“Well, just wait--you’ll want them eventually!”--Nope.
“Awww, you’re just saying that now, but soon you’ll change your mind!”--Nope.
“Haven’t you always wanted them?”--Nope.
“I hate to ask, but is there, you know….a reason you aren’t having them?”--You hate to ask? But yet you did. Nope.
Here it is--the blog post you’ve all been waiting for--the blog post where I lay it all out there and answer the burning question that I know so many of you have wanted to ask (and some of you have)--Why don’t Emily and Ian have kids?
Here’s the extremely true, simple, and totally honest answer: We don’t want them.
That’s it, guys, it’s not some cosmic mystery--there’s no medical issue or childhood trauma or secret plan or anything at all, except the simple fact that we just do not want to have kids...and never have...and most likely never will.
Living in West Michigan and growing up in West Michigan, the question is pretty normal and it almost never is meant to offend: “Well, when are you guys going to have kids?” The fact of West Michigan is that people here have kids--sometimes multiple kids--pretty young. There is nothing wrong with that and this is not intended to be judgmental, it’s just the fact. This area of the country tends to create young families and for many that works. For me and for Ian, though, it was never in any way a priority.
I have spent a lot of time over the past 10 years getting to the point where I’ve felt comfortable answering the questions people pose regarding having kids. I’ve read a lot of books about the decision not to have children and come to understand that it is a pretty big cultural issue, enough so that there is a lot of literature out there about even the semantics of the decision and the language used (“child free” vs. “child less” is an entire section of one of the books I read).
There’s a fine line here-for some, the choice not to have children might seem almost selfish. Particularly for those who do want children or who are struggling to conceive, watching others who willingly choose not to have kids can feel like “Really? Are you serious?”. For others, who have children, those of us without kids can come across as smug--trust me, I know I’m a total asshole a lot of the time when it comes to my judgement of kids. Just watch me in a Mejier while a kid is breaking the H down in the dairy aisle and you’ve seen about all there is to see with my judgement--it’s eye rolling city over here. I own that--it doesn’t make it right, but it’s true. I know that more than a few of my friends have likely had back room conversations about what jerks Emily and Ian are because they don’t have kids--if you haven’t had that conversation, I’m sure you’ve thought it. Good on you--I hold no resentment towards that and I own my asshole-ish ways.
On the flip side, though, there is some struggle in not having kids. It’s also a fine line of being confident in saying, as a woman, “I don’t have kids. I don’t want kids, and I’m never having kids.” Immediately there are these societal expectations and cultural norms that you are violating in this decision. Women are expected to want the joys of motherhood, to want to birth a child and when a woman doesn’t want that and chooses not to engage in that, it can seem threatening, strange, odd and even offensive to some. I’ve had many women ask me, in a roundabout, Midwestern way, “But, as a woman….don’t you just yearn for a child?” No. The only thing I’ve ever truly yearned for is a Jet’s Pizza at 10:30 at night on a Sunday. Yearning to birth a child has legitimately never been a thing for me.
I would love to say that my decision to be child free (that’s my chosen language) is in a greater good sort of way--that we decided not to have children because of the population explosion (which is real) or that I wanted to adopt before birthing my own--while these are definitely reasons now for me, they weren’t the initial reason I decided years ago not to pursue motherhood. The initial reason we didn’t want to have kids is so simple and so boring. And so selfish.
The initial reason was (and is): I’m selfish.
I want to take care of myself. I want to be able to go for a 10 mile run in the morning and out for drinks in the afternoon. I want to be able to read on a beach for 4 hours on a Saturday and to travel to Spain in the summertime. I have no desire to schedule my life around naps or sitters or feedings. I get that children bring joy and love and it’s amazing--I’m SURE if I ever had a child I would be like, “This is seriously tits,” but I also don’t really care enough to find that out and I certainly am not going to birth one just to birth one and hope that feeling happens.
Now, as I've aged, started to be more cognizant of huge issues like population explosion and global warming (real facts, guys, not liberal media myth), and also been a classroom teacher for more than 13 years, I have come to understand even more that child rearing is not for me. To me there are way too many humans in this world already, and for me to have one just to fulfill some sort of cultural expectation that as a woman I should have a kid would be the ULTIMATE selfish thing.
Let me clarify--for ME it is selfish, not for others--Here's why--For those who want kids and it makes sense to their lives, then in no way is the decision to have them selfish--that is not what I am saying at all. What I am saying is, that for me, as a person who is only lukewarm to the idea of desire to have a child (lukewarm at best...lukewarm is actually about 14 degrees warmer than my desire to have kids), then having a child would be selfish. I hope that makes sense. I'll read it out loud to see......yeah, to me it makes sense. I hope it comes across the way I am intending.
Truthfully, I probably am still "selfish" and that is an often used word to describe folks who choose not to have children. It's something that I have come to accept that I might portray to others and while that is sort of a frustrating word, perhaps that is how the decision comes across.
Thus, the long and short of it is, we aren’t having kids and I think that by writing it here, it’s my way of saying that finally, after about 10 years of grappling with it, I’m totally 100% ok with that. Sure it is scary to think about who is going to care for me when I’m 99 years old and living like a total queen bee in a state subsidized nursing home, but I also have a couple nieces and nephews who will be signing care contracts too (little do they know...). Of course sharing my life with a little one sounds appealing at times, or there are moments when I see families on vacation or playing together at a photo shoot and I think, “Awww, what could be…”, but those moments are also super fleeting. Kids just aren’t for me. For us. That’s ok. I’m good.
But here is the real meat and potatoes of this entry--why is writing about NOT having kids so scary whereas writing on and on and on and on about the choice TO have kids is normal and accepted? It's true--a simple Google search for "trying to have kids" will bring no less than millions of advice articles and real life stories of people who did just that--tried and had them.
I wonder about is if our society will ever change to a place where women feel more comfortable writing things like this or having conversations about their desire NOT to birth kids. Goodness knows we are comfortable talking about all the details of wanting kids ("we're trying", IVF details, miscarriage stories are seriously the #1 fodder of lifestyle bloggers), but why are we so uncomfortable hitting POST on something like this--an honest reflection of why being child free is the right decision for us as a family? It's a frustrating double standard and one I hope changes eventually, but for now, I'm taking the leap and saying that thing that I'm sure many women would love to say--Choosing not to have children is a completely legitimate life decision and it in no way makes you less of a woman, more of a bitch, or in any other way inadequate.
Cheers and Happy Friday,