April 18, 2017

Childfree Myths

Busted Childfree Myth of the Week (National Infertility Awareness Week)

Busted Childfree Myth of the Week (National Infertility Awareness Week)

Myth: People who live childfree are selfish.

Busted!: Choosing not to have children is no more or less selfish than choosing to have children. Describing a childfree person as being selfish is a subjective value judgment that does not consider the various other meaningful contributions childfree people make to the world.

The reasons for which children are brought into this world vary and some can be very selfish. Aspiring parents could conceivably be making an equally or more selfish a decision if their purpose is the expectation that their children will look after them as they grow older, or are trying to save a relationship already in trouble. At the heart of the decision to bring a child into the world often lies the parents’ own desires, to enjoy the experience of child-rearing.

Living a childfree lifestyle is choosing to be for one’s self, rather than being selfish. It is being honest with the realities of the reason the decision was presented in the first place and understanding that the value of one’s self is not defined by the role of being a parent, but by the quality of the role played by being a human being.

(via Myths About Childfree Living)

I’d never heard of National Infertility Awareness Week before receiving a tip from a reader that I should check out their Myths About Childfree Living. It’s worth a touch-and-go — if for no other reason than it’s intriguing creation and dissemination by the The National Infertility Association — but I think the most compelling “busted childfree myth” is the one I’ve quoted above. It touches on two issues that invariably arise in “Why no kids?” conversations, selfishness and choice. The post revisits the latter and several other childfree myths:

  • Living child free is a choice, and they never wanted children.
  • People who live child free have empty lives.
  • People who live childfree have carefree lives.
  • A higher-power is telling you that you should not be a parent.

Obviously some couple living childfree lives actually wanted to (perhaps tried to) have children and were unable to for one reason or another. For them, living childfree is not not a choice. But for many of us it is. A profoundly important (and often difficult) choice. It’s a choice we continue to make again and again. And it isn’t always a choice that hinges upon having never wanted children. Few people are so simple. Human psychology is complex and fluid; wants ebb and flow. But the ongoing choice not to have children endures for some couples despite whims, curiosities, fashions, fears, desires, etc. It is these couples who’s stories particularly intrigue me. I hope that we will continue to hear more in the weeks and months ahead.

As for the final three childfree myths, they all strike me as a bit light and goofy, but they’ll be revisited in due course. Although, fair warning, the “higher-power” crutch is a personal peeve. So, with all due respect, I’ll encourage someone else to ponder the almighty will scenarios!

I’m not infertile. I Just don’t want kids.

Me with my god-daughter and her brother

She slipped a small piece of paper into my hand, closed my fingers around it and allowed her hand to linger on my closed fist.

“I want to recommend someone to you. He can change your life.”

Huh? Why, in the middle of a Northern Westchester Junior League meeting was this woman, whom I hardly knew, handing me some piece of paper that would change my life? I opened my hand and found the answer. It was a card for a fertility doctor.

“Oh, no,” I protested, “I don’t have kids because I don’t want them. I’m not infertile.” Her eyes widened and she looked at me with horror.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I just figured, since you’re the only one without children…” she stammered.

“No problem. Have you met my husband?” She had not. “If you’d met him, you’d understand. Some people just shouldn’t be replicated.” I added. That silenced her. She never spoke to me again.

I left my husband soon thereafter.

Fast forward thirteen years. I’m now forty-five and live in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain. I have a new husband who’s incredible – with so many qualities worth replicating.

He’s brilliant and beautiful, charming, kind and hilarious and he’s a great teacher (he was one for a living for a long while). He would be an outstanding father. We share the same values, interests and goals. They don’t however include procreation.

We have a great life. We love our friends and family,  our careers, our outdoor lifestyle and our frequent world travels. We’re also at the point in our lives where we are finally financially able to raise children, emotionally equipped, and have a large house full of extra bedrooms and plenty of land for play plus a world of outdoor sports and a healthy community at our doorstep.

Why wouldn’t we have kids? Well, the short and cheeky answer is: Why rock the boat? We have a great life, why mess with the formula? That sums things up pretty well, but, of course there are more complex reasons for our choice to not have children of our own.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I love kids. I probably have more fun with them than most parents, because having fun is all I need to do with them.

We have heaps of kids in our lives.  We spend a good deal of time enjoying our friends’ many children our god-children and our cousins’ multiple offspring.   In our immediate families we have two nephews (11 & 13) from my sister and two nieces (2 and 4) from George’s brother. They are awesome. We’ve loved watching them grow and marveled at their blossoming brains and talents.

Interestingly, if – God forbid – anything happens to our siblings and their spouses, the kids become ours. Do I have a problem with that? No. I would have a big problem with losing our siblings, of course, but would happily raise their children if need be. I would devote myself to being the best second-best mom in the world for them. They are a part of us already.  They always will be.

So, why wouldn’t I want to have my own? For one, we know how our nieces and nephews turned out and we’re happy with the results. Starting from scratch is a much riskier endeavor with all the physical and mental handicap genes floating around in our population, not to mention the heart disease, cancer and depression genes prominent in both of our family gene pools.

Admittedly, we’d all be hard pressed to find a family that doesn’t carry those genes, but with my 45-year-old shriveled eggs and with the myriad health issues that I sometimes battle, what are the odds exactly of my having a healthy, well-adjusted child that won’t need constant attention for the rest of my life? I’m not willing to find out.

Some time ago a gay friend of mine asked me if I would consider being a surrogate mother so that he and his partner could adopt and raise the baby.

I was flattered but delicately told him that I don’t want to be a mother.

He tried to convince me that I didn’t even have to be a mother. Apparently, if I give my baby for someone else to raise that doesn’t qualify me as a” mother.”  Good to know but no just the same.  Good for a woman who can give her child to another to raise when she can’t do it herself, but I could raise one, perhaps successfully.  I just choose not to.

“Well then,” he concluded, “if you and George accidentally get pregnant, would you consider letting us raise the child if you don’t want it?”

Seriously?

Thanks for the vote of confidence in our reproductive skills but I’ll have to get back to you on that…

Upcoming Posts:

  • Monday March 14: Am I Selfish For Not Having Kids?
  • Wednesday March 16: Hanging Out With Moms and Why are Dads Having More Fun?
  • Friday March 18: Forging My Own Kid-less Path
  • Monday March 21: Dog Mom and über Aunt Will Travel