As a product of a dysfunctional family, I find fulfillment in sharing my personal heartache to help others going through difficult times.
When I think about my great-aunt, Fran, I remember going to her house when I was a little girl and not much else. The biggest thing I remember about her was that she never married and never had children, and how everybody loved to mention it. I remember family members talking about it and, I guess even then, I didn't find it "odd" at all. In fact, I wanted to be like Aunt Fran, except I did want to get married. In fact, I've wanted to get married so badly, I've done it twice, but neither time left me wanting children. I always knew there was a possibility that something could happen in my life or that I could change my mind as life went on. Maybe when I graduated high school, fell in love, got married, bought a house, and achieved my dreams, then I would finally want children. But no, here I am at almost 35, on my second marriage (a happy one), and I want them less now than I ever have.
For some reason, it's not always easily accepted when a woman expresses that she (gasp!) doesn't want kids. Maybe it's because we are born with the amazing capability of bearing children or because it's what is needed for the human race to continue. Perhaps it's because it's just "what we do" as human beings. We grow up, we have kids, and we give our parents grandchildren with no questions asked. Sometimes it seems that men can not want children all day long and most people won't bat an eye, but for some reason, it doesn't seem as accepted when a woman says she doesn't want children.
Even though I say all of that, I do feel it is much more common and accepted now for people to choose not to have families of their own, but there are still some who think it is “weird” for a woman to not want to be a mother.
Here are some things us decidedly "child-free" ladies want others to know.
We don't hate kids.
Most often, we really don’t hate kids, I promise. We may not want them for ourselves, but we are not by any means children-haters. I have had a few people in my life who just blurted out to someone, "Jessica hates kids!" Shocked and hurt, I had no idea where they would get such an idea simply because I don't want a family of my own. That is not to say everyone feels exactly the same about children, though; some people do dislike being around children, and, honestly, I feel that is okay, too! Some people enjoy being around them more than others. A lot of us just don’t have the desire to be a mother. I have also known people who have children of their own but don't enjoy being around other people's kids. We come in all forms.
We lead fulfilling lives without children.
I feel this is one major misconception about child-free people. Just as we have chosen for whatever reason to not have children, it just means we are already somehow fulfilled some other way. Sometimes people are totally fulfilled with what their life has given them. Sometimes they are not, but it can be because of anything, not just that one doesn’t procreate. Some people have children and feel a void if they give up their career and don't feel complete again until they can go back to work. I know plenty of wonderful ladies who, after they had children, still felt like something was missing in their lives or their lives weren't "complete" for one reason or another. We all can decide what makes us feel whole in our own lives, and perhaps we never will, but maybe it is just about the journey and not about any one specific aspect to life.
We don’t like people not taking it seriously.
We don't hate children, but what we do hate is when people don't take our desire, or lack thereof, seriously. We don't like when people say, "You'll change your mind." We would never say that to someone who wants children, so why say that to someone who has decided not to have them? I have been lucky to be surrounded by a few people older than myself who have never had children, and I look up to them and see that their lives are both just as fulfilled and equally as complicated as those people who have children and grandchildren. Because of my profession, it can be a little more accepted for me not to have children. But I feel compassion towards people who live more traditional lives who may feel like they have to answer to others as to why they have decided on a different path than their peers. You might not be able to change everybody's minds into thinking that you are indeed doing what is best for you, but know that there are others out there like you. Also, if you are one who tells someone that they'll change their mind, have you ever considered that their mind is made up?
We are not selfish.
In fact, it can be the opposite! Likewise, just because someone has children, it doesn’t mean that they're not selfish. For me personally, I don’t have the desire to be a mother. In an effort to convince me to have children, my mom would say, “But who is going to take care of you when you’re old?”. To me, if I had a child for that reason, I would be doing it selfishly. Now, granted, it does sound nice to have a bunch of my grown, loving kids by my bedside if I'm too sick to take care of myself and love me into an eternal sleep. However, it's not a guarantee that that will happen, even if I do have children. For myself, I would feel very selfish if I chose to have a child for any reason other than having the burning desire to be a mom.
We secretly mourn changed friendships.
It seems ugly of us, but If I'm being honest, it's a very real thing. Don't get me wrong, we are elated for the happiness of our best girlfriend whose dream of becoming a mother is fulfilled. However, we will mourn the fact that our friend has shifted in life, and we will feel even the slightest twinge (selfishly) of being left in the dust. I guess we are afraid of losing our friend. Some of us will take on the role of proud "auntie" and become absorbed in the spoiling of our bestie's mini-me, and some of us will wait for a time when the relationship can feel somewhat "normal". In some cases, friends may drift apart at this stage, especially if it is a more superficial friendship based on partying and drinking. This is probably the single most difficult aspect of our non-traditional lifestyle and a very real thing that we must work through emotionally. But children are really no different than any other major change in one's life that affects friendship over the years. If a friendship is meant to last, it will, through all the changes that happen in a lifetime. Likewise, if friends are meant to drift apart, that will happen no matter what.
We know that we are an interesting and not easily understood group of woman to many people. I feel like I even know a couple of people in my own life who feel the need to "pretend" to want children "someday". I don't call them on it because it doesn't matter enough to hurt someone's feelings that I love and, really, I don't actually know what's in their heart. It's just a suspicion and an uneducated guess. However, I do wish that if people do feel this way, as I do, they can freely and proudly be who they are without fear of judgment and being accused of being selfish, immature, or someone who will die alone.
© 2019 Jess B