The path to becoming childfree is a little different for everyone. Sometimes even the term itself seems up for grabs…what exactly is being childfree? Even so, one thing we share is that we’ve made the decision to remain childfree and, for many of us, that decision occurs as the outcome of some process. The process is different for every person because every person’s life is different. Politics, religion (or lack thereof), finances, relationships, geography, childhood experiences, culture, dreams, and ambitions can all play in the decision.
We wanted to learn about the diversity of our readers’ experiences with becoming – and being – childfree. Here, they weigh in.
by Brittany Brolley
It is a rainy Sunday afternoon in late fall. My husband and I are standing by our fireplace, each reading a book. Our two cats are lazily napping in “their” usual spots. The only sound in the house is the fireplace fan and the swish of a page turned every few minutes. And the occasional mid-dream cat noise. There is a deliberate sound missing – one that more households include than not, and a controversial and sensitive topic to many – the sound of children.
A few months ago, a decisive shift occurred in my thinking that gave me a good jolt. After six years of having looked forward to becoming a caring and all-out stimulating and dynamic mother at some indeterminate point in the near future, I suddenly realised that this wasn’t the only possible narrative for my life. I had swallowed the motherhood mandate hook, line, and sinker and I had never given myself the space and time to question whether I really, really want children.
I had roughly known the answer before even asking, but I figured it wouldn’t harm to see what she’d say. This nurse was a new face at my GP surgery, and I was there for a routine Pill check-up and a chat about “lady things” anyway. It was worth a shot.
OK so I’m THE worst decision maker on the planet. I’m a hot mess, I don’t mind admitting it. At times, the stress of just choosing the right outfit has had me in fits of tears, and expensive tickets to events have been thrown in the trash. My usual behaviour when ordering at a restaurant or takeaway food has famously been dubbed the “Emma Buffet” at home because I can never decide what the hell I want and end up ordering two or three different things, only to eat almost none of it. And that was from way before I even had a doggy for all the doggy bags.
I think it all began when I was a kid. I really hated dolls. They frightened me. I wanted to play with cars and my garage. I am thankful my mom never forced me to play with dolls. I received some dolls and hid them in a box. Then when I was growing up, my cousins came along, and I never felt the urge to take them in my arms… I was afraid of babies!
Not long ago, I visited my doctor for a routine checkup. I was seeing this particular doctor for the first time (the one I had been seeing previously had left the practice). As we discussed my health and history, the conversation turned to contraception. “You have not had children, correct?” she said, glancing down at my file.
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.
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.
I love kids. I have always loved kids. I am not repulsed by dirty diapers, vomit, mud, or jam hands. It is nigh impossible to gross me out. I like science museums, amusement parks, fairs, and I don’t even mind the occasional skating lesson. Kids are (mostly) adorable, and fill me with joy. I don’t want kids. I know what you’re thinking: “wait..what?! Didn’t you just get done telling us how much you love kids?!” I did, and I do. That doesn’t mean I feel the need to make one, own one, or pay for one. Let alone two or three.
by Star LaBranche
I was sterilized at the age of 21. I had started researching permanent birth control methods at age 16. By the time I was 19, I was certain that I didn’t ever want to have a baby. One thing that gave me pause during my research was the idea of tubal ligation being a serious, invasive, not completely effective procedure that could lead to early menopause and other serious complications. But then I discovered the Essure procedure and everything fell into place.
Growing up with my older sister, we loved to play with three things: Barbies, Legos and these huge “Dress Up” bins my mom had filled with old clothes, hats and shoes. But Barbie was my favorite and she had this amazing custom house that my dad had built her. She also had a hot pink convertible, a sexy boyfriend and a new job every day depending on what I thought her current skill set was.
an interview with Betsy & Warren Talbot
We’re are a 40-something couple who decided back in 2008 after serious illnesses struck close to home that life was too short to put off our dreams. After a night of one too many margaritas with good friends, we asked the question that would change everything for us: “What would you change about your life right now if you knew you wouldn’t make it to 40?” We were 37 at the time, and we knew we’d regret not living out our retirement dream of traveling the world. So we decided to fast-forward it by about 25 years. It took us two years to save enough money and get rid of all our belongings to travel the world just before we turned 40. Since 2010 we’ve been making our way around the globe, sharing our experience in creating a life and relationship we love through our books, website, and weekly podcast. We now live part-time in Spain.
by Ramona & Frances
In our experience, we have it easy compared to straight folks when it comes to societal pressures to have kids. No one in our families ever asked us when we were going to have children with the assumption that we would. Neither did our friends, to be honest. Could it be that our reputation for being carefree and spontaneous among our friends and family signaled to people that the childfree life was for us? I doubt that. In fact, many off-hand comments reminded us that we were not expected to have children. For example, my partner has a single sibling who once said to us, “Well, since you aren’t going to have kids, it’s all up to me.” This is without any preceding questions or conversation about having children. In fact, at that point we were quietly beginning what would become the very lengthy process of trying to conceive. It served as a reminder that having children wasn’t what the people around us expected us to do. Not even did us getting legally married ten years ago here in Canada add to the pressure to have kids.
I am nearly 31 and my partner is 33. Since I was a girl I was never into having baby toys and silly baby accessories. Growing up I found myself much more drawn to animals than to babies. I have always said that I don’t want kids… and taken a fair amount of flack for it. I have a lot of experience with the standard responses of “you will change your mind when you get older” or “when you have your own you will understand.”
by Daniel (as told to Lisa Taylor)
Daniel is a male from New Zealand. He is 26 years old. He is an elder brother to one sibling. His brother is 6 years younger, and luckily for Daniel their mum did all the “baby chores”. Daniel did have to do some babysitting for his brother. In high school, Daniel knew he had three life path options. His first was the usual, find a partner and have children (or not). His second path was to become a scientific genius in some hardcore career; he would have no time for romance, because he’d be working so many hours in some kind of lab! Daniel’s third path was the one he avoided but it did seem like an only option at one stage: to be forever alone.
by Lisa Taylor
My name is Lisa Taylor. I am now 25 years old. When I was was younger, okay 16 I was dating a guy who had a heart condition. It was so rare he was one of only 2 people in the world who had it. He was also the longest surviving person to have it. In 2006 he died suddenly from his condition. During that time I had just turned 18 and was thinking about motherhood and what the future would bring for me. While I was mourning for his loss I did wish (so badly) that I was pregnant with his child. Alas it was not meant to be and I remain nullipara to this day.
by Marcia Drut-Davis
In 1974, I “came out” telling the world I never wanted to have or raise children. It was the year I felt empowered by “The Baby Trap” by Ellen Peck. That book told me I wasn’t a freak of nature. It changed being “less” to being free of children. It was the year I was interviewed on 60 Minutes and lost my job because of that exposure. It was the first time I heard the word, “pronatalism” and started to understand what it meant.
by Gloria de Leon
As a mature Latina of Mexican American descent, I recognized my life would be defined by choice or circumstance. Given the history of traditional roles and predictable demographics, my path was limited. Every one of my peers was headed towards the same direction. I found myself surrounded by girlfriends engaged by senior year in high school. My thought was, “I’m not ready to get married!”
Hi! I’m Rachel and I am childfree after infertility. My husband and I tried for almost three years to have kids. We had all the tests done, I took my temperature every morning to determine my fertility on any given day, I took the fertility meds (even my husband took fertility meds for a while), but we never got pregnant. … Childless also implies that I didn’t make a choice. I did. I made a huge and very difficult choice. I put aside my dream of being a mother and decided that my happiness and health needed to come first. I recognized that my dreams needed to change.
Growing up I knew that I’d have kids of my own. The path was obvious: grow up, date, get married, have kids and be a dad. Preferably in that order. No steps optional.
This is how it works.
I’ve occasionally been wrong, but for the sake of this post I’ll assume that many guys have a similar mindset.
I first actively questioned this obvious path around nine when I realized kids are a LOT of work. I have first hand experience of this. You see I have four siblings, all older sisters. Yes, four older sisters; thanks for the sympathy.
When I was nine, two (only two!) of my sisters still lived at home with yours truly. We were an absolute handful, or more truthfully, I was an angel with two wicked, older step sisters.