I Didn’t Have a Good Childhood….

Here at w{n}hab! we like to tackle childfree myths. Of course when we say something is a myth what we’re actually saying is that empirically the evidence to date refutes the particular notion. And since we’re all smart we know that empirical patterns do not mean something “always” or “never” happens.

For example, one childfree myth says that all childfree people hate kids. Empirically, we know that isn’t true. Some childfree don’t like kids but most  don’t hate them and many actually like them!

Unsurprisingly, there are even some parents out there who hate kids, so…

Another myth that we sometimes hear about the childfree is that they must not have had good childhoods. While that’s true for some childfree, as it is for some parents, it would be wrong to assume that it’s true for all childfree. In Pete’s case, however, it is true. Here, Pete shares his experience and his choice to, in his words, “break the cycle.”

Pete’s Childfree Story



I didn’t have a good childhood growing up.  It wasn’t as bad as many, but it wasn’t a good one. My father was a verbally abusive alcoholic. He was extremely manipulative, and my brother and I were often used as leverage against my mother to keep her compliant. As time went on and we grew older, the situation grew worse.  My parents finally divorced, but by that time I was already in college and had moved out of the house.

As an adult, I had never particularly wanted children. I had never completely ruled out the possibility, but as time went on and years passed, I became more certain that parenthood wasn’t for me. I dated a single mom in my early 20’s and saw how much work it really was.  I decided I wasn’t interested in the responsibility, I didn’t see the up side to having a child of my own. I didn’t want to have to deal with screaming toddlers and dirty diapers. And I certainly didn’t want to be in a situation where my children were used as leverage against me, as was so often the case when I was growing up.

I ended up getting married to my best friend in 2008, after about 8 years of dating. It was something else that I never really saw myself doing, but I loved my wife and it was something she wanted, so I figured “What the hell.” To me it was just a piece of paper, it didn’t really mean anything – what mattered was how you felt about the person. We were on the same page with nearly everything, including children. Maybe we’d adopt someday, if we felt like it – but neither of us were interested in going through having a baby. Our life together was happy and calm, with lots of space to do our things. We owned a modest home. We went on cruises in the Mediterranean and the Bahamas. I tinkered with old Volkswagens and perused my childhood dream of being a race car driver, she played with miniatures and sang in a choir. Life was pretty good.

We’d been married about a year and a half or so when my brother and sister in law had their first child. I really wasn’t impressed by this whole development, but my wife seemed oddly captivated by the experience, and spending more time across the street at their home. I thought nothing of it at the time, but it was only a few months later at a party on the 4th of July, 2010 when the bomb dropped. While I was inside, my wife was outside standing in a crowd of my friends. She said, “I’m hoping to wear him down to have a baby. Just like I did to get married.”

My friends one by one sneaked off to warn me. “Do you know what your wife just said?” I was convinced they had misheard. Misunderstood. After all, we’d been together for nearly a decade now, surely that wasn’t the case!

When she did finally approach me on the topic a month later, I asked her why she suddenly wanted a child?  “Who will take care of me when I’m old?” she asked.  “I’m lonely,” she said.   I was flabbergasted, but firm. I told her I wanted her to be happy, and if she wanted a baby that was great. She should go do that.  But it would not be with me.  And I did not want her to be angry or resentful down the road if she stayed with me and did not have a child.  She backed down and said she would rather have me and not have a child, than the other way around.

She slowly became angry and resentful.  And very cold.  The elephant in the room never found a way out.  Our relationship ended less than two years later. Not long after screaming “If you love me why won’t you give me the baby I want,” she packed up a u-haul and moved halfway across the country to be near a married father of 3 whom she met on a work trip a few months before

* * *

It’s been a few years.  I still tinker with old Volkswagens, and pursue my hobby of race car driving. My brother and I speak infrequently, even though we still live across the street from each other. We had little in common, and even less now. He and his wife maintain a friendship with my ex-wife, and, from what I can tell, view me as selfish and solely responsible for the dissolution of my marriage.

I had a Vasectomy.

I am single.

To my knowledge, my ex wife is still childless.

Childfree Epilogue

That probably sounds like a pretty terrible child free story.  It’s certainly not one of the happier ones where the couple travels the world together on many great adventures.  Lord knows that’s the one I envisioned. I wanted a house that was paid off, and regular vacations to adventurous places. It’s more difficult to pay bills on one income, and I haven’t been able to go on vacation in the years since this all happened.

But the truth is, it actually is a fairly happy story – especially for the child that never was.  If you stand back and look at what this kid would have faced… one parent who didn’t want a child, and the other… well, use your own adjectives here. Is there any way that could have gone well?

I consider my decision to stand my ground and be childfree a victory, a sign of intelligence, a realization that at least one of my parents (and at least one of theirs going back generations) was reliant on a bottle and not capable of raising a happy, emotionally healthy child.

Not everyone should be a parent, but many will anyway.  I can proudly say I won’t make that mistake.  I simply don’t want children.  Not because I am afraid, but because I am aware of myself and my limitations. I have broken the cycle. I’m sure many would say that since I’m aware enough, I’d certainly avoid the same mistakes (I already rarely drink alcohol).  If I wanted children, I’m positive I would do better than those who made me what I am.  But, I don’t.  I’m at peace with that.

The most unfortunate thing of all this is, I generally like children. But because I share WNHAB statuses and childfree articles on my facebook page, friends become apprehensive.  People make assumptions that I hate kids. “You can come over, but…I mean… I have kids, I know how you feel about them.” You CAN like children without wanting your own.

 The neighborhood kids all seem to think so, they like to hang out in my garage while I work on cars. They tell me they want to be like me when they grow up. That’s a pretty awesome thing to hear from a little kid – and even cooler when you realize he has parents of his own that he probably doesn’t say that to.

10 Responses to I Didn’t Have a Good Childhood….

  1. Div November 3, 2015 at 12:33 am #

    Hi Pete: I just about started crying reading your post. YOU ROCK and absolutely did the right thing. Good on you for standing up to what was–in the end–total emotional blackmail…and you’re right, it would have been just terrible for the child. As the survivor of a s**t childhood myself (much as you described yours), I empathise greatly. All the very best and I hope you have every happiness you wish for. You deserve it and I want you to never doubt that. 🙂

  2. Elza November 25, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Getting married soon, really hope that wont happen with me again – only its other way around – with my future husband. When we started to meet he did talk about possible children in future, latest years I confirmed that I dont want any, never did – and he is saying that it is fine, he is ok with that and he/we have other things to do instead of rising kids. Just quite afraid that after a few years it can change tho (we are both 29y.o now).

    • Elza November 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      Not again – but as well*

  3. Helen November 10, 2014 at 5:44 am #

    Peter, I totally agree with these comments, love the way Torienne put it: “you demonstrated a degree of integrity and character that she clearly did not possess”. As someone who also had a difficult childhood, & decided not to have children, I know I made the decision that was right for me. I applaud your integrity & your self-awareness, & truly believe you made the choice that was right for you. Wishing you much peace & happiness.

  4. Torienne August 16, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    I have a hypothesis that people who have unhappy childhoods sometimes choose not to have children themselves because they know better than to believe the propaganda. To me, you sound like such a person. When you told your manipulative, selfish wife that you would not stand in her way, nor would you have children, you demonstrated a degree of integrity and character that she clearly did not possess. You also demonstrated enormous clarity. Many men end up with children they did not want, because they got talked into it, with promises that it would be wonderful. You knew how horrible it could be, and you were unswayed.

    I’m now 56, long past children, and childfree. Regrets? Ha. My childed friends have teen and adult children, and they’re envious of me, because for almost none of them, did it work out the way the advertisements promised, just as it hasn’t worked out for your ex. And nearly every day I find new reason to be glad that I wasn’t stupid, selfish and mindless enough to add to the misery of the planet and the hardships of my own life by having a child.

  5. Vgasm July 30, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    So sorry to hear that you lost your wife, but I think it’s admirable that you didn’t lose your identity -that your remained true to yourself in regard to your child-free choice. I think you are a very noble human being; and intelligence yes, that is my opinion on the subject too. I always talk about how it’s attractive for someone to act based on intelligence over instinct, rationalism over irrationality, delayed gratification over instant gratification, reason over impulse, moral over temptation: all these are traits of the strong in my opinion. I’ve received a lot of ignorant remarks from family and others concerning my child-free choice (especially being female), however, I too have not had a good childhood…it took me a long time to understand why I was actually one of those who literally “hated” children but, finally, I’ve found the answer to my unwanted negative feelings of hatred (being subjected to parentifaction through-out my childhood) and have furthermore -to my relief- learned to tolerate children. I want to master this new-found tolerance by taking it to the next level of liking children however.The ironic thing is that I will be enrolled in a 3 year program in college to be a Child and Youth Worker then I’ll articulate to university for a bachelor’s in psychology or social work. And in 2 months, I will be married to a man with 3 children! Thank you for sharing your child-free journey and I wish you further happiness!

    ~ ☮ ~

  6. Cat July 30, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    Good on you Pete. I was reading this and gasping at the comments by your wife all the way through. If you loved her you’d give her a child? That is not love, and sounds like a child saying they hate their parent when the child doesn’t get what they want.

    I agree that what good is it to a kid that is not loved? It is better to have a kid loved by both parents than resented by one or both.

    • pete July 30, 2014 at 10:59 am #

      Thanks Cat. I tried to be fair when writing about my experience. I loved my wife, and I’m not perfect. I don’t want to be percieved as a victim. But some the things that happened were so outlandish it was hard NOT to make it sound the way it did. I still ask friends who were there to remind me that it actually happened.

      Her dad asked me “Why did you get married if you weren’t going to have children?” I’ve been told numerous times “What did you expect, all women want children.”

      It’s thanks to sites like this one that I feel supported and know I’m not crazy. Lol

      • Stef August 21, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

        Completely in agreement with the many insightful comments here, you were absolutely right in sticking to your guns – to your integrity – and not compromising on something as important as this when you know what kind of road that was to go down. And the comments you’ve quoted are simply shocking in the level of manipulativeness, self-centredness, and lack of regard for your needs and desires that they revealed. Run a mile when you hear a woman say she’ll “wear” him down alright…

        The sad thing is that these comments are not as “outlandish” as you mention. I come from a Mediterranean culture where this kind of emotinal blackmail of men – “catching a man” and holding him fast by the metaphorical balls… – is commonplace and often how women do it here. Marriage is a prize (oh patriarchy that stunts the emotional development of men and women alike…), children the accessories that validate women, that they live through, their objects of control that they can play around with and often inadvertently (through lack of any parental self-reflection or critical thought) screw up in any way they like (“why don’t you give me the baby [object] that I [I, I, I, endlessly I, who cares about you] so desperately want…”).

        Good on you for making the decisions you knew you had to make. You’ve got it a thousand times better than the millions of desperately unhappy people who settled for a dreadful compromise and are now stuck in dead marriages and with broken relationships with their children. Your account had its very low points but on the whole it gives one great heart. Take care!

    • Jen July 30, 2014 at 11:57 am #

      Good call, Pete. I knew someone in a similar situation. He gave in. Oddly enough her demands and manipulations did not end, they got worse. They were in a nasty divorce while kid was still in nappies, and before I lost touch ( couldn’t stand the pathos) they were lawyering up for the custody battle of the century. Someone who thinks like that… it would never have ended well. So happy you dodged that bullet!

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