International Childfree Day 2018

Happy International Childfree Day, everyone!

Last year, shortly after returning from my honeymoon, I wrote a post about the decision my husband and I have made not to have children. I can admit now that I was very nervous to hit that Publish button and to openly proclaim that we were choosing not to have kids – a lifestyle that for some reason is still upsetting to some. I was afraid of the criticism, the rebukes that I’ll change my mind, that not having kids is selfish, that I’ll never know true love until I have a child. You know, all the usual things people say when a woman declares herself childfree, all the things people have said to me in my life. The things that make me feel pressured to change my course in life just to please others.

Happily, the responses I received were supportive and positive, and in the year since I wrote that post I’ve become a lot more comfortable owning my childfree status. Writing openly about choosing a life without children led to such a remarkable change in my thinking. I no longer worry that I’m going to offend people with kids when I say I don’t want kids myself. I don’t feel bad because my path in life is different from theirs or because I want different things out of life. Why should I? We humans are inordinately different by nature and so of course our dreams for ourselves and our choices in life are going to be vastly different as well. I don’t question for a second anyone else’s choosing to have kids; it’s just what they want for themselves and their lives.

In honor of International Childfree Day, here are some childfree facts about me. Feel free to add your own childfree facts in the comments!

• Even as a child, I never thought of myself as growing up to be a mother. I chose playing with My Little Ponies over baby dolls; I much preferred to imagine the grand adventures the ponies would have and didn’t enjoy pretending to care for a baby.

• I don’t dislike kids – I actually have several children in my life whom I love with all my heart and spending time with them makes me happy.

• I didn’t choose a career over parenting. While I do work full time, I don’t feel such a strong dedication to my job that I’d sacrifice things I want in my personal life for it. I am fortunate to work for a company that highly promotes work-life balance and while I do enjoy working hard, I’m not the person consistently leaving work the latest and I am happy to take my vacation days.

• I believe it’s important to really think about why I do things in life. My husband recently told me about reading an article discussing people’s motivations to do things and summarizing that we either do things out of obligation or out of genuine desire. I try to live my life so that the obligations are few and far outweighed by the things I want to be doing. Thinking this way was a big part of my ultimate decision not to have kids – I don’t crave parenting, and I think it’s something you should only do if you are craving that life.

• My heart aches for people who do crave parenthood and can’t have kids. One of the major drivers for my decision to break my silence and be more outspokenly childfree was not so much my own experience with negativity around my decision, but frustration at the questions I was regularly asked about when I would be having kids. I imagine how terrible it would be to be asked those same questions if I did want a baby while being unable to have one, and I want to lead the charge in helping to educate people about the harm they do when they ask such things.

• I love my childfree life and I want other childfree people to love theirs, too. There isn’t anything wrong with choosing not to be a parent!

Being a Grandma Doesn’t Mean You Were a Good Mom

The other night on my way home, I found myself behind a minivan with a license plate frame that read ‘Only the Best Moms Get Promoted to Grandma’. The implication that my choice to be child-free would reflect badly on my mom or her parenting skills really made me angry, and sad too.

Now really, the statement that only the best moms become grandmothers is ridiculous. I have plenty of friends with children whose moms were an absolute nightmare. There are plenty of parents out there who were raised by a single father, no mother around whatsoever. You can be a shitty mom and still end up having grandchildren. A narcissistic, controlling, angry, or crazy mom does not rise to sainthood just because her children decide to have kids of their own.

I had a great childhood. My parents loved my siblings and I fiercely and did everything they could to give us a good life. They gave up a lot for us and I have mad respect for them for it. I do know that just as I am interrogated about when my husband and I are having kids, my mom is asked on the regular when her kids are going to give her some grandbabies. Mom takes it in stride and replies that she has furry grandchildren, but I know she gets as tired of the questions as I do.

My parents have never pressured me to have kids or expressed anything but support for the kind of life I want to have. I am incredibly grateful to them for respecting my decision and not pushing me to make a different choice. My dad has even gone so far as to tell me that if he had known the world would be the way that it is today, he might have reconsidered having children himself. It is so much harder to make a decent living and build a comfortable life now than it was thirty years ago. When he said it, it made me feel so validated in my own choice to remain child-free. My mom has told me “I don’t like kids anymore!”, usually after being subjected to misbehaving kids in stores.

It does make me sad to think of my parents being put on the spot about my decision not to have children, a choice that has absolutely nothing to do with my relationship with them but that ultimately I realize does impact them. When an adult makes virtually any other decision in life, it falls on them and it’s generally considered unacceptable to ask their parents for justification – why is procreating an “open season” topic then?

I like to think that my parents are living a happy and fulfilled life, blissfully retired and free to enjoy their days. They worked hard for that. If there’s a hole in their lives because my siblings and I don’t have kids, they’ve never said as much.

I just hope the driver of that minivan was actually a good parent, and that her grandchildren are also being raised by good parents who wanted the responsibility rather than people who were pushed into parenthood by the woman now celebrating her life as grandma with bumper stickers.

An Open Letter to the People Who Ask Me When We’re Having Kids

An Open Letter to the People Who Ask Me When We’re Having Kids:

Since my wedding last month, you have taken to asking me when my new husband and I plan on adding a baby to our family. You probably don’t notice that this question makes me a little uneasy.

We see each other often – by the coffee maker in the mornings, in meetings, in passing in the hallway. Let’s be honest, we probably see each other more during the week than we see our own families. And so I know you aren’t trying to pry when you ask me about my plans to expand my family. I realize you have good intentions. Believe me, you aren’t the only one asking. I think a personal record is being asked by three separate people during one workday.

To answer your question, children are not in the cards for us. You may want to interject here, to ask me my reasons and to try and overcome them. I do have my reasons, but they are my own, and there’s really no productive reason to go into them here.

The thing is, I wish with every fiber of my being that you would not ask childless women this question, and am requesting that you consider refraining from this line of questioning in the future. I’m not asking this for myself necessarily, but for the women who desperately want children but cannot have them. When you ask me when I’m having kids, it makes me feel uncomfortable. But when you ask a woman who is struggling with infertility when she’s having kids, you’re reminding her of a heartbreaking challenge in her life that hurts her deeply. When you ask her this question, you only see the plastered-on smile. What you don’t see is that she goes to the bathroom and locks herself in a stall. You don’t hear her sobs, because she’s mastered the art of crying silently to herself. You don’t see how much your seemingly innocent question is tearing her apart.

I cannot even begin to describe you some of the crazy situations I’ve been in when someone decided to demand of me when I’m “going to get knocked up” (and yes, it’s been phrased this way…crazy, right?). I’ve been asked in the middle of a staff meeting, by strangers at a bar, by people I met in the pool on my honeymoon. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing to be asked such a personal question in such a public environment. Please keep this in mind, and do not put women on the spot like this. It makes us feel SO awkward.

I hope you can appreciate that family planning is a personal matter. I can assure you that if a woman does want to discuss it, she will initiate the conversation and tell you all about it! But for a lot of us, we would prefer to have our teeth drilled without Novocain than to be faced with that question, so please respect our privacy and do not ask us. Instead, ask me how my kitties are doing – that’s a question I’m always happy to answer!