Childfree To Be You and Me

I’ve talked to a few friends recently, who have given me the distressing news that they are choosing not to have children…and that people keep harassing them about it. 
The first bit, the choosing not to have kids bit, is not something that should be doubted or questioned or criticized. I think not having kids is a very logical, sane, reasonable choice a person or couple can make. 
So, why do older couples and parents of all ages so strongly encourage, or even shame, their family and friends about their decision to not add children to their family? 
I think it’s several reasons. 

1. I mean, we’re mammals. (That, by the way, will be the title of my 2nd book) and we’re biologically programmed to reproduce. So, likely, if we see someone ignoring their bio clock or electing to not make life decisions based on their twitchy reproductive organs, it makes us feel unbalanced and insecure about our own decisions. And maybe about the future of our mammal tribe. I guess. I mean, by all accounts, we’re drowning in human mammals on the planet. We’re good. Your cousin, Tina, does NOT need to have a baby to keep us afloat. Leave her alone. 
2. FOMO. Having bio kids does have a narrow window of about 30 years of our lifespan (having bio kids *easily* has a narrower one than that), so the concern is if you ‘drag your feet’ too long, you’ll have the rest of your lifetime filled with regrets over something you can’t fix. But, the thing is, I think that by the time you’re in your 30s or 40s, you know yourself pretty well and know if you want to parent. And, if you’re waiting for career or couplehood to fall into place before you spring out some offspring, there is good science out there to help, or  adoption. But that’s not what w’ere talking about. We’re talking about folks who do not want to have their own kids. They may like kids, love kids even. They may very well want to be crazy involved in the lives of their nieces and nephews or friends’ kids or whatever, but they know they don’t want to parent. And that’s fine. 
3. I mean, it’s really, really fine. There have been studies that show that the happiest people on the planet don’t have kids. And also how detrimental children are to relationships. “In fact, people without kids were happier than any other group, including empty nesters.” Read this article on Psychology Today. Pretty interesting. It discusses the negative impact that kids have on individuals and relationships- loss of intimacy and privacy, stress, financial loss, sex, etc. I TOTALLY BUY ALL OF IT. My kids are the greatest two people who have ever breathed, but still- all of that rings absolutely true. My life is infinitely more stressful and my marriage more burdened since having kids. Also, no matter how hard we work, there seems to be less money. And no time. 
4. Your life will be “empty” or “lonely” or “without purpose” without kids. I don’t know. I’ve heard this one from older people a lot. I know that before we had kids, we did spend more time on ourselves than on…kids. We were more fit, better read, better traveled, better slept. All that is true. But we also pursued our careers more aggressively/successfully and took riskier risks creatively and did more volunteering and giving of our time and money to our community. It wasn’t all bad for us or for the larger ‘us,’ either. I think, if you have a big pile of friends and family, and stay active in the world, there’s no reason to believe you’ll have less companionship or purpose at any stage in life…and, if you’re worried about who will take care of you in old age, it’s kind of presumptuous to assume you’ll be covered if you HAVE kids. I mean, they might move away. They might not want to or be able to be what you need of them, you know? 
So, why do we have kids? Because we like dressing them in ironic Halloween costumes that make our friends laugh. We like the god-like power of assigning a name to a person that they then have to live with for the rest of their lives. We like to challenge of carrying 15 grocery bags, 2 backpacks and a screaming person up stairs. We wanted to put our love toward young people who might occasionally love us back. We maybe a little bit wanted to put something next generation-y into the world? (Yikes). We thought we had to, because it’s ‘what you do?’ 
I don’t regret my decisions, but I would never impose them on other people. My kids are the bees’ elbows, and I’m so glad they’re part of my family, but I don’t think I’d say, “I can’t imagine life without children.” Being a parent has been great for me, but I could also see how not being a parent would have been swell, too.
So, you know, if you’re a parent and you find yourself in conversation with someone who is choosing not to be a parent, don’t be weird and pushy. Don’t be every interviewer ever who talks to Jennifer Aniston. Just don’t do it. 
 
And if you’re a child-free person and you’re stuck in a conversation with someone who is trying to bully you into parenthood, tell them what you’re reading, what your travel plans are, and what you ate at brunch last week. That should shut them right up. 

 

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