mine is a child-free family…and its ok!
Some days I feel like I am part of a strange kind of club (a not-so-secret society) that has really only one thing definitely in common – we are families without kids.
No doubt some people would say that without children, its not really a family and this is a point I strongly contest…mine might be smaller than yours, but it is a family no less
It’s only when people ask, “Do you have children?” and look somewhat uncomfortable or embarrassed at my answer that I’m reminded of my oddity. Funnily enough, growing up in a staunchly feminist household, I would have thought society would have changed more by now and I would be just another version of normal.
No one wants to intentionally offend and most people assume that the desire to have children is something that every woman feels; so the immediate assumption will be that this state is something that has been forced upon me due to some inexplicable (or well researched) medical issue
But you see, I don’t have children…not because I couldn’t have them, but because I never wanted to.
And strangely, at times this has set me slightly apart from many of my friends and family and from both sides I feel like sometimes we are not quite sure what to make of each other.
My heart breaks for the unfortunate who are in the complex and potentially soul destroying situation of being childless due to health or reproductive issues but this is not my situation
I have absolutely no biological urge…the concept of being a parent to someone else is as alien as I can imagine and I am fascinated both by the dedication of others and my complete lack of desire.
Over the years I have endured all sorts of comments and innuendo about my decision…some (thankfully not too many) have taken offence to this choice and feel the need to berate me for the selfishness of my actions. Fortunately the people who love me understand and support that life is about choices…fully conscious and informed decisions and that this is my life to live as I see best.
As long as you don’t judge me for my choices, I am sure as hell not going to judge you for yours…it would have been more selfish and irresponsible to have had children because society expected than to take an honest path.
As a youngster I was a tomboy who ran around in the street and played football with the boys rather than staying in with the dolls. I certainly never fantasized about the fairy tale – “grow up, get married, have babies, live behind the picket fence for forever and a day”
So you see; I have never wanted them. I remember a conversation as a precocious teenager announcing that I would “never get married or have children” My 14’ish’ year old friends and their moms informed me (with their conventional wisdom) that my biological clock would kick in when I ‘grew up’ and I would change my mind.
In my twenties I changed my mind about the marriage bit but the tick-tock never happened….I waited patiently for a wave of maternal instinct to wash over me. I waited and waited….and so the children never happened!
I came from a family who had several generations of parents who were there by default. My mom wasn’t cut out for the role of ‘good mother’ and her father before her had been a reluctant Dad, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to be a repeat of that.
Was my reluctance to have children due to my experience growing up…no doubt! Would I have repeated the pattern…who knows? But what I do know was it was something I was never going to risk finding out!
I am still married (quite happily so for 20 years)…and so this decision was never just about me!
We are literally put on this earth to have kids and as strongly as I felt that this was not my path I was never going to deprive my husband. As long as he understood that the likelihood of me suddenly morphing into super-mom was not looking great, of course I would have been there to provide him with children (or more realistically child) when the time came for him
Practically however, the biological clock ran out about 5 years ago but up until then, every now and then one of us would say, ”Do you want to have children?” and the other would say, “No” or, at most, “Not yet”.’
We watched our friends raising children…old friends were giving up or slowing down their careers to be mothers. I was pleased for them, but never envied them. I didn’t coo over downy-headed babies or look longingly at passing prams.
My husband and I feel strongly about the responsibilities parenthood: the world doesn’t need our progeny, so we leave the job to those who really want them. We admire parents and enjoy their children, but truly wonder how they manage without going mad.
I am not completely devoid of maternal instincts though…you see I have Walter & Memphis they are my child substitutes! Everyone in my circle knows that, they are my kids and I’m just as pathetic about them as any mother would be about a baby.
A FEW ADVANTAGES OF BEING CHILD-FREE …
I´m not saying that being a parent isn´t a fantastic experience (my friends all assure me it’s the best thing they ever did), but a child-free life has a number of benefits.
I have been told that “not having kids makes you selfish; and this is quite possibly true…but I can live with that!
So here are some of the advantages I see in being child-free:
There´s no denying that raising kids cost a small fortune. From the moment they are conceived you will start spending on then them…clothes, entertainment, a bigger house, food and childcare all adds up to a pretty penny. Then there are school fees, sports uniforms and many people end up helping their adult kids out. We child-free people can spend it all on ourselves! (I think this is where the selfish bit comes in)
Whenever you can get the time off, when you don’t have to consider the cost (or the organizational stress) of kids , so traveling is a common hobby for the childless. Its an expensive business having kids and without this cost you are way more likely to be jet-setting with more frequency
Getting up on the weekend (or on holiday) is one that I take for granted until I go and stay with friends who have a family. We are never be woken up at 5am by the kids bouncing on the bed. The dogs do wake us up, (usually at daylight) but at least once they have climed their spot on the bed they just go back to sleep!
ALL THE FUN, NONE OF THE RESONSIBILTY
So I get to be the “good Aunt”…the “cool Aunt”…the “tattooed, traveling, hairdresser Aunt”!
Not having your own kids doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the company of children you just borrow some from friends or relatives. This way, you can enjoy their company until they get tiresome, at which point you pack them off back to their long-suffering parents. You can have all the fun and none of the responsibility!
A child-free life is far more flexible. You can arrange weekends away easily, have the type of holiday you want, and go out when you want. There’s no need to plan ahead and organize babysitters, or have to cancel because the sitter can’t make it. If you fancy going out on the spur of the moment, you can grab your keys and go.
Sadly, when it comes to combining a career and family, there are choices to be made and problems to solve. Can you cope on one wage? Who looks after the kids? How supportive are your employers? Will it affect your career? People without kids can concentrate on their career, and frequently have more options than their colleagues with families.
LESS WORRY & STRESS
This is a life sentence! Being a parent lasts until the grave and as a parent do you ever truly get to switch off? From the moment your child is born, you worry about their health and safety. Even when their kids are adults, the parents still worry about them. Again…selfish maybe but I’m ok with that!