Child-free by choice discussion — The Bump
May 2016 Moms

Child-free by choice discussion

Ok, I know this may seem weird to talk about on a BMB, but my older sister and I were talking about the whole societal pressure to get married and have children. She is 30 yrs old, extremely independent, has lived alone her entire adult life, very career-oriented and successful, and yet still feels the pressure to follow a certain path. It was a little weird talking to her as her married younger sister with a toddler and one on the way, but as we talked about why I wanted to have kids (and how I have known since as long as I can remember that I wanted to be a mom), I realized that it is fascinating to consider why someone would have no interest in having children. Don't get me wrong, my sister is very loving, compassionate, and great with my son. She loves being an auntie and just melts when he runs to her and gives her slobbery kisses. She wipes his nose, changes his diaper, cuddles with him, sings with him. She in no way hates kids. And that was her whole point. She said "I love kids so much that I know my lifestyle, the one I choose and love, could never give a child everything they would need. And that is just not fair to the kid, to me, or to my future partner." This has made finding a romantic partner very hard for her because all the guys she dates are looking for marriage and someone to mother their children. I didn't realize how real the pressure is because I got married fairly young and followed the "acceptable" path of marriage, house, baby. We then talked about what marriage really is and is it just a stepping stone to starting a family? She wondered if she ever even wanted to get married since children are not anything she wants. It was so interesting and we ended up talking for hours while my son sang and danced and played quietly, sometimes climbing on Auntie's lap and playing with her hair. I realized that some of my reasons for wanting to have a child were very selfish and not as noble as I would like to think. I like being needed, I like knowing that there is a human who will love me forever, I like having an identity of "mom" and being part of this martyr-esque group, complaining about being exhausted and humble-bragging about how my kid is "only" meeting 9/10 developmental milestones for his age. And some of my sister's reasons for not wanting a child are very responsible and reasonable and respectable.

I guess what I am getting at is it was a great discussion and I didn't know if you ladies (and gents) had any thoughts about why you chose to have kids, what societal pressure you felt, and if you feel like you need to convert the child-free by choice. I used to feel that way about my sister (saying patronizing things like "When you meet the right person..." or "Just give yourself time, you'll change your mind"), but now I feel much more aware of the struggle she has gone through and compelled to encourage her to be honest and true to herself. Is parenthood right for everyone? I am thinking, probably not...

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Re: Child-free by choice discussion

  • I don't think I've ever really thought about why I want kids except that I want a big family so hopefully they will be close and supportive of one another when they get older. I have several friends though who never want to have children or who will never have children at this point in their lives. I think most of them are quite happy with that choice and it makes sense for them. One of them does bug me, but that is because she made that choice for her and her husband, even knowing that her husband really wants kids. So her choice seems unfair to me.
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  • I can't really describe why, but I have always known I wanted to be a mom. I didn't always know what I wanted to be when I grew up (I still don't, kind of Forest Gumped my way to a career but that's a topic for another thread :)) but I knew I wanted to be a mom. Ever since I was a kid I had the overwhelming feeling that I was meant to be a mother, and I still have that feeling.

  • @LadySamLady I have this art project from kindergarten that was all about "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up" and guess what I wrote? A mom! My mom was telling me that my teacher told me that wasn't a job and to pick something else so, like the sass-pot I am, I said "Well, isn't a kindergarten teacher kind of like a mom? Then I guess I'll have to be that if I can't be a mom like I want to be." My mom got a call on that one!

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  • Completely non-serious answer, but has she seen Idiocracy? It might change her mind, she's supposed to have kids!

  • I have had similar discussions with my sister-- except that she does say she wants kids and a husband someday, she just wanted to focus on getting through medical school, residency, etc. first. I've never really understood why she felt she needed to wait on everything, but I respect her choice. Even though I always knew I wanted to be a mom, I wasn't ready to have children until DH's and my 3rd anniversary (we have been together 8 years at that point though). I wanted time to settle into being married, to work on a house a little, to get tenure and get into curriculum writing-- and to be ready for my body to change. Looking back on it, I don't think I'd wait on my career if I had to rewind and re-do it. I've never really felt the need to talk people into having children-- but I do emphasize to people who try to complain about how awful kids are, that everything changes, but it's wonderful at the same time. 

  • @schicksal I don't think she has...but I have a feeling she would love to hate-watch it!

    Another interesting thing that came up was a fundamental difference between my sister and me. I confessed that I am terrified of being alone and that when I am alone I need people to get as close as possible to me (cuddle on the couch, hug me, etc). My sister visibly shuddered and said "I am afraid of being too close. When I feel lonely, I need to go out and be around as many people as possible." Then she said how she could never imagine sharing a body with another person, pointing at my blump. She said "How can you stand knowing there is a person INSIDE OF YOU?!" I said calmly and serenely, "I am never alone. It feels complete. Like even when there is no one else around, I can tune in and know there is life inside me. I don't feel suffocated (ask me in a few months!) or claustrophobic. I feel at one with myself and my little nugget." Which is how I feel when I am cuddling with my son or MH. I feel intense anxiety when I am at fairs and malls, crowded places with lots of people packed in. Can't do elevators etc. So I think my sister was shocked that I felt so relaxed and peaceful with another person literally sharing my body space. It really got me thinking how bizarre this whole pregnancy thing is and how upsetting the entire notion could be to someone like my sister. She needs her space and when you are pregnant or raising a kid, you have no privacy, no personal space. For me, it is heaven to have a little toddler climbing up my leg, MH gently rubbing my back (we are super touchy-feely in an appropriate, non-PDA sort of way) and just knowing my nugget is wiggling around in there, even if I can't feel it yet. And as much as I might sigh and complain about it over coffee with my mommy friends, I am going to love having two little people want to be near me and have me hold them and be all up in my business!

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  • I didn't want kids for a long time. I never played with dolls... I was great with kids, but I didn't really want my own. I don't like change; I love routine. I don't relish the idea of attaching myself to another human permanently. I didn't even want to get married for a long time. That changed, but it was not easy for me. My husband has known forever that he wants kids. This all seems very easy and natural for him. I am naturally nurturing with animals, and I definitely want OLDER kids...mostly, I'm at a point where I am not really looking forward to having a baby, but I'm looking forward to having a child later on. I'm just going to have to get through the baby part... Still, my husband is going to be the more maternal one, if I'm honest. I've got a high-stress career that requires lots of travel, and that's not changing. My husband has a very steady job, but his life is family. I think our dynamic will be different than a lot of families'.

    ETA: I really think a lot of my anxiety is my perfectionism. It hurts to know, up front, that I'm going to make mistakes that will affect a human being for the rest of his/her life. I'm also kind of afraid of the love... and this is why I'm in therapy.
    This is so much how I am/was in every way. Even when I was pregnant with my first, I was terrified of being her primary caregiver and if I would be able to love her enough, etc. After she was born I had my challenges, and it took me a while to adjust, but now I'm kind of surprised at how well I've taken to motherhood, to be honest. I wouldnt want it any other way, and I love her more than I thought I was capable of loving anyone.

    Hopefully I'll feel the same about kid number 2, but after this I'm confident that we're done.
  • dshannahdshannah
    500 Love Its 500 Comments First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited October 2015
    I love the convos you are sharing: they are so honest and so important and things everyone should think about before they get on the baby/adoption train. And a great example of how awesome sisterhood can be:)

    Families come in all shapes and sizes and there's nothing wrong with being alone at the end of the day.

    I was actually in a long term relationship that was terrible but I was afraid to leave it because I was 24, then 25, then 26, then 27 and if I didn't get started soon when would I be able to have kids? I let the pressure of society's expectations (and my own) guide me into thinking I had to settle. Thankfully, the guy I was with did the one decent thing he ever did for me and broke up with me. I was heartbroken and angry, but after a while I realized that I was so much happier: I would rather be single forever (even without children) than settle for a partner who wasn't perfect for me.

    Fast forward: found DH when/where I least expected, have known the joy of a great relationship, and now we're hoping to have lots of kids, but it was only after I'd given up wanting that idyll that it actually had a chance to come true.

    On another note: as someone concerned about the environment, population growth, and poverty, I have always thought that it is flat out unethical to have your own children. Even when I wanted a large family, I didn't want them to be biologically mine. However, a few things have made me reconsider, at least to the point where I no longer think as starkly as I did (and to the point where I am now intentionally pregnant, of course).

    1. My grandmother died. And I missed her so much and it was so comforting to see her face in my mother and my sister. Selfish, yes, but it highlighted some emotional reasons for biological connection. I imagine the same will be true of my own kids: to see who they look like, know they've got DH's features, it's really powerful.

    2. The experience of being pregnant is unique but also universal and something I wanted to experience. Again, selfish, but less individually so, since pregnancy gives you a chance to tap into that experience that's carried us across generations, so you get a sense of empathy and learn new things.

    3. Cost and access. It's hella cheaper and easier to have your own than to adopt. Looking down on people who have their own is elitist and thus in itself unethical. Not to mention that this philosophy of adoption is a response to the symptom, and not a cure for the problem of unwanted children or families who want but cannot care for their children.

    Tl;dr point #1: There is *so* much pressure/expectation to have kids and we absolutely internalize it, to the detriment of real awareness of self and others.

    Tl; dr point #2: More reasons for being CFBC! Even if I didn't stick with them...
  • I had zero desire to have children until I was 32. When I was ready I was ready. I couldn't fathom the thought of having children in my 20's. That was my time to finish my education, pursue my career, create a financial nest egg, and travel the world (went to every place I had ever dreamed of going...some twice!). There was also 0 pressure from our families and peer group as we all shared similar views.

    My husband and I spent 8 years together child free. We often reflect on how that was such a great decision for us. We were able to invest and save enough so that I was able to leave the workforce at 32 and will never have to work again. We traveled and did everything we have ever wanted to do. We truly knew each other as partners before a child ever entered the picture. Now it's time for family and kids and we are 110% focused on family.

    So I guess my point is when someone is ready they are and if they are not they are not. I don't think someone who isn't ready or has no desire thinks they are missing out on anything. They probably are not and will live long happy child free lives. Each to their own.
    #1 Claire 12.17.13 & #2 EDD 5.11.16

  • And I wrote a novel. :\">
    #1 Claire 12.17.13 & #2 EDD 5.11.16

  • I never wanted kids. I wasn't even sure I was ever going to get married. I had serious boyfriends throughout high school and college and I still never had that desire. I wanted to get my undergraduate and masters degrees, I wanted to travel, I wanted to experience life. I met my husband in college and we took it very slow (we casually dated for a couple of years and didn't make it official until we almost graduated). Once I fell in love with him, I started to see marriage and kids in my future. When we got married we wanted that time to ourselves for a bit and after year 1, I just knew I wanted kids with this man. So for me, it was when I found "my person". If I didn't find him, I would've been content making the decision for myself that I didn't want/need kids.

    Again, to each their own, but it doesn't make a woman any less for not having children by choice or not.
  • My mother has said since I was very young that I was born to be a mother and wife, and as I've gained more and more relationships over the years with friends and family and now my husband, everyone has told me the same thing. I've known since I can remember that i wanted to be a mother and wife and have thought it to be the greatest blessing and accomplishment in life, I get great fulfillment from being a wife and I know I will once this little one is born as well with being a mom. However, my sister is the complete opposite. She ADORES babies of those close to her (best friends/family members) but cannot stand other people's children, especially I'll behaved children. She doesn't like where the world is headed and feels as though it would be selfish for her to bring a child into such a corrupt world where they would be surrounded by children who have not been taught right from wrong and who were not blessed enough to have good parents. I can understand this point of view, although it's completely opposite of mine. She does not wish to have children, and I truly believe she never will have children although she does wish to get married. It's people who have these differing opinions that make the world go 'round so I guess props to them for knowing what they want! I have much more respect for people who know what they want than people who have children thinking it will fix their life or their marriage, and then when that child doesn't make that happen then they go ahead and have another one. What kind of life is that?!
  • I feel like before DH, I lived too "in the now" to know whether or not I wanted kids.  It wasn't on the agenda so I didn't think too much about it one way or another.  I spent a lot of time "figuring myself out" and I didn't know what I wanted out of life at all. 

    Once I met DH, though, and we started to build a future together, then yea, I knew I wanted it to happen. 

    But 23 year old Lest12 wouldn't have had a clue.  She was too busy in grad school and getting drunk on the weekends and thinking about moving to the other side of the country to "start fresh", etc.


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  • m6aguam6agua
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited October 2015
    I've always wanted kids. I'm a very nurturing person. Also I love family. Most of my best memories are with my family (immediate and extended). My oldest half brother doesn't want kids. He had a vasectomy at 25 he is now 36. His partner had her tubes tied this year. They are not monogomus. They mad the decision for themselves and I support that. He will be an amazing uncle. On the other side my SIL doesn't want kids and everyone knows. I'm not sure what her reasonings are but I somewhat think it's because of her childhood and she is afraid of repeating it. She and her husband actually just divorced because of disagreeing on kids. He knew that she didn't want any from the beginning. She did say if he would change jobs to be home more she may consider it but he didn't make any steps toward that compromise.
    ETA she loves kids and is a great aunt to our 2 nephews.
    TTC#1 July 2015 
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    TTC#2 April 2019 

  • Great thread! I was a person who was very content at certain points in my life to be childless - I have two younger sisters who both want to have lots of children, and a very close extended family, so there are always little ones running around. My SO and I have been together since high school, and we decided early on that our 20s would be a time for career development, discovering who we were as people and what we wanted for our lives, and so the children question only came about after degrees had been earned, and life was on a semi-permanent track. 

    Basically, it came down to this: You have to really want kids in order to have them. If we were "meh" about kids, we wouldn't have them. No judgments. We have a lot of friends who fall into both camps: The Natural Mommies and Daddies who can't wait for children, and the Ones who are not inclined to be Mommies and Daddies but always seem to be ready with a hug for the little ones. We're lucky with that since we have a great group of friends and family that make us feel like it really is or decision (as opposed to parents who pressure us insanely - though, honest truth, there is a bit of that too from parents and grandparents). I have come to think of not/having kids as more complex than selfish/not selfish for a myriad of reasons, including the environment (too many kids is bad), the amount of kids stuck in orphanages or social services, the experience of going through your own pregnancy, touching another human life like that,etc and of course, the genetic desire to continue our DNA. When people say either side if selfish, my hackles rise. I firmly believe that this is a huge decision and it belongs with the individual couple and them alone. 

    As for us: We're both turning 30 next year and realized that,due to my condition, timing and careers, we actually don't have a huge amount of time to continue to ponder this question. So we debated with one another about it seriously this time, and came away thinking we really wanted to have children. And then we got lucky :) 

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  • This has been really interesting to read!

    As for me, I've been told I was going to be a great mom some day for as long as I can remember. I was a full time babysitter all through middle & high school, a early childhood major, and now a daycare teacher. So I always knew I wanted to have my own... someday. My husband was in the same bloat. He also wanted a large family (both biological and adopted) but not for a few years.

    That all started to change last year around this time. I started having sever reactions to my birth control. After finding out why I was reacting we started looking into natural birth control options that were at least mostly reliable. That's when we found Taking Charge of Your Fertility (actually thanks to the bump). We decided charting my temp, fluid and position would be best for us. Little did we know! After two 65 day cycles and one 107 day cycle I finally went into see an obgyn. One ultrasound and a few labs later I got dignosed with an advanced case of pcos and told there was a probability I'd never have biological children.

    After quiet a few discussions we decided as much as there was that we wanted to do without kids, having a child trumped that; so we stopped preventing. Fast forward ten short months and here we are waiting on our first little miracle. :) We're so happy!

    Sorry for the novel! Started writing and couldn't stop.

  • edited October 2015
    I didn't care at all about marriage or babies growing up. I had great parents & wonderful loving examples in my family but I just wasn't girly or interested. I wasn't a fan of dresses, dress up, baby dolls, Barbies, pink colors, etc.

    I met my husband and we hit it off immediately. It wasn't until we were together some years I thought yeah someday I do want kids, but in the future. He has known he wanted two from his childhood days. Years later we have 1 and 1 in belly. And I am so glad that we do!

    Many of our friends don't, and they are super great people. That is their choice and they have lots of support.

  • Thankfully I grew up with a family who did not pressure me one bit.  My aunt and uncle on my moms side chose to not have children.  It was nice to see how they could retire in their 50s and now travel all over the world.  

    For my first marriage my mother in law constantly asked when we would give her children.  We tried for nearly a year.  I really thought I was the problem (becuase thats what i was told my my ex).

    Thankfully that relationship did not work out and my wonderful husband and I were able to conceive after 3 months of trying.  No pressure for any family to the point I was worried my mom was not going to be excited (she was of course).

    The knowledge of my aunt and that i was getting older and was now single when i thought i would be done making babies made me very accepting of the idea of not having children or adopting or fostering.  If something goes wrong with this pregnancy I probably will foster because I do have that inherent wanton to mother (not my husband lol).

    So really there are pros and cons of all areas but its every individuals choice and thats what it should be.
  • My motto ages 16-25 was literally No Babies. I was so terrified that I didn't have sex until I was 19, and even then it was with the man who became my husband, after a year of serious dating, while using 4 methods of birth control simultaneously. Everyone thought I was crazy. But my life goal was to move to Japan, teach English, and date Japanese guys who would never bring a foreigner home to mom & dad. I didn't want marriage, commitment, or kids.

    My husband changed all of that. With him I was crazy with jealousy and wanted to get engaged right away. After we married, I started to think about having one child. Maybe 2. Now I want 4.

    I'm not saying your sister will ever change her mind. But the right guy at the right time does matter. I got my degree in English, learned Japanese, and lived in Japan for 4 months, and I still came back to marry him. 'Everything I ever wanted' was not enough without him. And I'm so overwhelmed with love and obsessed with him that I want to replicate him many times over. That's really how I feel. New life goal: 4 kids. This baby is hopefully our 3rd. People think I'm crazy for totally different reasons now. I don't care at all. You have to do what makes you happy!
    Together for 8 years, married for 2 <img class=" /> Lilu

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