Why Staying Childless Is NOT The Path Of Least Resistance.
Let’s talk for a minute about parenthood.
Or, more accurately, non-parenthood.
It seems like there’s a lot of talk these days about a woman’s right to focus more on her career than on trying to be a perfect mother, or the converse — a woman’s right to quit her career and stay at home to raise her children without becoming subject to ridicule.
But there’s another group of women who, I can almost guarantee, suffer even more scorn than the woman who misses her kid’s birthday party to attend a staff meeting or the woman who trades in her satin work pumps for plastic breast pumps: It’s the woman who has the guilt-free ability to join her co-workers for a cocktail after a rough day. The woman who has time to work out in the morning. The woman who can cook an amazing, stress-free meal and enjoy eating it with her significant other at 8:00 p.m.
I’m talking here about a woman’s right to choose.
Not her right to choose to stay pregnant, but her right to choose to never get pregnant at all.
I have a dear friend who, just before she married the man of her dreams, insisted that she wanted to wait at least five years before starting a family. One year into the marriage, the deadline quickly dwindled to three. Then one. Then, suddenly, it seemed as though nothing was more important than fertilizing the crap out of her eggs. It was like something in her had biologically snapped and the only thing that could mend it was impregnation. Nothing, it seemed, would make her whole but the experience of bringing life into the world.
And she wasn’t the only one. It was happening to other friends as well. And friends of friends. It seemed as though once they reached the age of 28 or 29, they experienced an uncontrollable, instinctual urge to procreate.
I, on the other hand, have been married for nearly seven years. We’ve been together for ten. At first, I figured I had no desire for kids because we were still so young. Then, I figured I was waiting to see what it was like for my friends first. And now that they have them, I love snuggling their babies’ softness and making their babies laugh and smelling their babies’ heads.
Their heads smell amazing.
But then another interest catches my eye — a book containing a unique recipe, a documentary about an exotic locale, a bright, shiny object — and poof! The baby is no longer the coolest thing in the room.
Not even when I see my husband holding one. (Though admittedly it helps.)
And then I think that the amazing baby head smell might not be a good enough reason to have one. Maybe I should wait for that have to have one feeling.
Maybe, if that’s the case, I’ll be waiting forever.
Of course, when I try to explain this to women who are with child — either currently or futuristically in their hormone-riddled minds, I get a blank stare. Maybe an uncomfortable giggle.
I start hearing from them less. I’m not in on the jokes. I don’t get invited to functions, because either there will be babies there and that might make me “uncomfortable,” or it’s a “mom’s day off” and I obviously don’t need one of those since every day is a day off for me.
It’s just one more check among many in the “bad military spouse” column, and I’m pretty sure I’m on that blacklist already.
But the point is, I seem to be somehow less of a woman if I choose to not have kids.
I’m not a member of the club.
And it really doesn’t bother me when I can’t contribute to conversations about mucus plugs and nipple shields or what it feels like the first time your baby smiles or produces normal poop. But it does bother me when I’m apparently unqualified to discuss our country’s education system during casual conversation. Or the merits of mothers choosing to stay at home versus focusing on their careers. Because, last I heard, you don’t need a baby to have a brain.
All of that said, I choose to surround myself with women — mothers and non-mothers alike — who are fairly open-minded when it comes to parenting. Women without kids who don’t shun the ones who do. And women with kids who don’t judge me for a decision — not set in stone — that’s perfectly reasonable to make. Women who still remember what life was like in the time Before Baby. Women who don’t use phrases like, “You wouldn’t understand — you’re not a mom,” because they know my lack of child does not make me ignorant to the fact that it must be beyond stressful to stay up all night, to constantly worry if you’re doing things right, or to miss an opportunity to schmooze with your boss because you have to take a sick kid to the doctor instead. They don’t say those things because they know they worried about that before they had kids. They knew it would be hard.
My friend pointed out that for someone who doesn’t think she wants kids, I sure do talk about them a lot.
But the truth is, because she always knew she wanted to be a parent, she doesn’t understand what it’s like to not be a mom. To not have that inherent desire. To hear every day that we “don’t understand.” To stress out about missing a child whose head we’ve never smelled. To wonder whether we’ll regret the decision once it’s too late.
I realize that women who scoff at me are likely insecure about their own decisions.
And I realize when I openly judge other women, I’m displaying — in the ugliest way possible — insecurities about mine.
Sometimes I wish my husband had accidentally knocked me up ten years ago, even before we got married, just so I would no longer have to be responsible for this decision. When it comes to the pressures society — especially other women — especially my mother — places on me to get pregnant, sometimes it seems like not getting pregnant during wedlock is far worse than getting pregnant outside of wedlock.
I’d be a card-carrying club member by default.
But there’s another club I know I would miss.
The club that allows me to pour a glass of wine at 8:00 p.m. because I want one — not because it’s when the baby goes to bed. The club whose members can peruse the web on a whim for tickets to Lisbon and actually buy them if prices are right. The club in which sleepless nights can be blamed on an unstoppable flood of inspiration and too much caffeine and the Midnight Muse.
Of course, these experiences must pale in comparison to the limitless love of a child.
But then I wouldn’t understand.
I’m not a mother.
What about you? Do you think it’s strange for a woman to be unsure about whether she wants kids? Do you treat women who don’t have kids differently from ones who do? If you’re a guy, are you even still reading this?
This is a very delicate subject. I do agree for sure that women absolutely have the right to choose. What frustrates me is that (and I’m talking about both men and women in general), people that don’t have kids are automatically banished from the social interaction that makes up the majority of those that do have kids. Then at the same time, those that have kids rant on and on about how hard it is to me a mom and parents are up all hours of the night covered in vomit and poo and I can’t make it in to work because my kid is sick blah blah blah. I’m sorry, I thought you made that choice? Didn’t someone warn you? They warned me. Hence why I have no kids. Yes, children are adorable and full of life and innocence, I love to see my nieces and nephew’s, they keep it real. It’s just so frustrating when so and so is like, “oh yeah I have two kids, what have you done?” To which my response is, “Not have two kids.” and then they look at you like you shouldn’t deserve to be breathing the air when in fact they are judging you for choices that they made. Bottom line is, people make choices and it may appear sometimes that those that choose to have kids will always resent it, especially on their way to daycare when they see you kidless drinking wine on a patio in the sun without a care in the world…okay rant over. sorry.
Haha, thanks for your response! And I think that’s what I’m trying to get people to realize… If you have kids, there’s really nothing that makes you “better” than those who don’t. More sacrificial, perhaps, but not “better.” We’re all people just trying to make the choices that are best for us in life. I sometimes ask the same question when I’m around parents who complain a lot – It’s no secret that raising children is probably the most difficult thing you could choose to do in this life, so didn’t anyone tell you? Did you really not know? Of course complaining is probably just the best way some know how to deal with a difficult situation or to ask for help. And my friends who are mothers know they can call on me if they’re in a bind. But they also know I’m not always willing to drop a project that’s important to me in order to help them with non-emergency situations. That’s the choice I’ve made (so far) to not have a kid, and that’s the choice they made to have one.
At the same time, I’m grateful to them for carrying on the species and whatnot so I can enjoy my wine. :)
Here’s an old (but awesome) video on the subject of pregnancy and superiority: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJRzBpFjJS8 (I’m really hoping mothers and pregnant women can laugh at this, too.)
It is hard for me to understand the I don’t want kids as every ounce of my being has wanted to be a mother. Am I tired? Yes. Do I get frustrated? Yes! Does a glass of wine somehow turn into a bottle on some nights? Absolutely!!!! But I love every minute of it and I would not change a thing.
However, life is too damn short to do what others think you should do or what makes others happy. You need to do what makes YOU happy. This is YOUR life.
p.s. It is possible to enjoy the things that childless people do even though you have children…I’m living proof of that.
Haha SO true! All very excellent points. And also why you’re my friend. :)
Of course I treat women who don’t have kids differently than ones who do. They’re my bffs, lol! I still love my friends who are moms but it’s just not the same. We do what we want, when we want, and they just can’t anymore. “You don’t need a baby to have a brain.” Haha, love that! I’m a member of your club girl.
Aw, thanks Les! Of course I still love our mutual friends who are moms, too – especially because they don’t act like we’re freaks just because we’re not. :)
I LMBO at the video…just saying!
Because you know it’s usually true. ;) (And you can admit it, which makes you an awesome WOMAN on top of being an excellent mother.)
Having a baby is a big responsibility that many people just fall into without ever really choosing it. You’re in a great position (albeit a weighty one) in that you get to consciously choose the direction you want to take and someone will always have an opinion. It’s normal human tendency to justify our own actions by criticizes those of people who differ from us but, what is there to defend? No one choice is better than another. I’m sure there are things about having kids that you couldn’t really ‘get’ until you’ve had them but I certainly don’t think that disqualifies you from any conversations, including ones about parenting. (Note: I have no kids but someday I will)
“It’s normal human tendency to justify our own actions by criticizing those of people who differ from us…” <-- I love that. And it's right on-point. I jumped to the conclusion that criticism stemmed from insecurity, but you're right - it also is a form of justification. And why DO we have to justify? Why DO we have to defend? Every woman - and every couple - is different. We make the choices that work for us, and it would be really great if everyone could just be cool with that. :)
Great post! I think the smartest thing a woman can do is to realize whether or not she WANTS to be a mother, and I say this as a mother of 3. Most of the problems in our culture would go away if children were only raised by people who wanted to raise children. You nailed it with the sentences about us dealing with our own insecurities, for some reason we try to validate our own choices by invalidating the choices of others. I have kids – that means that I will not have the freedom to do all the things I want to do, I will have less money, and I will very likely have less success in my career, but I get to smell baby heads all the time and, amidst the incessant annoyances, my kids say some downright hilarious things. And my 4 year old daughter is adorable in her tap shoes :-) For me, it’s a good trade-off, but then the maternal urge was so strong in me (btw, “maternal urge” is entirely different than “maternal instinct!”) that ignoring it would have made me miserable, if ignoring it would have even been possible. If you’re not feeling that urge, then I say good for you! Take that trip to Lisbon. Take some amazing pictures. Write about it. Have some awesome experiences — then come back and share it all with your mommy-friends. We’ll even let you hold a baby and smell her little head while we look at your pictures. There’s more than enough room – and need- in this world for all types of people. Can’t we all just get along? (and if your mom rides you too hard about having babies, remind her that there are millions of grandparents who have to RAISE their grand kids because the parents weren’t interested in parenting. Maybe that threat will get her off your back…)
I love this comment! It seriously made me tear up a little. Because that’s just IT! You know without a doubt that your choice was right for you (and you’ve still built yourself a fantastic career, which is just incredible!), but you also understand that it’s not right for everyone. And you appreciate the voice others might bring to the table, even if their experiences and choices are not the same as your own. And good catch to differentiate between “maternal urge” and “maternal instinct.” Sometimes I do get a bit of an urge (not like what you and my friend described, but a bit of a tug), but then I notice my distinct lack of instinct, and that usually holds me back long enough for the urge to pass. :)
HA! Maybe my mom will read this comment. Though I’m pretty sure it won’t convince her since she knows my husband would be an awesome father so she could just have the fun grandmotherly duties while I’m off in Lisbon and Justin’s deployed, and then she could give the baby back. ;)
She’ll give the baby back when she gets her travel bag returned – it will take that long! We tried to get me pregnant many moons ago – no luck. In retrospect I think it was hostile mucus and a gift from the gods. While I think you have wonderful gifts to share with a child, you can always mentors kids and volunteer at a local maternity ward for some head sniffing. Maybe sometime in the distant future you’ll discover a desire to foster or adopt. You’ve got a great life – period!
Why thank you, and I agree! (Bag? What bag?) ;)
I think it’s awesome that even though you were unable to have biological kids, you recognize the other gifts you have to offer the children of the world. And MANY, I bet, have been lucky to have you in their lives!
We aren’t really sure either. I’m still in school. Mainly because of the same reason. Am I absolutely sure THIS is what I want? I enjoy my random trips to wherever. And my oh lets move to so and so and see how it is. Never once considering schools or daycare possibilities. This is why we have cats. They are still happy even when we’re gone overnight. Sadly, I have other reasons weighing on my brain. Are we financially ready? No. But will we ever be in our heads? Not likely. The world is a different place than when I was a kid. Do I really want to bring a child into this world? I’m already a worry wort, will it just escalate by like a million because I’m stressed out all the time? Will my stress ruin my marriage because I’m worried about things that happened once, on the news, in another country, with that freak accident? Luckily I have friends with kids who are just as cool with kids as they were without them. Granted I see them less, but we’re all busy so it’s not really that noticeable. I have days or maybe even hours where I’m like ohhh this could be cool! But then I have months where I’m like no way in hell I’m ready for this. Ugh will i ever have this unquestionable desire? Yes it’s important for us to add to the species because so many idiots are reproducing, mankind is on a downhill spiral! I have the Idiocracy paranoia I guess you could say. And when I’m around my family all I see is everyone helping each other out and I think hmmm am I gonna need this much help when I get older? Perhaps I should have a child so I’m not alone when I get old. And then I realize what selfish reasons I have for procreating and decide this definitely isn’t the right time. And the list goes on and on. I understand. And nothing like having your own female clock against you too. I’ll be 32 in a couple of months and stress that when I finally decide it’s time, it’ll be too late? Or is it already too late? Sucks man, but alas this is life. We’ll decide one day I suppose. But until then we can drink wine (or beer for me) whenever we want.
Seriously, Melany — GET OUT OF MY HEAD!
Haha, but really, that’s what it looks like most of the time. So when I feel myself going down that spiral, I just stop, take a breath, and imagine if I would rather be taking care of a kid at that moment instead of doing whatever I’m doing. Usually the answer is a resounding NO. If or when the answer is ever “yes,” then I guess I’ll know. (And the thing that makes me feel “better” about the biological clock issue is my belief that if I have the relentless urge to raise a child after it’s physically impossible for me to do so, there are other kids out there who need loving parents. True it’s not the same as procreating or discovering what you can create with your partner, but it’s parenting. And it fulfills a great need – both on the part of the child and the parent.)
LOVE that you brought up Idiocracy — I swear the first couple minutes of that movie are enough to almost make me beg Justin to knock me up when he gets home just so that movie would be less true — ALMOST. ;)
Oh and here’s the intro to the movie in case anyone is curious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icmRCixQrx8
I love this post. My co-workers, upon finding out I was childless (28 and married for 4 years) informed it was just plain selfish if you were married and didn’t want or have children. WHaat?! I guess I missed that memo. :) having children should be so much more than just feeling the urge to be pregnant and have a child. It changes your life, yes – as all mothers would say- for the better – but who is to say my life now isn’t the best, for me?? Cheers to choices. Cheers at 8pm with a glass of wine on the patio.
Ahhh they really said that to you?? Here’s the thing: It IS selfish. It’s selfish to know what you want (or don’t want) for yourself and to make that a reality. And when did that become such a BAD thing? Really. This is your *life* we’re talking about. It’s also very selfish to make another woman feel bad about her choices just to justify your own, but that didn’t really stop your co-workers, did it? And their form of selfishness was so much worse because it affected YOU. Your choice does not affect them in the slightest. Or at least it shouldn’t. I wish I could tell you it’s better when you’re 30 and married for almost 7 years, but it isn’t. I suppose at some point people will just assume that we physically can’t and stop asking, but until that time comes, I won’t apologize for my explanation when they ask why we don’t have kids.
Wine on the patio, baby. Wine on the patio. ;)
What? No. Just fuck that. (Sorry for swearing on your blog, Katie, but I profoundly hate this kind of comment.) The world is over-populated. We are running out of the resources needed to take care of all the people. God only knows what things are going to look like in 30 years. If someone wants to have kids and has the resources to take care of them, then fine, but to say someone is selfish to NOT have kids is deeply ignorant, aside from being terrible manners.
Haha, well-said, Stephanie. But OH my virgin ears!! ;)
It kills me that people think it’s ok to judge on this matter. Parenthood is hard. Childhood is hard. No child should be brought into a world where it isn’t 100% wanted and loved. There are a lot of people that shouldn’t have kids who do. And some of them regret it. They miss their old lives and they are jealous of you. But they can’t say it, so instead they try to make you feel like an unnatural woman for not having/wanting that in your life right now. It’s common and it’s horrible.
I think it’s great that you’re giving this so much thought. If and when you decide to have a kid or kids, they will be wanted. You won’t resent them for the changes you have to make in your life because you will be ready for that new stage in your life. (I’m not saying you won’t miss things – but you’ll be sacrificing on your own terms, which I think feels different.)
Since I was twelve and they showed us a live-birth video in sex ed (dear educators – most effective abstinence/birth control teaching ever), I was hard-line no kids ever ever ever. Yes, the fear of pregnancy and birth started me off, but as I got older, the cons list got longer: I love to travel, and people judge when you kennel your children; they are expensive; they are noisy; they want a lot of attention and I have a short attention span; they are messy and often gross; I like getting full nights of sleep; and so on and so forth.
Underlying all that, and probably not something I admitted to myself for a long time was the fear of doing it alone. My mom raised my younger brother and I from the time I was 8, and while she did a fantastic job, it looked really hard. And honestly, anytime I imagined myself as a mother, there was never anyone else to help. I have enormous respect for single mothers, but no, I don’t want to be one.
My husband and I were together for 7 years before we got married, and I believe that a big part of the delay was his deciding whether he’d be ok with never having kids with me. In the end, he decided I was worth the sacrifice. Ironically, it was after we got married that I actually started considering the idea in any kind of positive way. I think his making that decision was what it took for me to trust him to not leave me to raise a child alone.
So four years since the wedding, it is now something we are considering. The other fears didn’t go away (especially the birth one, which terrifies me to my core) but they seem more manageable now. And maybe like they might be worth it. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely ready, and as an over-planner, that’s scary, but I think that soon I could be ready enough. And I think I can see this as something that could make me happy.
It’s hard when you’re already happy though. I love my life and while a kid could be a wonderful addition to it, it’s still a huge unknown.
Anyway, this is very long and rambling. Just thought I’d let you know that I understand everything you are saying. You are saying it well.
With or without a child, you are and will continue to be a complete, whole, and interesting woman. Choosing not to have a child (or choosing to have a child) does not make you selfish – it makes you a person who is honest about what she wants from life. It’s a major decision that will primarily affect you and your husband. Anyone else who feels that they have a say can go drop on their heads.
I think you’ve said everything here, but I just wanted to say “congrats” on your almost-kind-of-maybe-partial decision. I think it’s exciting and also really interesting how our feelings can change, depending on the situation. If Justin wasn’t in the military and we were closer to family, I might feel entirely different about the whole thing. So I feel you there. :)
Not really a decision. I’ve just moved from “definitely no” to “on the fence.”
Well even moving to “on the fence” is kind of a decision. Sort of. :) (“Congrats” was probably the wrong word to use there.)
I completely agree, Katie. I cannot imagine myself as a mother to anything more than furry children at this stage in my life. Even they are too much sometimes, but at least if I want to take a bubble bath without interruption, I can banish said furry children to the back yard unsupervised. Honestly, I’m too selfish to be a parent. I want to be able to do what I want, when I want without any regard for anyone else’s needs or desires. And, as wretched as the following statement may be, I have to say: I just don’t care for children – unless they are at least ten years old, extremely intelligent and extremely well-mannered. Perhaps the fact that I am an only child and the last generation of my family has something to do with that? I’ve never really been around children, so I don’t know how to relate to them and I certainly don’t know how to care for them! It’s better for mankind that I don’t procreate!
Haha! I wouldn’t say it’s better for mankind that you don’t procreate, but it’s certainly better for YOU. Sounds like you know you will be a much happier woman sans children. And as stressed as I know mothers can get, most of the ones I know don’t mind the stress. They know it’s a stress they chose, so they get through it as best as they can. But those are usually the same women who understand when I say I don’t think I want kids. :)
pps…I trained my son to fetch said wine and bring it to me on the patio!! :-)))))))
HAAHA! Not surprising. If I ever DO have a kid, I’ll make sure he/she knows how to pop a cork by age 5. ;)
If you think its hard being married and childless, try being 31, unmarried, no steady boyfriend and chlidless. Talk about being judged!! I am the CONSTANT victim of do-gooders who seem to feel its their god-given duty to supply me with a companion. I am asked non-stop about what I plan to DO with my life, as if I am aimlessly wandering the earth like some mindless zombie. I am in fact an artist and a very good one. I exhibit and sell my work at high-end art shows, gallerys and fairs and have won awards for my work. But that doesnt seem to count becoz I dont have a male appendage clutching my arm when I go to family functions. I hear how I need to be less independent and more feminine. I am told how I will be an old maid that no man will ever want. I will regret my choices later in life. I get lectures on my biological clock. I am thought to have something “wrong” with me becoz I havent attracted a permanent man. In point of fact, I attract LOTS of men – but as with children, I love them, I just dont need to OWN one. I like where my life is right now. But no one seems to get that. Ever.
I get it, Meg! And I think more people do than you realize. The problem is not everyone recognizes that they get it. Some people just want to “help.” Other people are struggling with their own choices and if they can make a negative example of yours, it helps justify theirs. The problem is that from a very young age, women are still led to believe that their ultimate goal should be to get married and have babies. Sure we tell them now that they can grow up to be anything they want to be, but the underlying message is still familyfamilyfamily. So our young girls grow up believing this, and then we wonder why they stress out about their appearance. Why they get pregnant young. Why they stay in abusive relationships because, hey. Having a man is better than not having a man, amiright?
The good news is that we all have something in common. We all just want to be happy and confident in our choices. If more people — women especially — focused on that instead of what others are doing, I think we could get there. :)
Hi Katie! We haven’t met yet but I’m the other half of Paul…you know, the one that’s really into wood:) Just read your post and now I’m even more excited to meet you in person next weekend. We have a lot in common and a lot to discuss! Needless to say, your candid nature hits the nail on the head with this topic. I used to tell Paul that I was going to right a book about this topic someday. Although we are heading down the path to now have children, after 81/2 years of marriage, I still embrace the world without children and it is a beautiful world to live in. Can’t wait to meet you!
Hi, Kerrie!! It’s so nice to (virtually) meet you! You know, you could still write the book – what’s holding you back? :) We will definitely talk more next weekend – can’t wait to meet!
And will you please tell me what to bring?? I can’t show up empty-handed. :)
Well I just happen to have another concept for a book on my mind now. I’ll share more when you come for dinner! It’s right up your alley but I don’t want to give away all my secrets online:) Just bring your man for dinner and if you absolutely insist on bringing something surprise us!
I love this post because lately I’ve been questioning whether or not I want to have kids (and/or do I want to adopt? Or just never become a mom?)… and it does seem like marriage + baby are what society deem to be the right paths to take in life (when you know you’ve made it to adulthood)… my reasons expand and contract based on who I’m with and who opens my mind to other possibilities. I have several married couple friends that are thinking they don’t want (kids don’t want them for awhile or ever) which influences my thoughts and makes me remember that it’s perfectly FINE to NOT have kids.
When you have a mother like yours (and sounds like she’s similar to MINE!) it feels like pressure and it’s hard to separate what I want from what SHE wants.
My last boss never had a desire to be a mom so she fosters dogs with her husband… I see no evil there but many people would *gasp* “No kids??” Zero. Instead of focusing her time and attention on two-three people she has the time and energy and help those (doggies) in need.
Stay true to you because that’s the best way to be! :)
I’m so glad it resonates with you! Sometimes choices are circumstantial, and sometimes there really quite deliberate. But no matter what, you’re going to do what’s right for you. I’ve actually considered adoption before without even thinking about whether or not it’s possible to have biological kids. That, too, is a perfectly reasonable option! You never know what life is going to throw at you, Tracy!! :)
This this this times a million. I’m 28 and single, but I know that I do not want to have children. I know that I do not want to bring another life into the world and be responsible for its well-being for the rest of my life. But it’s incredibly awkward when people assume that I say I don’t want kids solely because I’m single! Just because I haven’t found a guy to marry and father my children, I must not know whether or not I actually want to be a mother. (What.)
I’ve encountered patronizing comments, blank stares, and pats on the head reeking of “You just don’t know for sure” more times than I can count. The frustrating thing is that women can rave on and on about how much they want to have kids and the first women who says, “Eh, not really for me” is suddenly branded a naive, not-whole-woman.
I mean, in sum, clearly I agree with you. I’m glad you wrote this.
I think maybe part of what makes people uncomfortable is definitive assertions. Even I cannot definitively say that I for sure never want kids, simply because I know I’m a different person now than I was five years ago, much like I may be very different in another five years. That said, if you *know*, you know! And it’s not really for me or anyone else to try to convince you otherwise. I hate that just because you’re single, people automatically assume you’re unhappy with all aspects of your life, like Meg (another reader) mentioned. Or, in your case, they think you don’t want kids simply because you don’t have a significant other. I think some people make assumptions that we’re unhappy in our marriage because we don’t have kids. It’s such a dangerous way for society to behave! Why can’t your choice just be your choice? No qualifiers. Just a choice. :)
I know exactly how you feel about this. I don’t really know if I want kids. I used to really think I did, but that desire sort of went away. I can’t imagine taking care of a dog, why would I want to take care of a kid? I know that sounds incredibly insensitive, but I really do think of having kids as some sort of task. Homework. SO much work. The most compelling reason I have, right now, to have kids is that I would possibly regret it if I didn’t. Clearly that’s not enough of a reason. So maybe I’ll suddenly want it once I get married. Maybe I never will. The problem is, I don’t know what I want. And it’s a little scary that I might make a mistake and regret it someday.
But that’s the thing — kids are a task. Many tasks. Never-ending chores and lifelong worry. I’m sure any mother would tell you that. She would also likely tell you that the rewards are worth it, but unfortunately motherhood is like choosing a hat from a magician: You never know if you’ve picked the one with the awesome prize or the complete dud until it’s too late. That’s why I need to know I’m emotionally ready before I do it. Because you just never know what you’re going to get. :)
[…] in bed perusing my gReader I read a post about a woman’s right to choose and something deep inside me shook. I had to physically force myself to politely finish the article […]
Well said and very honest!
Al and I never planned on having kids. Then boom…1 month after “I do” I find out we are having a baby! I would never trade my Tatum, but to say “I couldn’t imagine my life without her” is a lie almost ALL moms tell themselves. Yes you can and do imagine staying out too late, having to many drinks, laughing until you feel like you just did 1000 sit ups. Yes you do think about the freedom to travel. Yes you do think about the career you may have chosen if that head that smells so good hadn’t of come into your life.
I have been blessed with many freedoms that I think most moms don’t have or take. I make sure to stay out too late, travel, and remember who I was before baby. As a mother of one child, I get the ” oh but you only have one, you wouldn’t understand”
Uh… I have one, but that doesn’t mean I have any less stretch marks, any less worry, any less sleepless nights. In fact I don’t have the luxury of saying ” hey I’m busy go play with your sister”
Basically it boils down to choices. I was satisfied and fulfilled with just one child. Many woman need and want more to feel complete. Woman who don’t want or need any children to feel happy and full shouldnt be scorned or looked at as any less if a woman. In fact, I commend you. And really, most of the woman who criticize you are probably just jealous that if they want a glass of wine at 8 they have to worry about “ugh but the baby will be up sooo early”
Stick to your guns because ultimately YOU are living and loving YOUR life.. And there is nothing wrong with that!
I love this, Leanne! It never occurred to me that as a mother of one, you’re still going to get judged by other moms for “only” having one. It would be so nice if, instead of judging each other and constantly questioning each other’s decisions, we could just be supportive and respectful and fart rainbows, you know?? :) (And I have always loved how you managed to maintain your “YOUness” after you had a kid!)
[…] P.S. You should check out Dee’s powerful response to my post from yesterday. […]
Knowing you don’t want children and then refusing to bend to peer pressure is not selfish. It’s smart! I’m fully in the camp that you should only have children if you REALLY REALLY want them. Because they are going to change everything, some for better, some for worst – but bottom line, you are now responsible for thinking of another human being in addition to yourself. If you don’t absolutely want that, you shouldn’t dive in just because people might judge you otherwise.
My husband and I have been married 10 years. I am pregnant with our first child and due in June. I wouldn’t trade those 10 years alone together for anything – even when it increased the possibility that we wouldn’t have children at all.
And all those women that judge you/shame you for not having kids? Fuck them. Seriously! Having a kid doesn’t make you Mother Theresa and being smart enough to know what you want doesn’t make you the Queen Bitch.
My biggest complaint is women that use motherhood as a crutch/reason not to be an individual. Everything is suddenly only about the baby. No time to workout, I have tummy time with the baby! No time for girls’ night, no time for my hobbies, no time to make sure I’m happy…etc.
I figure the best thing I can do for this future child of mine is to show them that though my love for them is unconditional, they are not the center of my world and I have interests, desires and a persona outside of being their mother. What better way to raise confident, happy kids that can be strong enough to become the same?
Stay strong if you truly don’t want kids, and keep in mind that if in 10 years you change your mind and it’s too late – you can adopt, you can use a surrogate, etc. There are lots of options out there to make it happen.
So many great comments on this post, and welcome to my site, Jen! I love that you and your husband had so much time together to figure out your relationship and develop other hopes and dreams before having a baby. I’m not saying that’s the “only” way to do it, obviously, but if we end up having one intentionally, I know it won’t be for another couple of years. I’m just not ready! Whether that’s “yet” or “ever,” it’s still too early to tell. Congrats on your pregnancy!!! I’m so glad you’re going to keep your own identity – while I’m sure it will be much harder than it was before, it’s better than having your child grow up knowing you’re resentful. And a HAPPY mom is better than a sacrificial one, in my humble little opinion. :) Good for you!!
I spent about 25 minutes trying to get past breast pumps, then had to gag-step past mucus dohickeys, but I finished this. Now, while you and Justin may at some point in the future succumb to the planet-destroying urge to assist in over-population, I love this and the both of you very much right now. Gah. You’ve gone and gotten me all sappy. Seriously though, this had every element I love in your writing: edgy, fun, funny, insightful and thought provoking.
I love this comment.
That is all. :)
Love this Katie! Whether you choose to have kids or not, it is total BS for anyone to think of you as less than them because you don’t and may choose not to. I had someone tell me once that I “wouldn’t understand because you are not a mom”. Well excuse me! I am sorry I don’t have live-in children, but my family has procreated enough for me to not only be an aunt to 14 nieces and nephews, but to also be a GREAT AUNT times 7. I am pretty sure I have **some** experience with kids as I have watched and cared for and been close enough to my family while they were raising ALL of them. I think that I have at least a little bit of an idea in this pea brain of mine of how it works! Oh, and BTW, I AM a step-mom to two beautiful little girls. While I don’t get to see them as much as I like, they are loved and cared for as if they were my own and here all the time! Yeah – that’s what I should’ve said. But since I know what this person was going through, I smiled, nodded and took the high road and let her think she knew everything. Maybe it made her feel better for being “better” than me – and if that gave her the strength she needed to get back to the good fight, then good for her. Lucky for her I saved what I would have said for you :) (and that I was having a good day and didn’t feel the need to correct her!) BTW, get out of my head! You have been posting about so many of the things that sit in the back of my brain. Thanks for giving them a voice!
It totally makes me smile that you chose the high road in that instance because honestly, confrontation about that sort of thing doesn’t usually help. And you can rest well knowing you didn’t play that same game. :) For what it’s worth, I bet you’re an incredible stepmother to those girls (not at ALL like in the fairytales – ha!) and the coolest aunt EVER.
I’m so glad so many people could relate to this post! (People without kids AND people with kids — it’s pretty cool!)
I’m just glad your Mom decided to have babies so your Uncle can enjoy your writtings.
Haha! Thanks!! :)
The reality is we all get judged regardless of our choices. We all receive unsolicited advice too. I knew I wanted kids. I knew it to my core, but I have a sister without her own biological kids and it is no big deal. She’s now an amazing step mom who has experience with teens while I am still in the baby stage. We have other friends that have kids, don’t have kids, and grown kids. I respect them if they reflect me/us.
I think the judgey comments and unsolicited advice are harder to handle when coming from people who don’t mean well. Some just think they are helping and you kinda know they don’t think less of you….it’s just their thing to match everyone up etc.
ACK that was supposed to say I respect them if they RESPECT me/us.
You’re absolutely right – some people mean well and that’s completely different from those who are looking to elevate their own “status” as parents by putting you down. But the truth is, even if you’re a parent of 10 kids, that doesn’t make you an expert on parenting someone else’s kid. Every parent is different. Every child is different. And honestly, in the end, no one really knows or understands the dynamics in a household but the people in it. :)
Great post, and it clearly has inspired a lot of great response. I am child-free by choice and jave no regrets. Like kids (although there aren’t a lot in my life) but never wanted my own. Hubby neither which is a really important bonus because I had a first husband that wanted them, so that would have been tricky. I don’t feel selfish at all, I feel blessed to have the lifestyle I choose to have. My parents wanted to be grandparents really badly bu luckily my sister fulfilled that little gap. It also helped that my Mom’s best friend also had two daughters, one of which didn’t have children either, so I wasn’t so “weird”. I was also lucky to have an aunt who didn’t want kids which was even harder in her generation coming from an immigrant Catholic culture, but she did it, so again, not such a weirdo when it comes to my family. Most of the time that people who “harass” me about this topic are total strangers, so I really don’t care what they think. So here’s too buying tickets to Portugal on the fly and doing whatever the heck I want after work!
I LOVE the discussion generated by this post. I’m so glad you found someone to spend your life with who’s on the same page. Justin and I agreed 10 years ago that kids might not be in our future, but sometimes I know he thinks about having them now. But then, when I remind him how different our lives would be at any given moment, he agrees that being an uncle is the way to go (at least for now). We do wish we lived closer to some of the kids in our family, but plenty of friends give us a taste of that as well. You’re lucky your sister has filled that gap – I’m still waiting for mine to step up! ;) Cheers to doing whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it! :)
What a great post, Katie. Some people get so blinded by their own vision of what life should look like to realize that other people have their own visions too.
I feel like I am in a strange spot because we never planned on having kids either. We never shut the door to the idea but we say we are so lucky for our surprise because that made the decision for us, I’m not sure if we would have ever TRIED otherwise. But, because of that I’m still in this crazy childless mindset sometimes… Like when going out for a girls night I keep my fingers crossed that the baby discussions will be minimal and I can have some real adult conversations for a change.
We are expecting number 2 in July and are so excited but I feel like I’m constantly chasing the part of me that has this identity other than “mommy.”
Awww CONGRATS ON NUMBER 2!! That is so cool, biggie. :) I think the very fact that you’re aware of the fact that you even want to keep another identity — apart from mommy — is what makes it very likely that you will succeed. I bet you are an incredible mother, and I’m sure we’d still have a blast hanging out. And when you go out with your other mom friends, try to make a rule for a night that you can’t talk about kid stuff. First one to mention them has to drink. ;)
I don’t have a strong urge to be a mom either. I’m 27 and no where near being married. (I like to think that if I have kids I would be married when it happens) I haven’t felt the sting of isolation yet because none of my closest friends have kids ye. I see it happening in the next few years as several are engaged or already married. Maybe I’d feel different if I was married? All I know is, I get tired of children. My friends will endlessly play with kids and enjoy it. After an hour I’m bored.
Honestly, I thought I might feel different when I got married, but I didn’t. Then I thought I’d feel different when I turned 30, but I didn’t. Now I’m giving myself until around 35. I feel like if I don’t feel different by then, things probably aren’t likely to change. :)
As with anything “mommy” related the insecurities of the create these black/white camps that you must choose a side. Let’s make this “woman” related but once you start talking about babies it’s like everyone goes down into this hole of “this is the Right way and the other way is wrong.” So if you breastfeed, circumcise, co-sleep, work, etc etc etc all the way down to if you chose to procreate or not is this heated decision that, in the real world, is not black/white. And goddamnit just let people leave their lives omg!!!
That being said- the only reason I ever bring up you being a non-parent and me being a parent is guilt for subjecting you to the mundane life I’ve chosen. So once again, my own insecurities! But I need child free friends. Because talking babies is great but it’s nice to go back up for a air. And you’re there to carry us out of there.
Just so we’re clear, I was referring to you (and all of my other friends) when I said I’ve chosen to surround myself with women who are open-minded when it comes to parenting. The fact that you’re a mother and very much aware of the fact that I am not is exactly what I’m talking about. When we hang out, I know you’re a mom and that your time is going to be limited. And it’s not like I don’t like kids, so it doesn’t bother me at all when discussion turns to issues parents are especially concerned with – especially when they’re issues (like schooling) that society as a whole should be concerned with. The thing I love about the women I hang with – you included – is that they don’t make me feel less qualified for discussing such issues simply because I’m not a parent. :)
That said, we need to eat at the Taco Emporium by your house one of these days. It seemed like a kid-friendly atmosphere during the day (they do have wine and beer too) – maybe we can have a get-together with the whole group!
Hello, a friend posted about your blog and I was curious and read…and I have this to say…maybe slightly insightful, maybe totally useless but it is my experience. You wished on some level that ten years ago you became pregnant out of wedlock to take the choice away… that is me! What I can say about “Did no one tell you it would be hard”… is that I can read every book on what it is like to be a hostage, I can research it, for a year, watch every movie, and still not come close to what it is like to BE a hostage. I say that, and use that analogy because I could not think of something, that is as intense, provides such an adrenaline rush (fight or flight not necessarily excitement) and has a profound life long effect on who you are as a person, in order to compare it to parenthood. My sister has twins, my cousins have children, my friends had children, I knew it was vomit at 2 a.m. I knew that birth was painful, but how can you describe a color to a blind man. It is literally unfathomable, how hard parenthood is, and it is equally unfathomable to know how wonderful it is until you have lived the life. Mothers sometimes talk like they are in a secret club, but where else can they share those experiences with than others who have been with through the same. I look at it almost similarly to being a veteran, you instantly have at least one thing in common with others, you have had that military experience. When I first became pregnant, it felt as if I was the first woman to EVER become pregnant in the history of man kind, as if gestation was invented by me. Because it was MY body, how to describe to you the fear, excitement and desire all wrapped up in every second of my day is not something I can do. What I can tell you is I felt like I discovered a new world, and the only two people on it, the child growing inside me, and me. I was never one of those girls who dreamed of weddings or raising children. I dreamed of traveling the world and working for National Geographic. I joined the military to travel, I didn’t care where or how, but traveling was the only time I felt alive. So I am the LAST person to ever pick up the cheering outfit in favor of staying at home with a bunch of babies, and I have severe issues with the idea of being a stay at home mom, and never imagined fulfillment could be obtained with that life style. All that said, I totally believe it is refreshing to hear of a military wife not wanting to be barefoot and pregnant 24-7, I have never been a wife, but I can say that the female coworkers of your husband probably appreciate that, and really maybe you should make friends with them, and skip the “wives” parties. I think what you are experiencing is the negative side of parental support “groups”. From my perspective, it was not that long ago when women could not have it “all”, they either worked or had children, and many workplaces have extreme discrimination against women who do have children and view them as liabilities. They view the female parents in a different light than the men, and often times that opinion does not go unnoticed. Perhaps what these women (who are working and have those sick children therefor unable to smooze) are doing is simply as you stated, venting, because they know that they have less room for error in the workplace, and this just adds to the stress of wearing multiple hats. Perhaps they are in fact being unsympathetic to your choices (or not yet choices) in life, but you seem to be in part resenting (or being semi unsympathetic) in turn. Be confident in where you are in your life, and enjoy your wine when you want it, and be guilt free when you decline aiding a friend with a child, its your life, no one else’s. But know, that the right time to have a baby, never happens, there is always something more you could accomplish, more money you could save, or maybe you feel like you should have more desire. No one else’s pooping doll is going to kick your ovaries into overdrive. No one else’s spitting up baby, is going to overpower everything else in your life and get your undivided attention, because it is not yours. Not because maybe you are not a mom, or shouldn’t be, but I can tell you even as a mom, other peoples children do not amaze me. I am not impressed generally, and not very amazed, or overcome with awe. But those children (who I always think are caring some unknown disease that will infect my own precious angel) did not come from my body, and I am not linked chemically and biologically to those kids. Mother nature does not release a varied dose of hormones and endorphins when I touch those other children, so just know if you have your own children, 3.9 million years (or more really) of evolution, and natural selection will kick in, and you will instantly start being amazed at green poop, and thrilled at every gurgling noise your baby makes. Your entire world will change in an instant, and you think that is an overstatement and that you will have more things in your life than just a child, should you choose that route, and you will, but for those first few years, your world will be summed up by that little person that is part of you, that came from you, and that loves you no questions asked. p.s. sometimes when people complain to me these days about their life issues, love issues or work issues, I roll my eyes and sigh (out of eye sight of course) because you do not know hardship until you are a single mother going to school full time, in fact I often look back on my time in the military as a lovely vacation :-)
Oh wow, that was a LOT! :) I’m not worried about the “right time” to have a baby – I’m just worried about getting the right feeling, if that makes sense. Like I said – I have friends who HAD to have babies. They felt this inherent need — not just a want, but a need — and I kind of feel like maybe I should have that feeling before I try it myself. ;)
Hi, great thoughts. I do think it is unfair though to let the mom’s who become martyrs for their families take over the opinion of what mom’s can and can ‘t do after kids. I have glasses of wine, throw dinner parties, go out when something fun is happening and go running and workout when my kids are around or even before their bedtime. I drag them off to crazy holidays when the price is right too. There is no reason to think that you can’t still have your time and your life because you’re a mom. And it’s very important to share what you need and what makes you happy with your kids, and make it part of family time.
Anyway, I’m one of those who thinks there shouldn’t be too much thought and planning into deciding to have babies … It is often never the right time. And with our current environmental degradation from a growing population, I am all for women who stand by their decision not to have kids. So stay strong and happy whatever you decide.
I LOVE all of the women responding who say they haven’t lost their own identities and who still take the time to enjoy things for themselves, in spite of the fact that they have kids. And in fact their kids can enhance their experiences. It does seem to be the culture nowadays that more moms complain about the work than talk about ways to enjoy your life and your kids, so thank you for speaking up and being honest! It definitely makes the prospect seem less scary. :)
You’re closing paragraph about tickets and wine reminded me of the years just before and after I was married. And, yes, I read all the way to the end. What I took away from planning a child (and an ultra low key wedding) was that it seemed to be about ten times easier to deal with than the experiences those young men who “knocked up” their partners, allowing more wine time. After my daughter came into the world, I finally had a glimpse at putting the needs of another ahead of my own, selflessly; the way those New Testament people blather about. Before my daughter, I could put the needs of my partner ahead of mine, but some tiny part of my male brain always hoped, secretly and quietly, she would see me addressing her needs and be inspired to practice the art of making a baby. Of course, I have since come to learn that my child’s needs are now mine, and any hint of selfless went out the window about one second after she learned to smile.
I’m so glad it worked that way for you! Now. Can you hand over a guarantee that it would be the same for me? ;)
I had to read this article twice, because the first time I was just angry. So I read it a second time after telling myself, “she’s a woman with feelings trying to express herself and her situation.” And it might not translate over the internet, but I’m not yelling at you or trying to sound self-righteous. I’m just going to express myself. I would never make someone feel bad for not having kids. Ever. It sucks that you have encountered people who do that. But to say that you suffer “even more scorn”…that just encourages the kind of “me vs. you” thinking that we are trying to avoid as women. We all have rotten encounters in life. And sometimes (and I am guilty of this too) we project our fears onto others and convince ourselves that it’s what they ‘must’ be thinking about us.
I gave birth about 9 months ago. As expected, it changed everything. To expect it and to live it are two different things. Your mom friends might not call you anymore because they are completely overwhelmed. I try to call my friends. They don’t call me often anymore. After the newborn visits, things kind of quiet down. If it weren’t for work friends and Facebook, I would be totally isolated. Yes, you’re not in ‘their club’. But just as much, I feel like I’m not in ‘your club’ anymore. So maybe we should just stop this petty club bs and just try to understand each other and empathize as women.
The other thing that is really bugging me about this, and the comments that have ensued, are the attitudes of those who are child-free in regards to freedom to live your life. I don’t think I’m superior to you because I chose to have a kid. I really, really don’t. But when you brag about how your choice lets you do all of these amazing things, and parents can’t, it really sounds like a “ha ha” jab. You don’t have to defend your choice to anyone, as much as I don’t as well. I know what I’m missing out on. I see it all the time. Do I regret my choice? No. Well, only between the hours of 12-5am. But I hate reading articles and comments from non-parents that support their choice to not have kids by explaining how wonderful and carefree their lives are. There’s no need to rub that in parents’ faces. If the point of your article was to say that the parent pathway is no better than the other path, then why did you have to end with a point that sounds like your way is better? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of your writing?
Mommy wars…Parent vs. Non-parent wars…I’ve seen enough of it lately. There is a quote: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. I try to apply this as much as I can, and I wish others would too.
I respect your views and I’m glad you took the time to comment. But I have to say… your reaction is exactly the kind of reaction I was hoping to avoid when I wrote the post. I feel like I was (mostly) successful, but then maybe women who reacted the way you did were just afraid to speak up.
I’m going to address your concerns by paragraph for the sake of clarity:
1) What I was trying to say is that I suffer more scorn from society in general. And I feel like I do. Girls are pressured (either directly, indirectly, or both) from a very young age to have kids. It’s just expected. And any time anyone goes against what’s considered the “norm” in society, that person becomes subject to ridicule. It’s sad, but that’s what happens. So when I wrote that childless women experience more scorn, that is how I meant it. It wasn’t meant to be competitive. It wasn’t meant to mean “we have it harder than you in general,” because we all know that’s just not true. It wasn’t meant to mean that women with kids don’t experience any scorn (that’s just a whole different can of worms!). And it certainly wasn’t meant to encourage “me vs. you” thinking – I was hoping that even women with kids would understand what I was trying to say because as women, we understand the pressures society places on us to have kids.
2) I’m sorry your friends don’t call you often anymore. I try to call my friends with children less often out of respect for their hectic schedules. My close friends understand that – they know I’m available pretty much “whenever” (with the exception of when I’m working), and so I put it — maybe unfairly? — on them to call me. I hate it when I feel like I’m interrupting bedtime or naptime or food time or one of the precious moments my (especially working mother) friends have with their kids, so I put the calling burden on them. So you make a good point – maybe we’re just misunderstanding each others’ well-meaning intentions.
3) This is the only paragraph of your comment that really confuses me. As someone who’s ambivalent about having kids (I haven’t made up my mind either way), I was trying to weigh the pros and cons. I was saying while there’s a part of me that wants to be a member of the “mom club,” I would be remiss if I ignored the part of me that still wants to be a member of the club that allows me to have the freedom to do whatever I want to do. Don’t you remember it being like that before you had kids? It’s just a fact, and nothing to get upset over. I feel women who choose to be mothers (myself included, should I go that route) know they’re giving that up. And they *choose* to give that up willingly for the sake of their kids. So I guess I don’t understand why you feel defensive about that last part. I tried to make it clear that I haven’t made a choice, so I wasn’t trying to imply that “my way” was better because I don’t have a way. Yet. But I was trying to say that the childless way might be better FOR ME because those facts — which I think mothers and non-mothers can agree are true — about not being a parent still hold a great appeal to me. It outweighs my desire to have a kid for the moment. For you, it obviously didn’t. And that’s okay too! It’s for that very reason that those points shouldn’t make you feel bad. Each path is better for individuals for different reasons and, like I said in the article, I feel like judgements (and defensiveness) only stem from insecurities about our own decisions. We can’t get away from our insecurities about our choices, but we CAN choose how we react to them.
I’m not sure there’s anything I can say to convince you that I respect your choice. It makes me sad that you read into this piece the way you did… If I decide to stay child-free, will I think the path of freedom and ability to “do all of these amazing things” is the better choice? Absolutely. That is why I would pick it. FOR ME. But if I decide to have kids because I really *want* them, will I begrudge other women when they talk about their freedom? Absolutely not. Because I will (hopefully) be secure in my decision.
Does that make sense? I really am glad you commented because if other women reacted that way, I’m glad you’ve given me a chance to explain. :)
Are there any guarantee’s in life? My shared experience was that the best decisions I have made in life are with my head. Happiness has – almost – always been a by-product of thought out decisions. To be sure, the sports people are right when they say sometimes we have to do a gut check and call the long pass play. But that’s situational. Am I in the pro-kid category? Yes. The wine will age if I don’t get a chance at it after the kid goes to bed. And when the nest is empty the bottle may cost a little more, but it’ll taste just fine. My ultra liberal former Shakespeare prof. told me 99% of life’s decisions are really about forming answering the question “who am I?”. I know for sure you’re very readable writer. I enjoyed your stuff. Good luck with those guarantees.
Thanks, Edward! I won’t hold my breath on the guarantees. :)
I definitely think that not everyone wants or is really cut out to have kids but the only perspective you are missing is having kids of your own. you don’t know how you’d feel to have them even if you think you do. It’s really such a life altering experience that you have to experience yourself (whether they are biologically or adoptively your kids). For most- they miss jetting off to Lisbon at last minute, but the benefits are still better than that. For others they don’t enjoy it that much, but i think they are rarer.but don’t assume you know- because no one can until they are a parent.
Don’t worry – I’m not assuming I know. Nor did I ever say I did. Thanks for reading! :)
Thanks for writing this piece. I am in a long-term relationship (almost 10 years now) and get flack all the time about A. Not being married and B. Not having children. The fact is that I am happy with my relationship the way it is and so is my partner, we don’t feel the need to be “married” in order to feel committed to one another. We haven’t had children for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is….kids are a BIG responsibility. I work with them on a daily basis and think they are some of the coolest creatures on the planet…but I don’t know if I want to have any of my own. As you said, I like being able to go home and not worry about anyone else at the end of the day except my partner and that trip we are planning in June. Does this make me selfish or incomplete? I don’t feel that it does. I was also grateful to the reader that made the distinction between the “maternal instinct” and the “maternal urge”. I have maternal instinct out the wazoo, as I said I work with children, but the maternal urge was always something that baffled me. An old friend of mine used to talk about how much she wanted kids even when we were in high school, I never had that urge and have yet to experience anything but vague twinges when presented with an especially cute bebe…twinges that quickly pass. I recognize that there could come a day when I decided I do want the “true mothering experience” and it may be too late for me to safely have my own…well there are plenty of precious children in the world who need love and care whose “real parents” were ill equipped. Keep writing, I will keep reading.
What a great outlook! If you and your partner are happy, then that’s all that really matters, cliche as that might sound. :) It sounds like you have a fantastic and fulfilling life. It is so interesting the number of people who have commented (mostly on the Huffington Post site) who work with kids every day and don’t want any of their own. There definitely must be a correlation. A friend of mine (with four kids of her own) said the great thing is that you don’t need to leave your DNA behind to make an impact on the world – And I’d say you’re doing exactly that!
Love this discussion!! Thought I’d add in my two cents… I’m 37 and have been married for 6 years, and been with my husband for 10. I’ve never really been broody so can’t see the point of having kids – right now it would just be so that we could have someone to care for us in our old age!! But seeing as we are not paying towards a college fund, we can save up for one of those kick-ass retirement homes which look so good I’d move in today if I could!!
Apart from a couple of years when we thought “hey, lets try, and if it happens then it’s meant to be” – it never did, and to be honest, I’m quite glad. I think the only reason I went along with it was (incessant) society pressures, and maybe so I’d have some more of my husband to love (hopefully the kid would have been like him, if it was like what I was like as a child, I’d have to rehome it!!). But apart from that, I have absolutely no interest in procreating!! While I can see from others that it’s an incredible and loving relationship for them, I’d rather scrub a toilet until I am 90, than have a tiny baby!! (yet I love my nieces and nephews, they are so much more appealing when they belong to someone else!!)
I’m CONTINUALLY bombarded by well meaning friends, family and complete strangers who assume that our lives are lacking for being childless. It’s such a big topic, and others here have covered it perfectly (not keen/ too many people on the planet/ I prefer dogs etc) but I find it incredibly tiring to put them off without offending them. I wish people could understand that not having kids is not a bad thing for some people.
The point is, it’s your decision and don’t beat yourself up about it which ever way you go. But, if it helps, I’m at the age now where if we don’t get knocked up very quickly we’d be putting myself and a baby in a dangerous situation… and I have no regrets about not being a parent :)
Hi, Lou! Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment. It is definitely hard to get mad at friends and family when you know they mean well, but yes — why is it so hard for some people to understand that it’s a valid choice? I’m glad to hear from someone who was also kind of ambivalent about the whole thing and that it turned out well for you. :)
I hope you keep reading!
Your post prompted great dialogue, one that can never be finished as each generation struggles with the same questions, “maybe baby, maybe not”. In fact there is a book that stemmed from the same discussion at salon.com called Maybe Baby http://www.salon.com/2006/04/12/maybe_baby_2/ It’s a thought provoking collection of essays from various perspectives-
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic Monthly article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All presents the ever present conundrum of women wanting it all without having to choose one thing (career, travel, financial independence) over family AND being freed from the shackles of guilt for our ultimate choices. There has been much dialogue in recent news about women in business with the release of the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook. Women don’t “lean in” to take risks and chances and often keep other women from “leaning in” as well. This makes me think about a recent Domestiphobia blog post by Katie Gard on mulling the choice to be childless.
The reality is that Life is a series of choices- vanilla or chocolate, or some days both, but not strawberry. We revel in the myriad of flavors before us. Yet, just as we decide, we are judged by ourselves and others. “Did I really want vanilla? Maybe I should have had the chocolate” or “I shouldn’t have eaten that”. Adding to the conversation, the girlfriend next to us saying, “yes, but you should have had a double scoop”, “how about we split one of each?” or “yikes, bathing suit season is approaching”. This leads to an underpinning of uncertainty and dissatisfaction. “Dammit, why don’t I just follow my gut?” we think. Next time. But, like a recurrent bad dream, the conversation repeats itself in multiple venues. Is it the double x chromosomal curse to judge oneself and other women’s choices?
This universal cultural phenomenon of the female mindset is that which drives the “maybe baby, maybe not” conversation. With each decade, 20s, 30s, 40s, 60s the conversation has distinct parameters (freedom and travel, the career track, fertility and fetal risks, my-oh-my menopause, life with or without grandchildren), but essentially the struggle is the same. Can I be completely satisfied and have no regrets with my choice. How do I define myself, my family? Will I always want vanilla? How will I feel if one day I have a hankering for chocolate…but there is none left? Right now all I want is vanilla. I don’t even like chocolate. But then again…there once was a time that I hated asparagus.
No man, woman or child can provide the right decision for another woman, try as they may by tapping into the female Achilles heel of guilt and worry. Spend some time talking to many men, women and children of all ages and generations, those with and without children and grandchildren. Learn from others about what their choices meant in each decade of their lives – Not to influence your decision but to reaffirm that life has many flavors and that’s what keeps us coming back to the counter for more.
Congrats on the writing Katie! xo. Anna
This is the kind of comment that makes me miss academia because I’ve lost a lot of my ability to sound educated when I write. And of course, I love the food analogy – it’s a perfect representation of what’s happening in my head. :)
I love the kind of mother you are, and you would definitely be one of my major role models should I choose to give asparagus a chance. Of course, I’d be doing it during a different decade of my life!
I don’t believe it’s strange to be conflicted; not at all. It’s a feeling I can relate to a great deal. I have an only child by choice and tried for several years to convince myself that I wanted more children or had to have more children. I felt terribly guilty when I said okay to my husband having a vasectomy and spent a couple years mentally berating myself for not being a “good enough” woman for wanting more children. Why couldn’t I handle what so many other women can? Why was I flawed in this way to not desire more children?
It took a long time for me to embrace what I objectively knew when I avoided having more children and supported my husband in going forth with his vasectomy: my desires for life are incompatible with having more than one child. How I desire her childhood to be would not work with more children–plane seating rows and the rides at Disney typically only seat three–ha! I also realized that I’d much rather be a really good mother to one child than a mediocre mother to several and knew this was all the more important to consider due to the challenges the military throws our way. And, finally, I allowed myself to acknowledge the elephant in the room that is overpopulation. The majority of the beliefs and values that my husband and I hold dear would not be honored were we to have more children and that doesn’t make me a bad person. Reaching a place where I could be compassionate with myself and look at what I had through joyful eyes and not the cloud of guilt was a wonderful development and essential in my finally being able to let go of what could have been and what others think I should be doing and enjoy the life my family actually has together.
The cultural messages about motherhood and the expectations about femininity and how children are intertwined are so intense that sometimes I’m amazed (in a good way :) ) that there exist woman who are able to say no to what the a woman’s life is supposed to look like. No matter how many members a family has or how the members are related, there family is just as beautiful and amazing as the next one.
You know, someone else brought the conundrum of the mother of an “only” child to my attention as well! It didn’t even occur to me that you guys would face the same kind of ridicule, but it’s true. And honestly — it seems like no matter what we do as women, other people – especially women – are going to have a problem with it. If I don’t have kids, that’s wrong. If I just have one, that’s wrong. If I have two, then I have to deal with other peoples’ opinions of what I feed them. How I dress them. What I NAME them! I just women would stop being so judgmental and start being more supportive of each others’ choices. Is that too much to ask??
I love your examples of plane seating and rides at Disney – so true! And I bet because you’ve thought so carefully about this, that you really are an amazing mother. ANd really? What else should you strive for as a parent? :)
I found your blog from Andi’s Saturday Six post today. Like so many things in life, I think this topic boils down to respect. I have had so many interesting experiences as a parent…I realized that most of what I assumed about parenting was wrong, that the judgments I made of my friends with kids were based on my ignorance, and that even though my life changed a lot after kids, it changed in the most beautiful way possible. I wasn’t sure I wanted to have children but am beyond glad I did. But does everyone need to be a parent? Of course not. Women respecting and loving women no matter their choices, on both sides.
Thanks for stopping by my blog, Jenna! You’re absolutely right – it’s time women start respecting each others’ decisions (or lack thereof, in my case, ha!). As a mother, I’m sure you know that the questioning and judgments from other women don’t stop once you become a mom. Let’s start a movement! :)
[…] sucks me in and keeps me smiling. She is also very insightful illustrated in posts like “why the childless route is the easiest hard path with the most resistance” which even got Huffington Post visibility. I really appreciate that post because of my own […]
[…] more I’ve assessed this behavior over the years — the more times I’ve been asked why I don’t have children or have asked someone else whether they’ve ever traveled out of the country — the more […]
Thank you for this. And thank you for your email. I’m so glad I’ve found someone like me I can talk to about this stuff…
The most interesting thing about this article (or at least something I hadn’t thought of before in this way) is that society makes it seem like not having babies while married might be worse than having them out of wedlock.
You’re welcome. :) It’s definitely not an easy decision to make — and I guess for me, I haven’t even made a decision. But *not* making a decision is kind of making one, if that makes sense. You just have to see where your life takes you… so far it seems like yours has taken you to some pretty amazing places!
My girlfriend sent me this article and yes, I read it in its entirety. I laughed out loud and found it to be a great read.
I’ve been married for four years and am childless. It’s a decision, it’s planning, it’s being smart and fully aware of your body and what’s going on throughout the month.
My husband and I want children. Even just one would be amazing at this point. I don’t share this information often but I think there’s a third side here. We’ve been “trying” (whatever that means) for about a year now without success. I’m trying to get my life figured out with school and whatnot, but I’ve seen the doctor for prenatals and all that because I had, and currently have, a feeling. I have a feeling that pregnancy isn’t going to come as easily for us as it does for others, and I’ve proven myself right (as unfortunate as that is). I’m working on getting my health as optimal as I can, I read blogs on organization, meal planning, grounding yourself during stressful situations, ect ect. I’m preparing, but what if I’m preparing for something that may never come? Tricare requires you to be actively trying for a year before they see if anything could be wrong with either person. And let me tell you, a year is a very long time. Especially when you see your friends (in real life and on facebook) pregnant, planned or not. It’s hard. It’s hard and it sucks.
I don’t need the added stresses of being asked if we’re ever going to have kids (because four years is an eternity right? Ha) I want to be smart about it, I want to be as ready as I can be, I want to know in my heart of hearts that I did everything in my power to prepare for what I can prepare for and when I’m unprepared I will learn and be prepared next time. But I explain that to a mom friend? Forget about it, the horror stories come out like no other. I don’t want to hear it, it’s like they’re discouraging me from having a baby because of the unexpected surprises that come with it.
I’m 26, my biological clock is not exactly ticking right now. But on base, it’s like, madness to think that I have been married for oh so long and haven’t had kids yet! The freaking horror of it all. My punishment for that is not being included, in like, anything. Ever. I want to make friends (more so off base) but I don’t have kids, it’s almost easier when you do, at least you know for a fact that the person next to you with a kid has something in common with you. I, on the other hand, can’t just go up to a person that looks cool and be like “hey I have that exact same pair of TOMS! We should friends”. Life doesn’t work like that. So maybe before the women with kids disregard me, or others like me, because I’m not a mom, they should say hey, or something. Even when I was a nanny last summer, I would take the kid to the park and not even get a smile from the moms that were there with their kids. It was miserable.
It is a choice, but then again, sometimes it isn’t. I don’t need every mom I encounter to know that yes, I would love to have children but it’s just not happening for some reason. The decision and the reason is nobody’s business.
I’m so sorry you’re going through this struggle. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think it’s as “easy” for many others to conceive as you might think. In fact, the majority of the women I’ve known (who’ve talked about it), have had issues getting pregnant. So while it may *seem* like it’s easy for others because you’re surrounded by babies and that’s something you want, keep in mind that you don’t know how long it took any of those babies to become a reality for their families.
I understand how you feel about pressure from the military. In the “real world,” 26 and child-free is not an unusual thing. In fact, many couples deliberately wait until they’re older so they have their mid-twenties to spend together. But military life is a different beast. Often spouses feel like motherhood (or fatherhood, depending on who’s active duty) is the only way they can contribute to their family. After all, it’s difficult to hold a regular career when you’re forced to move every few years. So it’s understandable that you feel left out of a huge portion of your peers. When you *do* have a child, no matter how it happens, remember how that felt and reach out to other women who might be in the same situation. Motherhood isn’t a sorority — it’s a difficult job, and it makes no sense to leave people out who might want to help. :)
I’m sending positive thoughts your way and hope you find a way to build the family you’ve been dreaming about. Keep your chin up! They say that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, and take it from someone who’s wasted whole years wishing we lived somewhere else — it’s 100% true. Enjoy your husband, enjoy your home, and don’t wish the years away until you have a baby. These times are important, too. :)
[…] for us to take, and yet we don’t know which ones we should go down because unlike with men, we don’t have generations of other women who’ve led the way to a path outside the famil… What we have had generations of other women do is keep house. Raise kids. Take care of hubby. There […]
I feel ya Katie. I’m not sure if I want kids, but I even see my eyes widen a bit when I meet woman in her late twenties who has already chosen not to have kids. Why? I have no idea, because I could see myself walking down the exact same path. It’s just a strange thing to think about in our society, I guess. And that makes me sad that we’re so narrow minded. Not everyone needs to lead the same life.
It’s true! And even at 32, I’m not sure enough to make a permanent decision. Though I’m definitely more drawn to foster care eventually, which is probably something we’ll look into once Justin retires from the military. There’s no need to lock ourselves into a predetermined box!
This is an absolutely spot-on commentary on the sad state of social affairs between women who have children and those who don’t. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary, and (despite being in my very late thirties) I don’t feel the urge to have children. Unfortunately, when it comes to family and old friends…..we are the ONLY ones who chose not to pursue parenthood and the result is being left out and treated differently (questioned and made to feel wrong). We have a great time together and enjoy our life just as it is. We have grown accustomed to travel, sleep, walking around naked, spontenaity and a serious passion for the arts. We are very much in love and enjoy our life as it is. I’m not sure where the problem lies in that? And, YES…we have had more than a few relatives say, ” You will regret it when you are old and have no one to take care of you”. I do hope this is not the primary reason people have kids! Even those who do are not guaranteed care in old age anyway….so, WOW. I don’ t put women down for having kids or act nasty when they miss work or cancel on me due to child -related issues….why can’t I seem to get the same respect? I’ve even had several “mom” coworkers in the past get catty when I got a holiday off and they had to work it (I had seniority) and say ” I don’t see why she needs to be off anyway, she should work, it’s not like she HAS KIDS or anything”!!!!! Yeah.
I’ve found over time that it’s important to rationally explain to your co-workers why they shouldn’t discriminate against you for not having children. Unlike a mental or physical disability, having kids is a CHOICE. Period. It doesn’t entitle you to special privileges over those who don’t. Of course, saying it that way might not lead to the best working environment. ;)