Brianna: “Since I missed out on so much as a child, I made the choice that I would live for my own happiness at a very young age”

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Hello, I'm Brianna from Melbourne, Australia. I come from a very dysfunctional family. All of my six cousins and my younger brother have had children with partners they weren't fully committed to, and at a very young age (below 25). Some tried to work it out, some didn't. They all have very low incomes, or are living off welfare.

My mother and father divorced when I was eight. My father was never much of a father, even after the divorce, and my mother is still mentally ill from her past and continues to fool medical professionals to this day.

She suffered PPD after many miscarriages and a stillborn. She paid a lot of money to have myself and my brother through fertility treatment, as my father was infertile.

I didn't have a great childhood. My mother tried her best, but we went without on a regular basis. She was very constrictive and controlling. I didn't fit in at school, as I was the poor one, and everyone knew it. I had to work lunchtimes at the school canteen to get a feed. At 16, I had to pay for half of my school camp fees from my part time job and pay registration on a car that I couldn't drive unsupervised, because my mother couldn't afford it.

Since I missed out on so much as a child, I made the choice that I would live for my own happiness at a very young age. I got educated, got out of the rural area I grew up in that had no career opportunities, kept out of trouble and worked hard.

My life at 24 is finally starting to get on track. I have a lovely fiance with Aspergers who shares my feelings on children, I have a great job in a government department and I can comfortably afford a lifestyle with a few extra perks like dinners out and nice holidays.

My fears of becoming a mother mainly stem from my upbringing, and the financial responsibility behind that, but my other reasons include: Fearing I would replicate my mother's actions with my children, not wanting to destroy my body, not wanting additional responsibility (enjoying my freedom), enjoying working and having my own funds, not wanting sleepless nights, being knee deep in poop, pee, vomit, and generally not liking children anyway.

Society is slowly but surely moving away from the notion that a women's worth is only in her children, and it's about time. Self care is not selfish.–Brianna

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Laura: “We began praying about what the Lord wanted us to do in terms of expanding our family. Our conclusion: we would remain childless”

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Throughout the history of our society, we are taught that we are to grow up, get married and have children. This has been the definition of family. But what if this cookie cutter definition doesn't fit everybody? Before we married, my now husband and I talked extensively about children. If we'd have any, how many, ect... We came to the conclusion that we'd adopt but never had a definite timeline or deadline. 

When we became engaged, my engagement ring was too big for my hand, so a spacer was put on it.  Life happened and we were never able to get it properly sized. We had plans to pass it down to our oldest child if they so chose to marry one day.  Every time I looked at it I pictured our future child, down on one knee, with this ring, shining from a velvety box.

After several years of marriage, the topic of children kept creeping into our lives. Older siblings and close friends began having children, and we started discussions about expanding our family. We both love children. I actually work in childcare, and I loved the idea of providing a stable home for a child that needed one. One issue we talked about at length was how my anxiety and our collective low energy levels would affect us as parents. 

Throughout those years, a funny thing happened. Those close to us with children began telling us how difficult it was, physically and mentally, and we began to see that first hand. Christmas with kids is a fun, albeit tiresome, experience even if you aren't a parent. We also began praying about what the Lord wanted us to do in terms of expanding our family. Which leads us to Christmas 2014.

With three kids in the house, all under six, Christmas at my parent's house was filled with lots of noise and movements only equal to that of the Energizer Bunny. On steroids. After three days of dizzying activity, my husband and I had a long discussion, a time of prayer, and reached a conclusion. We would remain childless.

We drove back from my parents in a daze. It's a bit disorienting when you think your life is moving in one direction, then the Lord comes in and says, "Nope. I want you to go here". Even though we knew we were making the right decision, in a way it sucked. Big time. But you move forward, taking one day at a time. You mourn the life you thought you'd have. And you think of what your life will become.

A few months have passed since our lives path changed. On Sunday we went to the jewelry store and picked up my engagement ring. Freshly sized to fit perfectly. I wear it now with my wedding band. Now when I look at my sparkly ring, I am reminded of our commitment to those children already in our lives. To influence them to grow into awesome adults and responsible citizens. And pump them full of sugar when they visit and give them back to their parents. ;-)

Here is what I've learned in this experience that I want others to know: NEVER feel like you are less of a person because you choose a path that includes marriage but not children. This does NOT make you less of a person if parenting is not in the cards. If you feel overwhelmed and feel parenting might not be for you, that's OK! –Laura

This story originally ran on the Be Anxious About Nothing blog. More blog entries on childlessness are here.

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Rachel: "Does being a mom make me a better teacher? Maybe some moments. Other days my son is the reason I'm emotionally & physically exhausted"

I always thought I would graduate college, marry, wait a few years, and have 2-3 kids, all before turning 30. Instead, my husband and I married at 23. We knew it would be a while until we started a family. We had careers to start & bills to pay. We also didn't spend a lot of time together, so simply enjoying each other's company was satisfactory. Every year we found a new reason to put it off another year.

Being a teacher at a high school, you're expected to want kids because you work with kids. Other people perceive you as more "cold" to the students or not able to relate to the parents, if you don't have kids. Your students ask about your choices and why you don't have kids. Meanwhile, as you are aging, your teenage students are seeming constantly pregnant. It's awkward.

As we got closer to our 30s we began to re-evaluate what we wanted in our future. We decided to try and get pregnant. We decided that if it happened, it would be great adventure. If it didn't happen, well... we were finally getting financially comfortable so there were so many options on how we could enjoy one another. I got pregnant.

I enjoy motherhood but one is enough, especially due to my age & health concerns. Does being a mom make me a better teacher? Maybe some moments. Other days my son is the reason why I'm emotionally & physically exhausted. Nonetheless, I am more judgmental about how the amount of thought (or lack of) I perceive others placed into entering parenthood & their sex lives because I so carefully planned mine. Being a parent is both one of the most selfish and selfless things you can do, at the same time. –Rachel

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Mary: "I chose not to be a parent because I don't want to scar a child. I struggle with my scars today as a 30-year-old woman"

I can remember vividly what it was like to be a child. Discovering my weaknesses, figuring out what I was good at doing. Mostly what it was like to grow up in a volatile environment. My mom was bipolar and my dad was mostly at work. It felt like he preferred to be at work. When he was home he drank a lot.

I can remember not wanting to be "the mom" when we played house. I wanted to be a sister or daughter. My model of a woman was my mother and as far as I was concerned I didn't want to be a woman. I wanted to stay a girl. I didn't want a husband because I didn't want a man to yell at me and call me names all the time. Being an adult seemed like the most awful thing in the world.

I take offense when people say that having children is knowing love. I already know love and empathy, more than I can handle. I look at my nieces and nephews and can understand their disappointments and their sadness. I don't understand when my sisters do the same things to their kids that my parents did to us. Things that hurt and scarred us.

I chose not to be a parent because I don't want to scar a child. I want to mentor and build up children. I feel like parents overlook and brush off their children's needs and fears. I struggle with my scars today as a 30 year old woman. I can't fathom a scared child somewhere feeling worthless and unloved. –Mary

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M J Aslin: "I hate 'childless.' It sounds like I have lost something, but if anything I have gained much more by not having children"

I am a 36-year-old female from Nottingham, England.

I have never felt maternal or broody, never saw myself with Children and never interested in having any. 

As it turns out I can't have children anyway. I had Endometriosis for 10 years and then had a hysterectomy when I was 26. I love my life. I also hate the phrase Childless. It sounds like I have lost something, but I haven't–if anything I have gained much more by not having children, so if I have to have a title (which I hate) then call me a non-parent

I have many children in my life and I love them dearly and enjoy being with them, for a few hours and then hand them back to their parents.

I love travelling with my husband, I love having a meal with my husband or friends, and I love being able to have a full conversation–something that I find almost impossible with my friends who have children. I often feel "in the way" if I visit my friends at home and their children are there. My friends are bust tidying up, doing house jobs, talking to and shouting at their children, feeding them or playing with them etc whilst I am there trying to have a conversation with them. I find it frustrating and find myself organising Adult time with my friends which often means meeting in a coffee shop for an hour without a child, and then arranging family time with them and their children where no conversations really happen. 

Most of my friends with children complain about the children and how hard it is looking after them, and I want to shout: "Did you not think about this before having them?" Seriously, who thinks being a parent is going to be easy?

I tell them that is one reason I don't have them....too much hard work and too much responsibility–at least I am honest. I like my life without Children. –M J Aslin

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Eleni: "People don't often talk about the downsides to being a parent in a way that sounds real"

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When I was younger, I always assumed that I was destined to be a parent. I wasn't good at very much, but anyone could be a parent, right? All the years between the age of about 14 and 22 revolved around not making plans for my future, since I knew I was going to be a parent, and I knew I wasn't cut out to "have it all". 

Discovering my first childfree forum was baffling. I didn't understand how anyone could not want kids, and it took a lot of reading to start to realise that many of them raised excellent points about the hardships of parenting that I couldn't answer. So I started researching. Up until that point, I'd only been looking at one small part of parenting – the fun, snuggly part. It's scary how little I actually knew! People don't often talk about the downsides to being a parent in a way that sounds real, it's always laughed off as "so worth it." And I'm sure it is to some. But I quickly came to doubt that it would be for me. I'm simply not cut out for the bad parts.

I distinctly remember the night that all my remaining doubts vanished. I was browsing a confessions website and came across a story posted by the mother of a severely disabled adult child. Her husband had bailed, her son had the mental capacity of a toddler and she spent her days caring for him. Her whole life was gone, nothing left but fear for what might happen to her child when she eventually died. 

Making the decision final changed my life. I'm no more intelligent or talented than before, but there's nothing stopping me from trying, no reason to give anything up if I succeed, no one to worry about but myself if I fail. It's been very freeing.

I get asked sometimes "What if you regret this?" but, honestly, there's a chance for regret in any of the decisions we make. All anyone can do it figure out what feels right to us and hope it works out. – Eleni Fraser

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JJ: "I think my mother was not so much pissed off I wasn't giving her grandchildren, but that I refused to have the burdens and lifestyle she had."

I'm 61, live in the Poconos, PA, divorced, retired Purchasing Agent for big international electronics companies. I live with four dogs on a mountainside filled with books and art supplies which gives me lot's of time to meditate and reflect on things. This project got me thinking about things I haven't thought about in years. 

I think my mother (and many other mothers) are not so much pissed off that we who remain childless by choice are not "giving them grandchildren," but that we refuse to have the burdens and lifestyle that they had. They want to see us suffer just as they suffered so they will feel vindicated in their bitching about how hard it was to raise us. My mother used to wish twins on my sister and I as a form of punishment for "what we did to her." Misery loves company.

My mother actually told me when I was a teen that she never wanted children, that she only had them because "her husband and parents expected it of her." I don't have to tell you that what a bitter, selfish, crappy, self-involved mother she was, do I? Funny thing is my sister had two kids, and neither my sister, husband, kids, or the way they way they raised the kids were ever good enough for my mother and father anyway!

My mother felt she never had a choice or a voice in the matter. I think that it wasn't until the 60's and the pill, that women even considered that they could postpone or not have kids. I don't think it crossed my parents minds not to have kids, or that having kids they obviously didn't want would screw up the kids. 

I was so afraid I would be like them and hurt my children the way they hurt me I had decided not to have kids by the time I was sixteen. Not because I was selfish, but because I was afraid I'd do to a child what was done to me and my sister. Selfish was later, in my twenties and thirties when I decided that having a job and a place to live were more important than having kids I couldn't support, physically or emotionally.

The thing I find really strange is that by law, you have to take classes and pass a written and practical test to drive a car, and if you fail you can't drive...but millions of clueless people have babies every year with no idea how to raise healthy, happy children. You have to be 21 to drink because you aren't adult enough to have a beer, but it's ok to have a baby you didn't want or plan on? 

I will have crosses burning on the lawn in no time, but I blame religious zealotry and hatred for a lot of the reproductive malice and injustice of the world, not just in America. Your religion WANTS you to have babies, whether or not you can afford them, are capable of loving, raising, feeding, housing or clothing them. We need to have more of our faith/nationality!! We need to hold the hoards of non-believers at bay by increasing our numbers!

Italy and Russia are bribing citizens now to have babies. Portugal penalizes people who have no children with higher taxes. I read an article that said, "virtually every industrialized country has financial incentives to encourage procreation—tax deductions, family support programs, bonuses for children, etc. And yet fertility rates have been declining in virtually every industrialized country." That scares the pants off religious and political leaders. When women, especially in third world countries, start saying no to kids, they start saying I want to go to school, I want a job, I want choices, I am not a piece of property. That really puts a wrench in the works. 

So you see, we who are childless by choice are a small number of independent thinkers that threaten civilization to the core. If our "mental illness," our "selfish behaviors, our saying NO spreads, it could topple the world. –JJ

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