No Grand Epiphany: Sarah’s Childfree Story

Our latest childfree story comes from Sarah.

Sarah is a Registered Nurse and primarily prefers to work with older folks. She and her partner love to be outdoors hiking, biking, and exploring. She writes about random shit, adventures, books, and nursing on her blog: www.sarahssunbeam.com. Sarah’s Sunbeam also happens to be the title of the children’s book that she’s currently writing.

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your childfree story with us!

Sarah’s Childfree Story

Sarah & her partner Ryan dressed as Carl & Ellie from Up.

Sarah & her partner Ryan dressed as Carl & Ellie from Up.

I grew up as an only child with “old” parents (my mom was 39 when she had me). People frequently mistook my father for my grandfather (and this horribly offended me as a child). I would beg my parents to take me to Wendy’s, because Wendy’s had these framed posters of kids to adopt. In retrospect, this seems incredibly dangerous and weird. But, I really wanted a sibling. I also really wanted a horse. Luckily, my best friend was also an only child and she had a horse.

Later, when it was clear that I would have no siblings (and no horse) I decided, “I want to adopt three kids someday.” That was in high school. Of course, I had novrealistic concept of adopting or raising three children.

At some point in my early twenties I realized I didn’t want to raise children at all. There was no grand epiphany. Life just evolved that way. I actually like (some) children, but there is no part of me that wants my own.

I’ve spent plenty of time with children, including obligatory babysitting in my teenage years and a part-time nanny gig one semester of college (which I quickly quit for a nurse’s aide job with some elderly folks instead). I assisted midwives birth babies during a nursing internship in Ghana. I helped nurses with sick children, and went home to play endless games of cards and construct origami with energetic neighbor kids. I am still in touch with several of these children (now teenagers). In more recent years, I’ve held my friends’ babies and carried toddlers up hillsides in jerry-rigged kid carrier packs. I’ve given requested advice on medical issues and when to take a sick kid to the ER (always with the disclaimer: I am not a pediatric nurse!) I actually like to be around (some) kids…at least, some of the time.

As far as not having my “own” children…here are some reasons in a nutshell: I already take on a “caregiver” role as a Registered Nurse and do not feel the need to take on more caregiving. I like a clean apartment most of the time. I don’t want the financial stress. Children are too expensive and I would rather spend money on travel or backpacking gear. I like to sleep. I am not incredibly patient. Most children make me want to take a nap (like, an all-day nap). The environmental impact of one kid in the US is ginormous. And the list goes on. Most days I respond, “Just don’t want any” because I get bored of hearing my responses (or get bored of that same question a million times). Mostly, I know I would highly dislike parenting and have absolutely no desire to find out otherwise. Parenting appeals to me as much as a book about mowing grass.

A close friend of mine (with two little boys and a third on the way) recently expressed that my “childfree” interests (this time, in the form of facebook “likes”) were offensive. She felt that this identity somehow belittled her identity (an identity which she has struggled with since parenthood). At first I was slightly annoyed: “For chrissakes, everything is so goddamn kid-centric and everyone is so offended if you think otherwise!” “And you chose to have children. That is not my fault.” That was my first, knee-jerk reaction. Of course, this is a very good friend that I care for very much…

Our friendship is stronger than that. I don’t just like, I love her two little boys. I realize she has struggled with parenthood (uh, who wouldn’t?). While she was trying to figure out herself and her life, here were all of these loud messages that implied to her that my life was “better.” I did not want her parenthood choice and my childfree choice to ruin our friendship.

So, we talked and continue to talk. I assured her that my choice is frequently a “joke.” Even people that I consider “good friends” make comments about how we (“we” being myself and significant other) would make “such great parents!” and the usual “Oh, that is okay now. You will have kids when you are ready” comments are actually quite painful to me. As though I am incapable of knowing my own mind and my own self and that “being smart” and choosing not to have children is some sort of sacrilege. That I need to find space and community that does not judge me for not having or wanting children, and one that does not label me as “selfish” or whatever. I respect her decisions and she respects mine. But, open conversation (and a sense of humor) is incredibly vital to our friendship.

I am all about reproductive freedom (except those assholes with nineteen children on television. I judge them). My choice is to not have my own children. That does not mean I won’t play with kids or love them or go to their terrible figure skating X-mas shows. So. My mission is to remain childfree and to continue to seek out community with likeminded folks as necessary. And, of course, continue my most important and loving friendships with good friends with kiddos.

I still want a horse, but I don’t think that is going to happen either.

16 Responses to No Grand Epiphany: Sarah’s Childfree Story

  1. Kim September 16, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    Get the horse! ! Hubby surprised me with a filly for my 37th birthday. . Fantastic journey! !! 🙂

    • sentzsarah@gmail.com September 22, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

      Haha! That is awesome.

  2. Liesl April 15, 2015 at 8:19 am #

    I relate to this so well! I’m a primary school teacher of 8 and 9 year olds and so I clearly like kids! But I care for them so much, I know I have no capacity to have my own kids. I also have a niece with cancer, scoliosis and as a result, a multitude of health and behavior issues (brain rumors suck!) and lived with my sister to help out for 2 years. Don’t tell me I don’t know what parenting is really like but dammit people dismiss my extremely well thought out and informed decision as “silly” and say “of course you will”. Sometimes I joke about it to friends in the throes of toddlerhood and chaos but then I thought it upset them and that they thought I hated their kids and wouldn’t invite me anymore so I have chosen to move on from that and stay more quiet about it. Not to say I won’t stand up for my decision. I’ve been told to lie and say I can’t have them but I think that just undermines my right to choose to be child free. Does that make sense?

    • Sarah November 7, 2015 at 11:44 am #

      Thanks for the response, Liesl. I am just seeing it now. Wow, sounds like you are caring for MANY children in your life. Yes, I too have joked about childlessness by choice or whatever topic when friends have small kiddos…unfortunately a few of them took it completely personal. I don’t understand how one person’s life choice automatically means another’s choice is “wrong” or “less than.” I’ve also been tempted to say “I can’t have kids”…but then comes “pity” instead of a real conversation. I feel for the people who really do want children and can’t have them…everyone has a “solution” for that!

  3. A. February 16, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

    I am 19 almost 20 years of age. Will my mind change about not wanting children? Maybe. Maybe not. Not counting on it. And I damn sure don’t want to hear another time how I’ll be miserable and lonely without children. Like there aren’t parents who are! As if the only path to fulfillment is parenthood! It’s like some parents can’t understand that there are parents who resent caring for children. I don’t dislike children, but I don’t like them enough to care for them constantly.

    • Sarah November 7, 2015 at 11:53 am #

      I didn’t really want children at your age either…but I thought sure I would change my mind. 10 years later and it still hasn’t changed! The “miserable and lonely” piece is really confusing to me. I would love to tell the hundreds of elderly folks I’ve cared for that they wouldn’t have been so lonely if they had kids…except most of them did have children! And many of those children never visited. Children does not equal lack of loneliness.

  4. Dawnmarie January 23, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    Thanks for sharing your story, Sarah! The people who knowingly say I’ll change my mind about my choice are the worst. I’ve started saying, “Really? Are you going to change your mind about having kids?” I will never understand why people care about the procreation status of others. Why would you want someone who doesn’t want to be a parent to have kids?! That makes zero sense.

    • Sarah January 23, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

      Thanks Dawn. I totally agree.

  5. Mel January 23, 2015 at 1:12 am #

    Sarah’ chiledfree lifestyle is a breath of fresh air to me! I continuously live vicariously through her and my son (currently 3) knows when ever they (Sarah and Ryan) are around an adventure is soon to follow! I am so lucky to be friends with such fantastic people!

    • Sarah January 23, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      Thank you, Mel. Your friendship and support has meant so much to me. And thank you for never pressuring me to have children! Haha.

  6. Linda Sentz January 22, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

    Both choices great choices, and still don’t think of your parents as ‘old’………….laughing…your mom

  7. Seregon O'Dassey January 22, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    It’s offensive to a parent to be offended!I would have told my friend the truth “being a mom was YOUR choice, not mine, and if you’re offended by my FB page don’t go there. I’M offended by you only posting about your kids. Hate to break it to you, but the Earth revolves around THE Sun, not your son(s).” Or daughters. But you get the point

    • Seregon O'Dassey January 22, 2015 at 10:16 am #

      It’s offensive FOR a parent to be offended-sorry for the typo

      • Sarah January 23, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

        Seregon. Yeah, I see where you are coming from. I think maintaining strong friendships after friends have children is challenging, but certainly not impossible. The friendship does change, but not always in a negative way. You just have to find common ground and realize being childfree or being a parent isn’t a person’s entire identity. I do try and feel empathetic towards parents (especially newer parents) because I’ve talked to many (especially women) who feel like they “lose” a huge part of themselves. I think you can only prepare and “expect” that to a certain degree until reality sets in…Facebook can certainly have negative impacts on friendships too! Ha. Especially since people read into other peoples’ “likes” and “comments” and humor too much. If I get burnt out on one person’s endless baby pictures, I usually just avoid looking! Same goes on our end…if we like childfree humor and people are offended, they don’t need to look! 🙂 Real life conversations are so much better anyway!

        • Nonono November 2, 2015 at 5:13 am #

          The funny (or sad) thing it that wishing for children never stops really. Back in my home country people keep asking a friend who has one child already, ;oh when is your next one? So you can have a little couple’. If you have two already, oh you need to have a third one!. If you have three girls, ‘oh you should aim for the boy now.:. In short, can’t never please anyone so better please yourself.

          • Sarah November 7, 2015 at 11:49 am #

            Nonono, that is so true! Culture also plays a huge part in this conversation. I feel incredibly lucky that my (immediate) family isn’t terribly traditional & is not so concerned about my choices. This is such a different conversation when there are huge consequences for not pleasing your family/community, etc.

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