Hannah: "We're incredibly in love & incredibly happy the way our lives are, so why change it?"

Deciding not to have children, for me, was an easier decision than most of my friends & family want to believe. Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a mom, but at 31, my attitude drastically changed & I'm lucky that I'm with someone who feels the same way as I do.

Our views on procreation can make life lonely as we're at that special age where our friends & families lives are consumed with first having children & then raising them. Conversations centre on their hectic lives as parents or questions of "when are you having children," & the subsequent shocked induced "why not?" 

Our decision to not have children is simply based on the fact that we're incredibly in love & incredibly happy the way our lives are, so why change it? We both work regular jobs & enjoy spending time together but also alone. A normal day for us is work, dinner, walk the dog, an hour or so of personal time & an hour or so of time together & repeat. We hope to be able to retire a little earlier & explore the world we live in. Simple. We often ask ourselves, "Where would children fit into our life"?

The question is; why should choosing not to have children deem one as being selfish?

I don't think selfish is a bad word, but an empowering one. One that says take control of your life & do what makes you happy. Everyone's version of happiness is different, for some it's having children for other's it's not & those decisions, of what makes you happy, shouldn't be questioned or chastised.

I'm proud of the life I've built & the choices I've made to get there, & if that makes me a selfish person than so be it. I'll happily wear that hat as I drink my glass (heck my bottle if I want to) of wine, read a good book next to my partner as they read theirs & make plans for a wonderful future together without children but hopefully full of happiness & love. –Hannah Stevens in Alberta, Canada

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Kate: "Even now, at the age of 57, older men have asked me, 'So was it you, or was your husband shooting blanks?' "

Even now, at the age of 57, older men have asked me, "So was it you, or was your husband shooting blanks?" As if they need an answer, so unable to accept my choice. As if it's their business.

Or, "I'm so sorry. What are you going to do when you get old?' Which sends me off into gales of laughter. As a care aide I've seen older folk with plenty of children who never come to visit them in their homes, or even after they have been put in said care home by their children.

Another one I love is being told how selfish I am. Hm. That one I will never understand. In a world of shrinking resources, poverty, dysfunctional families, how is choosing NOT to bring yet another human being into this world, selfish? Hm.

Years ago my husband and I were called DINK(s). Double income, no kids. Hm. Again the point is? Perhaps the kindest comment came from my hairdresser. A father of five children who once said, 'well if you don't have 'em, you don't miss 'em." I liked that approach. It was accepting and kind with no judgement put on me or questioned of choice.

I was never the kid who wanted to play with Barbie or have a baby that peed water when pressed. Call me silly, but it just didn't appeal. I had puppies and a pony and rabbits and other lovely mammals that showed me what motherhood looked like, but I preferred to do exactly what I wanted. I hit the road at 17 and haven't looked back, and I'm pretty sure I'll be just fine. –Kate

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The Selfish World Traveler: "A common refrain in my Jewishly observant high school was not whether one would have kids, but rather *how many* kids you wanted."

Growing up in a family of five children, I always assumed that one day I would have kids. 

A common refrain in my Jewishly observant high school class (all girls) was not whether one would be married and have kids, but rather *how many* kids you wanted. I always settled on four kids (because five was clearly too many) never pausing to consider whether I really wanted kids or not. 

My high school classmates and friends started getting married and reproducing soon after high school. I, being a good friend, was always privy to the inner workings of giving birth and taking care of infants. Changing diapers? Check. Hearing horror stories about birth? Check. Observing how unfair it seemed that men went off to work and had life outside the family home, while women were at home with piles of laundry and screaming kids? Shockingly still in the 21st century? Check, check, and check. 

Then there was my own family background. My parents were stuck in an unhappy marriage (still are), and us kids bore the brunt of it. So there was yelling and screaming, abusive punishments, instances of running away from home, and many, many unpleasant memories. 

Family and children was never something I associated with happiness. 

Many years later, I got married to a wonderful man, and friends and complete strangers immediately started asking when we would be having kids. I hated getting that question. It immediately got my hackles up, every single time, and a whole bunch of people were told to back off, not yet and it's none of their business. I knew I definitely did not want kids immediately, yet still assumed I would, eventually. Just not yet. 

A couple of years later, when I was about to turn 30, I was *sure* that my biological clock would start ticking and I would start wanting kids. The same happened when I turned 34 (the age my mom was when she got pregnant with me) and 35 (the last chance before I started to get geriatric, in child-bearing terms).

My biological clock remained as silent as the tomb, and that's been the case until this day.

I don't know if it's my unhappy childhood and family life (my therapist certainly thinks it is), or if it's being aware of how difficult parents have it, or the fact that both I and my spouse value our freedom and our selfish, peaceful life. We travel the world, enjoy each others' company, have hours of quiet time alone in the evenings, and we have a cat. I often joke that it's much easier to leave a cat at home and take off, whereas leaving a child alone is frowned upon. 

I'm now 37, and still as convinced as ever that I don't now or ever will want kids. My selfish lifestyle is pretty good. –The Selfish World Traveler

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Maureen: "I promised I would never have a child of my own even though I loved babies and the children in my extended family"

When I was 21 years old, I asked my to doctor sterilize me. He was a new doctor. One I was sent to by a Catholic hospital because it's against their policy. I thought I was going to have to fight. But surprisingly he said yes with out hesitation.

When I was 12 years old my hip dislocated while I was laying on my couch. The pain was unimaginable. My mom is a nurse. She didn't know why it happened but she understood it did and rushed me to the hospital. But by the time we got there I was fine. How odd? We came to find out from my estranged father that I had been born with a genetic disorder that was now rearing its ugly head.

My childhood was turned upside down. I was taken out of gymnastics class. I was crushed. I loved gymnastics and I was great! Party because of the flexibility caused by the disorder. At that moment I promised I would never have a child of my own even though I loved babies and all the younger children in my big extended family. I went on with my life mostly uninterrupted. Except for a dislocation here and there. As I grew up I watched my sister and cousins with the same disease reproduce and give their child a 1 in 2 chance to have the disorder.

Anytime I mentioned my desire to NEVER have my own children I was met with hostility or disgust or dismissed because of my young age. I never stopped liking children and I never changed my mind. When I was younger I thought I would have a baby if I didn't have Ehlers-Danlos but as I got older the thought drifted further and further in my mind. I decided I really didn't want children.

When I was 19 I started to have really bad back and hip pain. My dislocations were a few times a week. By the time I was 21 they where multiple times a day and the pain was chronic and pretty much EVERYWHERE! All of my joints and all of my back. Over the next 2 years I was put on a cocktail of pills. I'm 23 and currently have 6 prescriptions and take 14 pills a day every day. I was in a committed relationship when I was 21 and I was on birth control but had seen too many unplanned pregnancies in my family. Some while on birth control. In my big family I was the 2nd 21-year-old ever to not have had a baby. I decided it was time to get my tubes tied. To my surprise my doctor said yes without hesitation. A month later it was done.

For the first time in my adult life I went off birth control. Even people with the same disorder struggled for years to find a doctor like I did. Some more worse off then me. My family finally accepted that fact that I wasn't having children. But then I turned around and realized it wasn't just them. It was the entire world. I naïvely thought we were past this as a society. I watched as the glass ceiling moved further and further away. Every time I was told how sad it was that I would never have children. How my life would never be complete without them. How my fiancé was going to leave me eventually. How I was selfish. How I'm not allowed to be close to my pets because they are not little humans.

I looked towards others that shared my opinion of not having children. And found a whole other kind of hate. Those who hate children and the parents who decide to have them. I left the group and found somewhere I belonged. A Facebook group call Childfree Hate Free. I hope one day we can all have a childfree hate free discussion. Because hating is not the answer. We just want some common decency on the choices we make about our own body. –Maureen

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JB: "I am a proud guardian of five pet birds, and they give me an outlet for my nurturing side"

I am 48 years old and have known I never wanted children since Elementary School. I recently got married and enjoy my childfree marriage very much. As I look back upon my life, I know I made the correct decision because I would have been trapped in poverty and single motherhood had I decided to have a child; something I never want for myself or the child. I still receive comments from my family, despite my age and disability, that I should have children now that I am happily married. I just laugh and tell them that I would not make a good mother. They argue with me about that, but then I ask them, "How could I make a good mother to a child I never wanted?" I am a proud guardian of five pet birds, and they give me an outlet for my nurturing side. –JB

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Jess: "I had my tubes tied when I was in my mid-20's. I had a hysterectomy at age 36 which was the best thing I've ever done."

JessChildfree.jpg

There's never been a time in my life when I've wanted to have my own children. Since I was a teenager I knew I didn't want kids and I had my tubes tied when I was in my mid-20's. I had a hysterectomy at age 36 which was the best thing I've ever done.

When I was younger, people said I'd change my mind, but I never have and I've never regretted it for one minute. My life is so fulfilling with the volunteer work I do for different charities, through looking after my cats and hens who I consider my non-human children and travelling the world with my husband. Also, it's wonderful to be able to do things spontaneously without having to consider the needs of a child.

The odd time I've thought that perhaps if I was ever super rich I would adopt a child, but I don't feel that not having a child leaves an empty space in my life. For anyone to think that being child free is selfish I would ask them why do they have kids? Who does it benefit to bring children into the world? Children don't ask to be born and there are a lot of people who suffer greatly through life. I would never want to bring a child into a world that is already over populated with humans; a world that can be very harsh and cruel.

I do believe that some people have children through pressure from family or society or because they feel that 'it's just what you do.' For anyone thinking that they must have kids even though they really don't want to, I say don't do it! It will be the best thing you've never done! –Jess W

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AAH: "The stigma attached to mental illness is as misunderstood as the choice to remain childfree."

 My story has a few different components. 

The first part starts with the fact that I didnʻt like kids even when I was a kid. I never understood why they were so mean to each other, hated school, or misbehaved at home. Instead of playing with dolls and planning my future wedding, I spent my time learning literally every single breed of dog and memorizing the entire endangered species list. I have always had more compassion and empathy for animals than for babies or children. This is often a source of tension at times when I choose to play with my friend's dog rather than hold their infant. 

The second part of my story is that my aunt is also child-free, and happens to be my role model. Growing up, I was so envious of all the trips she took, and she seemed so happy, so I always figured it was okay if I didnʻt want children either. She is now retired, has no regrets, and is living the most incredibly fulfilling life. We are very similar physically and in many other ways, which makes me wonder if the childfree choice has a genetic component. 

Another part of my story is that my husband can't have kids because of an illness when he was younger. That was actually one of the reasons I started dating him! We are perfectly happy with our life, and have nearly twenty nieces and nephews to hang out with when we get the rare urge to spend time with children. One of the misconceptions surrounding the childfree choice is that we dislike children. That is not the case at all, as there is a big difference between *liking* children and *wanting* them. 

The last part of my story is more difficult to discuss, as the stigma attached to mental illness is as misunderstood as the choice to remain childfree. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder since I was young, and this is the primary reason I remain childfree. I am forty years old and am just now coming to grips with this "disease" and how it has affected every aspect of my life, both positively and negatively. I never know how I am going to feel when I wake up, and I often have weeks at a time where it takes every ounce of energy I have to get out of bed in the morning. I cannot imagine having to care for a child during the really bad days. Sometimes I feel like the *least* selfish thing I have done with my life is *not* have a child so they won't have to deal with the mood swings, substance abuse, need for medication and therapy, and all the other baggage that goes along with mental illness. 

Most of my friends are parents now, and can literally not post, think, or talk about anything outside of their family unit, how this is all they ever wanted out of life. I cannot relate at all, and am not very empathetic when they complain about how tired they are. It is lonely and frustrating sometimes, as I am forty years old and my lifestyle hasn't changed much since my twenties, so I have very little in common with people my age. 

I am continually perplexed when people call us selfish for not wanting children, and tired of those sad looks I get that imply I am missing out on something. Yes, I get plenty of uninterrupted sleep at night and can take vacations without much notice or planning...but that just makes me a better employee, wife, neighbor, and friend, with more time and energy to volunteer and make a difference on a larger community and global scale. I always felt destined for something greater than having kids. I recently completed my Master's Degree in Nursing Education, and I travel at any opportunity, which continually fuels my passion for cultural diversity and global health and makes me feel like a more tolerant, well-rounded individual. I don't feel like I am missing out on anything. –AAH

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Gretchen: "The only thing I want in my uterus is tumbleweed...and my IUD"

I like to say that the only thing I want in my uterus is tumbleweed...and my IUD. I'm forty-six, financially stable and in a long-term strong marriage, but there's no way I'd bear a child, and I've known that since my late twenties.

I share some reasons for not wanting to bear children with others. Like many, I'm terribly concerned about the environmental impact of children, especially in the Western world. We are severely overpopulated now, and I can't contribute to that in good faith. And because environmental impacts are changing the planet, I also fear the kind of world I would be handing over, the irreparable damage I would be leaving my child to grapple with. 

My quality of life is lovely and balanced now, too. I enjoy the work I do as a writer and activist. My work as an animal advocate is essential for me. I also thrive on quality time with my husband and friends. And I love the fact that we have the time, money, and flexibility to travel internationally, adopt numerous rescue animals, make significant donations to worthy causes, take in art and performance, relax deeply, and support others in need. 

But the most important reason I will not have kids is an unusual one, though I'm always puzzled that it's atypical. It is simply this: While many feel that the joys of life balance out the pain—at least at certain times of their lives—others simply do not. We wake up day after day after day and deal with what we are handed and what we create. For some, these factors make life itself deeply burdensome. Whatever the cause, the struggle can cause people to lash out at each other, to close off to themselves or others, to end their own lives, to feel profound loneliness, to suffer. 
Because there is no way to determine whether a child of my body would want to be here, I simply cannot make that enormous choice. It would be hubris for me to think I should dictate that he or she must BE, must spend 90 years grappling with life, because I said so. – Gretchen Primack

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