I've invited my dear friend Lydia to share her thoughts on being childless. It felt wrong to invite a discussion and then not share this space with someone who has actually made the decision we're discussing. I've known Lydia for over fifteen years and I knew she would do the topic justice.
When I was a little girl, I don't remember having more than one baby doll. That sole doll was named Drowsy. I didn't carry her around like a baby, I didn't walk her in a play stroller, I didn't play "mom" to her. She was my friend - my pretty tow-headed, pink and white polka-dotted friend.
Eventually I outgrew Drowsy and grew up to be a young woman who claimed with intense conviction that she never wanted children. It wasn't until my late twenties that a feeling of indifference started manifesting itself regarding the issue. I decided that I didn't care one way or the other - if I met and fell in love with a person who wanted children, then we'd go down that path and either try to have our own children or adopt or foster. If I didn't meet a person with those dreams, then I was more than content to remain child-free. My mom made sure to place some Folic Acid supplements in my Christmas stocking - just in case. You know, as moms do!
As it turns out, I met a man who did not have those dreams and my husband and I are quite happy with our decision to not have children. We have robust lives individually and together - full of hobbies, family, a career and strong opinions about how we want to spend our time. There are many, many reasons for our decision. Just as with any family's decision, it's pretty personal, so I am choosing not to go into the details here. Let me just say that we know ourselves, we know what we want out of life, and we don't regret our decision.
With any decision of such magnitude, there are trade-offs between the good and the bad. I would not say that I am happier than my friends with children by virtue of my decision. The idea that I "have it all" is pretty ludicrous. It is such a subjective idea that there's no way to measure it. For example, to me, Beyonce really seems to have it all - talent, fame, fortune, Blue Ivy, etc.. Basically, we aren't ready for her jelly. However, I do not, at all, want what she has...the paparazzi, the public criticism, the inspection, etc.
It's all about your priorities as to whether or not you "have it all." Just like with success - no one can measure it but you.
With that in mind, though, here's a list of my personal pros to deciding not to have children:
- I am able to wake up at the last possible second in the mornings because I only have to get myself ready for the day.
- I can live my life with a relative lack of scrutiny - basically, the only decision I have to defend is this one of not having children (and it is not one that causes me untold pain, as those intrusive questions can be for others who do not have the luxury of a choice or who have experienced loss of a child) - there aren't a million little scrutinies to bear regarding the conception, gestation, birthing, feeding, rearing, etc. of my children. I don't understand how parents put up with all those judgments.
- My husband and I can take a trip to an adults-only resort in paradise. Yes. That Time Magazine cover photo is a (much) leaner version of us. ONCE in our lives so far have we taken such a trip. On our honeymoon. The takeaway here, though, is that I have many fewer restrictions on my comings-and-goings. We can decide to go wherever we want with only the limitation of vacation time and funds to get there. The same goes with a spur-of-the-moment trip to the movies or out on the town.
- No dirty diapers to change. No nighttime sickness to clean up. Generally, none of the icky stuff that comes along with people unable to care for themselves fully.
- The ability to return a nephew to their parents after being The Most Fun Aunt Ever without having to suffer the consequences of an overly-stimulated child. (I am easily manipulated into more sugar and later bedtimes!)
There are cons, though. I know that.
- There are no pulls at my heartstrings when that first cry, that first word or that first step happen.
- There is not that level of love and affection that only parents can feel for their children (I'd have to mention that there's also not the fear that comes along with it.)
- There are very few pieces of child art to hang on my refrigerator. (I love kid art.)
- My life is now very much different than those of my friends who are in the toddler and young child years with their families. We share the affection of friendship, but I know that we don't understand one another's lives any longer. That makes me sad, but I think it will improve as their children age and become more independent.
- There is a fear that I'll regret this decision one day.
- There is also a fear that my careful planning won't result in my being taken care of and provided for in the golden years of my life. It's a very real fear, but one that I mitigate by telling myself I have a large and loving family.
Like I said, earlier, it's a trade-off. Ultimately, having children was never a priority to me. I'm not sure what influenced that, but I do know that I've had many strong female role models that do not have children. My big Catholic family features three women who chose religious orders for their life. They obviously don't have children. My eldest aunt also doesn't have children - she's always been a beacon of knowledge and talent and wonder for me. She was the adult in the family who treated my cousins and I as adults from a very young age - I loved that! I have another aunt who chose to have a child on her own. That child just graduated college, which makes me feel incredibly old.
With this sort of family surrounding me, I've felt very little pressure to fit into that traditional role of middle-class American womanhood. I'd make a terrible soccer mom, so it's probably a really good thing!
Everyone's story is different, which makes humanity beautiful and wonderful. Raising children, trying to conceive children, adopting children, choosing to remain child-free - all are valid choices for a fulfilled life.
Lydia Powell is a 30-ish woman, married with two spoiled puppies. She enjoys reading, writing and is currently fighting a mean Candy Crush addiction. She is in the process of following her dream of opening her own business - a bookkeeping and accounting firm servicing small businesses.