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“Child-Free” (and that’s okay): A Response to “Why I’m Not Having Children”

Childless by Choice

It’s incredibly freeing to be honest. And enlightening when you find support for your honesty. When I wrote my blog “Why I Won’t Have Children,” I wasn’t expecting to elicit the overwhelming response that it did, but I’m glad that so many of you have responded which allows me to continue talking about a subject that is close to my heart. I’ve been mentally writing responses to a lot of your comments, and I decided that it would be most beneficial for everyone if I addressed them in another post.

First let’s talk about where we’re in total agreement. It’s so wonderful to hear from other twenty-somethings who are also unenthused by the idea of having children. It’s not that we hate kids or think procreating is a bad thing, but we don’t see it as part of our individual life journey. And when we start affirming one another in our decisions (whether we agree with them or not), as you all have done for me in response to my post, we lay the groundwork for healthy actions and lives. Forcing people into a predesigned mold that society says is “correct,” only leads to bad decisions, mistakes, and resentment. And I’m all for people being who they are meant to be.

Now let’s discuss some comments, that I feel deserve a little more explanation from me but contribute as a whole to my argument and beliefs on being child-free. Please remember that these comments are taken out of their original context, and know that I interpreted none of them negatively. I simply wanted to elaborate on some of my points.

“I feel like a lot of the reasons you gave here for not wanting to have kids are based on seeing yourself in a negative light.”

While my reasons do seem like a negative reflection of me (my family history of depression, inadequacies in motherhood, perfectionism), I want to make it clear that these are faults I know myself to have and therefore I work hard everyday to overcome them. When I give these as reasons for not wanting children, it’s not because I don’t think I’m capable of being a good parent or giving a child a enjoyable life, but because I recognize my “shortcomings” as part of who I am. So in a sense they’re not so much “shortcomings” as just parts of me. And without those parts, I wouldn’t be me. And that’s okay. However, I don’t mean to suggest that if I could somehow “fix” those things, I would want children or believe myself to be a better parent. I love who I am (not always, but who does?), and who I am just doesn’t involve making a mini-Kaitlyn. I’m sure it would wonderful and rewarding in its own way, but that’s just simply not the life I want.

“The assumption that a woman who doesn’t want kids is apparently depriving something from her spouse.”

This is a great point! And one I didn’t talk about in my original post, but I have so many thoughts on. When I was younger and said I didn’t want kids, boyfriends and potential-boyfriends would just laugh this off. For some reason, the majority of “upstanding” young men see kids, a home, a dog, and the whole shebang as a must-have. I imagine it’s sold to them as children the same way princesses and happily ever afters are sold to little girls. However, the “American Dream” is much more attainable in reality than princess status. But it’s not guaranteed to make you happy.

What I will say though, is that deciding not to have kids isn’t something that you just “forget” to tell your potential spouse about. If you’re really committed to the lifestyle, you will tell them very early on. And you’ll choose your spouse based on that too. Changing yourself to fit your “soul mate’s” ideals isn’t right. It means they’re not your soul mate. Coming to a consensus or agreement is one thing, but totally giving up all your dreams in order to provide children for you spouse is another.

My high school boyfriend wanted kids. I mean, we were 16 and 17 at the time so it wasn’t like a reality, but part of continuing a relationship with him in my head, required being willing to strive for that “American Dream” with him. But eventually, I realized I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give up on my own dreams in order to settle for what he felt was the way to happiness.

In my most recent relationship though, I found someone, quite by accident, who shared my desire to remain childless. It wasn’t something he exactly liked to admit, mostly because he felt the societal pressure from friends and family and Christianity to fit that mold and have a family and take care of everybody. “Be a man,” you know? But at 26, he was desperately struggling to figure out how he could do that and be true to himself. Fast-forward two years, and you’ll find him at 28 with the realization that he can “be a man” without being a breadwinner for an ever-growing family. That his version of being a man is learning to be honest with himself and his peers rather than hiding behind stale sayings and encouragements.

It is a wondrous, eye opening, and freeing experience to be in a relationship with someone who shares and respects your decision not to have children. That’s what I experienced with him, and I know that’s what I want in a spouse. Gone was the self-doubt, the second-guessing my statements about child rearing for fear of offending him. I found the freedom to express my utter terror of the idea of child-bearing, and someone to laugh with it about. I could “ooo” and “aww” and babies without him thinking I had suddenly changed my mind. Babies are cute. They deserve “awws,” but it’s nice to have someone to do it with no pressure. I would say that if you don’t want kids, and you haven’t found someone who shares that desire, don’t settle for anything else. You’re probably not just going to change your mind on a whim. And it’s only fair to the both of you that you’re honest with each other about how you imagine your future. Find the person, you can build a future with. Not someone who you have to change your dreams for.

“I’ve heard stories from so many friends who were refused tubal ligations because it was assumed their ‘natural instincts’ would kick in and they would regret them.”

Ah! This is horrible! “Natural instincts,” my foot. I don’t think it’s a woman’s natural instinct to want to have kids. I could probably argue that it’s natural for a woman to have a “mothering nature” to some capacity because we are more emotionally wired, but that does not mean we “naturally” want to produce our own young in order to carry out our mothering nature. No way! There are so many ways for us to be “mothers” without ever giving birth or adopting children. Teachers, managers, and counselors—they all involve similar skills as that of “mothering.” Someone who is young and says they don’t want children and wants to perform a permanent procedure to prevent such occurrence has every right to do so, and claiming “natural instincts” is not a good enough excuse to deny it. At some point, I hope to see the world become a little more accepting of differences between human beings. Human diversity is obvious, but most of the time we only take it skin deep. We group ourselves into cultures and races and nations, but we forget that we’re diverse down to the individual. And because of that, I never assume “natural instincts” or “biological clock” or anything like it. If someone says they don’t want kids, I believe them. It’s that simple.

“I think there is great blessing in parenthood (however flawed we may be) since God created the family unit as a way to nurture people to love Him, but His plan is not cookie cutter for everyone.”

and

“Your blog on not having kids reminded me of how hard it can be to make a decision that does not fit in with Christian cultural norms.”

I didn’t address my faith in terms of not having kids in my last blog post (mostly because I could probably write a whole book about it), but these comments gave me so much hope, I feel like I should at least make mention of some of my thoughts.

First, one of my biggest struggles in deciding to be child-free was coming to terms with the disparity between the Christian culture I have been raised in and my goals for my life. Or rather, the life that I believe God has trained and equipped me for. Therefore, it was really encouraging to have this addressed and supported by a Christian. I understand the blessing of parenthood and the family unit within Christianity, but I’m also a cookie made without the cutter! My hope as I grow older is that I will be blessed by being a part of other families like my younger brother’s, who very much desires to (eventually) have children and a family and those friends who choose to have children. I imagine that my life could be just as rich and illustrative of God’s love as if I had my own.

Making decisions that don’t fit in with Christian cultural norms is hard when that’s what you’ve been raised in and that’s what you’re surrounded by. However, I would make the assertion that there is difference between “Christian culture” and “Christianity.” Christian culture is easy in a way, especially if you’ve been raised in it, but it makes us far too judgmental. We start to see “Christian cultural norms” as “Biblical truths” and that’s not always the case. As one of my commenters says, “It is not easy to choose a different path, but different is not bad. God asks us to love mercy, do justly and walk humbly with God. You can do that with an empty uterus, with a tattooed body, while creating art, in public school, or ordering takeout every night.” And this is so true. There are always going to be people pressuring you to fit into “cultural norms” (whether Christian or not) that require you to have kids, but I can say from experience, there are also those who may be different than you but support you in your decision and your chosen path.

So, for my friends who want children: Huzzah! I’m so glad you’re following your heart. I hope that I get to play with them and nurture them. (And be that super cool “Aunt” who brings back stuff from all her filmmaking adventures). But most of all I hope that you don’t let anyone discourage you from your goals of having a family.

And for my friends who want to be child-free: Thank you for taking this journey of self-discovery with me. It’s been so enlightening for me to see others who share my views, and I don’t feel alone in my desires anymore. I understand that we all have different reasons for not wanting kids, but I think we are all the same in our understanding and appreciation of one another. Whether you’re a guy or a girl or you stay strong in your resolution or eventually change your mind, we know we have the freedom to do so. It doesn’t make us weak or cruel or ignoring our “natural instincts.” It simply means we’re honest and real with ourselves.

And now my challenge to you is to have the courage to be transparent with others (as we’ve done here) because it can make life so much more enjoyable in the long run.

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Five Reasons To Be Who You Are  

Be-Who-You-Are---Circle

Sometimes I want to be anyone but who I am. No, make that sometimes I always want to be anyone but who I am. Why is that you ask? Is it because I’m fat or ugly or stupid or unsuccessful? Is it because I’m depressed or lonely or confused or lost in life? It’s all and none. It’s true and false. It’s that I hate who I am. It’s that I love who I am. It’s that I just don’t always know.

I think a lot about what it would be like to be other people. Or to be myself but if I was living a different life. It’s a nice fantasy to drift into when I’m feeling down about myself. But then there are times when I’m hit with irreplaceable joy at being alive. I’m so happy to be living and so floored by the idea that I am living as ME that I can’t imagine existing any other way. And it’s in those moments that I have to revel in the beauty of life. They don’t come all that often, but when they do, it’s the most glorious feeling. And it’s that feeling—that pure JOY of being who you are—that I want to share with you today in hopes that you might find it and enjoy it in the moment as well.

Be-Who-You-Are---ee-Cummings-quote

1.) You are the only you.

Doppelgängers aside, the you that is inside, the one that has completely unique characteristics, DNA, and history, that “you” can never be replicated by another person. In nature or by man’s intervention, it’s impossible to recreate all those tiny and seemingly insignificant factors that went into making you who you are. You are, in truth, “special” because there is no one else like you nor can there ever be anyone else like you. Rejoice! You are the singular stakeholder in the stock that is “you,” and you get to keep it for all of your life.

2.) You, being you, brings others joy.

But then you might say, “what does it matter if I’m the only me? I don’t like who I am, special or not.” Ah, but you see, you bring joy to someone. You may not know who. It may only be your mother or the man who runs the fish market down the street, but don’t they matter? Isn’t their joy important? Doesn’t it make you feel just a little bit amazing to know that your mere existence—your non-effort at being yourself—makes someone else happy? I might just have a people-pleasing problem, but I find it reassuring to know that there are people out there who want me and need me to be me because it makes being themselves easier.

3.) If you aren’t you, then who will be?

Imagining ourselves as other people is a standard past time. It’s portrayed in movies and books and short stories, but is it realistic? Of course not. You can’t just decide that you’re going to be someone else, walk out of your skin, and step into someone else’s shoes. (What a terror that would be! People just get tired of their lives at any point and becoming someone rich and famous. But what would happen to their original selves? Who would fill their shoes? It’s not so simple as deciding you don’t want to be yourself anymore. It would leaves ripples in the universe that would disrupt the balance of things. You being you—or at least the fact that you EXIST—is essential to the way the world works. If you just disappeared, we’d be left with a hole that you might think is insignificant but truly does matter in the grand scheme of things. No one is going to come take your place, and that’s why it’s so important for you to be you.

4.) You can’t be truly happy without being you.

This is the number one reason that I advocate for being yourself. People like to believe that they can just pretend to be something they’re not—something or someone they think would make their life better if they were—only to spend their lives feeling empty, worthless, and pointless. Feeling these negative emotions is completely understandable, but I think they only truly occur when we aren’t honest with ourselves about who we are. When we try to scrunch and squeeze into a mold that isn’t our own, we diminish ourselves and our potential for happiness. Our real happiness can only come from embracing all of our idiosyncrasies and quirks—all those things we try to hide and we think makes us undesirable or weird or unworthy. But, in truth, it’s those little things that make us unique and when we accept them and feel others accept them too, we find happiness.

5.) “You” isn’t static.

While point four is my number one reason for being yourself, point five is the most important. I think most of us believe that we are who we are and that’s it. If we feel like that person isn’t desirable to the rest of the world then we lose all hope for a bright future and happiness. But what you have to understand is that we have the greatest capability for change, and we change naturally. There is deciding that you don’t like who you are and that you need to be someone who you think is more awesome, and then there is naturally and gradually growing and developing into the best version of you. There is a huge difference between these two approaches to life. I think we are always ourselves, but I think we also always have potential for growth. We must continually strive towards the better and fuller version of ourselves. I think that’s where we find our peace.   Where we find our happiness.   Where we find truth.

You aren’t static.  You are a dynamic, ever-growing human who has potential and a future.  And if you didn’t exist, especially if you didn’t exist as the person you are now, the world would never and could never be the same.  So be who you are because you are important piece of the grand puzzle of the universe.

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Why I’m Not Having Children

no-kids-1

Grow up, go to college, find your true love, start your career, get married, buy a house, and have a few kids. And probably a dog too, who can run around your white picket-fenced yard. That’s the American “DREAM,” isn’t it? There’s this understood checklist of life-accomplishments we need to complete in order to be a happy and normal person. These things though, other than going to college and starting a career, have never impressed me. In fact, I’ve always resisted the idea of “growing up,” but today I wanted to focus on part of the American Dream formula that I get the most criticism for not wanting to comply with, that is, having children.

I’ll admit, there’s a part of me (a dark and scary part of me) that hopes I’m not even capable of having children. I know that’s probably unlikely, but it seems like an unfair hand that there are women out there who desperately want a child and then someone like me who has no interest in procreating. And women are jealous creatures. They can be vicious to one another when they place their own expectations on others.

And that’s where I have the biggest problem. As a twenty-something woman with career aspirations, I’m not “allowed” to not want children. When you’re a teenager and you say you never want kids, people just shrug and laugh and say “You’re young! You’ll change!” and I think usually they do. But somehow once you’ve reached your twenties, wanting kids seems to become a requirement.

When I tell my guy friends or potential boyfriends, they scoff at me or back off. They want kids, why shouldn’t I? They usually treat me with the “you’ll want kids once you marry a super amazing man like me.” I have never dated a guy like this. Fortunately.

When I tell my girl friends, they either look at me with horror or think I’m joking. The horror comes with “But who will take care of you when you’re old? What will you fill up your time with? Aren’t you afraid no one will want to marry you?” And the worst, “You’re just scared of babies, you’ll get over it.” Those who think I’m joking, just laugh it off and tell me all the reasons they love their kids or their nieces and nephews and how they’re going to have 2 girls and a boy and they’ll do cheerleading and football just like their imaginary father. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but girls do act like I HAVE to be kidding about not wanting kids. But the thing is, I’m not.

It’s not something I’m flippantly saying to seem New Age-y or nonchalant. It’s an issue I’ve contemplated and struggled with for the last six years. Once I started college and began to think about my life after college and my career, I began to see how having kids would hinder my ability to make a successful career for myself. But my career is not the main reason I came to my childless conclusion, it was just the spark to start the blaze.

First of all, I have many genetically linked emotional issues—depression, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, perfectionism—and the last thing I would want to do is pass those traits on to another human being when it’s been so hard for me to cope with them. I have family members on both sides with these issues so I know it is something passed down and not just me being melodramatic.

no-kids-2

Second, I would be a horrible parent. Recently, a woman I know on Facebook was venting her frustration at the parents from her son’s 3rd grade class. They had a diorama project due that day which she, being a mom interested in her son’s own creativity and learning, had let him control the project. But on walking into the building and seeing other students’ projects, she realized that there were parents who would basically take their unfulfilled Hollywood set-design aspirations to an extreme and complete their child’s project for them. I’m so ashamed to say that would be me. Not that I don’t value a child’s creativity or learning (I most certainly do!) but I am a perfectionist and an artist. And my perfectionism would absolutely trump my desire to do what’s best for the child. I imagine I would be one of those horrific parents who you can tell is trying to relive their youth through their child by making them participate in all kinds of clubs and activities and make perfect grades. It makes me feel guilty just to think about it.

Then there’s the opposite of this situation, what if I had a child who hated school and perfection? This comes from experience with my brother who is so different from me that my parents didn’t know how to deal with him growing up. (Basically, I made life too easy for them). I don’t know if I could handle having a child who hated everything I put my hopes and beliefs in (i.e. working hard to achieve your goals). But seeing my brother grow up, I know that it’s very possible for this to happen too.

Part of my decision not to have children stems from fear—fear of the unknown. Children are all unknown factors. You don’t know what you’re going to get. Crazy. Disrespectful. Rebellious. For some people that’s exciting and acceptable. For me, that’s horrifying and far too stress inducing to willingly participate in. But the more important part of my decision is that I don’t feel the need to propagate my DNA. When I talk to my dad about not wanting to have kids, he’s always aghast. I ask him why he wanted kids, and he says that he feels like it was part of his duty to have kids and carry on a legacy and contribute to the world. To this statement, I’m usually the one aghast at the idea that somehow by making babies he feels he’s “contributing to the world.” If you think that way, fine. But I have every right not to feel like I need to procreate to feel like I’ve made a contribution to the world. I’d much rather affect the world at large by something that requires my unique skills and abilities. Not just my uterus.

no-kids-3

I love children. I’m glad that other people have them. They bring so much happiness and innocence to the world. However, I think it shouldn’t be a requirement or an expectation for a woman to want kids. With more women pursuing independent careers and taking on powerful roles in the workforce, I think this expectation is lessening, but certain cultures permeate these ideas. I would simply suggest that you don’t assume anymore. And you don’t react in horror or surprise if a woman tells you she doesn’t want children. It’s a choice that she has the right to make and a decision that she should be in compliance with her (future) partner over. When we can come to understandings on issues like this, it reduces so much stress for all parties involved.

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Persevering Towards Your Goals (Novel Writing: Month 4, Chapter 4)

Novel Writing - Month 4

I have written four chapters!  This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I can promise you it’s spectacular for me!  When I think back to my original story, I would have periods of intense writing and then long bouts of stagnation so that I don’t think I’ve ever actually written four chapters inside of four months.  This really makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something and that writing this book is not just a possibility but also a completely reachable goal.

I struggle a lot with deciding on reasonable goals.  As I’ve gotten older, it has become increasingly hard for me to determine what goals to set for myself because I have such high expectations.  On the one hand, I might set goals that are entirely too lofty or create a timeline of completion that just isn’t possible.  On the other, I could be too scared to even set goals at all so that I have nothing to work toward because of my fear that I will fail.  But you can’t succeed if you never try.  But you can certainly fail if you never step outside of your box.  Failing by omission, I would call it.

I don’t want to be the kind of person that just lets life pass me by because I’m too afraid to grab life by the horns and make it bend to my will.  What’s ironic is that I am, in fact, an extremely determined and self-confident person.  I believe in my abilities. I know I am talented.  I know I deserve to be using them somewhere I could benefit both others and myself; however, I’m afraid.  My self-confidence dies when it looks into the eyes of the world.  I think it’s that I feel like I’ve never been good enough for the world.  There’s always been someone one step ahead of me by luck or coincidence, not necessarily merit.  For example, I was salutatorian of my high school class when I actually had a better-looking report card (all A’s across the board) than the valedictorian.  But he took one less class than I did which made his GPA average differently (because my extra class was a choir course on a 4.0 rather than a weighted 5.0 scale).  This wasn’t the first time I had experienced a goal disappointment like that, but it was the formative moment in my life where I realized that no matter how hard I tried, sometimes certain things would always be unattainable.

Even though that disappointment happened almost 6 years ago, I think I’m still slowly healing from it.  And more than anything, setting small but significant goals like rewriting my novel chapter-by-chapter, month-by-month, is helping me see the joy in accomplishing goals that I love.  I think it’s also teaching me the difference between the things I have a passion for (like writing and filmmaking) and the things I excel at because of my perfectionism (e.g. straights A’s in high school and college).  Perfectionism has made me lauded and bragged about by family, friends, and teachers, and it feels nice; however, it seems like there is always someone else slipping into the crowd who has done something even MORE significant and praise-worthy and my parade gets rained on a bit.  It’s not that I don’t like to celebrate other people’s accomplishments, but when you’re a perfectionist, you’re always comparing yourself to everyone around you.  You can never rest because your goal of perfection in everything can never truly be complete.

When I pursue my passions though and use them as a basis for my goals, I always find so much more joy.  I have to wonder why I don’t set goals like this more often.  I would supposed it’s because striving for perfectionism is easy—not in the execution, of course, but in the decision to pursue it.  Striving for your passion requires careful thought and sacrifices.  Will you pursue your passion goal at the expense of your perfectionistic goals like a clean house or a perfect report card or a promotion?  If you’ve never been accustomed to perfection goals, then you probably think I’m crazy right now, and I envy you.  I’ve known people who pursue their passions without a second thought.  Perfectionism? What’s that?  But I’m caught in the Venus Fly Trap of perfection, unfortunately.  I’ve been making slow progress against my perfectionistic goals since high school, but what I’m doing now with the pursuit of my novel-writing goal is something that I think has much greater potential for boosting my self-confidence and helping me feel accomplished.

So HUZZAH! For chapter four! And on to chapter 5! And on and on because I’m going to write this book. I want to write this book! I won’t stop after 12 chapters/one year either.  I will write to finish it.  Because that’s something I’ve been passionate about since I was thirteen.  And I deserve to follow my passions.