parents and GINKsLisa’s posts about being a GINK (green inclinations, no kids) have provoked some feisty discussion, and that’s great — getting people to talk openly about the childfree option was one of her main goals. But when it gets to the point where parents and GINKs are hurling insults at each other and declaring that folks on the other side of the aisle can’t be real environmentalists, then we’ve got a circular-firing-squad problem.

We enviros are all on the same team, remember — pushing for a cleaner, greener, saner, kinder world. We should be fighting apathy and pollutocrats, not each other. Let’s all of us green-minded people support each other’s choices and get each other’s backs.

To that end, Michelle — a Grist contributor and mom — suggested that we collaborate to come up with some cross-cultural communication tips for both GINKs and green parents. 

What not to say to green parents

“How’s the little parasite today?”
No need to remind green parents about global problems and the potentially exacerbating effects of our offspring. Give us some credit: We’ve thought hard about the same issues you have, and made our choices for both personal and planetary reasons. Besides, we’re already planning to offset our family carbon footprint by building wind turbines out of soggy crackers and Legos. (Oh, sorry, do we sound a wee bit cranky?)

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“We never see you at _______ anymore.”
Save us the guilt trip: Parents are all too aware of their delinquency at community meetings, tree-sits, and whatever else we used to do for the greater good. But have faith that we haven’t forgotten you, or our shared causes. Many parents find that our connection to our kid(s) gives our environmental activism extra urgency. When there are breaks in the chaos, you’ll see us green parents showing up for the good fight again, perhaps even with new commitment.

What to say to green parents

“Can I give you a hand?”
Whether you’re making a friendly offer to babysit, wash the dishes, or tie our shoes, we will look at you with pathetic gratitude. We guarantee it.

“Bring the kid!”
Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to turn your next organic-martini party into a toddler playgroup. But we would love for our kid(s) to get to know you, and for you to get to know them — and, being dependent mammals and all, they’re kind of hard to leave behind, especially at first. So if you can see your way to including them in some gatherings — and in your life in general — please do.

“Have you heard the latest about the state solar initiative?” (or Obama’s green-jobs plan or that new study on organics …)
The early months and years of parenthood can be isolating, and as much as we love our kid(s), we really do miss being up on all the latest green developments. So after you’ve patiently listened to us run on about cloth diapers and BPA-free sippy cups — we do try to control ourselves, but it’s tough — offer to bring us up to speed on what’s happening on the local or global environmental front.

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What not to say to GINKs

“Why don’t you like kids?”
Most of us do like kids. We’re glad to have them in our lives — nieces, nephews, friends’ children, students — and are happy to be able to play with them, teach them, and occasionally use them as an excuse to see the latest Pixar movie. (And then, yes, we’re happy to hand them back.)

“Kids are fantastic. You should reconsider.”
As another childfree blogger puts it: “Imagine that I went up to a pregnant woman and said, ‘Hey, the childfree life is fantastic! Why don’t you reconsider?’ This is what it feels like when you tell me to reconsider my decision to be childfree. I respect your decision to have a child and am willing to accept that you have good, valid reasons for doing so. It’s your turn to return the favor.”

“You’ll change your mind.”
Don’t patronize us. There’s no reason to believe that GINKs are any more likely to change their minds than parents (and if by chance we do, it’s a lot easier for us to reverse course).

“You’re just the kind of person who should have kids.”
Thanks for the compliment, but there’s no reason to think my kids (or any kids) would make the world a better place. Good parents try their best to instill in their children strong social and environmental values, but ultimately kids determine their own destinies, parents be damned. Plus, quite simply, no one should have a child if they don’t really want one. (More on this.)

What to say to GINKs

“Congrats on making the decision that’s right for you.”
Green parents get congratulated all the time — everyone can get behind a cute baby, after all — but GINKs rarely get recognized, which can feel pretty lonely. If you understand and respect where we’re coming from, let us know.

“How’s your biodynamic garden?” (or house or job or goldfish …)
Even though we don’t have kids, we do have things in our lives that matter a lot to us. Ask about them and show you care.



What we can all quietly think to ourselves

“Thank God that’s not me.”