January 21, 2013

living childfree: family is what you make it

the "living childfree" series is about learning about the experiences, motivations and opinions of childfree women and couples - whether it is by choice, by circumstance, or still undecided. if you are interested in sharing your thoughts, please contact me at yael.santo(at)gmail.com.

this edition of living childfree comes to us from natalie and gordon, a long-married couple enjoying the DINK life on their very own farm!

photo by trey ratcliff via compfight

tell me a little bit about yourself.
I'm an artist/designer/writer living on a farm in eastern Ontario. I've been married to my hubby (a lawyer) for 19 years and have four cats, two dogs, 23 Muscovy ducks, 22 chickens and four beehives. No kids!
 
when did you first know you weren’t interested in having children? what was your reasoning for choosing a childfree life?
I'm an only child married to an only child. I always figured I'd have one and see how it went. I was never one of those women driven to have children. As it turned out, I had fertility issues. By the time I got those sorted out in my early 30s, I realized I was quite happy not to have children. My husband felt the same way. We talked about it and decided that parenthood really wasn't for us. I have never regretted that decision. Nor has he! In fact, I often feel like I had a lucky escape. Motherhood is not for me! I want to devote my energy to other things.
 
what were your family and friends reactions like when they first found out? did they take you seriously?
Well, for a long time I could blame fertility issues, so I didn't get too much pressure. In the end, I think a lot of our family/friends just figured we didn't have kids because of that! But even up to a few years ago (when I was in my mid-40s!!) I had people (who didn't know me very well) saying that I still had time to get pregnant! Given that I had a hysterectomy six years ago, I think not. :)
 
did you face any other kind of opposition regarding your choice?
I think there's a lot of pressure, particularly on women, to have children. Some is subtle, some is not.Your parents and in-laws want grandchildren and aren't shy about saying so. We often get asked if we have kids and when we say "no", many people don't seem to know how to handle it. I have heard people say that they were never fulfilled until they had kids, and can't imagine how anyone without children COULD be! Then there's that annoying assumption that people without kids just don't like children. Sometimes that's true, but mostly not. My husband and I volunteered as a Big Couple twice, and had two wonderful "Little Brothers." We have a godson we adore. I love spending time with my friends' kids. But I'm happy that I don't have any of my own.

Motherhood is both venerated and reviled in this society. Personally I'm relieved not to have the label of "mother" stamped on me, above and beyond all else. I am perfectly happy having a family made up of my husband and my assorted pets.

The word "family" is pretty loaded these days. In certain circles, the implication is that if you don't have kids, you aren't a family. Hogwash!
 
do you see your choice changing at all in the future?
Well, it's now physically impossible for me to have a child, so that ain't gonna happen. At 48, I have no plans to adopt and start a family either. The one thing we have done is agree to be guardians of our godson should anything happen to his parents. He has another godfather as well, and between the three of us, I know he would be in good hands. Otherwise, there is no way I'll ever have kids (and I certainly don't want anything to happen to my godson's parents, who are younger than us and full of life!)

Once I made the decision not to have kids, I never regretted it and never thought I would change my mind. In fact, seeing how unhappy and stressed so many of my friends with kids are has made me all the more glad that we didn't have any. I always thought I was put on earth to write and create art, not babies. Honestly, my happiest friends don't have children. And I have a LOT of friends with children.
 
childfree women and couples are often described as “missing out” or “being selfish” – do you feel this way at all?
I hear that so often. It irks me greatly. For starts, having children doesn't make you unselfish any more than not having them makes you selfish! My mother was one of the most selfish people I've ever known, a clinically-diagnosed narcissist. Giving birth to me didn't make her unselfish; if anything, it made her MORE selfish and I still bear the scars from that! I have seen plenty of selfish parents, and plenty of unselfish childfree couples. And growing up in the 70s, I felt that the population explosion was something that needed to be curbed. I don't see how I would have helped the world by adding another human being to it, especially in a country like Canada where one human uses up so many resources. The planet needs fewer people, not more.

Missing out? I think not! I made a conscious decision not to have kids. We thought about it a lot, and it was the right decision for us. I have zero regrets. I love spending time with kids, but I have no desire to have any of my own. My husband and I have a lot of freedom and happiness our lives. We are involved in many charitable causes, and intend to leave our entire estate to charity, a legacy I am more than happy with.

Even when I was considering parenthood, I was always more drawn to adoption than giving birth, because I thought it would be better not to bring another baby into an already-crowded world when so many kids need homes. My hubby didn't want to adopt, so I didn't pursue that, but again, I have no regrets.
 
what do you enjoy the most about your childfree life? what do you enjoy the least?
I enjoy the close and rewarding relationship I have with my husband, and the freedom I have to write, create art, work on my farm, travel, and live life the way I want to. I spent my childhood looking after my mother and am more than happy to have only myself (and my hubby!) to look after now. OH yes, and all those pets. And I love being a godmother and a surrogate Auntie.

The thing I enjoy the least is having such a tiny family. We are both only children, and we have but one parent left living. I am close to a couple of my cousins but that's it. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a bigger family, but to be honest, I'm happy with the family I've created with friends. Sometimes I wonder what will happen if I become incapacitated in my old age, but even if I had kids, there's no guarantee they'd care about me, and that is certainly not a valid reason to reproduce! We plan to make sure we have enough money to pay for care if we need it.
 
what would you tell someone wanting to live childfree, but under pressure to have children?
DO NOT BOW TO THE PRESSURE! Children deserve parents who want them and love them. Too many people pop out babies with nary a thought, or have children because they are pressured to do so even though they really don't want to. If you are sure about your decision, stick to it. It's your life and no one else's, and you have the right to choose how to live it. It's tough standing up to all the pressure, but it's worth it.

As a criminal lawyer, my husband sees people in court every week who should never have had children. He sees neglected and unloved children who are numbing their pain with drugs. Heartbreaking! If you're going to have kids, you have a responsibility to love and care for them and bring them up in a healthy environment. If you're not even sure you want them to begin with, then don't do it!

When I was quite young my Dad said to me, "You know, you don't have to have children if you don't want to. Never let anyone pressure you into it." I never forgot that advice. It made me feel better in the years after the died, when people were asking me when/if we are having kids.
 
any last thoughts?
Children are great. I love the way they see the world. I love they way they think. I love their art and creativity. Being childfree doesn't mean I don't appreciate kids, because I do. But even if you hate kids, it's irrelevant. The choice to have children or not belongs to the couple in question, and is the business of absolutely NO ONE ELSE. People are far too judgmental about this subject. If you don't want kids, hold your head high and be true to your decision. Who cares what people think?

One last thing: before you commit to a partner (marriage, moving in, whatever), be very clear to each other about your feelings regarding parenthood. I think it would be very wrong to pressure your partner into parenthood if he/she doesn't want it. Sometimes there's reluctance or fear, which can be normal! But to force someone to have a baby against his or her wishes does no good to anyone, least of all the little spirit being brought into the world. Single parenthood is fine. If you want a baby and don't have a partner, but have the resources to care for one yourself, then go for it! But if you're in a relationship, it's very important that you discuss all aspects of potential parenthood BEFORE one of you gets pregnant. It is very wrong to blackmail or trick people into parenthood.

I think it's important to have a strong, healthy relationship before you start talking babies, because if it isn't good before the baby comes, it sure as hell isn't going to improve after you add in the stress of parenthood.

So in a nutshell: children are forever, and they deserve parents who want and love them and can care for them throughout their childhood (and often beyond!) Parenthood is NOT the only road to fulfillment in life. There are lots of people out there who will want to judge you for deciding to be childfree. I say it's none of their damn business how you lead your life. Do what's right for you and be happy. Life is too short not to be.


thanks again to natalie for sharing her story with us!

7 comments:

Robin said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I hate the idea that children are needed in order to make one's life feel "fulfilled". How can they guide a child's life if they don't have their own lives first, and don't know what they believe in?

Courtney said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love this post! I'm still on the fence about kids myself, but it's nice to hear from someone who made the decision and is old enough to safely say "no regrets".

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I really relate to Natalie's story. One of the most compelling reasons I didn't take the path of motherhood was because of health issues. Feasibly, I probably could have become a mom. But how is that remotely fair to a child, if I got really sick again? To me? To my better half? The financial consequences alone ... yikes! And yet I had doctor after doctor (always the male ones) counsel me on how "best to proceed with a high-risk pregnancy," as though it were a foregone conclusion that I wanted it. I'm just grateful to be happy, healthy and ALIVE. Thanks, Natalie, for sharing -- you sound like a super gal! :)

Yael said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Robin
i definitely agree - you should know what you want and believe in before trying to bring a child into this world. it's only fair to all parties!

@Courtney
i'm so glad you were able to get something out of this! i was so happy to hear from someone in their 40s who is happily childfree!

@Anonymous
thank you for sharing your story! i'm glad you have found happiness and health in your life! it's great to keep in mind the expectation and "the norm" don't always add up to the best of circumstances, nor the best living situation, for all involved!

Mrs. Mama said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I'm so glad I ran across this article. My best friend and her husband are child-free by choice and I can't wait to show her this article. Thanks

Tonii said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Yael, I am glad I found your blog on the Mingle With Us Blog Hop! While I am on the other end of the spectrum expecting our 5th baby, I am always interested and excited to see ALL different kinds of perspectives when it comes to different women. I am excited to be your newest follower! Thanks for co-hosting with us!

Knatolee said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Very sorry to be so late in thanking you for posting this, Yael!! I'm glad people enjoyed it. :)

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