Essays on The Big Decision
[Note to readers: I am ALWAYS looking to add to this essay collection. If you're willing to share your story, see the guidelines. And be sure to check back regularly to see new entries!]
Childfree Life in the City: A Worry Free Lifestyle
By Christine Maddox at www.4nannies.com, 5/16/13
Living the big-city life, I have grown quite accustomed to experiencing a wide range of situations. Every time I think that I have done it all, I stumble across something new. There are times when I go for a drive and turn at random intersections just so I can explore more of what the city has to offer. In fact, there have been many a time when I would get lost looking for a specific restaurant only to find myself dining somewhere new instead. It’s nice living in a big city without having to worry about a child and the care that is involved.
1. Nights - Although I have a few places I like to frequent, I usually try to do something different each night. Not having a child at home waiting allows me to do just about anything I want. While I do still try to make it home at a reasonable hour so I can go to work the next morning, various events may happen that will change my plans. It’s a freedom that I don’t see many of my child-bound friends experiencing since the “bundle of joy” arrived. I don’t resent them, but I will live my life how I want.
2. Parties - I wouldn’t be able to throw some of the parties I love to host if I had a child in the apartment. My friends and I can get fairly belligerent and vulgar. It’s probably not the best locale for a child. I have created some of my fondest memories in the midst of my friends while we drink, karaoke, and utterly create a huge mess in the apartment by the time it’s over. That’s OK, though. It’s my apartment to clean up and prepare for the next one.
3. Home - There are plenty of times where I get caught up in the moment with friends and family that I don’t see my apartment for days at a time. I still go to work and take care of my responsibilities, but I’m not tethered by a child and don’t have to be home regularly. Many times I will find myself sleeping at a friend’s house in a completely different city without worries of what is happening at home.
4. Sleep - One of the most prevalent comments that my friends with children make is how they haven’t been able to sleep in several months. I feel sorry for them. During the weekends, I usually don’t wake up till almost noon. If I don’t have to be up for work, I don’t have to get up at all. No one will go hungry if I stay in bed all day, aside from myself.
5. Safety - I suppose it could be laziness, but I don’t really relish the idea of having to go through my entire house and making sure it is child-safe. When my friends bring their children over, I do make sure that harmful or obvious dangers are out of the way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike children – I just don’t want any of my own right now.
Maybe someday, I will find myself wanting a child. However, I want to experience as much as I can before that day happens. I have no worries, no responsibilities other than those to myself, and I don’t need to invest in restricting my activities to protect a child. You couldn’t ask for more of an ideal setting for living an adventurous city life.
This post is contributed by Christine Maddox. Currently she is pursuing her Master’s degree from University of Texas as well as blogging for www.4nannies.com. She loves to write anything related to parenting, kids, nanny care etc. She can be reached via email at: christine.4nannies @ gmail.com.
Is this journey to motherhood even worth it?
By Robin at www.miraclesinwaiting.com, 1/27/13
Way before I ever was old enough to get married or have children my plan was to get married around 20 and have 3 children by 25. Ha! Looking back now in my early 30’s, I ask myself, “What the hell was I thinking?” For starters is 3 children in 5 years even possible? I mean you are pregnant for at least 9 months. 2 years of IVF and 3 miscarriages later I realize I had no idea back then, but who does?
Working in early childhood every day I see children as young as one and two years old carrying around baby dolls mimicking what the adults in their life do. They already have the protective instinct down to. Have you ever seen how they yell or go mad if another child comes over and tries to touch, move, or (heaven forbid) try taking their baby doll? It’s not a pretty sight. Nurturing is a great life skill that all children should develop and not just for the possibility of a future as a parent. With that mind however, I wonder who ever thinks while looking at a child, “Hm, I wonder if they’ll ever WANT to be a mommy or daddy?” OR “I wonder if they’ll ever struggle with infertility or CHOOSE not to have children of their own?” Does any parent sit down with their child and share that it’s OK to choose a life without children?
I’m not surprised I never envisioned a life without children. I grew up in a small town where everyone I knew grows up, gets married, settles down and has a baby or two or seven. Most of my cousins, friends from school, etc. stayed close to home and have several children now. I chose another route. I left home right out of high school and moved to another state with some friends. By this point marriage, children, etc. were still on my mind but I hadn’t thought much about “my marriage and baby plan” in awhile. In fact I was approaching 20 and wasn’t dating anyone or wanting to for that matter so I wasn’t actively doing anything to make that “plan” reality anyway. I just figured it would all happen eventually. The thought of never having children was not in my mind but the fact of having them wasn’t being planned anymore either. It was just sort of a given that it would happen eventually. The reality I know now was definitely not in the picture or plan.
I met and married my husband a few short years later. We didn’t date long and he was in the military at the time. Unlike other military families we decided we wanted to wait on having a baby. I say this but then I’ll admit we were young and stupid and didn’t do anything to stop us from having a baby either. After a year or so we briefly talked about how there may be a possibility we couldn’t have children because we weren’t doing anything to stop it and I hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. Still being young and ignorant we blew it off as luck and went on with our life. At this time and in the following years I still figured a baby was a given in our future at some point (everyone has children, right?) and I didn’t really want one yet so I blew it off.
Fast-forward 8 years. We have all our ducks in a row, just bought our first home, and we both have steady jobs we enjoy. It’s time for that baby to magically appear. By this time we figured we’d need some help so we talk to our doctors and begin IVF. 2 years and 3 miscarriages later we are in the present. The last 2 years have been the longest and cruelest of my life. The ups, the downs, I guess a roller coaster is the best word in the English language to describe it. (It doesn’t do it justice though, some of us like roller coasters) Sometimes I ask myself if it’s worth it? All my life I thought having a baby was some kind of right. I mean it happens to everyone. Who knew there was this cruel thing called Infertility out there??? On top of that I’d never known anyone who CHOSE not to have children. Ok, so my sister never really wanted them but she was my sister and I figured she’d meet the right guy one day and have children like everyone else in the world. I’ve admitted I was ignorant.
I’ve grown up a lot. In that growing up I’ve learned having a child can be a choice. It’s ok to choose NO. I’m not sure I’m there quite yet but this roller coaster of IVF coupled with loss has brought me close. It’s brought me to the point of questioning when is enough enough and will all this pain be worth it in the end? After all, (ignorant alert) isn’t labor supposed to be the only pain in having a child? Losing my precious baby after hearing it’s first heartbeat and believing we’d finally made it, we were going to be parents was the single hardest thing I’ve ever been through! I was a parent for an entire 9 ½ weeks and losing that child about killed me. How will I ever survive the pain of raising a child, watching, and helping him/her navigate this crazy world?
Some days I can’t give up trying and others days I don’t know why I am trying. My husband and I are just starting our 7th IVF cycle after taking a break. I’m not ready to give up on being a mother yet, but I’ve definitely been weighing the options of a life that includes just the two of us. For me it’s much harder now then it was before there was a choice. It’s like once my heart opened to the idea and we began to try I feel like I’d be a failure if we didn’t succeed. Deep down I know that’s not true but it’s so hard to choose not to have a child when it’s something I figured was a given if you wanted one. I think it’s easier to keep going back and forth because I don’t have to go through what it would take for me to close that door completely. Right now that would be too hard. Today I’m still holding out hope that one of these times it’ll work and feeling terribly when it fails.
Oh Baby I Don’t Love Your Ways, Not Always at Least
By Carly at http://50shadesofbeige.tumblr.com/, 1/27/13
“Wally, I think we need to have The Baby Talk.”
I can read his mind from across the living room, he on one couch, I on the other, our coffee table littered with old copies of The Economist (his), bobbypins (mine), and packs of gum (ours) stands between us and will soon serve as the UN, its imaginary arms outspread so we don’t choke each other out and cause a scene. This conversation for us is not one that floats upon a cotton candy cloud with a background soundtrack of sweet big-headed Disney birds and delicate fawns jumping through meadows. I wish it did, but it does not. I wish like normal people we had opted to discuss “The Baby Thing” pre saying our “I Dos”, but we did not. Why? I don’t know, maybe some deep underlying understanding that if we did we may not have met at the top of the aisle and we really wanted to marry each other, like really really, we’re in love but as I read his thoughts right now, well, let’s just say if I brewed him a steeping pot of punch in the face it would certainly be the most perfect and deserving cup of tea ever served.
“I just sat down!” he’s thinking, “It’s the weekend! I just want to chill!”, as of this second he hasn’t muttered a single syllable, but that’s okay, my mind reading skills have me angry with him already.
“Wallace,” I address him by his full name, (serious conversations cannot really be had with someone named “Wally”), “look I know (because I’m in your head motherfucker) that you don’t want to have this conversation, I know you’re thinking-this is your weekend and you just want to chill- however, you’d be even more irritated if I tried to have this talk on a work day where you needed to be focusing on work so….yes…..”
“I’m not irritated,” he tries to assure me keeping his eyes firmly glued to his iphone. Lying? I’m unsure.
“Wallace,” I speak again, imploring him with my tone to pay attention, “this is a serious talk, can you please put down your phone so I can have your undivided attention?”
He sighs, oh how a sigh can communicate so much, it has been confirmed, he’s a liar, he is irritated. Fuck this “must have” conversation. Fuck it, with love from both of us.
He places his phone, screen side up in his reclining lap. Should people be forced to sit up to have this conversation? It’s a REALLY fucking serious conversation. Is there anything MORE serious than discussing making a human? Was Dr.Frankenstein laying down on his couch when he told his wife he would be embarking on making his creature? I doubt it.
“Wally can you sit up and put your phone away properly please?”
“Jesus Sarah, no, I’m fine how I am. You’re acting like you’re about to tell me that you’re dying, not setting a very positive vignette here.”
Buck passing shit head.
“Wallace, I’m not about to tell you that I’m dying, however, we are discussing creating life so yes, I think it’s important, important enough for you to sit up and pay attention.”
We lock eyes for a moment, this is probably not the right time to have this talk, but we’ve come this far on countless occasions. The “perfect time” is obviously never, (coincidentally, I’ve heard that same thing about having a baby). This conversation doesn’t consistently go off the rails into Grumpy Bastardland because of timing, it goes off the rails because of the content of the conversation, and as the content will always remain more or less the same, the timing might as well be now.
Wally picks up his phone and spins it like a windmill while grasping it between his thumb and pointer finger. He’s eying me, egging me on, daring me to snap about putting his goddamn phone down. Everybody loves Wallace, but sometimes, he can be a real shit.
He’s winning, I feel my throat constricting, I’m on the slippery slope of just saying “fine, you win, we won’t discuss this”, but what would be the point in admitting defeat so I can just keep walking around with a load of unanswered anxiety inducing incredibly important questions? There is not point, the conversation must be had.
I dig deep for the extra burst of power I need to carry on and not just throw in the towel defeated, “No, screw you, we are talking about this. Today is the day we conclude on what we are going to do in terms of babies.”
Begrudgingly Wally rests his phone back into his lap. I’m already exhausted by this “talk” and it hasn’t even begun. The imaginary flags around the perimeter of my make belief UN start to all turn red.
Head in my hands I shake my head slowly, contemplating how to proceed.
“Wally, why can’t we just have this talk? Why does it always have to turn contentious? It’s contentious before it’s even begun. I find it exhausting and it hurts my heart”
“It’s a contentious issue my dear,” the condescending tone drips thickly from his voice, my attempt to soften him by confessing my heart is hurting has clearly failed, “it doesn’t change, yet you INSIST on sticking your hand in the fire on repeat. Perhaps you’re an idiot”
Ouch. Name calling, and so early on in the discussion. Every fiber of my animal being wants to loose it. I want to hurtle myself across the UN and drown Wallytown in raging spittle and angry hurt tears. But I always hate the nation that launches the first rocket, so with all my womanly strength I breath and continue.
“Let’s make a deal, we discuss this, as grown-ups, grown-ups who, let us not forget, love each other and are legally bound to one another, if we get through this conversation calm, coolly, in a collected and achieving fashion, well, then we will never have to have it again and we will both be happier. Deal?”
“Bullshit”, my attempt at positive productivity is shot down by a single word missile launched by my hostile used-to-be allie.
“Wow, okay, Wallace, you are not off to a good start. Ground rules; no swearing, no name calling, and no storming out” (in general no acting like a petulant child asshole who needs a good ole fashion beating with a belt- that part I don’t say of course, but MY GOD, am I thinking it).
“Sure Sarah, let’s have this talk like we’ve had a hundred times before and then have it another hundred times. What a fun awesome Saturday morning you have planned for us”, fake smiling at me like a moron I marvel at my own emotional development that keeps me in my seat rather than bursting onto my feet ready to go to bare knuckle blows.
I hate his goddamn guts, I really do. But this talk needn’t be for him, it’s for me, I really need to decide with my husband (who, don’t know if I’ve mentioned it but, I HATE right now) if I will be destroying my body and becoming a mom. There are some topics that don’t have time sensitive answers; will I ever visit India? when I renovate the house should I move the laundry up to the 2nd floor? but the solid decision required around having a human when you are in your 30s, this just can’t be put off anymore.
“Shall we begin?”, I say as calmly as if he hadn’t just spat utter disrespect in my face.
Wally shrugs in my general direction, and flips through his phone, so obviously trying to get me to react. I don’t though because I’ve got his number, he’s just faking interest in the contents of his beloved handheld device, I’ve got his attention.
“Wally, do you want to have a baby?”
“I don’t know”, flip, flip, flip. Is that a nervous twitch? Is his phone his current life raft? Is he just scared of this conversation? Maybe he’s not an unloving bastard. Maybe his fear just makes him a fucktard. Am I way over thinking this and reading “man signs” where no “man signs” exist?
As I perplex over this new possible reality he speaks, “Do you?” “Huh?” “Do you Sarah? Do you want to have a baby?”
“I don’t know” comes my immediate and completely honest reply.
Wally pinches the bridge of his nose and puts down his phone for real, “this isn’t an awesome and productive start babe, I really don’t see how this is going to go anywhere when we are both starting off with, well, nothingness”
“No it is! We so far agree on everything! We both “don’t know”, I am happy with this start”, I’m desperate to bring some positivity to this situation.
The mood begins to lift, the imaginary mini delegates in the UN breath a sigh of relief, fine, we aren’t making any real progress yet but the immediate threat of a nuclear attack has subsided for now.
“Here’s the thing Sarah, I don’t know if we should be making such a monumental decision, or even really be discussing it, if we “don’t know”, you know?”
I do know. But…
“It can’t really wait Wally. My fertility started to drop dramatically at 27, 27!!! I’m 4 years going on 5 years older than 27. Truth is we could be having this big talk and I may not even be able to have a child now because it’s already too late. This is really stressing my shit out.”
Maybe Baby anxiety starts to creep through my chest and up into my throat, I pat the couch beside me furiously indicting for my husband to come and join me. He does, reluctantly, I don’t entirely blame him, only moments ago it looked like I was having hitty punchy in the facey thoughts towards him. Thigh to thigh I try to stabilize my breathing.
“What do we do?”, my voice is near a whisper, I can’t help but feel this is not how this conversation is supposed to go. Talking about having your first baby is supposed to be exciting and uplifting, sure there will be some fear of the unknown mixed in but this, this is just pure dread with preemptive disappointment mixed in. I know that when couples are debating kid number 3 or 4 often it gets a bit heated, one person will feel the family unit is complete while the other is all “Rah Rah let’s go for one more (maybe a girl this time!)”, but this……it doesn’t feel good at all.
“I don’t know what to say babe. We clearly aren’t ready to make this call but biologically, and I know you’re not completely off base with your concerns, we need to make this call now. Pros and Cons list, maybe?”
The wind is out of my sails, I know we really really do need to discuss this, but like Wally, I’d rather not.
“I’ll start,” Wally bravely ventures into the rough waters, “Con: you’re an only child and bad at sharing so I think co-parenting would be hard for you.”
“Wow,” truly surprised that he opted to jump into the clearly choppy sharked filled ocean covered in blood and carrying a cinder block, I shuffle an undetectable distance away from him, thus separating myself from him while still attempting to maintain the “I’m cool and collected” upper hand. “Your first move is to drop a Con-Bomb and insult me all within one sentence”
“It’s not meant to be an insult, it’s just a fact”, looking at me squarely in the eye Wally challenges me to deny the facts. Truth be told, even sharing a couch tends to happen on my terms.
“How Wally? How am I a bad sharer?”, this is a foolish route for me to travel, I do suck at sharing, but with him swimming in such a compromised way I guess it’s not completely impossible to think I can still come out on top even opting to take the steep up hill rocky path I am currently launching myself on.
As he dramatically huffs out a puff of man irritation and takes a deep breath to begin the long list complete with finger ticking off of “why Sarah is a bad sharer” I can’t help but wonder what the hell prize I’m trying to win. I’m not sitting here with my uterus churning and my breasts aching for a baby only to have my husband denying me his seed, nor am I sitting here on my illustrious career driven throne of gold swilling a martini and demanding he go for a Discontectomy. I feel like I’m fighting for my life, but I don’t know what “life” I’m fighting for. My heart is racing, my eyes are prickling with tears, and I feel passionately riled up about, well SOMETHING, but I have no idea what that Something is. All I really want is to know, I want some divine intervention that tells me CLEARLY if I should be trying to have a baby, yes or no, and I am desperate for that divine voice to be Wallys. I am picking a fight with Wally because I’m tired of having this fight with only myself.
“….and you didn’t let me participate in naming the dog”, my mind returns from its drift into my own frustrating thoughts, Wally has made it through one handful of points and has started in on the thumb of the other, “you don’t even let me FEED the dog, for godsake! She will love you the most even if I am the one to feed her every once in awhile!”
“You just feed her too much and she likes her water warm in the winter and cold in the summer”
“Well I’d probably feed a baby too much and wrong too and you know what, you’d just have to fuck off and let me!”
I’m too internally confused to be yelled at, I won’t be yelled at. “Here’s a thought, why don’t I do the feeding and you do the shit picking up? You want a turn with that? Or you only want the good jobs? How about you grow some tits and breastfeed the baby and I will exclusively do diapers? Sound good? Fair?”
I’m no longer being rational. Wally has been really mean. This isn’t working. This conversation is hurting us.
“Look,” Wallys nostrils flare, his anger and frustration is reverberating through his body, “clearly you want a baby and you want to be the favourite and you will name it something unique and retarded and …”
“I DO NOT WANT A BABY!”
“SO WHY THE FUCK ARE WE EVEN DISCUSSING IT? AGAIN!”
“BECAUSE MAYBE ONE DAY YOU OR I WILL WANT A BABY AND IT WILL BE TOO LATE AND THEN EVERYTHING WILL BE SAD AND YOU WILL DIVORCE ME AND MARRY SOMEONE HALF MY AGE AND I WILL HATE YOU AND BE UGLY AND HAVE CATS EVEN THOUGH I’M ALLERGIC”
“This is insane, I’m not divorcing you, we don’t know what we want, our relationship is perfect outside of this. Everything; we’re in love, we like each other, the sex….”
We do love each other, why change things, the sex is great, but…..
“I read women want to fuck all the time like I do when their biological clocks are running out, I’m running out Wally,” my voice cracks as the tears come, “my womanliness is dying, not having a baby makes me feel like I’m not a real woman, like my femaleness is broken. I feel broken.”
Should people so emotionally unstable have children? Should people who go from screaming to crying so easily even debate with venturing into pregnancy and parenthood?
“Then we will have a baby,” declaring my heart hurt didn’t soften him, but watching it break, does, taking my hand Wally continues, ” I just want you to be happy. I love your womanliness. We will have a baby if you want a baby.”
Sighing I feel so lucky to be loved but I still just don’t know, “It can’t just be me who wants a baby, you need to want a baby too, and I don’t even know if I want a baby.”
“I am happy to have a baby with you. Okay?”
“Okay, so we will maybe have a baby?”
“But not immediately”
So it’s been decided we are maybe having a baby. One day. Not soon. But soon enough that my eggs aren’t all rotten and dead. Maybe.
Wiping my tears onto Wallys’ shirt via rubbing my face into his chest I attempt to lighten the mood, because shit, if you don’t laugh, you cry, “On an upside, if we do have a baby if people ever call you a “Motherfucker” it’s not really an insult anymore, just a fact.”
“I think I’d still be insulted”
“Well you wouldn’t have to be, you could just be like “Thanks, I know”“
“Well I guess that’s something for the Pro column.”
“Yes, one item in the Pro, see we are figuring this thing out.”
No Kids – Yay!
By Jennifer, 10/21/12
I don’t know if there was some sort of defining moment for me not wanting to have kids. I just can’t ever remember a time when I thought I did want them.
The first time a good friend had a baby, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to meet her daughter and just wanted to soak it all in. For maybe a twinge of a minute I thought, “when I have kids…” But that didn’t last too long.
The older I got, I started wondering if I was ever going to get married and if I did, what if the man of my dreams wanted to have kids!?!? So I asked my ob/gyn what age she thought was too old to have a baby. Her answer was 45. Eeekkkk, I think I was around 34 then. So I thought to myself “well, if I do meet the person I want to marry and he really, really, really wants kids, then maybe I’ll think about it.”
I met my now-husband when I was almost 38. The morning after he told me he loved me, I figured I needed to break the whole no kids thought to him because I loved him too and didn’t know what would happen if he really wanted them. I can still picture where we were both standing in my apartment when I told him, and he said “I don’t want kids either.” I was so excited!
Less than two years later we were married and I was 39 years old. I can’t even count the number of people that asked when we were having kids. Many of them were my good friends who knew how I felt about not having kids, and some were downright badgering about it.
For a short time after getting married, I wondered if I was wrong in not wanting to have children. My husband is great and he’s so wonderful with kids of all ages. But we talked about it and neither of us wanted that.
I thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t have that feeling of wanting to have kids. My husband didn’t really understand why I worried about it. I think that’s the difference between men and women – no one really gets on the men about not having kids the way they do women.
I’m now 42 and (in my personal opinion) am too old to have a child anyway. I don’t regret not having kids, and for the most part, people have stopped asking us (but not all).
I wouldn’t say I question our decision on a regular basis, but I do have friends that are just now having babies and it gives me a moment every now and then to think about it. And I think that’s perfectly normal.
The Baby Requirement: A Pre-Parent’s View of Being Childfree
By Kallie, 9/21/12
My two best friends are both Childfree. The first, Karen, is petrified of the idea of having children, and hates the idea of being pregnant or in pain from labor. She is strongly decided on the child issue; a big, resounding “No!” The only time she wavers is when she feels family pressure, wishing she could give her parents a grandbaby. When she thinks of that, she considers that adoption might be in her future (she is, after all, adopted herself). Pregnancy, however? No way.
My second friend, Olive, has a lot of experience with teaching kids, and has come to the conclusion that it isn’t in her plans as her life stands now. She might change her mind some day, she thinks, but currently doesn’t have any drive to procreate. She’s pretty sure about not having kids, but keeps an open mind.
I, on the other hand, am baby crazy. Crazy with a capital ‘C’. I have been picking baby names for my future children since I knew how to write. I recently finished reading ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ from cover to cover, including the introduction… even through I’m not pregnant. I read parenting blogs and am a member of way too many parenting websites. I used to even read ‘Parent’ magazine when I was ten years old. You know, just to be extra prepared for when I grew up and was raising a kid that age myself.
Which of these three women seem the most sane to you?
I’ve never really had a ‘turning point’, I’ve always just wanted kids a little bit and then that turned into a lot. My two best friends never had the little bit, and that never changed. The strange thing about it is that I have never, ever been questioned or doubted when I stated that I want to have kids. Not so when my friends say “It’s not for me”. This is very confusing.
First of all, the decision is completely personal. I find it absolutely insane how often people think they have the right to tell my two smart, beautiful, hardworking, happy friends that they will ‘change their mind’. They are repeatedly asked, “When are you having kids?” even though the answer has been the same for the last million times they answered. By asking that question over and over, the world is effectively saying to them that they don’t know what they want, they aren’t smart or experienced enough to make a big decision like this, so of course they will change their mind later. So… if they aren’t able to make that decision, why does no one question the major decision TO HAVE kids? In fact, why would anyone think it is their place to ask the question at all? What I do in my bedroom, bathroom, obstetrician’s office, or wine cellar is none of their business, that should be for sure.
Secondly, raising the kids is the upheaval, not the status quo. Why on earth would someone choose to have children when they are happy, have great social and family connections, and a good job unless they really have some sort of driving motivation to do so? I am one of those people with the driving motivation, so okay – kids are the right choice for me. If I had even a tiny bit less of an urge than I do, however, I think I would really question changing my life in such a drastic way. Karen and Olive, if they did procreate or adopt, would love their kids. That isn’t the point. The point is that it is their choice now, before that point; Whatever they choose, it is probably the best choice for them and their family, end of story.
A couple final thoughts:
- If someone doesn’t want to have children herself, but has mentioned adoption, never, ever say “But what if the children aren’t as smart as you?” That goes doubly if the person is adopted herself. Seriously people.
- The reasons to have children are just as, if not more, selfish than the reasons not have children. Get over it.
- Just don’t ask. Unless you are really, really close friends, it is none of your business when someone is going to have kids, or try to have kids. You are pretty much asking them, “Are you having unprotected sex yet?” It is just weird, uncomfortable, and annoying.
- My advice for my Childfree friends when people asked them about the baby question was to start crying uncontrollably, incoherently saying something that sounds like ‘infertility’. (Only to be used on jerks and Great-Aunts for whom explaining the word “Childfree” would be pointless).
I look forward to my future beautiful bundle of joy greatly. I know that my Childfree friends support me in my decision, just like I support them in theirs. I will refrain from Facebook posts about poop, and hopefully they will ignore screaming in the background of our telephone conversations. I wish that they didn’t have to deal with being outside the norm, and hope they know I love them all the more for their strength. After all, normal is just a cycle on a washing machine, am I right?
Adventures in Parenting
By Karen, 8/31/12
I think it all began when I found myself puking in the gutter outside a bar in east Berlin. Or maybe it was when I sat by myself eating peants in the bar where Bill Murray first meets Scarlett Johansen in “Lost in Translation.” I spent my 20’s living a charmed life. I traveled, I partied, I engaged in myriad athletic pursuits – sometimes simultaneously as I did on a winter trip to the French Alps.
I was never a little girl who dreamed of her wedding or played “mommy.” Why plan so far ahead? I sought adventure and I found it in nearly everything I did. I consumed fresh roasted Honduran coffee while watching the sun rise over the highlands of Copan. I saw the glaciers and wildlife of Alaska. Paris, London: I owned you. I accumulated passport stamps and unique beer coasters. I was a regular on the gay bar circuit in NYC, danced with my friends in the Columbus Circle subway station at 3 am, and watched the sun come up while walking on 5th Avenue. And even though I had a nice group of friends (except on the trip to Tokyo), it just got a bit lonely after a while. There surely must be more to life than excessive alcohol consumption? (Don’t answer that!)
Eventually I met a great guy. We married and continued to embark on adventures together. We evaluated the difference between local seafood catches in various harbors in Croatia and camped in a fabulous spot in the western Sierras. I loved my husband, I loved my life, but I grew weary of this endless pursuit of adventure. (And the excessive alcohol consumption!)
We decided to have kids. I got pregnant and before all 9 months went by, I think I had 6 anxiety attacks about how awful my life was going to become. I gave birth to my daughter, my clone in every way. I tried to convince my husband that we should hand her over to the fire station and fly to Belize. I struggled her first year. She has a very strong personality and I discovered that it is actually possible to have a battle of wills with a 3 month old.
One afternoon I arrived at her daycare and she ran to me, “Mama! I’m so happy to see you!” I had been greeting her with this line, “I’m so happy to see you,” ever since she was a baby – my way I guess of trying to say something positive to cover the disappointment of having given up my independence to be a mom to this challenging kid. I delivered that line with my fingers crossed behind my back; my 1 year old was all sincerity.
It’s not really possible to describe the wave of emotion that passed over me that instant when she collapsed against my knees in a hug. Only a parent – someone who has been with a child day in, day out, for all the good and all the bad – can really understand that wave of emotion. I decided in that moment that I would embrace my child. I would learn what made her tick. I would see the world through her eyes as well as my own. When she has a nightmare, I comfort her and then make my way to work in the morning, bleary eyed. When she needs to leap off the highest point of the play structure, I hope I can catch her. When she treats people unkindly, or is treated unkindly by others, I help her understand how to make the world a better place. Because of her I will experience the most profound elation and, probably at some point, the most profound sorrow.
I have a son now too, a pure joy (he takes after my husband) and I hope for a third child. I sample the French Fries from various food stands at Legoland like I used to sample the local beer at Colorado ski resorts. I deal with a lot of poop. I could use a bit more sleep, a pedicure, and should probably drink more wine. I look forward to when the kids are grown so I can get back to my adventures if I am able, but in the meantime I am thinking of leaving my job to spend more of my kids’ early years with them. My only regret is that I didn’t start this adventure sooner.
Not My Choice
By Keshia, 7/31/12
Nothing parallels the ups and downs of parenting like the pendulum of moods and behaviors exhibited by a toddler. One moment they’re running around happy and excited, the next they’re a shrieking, sobbing mess, kicking and screaming because they can’t have an ice cream or they don’t want to leave the playground. Though, as the mother, I cannot express my ambivalence towards family life with the same degree of drama as that of a toddler, I often feel my thoughts and emotions swelling and breaking with equal ferocity.
I never made the decision to have children. I never got to “try”, or decide I was ready to take the plunge. My firstborn was the product of a broken condom, my second the result of a malfunctioning IUD. My husband and I always knew we would have children, so although we were woefully unprepared for parenthood, I knew we had to make the best of it. We could not exercise any of the options that would mean passing up this chance. We were not going to make a permanent decision based on temporary circumstances.
It has been hard, and it continues to be hard. My husband is a student who moonlights as a stock clerk, and I’m a recent grad just getting my foot in the door of the non-profit sector. I love my children, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think, with unfortunate frequency, how much easier life would be if birth control had not failed us.
I miss having extra money. I miss traveling to new and exciting locales. I miss spontaneous get-togethers with friends. And sleep. Oh, how I miss sleep. I can’t remember the last time I felt well-rested, but I am 100% certain it was before parenthood. I miss my husband. I miss being able to have a conversation with him without a three-year-old shrieking at us to fix his block tower or a baby crying because we’re no longer in her direct line of vision. I miss our intimacy. I miss all the things that made us, us. With two children, it’s divide and conquer. Even family-friendly outings like a picnic or a trip to the playground requires us to split up—one chases a little boy all over the jungle gym, while the other stops a crawling baby girl from eating rocks. Parenthood is so different from what I envisioned. It is a daily struggle. Sometimes I wonder if having children has diminished our family, rather than enhanced it. But then there are moments. Moments where my children are discovering life, and I realize that there is nowhere I’d rather be and nothing I’d rather be doing. Seeing the wonder on my son’s face as he watches trout swim upstream, I feel as though I am living my childhood all over again. When my daughter laughs, she lights up the room. Strangers gravitate towards her and want to be in her orbit because she is as beautiful as the sun. And I think, somehow, miraculously, I’m responsible for that. They’re here because of me. I can’t screw this up.
I look at my kids sometimes and they are so beautiful I can barely breathe. The snuggles and smiles and the uniqueness of their perspective makes the tedium and near total erasure of self that comes with motherhood almost cease to matter.
I didn’t choose to be a mother, would I give them back? If a genie came out of a lamp and offered to turn back time, would I say “yes”, and change our present? No. No way. Because even though the current stressors in our life make parenting difficult, and even though, now that I have kids, I’m often not sure I was cut out to be a mother, these are my children. And I wouldn’t want to know a world without them.
Keshia blogs at http://www.TheGreatfulMom.wordpress.com. Check it out to read about her journey to increased gratitude through minimalism.
Baby Fever Symptoms + Holidays = Instant Breakdown
By Jack’s a Girl, 7/31/12
I first heard the baby siren song (aka the “Tick Tock Jitterbug”) one morning around Christmastime. Before that, I had considered having a child in vague terms. I hadn’t ruled it out, but neither had I actively sought motherhood. This ambiguity had been one of the nails in the coffin of my marriage a few years before. Sure, I would’ve had a kid if my ex-husband had insisted, but he did not insist. Instead we broke up, partly so that he could find another woman who wanted to bear his children. Which he since has, and I say: bully for him.
But, anyway. I’m having my morning coffee, looking at the ornaments on my Christmas tree. One of the oldest, a little elf, had been my grandmother’s. I’ve got a few ornaments from grandma, and I count them among my most cherished possessions.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that when I died, there would be no one to hang these ornaments. No kids, not even any nieces and nephews. I have dozens of cousins, but we’d grown apart over the years. A sickening feeling came over me.
By the time my boyfriend woke up a half-hour later, I was a bawling mess. The boyfriend, in all honesty, was great. He was a bit baffled, but he held my hand, fetched tissues, and did his best to cheer me up without minimizing the anguish I was experiencing. Good lad.
Maybe there were a few external factors in my outburst? Hormones, for one, and the upcoming baby shower I was planning for a close friend, for another. And perhaps the two deaths in the family in the previous year, and the subsequent emptying of my grandmother’s homestead. Stir in a dash of holiday nostalgia and whammo – instant breakdown. Serves 1.
Still, these feelings were real, regardless of their source. Was this Baby Fever? Maybe I did want a kid! If so, I reasoned that I’d better get on it. I started watching what I ate and contemplated nine months without a martini or double espresso. I hinted to the boyfriend that maybe I really did Want A Kid, then watched for signs of fleeing (there were none; good lad). I bought a jumbo sized container of Lady Vitamins, with extra folic acid. I started researching the risks of being over 35 and pregnant.
At the same time, my friend was going through her pregnancy. In talking with her, the actual day-to-day realities of motherhood started to snap into focus. Holy crap. If I had a kid, everything about my lifestyle would change. Would my relationship with my boyfriend survive arguing about who emptied the diaper pail? As an extreme introvert, would I be able to deal with not having any “me” time for the foreseeable future? I have a great life right now. Why did I want to risk upending it completely?
As the Baby Fever became more of a Baby Head Cold, I realized a little more introspection was needed. I meditated, I wrote, I thought, I wrote some more. I had halting conversations with my boyfriend. What did I actually want, that having a baby would give me?
Turned out, the things I wanted were vague concepts. Security, companionship in old age. I wanted to know that the things I treasure will be treasured by someone else after I’m gone. And like everyone, I wanted my life to have meaning.
Except having a child guarantees none of these things. Children die before their parents, and if I had a nickel for every sad story I’ve heard about well-meaning parents managing to estrange their adult children – well, I’d have a lot of nickels. And did I want the meaning in my life to come solely from the label “mother”? Not really.
Most importantly, I started to come to terms with the whole “dust in the wind” thing. That little wooden elf with the tatty woolen beard will not last forever, regardless of who gets it after I die. I realized that the urge to pass it along was more about finding a way to avoid feeling sad about its inevitable destruction.
Whoa. Of all the sound reasons to have a child, “avoiding metaphysical grief” is probably not the top of the list.
I let that realization sink in for a few weeks, and stopped taking the lady vitamins, which gave me tummyaches anyway. Oddly, the prospect of facing this grief squarely, rather than trying to avoid it or deflect it, was comforting. I started picking a path towards meaning in my life, as opposed to just kind of skating along, (although, let’s be honest, skating is so much easier). Finding sites like this one, where we can talk about our roles in the world as individuals rather than moms, has also been a great help.
On another level, I realized I can still have the things I originally craved, without being a mom. I’m young enough to plan carefully for my financial future. I live in a close-knit, supportive community, with a wide ranging group of friends, and can take part in the lives of their children. And like I said, I’ve got a billion cousins, who are now starting to make little versions of themselves. Maybe it’s time I started sending Christmas cards, and maybe someday one of them will contain a tiny wooden elf with a tatty woolen beard.
Good with Kids…But Only Because I’m Not a Parent
by Angry Shrink, 7/31/12
A question I get asked almost daily is if I have children. I pretty much always make a joke out of it and explain that I am the mother of 8 furry children and quite frankly, that’s plenty of maternal experiences in my life. I’m not entirely sure why this matters to people but I must say, I’m feeling outnumbered and annoyed that the world doesn’t take the Childfree very seriously. Promising me I’m going to change my mind and desperately want a baby when I’m 40 does nothing to strengthen the argument. Because I’ve got time before I turn 40 and to be honest, I have a ton of things to do and none of them include a toddler running around my house waking me up at 4 a.m. because they have peed themselves. No thank you.
I realize that may sound harsh, but the mommies of the world – the ones we never heard from or really thought about because they were stay at home mothers and virtually invisible – they’re here now. They’re loud. The internet has brought these women out of the shadows and now they’re speaking their truth and sharing their lives and I think it’s awesome. One of the hardest things about being a stay at home parent is the isolation and the lack of adult contact, not to mention the lack of respect given to what is considered to be the hardest job in the world. These women deserve to be heard and I follow several of their blogs because they are incredibly smart, funny, and often heartwarming/heartbreaking. From what I can see, having children is like stitching your heart to your arm and doing everything you can to keep it from getting broken while simultaneously battling ignorant school systems, dealing with bullshit from other parents, bullying, video games, the early sexualization of children thanks to media nightmares such as Toddlers and Tiaras, and a constant fear that you’re not doing enough, you’re doing it wrong, and your child is going to be a serial killer or, worse, never move out of your house.
I appreciate the honesty mommy bloggers have brought to the world, to my world in particular, because I really don’t think I’m meant to be one of them. When I was a kid I hated baby dolls. One Christmas in particular I got one of those dolls that you can feed and then they peed all over the place. I hated that thing. She not only peed herself, but then she cried about it! So annoying! And gross! I much preferred my Pound Puppies and Popples (yes, I said Popples!) to keep me entertained and happy.
Here’s the thing though – I love kids! They are awesome and cute and funny and all the wonderful things parents talk about being worth the trade-off of their comfortable lives and sanity. Children and teens are, and always have been, the heart of my therapy practice. It is an amazing and humbling experience to help a child in pain. I love and appreciate this opportunity and am grateful for it daily. I will go to the wall for any kid who comes my way, to keep them safe, make them feel heard, and help them understand that they are innocent bystanders in the lives of adults and therefore have done nothing to deserve whatever situation they find themselves in. I have huge respect and empathy for parents because after I’ve spent an hour with their child, I am ready to get the hell outta there. Seriously, that’s long enough, I’m all set.
What really drives people nuts is they see me with their kids and see how good I am with them and how easy it is for me to hang out with them and get them to open up. Do you know why I can do that? Because I’m NOT a parent. That’s why. I don’t have to deal with the fears and insecurities and emotional devastation children can and do bring. I am safe from all that baggage and anything that kid has to say to me isn’t going to bring down my whole world. Being the messenger isn’t always a hoot but it sure beats the hell out of being the recipient of said message.
I have struggled with this whole baby thing for years and years. I keep waiting for some biological clock in my uterus to start beeping at me but so far, nothing. It’s crickets up in this womb, you guys. Sometimes I wish I wanted a baby. I wish I could hear that clock ticking or feel my ovaries doing the cha-cha. That would make me “normal” right? I wish I wanted to make a tiny human and be a part of that world. Babies R’ Us is a really cute store and I totally love shopping there for my friends with babies! OMG tiny shoes are always cute! But…they belong at somebody else’s house. And I do wonder about the intensity of love parents feel for their children, but honestly, I don’t think I’m made for that. I’m way too emotional and I have seen myself dealing with my dogs when something goes wrong. I’m a freaking mess. I seriously doubt I would handle human issues with any more grace or aplomb. And God help the kid or adult who messes with my kid. If people approach my cats or dogs the wrong way, they hear about it immediately. There is no biting of the tongue. I will straight up yell at a stranger (or non-stranger) if I don’t like the way they’re treating my furry babies.
So thanks to the parents out there who allow me know and enjoy their children. Who allow me to spoil them or swoon over their cuteness, and then go home to my peaceful, quiet home where the only one allowed to have a tantrum is me.
Staying True to Myself as a Childfree Woman
by Stacey Carmody, 7/31/12
An older cousin was expecting her first baby and told me that she would like to name it after my late grandfather: Samuel for a boy, or Samantha for a girl. She wanted to make sure I was okay with this and that she wasn’t “stealing” the name, in case I wanted to use it for my child someday. I told her, “It’s okay, you can have it – I’m not having children.”
I was 12 years old at the time and of course, I got laughed at. After all, how could I possibly know that? I never could relate to people who fawn all over babies or light up when they see one. I can recognize a baby as being cute, but do I want to talk “baby talk” to one, pick one up and play with one? No. No “lighting up” for me. It just wasn’t there. I was an only child but I had been exposed to enough babies at family gatherings, so it wasn’t like I’d never been around them and couldn’t possibly know.
I had no desire to have a baby. People would tell me I’d change my mind about it. I went through my teens, twenties, and thirties and I still felt the same. The mid to late thirties is when I was supposed to feel some kind of biological clock ticking, and I felt no such thing. In fact, I felt more solid about staying Childfree (or childless-by-choice, either term is OK with me).
My lack of desire for a child was often mistaken for stubbornness – meaning, some thought I was just being closed-minded to the idea of children, or that I was covering up some kind of deep-seeded fear of childbirth and parenthood. None of this was the case. I just plain did not want children.
Many people – family, friends, sometimes even coworkers – would try to “pitch” the idea of motherhood to me by saying how “rewarding” it is, how “it’s different when it’s your own”, and that “Yes, I know you’re not crazy for babies but they’re not babies forever!” These would all ring hollow on my ears. And if I have to be talked into it, then perhaps it’s not the right decision for me. If you want to be a parent, you should want it from the heart – not because somebody talked you into it or because you finally succumbed to the pressure.
Maybe I’m missing out on things like a unique maternal bond, baby’s first steps, and watching a child grow and learn and make me laugh. But the thing is, I don’t mind or terribly care that my life won’t include these things. I like it the way it is. I have a full life with my home, cats, career, friendships, hobbies and church involvement. I am not even sure how kids would fit into the equation.
Being openly childless-by-choice as a single person conjures up all sorts of reactions. Some would come at me with, “Oh, but you may change your mind if you meet the right person.” As if a Mr. Right would wave a magic wand and suddenly instill an urge in me to procreate. I would tell them that the “right person” would be compatible with living happily childless. I lost a few potential mates because they wanted children. Sometimes loneliness would get the best of me and I’d think, “Wouldn’t it be easier to find someone to love if I said I wanted kids?” Maybe I should just do it. What if I spend the rest of my life never meeting The One? But then I’d come to my senses. It’s better to be true to yourself and be on your own than forcing yourself to fit into a situation that will end up wrong for you, even though it may be attractive on the surface.
For a few fleeting moments in my thirties and into my forties, I would think, “What if they’re right, and I do change my mind, and one day I wake up and feel some kind of unexplainable baby-making drive in me?” What would I do? I knew that if I did indeed want children, I’d want to be married first. I know that sounds “traditional”, but this is how I feel. I’m 43 years old now and marriage still hasn’t happened for me yet. I know there’s options a single person who wants parenthood can pursue, but let’s face it, they are very few. Adoption is not easy and is a highly emotional and expensive process. There’s the sperm bank option, but frankly, the idea of carrying a total stranger’s baby just never sat well with me. I could sleep with a random man and get pregnant, but I feel that this is wrong for several reasons.
Luckily, I’ve had no such change of heart and I’m still happily childless. Before I know it, Mother Nature will take its course and bring a close to my childbearing years. God willing, I will live into my fifties, sixties, seventies and well beyond- as a childfree woman with no regrets, but with plenty of gratification in knowing I stayed true to myself.
I’m Still Me, Even Though I’m a Mom Now
By Brooke, 7/31/12
I never thought about having kids or getting married as goals of mine, or even whether I would do them. I had other goals in mind. I joined AmeriCorps after Purdue and did Teach For America in Houston, Texas.
Somehow I ended up getting engaged to a man back in my hometown while I was over 1,500 miles away. It felt right. We married, and a couple of years later found out we were expecting. My husband and I were not interested in hormonal contraception for various reasons, ethical and practical – a family member with a stroke at age 23 from birth control, not sure if tricking your body to think it’s already pregnant is good for it, and some other issues.
I never dreamed of babies or having some little creature calling me Mommy. Some people say they can’t wait to have kids. I really wasn’t sure it was in the cards for me. Now that I have two little boys that call me Mommy, I honestly am not sure what I would do with a lot of my time. Well, kind of. I know I would go on more runs and spend more time visiting friends and going on vacations, but I still find time for the most important things and people in my life. I love my children and my husband more than I ever knew I could. I also respect my mother so much more for all she did for me.
But we make it work. We have cookouts at our house (like we did before kids) and put the kids to bed like normal so we can still have our adult time. I call friends who I can’t visit easily and we plan vacations to spend with each other (though most of them are still child free). I still read books (and blogs) and go on date nights regularly with my husband. And by “regularly”, I mean our goal is still once a week. This has been the suggestion of so many of my friends who have kids that are a little older – to keep that excitement of just the two of you. That’s so important, whether you have kids or not.
However, I’m also a different kind of mom. I’m a teacher, so I’m blessed to have a professional life ten months out of the year, and the summers off to do things with my kids that my energy levels do not necessarily allow for during the school year.
I guess part of why I’m emailing you is that I’ve followed your blog some, and whether or not to have a child is a HUGE decision and a great responsibility. Your life changes forever once you have a kid, but you are still you. You just become a different version of yourself. One that sometimes wants to tell yourself to stop talking about kids and start having a more intellectual conversation, like I did at our Bunco last month. Kid talk halted and we talked about the legislation in Texas requiring sonograms for those wanting abortions. All of the different views there make the discussion that much more interesting.
But maybe kids aren’t for you – they aren’t for everyone. That’s a fact of life. And it takes all of us to make the world go ’round. I just thought I would share my two cents.
By Miss Blake, 7/31/12
My best friend got pregnant, unexpectedly, and I was mad. Seriously, just the week before we were drinking wine at “book club” and talking about how awesome life is, and she went and turned that perception upside down. Sure, we’ve grown up a little in that we have mortgages and spouses, but those are just much more official versions of apartment leases and boyfriends. Babies are a completely different and more terrifying level of adulthood, and I am having a hard time believing that my friends and I are at a point in life where this is reality.
Then she went and made it real.
Someone had to be the first to do it, and maybe if it wasn’t my best friend dipping my toes into the cold hard truth of the situation, it wouldn’t be so shocking. She told me over gchat on a random Thursday morning, so I was at work at the job I’d been at less than a month, and I felt like the floor was giving out under me.
I had the same amount of self control on a keyboard as I do in real-life emotionally charged situations, which is to say very little. My reaction was “holy shit.” No capitalization, no punctuation. Just holy shit. Then my instincts kicked in and my first thought was to haul ass, to get away from the situation. It was a pretty productive afternoon at work that day.
It’s hard to find people who empathize because let’s face it – most people want children. I have a few friends who don’t want them either, but once we’ve established that common ground, how much more can you talk about something you don’t want? I took my confused and tumultuous emotions to places where I could watch people living out this common, yet new to me situation without having to interact with them or face judgment- sitcom television. I watched Sex in the City, How I Met Your Mother, and Friends. I sought out articles and personal experiences by searching Google for “when friends get pregnant” and “babies coming between friends,” which actually led me here to this article on Maybe Baby, Maybe Not, and this great one from the Australian Marie Claire.
The consensus seems to be of the “let them fly and if they love you they’ll come back… in three or four years” variety and to expand your circle of friends in the meantime. It’s hard to imagine losing a good chunk of our lives not speaking or spending time together like we used to because she’s elbow-deep in soupy doody. It still won’t be the same, and it hasn’t even been the same since she’s told me. We haven’t gotten together since that fateful “book club” meeting where we clinked wine glasses for what will be a long eight more months (for her- ha!), and I know that the chasm between us will only widen even more.
I realize that writing an entire monologue about my unpleasant feelings towards a friend’s pregnancy screams of jealousy, though it is quite the contrary. Children are something I never envisioned in my future, and I sought out a husband who felt the same. Actually, my husband is leaving our legacy -or not- to the whims of my uterus. The only time that there was ever a wavering doubt was earlier this year as I struggled with my mom and aunt to care for and let go of my grandfather who was diagnosed and taken away from us by leukemia, dizzingly fast. Thoughts became, “Who will care for me when I get to be 80 years old?” My husband and I have no siblings, and our closest relatives will eventually be second cousins- children of our first cousins, most of whom we aren’t even close to anyway.
But then again, having children doesn’t guarantee that there’ll be someone by your bedside as you lay there waiting for the darkness of death. They could turn out horribly, or not live as long as you do, end up incarcerated for life without parole, or any number of horrific possibilities we won’t list any more of. And now my best friend is tasked with working every day of her life to try and ensure that she didn’t create a human being that won’t end up as a horrific possibility. I was just thinking maybe I am jealous or just mad that she knows the answer as to whether or not she wants kids. But re-reading this last paragraph, the madness is melting away as I realize that she is going to have to spend every single day thinking about another human being, while I can spend every single one of mine -up until the very end- thinking about me, which sounds real.
Miss Blake is a primarily a vegetarian food blogger who occasionally goes off on tangents about how becoming an adult is a strange experience. She will unashamedly pull out a Sharpie to correct grammatical errors on public signage. She writes about all of that and more on her blog, and would like you to follow her on Twitter, but not in real life.
Childlessness – From Sadness to Health
By Samantha, 7/31/12
Many times in my life I questioned my decision not to have kids. How could I not, after hearing countless times from complete strangers, clients and close friends things like, “you will regret it”, “what about your poor parents”, you are not a real woman”, “who is going to look after you when you’re old”, and my personal favorite, “your husband’s vasectomy is reversible”.
To shed a little light on my personal story, my mother moved out by the time I was 6 years old. My brother and I were raised by my dad. He married my stepmom when I was 12 and my grandmother who lived down the street (whom I adored) passed away. I then moved in with my mother and stepfather, leaving my cat, dad and brother behind. I lived with alcoholics that did and sold drugs. When I was 16, my mother and stepfather both had affairs and divorced. I started cutting at age 12. I was caught and got yelled at, so I started breaking bones to make it look accidental. This was an extreme low in my life. I ended up quitting school at 16 and believed I would never amount to anything. For years, I had to deal with my mother telling me she was going to kill herself. I also had other people tell me that my mother should have not had children.
By the time I was 23, I married a man that was an alcoholic. I didn’t seem to notice at first. There were times I thought I wanted children, but I couldn’t imagine us staying together. We were broke and fought all the time for years while I once again I hid my pain from others. I couldn’t imagine a child having to grow up in a family like that. I still remember my parents fighting when I was child. During this period, I found out that my mother was an escort and my favorite uncle died of AIDS. Can you imagine explaining to your baby, “This is Grandma, she is a hooker”?
I finally had the strength to leave my husband and became healthy. I kept telling myself that everything was going to work out. Thankfully, it did.
One of my old friends came back into my life and we fell in love and got married. For a while, I did think about having children but I just didn’t think it would be healthy for me. I’d had far too much stress when I was younger. I needed to focus on getting my education and a career, and I didn’t feel it would be fair to bring a child into this world without that.
I don’t regret my decision; I just wish people would consider that some people may not have children for reasons such as mine. I shouldn’t have to tell them my life story to explain that – it’s none of their business and they probably still wouldn’t “get it”.
My mother is still depressed and I have to help her financially as she hasn’t worked in 20 years. Having children sure didn’t help her much, since she still tells me she wants to die.
Do I regret not having kids? Hell no, it’s my time to live! If that makes me selfish, then that’s okay! I think I’m a very strong woman to have overcome all of this in my young life. I turn 40 in a couple of weeks and life is amazing!!! I don’t regret a single thing.
My advice to others is that you know yourself best. Take the time to think about the biggest decision you will ever make. What others say may sting sometimes, but find the strength to follow your dreams.
Childfree- A Haiku (& Some Other Stuff)
By Nadine, 7/31/12
Kids are not for me,
I don’t desire pregnancy
I am Childfree
But seriously, I believe I was born without maternal instincts. Towards children I feel deeply uncomfortable, even a little scared. Part of me sees them as fragile beings that can be hurt, maimed or killed by any form of mishandling, another part of me feels they are more than I can cope with; the sleepless nights, constant need for care and attention, the social isolation that can come with the first years of life because a child needs you 24/7. There are a lot of difficulties and triumphs in parenthood, and for some people the good outweighs the bad, but for me it is vice versa.
When people ask why I have made the choice to be Childfree, I will often say I just don’t want kids. Growing up in a society when from a young age you’re taught that everyone grows up, finds the person of their dreams, has children and lives happily ever after, I often find myself giving other reasons towards being Childfree. These other reasons are very valid, but ultimately my choice really boils down to not wanting to have children.
A difficult aspect of this is trying to get people to understand that “this is not just a phase” and “I’m really not trying to be selfish.” As I get closer to turning 30, people around me are beginning to take my choice seriously. Some will still make frustrating and sometimes offensive comments, but as I’ve grown and there have been life changes, the majority accept my decision.
Some people hypothesize that being Childfree is a result of something happening in your childhood or they even question whether our parents were “good.” Some of us have negative experiences that have cemented our decision, but not necessarily caused us to become disenchanted with the idea of parenthood.
Choosing a Childfree life isn’t taken lightly, and while I knew I did not want children, I also considered the other side. I looked into pregnancy, labor, the early years and children reaching adulthood. I listened to the parents who thought me too naive in my choice, as well as the community around me. With my friends and family heavily involved with children (either having children, pregnant or trying to get pregnant) I have not changed my mind. There are no pangs to have a child of my own, nor are there differences in my feelings towards children. Ultimately, I am happy with the life I have.
An Unexpected Peek Into Parenthood – Not for Me, Thanks
By Renee, 7/31/12
When I was a child I played with Barbies, but never dolls. I think I had maybe one doll that never got played with, because what were you supposed to do with them? I never wanted to be its mother; even as a child, the thought gave me a vague sense of unease that bordered on disgust. As I grew older my sense of unease solidified into something more, where I would have dreams that I was pregnant and the pervading sense of horror and disgust would stay with me long after I had woken in the morning. I never dreamed of becoming a mother, and the thought of having enough children that would force me to drive a family van and attend soccer games was, in my childish mind, my worst possible life outcome. This was my worldview until about college when my friends began getting married and having children. The thought of pregnancy still repulsed me, but I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all to have maybe just one? That couldn’t be so bad, right?
Then I met someone who had children, and at the beginning of our relationship (before I met his kids), I thought, this won’t be so bad. We’ll have fun and do fun things and it’ll be great. I thought all of this in an abstract, un-concrete sort of way. After having various conversations with him, I also thought it would be possible to probably eventually have a child (just one!), and it wouldn’t be so bad. And then I met his children.
I suppose I should thank God that I met his children before ever actually deciding to have any, because having a child would have been the worst mistake of my life. His children are 11 and 6 and they were my worst nightmare come to life. I was completely unprepared for their loud screaming voices in my two bedroom, 1000 sq. ft. apartment. The constant need to be entertained at every moment by my boyfriend, the complete helplessness that they demonstrated in almost every aspect that made me wonder if I ever acted like that. The nonstop crying over little nothings by the 11 year old girl over not wanting to eat her broccoli, taking 30 minutes to brush her hair while we are standing at the door waiting to leave and go to the zoo. The youngest at 6 who constantly pees in his bed, who has behavior issues at school, who still cannot tie his shoes at the age of 6.
All of this revealed that I simply do not understand the whole process. I cannot grasp why some people want to be parents badly enough to put up with the inconvenience, and the tantrums and the mess. I really feel that I lack some necessary parental hormone that makes other people look at these things and laugh and say, oh that’s kids being kids. It has gotten easier with them though, and I think to an extent it was just a huge shock, having never really interacted with children before. No babysitting jobs for me as a child! His children only visit only once or twice a week and I can deal with that. But to have my own child all day, every day, with no break, with no time to myself, with another person always being there, always grasping and needing and depending on me, even as I type this I am filled with a type of horror and revulsion so strong that I cannot begin to explain where it comes from.
I am not one of those people who finds all babies cute, or laughs at sticky toddler fingers. In fact, I would prefer not to hold your child or really interact with them. I am 29 years old, and I am perfectly content with my decision. And, after talking with people, I think there are parents who feel a certain sense of bewilderment as to how they got where they are now. I think that more people would not have children if they did not feel that that is just how life is supposed to go. It’s easier for me to make the decision I’ve made because of the strong feelings I have, but I can imagine that people sometimes have children because that’s what society or their family and friends tell them they are supposed to do without really thinking it through first.
I have this one life, and I will live it without my own children, and that decision only fills me with relief, not regret.
On Choosing to Have Children (approved)
By Kelsey, 7/31/12
I was born in 1957; my early training took place during the 60’s and early 70’s. During this period of time, at least in my little corner of the world, all the mothers I knew stayed home and raised the children. We wouldn’t have known what to do if mom wasn’t there when we got home from school. That was just the norm for us and all of the families we knew. I grew up in the mid-west, perhaps it wasn’t the same everywhere but when you are young, your world is very small.
What I’m trying to say is that I really never thought about not having children as I was growing up. I just expected that I would. It wasn’t something that I pondered long and hard over. I think it was not only because of the world in which I was raised, but also because I had such a wonderful, loving mother.
The turning point in my life, the time when I actually did start to consider there were choices about what a woman did with her life, was when I graduated high school in 1975. My dad never talked to me about college like he did my brother, but he did insist that I take four years of Home Economics. In 1975 when I left school, I hadn’t been aware of how things had changed. Women were working, preparing for college, and getting liberated! I, frankly, was lost.
This is when I was forced to think about what I wanted in regards to marriage, a job, and eventually, children. I had to re-think almost everything that I previously thought I had decided. When I did find the one I wanted to share my life with, I realized my feelings hadn’t changed about wanting children. In fact, as I got into my late 20’s I guess you could say my biological clock started ticking and I started to panic about being too old! After all, mom had all three of us by the time she was 21!
I was expected to have children, and then I decided to have children. I believe it was in part because I had such a loving mom and grandmother. I loved the relationship we had and wanted to have that with my own children. I hear people say they will have children when they have enough money, or they work this or that out in their lives. I know you should make some plans but nothing really prepares you until you actually have children. Everything you thought you knew flies right out the window when you have them.
The day my daughter was born was a type of re-birth in my life. My feelings, thoughts, and desires all were rearranged. Some of the things I thought were important became so unimportant. Priorities shifted and she became the driving factor of the things I did and choices I made. I loved sharing my life with her; she made me feel like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do and my goal was to make her life perfect. I loved being with her and giving her the best of me, my time, and my attention. It was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. And it’s true to this day, it has never changed. After she was born I wanted several more. I didn’t get several, but I did get a son several years later and it happened all over again. What a blessing they are to me. I love being a mom.
My opinion as to whether or not someone should have children would be to check your heart. How willing are you to have your lives changed completely and share all that you have with someone else? Do you have a loving relationship with your spouse, living as a couple or just two individuals who are cohabitating? This is evidence if you are a person that can share and open their heart to another. There is nothing worse for me than to meet people that should have never had children, with no love, responsibility or capacity to give the children what they need. If there isn’t enough love before the child is born, there is no reason to believe that some well of lovingness will spring up after. If anything, it will decrease and the child will suffer.
Kelsey is the editor in chief for findananny. She loves to write articles and ideas that parents and nannies would be interested in hearing. She helps society by giving information about nannies through find a nanny. She is a professional writer and loves writing on anything.
My Dog is Smarter than Your Honor Roll Student
By Anonymous, 7/31/12
My husband and I have been married for two years and live in North Carolina, where everyone does the Southern Baptist thing and reproduces after 2.5 years of marriage. We have a six year old Cockapoo that we treat like a human child with no apologies. Our older siblings have been busy over the past few years and popped out seven children collectively. Ranging in age from 6 weeks to 17 years, they are loud, rambunctious, messy and expensive. We love them dearly and send them home after they occasionally visit.
Growing up in the South, I always assumed I would have 2-3 kids by the age of 28 and be a stay at home Mom. That’s just what people around here do. When I got engaged and really started talking about children with my fiance, we made a list one night of the pros and cons of having them – being completely honest in the process. When we were done, the cons list outweighed the pros list. We realized that our primary reason for having them was because of expectation. We both agreed that this was a horrible reason to have kids.
Truth is, we really like each other. We love spending time together. We love our freedom, money, bodies, clean house, full night’s sleep, ability to travel and dog. We aren’t willing to sacrifice the next 20 years of our lives and marriage to raise a human. At this point, children don’t seem like a blessing to us – they seem like a burden. We have so many dreams for the future that don’t involve kids. If we had children, all of those dreams would be shattered.
As we approach our 30s (I’m getting there a little faster than he is), we’ve been told “there’s still time”. Thank goodness, right!? We’re of the mindset that if it happens, fine. If it doesn’t, great! We have some temporary measures in place that will guarantee us no children for the next five years. Perhaps we’ll reevaluate our lives at that time. Until then, we’ll plan our next vacation and sleep in on Christmas morning.
By Richard, 7/31/12
Teaching, I feel, is one of the greatest responsibilities of a society. Among other things, it is the method by which we pass on values, empower people, and allow each generation to move forward from the previous one (depending on what one means by “forward”). Even greater than teaching, though, is the responsibility for another life. Taking on such responsibility is not something that should be done lightly or without thought, and thus I have put a lot of thought into it over the last 15 years or so. My decision has been made based upon a great deal of consideration.
At first, the thought didn’t really occur to me. Being a bit different from other children was enough to ensure I was ostracized by them. What that difference was, I’m not sure. Perhaps too introspective? So I did not grow up thinking that children were fantastic beings that were a joy to have in one’s life. I didn’t date anyone until I got to college, so it really wasn’t an issue.
My first long term relationship began when I was 20. One of the subjects that my girlfriend and I talked a good deal about was how children should be raised and what we would do with our kids, should we have them. Neither of us were remotely ready for that in our lives and we broke up before we graduated (no talk of kids till after that, we had agreed). My next girlfriend was quite fun, but also obsessed with keeping up appearances to a psychotic degree. That relationship lasted far longer than it should have, but it didn’t take me more than a couple of weeks to know I didn’t want to have kids with her.
The next girlfriend I had was from a family with a rare form of Alzheimer’s. As much as she loves kids (and now has one), the thought was a very scary one for her as it meant she had a good chance of passing on something which is quite a stress to her family. That relationship didn’t last long, but long enough that there was a new consideration regarding having children.
My next relationship forced me to think about having kids, because my girlfriend really wanted them. This was ten years ago. I knew relatively quickly that I didn’t want to have kids with her and over the next couple of years with her I thought very critically about the issue. One of the first issues that came out of this was the realization that I had never met someone who I wanted to have kids with. And that is a huge issue to me.
Some of the best parents I know are single, but I don’t know of any that started out choosing to be. For that matter, there still aren’t methods for a human to reproduce without a man and a woman. So if I was going to have my own children, I was going to need to find a mother. While I have met wonderful mothers and people who I believe will make wonderful mothers, I have never met someone who I really would like to be a mother with me. For that matter, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who I would like to be in a relationship for 18 years, let alone having kids with her. If I had met someone earlier in my life who I had felt that way about, my life would have almost certainly been significantly different.
**So no biological children of my own, but what if, however, I decided to adopt? I am disappointed that people who want children in our society choose to have their own before adopting those who are already here and desperate to have parents. No, one does not have a personal responsibility to raise other people’s children, but we do not live as isolated individuals. We live in a complex network of social systems that we depend on for survival, and I believe that we have a responsibility to that society in return. And, as I stated, being a parent is the greatest responsibility of all. So how do you explain to the parentless children of the world that you wanted kids but you didn’t want THEM? That’s not a conversation that I ever would want to have.**
People tell me I would make a great parent (probably because of how thoroughly I’ve thought about it), so why not adopt someone? One reason is that I’ve honestly never had the resources-financially or psychologically. I can’t imagine taking on the responsibility for something I cannot afford. And children are VERY expensive. Even with a double-earning household it’s hard to afford kids. It’s not a matter of me not wanting to spend money on myself, though I do enjoy that.
But if I was a single parent, I would need to pay someone to watch them (my gender neutral/transgendered friends prefer this way of not specifying gender) so that I could work and there is no way I could afford that, rent, food, medicine, clothes, etc., and I have a well paying job! And there is no guarantee that I won’t lose that job. How could I fiscally adopt a child?
I’m not just lacking in financial resources, however, I also suffer from clinical depression. This doesn’t mean I’m never happy, but I’m usually not. I don’t operate with a high level of energy or happiness. It’s been a challenge with all of my relationships-from employers to family. I have lost some of my best friends because they “didn’t feel like they could cheer me up”. I never asked that of them, but they decided that spending time with me wasn’t a positive experience for them. I respect their decision, but it is very hurtful. I’m on medication for it, but it doesn’t just go away. It’s a part of me that’s going to be with me in this lifetime and sometimes it is genuinely crippling.
There have even been times when I’ve contemplated suicide. Not for long because I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting the people who I love and who love me, but how in the name of anything or anyone holy could I possibly imagine having a child when contemplating killing myself? That is an utterly horrifying thought to me. As selfish and cruel as killing myself would be to my friends and family, I can barely fathom doing that to a son or daughter. Just considering the idea leaves me feeling sick. For psychological reasons alone, I would never consider having a child.
Continuing in the vein of psychological issues, I freely admit that children make me feel uncomfortable. Not all, mind you, but most. I’m very sensitive to physical touch and having a “comfort bubble” is extremely important to me. All adults I have met, with the exclusion of sociopaths, respect that space. I avoid activities and places where I’m going to be continually close to strangers. Don’t get me wrong-I am a very physically affectionate person with those I trust, but when I first meet people I need that space respected. And most children I have encountered do not respect that space. It is thus incredibly stressful to be around children and around their parents. It isn’t easy to explain that I don’t want their children near me.
This may border on “spirituality” for some, but I regard it as just being overly sensitive to biochemical/physiological signals: I react strongly to the “energy” of a person. Being around people who project that energy is draining for me. Most people limit that projection to one degree or another, and cultures where this is directed inward are blissful. Children, I have found, have few, if any filters, and thus are a constant drain.
From a more philosophical perspective, there are conversations that I really don’t want to have with people new to this world. I don’t want to have to explain to them what civilization has wrought and that they now have a choice to either be an additional burden to this world or to help fix it. I also don’t want to explain morality to them. I have very specific views on ethics, and I don’t want to tell them what right and wrong are without letting them think critically about it. At the same time, I do want to encourage them to live a virtuous life from an early age.
I would want to do what I believed was best for my children, and I’ve observed that there are two essential factors that determine whether or not people are high functioning adults: feeling unconditional love and understanding the word “no”. While I’m great at unconditional love, I have a good deal of trouble saying no. If there were two of us, the other could be great with establishing boundaries… but I wouldn’t want to create that kind of power dynamic. I’m also extremely overprotective. It would be extremely difficult for me to give my children the freedom to make their own decisions when I knew that they were choosing something that would hurt them. I can’t help but believe I would be a control freak, and that wouldn’t be healthy for anyone.
Finally, I quite honestly like my lifestyle. It is meaningful, healthy, and gladdens me to not be responsible for the lives of others. I don’t have pets and don’t want them. I love and adore animals (I’m allergic to cats and still can’t help but pet them when they come near), but I need to be able to get out of the house sometimes-sometimes for days without planning for how animals/people are going to be cared for. I don’t want to have to stay in dog/kid friendly hotels wherever I go. I don’t want to find baby sitters every time I want to go out dancing (3-4 times a week). I can’t afford not sleeping. I like living by myself (even when I have a girlfriend).
**I’m very thankful that there are so many wonderful, loving, supportive parents out there; I have the utmost respect for them. I make an effort to tolerate, accept, and even like my friends’ children, but I will never choose to have my own.**
Waiting Periods Shouldn’t Just be for Handguns
By Erika, 7/31/12
I had never really liked children, but like many other girls/young women, I had chosen names for my future children and had assumed that someday I would have at least one child. I had worked in hospice care and convinced myself that it would be terrible to grow old alone – as I had seen some people do. I even told a couple of child free friends that I thought it would be terrible for them to grow old alone (I am so embarrassed and ashamed now that I did that!). I was not so much interested in having children, as I was resigned to the fact that it was supposed to happen.
My husband did not want children, but somehow I had convinced him (and myself) that the reluctance in the past was just because we both had not been with the right partners, but now that we were together, it was right to have a child. The majority of our friends were producing children left and right. It seemed like every woman I knew was pregnant or had recently given birth. Also, unfortunately, I had decided that I did not like my career path, felt hopeless about finding a job that I would like, and wanted to use motherhood as an alternative to working. I believed that people would judge me if I was unemployed, but that I could get away with it if I was a mother. I was very concerned about how people would see me, and my own feelings of identity and self-worth. The whole “having a child for the rest of my life” part didn’t seem to factor in all that much. I don’t know what planet I was on. We decided to start trying to conceive.
Fortunately, I did not get pregnant. We tried for about a year before seeing a urologist to test my husband’s fertility, as I had very regular periods, signs of ovulation, positive ovulation tests and no reason to believe that I had any issues. Interestingly, the urologist was confused as to why we had not been referred by a gynecologist – because apparently everyone assumes that the woman would be evaluated thoroughly before bothering to check to see if the man had issues… even though half of all cases of infertility are due to problems with the man’s fertility. As it turned out, it was a problem with his sperm being immobile due to a medication he was taking for his ulcerative colitis. The doctor said that he could switch to a different version of the medication that didn’t have those side effects, but that it takes a few months for them to abate and another three months for spermatogenesis to occur (sperm take three months to develop, so new, mobile sperm would have to be produced and then develop to maturity).
Thank goodness for that six month window when we felt pretty sure that we knew we could conceive (the doctor had even said that if we didn’t want to wait, we could have artificial insemination, which would eliminate the need for the sperm to have motility). It gave us time to clear our heads and realize that we were not being deprived of the option to ever have children, but that we could re-think the whole idea for some time while we waited for the sperm issue to be resolved. It occurred to me that my friends with kids were miserable. I had a friend who experienced pretty severe postpartum depression and anxiety. I realized that I would probably be a prime candidate for that, as I am already pretty anxious and prone to depression. It also occurred to us that just because you have children, that doesn’t mean that they will be there for you when you grow old. My husband’s sister is a drug addict who thinks of no one but herself – what if our kid(s) turned out like her? I also began to notice the developmentally disabled, Autistic, mentally disturbed children and adults in society more – what if our kid was like them? What if we had a kid that would never grow up or that was violent? I could not care for a child like that for the rest of my life, and yet, I would not want to institutionalize the child for fear of abuse or neglect. I would have no choice but to euthanize the child and then kill myself – and that is an unacceptable risk to take. I really didn’t want kids that much…
Finally, and most importantly, it occurred to me that I did not need to have children just because I didn’t want to work. I could volunteer, take on personal projects and other responsibilities in my extended family and community as a way to find my identity and self-worth. We are in a better financial position without children than we would be with them, even if I am not working. Also, we can save for retirement so that we can pay people to help us in our elder years. We can also kill ourselves if things get too terrible. It’s nice to know that we would have that choice – something that we could never do if we had children because it would probably be too hurtful for them.
Realizing all of the freedoms and choices that we have without children has convinced us both that we will not ever have children. Now that we are both seeing the world through different eyes – through child free by choice eyes – we are both so relieved and content. Instead of seeing a screaming child at a restaurant and thinking “I am not looking forward to that stage…” we can think “I am so relieved that we don’t ever have to deal with that! Let’s move to different table…” We can travel and think about our future plans and living life for ourselves and we don’t have to try to factor in planning for school districts and college funds and taking care of someone else for the majority of our active adult lives. Freedom!
There was a brief period of sadness for me when I realized that I would never have “being a mother” in common with most of my friends, and when I realized that I would never be able to name a child of my own or have the chance to see a child who looked like me or like my husband. We are fortunate in that neither my parents nor his have tried to make us feel guilty or have pushed us to have children, but I am aware that my parents are probably a little sad that they will not have grandchildren, even if they would not say that to us. I realized that I would not have a child to pass my genealogical work on to and that, because I am an only child, I would likely die without any family at all, unless my husband outlived me. With the help of the Childfree by Choice group I found online, I grieved those losses and moved on. I am very fortunate to have been able to make this choice – and I never thought that I would be so thankful for my husband’s medical condition. It gave us the space and time to really think things through. I think that so many people have children simply because it is what people think they are supposed to do, and they convince themselves that they are enjoying themselves and that it will get better and that it was all worth it. We chose to recognize that our lives are good now and that having children would not make things better and the freedom and independence that we would have to sacrifice in order to have children would not be worth it for us.
A Closer Examination of the “Pros” List for Having Kids (approved)
By Madea Rogers, 7/31/12
I was what would be called a “postponer” in the childfree world. I always assumed that I would have children someday and that I’d be a great mom, but there were things I wanted to accomplish first, like getting settled in my career and traveling. So my husband and I decided that we would start trying to have a kid when I was 30. The age of 30 seemed to far away and so old at the time. Meanwhile, I thought of baby names and daydreamed about how idyllic it would be to have children. Then the dreaded year came and I was at a point where we were supposed to start having kids. But there were still things I wanted to do! And 30 wasn’t so old after all! We decided to go to Europe for three weeks to get the travel “out of my system” so I would feel better about settling down. The problem was, going to Europe just made it worse. I realized that my life was great – why ruin it?
I decided to make a list of pros and cons. I looked at my list of “pros” for having a child and realized that they were all complete fantasy or could be accomplished in ways that didn’t involve having kids. Since many of you are “fence-sitters”, I thought I would share with you some of the reasons people give for having kids and then the facts I found about those reasons. In the end, I found no rational reason for having children. There are those that would agree with me on this but still argue that you should have children because it is an indescribable experience. Unfortunately, there is no way to measure or test something “indescribable” so I cannot comment on it.
The excitement of pregnancy and preparing for the baby
Upon asking myself, “why do I want children?” this was sadly one of the first reasons that popped into mind. Although shallow and self serving, I think that this is a major contribution to the desire to have children. Our society loves pregnant women. Complete and total strangers ask you about your due-date and touch your pregnant belly. Women gather around you and rejoice in the excitement. Pregnant women become the center of attention in their families and may for the first time get to experience approval from parents and in-laws. Decorating a nursery, picking out cute little baby clothes, imagining what your baby will look like and act like, and choosing a name for your child is a delight that no one can deny. But this is also very short sighted. Pregnancy only lasts a few months and the excitement stops shortly after the baby is born.
One of the most annoying aspects of having a baby is that suddenly everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion of how you should be raising your baby. Be it your mother, your in-laws, or complete strangers off the street, everyone has a critical remark to make. New mothers often complain to me about how everyone seems to think they can raise your child better than you, even if they’ve never raised children of their own. And all of those friends and family members that shared in the excitement of your pregnancy are suddenly too busy or unwilling to help you care for the baby. Although society loves pregnant women, they do not love mothers with babies. People get annoyed by strollers taking up the sidewalk, the sound of babies crying, or having to make accommodations like adding changing tables in public restrooms. Mothers have often described to me the shock of suddenly finding themselves so alone.
Of course, there are much easier ways of feeling excitement other than by becoming pregnant, and most reproduction advocates would agree that this is not a right reason for having a child. If you enjoy picking out baby clothes, buy them for a friend’s baby or donate them to needy children. Help a friend decorate a nursery or redecorate your own bedroom. Again, you can always donate cute baby blankets and accessories to children that could really use them. Adopt an animal from the local animal shelter and name it that “perfect baby name” you had thought up. Unlike a child, I can guarantee you your puppy will love its new name and won’t get made fun of by the other puppies at school. With the rates of euthanasia at shelters as high as they are, you can be sure that you didn’t just adopt this animal, you saved its life as well. Isn’t that something to feel good about?
Someone to take care of you when you are old
This is another reason that is selfish, but sadly is also one of the first reasons that come to mind. I would argue that in addition to being completely selfish, it is also inaccurate. According to a report “Caregiving in the U.S. 2009” issued by the National Alliance for Caregiving, in collaboration with AARP and with funding from the MetLife Foundation, 19% of American adults are providing unpaid care to a person aged over fifty (http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-01-2010/ginzler_impact_of_caregiving.html). 75% of those Americans that provide care, only provide 20 hours of care a week. If the amount of time to caring for an aging parent exceeds that 20 hours, most children elect to have their parent admitted to a care facility. It’s hardly the rosey picture of growing old and dying within your child’s home. In the past, it was common for families to grow together and die together on the family farm, cared for by their children. Although in 1860, the vast majority of people never reached the age of 65 either (U.S. Bureau of the Census. Current Population Reports. Special Studies, 23–190, 65+ in the United States (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996), 2:1.). In some parts of the world this is still the case, but in the United States, children are increasingly more likely to move out of the home and to live further away. According to the 2009 Census Bureau, only about 4% of elderly parents are living with their children. Because people are increasingly having children older in life, they are more likely to be caring for young children and to be working full time jobs. Adult children today are just too busy to care for their parents.
There are more children in their twenties and thirties living in a parent’s home than in the past twenty years. Currently, the average age that children move out is thirty. Children are also increasingly more likely to move back home after completing college. The cost of raising children is also more expensive than ever. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child from birth to age eighteen has increased 40% within the past ten years. It’s unclear what the costs are of having a child living with you until the age of thirty, but typically adult children that live with their parents don’t contribute to the mortgage or utility bills. In the United States they are called “boomerangs”, in the UK they are called “KIPPERS” (“kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings”). Parents are increasingly caring for their adult children, while adult children are decreasingly returning the favor when their parents are elderly.
If only 19% of adult children are providing care to elderly parents, it is clear that expecting your children to provide care is unrealistic. The person most likely to take care of you when you are old is your spouse. In fact, the majority of people living in nursing homes are unmarried. If you are looking for someone to take care of you when you are old, your best bet is to be married rather than to have children. This is not good news for parents, considering that the current divorce rate in America is about 50%. It would seem that if you are concerned about your quality of life in old age, it is better to invest your time and money in preserving a happy marriage.
Someone to visit you in the nursing home
According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, slightly over 5 percent of the 65+ population occupy nursing homes, congregate care, assisted living, and board-and-care homes, and about 4.2 percent are being cared for by their children at any given time. On average, life-expectancy is approximately six months upon entrance into the nursing home. About 14 percent of all people over age 65 have two to three chronic conditions that erode their ability to live independently. (http://www.nursinghomediaries.com/howmany.php)
Married individuals are the least likely to be admitted to a nursing home. If we combine the 5% of people that end up in nursing homes or other care facilities with the 4.2% that move in with their adult children, we can say that roughly 90% of elderly adults live in their own homes. Given this, the odds of having to worry about being in a nursing home are very low. Since this reason specifically addresses nursing home visitation, I thought I would see what the research says. The findings were not good. Two thirds of seniors in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes are never visited by family members (http://www.kentucky.com/2010/05/17/1267782.html). The sad reality is that residents are most likely to receive visits from community volunteers rather than their own children.
If your goal is to avoid loneliness in old age, your best bet is to reduce the risk factors of ending up in a nursing home. The lifestyle related risk factors that contribute to nursing home admission include smoking, inactivity, obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated total cholesterol level, and diabetes mellitus. Modifying one’s lifestyle in middle age reduced the risk of admittance to a nursing home (http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/166/9/985.pdf). Parents are more likely to suffer from these health conditions than childless individuals (http://childparenting.about.com/b/2011/04/11/parents-are-less-healthy-than-childless-people-says-a-new-study.htm). Parents are also more likely to be developing and reinforcing these bad habits in middle age rather than decreasing them.
Some people choose to have children in order to achieve a sense of “immortality”. They believe this can be achieved through living vicariously through the lives of our children, passing on our genes, or continuing the family name (this is assuming you don’t have all daughters). This may also have to do with why pro-natalists argue that life has no meaning without having children. If not to pass on your legacy, then what’s the point of living?
There are some problems with living vicariously through your children. Scientific studies have shown that parents have little influence on their children (http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2008/05/parents_influence_on_kids_beha.php). If you are hoping that your child will be a little version of yourself that has your same personality and enjoys the same things that you enjoy, you’re going to be disappointed. Trying to get your child to relive your happiest childhood moments is more likely to result in a tantrum than any truly joyful moment. If you don’t believe me, just think of all the children that have tantrums on Christmas morning. Children grow into their own people and have their own hopes and dreams no matter how hard you try to intervene. People who choose to have children for this reason may suffer from feelings of inadequacy or misgivings of not having their own achievements. Feeling pride at your child’s achievements is not only narcissistic, it puts pressure on your children and takes away from their own accomplishments. My clients often report feeling they were not “good enough” for their parents growing up and resentful that they were not allowed to pursue their own interests.
Another way that parents feel they achieve immortality through their children is by having someone to remember them after they have gone. At best, this kind of “immortality” only lasts a few generations and then it is gone. I have a few memories of my grandmother, but I know even less of my great grandmother. I know the names of her parents, when they were born and died, but I don’t know anything more. Going a little further up the family tree, I know even less. Eventually time passes to a point where none of your descendants know anything about you and it was like you were never even born at all. That’s hardly immortality. If we truly wish to live on through others, we can do so by helping and being an inspiration to other people. The lives we make a difference in can be anyone, not just our children.
Wanting to have children so that we can pass on our genes is also narcissistic. When we reproduce, we pass on 50% of our genes, which are then further divided and diluted with each generation. And in order for this to even be successful, one also has to ensure that their children and grandchildren have offspring. Something that also depends on them having a partner with genetic material that you approve of. Otherwise, it is pointless. This is also true of someone having children in order to continue the family name. Unless you can be sure you produce male grandchildren, your name will not be passed on. If you truly do have a family name that is in danger of becoming extinct, a more meaningful way of preserving it would be to create a foundation or act of charity using the family name.
Passing on your knowledge
We’ve all made mistakes in life and hopefully learned from them. As human beings, we can’t help but look back and says “If I could do it all again…” Since we can’t do these things, the next best thing is to try to provide guidance to our children; tell them the mistakes to avoid but also provide the life lessons we learned from those mistakes. Unfortunately, kids don’t want to listen to us. My father in particular wanted to pass on his knowledge to me and my sisters. In his youth he had gone on some adventures, made a lot of mistakes along the way, as well as developed his own philosophy about life. The problem is that kids think they already know everything and are smarter than their parents. I didn’t listen to him and yes, I made mistakes. It wasn’t until my twenties that I realized Dad was right about so many things. If I had only listened to him. Hell, if I had listened to him and took notes!
There are several possible reasons why children don’t listen to their parents. One could be simply because parents have lied to them in the past. It is an unfortunate reality that parents do lie to their children. It’s just too easy and convenient to lie to kids. It starts out as little white lies to give mommy a break or get some housework done, lies to scare children into behaving, and then bigger lies such as Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. Children eventually find out and then your credibility slowly erodes over time. It is also part of the developmental process by which children grow into independent adults, able to function by themselves and make their own decisions.
As a therapist working with children and teens, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to pass on my knowledge. I’ve utilized what I’ve learned from my own experiences to teach others how to make friends, get along with other people, and deal with bullies at school. I’ve instilled values such as work ethic and compassion. Parents have often complained to me that they had been saying the same things for years without any progress, but then all I have to do is say it once and the kid does it without question. My observation is that knowledge comes off as more valuable and more credible when given from an adult outside of the family. If you really are interested in passing on your knowledge, work with kids or write a book.
Having meaning in your life
“It was previously a question of finding out whether or not life had to have a meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary, that it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.” -Albert Camus
When I was in college I took an advanced philosophy course called “Happiness and the Meaning of Life”. Throughout the course we examined and debated what different philosophers had written on both happiness and the meaning of life. We had ingested a lot of material and had learned a lot about ourselves in the process but still did not have a clear answer. At the end of our final class the professor exclaimed “happiness is the meaning of life”. It was a revelation for me. If not happiness, what else is there?
Others have argued that part of having meaning in your life is having something to live for. I can understand the reasoning that children give a person something to live for, but I don’t think it is the only thing. You can achieve this by deepening your relationship with your spouse, nurturing each other’s dreams, working towards a significant goal. Meditate on your values. Don’t focus on what values are “right” according to society. Focus on what is right for you. No one can say that “family” is a better value than “adventure”. Only you can decide for yourself. Be open to whatever comes to you. These values will provide a framework for achieving meaning in your life.
“I would be a great parent”
It’s easy to make this assumption because we often have such great luck with other people’s kids. Although their parents complain that their children don’t listen to them, miraculously they listen to us! One can come to believe we have a special gift for parenting. The fact of the matter is that the child doesn’t know us and we are kind of scary to them. They listen to us because they don’t know the ins-and-outs of us like they do with their parents. Children learn how to get what they want, and yes, manipulate their parents from a very early age. We all have buttons to push and no one knows them better than our kids. It has been said that children bring out the worst in us. Most of the parents I’ve talked to have told me that they never thought they’d be the kind of mother that yells at their kids, gives in to their tantrums, or threatened to run away from home.
“I have great genetics”
A person who uses this as a motivation for wanting to have children, also demonstrates how little they understand genetics. Children get 50% of their genes from each parent. Which ones they get is completely up to chance. Your child could get a combination of all of you and your partner’s good traits, or all of your bad traits. There’s no way to know which ones. You also contain what are called “recessive genes”. Recessive genes are genes that you carry that were not expressed. But just because they weren’t expressed in you, doesn’t mean that they won’t be in your children. Examples of recessive genes include nearsightedness, thin lips, deaf mutism, and color blindness.
If you truly do feel that passing on your genetic material is an imperative and your genes are so good that it would be a crime not to, an alternative is to donate your sperm or eggs. Although it’s called a “donation”, you do get paid. A sperm donor is reimbursed on average $100 per donation, and a woman will receive $5,000 on average per egg donation. Not only will you make some cash, but you’ll find out if your genes really are “great”. Clinics won’t pay for just any zygotes, they want the best. You will have to provide them with information not just about you, but also your parents and siblings. In addition to a medical examination, you will also have to complete a mental health assessment. You will then be tested to see if you are a carrier for any genetic diseases. In the end, only 5% of donors make the cut. If you truly do have “great genetics” you’ll get to donate and have a genetic offspring. If you don’t make the cut, then perhaps you were wrong about how great your genes are.
Making the decision to not have kids was a very difficult one. I cried a lot and essentially mourned the death of the children I had never had. In the end, however, I really feel much better. Being childfree has allowed me to accomplish my dreams. I own my own business and have published two books. The next dream I’m working on is to travel around the world, and you better believe nothing is going to stop me from accomplishing that!