Bearing children is the life many women choose when deciding what form their family will take. And for some the choice is to not, remaining child-free. In a better effort to give these women a voice, we sought wisdom from a friend who was intimately transparent with us about her experience. Today she shines a light on assumptions she's often met with and shares ideas for how to support those who choose to live kid-free.
For some, the desire to have children is innate and never a question. For others it wavers, depending on the time in life, stability factors, partners, and such. And for others still, it's less, if not non-existent. For me it has always been the latter.
Children. They are our future, our lifeblood, and they will support us in generations to come. So, why wouldn’t I want to have kids? It’s something I’ve been asked enough times that I now know what to say and to which I can openly and honestly share what you shouldn't say to those of us choosing not to have children.
I know this is a sensitive subject. So much that my codependent mind races with the fear of hurting feelings, and the potential judgement that may occur. The women (and men) struggling to start families may feel frustrated knowing that there are some of us that simply don’t desire to have children. While I’m not in your situation, I do understand. I also wish to share my story because it, too, was a struggle.
This month I turn 40, which means a lot of wonderful things. It also, by default, has me surrounded by amazing mommas who have children from teenagers to tiny ones. Many conversations gravitate towards kids and sometimes trail off to my life without. Minds often swirl with assumptions, and most are obvious: Am I not able to have children? Is there a situation that has prevented me ? Have I not found the right person? Have I chosen work over kids? You get the picture.
So, I’m going to break down the why, what and when from my perspective, and for those situations in which you meet women without kids.
To be honest, I’ve never pictured myself with kids. (Sorry, Mom.) I truly never felt that pull. So maybe I don’t love kids, aren’t around them much, and never changed a diaper — but, it’s the opposite. I jumped to babysit the second my parents allowed me, I’ve changed hundreds of diapers and some nights I’d rather spend the evening with friends and their kids over them getting a sitter and going out. I love my two nephews with every thread of my being. I love being an aunt with no distractions. I’m all theirs because I don’t have children of my own. I love the role I have with the kids in my life. Also, I love the role that allows me to go home without them. Best of both worlds? Maybe.
I’ve also grown to really love my life the way it is now. I’m a committed person but I love the notion that I don’t have to think hard if I want to plan a trip, chance direction, go to bed early, or just be alone. It’s hard for me to say all that, it sounds selfish and self-absorbed. But I think that’s a problem too — that I feel that way. But we shouldn’t feel guilty for making choices that best suit our lives. It’s my right and I need to fully own that. Whew.
So, what to ask a woman without children?
I’ll start this with some valuable advice I’ve gotten from one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown. She writes about sharing with those that have earned the right to hear our story. This really hits home for me. Because yes, we all can be very nosey — present party included. If you have a personal question for someone, reflect to see if you’ve earned the right to ask it. I am more than happy to have a conversation about my choices with those that genuinely care, are curious, and, most importantly, I trust. But if you’re asking to validate your choices, categorize another, cast any sort of judgement, or are just feeling nosey, please skip it.
What’s most frustrating about this path?
Initially I thought not much. It’s my life and my choice so it’s hard to be frustrated with something I want. But then I thought:
It’s incredibly hard to find support around the prevention of pregnancy (aside from the birth control pill or an IUD) by ways of a natural approach. There’s are countless resources, centers, and practitioners that will gladly give you all the know-how, holistic treatments, and tools to find out when it’s best to conceive. But what about those of us who want to really know, understand, and learn when it’s best to not conceive?
For example, I recently ordered an ovulation kit (it was not cheap.) before discovering that its output, results, and support focus on when it’s best to try to have a baby. Disappointed, I wrote a tear-filled email to the company in which I unloaded some of my frustrations that it felt impossible to use the device in an effort to prevent pregnancy and received a nice note back: “We understand your request but we are only FDA approved to educate on the topic of conception, not birth prevention”. Beyond prevention, we really aren’t encouraged to learn about our own reproductive system unless we very actively seek it out, and I think there’s something wrong with this.
To thicken the plot, I recently chose to have my IUD removed early. For someone that doesn’t want children, this might not make sense either but it wasn’t working for me. I thought it would be a seamless experience because according to most it’s far easier than having it put in and usually comes out with no problem. Not the case with me. My IUD strings got lost after an initial try, and I had to have it removed under sedation and medication on the second round. It was traumatizing. And again, there wasn't support around the process.
Finally, it’s hard to know where to fit in. Honestly, some social situations that involve endless conversations around breastfeeding, sleep training, the best this for that, and every activity that children play — I just want to pass. And I know this is a two-way street. Moms might not care about my childless life, either. Again, I feel badly for saying it, but it’s the truth for me.
Right now is an interesting time for women. While much is still difficult, what shouldn't be hard is supporting each other and having empathy for each other's choices. Instead of being threatened by this, let's lift up all women by allowing them to make decisions that best serve their lives.