AI: Childfree and Fabulous
The upcoming issue of TIME Magazine is going to run a cover story by Lauren Sandler on the Childfree lifestyle and how “having it all” can mean not having children. And as a childfree, happily married woman I thought to myself, fuck yeah! You know what? I am content this way even with the sad, tilted-head looks I get from (some of) my mommy-friends and relatives. “Aw, you would understand what you are missing if you had kids, Amy.” Understand what, exactly? Does this insinuate that I am less of a woman for not going through the physical strain of pregnancy and birth? Does being a complete human require raising another human?
This idea that people without children are lacking love in their life, or are sad, or are missing out on some huge part of life and are cruely snipping off branches from the evolutionary tree and damaging society is insulting and well, it’s wrong too. In a world that is being damaged daily by the impact of humans, I and other childfree people are actually doing the world a huge favor by creating a much lower carbon footprint. I am convinced there are enough humans on the planet. More humans is not what we need. And love? Well, I can love whatever and whomever I choose.
But Aaaaaammmmmyyyy… aren’t you oh-so-sad and super lonely without babies? Nope.
I get all my nurturing needs met by my friends and my partner that I got to pick! AND I get all my poop-picking-up needs met by my adopted dogs who by the way, will never steal the car and drive it into the neighbor’s garage door. (Something I may or may not have done as a teenager.) AND I get to take-off and sprawl my non-mommy ass out on the beach for the weekend with my husband without any need of a babysitter or a car-seat which is (much more classily) illustrated on the TIME Magazine cover.
But Aaaaaammmmmyyyy… what about Mother’s day cards and who will take care of you when you are OLD? Well, I will just take all the money I saved by not breeding, buy myself a card and a retirement home where I can make crafts with the other seniors whose kids never call them anyway.
Full disclosure: There was actually a time in my life were I did consider having children. I loved (and sill love) my husband so much I wanted to CLONE him and I was pregnant and miscarried twice. I only point this out because next time you have the urge to pull a “but-you-dont-understand-what-you-are-missing” sad-look, guilt-trip on your childfree friend, you might want to consider that there are certain situations beyond some people’s control. But in my particular situation I can honestly say that I am seriously oh-so very happy with the way my life has turned out and I can personally recommend the childfree lifestyle as being freaking awesome. And if you want to, or do have children, then hey, that is great too! Good for you if that is your thing! Just realize that it’s not for everyone and shouldn’t be expected. And not having kids doesn’t require that your life is less or an “empty-nest.” Quite the opposite!
I hope that society will get on board with the idea that a childfree life is not something that deserves a sympathy card or sad looks, it’s something empowering that deserves a thank-you cake. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go pack for my weekend getaway on the coast. No kids allowed.
Are you childfree? Did you decide it early on? Do people give you a hard time for it? Are you happy? If you have kids do you think your childfree friends are missing out?
Thanks for writing this, Amy. I don’t identify as childfree because a) I’m not familiar enough with the community that uses the term to know whether I’m comfortable being associated with them and b) I’m currently open to my body changing my mind about eventually wanting children. That said, I’ve never been interested in having kids and I’m not actively planning for kids (my own, that is–I definitely plan to interact with other people’s children in my life) to be a part of my future.
I am privileged that none of my familiar members have pressured me about having children since I got married. I’m still relatively young, so maybe it is only a matter of time, but I at least know that my mother will never give me trouble about it. She actually told me that if she did it over again, she would choose not to have children. (Contrary to what some might think, the conversation in which she shared this with me made me feel closer to her. She doesn’t regret having children or how we turned out, but I felt a lot of trust from her to share this with me.)
The comment that frustrates me the most that is often directed toward childfree adults is that it’s such a selfish lifestyle choice. Selfish because you’re able to continue making your own priorities your top priorities, because you aren’t sacrificing things that are important to you for someone else’s benefit. First of all: just because someone doesn’t have children does not mean ze is not making sacrifices. Second, you have to decide (ideally) to have that child that you’re giving so much up for. What motivated your decision? I have yet to see a selfless reason for someone to decide to have children. I don’t judge people for the reasons they do choose to have children–it’s their perogative and I’m happy for them. I would just hope that childfree people can be afforded the same respect.
My husband and I are child-free by choice. There was a time when I felt like I was missing out on something by not having kids, but starting a farm effectively doused that desire. I do plenty of nurturing and bringing new life into the world with the rare-breed livestock I’m helping preserve, and that seems at least as worthwhile to me as adding more people to an already overburdened planet. We did consider adopting, but I honestly don’t think that I have the energy to work full-time, have a farm, and raise a child well, and (what with my family’s history of mental-health issues) I don’t feel particularly tempted at this point to try doing all three at once.
I’m childfree and I’m very happy with that decision. I made it when I was a teenager and have never regretted it. My boyfriend and I are both committed non-breeders and whenever we see a dead-eyed parent with their screaming little bastard in a grocery store, we always share a knowing smile.
And it’s not that I don’t like children. I come from a huge family with lots of awesome, adorable kids. I get to hold lots of babies. I like holding babies. I just like being able to give them back.
I always thought I’d have a kid ‘cos that’s what you do. We were going to have me give birth to one, so I could experience it, and then adopt more if we wanted more. Turned out I was infertile due to hormonal crap, so it wasn’t a huge step to go from birthing one to adopting all. It was when I started researching adoption, and looking at the questions they ask, that I really thought about it. I realized that all of the reasons I had for adopting had nothing to do with wanting to be a mother or to raise a child. My husband didn’t want to raise children, but was willing to do so (and would eventually have settled in) because he didn’t want to deny it to me if I wanted it. We talked a lot about it, and I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to lose who I’d fought so hard to become. I didn’t WANT our marriage to change. I didn’t want all the changes that having children would cause. I had things I wanted to do with my life and having kids would have certainly made me far too tired to accomplish most of them (that’s a comment on -me- and -my energy levels- and -my abilities- no one else). I knew myself well enough to know that. So we finally concluded we weren’t going to have children, and I have not regretted it for more than a few minutes a few times every couple of years.
Happily no babies. We have furry four-footers (and a carapacy four-footer). I don’t actually like kids. I’ve been around them, I’ve taught them, and even the really good ones that I do manage to seem to like are occasionally such monsters that I am assured it would benefit no one for me to have responsibility for one. My wife is in the camp that likes to hold them as long as they can go back. I honestly can’t even muster that much.
Or sometimes oops, they happen…
I identify as child-free, although my husband’s daughter from another marriage comes over twice a week. I will not be having or adopting any children myself though and I am VERY happy with this arrangement.
I also teach, and people freak out when they find out I refuse to have kids of my own. “Don’t you love kids!?” Uh, yes, that’s why I teach. And why I don’t want to go home to any. I personally do not understand how its humanly possible to teach children all day and then go home and spend MORE time taking care of kids all evening without tearing SOMEONE’S hair out. Boggles the mind. Also, yes, I do love kids. That’s why I know I’d be a terrible parent to one and choose not to inflict that on an innocent kid.
My damn Shiba Inu is all the child I will ever need. (Notice I also chose the most aloof, independent breed?)
I would like to name a kid though. That’d be cool. But 9 mos of pregnancy and 18 years just to be able to name something? (I just hand out my list to pregnant friends who take one look and whisper under their breath, “Thank goodness she’s not having kids.”) My next Shiba is being named Clementine, I’ll have you know. And I admit, it’d be cool to see what a mix of my partner and me would look like, but again, not worth the 18.75 years.
HA! 18.75 years? Have I got news for you. In fact it’s a lifetime.
I kind of subscribe to the John Lennon line”Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”
It’s odd the way things turn out sometimes.
But I would not criticise anybody’s choices on this.
I was referring more to when you are raising a child/legally responsible for it. And actually, I wouldn’t mind a kid after their 20th birthday or so. It’s just the whole raising one idea that I have no interest in.
As for the “way things turn out?” Two sterilizations are in place to prevent that. And should both fail? Abortion, thankfully, is still legal and accessible in my state.
Great post. The nagging wouldn’t stop even if you had a kid. We have one child by choice, but have been told that we are selfish, among other things. (Although I am an only child and was always happy with that.) I don’t know why people have to insult other people’s choices anyway.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on why this whole “childfree” movement rubs me the wrong way, and I think this is it. Let me open with what should be the obvious among humans by now: reproductive rights are nobody’s business but your own. Children should never be a requirement. Most of my friends, and my own partner, have never had children. I had one. And nobody (and I mean NOBODY) has ever suggested I should have kids before I did, and nobody (again I mean NOBODY… other than that kid himself, ironically) has suggested I should have more than one.
I have, however, had people act concerned at the possibility that I might.
Intersectionality goes where?
Poor people aren’t supposed to choose children. Queer people aren’t supposed to choose children. Atheists aren’t supposed to choose children. Full-time career workers aren’t supposed to choose children. Divorced people whose ex has custody of the kid aren’t supposed to chose (more) children.
So my issue isn’t with the people who are childfree, or even the fight for the right to remain childfree. It’s with the loud blaring silence with regard to who are being told to have children vs who are being told explicitly not to.
Exactly. Some (not all) folk who are child-free get overzealous and discriminate against child-full folk who aren’t the judging type. My kids just kinda happened, and now that I have them I see a degree anti-kid bias amongst many members of more liberal communities such as skeptic movements. I hear things said like “God parents need to control their kid’s noise/this should be a no kid event/I don’t understand why ANYONE would want children”, etc. I absolutely don’t think people should be judged for not having kids, I was planning such a lifestyle myself (life had other plans), but I think there are a subsection of childless people who are overzealous about it, and that’s REALLY annoying.
To be honest Amy’s post I think was a little arrogant of this fact.
I think some of this feeling comes out of the language of childbearing used. “Breeder” and “breeding” are words generally linked with animals, not people, and there is long, long history of portraying reproduction (particularly women’s reproduction) as impure, unsavory, lesser, proof of unworthiness or stain… it goes back centuries, and it persists today. There is also a lot of language that labels children as not people–monsters, minions, demons, distractions, spawn, et cetera–and not all of it lovingly.
I understand the need for a term that isn’t “child-less” and know why “child-free” came up as an alternative, but when you set it against this polarity of You Have Children or You Do Not Have Children… I mean, the opposite of “free” people are likely to think of first is “enslaved.” You could make the case that I read too much and overthink language (and I’m being too sensitive or looking for trouble and I’ve heard it all), but these words come up over and over again, and they set a tone. Language has a real effect, and this effect is a noticeable degree of anti-kid bias.
It is possible this bias is deliberate and that people are carving out adult-only spaces for themselves, and reflecting back what they have received from people with children for not having any of their own, and making a point.
I think your first paragraph nailed it for me. Considering how damaging having children can be to women’s education and careers and how isolating parenthood can get, considering how dehumanizing the language to describe children is in general culture as well as language used to describe reproduction, considering how denigrating language used to describe women’s choices often is as a whole (like, we literally cannot do anything without getting thoroughly trashed by a large group of someone, somewhere), I am not surprised that that language has taken hold amongst the childfree movement. But it still stings. Especially considering that for a lot of women, being a parent *wasn’t* a choice they actively made but one which was foisted upon them, whether through abuse or social pressure or a lack of family planning resources altogether.
My kids are people, same as I was at their age, same as anyone. I am still a person, too. Not a cow. Not a dog. Not a breeder. Yes, my choices have been limited in a profound way by choosing parenthood, but in the same way that I don’t consider myself better than someone who does not have kids, that doesn’t make people who choose to be childfree better than me.
I get the need for validation. I get that there’s a lot of push, especially for people who present as women, to have children, and I understand the need to push back against that pressure, and to push back hard. I understand the need to claim space. I just wish it didn’t have to involve throwing women who do have kids– often to their own detriment– under the bus. I wish that claiming positive, childfree space in the world didn’t have to feel like dancing on the heads of those of us who struggle with our parenthood, whether because we’re poor, because we lack resources and opportunities, because we’re isolated in abusive relationships, or because we realized too late that maybe we weren’t totally cut out for this gig and we’re trying to do the best we can anyway.
It’s a little hard to swallow a loaded word like “discriminate” in the context of people who have children. Sure, child-free people can be rude about it. But being a parent is not some marginalized identity. Honestly. It’s about as societally supported a role (in theory, with caveats) as there could be. Those of us who don’t have kids have had a lifetime of most other people around us expecting us to be AS interested in their kids and AS accommodating of their needs and AS fascinated by their behavior and on, and on, and on, as their parents. To call it tiresome would be an understatement.
Breeder, squat out some crotch fruit, you oughta have a license, certain people shouldn’t, it’s immoral, people should be shamed, seen and not heard, selfish, destroying civilization and the planet…
Why are people such sanctimonious jerks about everything? In both directions. I guess we’re all selfish and should be ashamed, children or no.
I’ve got 3 kids, because my spouse and I suck at birth control. They are great. But expensive, and anxiety provoking, with no end to the anxiety in sight. Our glorification of parenting as some sacred rite is ridiculous. I assumed, after my first kid, that the only reason people have them is that they have no clue what they’re getting themselves into!
My younger brother and his wife are having a kid in October, so I guess I’m off the hook?
I mean, I could use some interns, but kids? Nah.
One of my old coworkers has two, and I was talking about how I didn’t want any. She said they were great: they were little people that did everything she asked. She had minions.
My experience is that her experience is atypical.
I’m not childfree. Actually, I’m very happy to be the mother of two planned and desired children. But I totally understand and support the choice of not having children. Each person should have the right to choose how they are going to live their lives, and I believe it is completely possible to be a happy and fulfilled person without children (as well as a happy couple). Good for all of you for being bold enough to stick to your choices, even through so much social pressure.
I’ve known that I don’t want kids since I was 12. I think I’ve finally got my doctor on board with getting me sterilized, now I just have to convince a gyno! Both of my partners are very much on board with the not having babies thing as well, and I’ve never gotten any crap from my parents as well. My mother has always said that if she could do it all again she wouldn’t have had kids, so she doesn’t care if I do or not.
Most people, when they find out about my relationship, seem to be much more understanding about not having kids. Being poly has nothing to do with it, but whatever!
Childfree by choice! I have only twice contemplated having a child. Once when my older sibling passed away when I as 18. As I had already known since I was quite young I didn’t want kids I remember being sad that my parents would never be grandparents. Then realized that was a bit irrational and realizing that is not the way to choose to have a child.
The second time was when I hit rock bottom mentally. My job was crap, my marriage was cramp, and I had what can be only described as a nervous breakdown. The idea of continuing the way it was would have killed me. So heck! Ill have a kid, go on mat leave for a year and it will fix my marriage too! Now that I’m separated and in a much happier job situation I am very relieved that I didn’t follow through on that ridiculous (for me) notion.
Salon has some good comentary on the article.
Once upon I time, I wanted kids, just not right then. On the day the cat meowed for more water while I was writing and I thought, “What? Again? Already?!”, I knew I didn’t really want kids. I’m much happier being that adult whom kids can call when they don’t feel they can call their parents.
I can’t understand what is selfish about not having children that you don’t want. Nor can I understand how being a parent automatically makes anyone selfless. There are very many opportunities to behave selfishly when you have children and to behave altruistically when you don’t, so that argument makes no sense to me. I’m a working parent of a toddler and I can see why people would choose not to have children. It is difficult, but as for me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m child-free and have absolutely no desire to raise one. Ever. I’ll be the cool aunt/godmother.
I get a lot of grief over it, though, especially being a teacher. The comment that bothers me the most is when people say or insinuate that I’m being selfish just living my life for me instead of making society better by contributing my offspring. I don’t even know where to start when this comes up. Do those same people accuse terrible parents of being selfish for their irresponsible actions? Who decided that everyone having babies actually makes the world better? What about adopting all the children who are already here and don’t have parents to take care of them? People assume that having babies automatically makes you a good person, a good woman. It’s like the assumption that being christian automatically makes you a good person…
“I have no need to breed” – my 10-y-o niece when asked if she would like to have kids some day.
From one Amy to another, CHEERS on your childfree choice! My husband Lance and I are also happily childfree. We blog about our childfree adventures on werenothavingababy.com. The timing of your post is very apropo – August 1 was International Childfree Day! For me, yesterday was all about celebrating having a choice. I’m grateful to live in a time and place when I have the right and capability to choose whether to be a parent or not (I wholeheartedly choose not). I only wish more parents realized that parenthood is also a choice. All kids deserve parents who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they want to be parents. And the childfree deserve the right to celebrate their choice without ridicule, stereotype, or stigma. :)
I decided as a child that I did not want to have children. I am now post-menopausal and do not regret the decision. I did work with children for several years and my partner, also childless, was a teacher for many years. The only reason I might have wanted a child was the selfish one of sending my genes onward into the future. But I have tons of cousins who have reproduced and might have some similar genes/dna/etc to me…so I figure that’s close enough (correct me if I’m way off base scientifically). I do have a wonderful kitty who is my “baby”. She does not require an expensive college education, she provides me with affection and her needs are minimal. I do have a niece and nephew, both adults. But as both have Asperger’s, and are not dating, I don’t expect to be a grand aunt anytime soon, if ever. Despite some serious ongoing medical issues, I’ve had a very full, rich life. I could also have had had a full rich life with kids, but I knew that once you have a child, your own dreams and goals end up in the background with the child becoming the main focus of your life, something I did not want. It’s a very personal decision…but once you have kids, you can’t exactly shove them back in!
I think a co-worker thought she was being supportive of my explanation that I didn’t want children (or maybe she is just passive-aggressive) by saying she thought it was great when people who know they wouldn’t be good parents don’t have children. Um, no. I didn’t say I’d fail at being a mom. I also don’t think I’d fail at being a doctor, either. I just don’t want to endure what it requires.
I don’t think I’ve had anyone say to my face that I’m selfish for not wanting children. If they ever do I think I’ll just ask, “Why would you say something hurtful like that to me?” and wait for long uncomfortable silence. It’s rude, pure and simple.
Ugh, what your co worker said to you was crap. There are a multitude of reasons why someone would not want to have kids (or want them but not be able to have them) and it’s not necessarily about thinking you’d be a bad parent. It’s nobody’s business and rather a complicated (or simple! hey! people are different, imagine that!) personal choice that you shouldn’t have to validate to anyone, nor should you be crammed into some predetermined box they’ve set up for you so that your choices make the “right” kind of sense to them. Some people probably think they’d be great parents, they just don’t want to be parents. Imagine, that, people who have choices available to them get to choose. Wow. Blows the mind.
The is a risk in discussions of being child-free in turning it into a conflict between people with children and people without children and in turning it into a culture-war and then into economic war and then into a war against the future and into a war against other people’s children.
The fact is that it costs money to raise children, and it takes time away from work, school, play and every other activity.
No one should be penalized for not having children. No one should be penalized for having children. Today’s children will be tomorrow’s adults. We need to treat today’s children in ways so they will grow into being responsible adults.
A very large component of the Republican war on women (and others) is to saddle them with children they don’t have the time, money or energy to support, so those women don’t have the time, money and psychological energy to stand up to the bogus crap the GOP is trying to pull.
What is the GOP cutting? Food stamps which are a large part of what keeps many children fed. Schools which are how children become educated. Medicaid which is how many children get their health care.
I thought I wanted kids and my husband and we actually tried for a year with no success. Then we had a discussion about our options (tests, treatments, adoption) and we agreed that we don’t want to become parents after all. I guess we’d just assumed we did, because that’s what couples do. Have kids.
My life is busy. I have a job – a career even – and lots of hobbies. If I had kids all of that would change (yes, as a woman having kids would mean time off work and much less time for other stuff ) and I don’t want that kind of change. I also enjoy being alone and I don’t know a mother of small children who’s ever alone.
And I like to sleep. I really don’t want to be sleep deprived for years. And I’m also not the most patient person even when I’ve had enough sleep. I’d be an irritable and impatient mother and that would not be fair to my kids.
Also, what made us not want the tests and treatments was the fear of something going wrong – something I didn’t think about that much when we tried to conceive. I believe the parents of disabled or sick children who tell me that their kids are a source of joy. But I know they are a source of heartbreak too. Just reading about children dying of cancer or drowning or getting hit by a car or choking to death hurts so much I don’t know if I’d be able to go on if something like that happened to my child. And I’ll say it: having a child who needs constant care their whole life would be a nightmare. So, did I want kids so much that I was willing to go through all kinds of tests and treatments, possible miscarriages and the whole pregnancy ang birth thing with all the risks of something going wrong? No.
Now having thought it through and talked it through with my husband I can say we are happily childfree.
I always knew I would have kids but I was afraid of what it would be like to be a parent. I like my free time, I can be selfish about my sleep time, and seeing other kids made me grateful to be free of all that mess. I hated being pregnant even though I planned it, and I was worried that I would resent my baby.
Now I’m on the other side. I would happily die for my child. Being a parent is hard, but when she recognizes me and smiles, my heart just bursts. I know I am lucky because I felt an instant bond.
I don’t care about other people’s choices. Have kids, don’t have kids, whatever. I’m just explaining my perspective.
My husband and I are each the oldest of three. We are absolutely the last of our siblings we thought would be having kids. Our brothers and sisters were going to have *way* more rug rats, and way sooner, than us. Skip fifteen years are we have four, everyone else is still single and kid free. And our kids have the most awesome set of fun aunts and cool uncles anyone could ever hope for. They are taken down to the beach for marine biology, and into the woods for tracking and ecology, and on adventure walks with stories, and going cardboard-sledding down the levy behind the neighborhood. They get sleep overs and camping and all the amazing fun things that their parents who, did I mention this, have four kids really don’t have time for.
Selfish? Kid-hating? Inept?!?… Seriously? I don’t think so.
You can adore kids, two of our sibs are teachers, and still not want or need any of your own. The fact that folks can be so short-sighted and callous as to say so amazes me. On behalf of parents everywhere, I apologize for them. My kids have been incredibly lucky to have their aunts and uncles. Their lives (and ours) have been made infinitely better for their presence in them.
I met my wife in my mid 30’s. I always wanted to be married and it took a while to achieve that. Always figured that having a kid or two would be expected from whoever I married. Very early in our relationship, my wife told me she never wanted kids. I found myself very warm to the idea. I have always been the guy with a million hobbies, and a kid would put an end to that. My relationship with my father was never great and often hostile. It would break my heart to have a child and find myself in the same situation. I saw one of my brothers have rage around his toddlers the way my father had with us, and I want no part in propagating that ugly nonsense. Also, I live in the country and when I see how it keeps getting built upon, I feel that there are plenty of people on earth.
An extremely well written article. My partner and I are similarly happy in our childfree life.
From an age no older than four or five I knew I myself would never breed and age has only strengthened that sentiment. I have none of the tolerance and patience that a conscientious parent must have. Moreover, I am one of those very few childfree individuals who not only do not want children but also dislike them. The selfish antics, tantrums and demands I see from the offspring of others infuriates me, especially when it occurs in a public place while the complacent parents indulge their little brats without even attempting to curb their inconsiderate behavior.
I also think a good part of the culture of child-rearing is rooted firmly in the past . It is 2013. We have available to us many methods that all but guarantee a freedom for women from pregnancy. Sadly there are fewer options open to men and I wish it were not so. If a type of contraception that offered the same degree of protection as the hormonal methods do to women I would jump at the chance and I am SURE many other chaps feel the same way. The ancient stereotype that we as a gender are selfish bastards unwilling to take responsibility for our own bodies is utter drivel. There is absolutely no reason that intercourse must lead to pregnancy – much less the outdated ‘moral’ stance of ‘pay to play’ where somehow it is seen the risk, if not outright likelihood of becoming pregnant is some kind of karmic price a couple has to pay for a normal and healthy sex life. Maybe once upon a time. Not any more.
On a final, grandiose note I think those who feel the compulsion to procreate should take a very long look at the world around us. We as a race are teetering on the brink and the threats we face are too many to count. Prime amongst these are the ecological disaster we have inflicted on our world and the litany of war our leaders pursue – the majority of which are fought over access to dwindling resources. The principle cause of both is over population. The absolute LAST thing our world needs is yet another hungry mouth to feed.
I second your sentiments GemManAster.
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