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