Child-Free and Happy

I’m married with three kids. The only difference is that my kids are the four legged kind. Not so unusual I suppose, until people find out that my four legged kids are the only kids we plan to have. Oh sure, I want more pets. If I had the time and space, I would have a whole house full of dogs. Babies? No thank you.

It’s something I’ve always known. Whenever I imagined how my future would be, children was just never a part of that. Partly, this is because I was the youngest of four children. My brothers and sisters are nine, ten and eleven years older than me, so I wasn’t raised around younger kids. It’s not that I’m not in touch with my inner child. Being a creative person, I’m probably more in touch with my inner child than a lot of people I know. Still, I used to wonder if I wasn’t slightly deficient somehow, when I’d see friends go all clucky over a cute baby. Why wasn’t I feeling this way? Isn’t that the natural course of being a woman? Shouldn’t I want to reproduce? To feel a new life growing inside of me? For me, the answer would be no. I realized that there was just so many other goals I had. And if the man I ended up with wanted children? Well then there’d be a problem because I certainly wasn’t about to have kids just for my husband’s sake, unlike another friend I know, who didn’t especially need to have kids, but was willing to, for her husband‘s sake.

Lucky for me that wasn’t a problem. I found a wonderful guy. We connected on so many different levels, and found that we both had common goals, which included the desire to not have children. We share a sense of adventure, we both want to travel and do crazy things. And both of us know that we lack the patience to be parents, and we are okay with that.  We’re selfish enough to want these experiences for ourselves without feeling burdened with children. If we decide to go to the Galapagos for a few weeks, our biggest problem is “Does the dog boarding place have an opening?” We both recognize that it would be selfish to bring a child into the world simply to extend the family bloodline. I believe not having children has only strengthened our marriage. I can’t tell you how many people still think we’re newlyweds. Without the financial burden of children, and the time commitment too, we’re able to spend time together and really bond. I’m not saying that couple’s with children don‘t bond, but for us, the lack of children only helps our bonding.

When people find out that I’m married, usually the next question they ask is do we have kids. I usually respond, “does the four-legged kind count?” Sometimes it gets left at that, but a lot of other times (particularly when they find out I’ve been married 8 years) they’ll ask if we plan to have children. I’m not really sure why that is such a common question. It’s not the sort of question I would think to ask somebody, I don’t really think it’s my business, but some people are genuinely interested. And so I explain to them that we don’t want children. Sometimes, I get lucky and the response is “Good for you! You shouldn’t have children if you don’t want them!” but most of the time our decision is met with questions. Firstly, we usually have to explain why we don’t want children. Again, this seems strange to me. If somebody came out and said they wanted to have lots of babies, they wouldn’t be asked to explain themselves, so why should I explain my decision to not want children? I get really annoyed when I’m told by perfect stranger that  “You’ll change your mind.” To quote my husband, “Yeah! If I get a lobotomy!” What makes a person I hardly know, assume that my decision to not have children was something I came up with on a whim? Neither one of us are stupid enough to believe that there isn’t the possibility of one or both of us changing our minds. But no more so than any other couple who live with the possibility of goals changing and people falling out of love. Yet it seems to be a given that we’ll magically change our minds.

You may be wondering how our parents reacted to this decision. Luckily my husbands parents seemed to have come to terms with it. They understand and respect that we’re happy just the way we are. My parents, who lack grandkids,  still think we’ll change our minds. Strangely my mother assumed it was my husband who was the one not wanting children. I’m not sure why she thought that, except that it hearkens back to that idea of a woman being deficient if she does not want children. I explained that it was both of our decisions. I told her that we wanted different things for ourselves and we weren’t really “kid people” to which my mother responded, “You’ll feel different when it’s yours.” But what if I don’t? Who’s going to take care of my child then? Thankfully, my sister is now pregnant, so hopefully I’m off the hook!

I applaud women that choose to have children. It’s hard work and a very huge commitment. I get worn out with two dogs and a cat! Vet bills add up, but it’s still cheaper than children. And as I said, I can always put them in boarding when I need a break. I don’t hate children either. I’m happy to be around them for a few hours. The way I see it, I get to experience the joys of pregnancy vicariously through my sister and close friends who have chosen to have children without any feelings of regret. I don’t feel that I am missing out on anything. I have lots of wonderful nieces and nephews, and I love them to pieces, but children are just not something that I need in my life. It’s a decision I’ve made and I’m truly happy with it.

Postscript: For women who are childfree looking for support, visit www.happilychildfree.com

By: Nikki Arserio

Photo By: Valerie Chiang

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