns because most of us don’t need barns. Likewise, it seems that we childfree shouldn’t all be obligated to participate in a ritual that we know we’ll never be on the receiving end of. But we are…we’re expected to “help raise everyone else’s barn”.

I bet you can see where this is going…

What’s a Childfree Person To Do?

One reaction to this is to get annoyed or angry as there’s nothing in it for the childfree, right? Wrong.

For me it’s less about the baby and more about caring for the people already in my life. If I care about the expectant parents, there’s much more in it for me than reciprocity for a few baby gifts. There’s celebrating a major event in their life. There’s extending care and support. There’s sharing joy about their impending arrival…hopefully they have joy to share. Childfree & Still Raising Other Peoples Barns childfree by choice childless by choice childfree life childfree living no kids life without kids life without children no children DINKS GINKS

It’s no different to me than if my family member or friend was in a play or performing in a band. I’d pay money to support them and I would enjoy doing it. So with that in mind, here are a couple of ideas for the childfree to ponder when choosing a baby shower gift for your expectant loved ones.

  • Do they really need stuff for the baby? If your loved ones don’t have a lot of money, your gift makes a real difference in their life. Pick out something they will absolutely need, like diapers. Skip the 3ct Diamond Pacifier and the Barcarola Gold Regal 5 Piece Silk Suit and the Nike Trainers the kid will outgrow in 14 days.
  • Are they pretty well set? Are your friends financially secure? Have parents and friends that have already bought them everything they need? Is this not their first child? Then maybe gift them with something more meaningful like a sapling to plant in their yard or in Brazil. Or maybe donate to a charity that means something to them like this or this or this.


6 Responses to Childfree & Still Raising Other Peoples Barns

  1. Wilma April 9, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    It’s not the baby shower so much that upsets me re:non-reciprocity. It’s the “my kid is in dance class & they need to fund-raise, so which of these pails of cookie mix are you going to buy?” that really gets my blood pressure up.
    Dance clubs, football teams, hockey teams, girl guides (yes, I like their cookies), Jump Rope for Heart, figure skating club, even the local day care etc. etc. all come knocking on my door, expecting me to just hand over cash for some crap I don’t need or want. And when I refuse, I get the “What do you mean, you’re not buying anything?” stare.
    How about this: you pay what it actually costs to run the programs that your kid is involved in, & leave me out of it?

  2. Banner February 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    It’s not just baby showers. I think of bridal showers the same way. They are both outdated traditions that now just verge on greed. And let’s be honest: nobody really enjoys those ridiculous games. Personally I find them to be absolutely torturous.

    I did not have a bridal shower. I didn’t feel right asking my friends to buy things for me which I could buy for myself. I can afford my own towels, thank you very much.

    • Lance February 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      I was wondering how long it would take for someone to make the connection to bridal showers. :) I thought of that while writing the post but didn’t have time or space to go down that rabbit hole.

      I agree that things have changed dramatically on that front as well…many people marry when they are older and after they are established in their careers. So, in those cases, the “need” for those gifts is less.

      I think the ideas I present about what to do still hold up. It does raise a good point about the responsibility of the folks getting married or having the baby. Should they be more active in declining gifts or redirecting those funds to more meaningful causes?

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Samantha February 20, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    I don’t personally have a problem with attending baby showers, though I know some childfree people do. Mostly that’s because I’ll only attend baby showers of people I’m close to, so as you said, I like celebrating a life event with them. However, I think we childfree need to make non-baby showers more of a thing. Just last week I had a tubal ligation and am considering having a non-baby shower once I’m fully recovered. I won’t be asking for gifts, but it’s the same idea as a baby shower…having your friends and family celebrate a big life-changing decision. We have as much right to celebrate as they do.

    • Lance February 20, 2014 at 11:23 am #


    • Elizabeth @ The Bare Midriff February 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more – I’ve thought about hosting a no baby shower, but am afraid that too many pronatalists would think it rude or disrespectful. Whenever I see anything pertaining to a baby shower, I think of an early episode of “Sex and the City” where, after attending a tediously stereotypical baby shower, Samantha returns to her fabulous life and hosts an “I’m Not Having a Baby” party – which looks like WAY more fun!

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