I’m childfree and I like it

I shouldn’t have to justify my decision to be childfree. But you know what? I have to. All the damn time.

You had me at childfree

Image credit: someecards.com

One time that stands out clearly in my mind was on a recent trip to France to visit my parents. We went to their friends’ house (they’re also English expats living in France) who happened to have their 30-something daughter staying with them. And her 2.4 children.

The grandmother, a similar age to my own Mum offered me tea and then asked “so when are you having kids?” If she’d given me the tea first, she probably would have been wearing it. Her son-in-law chimed in whilst simultaneously bottle feeding a young baby and dealing with an unruly toddler clinging to his leg… “yes, when are you having kids?” Erm… sorry, what? I have just met you. I walked into your house approximately two minutes ago and we’re getting into this. Now. Really?

After taking a mental deep breath and telling myself: these are your parents’ friends. Shut them down, politely.

I replied: “We’re not having kids”.

Then the questions and non-questions started. “Why not?” “You’ll change your mind.” “It’s different when they’re your own.”

“We don’t want kids.” “No, we won’t.” “Thanks, but we’d rather not find out, if it’s all the same to you.”

The mother joined in, she was 4 months pregnant at the time. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I didn’t know real love until I became a Mum.” *Sigh* This vein of conversation continued for 5-10 mins or so, until it all turned into white noise.

We finally managed change the subject when I pacified them with the “never say never” line. I know I shouldn’t do that, but I just wanted it to be over…

It’s true, never say never. But the older I get, the more confident I feel with my choice. It is a conscious choice, not one that everyone understands, but it is a choice. And I choose to be childfree.

Not many people I know understand this. I think I finally got through to my Mum after about 5 years of “explaining”. The Dutchie’s Mum gets it. As does my best friend and of course, the Dutchie himself – as he feels exactly the same way. But apart from this small circle, I get the face.

chris-rock-huh-face

The “You’re not having kids?” face.

Friends are allowed to ask. That’s why we’re friends. But just be aware: I am that freak in your social group. The weird one who doesn’t have kids… and who doesn’t want them.

Strangers who ask this question, however, are insensitive. Rude, even. Family members (especially ones you haven’t seen in ages) are probably just looking for something to say. That’s ok too… but next time, can’t you just ask about work or something?

I’ve read a lot of material on the subject of being childfree, most recently Kim Cattrall finds the term ‘childless’ offensive and considers herself a mother despite not having children but like many other articles, it doesn’t hit the spot for me. It seems like what she actually said has been heavily cut and quoted to fit what they want the article to say. But this one line stands out for me: “I just believe, and have always believed since my 40s, that there are many different ways to be a mum.”

But I don’t want to be a mum. I don’t need to be a mum.

I hope that when my niece is older, we’ll be close and I’ll be a fantastic auntie to her. But I won’t be her mum, or a mother figure, I’ll be her auntie. And that’s fine with me.

Going back to the point about not knowing real love until you’re a mother (or “Now that I have children, my life has true meaning!” or even “You’re missing out on one of the best things in life”…)

I am ok with the love I feel right now. Really.

It’s common for mothers to say that you haven’t experienced ‘real love’ until you become a mother. And I’m fine with that.

I love. I’m in love. I love my friends and family, I feel unconditional love. And the other type of love you’re talking about? I will never experience that. But you know what? That’s cool with me. The love I feel is the strongest I’ve ever experienced, so I don’t know any better. You’re telling me that your love is better, stronger, more unconditional. I’m just going to have to trust you on that one.

Still don’t ‘get’ it? Here’s what I would like to say to you:

I respect the fact that you want children. Please respect the fact that I do not.

It really is this simple. Having children is a choice.

No, holding your baby doesn’t make me feel broody.

Not even my niece. Everyone said it would be different when my sister had a baby. I love my niece, it doesn’t take anything away from how much I love her and want to protect her – I don’t want a child of my own.

If you’re my friend, I will love your baby. It happens automatically, because I love you. But holding a small human isn’t suddenly going to make my uterus twitch. It’s just not in me. (The feeling I mean, I do have a uterus! I just choose not to grow a human in it.)

I like to hold/cuddle/interact with your child – but I also like giving it back. When they’re older I’ll read them books or play games with them… but when they start screaming, emit a bad smell, puke on me (or all of the above)… you can have them back. Not my department.

I don’t think that my dog/cat is a child and I don’t treat them like a child.

Some people do. I am not one of them. I have a cat. I love her. Sometimes, when she is annoying I put her outside and leave her out there – because she is a cat.

I don’t hate kids.

It’s a common misconception that childfree people are child-haters. While for some people, this is true… I like kids. I just don’t want one.

It’s not a phase I’m going through, I will not change my mind and it is not your place to question it.

Questioning my personal life choice – especially if I don’t even know you – is not and will not ever be cool.

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You can call me selfish – if you like. 

But who am I depriving? A non-existent child? If you’d like to call me selfish, please do so. Probably not to my face though, then we might have a problem.

It’s very common for childfree people to be labelled selfish, because we don’t want to dedicate our life to another human being. And in some ways, I agree – I don’t. I like sleeping, I like travelling, I like doing whatever the fuck I want.

When it comes down to it – selfish isn’t really a suitable label. A non-existent child is exactly that. However, when YOU choose to bring a child into the world, it’s because YOU choose to bring a child into the world. Maybe you’re selfish because YOU want/need/desire a child? It’s not like they asked to be born. No? Ok, well then let’s just both agree to not call each other selfish.

We’re not barren.

And we’re not trying. You have absolutely no reason to feel sorry for me.

Even I question my decision sometimes. But not enough to change it. 

Not continuing the family name, not having grandchildren and worrying about who will look after me in old age are not valid enough reasons for me to change my mind. (And by the way, are all those old people in homes childfree? Nope, thought not. Chances are your kids will move to Australia and not be able to look after you anyway. Just sayin’.)

Hayley x

 

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30 comments

  1. Hayley, great article. Like you I decided a long time ago that kids weren’t something I wanted in my life. Years later, lots of my friends with kids envy my lifestyle but only the honest ones admit it and that raising kids isn’t easy. It’s the same with relationships, we all make decisions about our lives because it is our life. Everyone is different and for some it’s a personal choice, for others it’s something they want but unfortunately doesn’t happen. We are all unique and it’s not for others to critique individual choices. But now I am off to babysit my gorgeous little niece but nice to know I can hand her back on Sunday x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The answers I use when people ask me why I don’t have kids (choosing one depending on my mood and the person involved):
    1) I don’t need kids to validate my existence.
    2) That’s none of your business.
    3) I’m not allowed to have kids.
    4) Why don’t you have a dog/cat/horse/hamster/gerbil…..?
    5) I suffer from pedophobia.
    6) It’s genetic. my parents didn’t have kids either.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great piece. Up until I met my boyfriend I’d made the decision to be childless too (for a number of reasons) but I had to deal with the same thing and also a lot of ignorance. A lot of people *still* think that the end goal of a woman’s life is to have children – it’s not. Have children, don’t have children, I never understand why it’s an issue for people y’know? Well done you for standing your ground with everyone around you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. YES!!!!

    Though my pets do mean the world to me. But that’s my individual feelings.

    But I wish being happily childfree wasn’t considered an aberration. Fortunately, my parents accepted my choice without any real hassle, which is particularly nice as I am an only child. They refer to our pets as their grandkids, which works fine for all of us.

    I don’t actually have any kids in my life, at least not physically close enough for me to interact with. My friends with kids are mostly in other cities/countries. I like hearing about them, but I have no interest in having any myself and to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not having nieces or nephews or other kids whose lives I could be involved in. I always tend to roll my eyes when I read the childfree articles where they seem to find people who talk about all the kids in their lives, as if you have to make up for not having your own by being around lots of others. I don’t hate kids at all, but I really don’t feel any need or desire to be around kids in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Right on the dot!
    I never really decided “not” to have children ever, but just lacked the twitch in my uterus like you stated so truly. Besides: none of my boyfriends were really “fathermaterial” If I was going to have any, it was not gonna be with them.
    I’m gonna be 40 in a litlle more than a year and thinking about walking around with a baby on my arm, makes me seriously scream and panic.

    So I never really decided. It was my lifestyle and the lack of the twitch that decided for me. I honestly can say I have no regrets what so ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You know we’re 100% behind you in this, right? I know you do.

    Having children shouldn’t be a choice, it should be a calling. Because it’s bloody hard. Even if your ovaries rang like wedding bells at the sight of a pram.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Your first mistake…is not calling your cat your furbaby. (giggle) Although I’m not advocating you dress her up and put her in a pram…those people are WEIRD!

    I have several “childless” people in my life; two couples and a divorcé, but they all have/had furbabies. (My eldest uncle/aunt decided they were too old to handle their cats anymore, but the other couple has at least one and my maternal uncle has his dogs.) Therein lies the lack of distinction–I have never met anyone who is willingly without a human child -and- a furbaby! Those are the ones we should feel sorry for…as we scratch our daughters’ bellies. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Why do I feel like you are defending your decision. No need…
    Keep in mind though, when you have one child, or children with a big age gap or whatever, you get similar questions, all the time. The moment you do not conform to what people think is ‘normal’..you get the questions… Be happy you are not on of the Sheep! 😉
    By the way (I DO have 3 children which I love to bits but it wasn;t a smooth road to get there).

    Like

  9. Hey Hayley,

    This is so familiar. It’s like I’m having these encounters all the time. People just expect things from you. I have a lot of relatives who became parents quite early in their life and they expect the same from me. I’m just a 24 year old student who doesn’t want kids right now (maybe never will). It’s tiresome to ‘have to’ justify yourself to others about your own life. So I completely understand the ‘struggle’.

    My situation is a bit different though. Personally, I don’t even know if I want children. I think I eventually will. I’ve thought about this for quite some time. I keep asking myself how our life (my partner and I) would end up. I think I would miss things in my life if I didn’t have any children. Things like to seeing my kids grow up, growing old with a bunch of grandchildren (it seems I’m expecting things from my possible future children already). But I can’t know that for sure. It’s not a valid argument in my opinion. What would you recommend?

    Ciao,

    Like

  10. I think that you have expressed what many people feel about making the decision to not have children very eloquently. I am always astounded when people feel they can ask such a personal question, whether they are family members or not. I have been friends with a couple for over 20 years and I have never asked them why they don’t have any kids. I figured that if they had wanted children, they would have had them or adopted them, so they probably decided not to have any. I would love it if my daughter had a baby, but if it doesn’t happen, that’s OK too. As for the being selfish part…what? Being selfish is having too many kids, so that they don’t get the loving attention they deserve, or even worse, people like the Duggars, just staying perpetually pregnant for 20 years because your creepy, weirdo husband needs to fulfill some divine mission.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Try being ‘childfree’ in India?!

    For the first decade there were a barrage of questions and also it was seen as a ‘failure’ of my mother-in-law to get me to do my duty. However as my marriage became increasingly rocky and simply just wasn’t working, I absolutely stood firm behind the decision to not bring a child into the equation.

    Fast forward many years, out of an unhealthy marriage, blissfully child-free… along came my partner. Both of us have been married before. Both of us made a conscious choice to not have children. Both of us knew being together was more than enough love in our lives. Zero regrets.

    So now, as friends kids are starting to have kids (heck a cousin the same age as me became a grandma 5 years ago!!), I feel triply blessed to be child-free.

    Or as my child-free couple friends in Canada put it – super happy to not have become ‘breeders’.

    Respect others choice to have kids. Like you – expect others to respect our decision to not too!

    Bravo for sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I totally and utterly agree!
    Being a single, childfree 47 year young man, I never had any urges to have a child. I’ve alway considered myself to be too much of a child to have any of my own. And I still feel that way. 😉

    When people ask me if I have any children, I just say “Thankfully, NO!” That gives me a fair amount of weird looks, but it stops any further discussions on the subject. Problem solved!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I totally agree! I do have children, they are sweet and I love them very much. But everyone have to make his own decision. When I was young, it was totally clear, that I would have children of my own. I did not realize that I had an other choice. It was common in that days., : as the dutch say: huisje boompje beestje (babies).Now a days I realize that I do have the choice. Children gives a lot of responcibility, wether they are young or old. I think my life would be more carefree than it is now. I’m totally happy, don’t misunderstand me! I will only give you the advice to think it over!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think you should not have to explain yourself I made the choice for being a stay at home mum. I also have to defant that choice but why is it somebody else it’s bussiness how I live my life. I choose for a life without a carreer with children you choose something else that’s fine. as long as you happy there’s no need for anyone else to question it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post! I feel your pain as a childfree woman. A wonderful mommy friend has told me that anyone who gives me a hard time for not having children is just jealous. I love her for telling me the truth about the hardships of parenting, instead of pretending that it is all sunshine and rainbows.
    Feel feel to read my blog post about the childfree life. Hope you like it!
    https://boughtthehouse.wordpress.com/2015/09/10/why-arent-you-having-children/

    Like

  16. I only have 1 comment: reddit.com//childfree

    Somethimes there are child-haters on there, but mostly a place for people who just don’t want cildren…

    Like

  17. Exactly! What a lovely post! I share your no-need for children – I even wrote a post on it as well (http://wanderlustbecomingatraveler.com/2015/10/25/social-norms-think-critically/).
    …I hate ‘the face.’ And I absolutely hate the frase: “You’re young. You’ll change your mind”. Excuse me(!), should I tell you the same thing when you express your wish for children – no, that wouldn’t be polite, would it…!?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Yes. This. All of this. Exactly my life.

    “No, you’re right, it’s only taken me 35 years of not wanting children to decide that I don’t want children, but sure, ‘I might change my mind’…” Bleaurgh!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a lovely, refreshing article which immediately makes me feel like I have an understanding friend who can actually listen and empathise. I too have always had to deal with ‘The Look’, ‘The Face’, ‘The Inquisition’. Guess what? Tokophobia morphed into Social Phobia and I couldn’t even meet people or talk to them as I was exactly the right age to be expected to reproduce and back then I didn’t have the confidence or the vocabulary to explain why I just did not want anything to do with it. Until one day in a psychologist’s consulting room, I asked him ‘Why can’t people just accept that I don’t want children, nor do I want to want them? Why do they keep trying to cure me of what appears to them to be insanity?’ He answered, ‘Because they are afraid.’
    From that day I was able to find solid ground under my feet, no matter how many times people kept trying to kick it away.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh my god this article is amazing! It basically sums up my interactions with everyone I’ve encountered when I say I don’t want kids!! As a woman, they look at you like you have to be insane: that it’s every woman’s dream to be a mommy; that my whole reason for existing is to have a husband and create children. They try to convince me that I’ll change my mind someday. Haha..no.

    I am 35 and I have never wanted to be a parent. When I was younger, I always thought that maybe I might want kids someday, but it was never something that I pictured as a goal or that would make my life seem complete. I still feel like I’m too young to have a kid and then I realize that the window is actually closing on that time. And that would scare some people, but I just think “Meh, whatever.”

    I love the carefree and liberated feeling I have knowing the only decisions I need to make are the ones that make ME the happiest. I love that my house is completely silent unless I turn on a TV; that I can stay in bed all day if I choose to; that if I don’t want to grocery shop or make dinner for several days in a row that nobody will care; that I can leave my house at a moments notice to travel the world and be gone for weeks on end; that I can spend my money on things that only I enjoy; and the biggest one…that I am not responsible for anyone but myself! If that’s what selfish is, then I’m 100% on board with being selfish forever! Where do I sign up?! Although I would refer to it as “Independently Owned and Operated.” I mean, it is MY life, isn’t it?! You’re allowed to be as selfish as you want with someone you own, so my life is going to be just for ME.

    I’ve received all of the same responses you’ve gotten when I’ve expressed my lack of interest and desire for kids. Most of my friends explain to me in a sweet-condescending tone that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I don’t have children. They try to tell me that “I’d be a really good mom” and “it’s different when you have your own.” I’m sure I COULD be a good mom and I’m sure it IS different. But guess what? If I feel like it’s not different and I’ve already had the kid, now I’m stuck with it. There’s no take-backs…no “whoopsie I need to return this” and be free and clear. It doesn’t work like that. If you realize it’s not for you at that point, well tough! Parenting is a life I’ve never want for myself, and I don’t need to feel that kind of love to believe my existence on earth finally has a purpose. Plus, I know they are envious when I get to sleep in and go on yet another vacation somewhere exotic for several weeks. 😉

    Also, I truly hate hearing a crying baby or kid. The repetitive sound and noise make me wish I could smother it just so it shuts up. That isn’t a “maternal instinct” and I’m glad I know that about myself. When I share these thoughts with my friends, they look at me horrified. I know, I know…but who enjoys that sound?!?! I know that’s a baby’s only way to communicate. I get it. I just don’t want to hear it. I’ve told my friends when babies come without a voicebox and a full-time nanny, I’ll think of having one. Baby 2.0 is my jam!

    I also feel like there’s more bad than good in the balance of being a parent. It is a second full-time job that you never get to clock out from and it never compensates you for your time or energy…it only takes. Your duties start out with being sleep deprived and feeling the pressure of trying to reclaim your former body while getting shit on, pissed on, puked on, and slobbered on. Then you move on to having to negotiating for simple behaviors, temper tantrums, idiotic/unpredictable behavior, lack of basic reasoning, and constant messes. Then you graduate to teenage attitudes and ungratefulness. Not to mention that you’re not guaranteed to have a physically and/or mentally healthy child. Kids have all sorts of ADD/ADHD, autism, etc. now. Uhhhh, no thank you!!! I’m not willing to take a gamble on that. Getting a hug and hearing “I love you mommy” isn’t enough to balance out that equation of what I’d be taking on.

    I sound heartless and cold, but truly I’m not. I am an aunt to two nieces and almost every single one of my friends has kids. Like you said, I don’t hate kids. I love my family and friends so therefore I love their kids just as much. I enjoy spending time with them and watching how my friends take on that role. You get to see a different side of the person you always knew when they’re with their kids. I love hearing the parents funny or frustrating stories about what their kids did or said. But I’m always thankful that I’m not the one that has to go through that and have a kid in tow all day.

    When my sister asks me to babysit I sometimes get annoyed. I don’t look forward to it, but I agree just so she can get away. She doesn’t ask often, and I know she wants a break and wants to enjoy adult time with her husband, but I don’t want to spend my day off of work basically doing free work over at her house. Watching kid shows, hearing the loud voices and stupid arguments, or watching them disobey the rules they know they have to follow is not how I picture a fun afternoon/evening. And then to think that could be my everyday life…HELL NO! There are some genuinely nice moments I have with them but, overall I just don’t enjoy doing it. And it makes me feel bad for feeling like that, but I’d be lying if I said “it fills my heart with joy spending time with kids.” It doesn’t.

    Although, there are times that I find myself being vain and wondering what my own child would look or act like. And who they would be or what things they would accomplish. I’m curious what qualities I possess that would be prominent in my child. BUT, I am not curious enough to sign on for 18+ years and basically spend over $200k per child to be someone’s personal slave during most of those years. Again, you’re not promised to get a healthy, smart, well-behaved child and that’s a gamble I can’t accept.

    I recently traced my family history on Ancesty.com and it is mind boggling to see what a HUMONGOUS picture I am part of. There’s literally thousands of people genetically related to me that span for hundred of years. It’s truly overwhelming to think about what got me here. So, it somewhat gives me pause to think that I making a conscious choice not contribute to that picture and lineage. But again, it’s not enough for me to want to take on all the things a child needs.

    And, to the person above that said they’ve never met anyone without kids AND pets…Hi there, it’s nice to meet you! I don’t want pets either. I love animals and find them cute. I grew up with cats and dogs, so I know the love that an animal can bring to your life. But, I don’t want anything to ever need me that much or depend on me for it’s survival. I don’t want to take care of anyone or anything. I’m fully capable of doing it but I DON’T WANT TO and that doesn’t make me heartless or cold or strange. It means I’m content in my life with who I am and I don’t need to fill it with extras to validate that I am loved or can show love.

    Like

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