I’m Child-Free: The Questions Change, But My Reaction is Always The Same

no_kids_2I’m taking a break from my regularly-scheduled-something-about-cats post and thought I’d share with you some musings that I’ve been thinking about for, oh, let’s say 35 years now.  Since I’ve been reading a lot about this topic in the media lately, I thought I’d add in my two cents.  And I’ll say right up front: even though this post is about me choosing to not have kids (and including some lightheartedly fun and informative links and memes along the way), I honor your decision to have children (or not).  It’s not a choice I’ve made for myself, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good choice for you…so if you have kids and you love them, hooray for you and your kids!  Truly, I am happy for you.

But let’s get back to talking about me, because this is my blog.  I’m forty years old, and I’ve noticed something – my entire life, people have asked me about whether or not I’m going to have kids.  But as I’ve aged, those questions have changed, morphing to reflect my (I can only assume) biological child-bearing status.  Because I’m getting up there, right?  And that biological clock is a-ticking!

Well, hold on there a second, pard’ner, because that biological clock?  I’ve never heard it tick, not once.  It’s probably one of those fancy digital types, or maybe that’s too presumptuous.  I might not be that evolved, so maybe it’s like a sun-dial, or whatever it was that the Mayans used to track time.  The fact is, I’ve never wanted children, even when I was a child myself.

When Ino_kids_3 was about five, I remember going on a walk with my mom when I was visiting her in L.A.  There was a woman who lived down the street from us who didn’t have kids, and I was always kind of nervous around her because of that.  I asked my mom, “Mommy, is it against the law to not have kids?” and my mom actually chuckled a little bit and said something like “Of course not! You don’t have to have kids, or you can have as many as you want!”  The reason why I remember this so clearly is because of the immense sense of relief I felt; it was as if a burden had been lifted from my five-year-old shoulders.  Up until that point, I believed that I had to have children; I had already received the message that because I was a girl, I would grow up to be a mommy.

Not unlike other girls, I had a doll named Mandy whom I used to take everywhere with me.  But really, she was much more of a friend or a sister that I took care of, and people talked with me like I was her mother and she was my baby, and that actually pissed me off.  I really hated that people assumed that I was Mandy’s mommy!  I resented it.  It irritated me that people made assumptions about me because of my gender, and I was keenly aware of that, even when I was five years old.

no_kids_4Then, in my teens and twenties, the lecturing started.  The inevitable question would be asked: “do you want kids?”  My response was always the same – no.  And it’s funny, because I think that when people ask that question, they don’t expect you to be honest – they expect you to say yes.  The responses to me were always so dismissive or (again) presumptuous: “oh, you’ll change your mind when you get older”, “when you meet the right man, you’ll want to have his children”, “but women are supposed to have children”, and all the rest.  Ugh!  I just saw this as so disrespectful of me being an individual, with my own identity, hopes and desires for my future.  And, it reinforced in me that there is a huge expectation of women to become moms…otherwise, there’s probably something wrong with you.  Because I didn’t feel the desire to have children, obviously I had a problem!

In my early 30’s, I got a reprieve.  Most people had stopped asking me if or when I was going to have kids.  The reason for this, I suspect, is due to two things:  first, most people knew me well enough to assume that a question about my reproductive intentions would elicit a reaction from me that would earn the questioner a swift punch in the throat.  Secondly (and I’m ok with acknowledging this), most people were probably scared that “the question” might actually encourage me to really think about having kids, and WHO KNOWS what kind of terror would be unleashed upon the world by humans that carry my genetic legacy.

Since I’ve moved and have a new suite of friends and coworkers, the questions have resumed.  But, like I mentioned earlier, the questions have changed now that I’m forty.  Now, it’s not so much “are you going to have kids?” but “do you have kids?” and I still get mildly irritated by even that question!  However, at this point, I can laugh at myself.  My responses are more about my own identity and individuality than it ever was: “HEY!  Do I look and act mature enough to have kids???” and “puhleeeeze…why would I have kids?  Being taken care of when I’m old…that’s what spoiling nieces and nephews is for!” and even more frequently, “Hell no…cats cause enough stress in my life, and you want me to add to the mix small humans who can’t do anything for themselves except create messes and noxious bodily emissions?  Disaster!!!”  At this point, the fact that others can’t look at me and immediately determine that I don’t have kids is not my fault, and frankly, I’m a little judgmental about their inability to judge me.  So hey – if you want to ask me if I have kids (or even when I’ll have kids), that’s on you.  You might be my friend, my colleague, or even a relative, but your perceptiveness score has just gone down a notch in my book.

no_kids_1Honestly, for me, it’s not about being stubborn, radical, hating children (which is not the case, but even if it were, that’s still perfectly valid), having a sucky childhood, being depressed, or any number of assumptions that people make about child-free people.  I’ve watched my parents divorce and remarry (several times), and have seen great suffering on the part of children who have parents who aren’t up to the task of having kids (I know that sounds judgy, but seriously – there are so many unhappy kids out there whose problems start at home).  I saw a great article in Salon on reasons why the article’s author felt that not having kids was the best decision she ever made.  I related so much to her words, and this especially struck home:

Those of us who opt out of having children often do so not because we take parenthood lightly, but because we take it so seriously.” — Liz Langley

Kids were just never in the cards for me.  I never imagined myself as an adult with kids – I imagined myself as an adult who worked, traveled, had a quiet and calm home, and who had plenty of time for myself and my husband (and my cats).  And here I am, just as I imagined.  This was what I envisioned, and how I choose to live a fulfilled life.  And that’s plenty of living for me.

14 thoughts on “I’m Child-Free: The Questions Change, But My Reaction is Always The Same

  1. This post makes me so happy! Cheers to you for talking about this! I totally understand where you are coming from and I know how you felt as a kid. I felt the absolute same way! I think that is part of the reason I was such a tomboy. I HATED being treated differently or having different assumptions made about me because of my gender. When people ask me if I ever want kids I usually say “I don’t know”, because I don’t. I have no idea how I will feel in the future, but, at the moment, I have no desire or longing for a child. I also never acted like toys or dolls or anything were my “babies”. The closest thing would be my cats, but really they are also friends. It’s a cat-human relationship. Haha, if that makes sense. It’s like it’s own class of thing.

    Anyway, congrats on your decision, your sticking to it, and your awesome attitude towards people questioning it! Full support and comprehension from over here!

    That Curious Cat

    • Hi Sam! Thanks for stopping by and reading. Isn’t the decision about having kids a weird one? I’ve had no biological urges or maternal feelings (even for my kitties, who, like you said, are more like friends in their own category), and who knows why. I don’t know if I’m biologically built that way, or if it was a product of the way I was raised, or if I just grew up being stubborn about “expectations” of my gender, like you. I always figured that if I should change my mind about kids, I would adopt. Well, that day still hasn’t happened and the questions still keep coming. My response is usually something like, “what, me? Have kids? I have plenty of cats, and they keep me busy enough.” Boom. Enough said! I love your blog, btw; been following it for a while now on Bloglovin’. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 😀

  2. This! People always give me that confused slightly aggressive look when I say “No I do not, nor will I ever have kids.”
    There is nothing wrong with me, I just don’t have those maternal instincts and would rather be able to travel and have horses than kids. It really irritates me when older women give the whole “well, you’ll change your mind when you’re older.”
    First of all, I am old enough to vote so I am damn well old enough to know if I want offspring or not.
    Secondly, screw you.

    It’s nice to see people standing up and being completely ok with a perfectly reasonable and logical decision 🙂

    • Hi Shen – I totally agree with you. There is nothing wrong with those of us who don’t want children; honestly, I sometimes look at people and their situations and think, “my God, why would you want children???” I know that’s judgmental, but there it is. I’ve been judged enough in my life, too! I think when it comes down to it, we’re living our own lives. I choose what I want to do in my life. And if that means traveling, adventures, more time with my husband and more money to support my passions…well, that’s just fine by me. Thanks so much for stopping by, reading and sharing your opinion with me! 😀

    • Thanks, Cynthia! I am enjoying it, very much. I’ll keep striving to become more of myself, whomever that might be in the end! I’m a work in progress, aren’t we all? 😉

  3. I love how you got your feisty little dukes up on this one 🙂

    Out of all the bad choices I made in my years, the one good one was not to have children. I would have been a miserable Mom and made my children even more miserable! Especially glad I escaped my disastrous first marriage without that blunder.

    I never believed the “you can have it all”. I wanted my coupledom with Hub and my career that I loved. That third rail – kids – wasn’t in the picture.

    Oddly, I never got too many questions or disbelief about it, and never felt oressured or defensive.

    • Hi Sammy! I’m with you – while I think that I’m good with kids, I don’t think I would be very good with them if they were living with me all the time. We would all be miserable! I cherish having the freedom to do what I want, when I want. I love being independent. I’m like you – I want the relationship I have with Chris, and a rewarding career; there’s just no time that I’ve allocated to having my own children! Nieces and nephews are great, but I’m glad they have permanent (non-me) owners. Thanks, as always, for stopping by! 😀

  4. Perhaps it’s time to change your friends!!! I am past child bearing age and never wanted them, but have never had any grief about it. Oh, perhaps I was just lucky; I do feel for you, because I have had the odd moron describing me as ‘selfish’ because I didn’t want any. To which I would reply that ‘selfish’ implies that you are depriving someone else of something, surely. I probably had less earache than you because half my friends are child free too, it has to be said. There are loads of us around these days! Next time one of the BORING ONES start going on about their kids to you, in the way that they do, start talking about something that they don’t have and in which they are not in the least bit interested. When they protest, say ‘now you know how it feels’. Or ‘at least I don’t bore my Facebook friends with endless pictures of little Tommy on the potty or little Rosie looking cute in some hat’. :^D

    • Lol – Terry, you are so right about the Facebook feeds that are littered with baby and toddler pictures! I like to fill my feed with cats, so there! Actually, the typical parenthood questions were much more prevalent when I was younger; where I live now, it’s fairly liberal and there are a ton of us without kids. Also, I think that it might be a generational thing. People my grandparents’ age would always question me and act surprised at my answers. But whatever…I don’t have any grandparents around anymore, and I’m living in a great part of the country, so I don’t have to worry about it very much anymore! I still get the odd question here and there, but I usually come up with something about having more cats then I can handle, so why would my husband and I want to add to the mix? Hah! Thanks for stopping by and writing your thoughts – great to hear your perspective! 😀

  5. I don’t know if you’ve really thought this through, Marci. I mean, the big important reason I had kids was so that when I’m old and feeble, there will be someone around to pluck my long, out of control chin hairs. You might want to rethink your decision.

    Lol! But really, it’s not my damn business whether you want kids or not. It’s only my business to know if you’re cat juggling in private. (I love that part of The Jerk) Then there’d be a problem, and I’d be all up in your business!

    • Lol, Ava! You’ve really gotten me thinking. I mean, maybe I *should* reconsider? Who says my reproductive destiny has to be written in stone? Oh, yeah, my quickly aging ovaries and dwindling supply of geriatric eggs… Meh…I’m just too lazy when it comes down to it. Cats are enough drama for me, and juggling one is difficult, but FIVE??? That’s just crazy talk. I’ll stick to juggling plastic grocery bags (that’s as far as I got in my 6th grade juggling unit in gym class…I just couldn’t make the leap to scarves and then tennis balls). 😀

  6. When I was in school, there was a poster in the guidance office that said “What is there to do besides DRINK?!” (As in alcohol) on the top and it had pictures of safe and legal recreational activities that didn’t involve getting buzzed in the middle and on the bottom it said LOTS! I think the same goes for any drug, breeding, or warfare. There are other things to do in life. Go take a relaxing bath, make a brick of drained Ramen noodles, listen to recorded music, read a the owners manual to your parent’s car, go on the internet and learn about physics and science…etc.

    There are other ways to pass the time instead of raising the next army of American active shooters.

    • Hi Brent – thanks for your feedback on my post! Yeah, one of the reasons why I don’t want to have kids is that I look at our society and don’t really want my kids to be subjected to so much of what’s going on in the world today. I have total respect for people who are brave enough to be parents for a new generation and have high hopes that they will raise their kids to be empathetic, respectful, and compassionate about others that share the world with them. Me – I couldn’t handle that type of responsibility – I can barely handle keeping myself in check! Call me selfish (but isn’t having kids selfish, too???), but I cherish that I’ve found a partner that I can spend time with, I can travel when I want, and I can generally do what I want to do in life. I’ve never had the urge to have a child – I’ve found other things that are plenty fulfilling in my life! 🙂

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