Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Childless By Choice

The other day, I saw a poster for a research study being done.  It was about being Childless by Choice.  I grabbed the tab with the contact information.

I am Childless by Choice.  There I said it.

It is something that no one ever seems to talk about and not surprisingly, a lot of the questions seemed to be about keeping this decision a secret.

I definitely haven't broadcasted it (well until now that is!) but it isn't something that I purposely kept a secret.  My family knows.  A few of my friends know (I've actually had the conversation with a few but I'm sure many more have at least assumed by now).

When people asked me when I was going to have children I usually just brushed them off instead of telling them I didn't want to.  Why?  Because the people that normally are asking the question are people that have a strong opinion about the answer. They are the ones that are going to judge me, argue with me and try to convince me to have children.  Do they really think I haven't thought about things? With societal expectations, doing something outside the norm usually takes more conscious thought than just going with the flow.

I've had very few conversations with other childless women because a) it is none of my business why they don't have children and b) I am worried it isn't by choice, but by necessity and I don't want to bring up the heartache.

I've had to bite my tongue when people brought up all the wonderful qualities of children and "argued" with me why I should have them. I'm not going to get into an discussion about this. It would be like arguing about religion - there is no right answer. There are only two outcomes.  You have to agree or agree to disagree.  So instead, I usually smile, nod and either gracefully exit or change the subject. What I really wanted to turn to them and say is, "We've been trying for years and had numerous miscarriages but we just can't.  It breaks my heart and I just don't want to talk about it with you."  I pity the poor women for whom this is true and I wish I had been brave enough to say it for you. If I had, at least a few people out there might realize this is really an inappropriate conversation especially when you are at work, during a social gathering, etc.

I can't remember the last time someone has suggested we get a move on and have some kids. I guess it is a benefit of getting older - people have finally figured out that it isn't going to happen.

It isn't that I don't like kids.  I just don't know where people find the energy. There are so many days where I am drained by my own responsibilities, I couldn't imagine adding more to that. I know. I know.  If I had my own child I would love them so much that I wouldn't ever resent the time and energy they took.  But what if I did?  I can't give them back.  I can't change my mind.

Thankfully this is something Marlin and I always saw eye to eye on.  He doesn't want children any more than I do.  For quite a few years we would reconfirm our decision every time we spent some time with children.  After visits when the kids were "a handful", we would look at each other and laugh with relief.  After visits where we had fun with the kids, we had more serious conversations but they still ended the same - we were sure.  No kids for us.  We don't even think about it much anymore.

If we had an "Ooops" and I got pregnant there is no question we would keep the child. No question at all.  And I know we would love him/her and I know we would do what needed to be done to be good parents.  But that doesn't change the fact that we wouldn't have chosen that life path.

I worry a little bit about having regrets later.  I like the relationships I have with my parents now that I'm an adult and I know I'll miss that.  But that doesn't make the first 20 or so years worth it to me.  :)

My biggest worry is who will look after me when I'm old.  It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that if Marlin and I live to old age, he'll die first (he is almost 11 years older) and I'll be by myself.  And some days that scares me but not enough to change my mind.  Besides, that would be a pretty selfish reason to have children.

I'm not really sure why I am sharing this with all of you.  I'm not sure if there is a real or imagined stigma against people who choose not to have children. Like I said at the beginning, no one really talks about it.


Stephanie V said...

I think that your perception that there is a stigma is quite right. Good for you to have the courage to make a decision! You have my respect.

K-Koira said...

I agree, there is definitely a stigma. I've been saying (according to my mom), that I don't want kids since I was about 10. I've never wanted kids. Many people tell me I will change my mind as I get older, want kids. I've never been inclined in the least, and I doubt that will ever change.

Why not post a link to the study?

Stacey said...

lovely writing! and in some way I know where your coming from - I'm single at 23 and always ALWAYS get "so have you not got a boyfriend yet" - irratates me so much and like you said, it's none of their business!

Pebbles Flintstone said...

Im childless by choice too! I love kids and am great with them! TOOT TOOT!!! However, in agreeing with you in everything above, we do have furry kids by choice! Cheers! Ill visit you when you're old!

Dragonfly said...

I have a child and plan on having more, and I cherish being a mom. And yet, I would NEVER EVER EVER question anyone's decision to be childless by choice (I do, however, question some people's choice to have kids that probably shouldn't - harr harr). Bravo for speaking the 'unspeakable', because it IS a personal choice, and no one else's dang business. You hit the nail on the head with the statement '...doing something outside the norm usually takes more conscious thought than just going with the flow'. There are a lot of people out there who give no conscious thought to bringing a child into this world, and it is the child that suffers for it! No one has the right to judge if, when, how, where or why a person has children. And now that I've had one (and been through the load of unsolicited 'advice' that comes with that experience), I feel even more strongly about it. Thank you for speaking up!

The Lady said...

I don't want kids. And I get so tired of hearing "You'll change your mind when you meet someone". Um, no I won't, cause I'm not going to choose a guy who wants kids!

Belinda said...

Thanks for sharing all that. I never realized pressure like that existed. I'm going to have kids one day, but I want them, I'm not going to have them to conform to some society norm.
Good for you, live your life the way you want.
Regards, Belinda

Taryn said...

Great post and well said! You could have been speaking for me! I, too, am childless by choice, and have no regrets! And I have wondered about when I reach old age....But having kids now is no guarantee that they will be there for you when you get old. Although in this day and age, sucky ecomomy to blame, there is a chance they will never leave :-)

I am in my early 50's and it is such a relief to have the childbearing years behind me. It's not even a choice/decision anymore, and that is very liberating.

Constance said...

Wow, apparently there are a lot of us - maybe we should start a club!

I too have been subject to interrogation and name-calling by some because I choose not to have kids. I find it odd because I wouldn't judge someone who wants to.

The idea of having a person growing inside me completely creeps me out. I find the thought of it repulsive. Try explaining that to someone who asks why you don't want kids! There are additional reasons, but really, we should all be able to make these decisions without criticism or censure.

Fortunately, the people who question my decision are in the minority, and most people completely support me.

It is an odd subject to discuss though. What I find odd is that my husband is almost never asked why we don't have kids. It's always me who is asked.

sandyv2222 said...

lmao Constance! It is a creepy thought, and it's even more creepy in real life when you feel them hitting you from the inside out!! Great post Wendy, I know we've chatted about this before. It was tough being asked why I hadn't had kids yet when the reason was painful and none of anyone's business. It's funny because I see a lot of really strong couples not wanting kids and some couples that shouldn't be having kids spitting them out. It's defiantly life changing and irreversible!

Anonymous said...

Our situation is a little different. When my hubby and I got married, we agreed we wanted to have children eventually. But because of a genetic medical condition I have, there would be a possibility of a difficult pregnancy, plus our combined genes could result in a baby with a condition (affecting the liver and/or lungs)worse than mine. I've only touched on the complexity of the issue. There are other factors affecting our decision too complex to go into here. We didn't actually decide NOT to have children, as much as we decided not to try HARDER to have a child. We left it up to fate. It's very hard to answer the question "Why" with a simple answer. That is, when I feel like answering at all. I just say "It just didn't work out for us to have kids, and we're okay with it." Which we are, most of the time. I have the same concerns you do about our old age. And sometimes, when I see a man with his son or daughter, I wish I could see how my husband would be in his place. :(
I turn 50 next year, my husband is 52, so we don't get asked anymore. Surprisingly, when we say we have no children, we're not questioned as to why.
I'm so glad you decided to write about this, so I got an opportunity to vent, too. LOL

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Wendy. We too are childless by choice - for many many many reasons that we both agreed upon from the start.

I completely agree that it's no one's business why we've made this decision, and I really resent people who say 'oh you'll change your mind' - as though it's not already made up!

Glad to see that there are so many of us out there though.

Sarah B.

Valerie G. said...

I found your blog while doing research for a paper I am writing in a college english class. Thank you for "venting". You are not alone. My husband and I have made the same decision. We have various reason why but most are the same as others on this page. I find I probably get asked more than normal. I am a nurse on the pediatrics floor in a hospital. I think you all can imagine the looks of confusion I get. Parents will ask me if I have kids and when I just say no they look at me with these sad eyes and say I'm sorry. Then if I feel the need to elaberate that we have chose not to have kids the looks are worse. Kinda like they don't know if they want me to take care of their children. I always find myself saying but I love kids...I just don't want them all the time! LOL
I even had a fellow RN ask me how I had "managed" to not have a child being my age and all. I am 33. I just looked at her. I felt like saying "Oh man did the word slut I had removed from my forhead come back?" I mean seriously. Kudos to all of you women. And don't be afraid to speak up. It's not just women either. my husband told me that when he was asked by a coworker if we had kids he said no and that we were not going to have any. The man then asked if I was ok with that!

Dendrite said...

Very well said Wendy :)


Little Miss Pudgy Paws said...

I am pleased to see that so many people are chiming in with support. I will just add my spin for consideration. I am 54 and am living with my very young daughter because I am not well enough to live alone any more. I was an accomplished statistician and raised my daughter with high expectations as well. She is now an engineer with the Navy and just finished her M.S. at the Naval Post Graduate Academy. Now she will begin work on her Doctorate. Therefore, this beautiful young woman, that I "set up for success", now juggles; full time professional career, graduate school, taking care of her mother, and has just entered into her first significant relationship. While I am extremely grateful, the guilt I feel by burdening such a beautiful young woman, makes my heart heavy. The idea that one's children might help one in the later years is a very mixed blessing. I doubt if anyone gives this serious consideration to this when having children, (at least not in the culture of middle class America.) Don't you agree?
Rebecca & LMPP