This week I finished reading Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen Walker. (If you’re already offended, you may stop reading here and type your hate mail posthaste. That’s email@example.com. Got it? Okay, on we go.)
At first, I didn’t even want to tell Dan the title of the book. He asked me what I was reading one night before bed. “I don’t want to say,” came my response.
“You’re totally reading Twilight, aren’t you?” he joked.
Now, it’s not that Dan and I aren’t on the same page about not having kids. We both agree we don’t want children of our own. The reason I didn’t want to tell him the title of the book was that I didn’t want him to think I was still trying to convince myself that this was what I really wanted.
Anyway, the second night he found me reading my Kindle in bed, and he asked again. I told him the title of the book with some reluctance. He gave me a questioning look, but I explained that it was less of a how-to guide and more of a commisebration (equal parts commiseration and celebration). He didn’t seem too worried about me then, and that was that.
Childfree and Childless
In the book, Walker talks about trying to come up with a term for the spawnless (my word, not Walker’s) that is void of negative connotations. Childfree was the best she could do, though she openly admits that people with children are sometimes offended by the term because it seems to indicate a dislike for children or a feeling that all children are at best a nuisance and at worst a burden.
Then, of course, those who are childfree by design balk at the term childless because it’s a word too often associated with emotional trauma and great pain. It’s a word typically reserved for couples that tried to have children but, for whatever reason, could not. Not all childfree adults are sad or unhappy that they don’t have kids.
On this blog I get to label myself, and I choose the term childfree too. It’s the most accurate for my circumstances.
If I Wasn’t Trying to Convince Myself, Why Was I Reading the Book?
I feel that as a childfree person (and woman, in particular – men are still somehow human if they don’t want kids) I exist at times on the fringe of society. I wanted to read the book because I wanted to feel like less of a freak, and I wanted to be comforted by the fact that other people think and feel the same things I do. It worked some, in case you were wondering.
Childfree People Make Sacrifices Too
Childfree people realize that our time on this planet is limited, and we can’t do everything. I chose to be a writer and editor, and I’m okay with the fact that such a choice mostly precludes my ever being a doctor or a fighter pilot.
I have chosen freedom to travel or move whenever I want (whether I do it or not), financial stability, quality time with Dan and a sufficient amount of alone time to satiate my introverted tendencies. And similarly I understand that these choices preclude my being a mother.
I won’t experience first birthdays, pre-school graduations, and white-knuckled driving lessons the way parents do. And, yes, I feel some loss when I think about this, but for me it’s a perfectly acceptable sacrifice. And that little twinge of grief I feel on occasion is evidence that I really have thought this whole thing through.
Moms and dads give up a lot for their children. It’s good, and I’m grateful my own parents were willing to give up so much for me. But childfree adults make sacrifices too, and I think it would go a long way if others were just a little more aware of this.
I’m Not Selfish
Well, maybe I am. But it’s not being childfree that makes me selfish.
Childfree people often share similar experiences – like being called selfish by someone who just doesn’t understand and makes no attempt to see things from another perspective. It’s an inevitable consequence I guess.
To these people I say: Selfish is having a child and still trying to maintain the independence and freedom I obviously need to stay sane. Selfish is having a child just because I don’t want to spend the last ten years of my life in a nursing home alone. Selfish is having a child just so people with children will not think I’m a cold, heartless, baby-hating bitch.
I Don’t Hate Your Kids, By the Way
I am genuinely happy that other people are willing to have children. The world needs kids. I’d be glad to cheer for your child’s team at his next T-ball game, and I am grateful for the invitation. I like seeing pictures of your children as they grow, and I like trying to decide which parent a newborn favors most. Hell, I even laugh and coo at babies on YouTube at least twice a week.
However, when your child stands up in the booth at Pizza Hut, reaches over the back of the seat, and attempts to stab my boyfriend with a fork? Don’t expect me to laugh and say, “Oh that’s all right” because children are precious miracles and discipline is for criminals. Instead, expect my childfree self to glare in your general direction and silently will you to be more considerate of others, take the fork away from the kid, and tell her to plant her chubby butt cheeks in the booster seat until further notice.
Ahem. Sorry, digression.
A Final Word
My parents are both extremely awesome and have never once pressured me about giving them grandbabies, even when I was married. I know that somehow they get or at least respect my decisions. But sometimes I fear that outsiders will assume the worst of my parents based on my childfree choices. I fear that people will think I had a horrible childhood or that I am trying desperately not to live the life they did. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I try in many ways to be like my mom and dad without actually being my mom and dad.
Comments are open to all, but childfree people are especially encouraged to join the commisebration.