The Unpopular Path: Being Child-Free

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As a senior in high school, I was dreaming of traveling the world not having children.

There is a blog site associated with my WordPress blogging platform that is called The Daily Post. They send out writing prompts to help writers come up with topics on days when the pump seems to be stuck on “nothing to write”. I’d like to use some of these prompts for the next little bit to shift my writing perspective. I’ll still write about what I want to write about, but I’d like to stretch a little, and I think this will be a good way to do it. Today’s prompt asked me to write about a time when I had two options, and I chose the unpopular one.

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Me and my nurturing sister, Susan

When I was a child, I was quite the tomboy. Daddy really wanted a boy, but I unexpectedly entered the world with a different perspective (and genitals). That didn’t stop him from training me from the get-go to swing a golf club, cast a fishing reel or learn to play baseball. When my brothers came along, he had real boys to nurture, and the focus shifted somewhat away from me. It wasn’t long until I had as strong of an interest in boys as he did but for another reason. But, the mold was set … I was as comfortable doing “boy” things as girl things.

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Me and my dog Arf in my early thirties.

I’m not sure why I bring this up except that my sister was into more “girly” things. She loved playing with dolls. In fact, I can remember trying to squeeze myself into about a six-inch space in our bed because she had dolls and stuffed animals lined up across the bed like a sleeping display in a toy store. I had a Dancerina doll and some Barbies, but I was never really much into baby dolls. While my sister cooed and rocked her babies, I’d prefer to be outside playing baseball with my brothers or reading about adventures across the world.

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My girlfriends in Michigan. The three of us in the back are still child-free.

I remember watching a talk show when I was in my early twenties about some disabled people who were trying desperately to have children. They were jumping through incredible hoops to get pregnant and to be able to raise kids despite their physical challenges. It was very moving. It was also very confusing to me. I called Momma and told her that I thought something was wrong with me. Why do most people practically kill themselves to have children, and I don’t have a desire at all? Was this something that I needed to force myself to do and the desire would come? Or was I defective?

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Lorna was a dog Mom and doted on her nephew. 

She assured me that nothing was wrong with me. Her OB/GYN who had delivered all of us kids asked her how we were doing on her last visit. She told him that she thought I would never have kids, and he laughed and said, “Who’s to say that’s not the smarter way to go?”

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The more I moved around and met new women, the more women I met that chose not to have children. We’d gravitate toward each other because we had different lifestyles than our friends with children. The one thing we had in common was that we always knew that we didn’t really want kids. Many had nieces and nephews that they nurtured and loved. Some had animals. Others had causes and hobbies that occupied their time. Our lives were full but marched to a pace that did not include school schedules,  soccer practice or saving for college.

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My child-free sisters in Memphis. They were amazing and wonderfully loving. 

I always wondered if I would regret not having kids as I got older. Some days I regret not having built a family network that gathers around the holidays or needs me to help them with their very busy lives. I wonder what kind of woman a curly-haired girl with my genes might grow into as a result of my mothering. There is a hole there, but since the hole has never been filled I suppose I don’t miss what would be in its place. I wouldn’t know what it would be like to have that. It’s the same open space that I’ve always had. It somehow just feels normal.

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Laura is a dog Mommy, too … and very nurturing and warm!

 

In a reflective conversation one day, I wondered aloud what my life would look like at 50 or 60 without kids and grandkids. “It will probably be exactly the same as it is now,” said some friend whom I can’t exactly place. They were right. My life feels very much today as it always has. I have different hobbies and different people in my life, but the rhythm of the days are the same. I spend loads of time by myself. I go to work. I work out. I do whatever it is that I like. I don’t have a lot of responsibility to other people. I’m still awkwardly uncomfortable around kids because I haven’t had the experience of living with any. But, I don’t regret it.

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My friend Gretchen is a mega-dog Mom, single and child-free, too.

I am a nurturing person. It’s not that mothering is unnatural to me. I just nurture other people’s dreams. I support women that want to make transitions. If I’d had children, I don’t think I would have developed the perspective that I have in helping adults move into new phases of their lives. Because I’ve learned to navigate life alone as a single woman and have been happy, I’m able to help women find some peace with being single. It’s not an easy path in this world where it seems that being coupled is the norm, and it helps to have someone that will walk along with you. I appreciated role models when I first became single, and now I share my experience with others trying to adapt to a single lifestyle.

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I supposed my unpopular choice to be child-free was a game-changer for my life. I’m sure it would have looked very different if I had chosen to have children. A friend told me once that I was selfish to not have children. “Who is going to take care of you when you are old?” she asked. Having a child so that they can take care of me when I’m old seemed like the more selfish option, but who am I to judge? The choice was right for me – selfish or not. It has its pros and cons, I suppose. I accept it all.

8 thoughts on “The Unpopular Path: Being Child-Free

  1. Twice in the past few weeks I’ve been in a situation where there were 4 people present and none of us had ever had children. There are quite a few of us. I have never felt any stigma re/ not having children. I like kids and have had many in my life but have no regrets over having never given birth. Enjoyed your essay.

  2. As a child-free “young man” of 50 I presently have no regrets about not having a family of my own. However in my 20s and 30s I actually avoided relationships with ladies who didn’t want to have children. At that time I at least thought I wanted children.
    Twenty years later I’m content with where life has lead me. In a way it was a blessing as I had to help care for my ailing mom for 5 years. There was no way that I could have given her this needed attention had I been married with children. Now I spend time with and watch over my elderly dad.
    Besides this there’s actually time outside of work for Kirk – imagine that! Wow, I really get to endulge in my life. To offset any feelings of selfishness I volunteer some of that time to science and technology events for children – which I really do enjoy.

    • I thought about my male child-free friends when I was writing this. I found myself not dating men who wanted children as I knew it was not something that could be compromised. You can’t “halfway” have children. This has been an easier time of life for me as even my friends with children now have time for themselves although not everybody takes advantage of it. I add more your dedication to your parents. Mine have been healthy and independent so far.

  3. Well I guess I always wanted children and I LOVE my grandchildren, but after becoming a dog mom to 3 dogs, which the oldest died about a year ago, I tell my grown children, “If only I would have loved dogs long ago, I would choose them over having children. ” Of course I am joking, but when my life changed at 34, my perspectives changed too. It was too late. I already had 4 children. Just make the best of any situation you’re in! I think you are in a great place!

  4. I’m child- free too. It’s a lonely road sometimes, in my early 30s–an age when most women around me are deeply engrossed in child-rearing, and puzzled at my decision.

    More and more, though, I’m learning to accept myself exactly as I am, and to enjoy the fact that I’m not on anyone else’s timeline but my own. I may be child-free forever, or I may adopt at 60. Either way, I’m going to be true to myself and enjoy the journey.

    Glad to hear you’re doing the same, and are finding happiness just a little farther down the road. ❤

    • Yet another thing we have in common! Everything has its pros and cons. We’ll have to start a commune when the time is right and live on a beautiful plot of land in tiny houses! 🙂

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