Deciding Between a Childed or Childfree Life
DisclaimerBefore anyone gets their panties in a twist, I admit I am not unbiased. If you want to hear the other side of the coin, go to any parenting board on the internet. I am childfree and I like it, so sure, it’s going to sound more like I’m trying to talk you out of having kids. But let’s get this straight: I’m not trying to talk anyone OUT of having kids. I’m only addressing this to people who haven’t decided yet if they want kids or not, so I can’t be talking them out of a decision they have not yet made. I’m also not trying to sway them to my side of the fence, I’m just giving them food for thought, and they’ll make their own decision. I don’t recruit people. I just tell them MY side of the story and MY views which, while biased, might help them make up their own minds. Got it?
And don’t give me this crap that, “If everyone thought very hard about it, no one would have kids.” Trust me, there are always people who will have kids. But only a fool would think that not thinking about this decision is what is best for your (hypothetical) kids. If that is all clear, you can proceed.
Step 1The absolute first thing you need to do is to figure out what you really want to accomplish in life (besides kids) and what your favorite hobbies (besides playing with kids) are. Will child(ren) help you accomplish your life goals? Will having child(ren) hinder those life goals? How much time will you have for your favorite hobbies when you have a child? Now (if married or in a serious relationship) think about your spouses’ life goals and hobbies are. Will having kids help or hinder their life choices? If it will hinder yours and/or your spouse’s life goals, are you sure you’ll be okay with that and not resentful? It’s okay if your answer is that kids will not hinder and might even help your life goals and hobbies and you won’t be resentful if the kids do hinder your life goals and hobbies. But make sure you are being totally honest and not just fooling yourself. You have to be realistic about this.
Step 2Next, you need to figure out WHY you want children. Maybe this list will help: The WRONG reasons for becoming a mother:
- To save marriage (“This will create a bond between me and my spouse!”)
- For financial security (Child support, social welfare programs, etc)
- To have an identity (“I’m Kaylee’s mom! I’m doing the most important job in the world!”)
- To make up for lack of personal accomplishments (“My kid will cure cancer!!”)
- To vicariously relive childhood (“I’m going to give my child everything I never had!”)
- To prove adulthood (“I am mature and responsible because I have a child!”)
- As an insurance policy (“I’ll have someone to take care of me when I’m old!”)
- To avoid getting a job (“I’m a full-time mom! I can’t work!”)
- To avoid loneliness (“I’ll never be alone now that I have a baby. My baby will love me!”)
- To feel needed (“I will have someone who needs me, and I can be in charge of someone!”)
- Cult of Mommy (“Now I’ll fit in with all my peers!”)
- To feel alive: (“Feeling a baby move inside of me will make me feel alive and creative!”)
- Out of guilt (“My religion wants me to ‘atone” for the sin of enjoying sex, so I must have a child to make up for it.”)
- To satisfy religious requirements (“My religion demands I don’t use birth control or that I give my husband a son!”)
- Prove non-virgin status (“See, someone had sex with me!”)
- To prove fertility/virility (“Me big tough man! Me impregnate females!”)
- To prove sexual orientation (“See! I’m not gay, I’m straight! I had sex with a woman and got her pregnant!”)
- To prove youth (“I can still get it up!”)
- To be the “King of the House” (“Look at me! I’m dominate over children!”)
- To keep wife at home (“Having kids keeps my wife from emasculating me and getting a better job and more pay than I get!”)
- To continue family name (“Look, my family name and genetic line will go on, so it’s almost like being immortal!”)
Step 3A lot of people seem to like kids of a certain age. Stop and be honest about what age group you like best, and what age groups don’t sound like fun to you at all. Think about the possibility that you could work with children in that age group that you love the best. If so, maybe that is exactly what could give you the “fix” you are looking for without having your own kids. I knew someone who LOVED babies — so she became a nurse on a maternity ward. She always had her fill of babies but never had to deal with the toddler age she dreaded. My sister loves middle-schoolers, so she teaches middle-school and volunteers at a middle-school summer camp. She gets a steady stream of kids in the age she loves the most and never has to deal with the other ages. It’s the best of both worlds! My husband is an athlete and for a short time was stuck on this “Kodak Moment” of how great it would be to have a son to sports things with. He never really thought much about all those other ages he’d get stuck dealing with. So he started working with youth sports leagues and now he gets his fill of working with kids and sports, and he often says, “Ug, thank god I don’t have to bring them home with me! Those kids just aren’t like we were when we were kids. They are such snots and rude to authority!” And he’s right. Have you ever considered that? True, you might be able to raise your own kid better, but won’t the other kids rub off on him? Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. But at least be aware that you won’t be the only influence in your child’s life.
Step 4Babysit. Seriously! Find a friend or relative and offer them a night of free babysitting. The younger the better, because if you decide to have a baby, it’ll start out young, so best to know what you are in for. If it goes well, babysit a few more times for longer stretches at a time. If all goes well, great. If it doesn’t, maybe you should really re-think this. If you are really ambitious, you can look into foster parenting.
Step 5YOU CAN’T GIVE YOUR OWN KIDS BACK. Just think about that for a minute. Right now, you still have a chance to waffle on this. Nine months from now that won’t be an option. Are you REALLY ready for an 18+ year commitment? It’s not like buying a house — if it gets to be too much, you sell it and move. A kid doesn’t just go away. There is a line from the movie Terms of Endearment about parenting that goes something like this, “As hard as you think it’s going to be, you end up wishing it were that easy.” Parenthood is a lot of worry and stress. Oh sure, there are probably upsides to it, too, but I think it’s always good to be a little pessimistic, because it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than horribly disappointed. If you are a woman, I’m sad to say this, but you are most likely going to get stuck with the vast majority of the parenting. Yes, some men are great about helping out, but they are still in the minority. And while your husband right now might be swearing he’ll do his share or more, that remains to be seen. Some guys SAY that, but don’t follow through. So be prepared to do most of the work. Like I said, it’s better to be pleasantly surprised. Now think about this: You might not always be a couple. Even if you are absolutely certain that your spouse will do at least 50% of the parenting, what if he dies. Or what if he or she leaves? In most cases, the kids stay with the mother but if you are the father, they might end up with you. Now you’ll be now doing 100% (or close to it) of the parenting. Are you ready for that? Does a nasty custody and child support case sound like fun? Oh, I know, they aren’t all nasty, but many of them are. Just remember: those kids are here to stay. If you’re cool with that, and you are honest enough to realize that you might end up raising them alone and you think you could do it all by yourself, hey, more power to you.
Step 6Read books on parenting. Take a child psychology class or two. Take parenting classes. Make sure you aren’t just looking at parenthood through rose-colored glasses. Some recommended books to get you started:
- The Parenthood Decision: Discovering Whether You Are Ready and Willing to Become a Parent by Beverly Engel
- I’m Okay, You’re a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood by Susan Jeffers
- Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Everything and Why We Pretend It Doesn’t by Susan Maushart
- The Case Against Having Children by Anna & Arnold Silverman
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
- What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
- What to Expect the Toddler Years by Arlene Eisenberg