Friday, November 23, 2007

My Story


In thinking of the next topic to write about here, I realized that to date I have not shared my personal story with you. So sit back and relax and I will tell you all about how I came to be a happily childfree woman.

First of all, it is relevant to point out that I have always been an independent thinker and never one to automatically follow the crowd and be a conformist. As a child, I found it more fun to create my own board game than to play a manufactured game. As a teen, I chose not to "party" and was quite scornful of the majority my peers who abused their bodies and brains that way. Needless to say, this resulted in my being something of a loner - not by choice, mind you (because I am very outgoing and sociable person), but because it's hard to make friends when you're taking the opposite path of 95% of your peers and refusing to be a herd-following sheep. At any rate, it has always been more important to me to be true to myself than to be false just so I can fit in.

I've also always been a person who does not like to be "tied down". I never fared well with possessive or controlling men. I've never been a person who can tolerate being stuck in a situation where I am not in control of my own happiness and destiny. I've always seen life as something that I fully create, not something that happens to me.

As for the childfree decision, growing up, I looked at my parents' life and it didn't seem at all appealing to me -in fact, it repulsed me. They were very unhappily married, struggling financially and were overwhelmed with the responsibilities of work and family and trying to make ends meet. They fought over money a lot - in fact money was so tight that my mother frequently came to me to borrow my babysitting money just so she'd have enough money to keep gas in the car. My impression of them was that all they did was work and struggle. When I think back to my parents' days of raising children, I think any objective person would say that it was the least joyful period in their lives.

In addition to having financial troubles, my parents were clearly incompatible and an ill-suited match. It became apparent to me at a young age that had they not had children, they would have most certainly divorced early in their marriage. In fact, my mother told me (on more than one occasion), "If it wasn't for you kids, I would divorce your father". She meant this to be a loving statement - i.e. "I love you kids so much that I will suffer in a marriage that I desperately want out of" but the more salient message came across loud and clear, "you kids are what are standing between me and the life I really want. It is because of you that I am tied down in this miserable existence."

Is this the reason I chose to be childfree? If I had been raised in a happy, well-adjusted family where my parents loved being together and seemed joyful in raising a family would I have looked at the option of parenthood in a positive light? I often wonder about this. There's no doubt my childhood experiences and perceptions were powerful influencers on my thinking, but regardless of my upbringing, I am confident that I would have chosen the same childfree lifestyle. Why? It always comes down to this one fact - people with kids pay a very high price for their lifestyle, and I just don't see that they are any happier than I am. In fact, in most cases they seem less happy. Why would I choose a life that costs substantially more, but in most cases yields less?

When I look at the lives of family, friends, co-workers and acquaintences who have children, I see lives that are full of overwhelming responsibility. I see that (like my parents) they are frequently struggling to make ends meet. I see that they no longer have the time or money to go out to dinner, to travel, to pursue interests in hobbies, to go to school, to schedule outings with friends or even to have meaningful conversations with other adults. Their entire beings are consumed with childrearing and their lives appear to me to be 99% work and 1% fun. I sense that their marriages aren't passionate anymore with little quality time left for their spouses after all the childrearing chores are done. I see their involvement in the community and interest in world events has dissipated. They look tired and worn down. They look old for their ages. They look spent. While there is no doubt their children bring them joy, in my estimation the cost for that joy is so excessive, it just isn't worth it.

Of course, people with children will respond, "yes, of course it is worth it!" and maybe for them that is true. For me, though, having kids would most definitely not be worth losing (or even compromising) all those very important things. Perhaps my marriage, my friendships, my hobbies and interests, my educational pursuits, my interest in the world, my passion, my enjoyment of adult conversation, my love of travel, my need for personal space, and my health and fitness hold more importance to me than they do to other people. Maybe other people don't need those things to be happy. I do. When it's all said and done, if I want the benefits of kids in my life, I can easily get them from my nieces, nephews and friends' kids with almost no cost to my happiness.

Lucky for me, I met my soul mate at age 26 and even luckier for me, he is a person who shares my perspective in all the important areas of life, including the choice to be free of the burdens of childrearing. I count my lucky stars every day because I realize the miracle of an independent-thinking freespirit like myself finding any man I'd want to commit to for life, let alone a guy who knows that a very happy and fulfilling life can be created free of children.

How about you? Care to share your story? Please comment...

17 comments:

Shell said...

Like you, I think my upbringing has a lot to do with the fact that I identify as being childfree too. I grew up seeing my mum struggle raising me and my sister mostly alone (dad worked away a lot). When dad was around they'd always argue and mum would be crying lots. Money was always tight and even though they are still togehter now, it's only for the fact that my mum has no financial independance to leave dad. Now my parents are a burden for me, as I was for them (oh the irony!). My mum has health problems. She wouldn't get out of the house much if it wasn't for me &/or my sis taking her out whenever we get chance. Having my own kids would make looking after them even tougher as the years go on.

I too wonder what my decision on having children would have been if my upbringing had been different.
I know deep in my heart I do not want the responsibility of children. But *sometimes* I resent the fact that I don't want them. Hope that makes sense? Sometimes I wish I felt differently and that I could feel some maternal tug towards bringing a child into the world. But I don't.
But there isn't much point pondering the 'what if things had been different...' trains of thought really. So, childfree I am.

UKShell said...

Was Shell, now UKShell.
Funny:
I was talking to the mother of my partner & I'd been complaining about my job and saying how I could really do with some time off to just find out what is was I really wanted to do in life, she said in a real blasé manner “Oh, just have a baby!”
Inside my head I was like “What!?!”

I just laughed it off, I kinda hoped she was joking too (the use of the word 'just' shocked me, as having a baby is the easiest non-impacting thing on someones life...!), but realised I needed to have a big long chat with my partner about the future and having/not having kids. We'd not really seriously talked about it up until then and I'd been realising that having kids was less and less appealing to me.

Childfreeeee said...

Shell,

Thanks for posting your comments. I can understand "resenting" not wanting kids. I think the resentment comes from the fact that if you DID want them and have them, your life would be easier in some ways...you'd fit right in with everyone else, you'd get immediate praise and support and you'd be part of the huge community instead of isolated and marginalized. However, in many ways your life would also be harder in many ways (as you know) so it's definitely a trade-off.

It's funny that your partner's mother's solution to your indecision about what to do with your life is "just have a baby!" A lot of women actually do "just have babies" because they feel like failures because they are not happy with any accomplishments or don't have the courage to try anything else. It's easy to have a baby - and like I said, instant praise and support and a sense of accomplishment. But anyone who gives it real thought realizes that getting impregnated and birthing a child is no accomplishment. Rats do it.

Anonymouslee said...

I am a 25-year old in a 3 year relationship with a man 12 years my senior. Neither of us have children, and he is almost certain that he does not want children. I am completely on the fence, ready to make the leap one way or the other (not ready to have children, just ready to decide). We've been talking about marriage, but I know we've got to figure out this kids thing before we decide to spend the rest of our lives together.

I grew up in a house with an older sister and both parents until they divorced when I was 13. My mom admits that she only married my dad because she knew he would be a good father, and at 31, she wasn't getting any younger. Lucky for her, he was a better father than anyone could ever imagine, which left her with plenty of time to focus on her career.

I envy the life she has now -- two intelligent, well-adjusted adult daughters whose company she truly enjoys, a nice house in the city, the means to travel and dine as she wishes. My dad on the other hand, has declared bankruptcy and lost his house. I'm not saying he is in financial trouble because he chose to raise children and was not career-focused (he made plenty of bad decisions along the way), but I wonder what kind of life my mom would have had she chosen to spend more time with us when we were growing up. She didn't even like kids. She just wanted the life she thought she was supposed to have.

I'm completely on the fence. Maybe it's because as a kid, I saw my parents and the parents in the neighborhood getting together and having a good time while we kids entertained ourselves with the woods in the backyard. From a kid's POV, the parents seemed to enjoy life just as much as we did. I don't know many couples with kids now, so I really haven't seen the struggle that I know is inevitable.

Quarter-life crisis. Ugh.

Childfreeeee said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Anonymouslee.

I have always been of the opinion that unless a person has a burning desire to have a child, and simply cannot imagine their life without children, they should not. Childrearing is such a tremendous undertaking and responsibility, and the price is SO HIGH that I truly feel you must feel with all your heart that it is a passionate calling. I think too many people have kids simply because it's the thing you're supposed to do, but if they gave the matter sincere and serious thought, they would realize it's not the right lifestyle for them.

Why am I saying this to you? I guess I feel that if you're on the fence and are 50/50 and could go either way, why would you want to take the harder road? The idea of BBQs with the neighbors is nice, but you can do that without kids. In fact, we have lots of barbeques with and without people with kids and they're always fun.

Corrinne said...

I am so sad I am almost to the end of your archives! You, however, are probably sighing with relief.

My mom was the greatest mom in the entire world, even if it sounds cliche. She sacrificed everything and really seemed to ENJOY bending over backwards for me. I was incredibly well behaved, but also incredibly spoiled.

My parents split after years of fighting when I was 10. My dad is an odd one- he expects everyone to be perfect in every way. My mom lost her previously VERY thin figure when she had me. She regained it years later but my dad ending up cheating with the town ho (which is really not an exageration-that is a whole other novel).

My mom was always there for me. We were incredibly close and she "baby sat" my dog in recent years so I didn't have to leave her home alone to go to work. She passed away suddenly in August, which has turned my world upside down.

So anyway, before I had jumped to this side of the fence, I contemplated kids in the future because my mom was so wonderful and she would have enjoyed it. She never pressured me to, she actually often joked about how skeeved out I was with kids haha. I was an only child.

Up until pretty recently, I sort of just felt like having kids was just something you did. I am very happy I have found like-minded women who choose not to and are immensely happy. I enjoy being my fiance's number one, and vice versa. I don't want to give up my independence and freedom and nice things in my house... I panic if I hear a friend is bringing their kid over because I just KNOW it will be chaos.

I don't want kids, and I have realized there is nothing wrong with this. Luckily, my fiance agrees and admits he only talked about possibly having kids because he thought I wanted to.

So thank you for this blog. I will follow it until you move on, which I hope you never do. =) And it is possible to have a (mostly) great upbringing and not want kids. Maybe some piece of mind for people pondering the "what if's...".

Childfreeeee said...

Thanks to everyone who has shared their story.

Corrine, thank you for all your comments - I enjoy reading all of them :) and am glad you are loving the blog.

Enigma said...

The first part of your story is amazingly similar to mine. I am a loner not by decision but because I am different and don't follow crowds. Too much of a free thinker to be lead by my nose - controlling men and I don't mix well. As a matter of fact I am considered by most in my fam to be a feminist. The deviation comes with my sister having 4 kids while just graduating from high school. These kids became family kids, and you got it, I was often a "mother" - all this at the age of 14. Witnessing and experiencing all of the brutal work and planning it takes - and even now - these are not my children by birth - I still correct, assist etc. The thrill died wayyyy back then for me.

It never occured to me until now that THIS (the above explanation) may be the reason that I have avoided a serious relationship for so long - I like kids, love kids - kids like me!! I do not want to have any. I have been in denial about that truth for a looonnngg time. The pressure to accept that this is what women DO - they have children - is ridiculous. Maybe facing this reality will allow me to be more open to relationships : )

FYI- I am reading through your archives and have enjoyed so much of it.

Jess said...

"If I had been raised in a happy, well-adjusted family where my parents loved being together and seemed joyful in raising a family would I have looked at the option of parenthood in a positive light? I often wonder about this."

These two sentences are what has me commenting.

I have been reading the archives of your blog over the alst several weeks and I have noticed a theme with yourself and many other childfree people- all of them have some kind of horrible fixture in their childhoods and ultimately they came to the choice of being childfree because of their upbringing. I feel a little out of place even amongst childfree friends, simply because a) I don't have pets and don't like animals in general (but this is due to several bad experiences from my own childhood) and b) I had an awesome childhood.

I have fantastic parents who have been happily married for 30 years. I have two sisters and one adopted-since-birth brother. We are all very tightknit and see each other constantly: I look forward to catching up with my mom and hanging out with my dad.

I always figured I'd be a mom- I love love love kids. But when I met my own soul mate (at the ripe old age of 20) I discovered he didn't want kids, ever. And I thought, "Wait a second, you can DO that??" The seed was planted. I did research. I pro'd and con'd it with friends and family.

We finally came to our decision not to have children for sure a few months ago. It was quite freeing once I stopped saying "maybe" to myself: I don't have to worry and feel guilty about taking a cruise to Mexico because ONE DAY I *might* have a kid who has a college fund that needs padding. Blech. I'm happy with my lifestyle as it is, thanks.

Surprisingly my family and DH's family are cool with it. Since he and I each have so many siblings our parents are set in the grandkid department already, and I already have a little nephew that I get to play with a cuddle all I want, it's fantastic!

So thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I look forward to reading more archives (and new material).

brettc said...

I'm childfree because I basically just am not fond of kids. I will admit that they can be cute (sometimes), but I would have no idea what to do with a kid if someone tried to get me to babysit one. My wife doesn't mind kids, but she always says that she likes to send them home when she's tired of them. When you have your own that's not a possibility.

My dad was never super affectionate with me or my brother, so I think that's driven my decision a lot. I think we kind of just happened to him and he didn't really know what to do with us. I do remember some good times growing up with him, but he worked weird hours since he was a cop so I didn't see him a whole lot growing up. I know he loves me, but I don't think I'll ever hear it from him. So I really don't want to subject a kid to that sort of life. It screwed me up enough so I really don't need little Bratley/Bratlynn having to deal with it too. My mum did a good job with us, but she's not really super affectionate either. Kids are a huge undertaking, and it's hard to comprehend how people just pop them out with so little thought. I remember one time when I was younger my mum was packing her bags and I asked what was going on. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that she was threatening to leave us for some reason. It didn't actually happen, but I'll never forget it. I just wish I could remember exactly what happened. Although maybe it's better that I don't.

My brother had a baby about a month ago, so now my mum has her grandchild. My wife and I made it clear to her that we wouldn't be giving her any human grandchildren.

Claudel said...

I just recently found your blog and I love it. You and I are extremely similar and seem to have had similar childhoods. I knew from a very young age I did not want children. Luckily I have been married 11 years (I'm 44) to a man that feels the same. Seeing friends and family members with children, and their experiences, only emphasizes this choice.

Tessa said...

Wow, my story is very similar to yours. I've always been an independent thinker, as well as a dreamer. I definitely march to the beat of my own drum! I am somewhat of a loner and don't have many good friends not because I'm not awesome, but because like you, I just don't go with what the crowd is doing. I don't party hardy, am mature for my age, and have no desire to chatter on about shallow things like most college students my age.

I also come from a somewhat messed up family. My parents divorced when I was 6 because my birth father is abusive, an addict, and has mental issues; she would have left earlier, before she had 2 other children, if not for the kids. Now she is married to my stepdad, and my biggest fear is that I will end up like them (which I won't!). I don't get the impression that they really love each other, they fight all the time about money (or rather lack of it, since we have 4 kids in our house), he lords over her (and us unfortunately) because he is the "Christian head of the household." We are having difficulties paying for my college education because of money issues, and I have had to take on a significant portion of it myself. We live paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes they have to borrow money from me. I make nothing as it is!

This could possibly have affected my desire to not have kids, because if I had one I would want to be able to provide for it better than I was provided for, which I know requires a lot of money. However, I just really never had a desire for them, even when I was little. I've always liked adults better. So I think even if I was brought up in a more stable household, it's just my personality to not want children.

Elle said...

I never really decided at any point that I did not want kids. It's just something that I've always known.

I have never liked babies. They have always irritated and disgusted me and made me feel awkward. I really liked hanging out with non-parental adults, though! I had some really awesome and fun older cousins until they had kids and stopped visiting. I haven't seen them in years. :(

I never figured out how to interact with babies and toddlers. Never in my life have I even held a baby or had any desire to. When I was about 3, I remember yelling at my mom when I saw her holding someone's baby, "You put that baby down now!" while scowling and stomping my feet. When I was a year or two older, I told my parents that I was going to be a nun because then I wouldn't have to have kids. (Back then, I thought girls HAD to get married and have babies when they grew up.) I also didn't like baby dolls. I loved stuffed animals, plastic animals, movie animals, book animals, and real animals (which is why I'm a vegetarian now, as well). I liked undressing the baby dolls and putting the clothes on my animals - both toy and real...poor cats. >.<

I can think of a MILLION reasons why I shouldn't have kids, but really, it's just how I've always been. My family is complicated and messy, and I don't think it is the reason I don't want kids, but it's given me plenty of reasons to stay childfree.

Freelance Feminist said...

Woo-hooo!!! Archive commenting!

I just wanted to post something in response to Jess's comment. A lot of childfree people are quick to point out that the childfree are not necessarily "damaged goods," and having a miserable childhood is not a prerequisite for choosing the childfree life. While I certainly agree with that, I think there may be a segment of the childfree population who chose this life because of hardship they experienced early on.

Many people have many different reasons for not having children, but all of these different reasons boil down to this: the belief that having children will NOT make them happy. People who have been extremely unhappy at any point in their lives know how precious happiness is. Anyone who has experienced misery will try very hard to have a happy life after that. When a formerly miserable person comes across a list of reasons to not have children and "you will be happier and less likely to suffer from depression" is reason number one, a voice inside of them goes, "sold!" I think that people who had miserable childhoods are more easily convinced that childfree is the way to be.

Dessi Baboon said...

i am waay late...

i'm 29.almost all my friends are unmarried parents, while i am a married childfree.i live in the caribbean.weddings are somewhat extinct here but kids are in abundance.people prefer shacking up, playing house,and mindlessly shoving out a bunch of kids they cant feed.sometimes with different fathers.

i am a thinker,i question things.i went against tradition.i decided to get married because i can get out if its not working.but i would never have kids because its irreversable.folks here see marriage as a bigger commitment than kids.i dont see the point of kids,nor the worth.i see no benefit of having children.i believe parents are both sadists and masochists. they inflict pain on others by removing them from where its safe and bringing them here into a wicked dying world, to die.and they inflict pain unto themselves because kids equal suffering.

actually,i didnt realize i didnt want children. it was not a decision i knowingly made.i knew i wasnt ready for breeding so i protected my self sexually.but at the same time,i was repulsed whenever my friends turned up pregnant.vexed and disgusted.one time,my cousin showed me her ultrasound happily,and i was feeling pity for her.it was later on,i began realizing that i saw having children as a prison sentence.a trap.a moronic thing to do.i wanted no part of it.

my unmarried parents seperated when i was 7.but even if my childhood was happy,i still wouldnt want children because i like my freedom and i guard my happiness fiercely to my heart.when you create a new soul,you lose yours.so NO!

Kacie said...

I've been reading through the archives for a couple weeks now, and thought this time I would post, despite the lateness.

I have some similarities as well as differences. I also consider myself a thinker, dreamer, and non-traditionalist. Last spring my husband and I eloped in Malta, and I love telling people about it because they always look so shocked. I love going against the norm. We’re still mid-twenties and newlyweds, so haven’t yet been asked when we’ll start procreating, but I expect it won’t be long now.

But unlike many of you, I had a great childhood. My parents are happily married, and my family always had fun while my brother and I were growing up. We took trips, went on outings, always had dinner together... We still love getting together often.

I remember my mom telling me about how excited she was for babies. When she turned 16, the first thing she did was go to the maternity ward and look at the babies (too young before then). My parents tried to have me for 8 years before being successful, and then she opened an in-home daycare shortly after. If anyone could convince you of the joys of motherhood, it would be my mom. I think she was very happy with the life.

But I just never had that drive. I babysat as a teen, and I HATED it! I told my mom I wouldn’t get married and have kids. But when I got on track to “settling down,” my now-husband and I started talking about kids (because that’s just what you do), how we’d wait awhile to have them so we could enjoy as much child-free time alone together as possible. Then I thought about how we’d travel around the world after they left the house as well. And one day it just clicked; What’s the point of having kids if you’re just wishing the time away until they’re out of your house? I saw our early years and retirement years as what would be our best, and I suddenly realized that the middle could be like that too. Let’s just not have kids!! The relief I felt after that solidified my decision even more, and luckily my then-fiance was in agreement! We are now very happy with our decision, looking forward to doing whatever we please and going wherever we want without being tied down to anything. It’s a great feeling.

Kacie said...

I've been reading through the archives for a couple weeks now, and thought this time I would post, despite the lateness.

I have some similarities as well as differences. I also consider myself a thinker, dreamer, and non-traditionalist. Last spring my husband and I eloped in Malta, and I love telling people about it because they always look so shocked. I love going against the norm. We’re still mid-twenties and newlyweds, so haven’t yet been asked when we’ll start procreating, but I expect it won’t be long now.

But unlike many of you, I had a great childhood. My parents are happily married, and my family always had fun while my brother and I were growing up. We took trips, went on outings, always had dinner together... We still love getting together often.

I remember my mom telling me about how excited she was for babies. When she turned 16, the first thing she did was go to the maternity ward and look at the babies (too young before then). My parents tried to have me for 8 years before being successful, and then she opened an in-home daycare shortly after. If anyone could convince you of the joys of motherhood, it would be my mom. I think she was very happy with the life.

But I just never had that drive. I babysat as a teen, and I HATED it! I told my mom I wouldn’t get married and have kids. But when I got on track to “settling down,” my now-husband and I started talking about kids (because that’s just what you do), how we’d wait awhile to have them so we could enjoy as much child-free time alone together as possible. Then I thought about how we’d travel around the world after they left the house as well. And one day it just clicked; What’s the point of having kids if you’re just wishing the time away until they’re out of your house? I saw our early years and retirement years as what would be our best, and I suddenly realized that the middle could be like that too. Let’s just not have kids!! The relief I felt after that solidified my decision even more, and luckily my then-fiance was in agreement! We are now very happy with our decision, looking forward to doing whatever we please and going wherever we want without being tied down to anything. It’s a great feeling.