childfree

“But you’re so good with kids…”

A few weeks back, my brother commented “You’re so good with kids.” It came a bit out of nowhere, but I said thank you and genuinely accepted the compliment. Something I’m not normally that good at doing. I went back to playing ‘tea party’ with my nieces and felt satisfied. HE GOT IT.

I’m tearing up right now, writing this.

You see, normally when people give you such a compliment, they have to go and ruin it by adding “You’d be such a good mother…” or “When *are* you having kids?” or my personal favourite: “You’ll feel ready / change your mind one day…”

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is.

I am child free, by choice.

If you’re good at cooking, no one bangs on about how you MUST be a chef. (Unless you’re like reaaaaaaally good, Masterchef standard, and then they’ll just send the application off for you! Bastards!) Anyway, just because you’re good at cooking doesn’t mean you want to dedicate your life to it, to spending your evenings and weekends in a hot, sweaty kitchen. The long hours, the pressure.

Maybe you just want to cook in your own kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, at your own pace, with a glass of wine.

I’ve got plenty of other metaphors and I could bang on for another few paragraphs, but I’m sure you get my point.

I’m 35 now. Almost 36. Most people have stopped asking me if/when I’m going to have kids… thank god! I think about 90% of my close friends and family now understand and accept the fact that it’s not going to happen.

But maybe you’re not so lucky – and I feel for you. Really I do.

I’ll just wrap up by saying another thank you to my brother. You are a legend in many ways, and this is just one of them.

Hayley x

 

Are you child free? What have your experiences been? Please do share – if you feel able. It’s good to talk! 😀

 

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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

 

I don’t want kids.

Now that I’m engaged, this is the question people ask me all the time. “When are you going to have kids?” Like I don’t have an option, but I just have to decide when I’m going to do it. Not “Are you going to have kids?” which is much more appropriate. No, I’m not going to have kids. SHOCK… HORROR… twisted confused faces, glaring at me like I’m some kind of freak.

Me in 1984

Me, in August 1984 (almost 3 years old)

I’m 31. I haven’t been to Australia, I haven’t been to New Zealand, Canada, Japan China, India… and countless other places. Hell, I haven’t even been to Scotland, Wales OR Ireland!! I haven’t been unemployed, I haven’t run more than 10k, I haven’t cycled somewhere crazy for charity or jumped out of a plane*. You get what I’m saying. There are so many things I haven’t done yet… and so many things I would like to do that don’t include having a baby. And not that I’m saying you can’t do all these things once you’ve had a baby, but it’s a bit hard to jump out of a plane with your baby in your arm, right? 

Don’t get me wrong, maybe when I’ve done all the things I want to do (which includes living in another country!) I might change my mind. Never say never. I don’t know how I’m going to feel in a year, let alone two, five or ten!  But at the moment it’s a definite no. And people just can’t seem to get their heads around that! I don’t feel broody, I don’t see my friends kids and think “ooh I really want to be a mother!”

I like kids, especially my friends kids. They’re funny, unpredictable and ridiculously cute! I buy them presents, I remember their birthdays (ok, that’s a lie – I have a calendar – I’m RUBBISH at remembering dates!!) I like spending time with them. But I don’t want a baby of my own. I’m happy it just being me and the Dutchie. Together forever, enjoying life and the challenges it throws our way… luckily, he feels the same!

I’m not ready to put another life before mine. Selfish, right? Wrong. My life, my way. I’m not going to have a baby because it’s the ‘done thing’ once you’re married. I’m not going to have a baby if I don’t want to. And who knows, maybe I can’t even have kids! It’s assumed that you can have kids, but what if you can’t? What if there are problems with you or your partner that affect your fertility? Never assume.

I don’t want a baby. This doesn’t make me a freak.

Now I’m going to pack. It looks like we’re moving to the Netherlands sooner rather than later!

Hayley x

*I’m not even sure if I WANT to jump out of a plane! But a girl needs options!! 😉