May 8, 2015

Childless by Choice: Self-less or Self-ish?

This is an example of
the conversation that
is coming out of the
closet. Still drenched
in stigma, but at least
we are talking about it.
This morning I was reviewing the Globe and Mail on-line and a heading similar to the one above caught my eye. The question of having children is becoming less of a stigma and more of a news story than ever before. Not that long ago it was a given that once a woman married, she'd be popping out the babies before too long. Having children was a given; an expectation. Great for those women who felt the uterine tug, but crappy for those who didn't. Although I do remember playing with dolls as a kid and naming my future children ( Kristina and David), I turned out to be a woman who never felt the tug...not even for a second. Because of this, I faced much challenge (and name calling) when explaining my decision to be childless.  I was called a child-hater and a selfish woman. I was ignored and avoided by mothers and had nothing to talk about when with them (and vice versa).

I wouldn't call myself a trailblazer, as there have been generations full of women who chose career over child, but it wasn't a popular choice back then...and may still be odd now. Ever since my decision, I have met and counselled (in my internship) women battling over the same decision.  They know within themselves they do not want kids, but the societal influences to have them are very strong. They aren't selfish women, they love kids, they will make amazing aunts, but they know they want other things...and what's wrong with that? Fortunately for them, for us, the choice to not have children has less of a stigma attached today than ever before.  It turns out we don't eat children for dinner and our bodies aren't covered with green slimy scales. So is this a selfish way to life or a self less one? 

All I can do is answer that question for myself.  I knew enough about myself to know that I was more passionate about my education, career, and research (and all the opportunities it would afford me) than I was about the prospect of children.  When my friends with kids would complain about sleepless nights, peuk, snot, and screaming cries I paid attention. I watched how hard they worked and how much they sacrificed for their kids and knew pretty quick that being a parent is a self-less pursuit if there was ever was one. After having children, your life isn't your own anymore. Your choices aren't just your choices anymore. In my opinion, to be a good and effective parent, you are pouring your attention, time, and energy into the development of a healthy well-adjusted person. I didn't believe I had it in me to do that. I didn't feel I was mature enough to do that. I didn't think I had the patience and I certainly didn't want a child to pay for that. Ironically, as I matured and emotionally unpacked my own baggage, I think I would be ready for motherhood now...but at 47 I don't have the energy (and I really value my sleep). 

In my opinion, I was able to see my shortcomings and opt out of the baby making for the sake of the baby. That was not a selfish decision but a selfless one. As I watch my friends deal with the drama of teenagers and everything that goes with it (the grunts, the sense of entitlement, the God the attitudes!) I thank the universe that I knew myself well enough back then to chose childlessness.  By now, I'm sure, there are a few readers who feel insulted or put off by what I'm saying so I will underline the fact that I am only writing about my own experiences with the hope that women like me will read this and feel a little bit more secure in their own decisions. We shouldn't allow our culture, religion, or family to decide for us - especially when there are little lives at stake - we need to follow our hearts on this one. 
Social connection makes people happier. How
you get your business.

Having a full and rich life isn't about whether you chose to have children or not. It's about engagement with others, playfulness, cultivating a relationship with yourself, and love.  In addition to that, it isn't about marriage or coupling up with someone "for the rest of your life" ...its about (repeat the second sentence here). More women are deciding to forgo marriage and children than ever before (....because they can; they have more options). There is freedom in that right to choose. And that freedom includes freedom from name calling and judgement.

I'm looking forward to seeing the shift in roles for women over the coming years. It is women who make up most of the science and medical programs in university now. More women are answering the call to politics and leadership roles in our society.  The shift is happening now and will have a ripple effect on how we define family.  I don't know about you...but I'm pretty excited about the changes we will experience over our lifetime. 

Women rock...that's all I got.


  1. Hi Kathi,

    I love your definition of a full life and I love that you made a conscious decision not to have children. Much of my clinical practice in the last 14 years has been in the area of sexual health. I truly believe in supporting women in their decision to prevent, or try to plan, a pregnancy. I am grateful to be a parent but I fully appreciate it is not everyone's path in life (even better when they do too!).

    And you are a parent to a furry child...I believe pets count!

    All the best and thanks again for sharing,

    1. Thanks for your post, Sara;

      It's too bad we have two separate camps (to have kids or not have kids) without much understanding between the two. It's very much like the camps related to working mothers and stay-at-home and breast feed or bottle.

      I, too, believe that dogs can provide that caregiving experience (without the expense of sending them to college).

      Hope you are doing well and thanks for posting!

  2. Thanks for this,also i welcome everyone to our motivational health & fitness.I like this it does appear so simple. I will do a little more reading and find out more.

    GE 12L