Monday, January 31, 2011

A Man's View: Brian

Why does being honest have to hurt so badly?

What is the truth? I’m sure every single person on this planet will ask themselves this question today and everyday henceforth; it’s a question that has plagued me ever since I started serious thought into the most important life question a human being will ever ask: Do I want to be a parent or not? Two years and eight months ago I met the most wonderful lady I could ever imagine; I said a prayer asking Jesus for a certain woman and she met everything I ever asked for even down to hair and eye color. She was a dream come true; during our time in college we had the time of our lives. Staying out late, sleeping in all day, yelling until we lost our voices at football games, two-stepping at our favorite dance hall; I must admit that the first two years truly were the most fun. Then the inevitable happened, both of us graduated; that’s when the reality of life hit us square in the head and the euphoria of college life started to dwindle away.

When we first met, and I must admit I was rather shocked by this; she mentioned rather randomly of how she wanted two kids. Naturally she asked me what my desire was and as shocked as I was, I was amazed I was even able to stammer out a nervous answer. “Two? That seems like a lot, I think I’d rather have one first and see how it goes from there; I think they’re a lot of hard work.” Was I being honest at the time when I said that during the first few weeks? I’d like to think so; but at that point my attitude had been to just shrug my shoulders at the issue and say, “Why not? It’s just what people are supposed to do; get married and become parents.” Who honestly is thinking seriously about this kind of thing while they’re having the time of their life in college? I don’t deny that some people do, obviously my girlfriend was; but among men, I would be surprised if many of them were. I’ll never forget the uneasiness I felt though even when I answered, ‘yes’; without anyone telling me, I instinctively knew how hard it was going to be just to care for one child. The idea of adding another one to the mix just sounded insane and I really tried to reinforce that to her when conversations like that would pop up now and again. It was always the same response, “I think we should just see what it’s like with one before we agree to two.” She seemed unwilling to heed any of my warnings, but regardless of how content she was with the pretty picture she had painted in her head; I knew my uneasiness wasn’t something to ignore.

Now by this point I had already graduated and was working in town waiting for her to finish school; it was right around the time of her graduation, when the two of us had talked about moving down to Houston to live close by and work, that I started to truly give some serious thought to all of the major issues I had purposefully put off thinking about. The biggest of these being children; it was at this point when the first honest feelings of, “I may not want any,” began to surface. Should I have confessed these doubts to her the moment I started to experience them? Yes, I should have. Was I wrong for withholding this from her for so long? Yes, I absolutely was and I will admit now that it was the cowardly thing to do. Now this is not an excuse, but merely an explanation of how I rationalized not telling her right away: I honestly thought, as a lot of parents tell us, that “it’s merely a phase you’ll grow out of; you’re just not ready now, but you will be. When the day comes your mind will change.” These words echoed in my head and I really did wonder: “Maybe this is just some irrational fear I’ll get over in a few weeks; maybe it’s just the reality of living life outside of college that has me nervous about everything. If I tell her I don’t want kids, she leaves me, and these feelings turn out to be insincere, I will have made the biggest mistake of my life.”

And that is what I kept telling myself over and over again in my head to prevent the truth from slipping out. It was almost three months ago from today that the truth finally did come out, between bouts of utter sobbing. Yes, I know I should be ashamed to admit that I was sobbing, how un-manly of me; but when faced with the reality that the love of my life, my very best friend, would probably say the most heartbreaking words I could ever imagine, “It’s over”, when I confessed that I didn’t desire to be a parent; those emotions were impossible to suppress. I had prepared myself for it, I’d said my goodbyes to her pets, her family; everything we had shared together for over two and a half years, I said goodbye to. I was shocked when her response didn’t turn out to be, “It’s over”, but rather, “I don’t believe you.” When I really tried to assure her that I was sincere, then all of the insults that all of us are familiar with came rushing out of her mouth like a river, “That’s selfish; what an abnormal, sick, satanic thing. You love yourself more than you love me; I’ve wasted two and a half years of my life! You’ve lied to me this whole time; you betrayed me!”

After surviving this brutal gauntlet, she finally cooled down long enough to try and assure me, “Look, I’m not going to leave you; I’ll just wait for your mind to change. Now don’t ask me to wait for long, because I won’t; there are plenty of other better men out there for me to be with, so don’t prevent me from moving on for too long; but I know this is just a phase, some irrational fear that you have that you’ll grow out of.” I was more insulted than I was relieved. Imagine if I had spewed those same insults at her if she confessed her desire to be a parent? Would she have appreciated it if I’d said, “Oh, this whole motherhood desire is just some abnormal phase you’ll grow out of.” I wouldn’t have dared to say that to her; I can’t possibly discern and speak for the desires of her heart. If that’s what she says she wants, I’m supposed to take her words seriously the moment she utters them; but for me? No, a childfree desire must be a joke of some kind. Now if you’re wondering how we can still be together three months after this confession was made; out of respect for her I have taken her advice and taken some time to discern if this truly is my heart’s desire. With each passing day I have had more and more peace regarding a childfree life and I truly have a lot of you childfree people on this blog to thank for that; your support and encouraging words have been truly uplifting.

Now this discernment period, as well as some counseling did allow me to think of some possible events that may be factoring in to my childfree desire. When you’re told growing up that, “It’s YOUR fault that your Mom and I are fighting all the time; when you grow up I hope you never have a child that’s been as difficult as you’ve been to me.” Those were some scalding, scarring words, and maybe that has contributed subconsciously to this desire of mine. Remembering those events did force me to question, “So if what he said is true, then how exactly are children a blessing to a marriage when apparently my Dad is telling me that all I did was bring trouble to theirs?” I told this to my Mom recently and of course she tried to deflect any wrongdoing from me, saying, “Oh, that’s just him not taking responsibility for his own problems.” Maybe that’s true; but I like to think that it was my Mom trying desperately to convince me that, as a child, I didn’t do anything to contribute to those turbulent times. Even after she confessed that, I still told her how my desire was unchanging; I really didn’t desire children. This of course caused her to cry and for her to tell me how she has already seen my children, two boys in fact, in a dream. I’m just stunned that she should be so grieved over this, after all my brother and sister-in-law recently had a little girl of their own; so it’s not like my Mom is starved of grandchildren. Heck she’ll have plenty; the two of them eventually want to have three kids! I guess that’s just the prevailing American attitude, we can never have enough. “One child isn’t enough, I need two more; one grandchild is too few, give me more; my house isn’t big enough, I don’t have enough money, my car isn’t fast enough, I’m not strong enough, not skinny enough; blah, blah, blah, the list is unending.”

Quick word of wisdom, to all of you couples out there and to anyone who is single (or about to be because of this); PLEASE be honest about this issue. For those of us whose minds are clearly made up on the desire to not have children; let’s stay strong and not let anyone forcibly dissuade us. For anyone who may be reading this blog who remains a “fence-sitter” on this issue, I’ll say this. The best way to discover what your heart’s desire is on this is to sit in a quiet space where the only voice you can hear within 100 miles is your own. That’s ALL that matters, what do you hear YOUR heart telling you once you’ve quieted all of the voices of your family, friends, relatives, or total strangers. Remember, each of them, whether they’re aware of it or not, are trying to persuade and shape your thought process with their biases and opinions; they have a set of values they’re trying to impress upon you. Now let me be consistent here, don’t let anyone who’s childfree try and convince you to go that route either; just shut out everyone and ask the most important question you ever will in your life, “Do I want to be a parent?” Remember, you have only ONE life to live; it is NOT, and I’ll say it again, it is NOT selfish to live the kind of life that in your heart, you know would make you happy. Your identity, your wants, desires and ambitions, let them be YOUR OWN; remember, the minute you let anyone shape your identity for you, you’ve lost it. It was never yours to begin with. Remember, ONE LIFE; LIVE IT YOUR WAY!

Remember, if you get talked into a lifestyle that makes you miserable until the day you die; don’t think you’ll get a do-over or a second chance. When life is over, it’s over; live it to the fullest! And for you women; there are many things to be ambitious about in life; you have more choices available to you than being a mother. For many, that is the life they choose and it s a noble one. There have been thousands of prominent figures throughout history who have had revolutionary and everlasting contributions to our way of life; that wouldn’t have been possible had there not been a mother to raise them. However, is this the greatest or most fulfilling life choice available to you? Not even close. People without children, Jesus Christ, Paul, Mother Theresa, St. Francis, Leonardo DaVinci; all of them and many others had just as much a lasting impact on history and on people lives as anyone else. As for anyone who wants to call a childfree person selfish, let me tell this story: “My great grandfather, before he immigrated to the United States, was a member of the Irish Republican Army. He was proud of it and displayed his membership pin openly; two British soldiers followed him home and proceeded to nearly beat him to death with their rifles before dragging him out to a swamp behind his house to drown him in front of his wife. The priest from his church, only 26 years old, followed them there and told the British soldiers, “If you’re intent on taking a life; take mine and let him live.” Without hesitation, they took that young priest and drowned him to death. After reading that, anyone want to try and assert that childfree people are selfish, conceited and self-absorbed?

Moving on from that somber tale, remember; the suburban house with a white picket fence and two kids may be a formula that works for most, BUT NOT ALL. This formula can’t be forcibly applied to everyone woman with the promise that it WILL bring you happiness. I’ve been told that parenthood is the “normal” desire because it’s what most people do. Yeah? Well most people enjoy drinking themselves into an embarrassing stupor, most people enjoy doing drugs of some kinds; most people enjoy being intolerant, hateful and disrespectful; even to the point of physically harming others. Why don’t we all just run off and behave that way too; as my parents used to tell me, “If you saw your friends jumping off a cliff to their deaths, would you follow them?” Just because it may be normal for most, doesn’t mean its normal for YOU or that it will bring you happiness; think of YOURSELF and what you want out of life, there is no wrong in that. Don’t let anyone look down on you or your life choices, remember, as Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

My girlfriend always accuses me of thinking about parenthood too much; in my humble opinion, you can never think of it enough! Parenthood is the hardest thing you will ever take on in life, (remember it lasts a LIFETIME, not just eighteen years) and it’s IRREVERSIBLE. I’ve never understood people who tell you, almost casually, just to “try it”, “You’ll feel differently if you just try it.” I’m sorry, but ice cream is something you try. If I try the vanilla flavor and don’t find it tasty; I can easily hand it back and ask for another. Mark my words, parenthood is NOT something to try; besides, what if you have a kid and you realize, “Oh crap, I don’t like this.” What are you going to do; just hand it back and move on with what you were doing before?!

Another opinion I have on this is, whether you want to be a parent or not, agree BEFORE marriage on how many kids you will have or NOT have. Whether it’s eight or none; both spouses should agree on the EXACT number of children they will have. I have read so many tragic stories over how divorce has happened because one or the other spouse was not in agreement on the issues of children, whether it’s if they wanted them or not or how many they wanted to have. Leave no stone unturned before marriage, especially this one. Don’t hesitate to make it a contract either; I’m completely serious: Fill out a sheet agreeing to how many children you want to have (or not have) and then sign it. Then in the future if one or the other tries to back out on what they promised from the start, you can always point to that signed piece of paper and remind them of what they agreed to. For anyone who is childfree, don’t accept dialogue from your spouse that says, “You’re right, I’m not ready NOW either.” That’s almost assuredly implying that your partner wants kids at a later time in life; if you hear that kind of language, be wary. Make sure the words coming out of their mouth is just like yours, “I don’t want kids at all, either.”

Furthermore, as the title of this post says, “The consequences may hurt REALLY badly, but please don’t hesitate to be honest with yourself and with your partner on the issue of children.” I’m paying the price now, and my girlfriend even admitted that she’d wished I’d never said anything at all, but rather pretended everything was the way it was. I’m sorry, but life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows; you can just cover your ears, close your eyes and chant, LA, LA, LA, while you ignore the harsh realities that are sure to come. I try to remind her on this regarding parenthood; she seems convinced that the parenthood experience will be the equivalent to skipping along a yellow-bricked road covered with rose petals while rainbows paint the sky and bluebirds sing in the trees. I never hesitate to tell her that the desire to be a mother is not wrong, it is an honorable and noble undertaking, just like the childfree life; but every time I try and warn her of how difficult it is going to be and how she shouldn’t underestimate the lifestyle, she is completely unwilling to hear it. At times I just don’t know if she really knows what she’s getting in to; at one point she told my sister-in-law (both she and my brother seem to be the only people who understand and accept me), that she should only tell me how good motherhood is. She just shrugged her shoulders and answered, “Well, I’ll tell him the good; but I’m going to share how hard it is too.” She tends to complain about how hard her day at work as a kindergarten assistant is and how exhausted she is when she gets home; as my sister-in-law reminded her, “You think your life is hard now without a kid? You think you’re tired, you think you can even begin to comprehend frustration? Brace yourself!” When she’s taking a nap she gets so upset when she hears the dogs running around in the living room, I can’t help but ask, “You think that’s noisy? What’s your attitude going to be when it’s your kids out there making the noise?” All of the things she tells me that she can’t live without now; sleep, freedom, exercise, are all things she’s going to lose quite rapidly once a baby comes. I don’t want her to learn that the hard way; but she seems determined to.

Also, for you ladies out there; I almost feel like I have to apologize for my gender on this. I have seen some of the most mean-spirited and despicable comments come from men towards childfree women and even women who are on the fence, comments to the tune of, and this is toned down significantly, “What’s with you not wanting kids? That’s really all you’re here on this earth do; now pump me out some babies so I can thump my chest and say, “Look at what I have created; there is a little mini-me with my bloodline in it running around! I can also use it to prove to my guy friends how straight and manly I am.” You think I’m kidding? I’ve heard some shallow reasons from women for wanting to have children; but none of them even come close to men. Ladies, believe me, there are good men out there who are mindful of the hell you have to go through that is pregnancy, childbirth, and being a stay-at-home mom. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I knew I contributed to a woman experiencing all of those things; remind those men that’s easy for them to want children because they’re not the ones at home taking care of them 24-7! Stand up for yourselves, ladies, and don’t be bullied into a corner to accept a life you do not want. Guys, same with you; don’t let a lady, no matter how much you love her, persuade you into taking on a job and a lifestyle you do not desire. A good friend of mine has a Dad that did not want to be a father, but was persuaded into doing it. He turned out to be abusive toward both her and her brother, the moment he held both of them in his arms, in his own words, “He felt nothing.” Don’t be that man; don’t come to that realization when it’s too late.

Remember, parenthood is, “a job”, not unlike any other; except it’s much harder, more exhausting, and the benefits of taking it on are few and far between. A quick reminder to those on the fence, if you are 99.9% sure you want a kid, DO NOT have one! I’m telling you, that .1% may seem insignificant to you; but even the tiniest speck of doubt can be amplified once the stress of pregnancy and parenthood begin to sink in. Don’t bring a child in to this world and regret; there can be no greater tragedy than that. I’ve had people tell me that if I remain childfree, I’ll regret it; yes, that may very well be a possibility, but I would rather not have a kid and regret it than to have a child and then regret it because then two people suffer as opposed to one. Guys, if you’re like me and you’re certain that fatherhood is not for you; if you do wind up getting married, let US be the ones to get sterilized; Vasectomies are far less invasive and do not require anesthesia unlike procedures for women. Don’t make your wife or girlfriend go through that; just take thirty minutes out of your day and have it done and over with.

Finally, I want to stress the one thing I am proudest of on this post; I am a Christian. This is the source of my greatest joy, and yet I am also ashamed of this. When I see the behavior of Christians being so diametrically opposed to the very character and teachings of Jesus; I can’t imagine the untold damage that is being done to his name and his gospel. If you have had the “Be fruitful and multiply and children are a blessing” diatribe forcibly thrown in your face; don’t associate that legalistic, intolerant religious person with Jesus, HE WAS NOT THAT WAY. Jesus was accepting, heck even he never had children of his own (Christian seem to be willfully ignorant of this), as well as Paul, two pillars of our faith, never had children. Yet Christians try so desperately to peddle parenthood as the only reason for marriage to exist, marriage exists for HOLINESS, NOT PARENTHOOD. Remember, Jesus saw all people, regardless of age, as his children. That’s my view on it too, I don’t need to have two of my own children for me to have some incentive to help them; I care about all people at every stage of life, not just when they’re little.

Let me explain more about doctrine that pressures and promotes parenthood; pressure to procreate from churches stems from the desire to fill the coffers with tithes; and they call the childfree materialistic? Though of course that makes little sense, when they’re spending so much money on their children, they’ll have that much less to donate to the church. Also, and this is just embarrassing, the pressure to procreate for the sake of “out-breeding people of other religions, particularly Muslims.” And they call childfree abnormal? Furthermore, “The children are a blessing” line is from Psalms, not only is that a poetic book, not one to pull doctrine or biblical law from, but not all children remain little. When they grow up into adults, they have free reign to become whoever they choose to be. I mean, look at Mao Zedong, Stalin and Hitler; oh yes, what a blessing they were to this earth. If you want a more recent account, the gunman in Arizona who killed six people and wounded many others, oh yes, what a blessing he’s been to others’ lives.

Parents seem to be deluded into thinking that they can have a little mini-them running around who both looks and acts exactly the same. Prepare yourself for disappointment, almost everyone I know, including myself, turned out to be nothing like their parents. I can’t imagine the disappointment one parent must feel when they have these expectations of their child growing up into a perfectly, obedient Christian adult. If you’re brainwashing yourself with that, how accepting and loving will you be if you kid comes home and confesses they want to become a Muslim, or that they’re gay, or that they don’t believe in anything? Quit trying to visualize what you want your child’s life to be like and expect it to happen as you envision; you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Let your children live day to day and love them through whatever they decide to become.

Lastly, the “Be fruitful and multiply” was not a command from Jesus at all, but an additional blessing. Besides, look at the timeline when that statement was made. The earth was EMPTY; seeing as how we are rapidly running out of space, I would say that has been more than fulfilled by now. Besides, I think there’s a reason that birth control was invented; I believe ideas that benefit mankind are divinely inspired. I have no doubt that this invention was thought of at just the right time in our environmental history.

In closing, I just want the world to know how much I love my girlfriend and how I so desperately wish that we never end up parting ways. As I’ve tried to tell her, being with her leaves nothing to be desired; as long as I can live life with her, I wouldn’t need a single thing. It saddens me to think that her feelings are not mutual, it saddens me to think that she looks me and thinks, “I love you, but you’re not enough.” For all of you couples who may be suppressing any doubts about children for fear of what your partner may think; don’t wait any longer. No matter how badly it may hurt, never hesitate to do the right thing by being honest. Your life is YOURS, don’t live it for someone else; live it for YOU! THAT IS NOT SELFISH! May Jesus bless all of you?

Sincerely, Brian

21 comments:

Dave said...

Quite a story, Brian.

As a 47-year-old childfree man who once had to break similarly unwelcome news to a ladyfriend, I can appreciate to some degree what you went through.

However, in my case, I had been dating her for only 5 months and the subject had never arisen although from the way she fawned about the kids in her nursery school class I should have suspected that she did want to have them. Even after waiting 5 months before telling her made her a bit upset but upon learning that we agreed to end the relationship (it was already on the rocks for other reasons).

To me, it looks like you got yourself into some trouble in your initial reply to her desire to have 2 kids. You were already a fence-sitter, so for you the issue was not whether you wanted to have 1 or 2 kids but whether you wanted to have ZERO or more than ZERO kids. Your answer was not a dealbreaker for her; I suspect that even if she had ended up having only 1 kid with you she would have been okay, okay enough to not have broken up with you when you replied you might only want 1 kid.

You also needed to not fear so much the words, "It's over" once you told her you did not want to have kids. You also needed to be prepared for any yelling and screaming from her end and just WALK AWAY safely and immediately, no matter how she responded. Her trying to convince you to change your mind was wrong. Going to a counselor was also wrong, as you were not abnormal in any way. It does not matter WHY you don't want to have kids, only that you don't want to have them.

You and she have an irreconciliable difference, a dealbreaker, one that cannot be overcome. Not only do you need to free yourself from her so you can find a childfree woman, but you need to free HER so she can find a man who wants to have kids. Both of you are pretty young, in your mid-20s it appears based on all the school stuff.

What you have learned from this, is that you can't wait 2+ years before breaking this likely dealbreaking news to a partner. For me, I learned that waiting even 5 months is too long, and I never let that happen again.

To quote Mike "Meathead" Stivic from the 1970s "All in the Family" TV sit-com, "I thank god I'm an atheist." Being an atheist (and I was one years before becoming childfree) removes any religious pressure to have kids and enables one to make a purely practical and secular decision about whether or not to have them.

One last thing - I hope you are not having sex with her any more because you could get "oopsed." That is, she could "accidentally on purpose" sabotage the birth control and try to trap you by becoming pregnant in a desperate, last-ditch effort not to lose you. Be careful there. But your best option is to get out of this relationship NOW.

sara star said...

Breaking up is hard to do. But it sounds like your girlfriend, although she is beautiful, fun and cool--is also irrational and unkind when she doesn't get her way.

After seeing this dark side of her. Anger at her dogs for making noise during her naps. Calling you satanic for not wanting children. It is time for you to split.

If she really was missus almost right, she would have responded more kindly to the dogs and to the issue over children. Rather than insulting you, she may have entered an impassioned discussion.

I used to be a harpy like that. I yelled at my husband, insulted him for our differences. It was wrong of me and it was bad for our relationship. I have since put a lot of time into growing more mature and we can talk about our problems without as much unkindness and insults.

When looking for you miss right, look for someone who will engage with you on these questions kindly. And after a few dates, pop the question, are you planning on having children? I'm not.

On another note, although I completely believe your statement that you are childfree. I cannot imagine you having children with a woman who shows this sort of unkindness--if you ever do decide to have children, you will want to have them with a partner who has their eyes wide open about what child rearing entails and is willing to take it headon. You will see evidence in this woman that she can care for children from how she cares for pets and family member's children--and most of all you. A mother needs to be patient and charitable in order to take on the extreme hardships childrearing entails.

charmed said...

I went through this exact same thing. thought maybe I could compromise and then later realized that was a very bad idea. Except mine was three and half years. it was hard but my ex made it easier in a way b/c he just packed up and left while I was out of town for the weekend. It was a shitty thing to do on his part and he took the cowards way out, but it made the whole thing easier, like ripping off a band-aid. Part of me wishes I had been firm in my decision and not stayed in the relationship, but part of me is glad I stayed b/c I loved him and I don't regret being with him and we are staying friends b/c we still very much care about each other.

But I do know it is not something I would ever do again. I make sure to be really up front with people about me not wanting kids. And hopefully sometime in the near future I'll be getting fixed and won't even have to worry about birth control failing.

Spectra said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Brian. As a fellow childfree Christian, I agree with you 100% on what you had to say regarding the Bible's "commandments" to have children. There were plenty of people in the Bible that didn't have children at all and were still God's servants. Hey, Jesus didn't have any kids--guess he was a bad Christian, right?

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we did discuss kids. We both agreed to wait a few years and then have maybe one or two. We both knew it would be a lot of work and quite expensive as well. After we'd been married for 4 years, we realized that a) I had fertility issues that would require us to use artificial methods to have kids if we wanted them and b) we really just liked NOT having kids. So, we just decided that we would remain kid-less and enjoy each other as a couple.

Diane said...

Brian, I don't think you did anything wrong in not telling your girlfriend sooner - how can you tell someone something you don't *really* know yet yourself. I can identify with believing, or wanting to believe, at least for awhile, everyone who tells you that you will change your mind.

I also had some childhood issues that I thought might be why I didn't want kids, and I went to counseling too. It only took about 20 minutes into my first session (I went a few times to discuss other issues too) before i was VERY clear that I really just don't want kids. I'm sure there are cases of people who are scared to be parents because of a traumatic childhood, and I don't think there's anything wrong with at least exploring the possibility - especially when you're trying to save a relationship. But it doesn't sound like you are one of those people. It sounds like you know now that you don't need a "reason" beyond just not wanting them.

But I totally agree with the other commenters that you need to get out of this relationship. This really isn't something you can compromise on. It's not fair to you OR to her to continue. There IS someone else out there for both of you! And she did tell you a lot about her character by just immediately criticizing you and assuming that you don't know what YOU want. And you are in real danger of an accidental pregnancy - either a real accident or an "oops" by her to trap you. Trust me, women actually DO that!

Look at getting a vasectomy. As a male you have the advantage that most doctors will actually do it for you without waiting until you are over 30 or have a kid first. Or even just tell her you want to get one and see what she says. I think you'll see that she still just thinks you're going to change your mind.

Mali said...

I feel for you both. I feel for you, loving a woman and yet disagreeing on something so fundamental to life as whether to have children or not. I feel for your girlfriend, who has obviously never considered the option of not having children, who has a lifetime of conditioning (by her family, by media, society etc) to deal with before she will be able to even begin to understand your position.

And whilst I think you have come to a clear, well thought through decision of your own, I fear that you think it is the right decision for her too. And it probably isn't. And so it isn't really fair of either of you to try to convince the other to change.

suz said...

You Christians do not have a corner on the market when it comes to being hassled about being childfree. I am Jewish, and you cannot go to a synagogue without tripping over a stroller, or have a conversation with a married woman without it turning to the kids she has or will have. The singles are just as bad...only talking about finding the man who will give them the kids they will have)

Christy said...

Kindergarten assistant, nursery school class...not to be rude, guys, but they don't make flags any brighter than red.

Atlantalee said...

Breaking up is always hard to do. It sounds like you're trying to avoid being the bad guy by making her break up with you. In my opinion, the best thing you can do for both of you is break up with her... not because there is anything wrong with her or with you, but because you have different long-term goals, which is one of the biggest factors in the success of a relationship.

I was once a pretty evangelical Christian, and I felt a lot of pressure from my church to marry "the one" because God intended for us to be together. Well we got married at a young age and divorced not long after (different long-term goals), and it didn't take long for me to see that "the one" does not exist. I accept the purpose that relationship served at the time, and I learned a lot about what I want/need in a relationship. Sounds like you're doing the same.

Wix said...

I can certainly relate Brian, likewise I met a wonderful person during a stage when mentally I didn't realize there was a difference between WANTING kids and having kids because it's just what people do.

Then it hit me that I was on the fence, which caused a lot of issues, especially as I began to realize which side of the fence I was on.

I don't think it's dishonest; dishonest implies you are intentionally misleading. If at the moment you say 'yes' to kids you don't actually know that you're on the fence or CF then it isn't an intentional lie.

Furthermore it's hypothetically possible to say yes and really truly want them in that instant.. and change your mind later. I also don't deem that dishonest, people change and mature and grow and (hopefully) think, and with all of that sometimes they might change their mind on fairly major issues.


At the end of the day CF vs breeder is a no-compromise issue. If one of you is firmly "must have kids" and the other firmly not then you must part ways, however painful that might be, however much time you've spent together - parting ways is the only way to avoid profound resentment later.

Also (and I give this advice to both genders) be VERY VERY VERY cautious about abstinence and/or birth control if you are cf in a relationship with a non-cf. It only takes one "oops" to change things forever.

flamencokitty said...

Well I'm a preschool teacher and I don't want my own kids! I come home some days exhausted too from teaching. Unlike that woman though, I realized, "Hey, if I'm exhausted after being with them for 8 hours a day, five days a week, 180 days a year, where will I find the energy for 24/7/365?" Besides, I can't be the teacher the students need me to be if I don't have my grown-up time away from them. Also, I don't teach because I want to "play mommy." Wiping snot, cleaning up barf and changing wet sheets on cots are among my least favorite parts of the job (the bear hugs from little ones are nice, though). To me, teaching is activism I get paid for. It's a tool for social change, education as a way of helping people get out of poverty and oppression...

But that's just me.

And "be fruitful and multiply" seems to be the only command Christians follow to the letter! Though I wonder, so much in the Bible means more than what it says. You have to go deeper, look at the context, etc. I wonder if "be fruitful and multiply" really was simply saying "have lots of chil'ren," or if it meant something else. Was God only talking about children when God said that to Adam and Eve? What about multiplying God's love, God's kingdom on Earth? Could God have meant that? And you don't need to have kids to do that.

Regina said...

Brian, I applaud you for your honesty and for taking the time to really reflect on whether or not parenting was for you. It is unfortunate for you both that you didn't know sooner, but good for you for figuring it out BEFORE having a child.

I went through a similar, although different, situation a few years ago now. I dated someone for four years and told him the entire time that I was not interested in becoming a parent. Ever. His reply was that he was fine with that and wanted to be with me no matter what. We married and three years later, he tells me that having children is more important to him than our relationship, that it always has been more important, and that if I won't concede to having children, the relationship is over. I asked him why he had told me it wasn't important to him. His reply? "I was sure you would change your mind after we got married." I had made sure that there was no uncertainty for him about my lack of desire to have children, but he still expected me to change my mind. We divorced, needless to say, and now I am happily remarried to a man with no desire to procreate. Success at last!

Also, I would like to weigh in on the sterilization issue... I just recently went through a procedure to have Essure implants placed in my fallopian tubes to encourage my body to create scar tissue, thereby blocking my eggs from ever reaching my uterus and rendering me sterile. There is another such procedure for women called Adiana, which is much the same except the inserts are made of a different material. These procedures are sometimes done with general anesthesia, but can be done as an in-office procedure by some physicians who use local anesthesia. The procedure is no more invasive than a "yearly physical" and is quite easy to recover from. So, while I do agree that if a man doesn't want kids, he should have a vasectomy to permanently prevent it, I also think that we women need to be as much in control of our sexuality as any man. If we want to be childfree, we are as much responsible for prevention, if not more.

Noelle said...

Brian, sorry to hear your story, but I think it is better you guys are clear on where you stand now, before you got married or she got to a point where she started to want to try to get pregnant. I agree with one of the other comments that it is best to break things off with her now. It sounds like you guys are both clear on where you stand and you want different things.

Regina - I went through a similar situation, but we weren't married. He said for years it was more important to be with me than to have kids, but in the end he was biding his time assuming I would change my mind. When he finally realized I was never going to want kids, he broke up with me because he wanted them.

It was tough at the time, but I ended up meeting and marrying a true childfree man who is superior to my ex in so many ways. When I sometimes feel that I wasted too much time on my ex, I remind myself that if things hadn't happened in that time frame, my husband and I probably never would have met.

Temujin said...

It takes courage to talk about these feelings and these issues out loud and open yourself up to other people like this. You're a man with courage, and that should be respected.

Not to nitpick too much about the theological/historical side of things, but: insofar as the historical Jesus existed, let's say he did, I don't see conclusive evidence that he was childfree. If it's just that the current versions of the Bible don't mention any children, that doesn't mean there weren't any kids. (Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.) His being childfree may be a later convention, like the idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute or that Jesus was skinny and had no body hair. (In Ethiopian Christian churches, he's got dark skin.)

The story about the priest who traded his own life at the hands of evil soldiers is a really really old martyrdom story that's thousands of years old. The soldiers keep changing in the story, but the martyrs/priests/saints keep being heroic. I'm not saying the tommies in Ireland weren't brutal or that it didn't happen, just that it's a little too urban-legend-y.

But, I agree whole-heartedly with your larger point -- aren't there lots of heroes and icons who were exemplary people without children? Whether the stories are true or not, the fact that these stories are inspirational is important. Clearly childfree people can be some of the most self-LESS people in the world.

Jenn said...

Your story highlights one of my biggest issues about telling people I don't want children. I'm often told "Oh you will change or mind, you will feel differently later, just wait ... etc..." Because I'm afraid of getting this reaction time and time again I often just tell people I'm on the fence about it so I don't have to deal with these types of comments. However, your post has inspired me to be open about my childfree choice and proud of my a choice that is right for me. Thanks!

bdw3341 said...

Thanks for the kind words Jenn; I don't deserve any credit whatsoever. YOU found the courage to stand up for you believe is the best life choice for YOU; be proud of yourself for standing up and declaring what you believe you boldly.

I'll admit that I too played the "unsure" card around my family to avoid a face to face confrontation with my parents. I just finally reminded them that this is MY life, not theirs, and to get back to concerning themselves with what their own.

jilren said...

I worry about my younger brother...he isn't this strong.

He is getting married to a woman he has dated and lived with for over eight years, but to be truthful he is pretty "meh" about her, he has told me a few times that "It's just too hard to split up, we have too many mutual friends, we bought the house together..."etc. He is actually super worried that she might get to keep the dog, since he "technically" bought it for her, but now my brother adores it.

I was (and am) of course appalled at this attitude, as I flat out refuse to be with anyone who I am not crazy about, and vice versa. The sad thing...my brother is not alone.Not by a long shot. I know quite a few people who are marrying or married someone who "ticked the boxes" and someone who was basically the easy choice.

He doesn't want to get married, but after nearly a decade she is getting grouchy about it, and has basically pressured him into it. Again, he thinks it would just be easier to continue forward in the same trajectory than to make a wrenching change, and try another take on his future.(I love him dearly...but are you getting that he is a bit of a wimp? And worries A LOT about "fitting in"?) Also, all of his friends, THEIR friends are getting married and breeding...and he is afraid to break the chain.

It makes me really sad...I know he just wants what I have, a hilarious, joyous, mischievous, intense, loyal, CHILDFREE and fun marriage. Not to say he can't have all of those things AND the kids...but, uh, do YOU see that happening with someone he is halfhearted about in the first place?

So...I got another nice, but slightly depressing letter from him expressing how he told his fiancee AGAIN he does not want children, but she refuses to acknowledge this, and has strong-armed him into trying for a baby as soon as they are married. As he put it, (quote) " I told her, we can JUST HAVE ONE, that is all I will agree to. I might as well just get this over with so I don't have to fight about it anymore. Besides, she would just get herself pregnant anyways." And I am all like...Really? Does the world need another reluctant Dad? And really little brother, do you not think 2.5 years after number one is born, the birth control won't fail again and she will get her number two "oopsie baby"?

(I didn't think it was appropriate to discuss a secret vasectomy...)

This was a good quote from Dave: You were already a fence-sitter, so for you the issue was not whether you wanted to have 1 or 2 kids but whether you wanted to have ZERO or more than ZERO kids.
and this pretty much works in my little brothers situation.

Also, my sister-in-law-to-be is a nice enough girl, but you bet your bottom dollar she WILL have her 2.5 babies. She WILL NOT stop at one like they agreed to.

I know it's not my problem, or my business,and that really he should just grow a pair. But it just makes me sad to see someone I love following the pronatal line just because he thinks he has to!

And he is by no means extraordinary! What I would like to see some numbers on (how to get people to admit this I don't know) is just how many women fake an "oopsie" and have a baby when their partner doesn't want one. The proverbial "Honey trap".

I have had several people tell me in confidence "Oh, my husband was reluctant about our first/ second/ fourth, so I just, well, you know...took things into my own hands."

Now THAT is selfish!

Temujin said...

In reply to jilren:

That's a horrible situation, and they're both to blame. I can't imagine what it would take to rationalize the sabotage of birth control in order to get pregnant. I wonder how his girlfriend would feel if the situation were reversed -- what if he sabotaged her birth control pills even though she doesn't want kids?

But, he's responsible for the state of that relationship as well. If he leaves her with sole control of birth control, he's already been rolling the dice. It won't excuse any of her "oopsie" sabotage, but if she gets pregnant he has himself to blame too.

It's really hard to stand up to your partner if you don't want kids and she does and won't listen to you. I went through that myself, and I don't envy him. Based on my experience, I'd say he has a LOT of things he needs to sort out about himself -- the kids question is just one of many deep questions I avoided answering.

Jessica said...

Part 1 of comment:

Wow, thank-you for sharing Brian.

My (now) husband also had a similar experience to you, never really honestly wanting children, but assuming that he had to have them, so he didn't explore his thoughts nor did he tell me he was thinking them.

Every joke he made about having kids was negative, though when I would then ask him "are you sure you want kids?" he would say yes...just not yet. I wasn't seeing the signs and neither was he...

After 3 years together (he was 25, I was 29), following another joke about kids, I asked him "Why do you want to have kids?" He said: "Because I think that I should have them and you want them." I said "That's not a good enough reason" and then essentially said that we should at least put the idea of not having kids on the table for discussion. I was terrified. I had always very strongly wanted to have children. My whole life growing up I assumed that we would, I wanted to be a stay at home mom, and I love babies and most children. But I also loved him, and in that moment, I was being very brave.

Over the next hour and next few days he realized that he really did NOT want to have children. He had just never thought that it was even an option. The more this was "on the table," the more certain he became about it. Within a few days he was sure, a few weeks later he was still positive, and he has never wavered since that day 3 years ago, if anything he has only become more certain. [He had a vasectomy about 6-12 months ago.] It turned out that he did not really have a single reason or desire that he wanted to have children. He is a loving, kind, amazing husband, but that didn't mean he has one iota of desire to be a parent.

The first few weeks after this 1st conversation were very hard for me. I knew almost immediately that I would choose him over a child, but I was plagued with two issues. One, should I convince him to have a child against his will? Some women (online columnists, etc) said that it's more important to a woman anyway so the man should give it to her, like a gift! Or that a man will change his mind when he holds his baby. Eventually I decided that this is much to high of a risk to take (Ann Lander's survey stated 70% of people regret having kids), and that he wouldn't be happy, but this did weigh on my mind a lot, I really wrestled with this part of it for a while before I knew the answer for us. And secondly, what was I going to do with my life instead of having children? And the part of me that had wanted children? That part turned out to be a lot easier than I though. The childfree books were such a revelation that they felt like finding a new religion. I felt like a whole alternative life had been opened up to me. (Continued)

Jessica said...

Part 2 of comment:

(Continued)

I told my husband just a few weeks after our revealing conversation that we could not have children, that I was happy with that decision. He proposed just a few months later :) Looking back I realize that the pressure to have children after marriage was actually a huge fear of his to propose, though he was also younger than I, so that's neither here nor there. We married 6 months later. On our honeymoon, I started thinking about what it means to be a wife. I think that's normal for such a huge transition. I thought about all the women in my family that I was looking up to and I realized that they almost ALL (save 1) had children. I was sitting in Hawaii and started getting flooded with a desire to have a child. I told my husband about it and he asked me to wait until we got home to talk about it (he knows that I don't stop at something until I solve it, for better or in this case for worse!). Over the 1st year of our marriage, I tried not to bother him with it but the thoughts of wanting a child didn't go away. I tried not to bother him with the thoughts as I tend to over-talk things anyway. Finally I talked to him about them about a year later and we were walking by the beach, and he again told me how much he does not want to have children and he would not be happy with them. I realized that by trying to be respectful and not telling him every time I had these thoughts, and keeping them to myself, and I had gradually been getting more and more in denial, thinking that perhaps he would "change his mind," in (small) part encouraged by friends who hoped that this would happen (not an excuse, b/c let's face it they just don't understand). The conversation we had that day - after being married just about a year - was a reality check and ironically after a few days of grieving I felt a huge sense of relief and new again that we were not going to have children and was able this time to accept it fully.

Fast forward three years from that 1st conversation and we are still really happy together, and the kids issue has not once come up for me since that 1st year of marriage, and in fact I feel like I have dodged a bullet in many ways. I see my friends/family having kids and it's either really hard/awful on the marriage or it's tolerable but still really hard. I don't want that, I love my husband more than anything, and besides, I love my own life and freedom too. I realized a year ago that I can still be a "stay at home mom" without the mom part so now I work 2 days a week and spend the rest of the time hanging out with my husband, cooking, cleaning, etc. I watch my nephew once a week and have fallen head over heels for him (he's 2.5), and that is more than enough for me :) I could not imagine this having turned out better and am SO incredible glad that 1) My husband had the brains to stand up for his wants/needs and how he truly felt and 2) I had the courage and open-mindedness to choose a real person over someone who doesn't exist yet, and to be willing to completely revision my life as I had planned it.

I originally wanted to write because I felt that my story was so diametrically opposed to your girlfriend's response. You deserve to have someone care about YOUR feelings; it's not just about her pain and grief, and while her feelings are definitely very important, I see a lack of awareness (on her part) of your feelings. Every single way in which she reacted to you made me think, how would she likely then react to you if you did have children? Probably wouldn't be the most sympathetic person as a wife either, because believe me, life is very complicated at times, and if you can't EMPATHIZE with your spouse, you're lost. The definition of empathy is to put yourself in the other person's shoes.

Also, you are an amazing writer with a keen intelligence; I enjoyed reading your thoughts both for your smarts and your heart. I wish you the best in your life!

Devin ND said...

You.. Are a fantastic person.. I am a Childfree christian and I am also appalled at the doctrines crammed down peoples throats concerning procreation. I refuse to have children because I know that it is neither the time, the place, or the person. Thank you for being a light in the darkness.. For everyone.