In our new Realtalk series, we're sharing personal stories about fertility and family planning. We hope they offer support and inspire honest conversation about an incredibly tough topic.
Before my husband and I became engaged at 27, we talked openly about the decision to have children. And we were both on the same page: Neither of us had the desire to be parents.
But after the wedding, buying a house, and seeing my friends start families, I started to have feelings leaning toward having a baby. This was also the year that we turned 30.
So for the sake of my happiness, my husband tried to change his own mind. He talked about it with his closest guy friends and soul-searched. At the tipping point, when we were 31, we ended up having a long state-of-the-union talk about our future and whether it would involve children. Or, whether it would even involve us staying together.
And I realized that, as sad as I was at that moment in time, I really couldn't see myself as a mother for the long haul. I was more disappointed about missing the opportunity to feel the sensation of being pregnant than about raising a family. This was not a reason to have a baby — this was just my biological clock kicking in.
After our decision, I found that this window of time was very lonely because I didn't feel I had another woman in my life whom I could relate to. My mother was devastated that she wouldn't have grandchildren through me. And some of the people around us had a difficult time understanding how we had come to this decision. How could we possibly understand what we would be missing out on?
I felt like many people blamed my husband. Some even suggested I have a "whoops!" baby. And I know my husband was going through a similar experience with people asking, "Why don't you just give her a baby?"
Without a doubt my husband loves me more than anything. But his moral compass told him having a baby "just because" was not the right thing for him to do. And he was right. In what world is that fair to him, to me, or to a child?
Today, my husband and I are 34 and are very content about our conscious decision not to have children. While we enjoy our nephews and the children of our friends, neither of us feel that we are lacking something in our lives. I'm sure that my friends and family members might still disagree. But I haven't thought twice about the decision. When my girlfriends tell me they are expecting, I feel nothing but joy for them. No jealousy, no sadness, no "what if."
What I Wish More People Understood About Choosing To Be Child-Free
In the years since our decision, a few things have become very clear to me. For one, people feel it is socially acceptable to interrogate me on why I am childless.
It never ceases to amaze me how callous people can be when asking these questions. What if I was childless because of my health? There could be any number of reasons I don't have children, and people (let's be honest, women) who are basically strangers have no problem asking me about it. Once they hear it was an actual, personal decision, they usually respond with, "Well you don't know what you're missing." Or "You're young; you may change your mind."
Recently, I even had a woman say to me, "People who choose not to have children are usually very selfish." I rarely outwardly react to comments like this because I don't feel I need to defend our decision. But I couldn't help but think, how is it selfish to take years to make the decision about whether you are suited to be parents?
I've also noticed that because I've decided not to have children, my time is considered less valuable. I work in accounting and my hours recently changed so that I'm now working later into the evenings. In conversations, I've had several people ask me, "Well, what did you do with that free time anyway? You don't have kids."
Let's be clear on something: Just because I don't fill my time with picking up children from day care, taking them to swimming lessons and birthday parties, and packing lunches until 11 p.m., does not mean that my time is misspent. One of the things my husband and I discussed was that if this was our path in life, I would go back to school. Not only do I work full time, but I am now also studying for my business undergrad degree and then my accounting designation. Not to brag, but all this "free time" has allowed me to maintain a 4.0 average while holding down a full-time job.
Truth be told, I don't need to justify how I spend my time just because it's not spent raising children. I have the utmost respect for parents and their responsibilities. But I also deserve the same respect in return.
Above all, the biggest thing I've learned from all this is that I truly listen now. Instead of spewing off my infinite wisdom, I try and absorb what my friends and family say about things that are important to them. I had a good friend lose a baby to a miscarriage a few years ago and out of frustration she told me one day that she was so sick of hearing, "Well, at least you know you can get pregnant now."
I was one of the people who said that. To be honest, the only reason I said it was for the sake of saying something. But all she needed from me was a shoulder, not words.
Now, I try to listen with an open mind and heart instead of offering an opinion. Comments that we all make might seem harmless in our heads, but to others they are flippant, judgmental, and hurtful. Having or not having a baby does not define a woman. Being a kind and loving soul does.
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