June 4, 2014

Childless by Choice


 When I was a kid, I remember getting my first doll.  She was nothing like you see today (no skanky outfit or heavy makeup) just a pillow with a plastic head, arms, and legs. I also remember the feeling of boredom and disdain I had for her shortly after (poor little pillow). My sister, on the other hand, loved her pillow-baby and made sure she had a comfortable place to sleep and three bottles (of some toxic fluid in a plastic, teeny weeny baby bottle) a day.

 
When my sister received a peddle car (you know those cars kids can sit in a peddle) she cried and cried for days...she was terribly disappointed and becoming more aware that her parents must have thought she was a boy (or wished she was). Me? I was coveting her car like my pug covets my chicken fingers. I was so upset I never got that car...that car should have been mine! What the hell were my parents thinking?  (Note: soon after I received a package of Hot wheels and I was set for life).


So began my love affair with everything but babies. Even still, I joined the ranks of elementary girls everywhere assuming that I'd have a baby one day; I would name her Christina or him David. Once I hit my twenties and married, I waited patiently for that tugging feeling every woman talks about, but I felt nothing but excitement to work, go to school, and plan my career. Maybe I'm not ready. Maybe I will feel that tug in my 30s...but that tug never came. The thought of pregnancy, babies, crying, diapers, and the life of a mother didn't appeal to me at all...in fact, it made me quite sick.  Now before I receive death threats from mothers who love motherhood, may I say that I respect anyone who delights in birthing and caring for another...that's just not me.

In a society that continues to assume the only true role for a woman is childbirth and care giving, it was hard coming out as "childless by choice". I was asked many times when I was planning to have kids and suffered many blank and confused stares when I answered.  Women with children would avoid me (or run screaming) and I would avoid them.  I was assured my attitude would change when they were mine or I'd have them someday..by maybe it isn't the right time for me yet.  It was as if the mother was reassuring herself that she made the right decision; like I had insulted her decision to procreate. I found my decision made many women nervous, aggitated, and downright pissed off.  

To this day, it makes me cringe when I have to attend an event or party completely populated by parents. They are a different breed of human that I cannot relate to nor should I be able to...our lives are completely different. I don't care about soccer games, school ribbons, or how smart your child is.  What makes it worse, is I live in a small town where stay-at-home-moms are still very prevalent. At least in the city, I could be with my people, but here I am an outcast; never fitting in at parties or work functions. I thought maybe someday I would regret my choice, but as I get older, I celebrate it more and more. I was fortunate to have enough self awareness (and time) to make the choice instead of having a kid because its what you do as a woman (and then regretting it later) or having one so young, I never had a chance to learn about who I was.  After saying this, I understand that many times the circumstances dictate the life decision...I'm just talking "generally" (just in case a reader is screaming obsenities at their computer screen about now).

 I say this now as I counsel a client in my internship dealing with the same decision.  Ultimately, she doesn't want kids, but the pressure from friends, family, and spouse is weighing on her more and more. She is buying into the social belief that she's selfish for not having them, that she will have no one to take care of her when she's old and sick, and that she won't be a real woman unless she has a child.  As a counsellor, I sit and listen and try to provide her with the support and safety she needs to express her feelings...as a 46 year old, childless, woman I want to say, "tell them all to shut the fuck up and live your life the way you want to!"

For women out there asking themselves the same question I want to leave you with a few considerations....

1. Choosing not to have a child is one of the most unselfish acts you can perform as a woman. In my opinion, choosing to have a child while knowing you don't want one will not only make you miserable, but your kid is going to pick up on this for sure. In addition, the world has enough kids, the resources are finite, and you are not adding to the population problem by propagating. You are stepping back so others may have theirs.

2. Choosing not to have children does not make you a child-hater. Many people in my office refer to me as the child-hater. So what if I don't run out of my office to see the latest baby? So what if I don't melt at the sight, smell, or sound of babies? Bring a puppy into the office and I will coo and coddle like a brand new mother. Childless women have a lot of love to give their nieces and nephews. These women are able to bear the burden when the mothers need a break, and can offer love and support to other people's children.

3.  Choosing not to have children will not leave you alone in your old age. Having kids, as many parent know, does not promise long term care when you are old and senile. From what I've read and heard, having kids is (more or less) a thankless job that may lead to only hearing from them when they want something.  You want social connection and care from others as an older adult? Cultivate a circle of friendships and create a resource list of community support networks.


As for those who find the choice to remain childless abhorrent, that's your opinion and I respect that. There are women out there who love motherhood and do a great job at it.  All we (childless women everywhere) ask is that you respect our choices without challenging or insulting them. We don't have scales under our clothes, we don't think only of ourselves, and we certainly don't eat babies while watching reruns of Sex and the City.  We are just a small (albeit growing more and more all the time) population of women who desire other joys from life....and it is our right to chose for ourselves.

Nuff said.

K
 

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post ... I had my children at a very young age. We have great relationships with our children and grand children, but we are not in each other's "back pocket" so to speak. When I am in social settings with women, I often feel like the odd person out because I don't "live" for the interaction with the kids and grandkids. I suspect that if I had waited to have children, and really though about it, I would have made the same choice as you have. Just because my life does not revolve around them doesn't mean I don't love them. I have only met one other woman who has admitted to this as well .. we have no interest in relating everything that has happened in our kids lives every time we meet ..thanks again for this post.

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  2. Thank you so much for your comment, Anon;

    I appreciate your honesty and believe it takes a lot of courage to admit anything that goes against the grain of the firm beliefs of motherhood.

    I also believe that all women (with children and without) should live balanced lives that includes many interests (not just kids - or cats).

    Again, I appreciate your time and honesty and wish you all the best.

    Kathi

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