It’s incredibly freeing to be honest. And enlightening when you find support for your honesty. When I wrote my blog “Why I Won’t Have Children,” I wasn’t expecting to elicit the overwhelming response that it did, but I’m glad that so many of you have responded which allows me to continue talking about a subject that is close to my heart. I’ve been mentally writing responses to a lot of your comments, and I decided that it would be most beneficial for everyone if I addressed them in another post.
First let’s talk about where we’re in total agreement. It’s so wonderful to hear from other twenty-somethings who are also unenthused by the idea of having children. It’s not that we hate kids or think procreating is a bad thing, but we don’t see it as part of our individual life journey. And when we start affirming one another in our decisions (whether we agree with them or not), as you all have done for me in response to my post, we lay the groundwork for healthy actions and lives. Forcing people into a predesigned mold that society says is “correct,” only leads to bad decisions, mistakes, and resentment. And I’m all for people being who they are meant to be.
Now let’s discuss some comments, that I feel deserve a little more explanation from me but contribute as a whole to my argument and beliefs on being child-free. Please remember that these comments are taken out of their original context, and know that I interpreted none of them negatively. I simply wanted to elaborate on some of my points.
“I feel like a lot of the reasons you gave here for not wanting to have kids are based on seeing yourself in a negative light.”
While my reasons do seem like a negative reflection of me (my family history of depression, inadequacies in motherhood, perfectionism), I want to make it clear that these are faults I know myself to have and therefore I work hard everyday to overcome them. When I give these as reasons for not wanting children, it’s not because I don’t think I’m capable of being a good parent or giving a child a enjoyable life, but because I recognize my “shortcomings” as part of who I am. So in a sense they’re not so much “shortcomings” as just parts of me. And without those parts, I wouldn’t be me. And that’s okay. However, I don’t mean to suggest that if I could somehow “fix” those things, I would want children or believe myself to be a better parent. I love who I am (not always, but who does?), and who I am just doesn’t involve making a mini-Kaitlyn. I’m sure it would wonderful and rewarding in its own way, but that’s just simply not the life I want.
“The assumption that a woman who doesn’t want kids is apparently depriving something from her spouse.”
This is a great point! And one I didn’t talk about in my original post, but I have so many thoughts on. When I was younger and said I didn’t want kids, boyfriends and potential-boyfriends would just laugh this off. For some reason, the majority of “upstanding” young men see kids, a home, a dog, and the whole shebang as a must-have. I imagine it’s sold to them as children the same way princesses and happily ever afters are sold to little girls. However, the “American Dream” is much more attainable in reality than princess status. But it’s not guaranteed to make you happy.
What I will say though, is that deciding not to have kids isn’t something that you just “forget” to tell your potential spouse about. If you’re really committed to the lifestyle, you will tell them very early on. And you’ll choose your spouse based on that too. Changing yourself to fit your “soul mate’s” ideals isn’t right. It means they’re not your soul mate. Coming to a consensus or agreement is one thing, but totally giving up all your dreams in order to provide children for you spouse is another.
My high school boyfriend wanted kids. I mean, we were 16 and 17 at the time so it wasn’t like a reality, but part of continuing a relationship with him in my head, required being willing to strive for that “American Dream” with him. But eventually, I realized I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give up on my own dreams in order to settle for what he felt was the way to happiness.
In my most recent relationship though, I found someone, quite by accident, who shared my desire to remain childless. It wasn’t something he exactly liked to admit, mostly because he felt the societal pressure from friends and family and Christianity to fit that mold and have a family and take care of everybody. “Be a man,” you know? But at 26, he was desperately struggling to figure out how he could do that and be true to himself. Fast-forward two years, and you’ll find him at 28 with the realization that he can “be a man” without being a breadwinner for an ever-growing family. That his version of being a man is learning to be honest with himself and his peers rather than hiding behind stale sayings and encouragements.
It is a wondrous, eye opening, and freeing experience to be in a relationship with someone who shares and respects your decision not to have children. That’s what I experienced with him, and I know that’s what I want in a spouse. Gone was the self-doubt, the second-guessing my statements about child rearing for fear of offending him. I found the freedom to express my utter terror of the idea of child-bearing, and someone to laugh with it about. I could “ooo” and “aww” and babies without him thinking I had suddenly changed my mind. Babies are cute. They deserve “awws,” but it’s nice to have someone to do it with no pressure. I would say that if you don’t want kids, and you haven’t found someone who shares that desire, don’t settle for anything else. You’re probably not just going to change your mind on a whim. And it’s only fair to the both of you that you’re honest with each other about how you imagine your future. Find the person, you can build a future with. Not someone who you have to change your dreams for.
“I’ve heard stories from so many friends who were refused tubal ligations because it was assumed their ‘natural instincts’ would kick in and they would regret them.”
Ah! This is horrible! “Natural instincts,” my foot. I don’t think it’s a woman’s natural instinct to want to have kids. I could probably argue that it’s natural for a woman to have a “mothering nature” to some capacity because we are more emotionally wired, but that does not mean we “naturally” want to produce our own young in order to carry out our mothering nature. No way! There are so many ways for us to be “mothers” without ever giving birth or adopting children. Teachers, managers, and counselors—they all involve similar skills as that of “mothering.” Someone who is young and says they don’t want children and wants to perform a permanent procedure to prevent such occurrence has every right to do so, and claiming “natural instincts” is not a good enough excuse to deny it. At some point, I hope to see the world become a little more accepting of differences between human beings. Human diversity is obvious, but most of the time we only take it skin deep. We group ourselves into cultures and races and nations, but we forget that we’re diverse down to the individual. And because of that, I never assume “natural instincts” or “biological clock” or anything like it. If someone says they don’t want kids, I believe them. It’s that simple.
“I think there is great blessing in parenthood (however flawed we may be) since God created the family unit as a way to nurture people to love Him, but His plan is not cookie cutter for everyone.”
“Your blog on not having kids reminded me of how hard it can be to make a decision that does not fit in with Christian cultural norms.”
I didn’t address my faith in terms of not having kids in my last blog post (mostly because I could probably write a whole book about it), but these comments gave me so much hope, I feel like I should at least make mention of some of my thoughts.
First, one of my biggest struggles in deciding to be child-free was coming to terms with the disparity between the Christian culture I have been raised in and my goals for my life. Or rather, the life that I believe God has trained and equipped me for. Therefore, it was really encouraging to have this addressed and supported by a Christian. I understand the blessing of parenthood and the family unit within Christianity, but I’m also a cookie made without the cutter! My hope as I grow older is that I will be blessed by being a part of other families like my younger brother’s, who very much desires to (eventually) have children and a family and those friends who choose to have children. I imagine that my life could be just as rich and illustrative of God’s love as if I had my own.
Making decisions that don’t fit in with Christian cultural norms is hard when that’s what you’ve been raised in and that’s what you’re surrounded by. However, I would make the assertion that there is difference between “Christian culture” and “Christianity.” Christian culture is easy in a way, especially if you’ve been raised in it, but it makes us far too judgmental. We start to see “Christian cultural norms” as “Biblical truths” and that’s not always the case. As one of my commenters says, “It is not easy to choose a different path, but different is not bad. God asks us to love mercy, do justly and walk humbly with God. You can do that with an empty uterus, with a tattooed body, while creating art, in public school, or ordering takeout every night.” And this is so true. There are always going to be people pressuring you to fit into “cultural norms” (whether Christian or not) that require you to have kids, but I can say from experience, there are also those who may be different than you but support you in your decision and your chosen path.
So, for my friends who want children: Huzzah! I’m so glad you’re following your heart. I hope that I get to play with them and nurture them. (And be that super cool “Aunt” who brings back stuff from all her filmmaking adventures). But most of all I hope that you don’t let anyone discourage you from your goals of having a family.
And for my friends who want to be child-free: Thank you for taking this journey of self-discovery with me. It’s been so enlightening for me to see others who share my views, and I don’t feel alone in my desires anymore. I understand that we all have different reasons for not wanting kids, but I think we are all the same in our understanding and appreciation of one another. Whether you’re a guy or a girl or you stay strong in your resolution or eventually change your mind, we know we have the freedom to do so. It doesn’t make us weak or cruel or ignoring our “natural instincts.” It simply means we’re honest and real with ourselves.
And now my challenge to you is to have the courage to be transparent with others (as we’ve done here) because it can make life so much more enjoyable in the long run.