I’ve never been someone who likes to commit to anything too far in advance.
In high school I had a boyfriend who always wanted to make plans for the following weekend during the weekend we happened to be enjoying at the moment. I didn’t like feeling pinned down. What if something awesome came up that I just didn’t know about yet? What if I didn’t feel like it next week? What if I changed my mind? His attempts to schedule my time felt like attempts to control it. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t last.
In college, I chose my major by selecting the option that came with the smallest number of required credits, though I graduated with a higher total number of credits than required for my degree. I couldn’t be fenced in to just one area of inquiry when there was so much of interest out there to explore! After college, the structure of working a 9-5 job drove me back to school to pursue the PhD I expected would give me the flexibility to work as, when, and how I wanted. It’s mostly done that and I landed in a career that I love.
My 20+ year marriage represents perhaps the longest commitment I’ve ever made – both freely and a great majority of the time, happily.
When I got married, I assumed kids would soon follow. You know; love, marriage, baby carriage – that whole thing. My husband and I married at early ages – I was just 22, he was 23 – so we had plenty of time. But my standard “I’m too young” in response to the incessant “WHEN ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO HAVE KIDS?!” queries stopped sounding reasonable around the time I hit 35.
For us, it turned out, the answer was never.
The childfree path is not one that appeals to everyone. Trust me; I hear the cries of Selfish! Stupid! Decadent! loud and clear. But for a person who resists committing to a plan further than about a week in advance, doing time for 18+ years with a human I was sure I’d love but wasn’t sure I’d like sounded like a prison sentence.
I wanted the freedom and autonomy that I worried parenthood could stifle. I wanted every day to be Independence Day. And knowing that I wanted those things, the most selfish thing I could do, it seemed to me, would be to bring someone into the world who needed me perhaps more than anyone but to whom I wasn’t certain I could commit.
I do my job (even well, I’d argue). I contribute to the well-being of my community by volunteering my time and donating to causes that matter to me. I feel concern for others and care deeply about social justice and equality. I maintain close friendships and a solid connection with my family. I nurture a marriage that matters to me.
These are relationships, beliefs, and obligations to which I’ve happily committed. If these things place me in the category of selfish, stupid, or decadent, then I embrace the label. As a childfree woman, every day is Independence Day. And I love it.
This piece originally appeared on Huffington Post.