A few years ago, I discovered THAT term: childfree.
Until then, I just assumed I’d be a mom someday. I viewed parenting as part of life’s ideal progression, not a decision to be made.
I was among the many who set out on what we’re taught is the ideal path: start a career, get married, buy a home, have a baby, and so on. This way promises to lead to happiness and fulfillment. It’s a very popular route and for some, it is ideal.
But for others – myself included – we get a sense we’re headed in the wrong direction.
If, Not When
While dating and first married, my husband Travis and I were certain we wanted to raise children. But now we’re not so sure.
While treading along the ‘ideal’ path, we discovered an alternate route called Childfree.
In an epiphany moment, we realized we didn’t HAVE to have children. After that our mindset changed from deciding WHEN we’d have kids to deciding IF we’ll have kids.
So, we could choose to not have children… But do people really do that?!
Years before I knew “childfree” was a thing, I had one friend who told me she didn’t want to have kids – ever. When she mentioned this to me, I couldn’t comprehend the idea. Literally, it did not compute.
I asked her several questions.
- You never want to have kids??
- Not even one?
- But why?
- What about family?
- Does your husband know?
I realize now I asked her only one question, but in several different ways. I thought if she just understood what I was asking, her answer would change. But for all the ways I asked, her answer didn’t change.
She really didn’t want to have kids – ever. She was childless by choice. And even though she admitted as much, I didn’t believe her. I walked away from our conversation self-assured that she’d eventually change her mind. Because everyone ends up having kids.
I’ve learned a lot about the childfree movement since that conversation. And I’ve met many more people who have chosen not to parent. The consensus among them is that the type of response I gave my friend, when she told me she wasn’t going to have kids, is far too common.
The childless by choice are often misunderstood. Outliers in a society which holds parenting in high regard. Jessica Valenti, author of Why Have Kids, says it like it is:
“American culture can’t accept the reality of a woman who does not want to be a mother. It goes against everything we’ve been taught to think about women and how desperately they want babies.”
Oh Friend, you know who you are, this is my public apology. I’m so sorry. I get it now! You don’t want to have kids – ever. You did understand my questions, and I finally understand your answer. And I accept your childfree decision as right for you.
Our concept of family and ideals of fulfillment need to grow to meet the data. Reality: *Over 47% of women in the U.S. have not had a child. That’s the highest percentage in recorded history.
So, an answer to my question: Choose to not have children… Do people really do that?!
Yes, yes they do!
I know firsthand how difficult it can be to accept the reality of a woman who does not want to be a mother. It goes against what we’ve been taught. But reality – even if we don’t understand, we must learn to accept.
The truth is that parenting is optional. Parenting is your decision.
Choosing to enhance your life by raising children is an option. Choosing to be childfree, opting out of the optional role of parenting, is also an option.
So, consider your options. Ask yourself IF, not WHEN, parenting is right for you.
Is parenting right for me? Answering this question may be easy for you. Or, if you’re like me, it’s mental labor. But I believe wholeheartedly that taking time to think on this question is worthwhile!
And once you determine what’s right for you, accept and embrace your answer. If the ‘ideal’ path isn’t ideal for you, redirect to an alternate route – full speed ahead.
*percentage of women ages 15-44 per the U.S. Census Bureau