Irish businesswoman Aileen Eglington, director of PR company, AE Consulting… refuses to be defined or diminished by the fact that she has no children…”I never wanted children,… I just didn’t want to do it. So many things can give you fulfillment. For me, not having children has given me time to do other things. There’s a bigger family out there. I see parents who are very active locally, coaching kids and cheering them on, but you don’t have to have children to engage with your community…” she says. (Source: Independent.ie)
I just enjoyed a quick reflection by Melissa Myer called “Childfree: is it really a choice?” that struck a familiar chord. Myer harkens back to her younger years, transporting us to the sort of awkward conversations puberty so often catalyzes. She relates an unsettling quip from her friend Sandy who was baffled by her disinterest in becoming a mother.
Marriage equals procreation. And since I had no interest in having kids, I had no interest in marriage.
“If you get married, you have to have kids.” ~ Melissa Myer (Source: The Unwitting Raconteur)
It’s an unsettling but not altogether unfamiliar perspective. Marriage equals procreation.
I admit that much of my own disinterest in marriage in early adulthood hinged upon my perspective that marriage equals procreation. And since I had no interest in having kids, I had no interest in marriage. Simple. Obvious.
It took my now-wife’s mostly patient, painstaking tutelage to gradually amplify my understanding of marriage.
You Have to Have Kids?
Children were simply the next step after marriage. Period.
But just as I didn’t fully grok this in my teens and twenties, I know that many others still lump marriage and procreating together. And many simply take for granted that growing up means inevitably transitioning from school to career to marriage to having kids.
My own father recently conceded that he’d never really stopped to question (or even consider) alternative to marrying and parenting. Children were simply the next step after marriage. Period.
I Was Born This Way
Myer’s post resonated with me mostly because of this important uncoupling of marriage and procreating. But she also teases out another intriguing idea, that of childfree choice. She challenges the notion that childfree adults choose to be childfree. Certainly we’re all familiar with unintentionally childless adults and couples. Pregnancy was impossible. Or fate intervened.
But Myer is actually talking about something else. Rather than a reasoned choice not to have children, she was born a “NotMom”. Growing up simply helped her accept that she was not destined to be a parent.
“I never needed reasons, and those of you who ‘chose’ to be childfree don’t need them either. What thankfully isn’t artificial, and what will never be, is that I am who I am — a NotMom since I was nascent. Childfree by a choice I never actually made. I was born this way.” (Source: The Unwitting Raconteur)
I’ve written in the past about not having a burning urge to procreate, no need to have a child or be a father. I think that this is basically what Myer means. I was born a “NonDad” by virtue of the fact that I didn’t ever want or try to have a kid. I’m not sure that my own experience warrants this conclusion, as if I were predestined not to become a father, but it’s an interesting twist. Some of us are born to reproduce; others are not. Nulliparity as hardwired…
Kids have been (and will continue to be) an important part of my life. As a teacher, coach, advisor, uncle, friend, and unabashed man-child, children are central to my life, my love, my hopes, and my satisfactions. I don’t hate children. In fact, I’m pretty certain I’ve never met anyone who actually hates kids.
And yet all too often the childfree choice is equated with hating kids. Bizarre.
I Don’t Want Children; I Don’t Hate Children
Here’s one thing that parents seem to forget. Are you ready for this?
Believe it or not, my identity can include children without breeding on my own! … All of my other siblings are having children of their own and my wife and I can be truly engaged as an aunt and uncle and make sure we are always there for them…
Just because I don’t want to have my own children, doesn’t mean that I hate children. I love the children in my family… My wife and I consider ourselves very lucky to have such great people (and their children) in our lives! (Source: Why I Choose to Be Childfree — Medium)
My wife and I likewise consider ourselves lucky to have two amazing nieces, two amazing nephews, a goddaughter, and lots of cousins and friends’ children to enrich our lives. Our identities celebrate children, and most of the children we know seem to grok this quickly and enthusiastically. Perhaps precisely because we are not parents. Or perhaps because we’ve never grown up very much ourselves?
Less Judgment and More Respect
Jesse Nichols wraps up his childfree meditation with an important reminder. Let’s try to support one another’s decisions whether they be to have children or not. Let’s remember to judge one another less and respect one another more.
Having kids is a choice. No one needs to have kids. The world is not in need of more people. In fact, there is a serious overpopulation problem… But, if you want to have children… I am truly happy for you and I fully support your decision to do so.
I’ve decided that I do not want to have children. I think that’s pretty awesome too! Maybe you can do me the courtesy of supporting my decision as well, rather than giving me a list of reasons why you think I’m wrong. (Source: Why I Choose to Be Childfree — Medium)
Bye-bye, Breeder Bingo. Hello non-judgmental, respectful diversity!
Kate Banister and her husband Ian spent two or three years weighing up whether to have kids. “We both had our ups and downs, but now were equally on the same page about it which is very fortunate,” the 37-year-old business owner said. Getting their two dogs Ruby and Saffy helped the Banisters make up their minds. “We thought this is actually quite nice, you get the interaction and the nurturing with the dogs, and you can still have a life. But new research suggests one in four women who choose not to have children live to regret their decision, as they face growing old without family.” (Source: Will women who choose to go childfree regret it? | Stuff.co.nz)
Need proof that many parents regret having children? Fifteen ‘rents dish As you get older your mind will make up more and more reasons why it makes sense to have a kid. Don’t be fooled, it’s just evolution tricking you into reproducing — no sane, thinking beast would take on the burden of raising a child if the mind didn’t fool us into it. So, does the world need another one of you? Or are you just being fooled into making a baby… (Source: 15 Parents Explain Why They Regret Having Children | Thought Catalog)
“Do you have children?” It’s a question I’ve gotten repeatedly in my travels, as cultures everywhere celebrate children and women’s ability to produce them. I don’t, nor do I plan to for reasons both personal and environmental. But not wanting to spark an awkward exchange, I’d usually demur with, “Not yet.”
One more reason to become a lobbyist?
The nation’s capital has long been a place that attracts young professionals. Now, information from local income tax data provides some specifics, with a snapshot of the different types of families across D.C. neighborhoods.
“What we found was that childless singles [aka childfree singles] dominate the city,” says Ginger Moored, a fiscal analyst for the office of D.C.’s chief financial officer. (WTOP)
It's Thursday, time for verse, for edgy verse, and curiously potent advice from thoughtful English librarian and writer Philip Larkin. Childfree advice…
This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
Philip Larkin (via The Poetry Foundation)
A quirky poem from a quirky poet. What say you? Is the childfree choice a chance to abbreviate the cycle of &$@#ing up? 😉
Let’s finish the week off with a quick look at Dani Alpert’s rant on HuffPo about childless by choice oversaturation. Sure, it’s a few weeks overripe, and there’s something decidedly disingenuous about reposting a post about the fact that there’s too much posting about childless by choice issues, but… I can’t resist.
Why do the Childless by Choice still feel the need to defend their decisions? Why is this still relevant? With all that’s going on in the world; Isis, Ebola, climate change, George Clooney’s wedding, why does anyone give a sh*t about the 10 things not to say to a CBC person? ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)
Right. Why? Sometimes I want to throw around asterisk-ornamented bombs myself, let off a little steam and tell all the bingo brandishing breeders to cut me some slack. To cut us some slack. Why is it any of their business whether or not my wife and I are childless by choice?
The answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know why the debate grows louder and more caustic instead of vanishing quietly into the background. Are childless by choice adults defensive? Maybe. But honestly, it usually feels like it’s the way around. I’ve honestly never heard CBCs question a parent’s choice. Never! But parents frequently question our choice to remain childfree. So you tell me, who’s being defensive?
I will never understand why what I do, and don’t do, with my uterus matters to anyone else but me and my gynecologist. ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)
Okay, so let’s cut to the chase. This is exactly the sort of gem that I couldn’t resist highlighting and echoing back across the interwebs. Seriously! And here’s another.
Do us all a favor and read a book, go to the movies or join the army. Whatever you do… stay out of my bed and womb. ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)
Wow! Dani’s pulling no punches. Sure, it’s effective venting language, and she’s certainly grabbed the “Hey, look at me!” spotlight, but there’s more to it than that. She’s right. She isn’t refocusing the debate. She is annulling the debate. Parents who question and/or judge their childless by choice friends are WAY out of bounds. Period.
Dani touches briefly on feminism and explains that she’s metaphorically “mothered” people, things, even a short film. She totally groks the mothering/parenting instinct, a point that she underlines in her stream of conscious list of CBC related thoughts. But that’s not the point. The point, is she wants everyone to shut the $&@%! up and start talking about something more important.
Fair enough. Let’s distance ourselves from the judgment. Let’s remember that how a woman chooses to uses her uterus is her business. Let’s recognize that questioning/judging a woman’s childfree choice is no less inappropriate and offensive than a CBC woman questioning/judging a mother’s decision to get pregnant, carry the baby to term, and keep it after birth.
But healthy conversation about the childless by choice option is just as important, especially for young women, as information about pregnancy, birthing, parenting. There is an awful lot of social programming to balance out, and women should be empowered to make the choice whether or not to become mothers with knowledge, intention, and confidence. That will not happen in a vacuum. Nor will it happen in a bellicose atmosphere of judgment. Let’s create a friendlier, more informative, more nurturing process for women and men to determine the the best choices. Sounds reasonable, right?
It’s Friday night CFers! What’s on your sybaritic to-do list? Ain’t childfreedom a $#@%?!?!
Okay, snark aside, I’m confident that you’ll have a wonderful evening (and weekend), especially once you check out Kevin B. Morrow’s (@kbmrg) lighthearted but sincere reflection on his childfree marriage. His HuffPo post is called “Childless by Choice – Gas Station Condoms and Rumors of Infertility“, but the subtitle should be, “We forgot to have kids!” I’ve used this awe-shucks explanation often enough myself, so his words resonated for me. Might for you too. Anyway, it’s a quick read. You can squeeze in this quick read between your après-work massage and happy hour! You know, when your friends are picking up the babysitter…
But if you’re feeling too mellow after your massage (or you’ve already jumpstarted happy hour), I’ll pull a couple of my favorite quotes.
It’s very strange that I had no problem buying liquor or illegal drugs when I was in my late teens but I was too embarrassed to buy condoms in a drug store… My solution to this dilemma was to buy condoms from a vending machine in the bathroom of a gas station that was at the end of the airport runway.
It honestly is odd how uncomfortable males are about buying condoms, many even once they’re all grown up. Why is that? Maybe we need to make it cool so that teens will make smarter choices…
Anyway, Kevin grew up and now he’s buying his wife’s feminine hygiene products and condoms without even flinching. I’ve got to admit that I’m still working on the cool-as-a-cucumber tampon purchase. Maybe I’ll update you once I master it. Kevin tacks from here to the first subtle look at why he and his bride opted for a childfree marriage.
Children can’t be let out in the yard to play until you get up at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday because you were out late the night before. Dogs can.
Obvious humor here, and I have a weakness for folks who can shine light on serious stuff by making me laugh. But there’s another aspect of this droll throwaway that’s less droll and not really a throwaway. When I grew up we were out in the yard, the woods, and everywhere else all day on weekends. And summers. And snow days. But somehow this basic and wonderful aspect of childhood vanished over the last decade or so. Poof! Gone. It’s uncanny how few children wander neighborhoods nowadays, how few sleds and snowballs fights criss-cross postcard perfect snowy lawns. I know this isn’t what Kevin’s talking about, but it’s on my database of reasons why I’m child free. Somewhere we lost something. How? When? Why?
The reality for me and for Kevin and many others, we just sort of forgot to have kids.
The reality was that neither of us ever had a strong desire to be parents. The wonderful mental images had crossed our minds; coloring with a cute three year old, taking them trick or treating on Halloween, or seeing their faces on Christmas morning as they opened presents. We recognized however that this was a romanticized view and not everything that was involved in parenting.
It’s interesting to me how often I hear this explanation. This is the main reason that my bride and I skipped breeding. We love children, but we felt no burning desire to make one of our own. We borrow them. We spoil them. We return them. And so far that’s worked out just fine for us. We weren’t – and we still aren’t – anti parenting/kids/etc. We just had a lot stronger interest in other parts of life. And the prime breeding years shuffled past without provoking much interest from us. We forgot to have kids!
I’ll wrap up with Kevin’s final funny anecdote.
My father-in-law had some sort of surgery and my wife had gone to Florida to be his “nurse” during this time. As he woke up from the anesthesia, she was standing there and he asked her “Have you had Kevin tested?” her response was “for what?” Thoughts of STDs and AIDS ran through her mind. He then said “well you’ve never had kids.” Her response:
“I guess it might help if we stopped using birth control.”
If only that were enough for most people…
- Otherhood (adventuresinneverneverland.com)
- Hollywood’s Childless by Choice club (childfreenews.com)
- Childless by choice: Statistics show more are opting out of parenthood (childfreenews.blogspot.com)
- Advancing the Research on the Childfree & Online Childfree Communities (lauracarroll.com)
- Photo Essay?: Childfree Celebrities (whynokids.com)
- The Fruitful Callings of the Childless By Choice (childfreenews.com)