As a “happy DINK” couple ourselves, we’re delighted to share this childfree story from Lisa who, together with her husband, represents another happy DINK couple! Lisa is a teacher and lives on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada with her husband, Marc. She loves all things health and wellness including yoga, running, and reading for pleasure (a luxury those without kids can enjoy). She also has a love of singing and performing in musical theater. Originally from Alberta, she now enjoys all that west coast living brings.
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.
You’ve likely heard the term DINK: Dual Income No Kids. That is what we are. It was a term coined in the 1980’s and my husband and I, age 42 and 37, respectively, have been called that on numerous occasions. As per the negative connotation, it is usually said with slight disdain, jealousy, or even wonder, as it is definitely not the norm in society. I read once that there are three types of women in this world when it comes to children: those who should be moms, those who should be aunts and those who should be nowhere near children. While this was likely deliberately simplistic and somewhat humourous to make a point, I couldn’t help but ask: what about the women who could be great at both being a mom, and an aunt?
Our peaceful and quiet “household of two” is something that my husband and I didn’t happen upon by chance. It was a deliberate, and thoughtful choice – but certainly not one taken lightly, nor without turmoil and confusion, countless hours of discussion, and sometimes tears. How do you decide whether to have kids or not? Is this a topic that should be discussed this much or should it “just happen” as it did in the past? How can a person can literally be on one side of the fence on one moment, and on the completely other side the next? It really doesn’t matter how many people you talk to about their experiences, how much advice you get from people with and without children – when you are undecided, it doesn’t make the decision any easier. There are some people who have always known they wanted to be a parent. There are also some who have always known they wouldn’t. But what about those people who can really see themselves choosing either path? What if they just can’t decide? Some would argue that perhaps they actually already have. If you don’t know for sure, then it’s a no. But is it that simple?
My husband and I have been together for 14 years, married for 6 and have been seriously discussing the topic of child-rearing for the past 7-8 years or so. I remember for a while we had actually both agreed that “no”, we would not have kids. Then I started to doubt the decision. Perhaps it was because I was nearing my mid-30s, perhaps it was because the majority of my friends were either getting pregnant or having a second. It really is what most people ‘do’. I really have been on the fence for a long time, going back and forth about it, talking to friends, trying to find books or internet resources that could help me decide. Most of the advice is that you can’t really look outwards for help with the decision, that is must come from deep within. I was advised to stop thinking about it so much and just focus on what my heart was telling me. I don’t know about you, but that is not an easy task to shut off the brain and the “I think…” part and just channel your soul. But I tried.
I could picture so many wonderful things about having a child: creating another life that is a little bit me, and a little bit my husband. Would he be able to sing like his mom? Would she play rugby like her dad? I can picture going to mom and baby yoga class, parent advisory meetings, and planning birthday parties and holidays. I like babies. I have a maternal instinct. I am really good with kids. When with my friends and their babies, I know what they need before they ask for it. People say that we would be such good parents. But just because I can picture it all and that we might actually be good at parenthood, doesn’t mean it should happen. Yes, I can picture it all and that is also part of the problem.
My sister just got updated family photos. She complained to me that it was a disaster. Her oldest (5) was making all these silly poses, her youngest (3) was crying the whole time, and she said her husband looked like he’d rather be getting a root canal. She worried that they wouldn’t get one good picture for their wall. I half-jokingly suggested that she print out one of the bad ones and put it up instead. “Yup, this is the real us!” You never see the negative side to parenthood on Facebook pictures. Everyone posts the typical happy, smiling, posed shots of their cute children and happy lives. Nobody wants to see the countless moments that leave a parent exhausted, frustrated and resentful.
I can see my husband and I arguing over whose turn it is to change the baby, who is more tired, who gets to go to the gym while the other stays home to watch the baby, then being pissed off at the person who got to leave for a short while. I can picture us drifting away from each other and focusing on getting by each day without losing it. I can see my husband even more stressed about money and the arguments that will ensue. I can see him frustrated that he can’t play electric guitar or go for a motorbike ride as he used to. I can see myself losing my healthy lifestyle that I deeply value, while books I want to read collect dust on the night table. Our quiet home will be chronically noisy and sticky. We will be stressed, both emotionally, physically and financially strained.
But then you picture your precious child looking up at you with his innocent eyes and says, “I love you, Mommy.” or your daughter running to give you an unabashed hug as you arrive home from work. And you go back to the drawing board.
Deciding to have children is even more difficult when your partner is basically a firm no. My husband has never wanted kids. It is not something he ever thought about when he was younger, and he certainly never had visions of himself playing soccer with his kids at the park. He does this on a regular basis with the kids at school and he genuinely loves it. He is a wonderfully kind, funny and hardworking teacher who is unbelievable with kids. But to have one of his own? He says no thanks. Being around kids all day is enough for him and the thought of coming home to a loud, rambunctious household of crying, laughing, whining, questioning, needy children (even one) is not his idea of a pleasant, homecoming picture. But in our discussions, he has said that if I really was adamant about having a child, he would accept it. So the decision is on me. How can I put his feelings aside and try to come to my own personal decision about children? Is it possible to not be clouded by your partner’s wishes? And, does that really sound like a good idea? Even if I decided I really did want kids, do I really want to try to convince him to do something he really doesn’t want to do?
As I battled with this decision both through my internal tennis match as well as our discussions, I came to a very important realization: If I was going to have a child, I wanted it to be HIS child. And I also knew I didn’t want A child bad enough to leave a wonderful relationship and partner. We either have a baby together or we don’t, but I choose him. I have seen some women leave relationships in order to fulfil their desire to have a child, but I just don’t see that for me. I see myself growing old with my beautiful soul of a husband. We laugh A LOT; we are best friends; we genuinely are each other’s “person” (thanks for that, Grey’s Anatomy). We discuss the future and where we may live next. We may get a dog or save a couple more cats, but there likely won’t be a tiny human in this love story.
My husband was on a canoe trip recently with three other guys and they were talking about their families. One of the guys asks him how many kids my husband had. When hubby replied that he didn’t have kids, the guy started laughing, looking at him incredulously and, frankly, in slight awe. When my hubby recounted this story upon arriving home I remember we both felt a sense of relief that we had somehow escaped the doom that is parenthood. We both knew then that we had made the right decision FOR US – as a team. So, we will happily be called DINKs – that’s the path we have chosen and, from my perspective, the view looks great.