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Today I wanted to respond to a reader question, since it’s one that I’ve received in various forms over the years. I’ve put it off since I really don’t think I have the authority to talk about this topic more than anyone else, especially since I did choose to have kids…but I think everyone always wants to hear from the other side. I’d love, love to hear your comments on this topic and I’m sure the originally reader, “Y”, would as well!
I hoped you could write a post about your view on not having kids, and people who choose a child free life. Do you think they are wrong, or selfish? And after having them, do you think your life only has meaning now that you have kids? I know you have another one coming (congratulations!!!!)….to be frank, you are one of the few bloggers with children I still bother to follow. I know I don’t want them myself, me and my partner are happy and have full lives together. I hope you do not find this post offensive…I am simply curious to hear the opinion on this topic of someone I respect, who happens to have kids.
I really struggled to answer this question, partially because there’s already so much material out there – on both sides. What’s funny though is I feel like lately, complete strangers have been asking me this. I don’t know if it’s because I look like the surliest mother at the playground…but it’s given me some time to think. So, here goes!
I had my first baby about two years ago…and since then, I made the conscious choice to have another. I used to be the sort of person who was adamant they would have no children…then it became one…and now, very soon, it will be two.
So given all that, the likely conclusion would be that I think that having children is the right way to go, and that to go without is to regret the decision later, when it’s too late, right?
I’m going to be very honest here (and hopefully one day my children won’t be printing out this post to show their therapists), but I really admire those who make the decision to be child free, and stick to it in the face of enormous societal and familial pressure. I love my kid (s), and often times my life can feel very fulfilling, but did it feel fulfilling before? Yes. Does having children open up a new “dimension” of happiness/fulfillment? Yes.
But did having children, also take away from some of those dimensions that made me happy before?
…in my case at least, absolutely again, yes.
I haven’t traveled internationally in two years, I quit a job where I was proud of the work I did, and my body is definitely not the same. And yeah, for me it was worth it, to have kids…but it’s the sort of thing I have to repeat to myself some nights, through gritted teeth. And it’s everyone’s responsibility, in my opinion, to figure out what that balance is – if you think that having children will make you happier than the sadness of giving up some other areas of your life. For me, as a whole, it’s been worth it.
Of course, you actually have to have kids to understand the full equation, which I know isn’t the sort of thing you can just “try out”, so…
If you feel happy, fulfilled, and know you don’t want children?
Then I really don’t know why you’d mess up a good thing. I have quite a few friends who have chosen to remain child free, and they have wonderful, full lives – and I don’t mean in a “oh, well they can go day drinking on the weekend and that’s super cool” sort of way, though of course that’s fun too. I mean that they have real, full lives, and derive as much satisfaction from their careers, passions, interests, and work that others do from having children.
I don’t think you need to have children to understand the “meaning of life,” or to feel “fulfilled”, or any of that. Actually I know you don’t, because I can think of plenty of parents who still struggle to find meaning, and fulfillment. And if there’s one thing that having children has taught me, is that they don’t necessarily do what you want…they do their own thing. They’re individuals. So you can’t pin your happiness or self worth on them. Because one day they will go their own way, find their own freedom (which is a good thing) and what you’re left with, on your own? You should still be happy with.
As for whether choosing to be child free means that you are selfish, or wrong? Anyone who thinks this is an idiot. I can say that some of the most selfish people I’ve met are parents, and unfortunately in many cases, having kids hasn’t improved their personality. If anything, it can make it worse, since now they have a baby! So everything’s for the baby! Out of the way! Because there’s a baby! And did they mention that having kids is really hard? Because it is. Super hard! Harder than whatever it is that you’re doing (rocket science, brain surgery)! So get out of the way, because they have a baby!
I mean…do you really want to listen to people who think like this? I’m pretty sure they were annoying before they had kids, and you wouldn’t listen to their advice…so I wouldn’t listen to them now. PS: these are also the sort of people who let their child run roughshod over yours in the sandbox.
So now you have my thoughts on the child free life…in this long, rambling post. Please comment with your thoughts…I think this is best as a discussion. And thank you Y, for the question!