Note – I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, and decided the time had come to share it.
I got thinking about this topic on a morning walk recently, and decided that I needed to write a blog post about it. This decision is a big part of Nick and my life and lifestyle, so I feel it’s something I need to address. Both to ‘get it out of the way’ and explain this aspect of our life, and also because I think it’s an important topic in general.
I’m a bit trepidatious about this, to be frank - this is a topic that can get people a bit riled up. I’m hoping that we can keep the discussion positive and thoughtful… we shall see.
Nick and I are childfree. That is, we have made the deliberate choice to not have children.
I believe that this topic is too often glossed over or ignored in our society – but I also believe that it’s an important one to discuss.
Today I wanted to let you in on our decision, in the hopes that it might help some people who choose to have children understand those of us who don’t a little better!
Why we don’t talk about it
Those of us who are childfree (we prefer that term to ‘childless’ – because childless usually implies that you want kids but can’t have them, and I am not speaking for those people today) often keep our mouths shut about our decision. You would think that the decision to not have children would be happily embraced these days along with every other lifestyle choice.
However, (and this is, I believe, especially true for women) there is still a pervasive sense in our society that if you are a person who doesn’t want children – or even worse, doesn’t really like children – that there is something just a little bit wrong with you.
(On a personal note – I’m one of those women who is not interested in babies, I never have been. And as for children – in my mind they are just little people. I don’t like them more or less than big people, but my like of them is dependent on the same things that make me like a grown-up. The fact that little kids are often loud and self-absorbed means I generally like little kids less than older ones.)
We hear the endless pronouncements that ‘you’ll change your mind when you’re older/when you hit your 30s’, that having kids is ‘the best thing I’ve ever done!’, that ’it’s different when they’re yours’ or ‘you’d make wonderful parents’. Our parents tell us that they can’t wait to have grandchildren.
You know, we might be great parents. And it probably is different when they’re yours. And of course our parents would like grandkids. But those are not reasons to have a child.
In short, pretty much everyone around us assumes that we’re going through a phase and that we’ll change our minds.
So, we decide it’s easier to nod and smile whenever someone makes a comment about our future children, because, frankly, we’re just not up for another argument.
I’m speaking in generalisations here, but those of you reading this who are also childfree will no doubt be nodding your head in recognition of some of my scenarios.
My plea to those of you who choose to have kids is this – please believe us when we say we don’t want them, and please don’t try to change our minds. We’re happy for and respect you in your choice, and we just ask the same in return.
Because yes, it’s true – life changes, we change, and maybe one day we will decide that the time is right to bring a child of our own into the world. But that time is not now. I’m a big believer that there is no constant but change, however, that doesn’t make our decision not to have children right now any less true or valid.
Being childfree is increasingly common, which is why I think the decision needs to be understood. In fact, all of my closest offline friends are childfree. In one instance, they are childless, due to unfortunate circumstance, but in all the other cases, it is through choice. And all of these people are in their 30′s or older, so the chances that they’ll change their mind is pretty slim.
Why we don’t want them
I think this is a very personal decision, so I’m just going to discuss why I don’t want kids. (Just a note – Nick and I are on the same page with this, but I’m going to focus on my own reasons here, not his.)
For me, the decision to not have children is both an instinctual and logical one.
I have never felt ‘clucky’. I’ve never felt an emotional desire to have a child. Sure, occasionally I’ll see a particularly cute kid, and I’ll think ‘hmm, maybe it would be nice’. However, after no more than 5 minutes with pretty much any kid under the age of 6, that nascent feeling quickly goes out the window and I breathe an inner sigh of relief that I get to go home without one!
Now, for the logic. If we go from the premise that I don’t feel a desire to have kids, the logical arguments simply back up and reinforce my decision. Some of the reasons are:
- We love our lifestyle. I can run my business how I want, without the stress of ‘providing’ for a child. Nick is free to do what he wants with his life. We don’t have a mortgage, because we don’t need more than these two rooms for us to be happy. We sleep in. We eat when and what we want. We can travel where and when we want. We spend our days how we choose. In short – we only have to consider each other (and our parents and friends, to a lesser extent) in our life decisions.
- I have been a teacher – yep! And – by and large – I enjoy teaching kids! But I also enjoy that I get to give them back at the end of the day. I have literally had a parent say to me ‘don’t have kids, get dogs‘. And yeah, she was kinda joking. Kinda. I have seen the stress, tiredness, and pain that so many parents live with. Especially when they have a child with some sort of behavioural problem or disability. (I have also seen the joy and pride parents feel for their kids, of course). However, I don’t want to be a tired person who has to put my own desires and needs down the ladder to care for someone else. That does make me selfish, yes, and I don’t deny that. But it also leaves me free to contribute to the world via my work, in a way I am passionate about.
- Disability. My ex-partner was a Special Ed teacher. Again, I saw first-hand the struggle that filled the lives of parents with severely disabled kids. I am too scared of that possibility. That is, my fear of that happening to me far outweighs the joy I perceive in having a healthy child.
- Some people argue that having children is a vital legacy. I think of my grandmother’s recent funeral – we, her descendants, were all there, and we mourned her passing greatly. And sure, when I think of being old, without family, it saddens me. But again. This is not a reason to have children. Because you never know what’s going to happen. There is no guarantee that you will have children who will outlive you, stick around when they grow up, have kids of their own… etc
- On the topic of legacy, and those we remember in history – we don’t remember them because they had kids (with the exception, perhaps, of the Virgin Mary, but that’s a WHOLE other blog post!). We remember them for the work they did in the world. The books they wrote, the discoveries they made. That is the kind of legacy I’d like to leave behind me. And by not having kids, I give myself many more years of life devoted to creating a legacy of this sort (gee, that kinda makes me nervous – heavy expectation on myself there!).
- We have a history of pretty horrific post-natal-depression in my maternal family. Sure, if I know it’s likely, I can be prepared – but that won’t stop it from happening to me. It’s something I’d much prefer to avoid.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list. But I hope it gives a little more insight into my decision.
Now, for some FAQ’s!
Why did you get married if you don’t want kids?
Wow, okay, I really dislike this question, but unfortunately, it does actually get asked. We got married because we love each other, and wanted to commit ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives. We aren’t religious people – we think marriage should be available to any two people who want to bond themselves together in love.
Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?
The same people who take care of most old folk – nursing home staff. We just won’t have kids/grandkids visiting. Of course, my goal is to be a fit, active and mentally acute person till the day I die, but of course, we can’t see what the future holds.
Don’t you want a family of your own?
I have one. Nick and I – and our kitty (soon to be kitties if I get my way – mwaahaaa) – are a very happy family. I’m also lucky to live right next to my parents. I also have a very large extended family with squillions of cousins. I’m not wanting for relatives!
Won’t you regret your decision one day?
Maybe. But it will only be an occasional fleeting thought of what might have been. Life is full of ‘what might have been’s’. What might my life have been like if I’d married my ex-partner of 8 years instead of Nick? What if I’d chosen to pursue a career in science like I always planned when I was younger? Life is full of what-ifs, this will just be another one of them. I would rather regret not having kids than regret having them.
Wow. That certainly turned into an epic, didn’t it? I guess I had a lot more to say on the topic than I expected.
I hope I managed to make my thought processes clear, and I’m very happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments!
One final note. I feel very privileged to be born a woman in a time and place that allows me to not only make this decision, but to have the freedom and means to discuss it. I have lived a blessed life, and my aim is to be a productive, happy, and inspiring member of society. I am so very, very lucky to have the freedom I do.
I’d also love to hear from you as to why you decided to have kids/remain childfree, if you’re happy to share!