No Grand Epiphany

{originally posted January 21, 2015}

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.comSarah’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

childfree story_sarahI 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 no realistic 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.

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