Friday, January 22, 2010

C for Childfree

I alluded to this subject in another post, and now I’ll expand on it. I want to start off by saying that the thoughts and opinions I’m about to share are just that: mine. I am not trying to offend anyone in any way. If you have children, or someday want to have them, that’s great for you (and I hope that decision works out very well for you). That is your decision to make, just as my decision to remain childfree is mine. Similarly, your reasons for deciding to have children are your reasons, just as my reasons to remain childfree are mine. In other words, my decision and reasons should not impact you in any way. I am simply sharing my point of view on the matter of children, or lack thereof. I am in no way trying to offend anyone. Nor am I trying to dictate how anyone else should make his or her own decision.

To any parent who might be reading this (I know there are a few of you out there.):
(1) Thank you! I’m glad you’ve stumbled on my blog, or even visited on purpose if you’re a follower or regular reader. I am appreciative of anyone and everyone who takes the time to read what I write. If you’re a first time reader, welcome!


(2) Before getting defensive about anything you read below, please read that first paragraph again.


(3) Please be mindful of the language I’m using when I do talk about parents. I’ve tried really hard not to use all-inclusive words like “all” or “every,” because I know that, just like all people, all parents are not alike. Instead, you will notice that I use “many” or “some.” This means, when you see the word parent (or mom, or dad, or any variation thereof) below you should not automatically assume I am talking about you.

If, after all of that, you still find yourself feeling defensive, there’s probably a reason for it. I am totally open to discussing it with you, if you so wish. You can leave a comment or send me an email to get that ball rolling. Okay.  Here we go…

I respect parents—good ones (I’m talking to you my friends, followers, and bloggers whose blogs I’ve read and commented on.)—because I know it’s a hard job. It is one of the many factors that my husband and I considered while making our decision. I would be remiss to say that we will never change our minds. I’m one of those “never say never” people, so I will not risk opening myself up to eleventy billion “I told you so’s” by saying that our decision is final. It is, however, something we’re quite sure of and seem to be settled on.

I don’t want to start any kind of war, but I’d venture to say that those of us who are childfree by choice put a lot more thought into our decision then some parents out there. It is not a decision my husband and I made lightly. We thought about every single aspect of our lives and how much every single thing would change if we had a child. Some may even say that we did, or do, over think it. Many parents out there do not consider all of these things. They decide that they want a child, they start “trying,” and that’s pretty much it. The decision to have children is an easy one. By that I mean that it’s one that is generally accepted by society as being good; it’s the popular choice. It is expected: You grow up, get married, and you have children (sometimes not in that order at all, but I don’t have the time or inclination to list out all possible variations and/or alternatives). That’s just the way things work, right? Well, for many people, the answer is most definitely yes. For my husband and me, it is not.

Unlike some of the more hard core childfree by choice individuals and couples out there, Music Man and I are not derogatory about those who chose a different path than us. We don’t refer to children as “sprog” or “crotch parasites” or “satan spawn” or “f@%$ trophies.” We do not refer to parents as “breeders” or “child-burdened.” We do not refer to moms as “moos,” “moomies,” or “womban.” We do not refer to dads as “duhs” or “duds.”

Well, maybe sometimes we do, but only in private and only as a joke.


If we’re venting about a really bad run-in with unruly children or awful “parents” who don’t deserve the title, and are thus more aptly labeled breeders in order to distinguish them from the actual good parents out there, because we have nothing against the good, responsible parents out there.

A common misconception is that the childfree hate children and some do; however, Music Man and I do not. We like kids, and we love our nephews (ages 4 and 9) and niece (age 4) dearly and greatly enjoy spending time with them. And though we’d do most anything for these kids, we enjoy and appreciate having the option and/or ability to hand them back when we’ve had enough. We’ve had our nephew (the 4 year old), or nephews, over for weekend stays and we’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve also ended up completely and totally exhausted, with a new appreciation of our lifestyle, and a reaffirmation of our choice. I know what some of you might be thinking: “It’s totally different when they’re your own.” I’m sure it is, but you know what? I can’t justify taking that risk just to find out whether or not it’s true.

Our decision to be childfree can pretty much always be reversed. Should we decide within the next few years that we want children, my IUD can be yanked out* and we can start trying. Once our fertility window slams closed, we can adopt or foster. There’s comfort in knowing that our decision can be reversed. The same cannot be said for having children. One or both of us cannot wake up one morning, suddenly having decided we just can’t or don’t want to do the parent thing anymore, and drop the child(ren) off at a shelter or something. That’s just not how it works. (Well, for most of society anyway. I am well aware of people trying to sell their children, abandoning their children, or pawning their children off on a relative. Those are not parents, in my opinion.)

(* I need to take just a moment to say how much I looooooove my IUD. It is absolutely the best birth control I’ve ever had. And also, OUCH! It hurt like a mo-fo going in, so really, it can’t and won’t just be “yanked out.” There is a procedure. At least I think there is. Perhaps it really does just get yanked out, but that yanking is meant to be done by a trained professional, i.e. a doctor.)

Also, while my mom currently has custody of my deceased sister’s son, that might not always be the case. As she ages, she may find herself less equipped to care for him. In which case, my husband and I will gladly step up to take custody of my nephew. This is something we’ve been open to since right after my sister died, and we know that we could and would do a good job of taking care of and raising him. While having our own child(ren) wouldn’t affect our ability to take custody of my nephew, nor would it change our decision to do so, it would complicate things a bit (especially financially). If we’re meant to have the parenting experience, perhaps this is the way it will happen.

So what are our reasons for not wanting to have children? We have both selfish and selfless reasons. The selfless part of me doesn’t want to pass along my chronic physical and mental health issues—migraines, sinusitis, allergies, depression, and anxiety—to children, because I’d never want them to suffer the way I do. The selfish part of me doesn’t want to give up the disposable income, free time, and spontaneity that I currently enjoy. (Also, on a completely superficial level, we love being called DINKSDouble Income No Kids—we think it’s fun.) I’ll hit on some of my (our) major reasons below.

One of the biggest reasons is freedom and spontaneity. Music Man and I live a pretty carefree lifestyle. We like having the ability, on any given night of any given week, to get out of the house and go out on a “date” if the mood strikes us. We like taking mini-vacations to our favorite North Shore city or going on weekend camping trips. We like going out to the local bars to listen to live music and have a few drinks. With very little planning on our part, we can do all of these things. On the rare occasion that we want these getaways to be sans dogs, we simply go online and schedule the dogs at our favorite local doggy daycare. Wiggly loves it there! (Bug hasn’t been yet; he has orientation next month.) It’s like a doggy vacation for her—she gets to run and play with all of her doggy friends, she gets spa treatment (including bath, nail trim, and nail pawlish), and she gets a bedtime snack and movie when she stays overnight.

Despite the fact that we’re married, Music Man and I also live somewhat independent lives. He occasionally has weeknight gigs or band practice, and I have weeknight classes. We both occasionally meet with friends for dinner and/or drinks after work. Granted, we would probably still be able to do these things if we had a child, but we probably wouldn’t do them as often because we’d feel guilty about saddling the other parent with child duty all alone. The parent who most often is left to stay home alone with the child (most likely me, because I am more of a homebody), could develop resentment towards the parent who goes out more often. In other words, once one becomes a mommy, being a wife, friend, etc., has to take a backseat; especially in the child’s younger years.

Another reason we don’t want children is the time demand. When I have classes, I don’t have a ton of free time, so the time I do have I try to use wisely. I juggle trying to spend time with friends and family and trying to spend quality time with my husband. On the weekends, I sometimes spend my free time napping. I love the rejuvenation offered by naps; they’re good for my soul. I also like to use my free time knitting, reading books and blogs, watching movies (Yay for Netflix!) and catching up on shows that I’ve Tivoed over the week. (On a side note, I completely and totally love my Tivo. It is one of those gadgets that I didn’t think I really needed, but now that I have it, I’d never want to lose it.)

On the occasion that Music Man and I don’t have commitments on a weekend, it’s nice to be able to make it up as we go along. Sometimes we’ll go out to breakfast and then run errands. Other times we’ll sit around the house watching movies, eating take out, and enjoying each other’s company. Perhaps we’ll decide to hop on the light rail and ride to downtown Minneapolis to go to dinner at one of our favorite pizza joints, stopping on the way back to the train to have a drink or two.

If we had a child, many of these things would no longer be possible, or at the very least, wouldn’t happen very often. It’s just hard to be as spontaneous when you have to find a babysitter or figure out an age appropriate, child friendly establishment to go to instead. I would hardly have time for myself anymore (neither of us would), and I just don’t want to give that up. Music Man and I also wouldn’t have as much time to be alone together, and we don’t want to lose that. One on one time is very important to us, and we don’t want to upset the perfect balance we have going. Also, time to myself—to do whatever I want to do—is incredibly important to me. Sometimes I just need to be alone and/or to do absolutely nothing (read: be lazy), and that’s just not possible with a child to take care of.

I’m also not a very big fan of change, and having a child changes one’s whole life. I have a hard enough time getting up in the morning and getting ready for work. That whole routine would be exponentially harder with a child thrown into the mix. I’d have to get a whole ‘nother person ready for the day, and I’m lucky most days to have myself ready and to work on time. If I don’t get a chance to sit down and decompress after a long day at work, I get really really frustrated and crabby. I need to be able to just sit down for a minute with nothing to do or focus on.

Children create a financial burden that we are unwilling to take on. Kids are expensive! According to figures I’ve seen, it will cost upwards of $250,000 dollars to raise a child born in the year 2010 in the Midwest to a dual parent household. Holy Cow! I could buy a house with that money! Music Man and I both make fairly good money; our bills are always paid on time and we both always have spending money left over. That extra money is squirreled away to savings for a trip we’re planning, towards a down payment on a house, or to build up our emergency fund. We enjoy eating out, so we probably spend more money than a lot of people doing that. And, of course, those mini-vacations we take aren’t always cheap; especially when you factor in doggy daycare costs.

Our lifestyle would seriously have to change if we had a child. No more eating out, no more drinks out, no more going on mini vacations (or any vacations for that matter), and no more concert tickets or big ticket purchases. Our extra money would instead be spent on diapers, formula, food, clothing, daycare, etc. I’ve heard many of my parent friends and family members complain about the cost of these things, especially daycare. I nearly wet myself when I found out how much my BFF pays for her two kids (both under the age of 4) to go to daycare. No thanks! While we could afford a child, that’s not where we want to spend our money; we’d rather spend our money frivolously than have to budget for a baby.

When I start my career as a social worker, our budget will change quite a bit. I won’t make nearly as much as I make right now, and it will probably take me years to get back up to my current level (if ever). We will most likely have to cut back on frivolous spending, and it will become even less feasible for us to afford a child. I am well aware that plenty of people have children that they cannot afford, and some are very very happy with that decision while others are not. It is not appealing to us to create undue hardship for ourselves, so even if we wanted a child, we wouldn’t have one until we felt as though we could afford it. That means different things to different people, apparently, but to us it means living comfortably within our means while providing for the child’s basic needs as well as occasional fun extras for both us and our child.

Our priorities at this point in time do not include expanding our family. With me being in school for at least the next three years, and then entering into a brand new career, now is definitely not a good time to have children. Also, having children is not important to me; what is important is getting me into a fulfilling career that I’ll love. Once I graduate, I will have the ability to work crazy shifts for a while if I need to. Music Man and I can pick up and move, with relative ease, to where the jobs are if we need to. (This is one of the primary reasons we currently don’t own a house either.) On the same note, Music Man is fortunate enough to have found work that he likes doing, and he is focused on working his way up to where he wants to be within his company and/or field.

We care about the environment. Music Man and I believe in global warming, and we try to do our part to help the environment. We use reusable shopping bags, reusable water bottles, I have super cute reusable coffee mugs that I use at work, we recycle, we use personal care products (soap, shampoo, etc.) that are all natural and organic (which is also very good for the body), we use compostable dog poop bags, etc. Now, I’m not saying that parents don’t care about the environment; I know many who do. What I am saying is that the planet Earth is overpopulated, and as a result, our resources are being used up at an alarming rate.

We don’t want to contribute to that overpopulation, especially when we don’t feel the need to extend our legacy by producing little genetic matches of ourselves. Neither of us thinks or genes are that great that the world just needs us to reproduce. I believe in replacement reproduction; that is each couple should have no more than two children—just enough to replace them.** By not having children, we are helping to keep the population balanced. Many people have many, many more children than they really should, and let’s face it, some should have none at all. Some people are just not cutout to be parents; unfortunately these individuals seem to be the ones who are reproducing at an alarming rate. (**I realize this is kind of a controversial concept and statement, and I’m not saying that’s what you should do. I’m also not judging you if you have more than two children. This is just the way I feel.)

I do not deal well with lack of sleep; in fact, I get downright bitchy if I’m tired. Just ask Music Man—he’ll tell ya! (No, he won’t. He’ll lie and say he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, because he believes that I am nothing but pure perfection. HA!) I have witnessed the temporary “zombification”*** of beginning parents, and it’s not pretty.

(*** Yes, yes, I know it’s not a real world, but it is fitting. It describes the semi-permanent, less than half awake, glassy eyed look of new parents. In some cases, it indicates decreased comprehension skills, decreased cognitive ability, and increased agitation. Feel free to use it, but remember, you saw it here first! You’re welcome! J)

My sisters, whom I absolutely adore, looked like hell the first couple months after giving birth. They were constantly sleep deprived, and since they, like me, tend to get overly emotional when tired, they were sometimes a nightmare to be around. My middle sister would sometimes cry just because she was so overtired. The BFF I mentioned earlier still has days or weeks when her kids aren’t sleeping particularly well, so she is often exhausted.

I flirted with zombification a little bit when we got Lucy. She was a teeny tiny 9 week old puppy when we got her, and just like a baby, she did not sleep through the night. We’d have to get up several times to comfort her and/or to take her outside to potty. A few times, I woke up in the very late evening/very early morning hours to a kennel covered in dog poop, which meant I had to clean up the kennel and bathe the puppy while half asleep and pissed off that my already exhausted self was losing even more sleep. I was not a pleasant person to be around at this time. In fact, there were times that I was so awful with my lack of sleep induced behavior and tantrums that I’m surprised Music Man still married me rather than running like hell and not looking back.

There’s a reason that, when we decided to add another dog to the family, we did not get another young little puppy. Thankfully this stage of puppyhood only lasted a few months for Lucy; with a child, it’s much much longer than that. I am not cutout to be a mombie. I know my limits, and I’m telling you right now that I just couldn’t do it. In fact, dealing with sleep deprivation without harming themselves or others is one of the things I find most awe-inspiring about parents. True story.

I’ve kinda been there, done that; I helped raise my younger siblings, especially my youngest sister. As a result, I have always been mature beyond my years. The experience taught me a lot; most importantly that raising children is hard work. I get frustrated really easily, and I’m very impatient. These are not good qualities to have when dealing with children, because they can be very frustrating to deal with and large amounts of patience are required.

Thus ends the summary of Music Man’s and my reasons for not wanting children.

As a result of our decision, Music Man and I face many critics. His mother is devastated each and every time we remind her that we will not be having children. Though my mother-in-law seems to have no real affinity for children, she desperately wants grandchildren. Why? Probably because that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and probably because her brother has grandchildren. (Everything’s a competition, don’t-cha know.) Until she agrees to babysit at the drop of a hat, whenever we ask, every single time we ask, it’s just not happening. She doesn’t seem to realize that this is decision is solely ours, and while it does affect her to a degree, it is not as life changing for her as it would be for us. My mother, on the other hand, has given up on asking about when we’ll have children or commenting on why we don’t. I think the fact that she already has three grandchildren helps.

Ever since our wedding day, we have constantly been asked, “When are you having kids?” (Because, ya know, that’s how it’s done!) It’s frustrating to feel as though we constantly have to defend ourselves and our decision. When people find out that we do not plan on having children, many of them look at us as though we have the plague or (to be more current) the swine flu. I think some of our relatives have even contemplated asking for the return of the wedding gifts they gave us, because not having children after getting married is blasphemous. It is just inconceivable, and as such, our marriage probably shouldn’t really be considered real.

Once people are made aware of our decision, the inevitable questions start: WHY? (As though it’s any of their business.) Are you serious? (Yes.) Are you sure? (Yes.) Why do you hate kids? (We don’t! I really hate that this is always the automatic assumption.) Then, the unsolicited advice and opinions start: You would be great parents! You’ll change your mind someday. Oh, parenting isn’t as bad as some people make it sound. Being a parent is the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your whole entire life. Being a mom is the best job in the world. And on, and on, and on.

Right now, we are able to stave off most of these conversations by using my schooling as an excuse. To shut people up, we tell a white lie: “We’re not going to even think about kids until Elle finishes school.” We shouldn’t have to do this!

It boggles my mind how many people seem to think that our sex life and my uterus is their business. That’s just creepy. Sometimes, I just can’t help but to be bitchy. In response to “You’ll change your mind someday,” I say, “Well, at least I can! You’re stuck with your decision.” In response to “Being a parent is the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your whole entire life,” I say, “Wow. I’m really sad that, up until children, your life was so meaningless. That is incredibly pathetic. I feel sorry for you.” In response to “Being a mom is the best job in the world,” I say, “The very fact that you describe it as a job is telling. I enjoy my role as wife and puppy mom. I’m very happy with where I’m at in life.” Most of the time though, I just refuse to discuss it further; I’m firm, but not rude. I say something like, “We are happy and confident in our decision at this point. It’s the right decision for us, and you are not going to change my mind.”

Sometimes, we are challenged with, “Well, if having a dog is like having a perpetual toddler, why don’t you just have kids?” This is a valid question. While having dogs does decrease spontaneity a bit, it doesn’t affect us as much as having a child would. We can easily get our dogs into doggy daycare when/if we decide to go out of town. For a child, we would have to plan to take them with us, or we’d have to find someone to care for them. Then, we’d have to pack up all of their stuff (i.e. almost half of our belongings) to send along with them. All we need to send the dogs to daycare with is their food, and that’s only if they’re staying overnight.

Also, dogs aren’t as demanding for time as children are. A good long walk or hard play sessions wears them right out, and a tired dog is a happy dog. If I want to nap on a weekend, the dogs are all too willing to nap right along with me. And, as mentioned above, the sleep deprivation period was much shorter than with a baby.

Having dogs also took a toll on our finances, but most of the money was spent on upfront setup charges—buying a kennel, collar, leash, toys, etc.—maintenance costs are much lower. The most expensive cost for our dogs is for their food, and that’s because we choose to feed them high quality, premade raw food. When we go to work during the day, we kennel the dogs and they sleep all day, so we do not have to pay a weekly daycare charge. We will also never have to pay college tuition for our dogs (even though Wiggly is very very smart).

In short, Music Man and I are very content with our four-legged children. They can be trained to behave exactly as we want them to, we know what to expect from them in terms of behavior, they give us unconditional love, and we utilize our nurturing instincts in caring for them. Best of all: they can be kenneled when/if we need a break or want them out of the way!

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  1. I have no problem with the people who don't have kids. :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  2. thank you! You summed up my thoughts exactly. Stopping by from SITS, I'm adding you to my reader :-)

    a fellow DINK and doggie mom

  3. Wow Elle! That was a most excellent post! Very well thought out and I think you conveyed your feelings about your decision, perfectly.

    I can't imagine why anyone who is a parent would be offended by your decision; it's yours & your hubs choice after all. I'm not one of those folks that take offense about others' opinions. Why should anyone? I can understand that maybe your MIL is close to the situation and is impacted a bit by it, but she's not alone. Lot's of Grammys have pups for 'grandchildren'! LOL

    Take care, friend! And wishing you a most happy journey!

  4. Wow. This is a great post. I'm still undecided about children but the points you made are pretty much my exact reasons for not wanting to have them right now. I even kind of agree (usually in secret) about the 2 kids per couple things. Having a sister who is 9 years younger has also helped show me just has much work goes in to being a parent. I also feel that deciding to have kids should be a much bigger decision that some people make it. Anyways great post. I found you from the Lady Bloggers Society.

  5. This is such a well thought out post. I can't imagine anyone being offended by your personal choice not to have a child! DH and I were blessed with one amazing daughter and you would be amazed at the criticism that we heard for "just having one" Not taking into consideration that there were medical issues that prevented us from having more than 1, how on earth do they feel that it is any of their business? I have a good friend who once said to me that she was one of the "selfish" people who didn't want to have children. I told her that knowing she didn't want children did not make her selfish at all. Better than having a child who ends up being neglected/resented. This is a very personal decision that everyone has to make for themselves. Kathy (btw, found you from WOW and BON - so glad I did!)

  6. wow so glad to have found your blog! so many of the things you have said ring true for me also. i have recently started going to community college. this decision was made after a life changing experience also. my hubby and i have also made the decision to be child-free for many of the same reasons that you and you husband have.

  7. I must admit, I squirmed in discomfort when reading your 'C is for Choice' post because I'm a parent who not too long ago was also single and frazzled.It made me question whether others looked at me as you looked at these people. I think the world looks so different from both perspectives and sometimes it's hard to understand unless you are in that person's shoes. I used to look with disdain at frazzled parents before I became one. That is until the day I found myself walking into a meeting with baby spitup on my shoulder! I realized then maybe its not as black and white as we think.

    I respect how well thought out your decision is. I grew up in a traditional household where women took care of their men,& were expected to get married and have babies. It never occurred to me to buck that tradition. I wish I had had your foresight and self-intuitiveness because there are moments when I wondered why on earth I became a mother. My children certainly test my patience and sanity. If you love your life as it is, why should you change it because of societal expectations? I applaud you, and hope I can teach my children to make honest, thoughtful choices in choosing their relationships and not to fall into traditional trappings.


Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for taking the time to comment! Readers like you make me want to continue writing. I will do my best to reply to your comment by either commenting on your blog or by sending you an email. In order for me to send you an email, which I really really like to do, because it's a more personal response, you need to put your email address somewhere on your blog or in your blogger profile. Also, can you please make sure to leave me a link so that I can come and visit your lovely blog? Thanks a bunch!

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