Suzie: “I was hassled by a mother in a cake decorating class telling me I was going to die alone”

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I got my first couple of jobs out of university thanks to maternity leave here in Canada. Right out of school, I wanted to get my career in publishing going and I got some of my bigger breaks because women would go have children and never come back. Until this started to happen, I was quite neutral about having kids. I figured I probably would some day but was not fixated on it. Then women started disappearing. Not just from work but my life. If I didn't have children and was not planning on having them soon, you were out. The ones that returned were different. Remember after Madonna had her child? She was a completely different person. People freaked out. I freaked out.

The older I got the more I saw it happen around me. Women giving up on their dreams or changing. When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia I was like, no, I do not want that to happen to me. My career was stolen from me because of illness but you can not take away who I am. I do not want to change. I like me. My body has enough to deal with. Later as a spouse of someone in the military, the pressure got even more intense and I was the weirdo wife. The older I got I was considered an aberration. 

As a food enthusiast I signed up for a cake decorating class only to be hassled by a mother who was taking the class with her daughter telling me I was going to die alone. I have been many controversial things in this little life I have lived on this planet. Nothing has been more alienating than my choice not to be a mother. Thankfully there are a lot of people out there who do not care but clearly they many who take my decision not to have kids to heart as a personal rejection. The worse part is when they say I have no family. Anyone who knows me knows how close I am with my family. You do not need to have children to have a family. At least I don't. 

You can hear more about the story of me and that cake decorating class. I was so publicly humiliated. I still wish to this day I had taken my cake and thrown it in her fucking face but at the time I did not want to attack her in front of her child. It still haunts me to this day what the girl must have thought of the woman who took that abuse from her mother in that stupid cake decorating class. I have tolerated no fools since and shut it down right away. I am done being polite. –Suzie

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Jenny: "I decided after the second miscarriage in 2001 that I would be ok if I didn't have kids"

I'm 40 years old, I have had 6 pregnancies, all miscarriages. All of my pregnancies were accidents, and although I would have loved any one of those children if they had survived, there is a part of me that feels huge relief and happiness that I'm not a mother. I decided after the second miscarriage in 2001 that I would be ok if I didn't have kids, by the last miscarriage in 2009, I had made the decision that I didn't even want children. 

I have found over the last 10 years when discussing my inability and lack of desire to have kids, I am constantly reassured that it could still happen, and that I am still young, that I shouldn't give up hope, and that I will regret that decision one day. It doesn't matter how much I reiterate that I don't want or need them and that I'm more than ok with the decision. I even had that discussion today with a work colleague. It's like people just don't understand how a woman could possibly CHOOSE not to have kids. 

I am open about my miscarriages and my decision to not have kids, so it really frustrates me when people can't be open enough to accept my decision. 
My partner of 9 years is 10 years younger than me. We've had many discussions about having children, and after spending time with nephews, nieces and friends' kids, he is of the same opinion as me. We enjoy being able to do what we like, when we like, and with who we like. We enjoy each other's company, and living in our house with just us and the cat and fish. We like sleeping in. We like going out. It might be selfish, but we are also ok with that. –Jenny

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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

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.

 

Betty: "We all know that the Mom does the drudgery. If I could have been a Dad I might reconsider."

I grew up in an Ohio town where the norm is to marry your high school boyfriend and have kids by the time you're old enough to drink. I no longer live there. I'm a Christian, and so many in the church perceived the "be fruitful and multiply" to be a generalized command, rather than an optional blessing.

I never wanted kids. I felt called to write, to work in music and nonprofit. I am introverted, with adult ADD. If I took on the assumed calling to be a Mom, it would certainly jeopardize my confirmed calling, which is to be a writer. Because quite frankly we all know that the Mom does the drudgery. If I could have been a dad I might reconsider.

There's a Bible passage where Jesus is teaching a crowd, and a woman in the back interrupts him saying "Blessed is your Mom!" Jesus replied, "even more blessed are those who hear God's word and do it." Being a Mom is not the most important job in the world. The most important job is the one you were created for and give yourself wholeheartedly to. Am I selfish? No. I lack peers, friends, the ability to have a lasting conversation with anyone my age (38) because we share little common ground. Not creating new people has left me with few people to talk to.

I made my choice to be sterilized so that I could stay up odd hours, dive in to a songwriting binge in hopes that maybe one day someone who I'll never meet hears the song, and it's raw honestly, and feels like they aren't alone. And that stranger who I nurture from afar will not take care of me when I become elderly. –Betty

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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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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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Audrey: "When I was 22, I found out that it would be very dangerous for me to have children due to my rare genetic disorder"

 I had always wanted a large family while growing up. Like, 4 kids and a dog and a house and a white picket fence. When I was 22, I found out that it would be very dangerous for me to have children due to my rare genetic disorder, HHT, and my history of aneurism.

After taking about 4 years to come to terms with the fact that my dreams were gone, I decided to get my tubes tied. My doctor was 100% for this but the hospital refused because the only hospital in a 60-mile radius is a Catholic hospital. I became depressed and put off looking for another facility for two years.

Finally, I got the nerve to search for another facility and doctor. I found one in a hospital 60 miles away. The procedure was a breeze and the doctor was amazing! I am no longer in fear for my life and could not be happier. Also discovered along the way that I am happier being childfree. –Audrey Boutwell

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.

Marina: "The most dangerous men are the ones who pretend to be OK with my decision but think I'll change my mind with enough time or love"

My story is in direct contrast to the overarching themes in this project, but I'm adding it for another perspective. 

I was fortunate enough to have an extremely supportive family and community, so I have encountered neither pressure nor moral outrage. Up until my mid-20's, I dreamed of having a baby and raising a clever, funny little feminist. But I have health issues and was worried about pregnancy. I considered adoption, but it seemed like an expensive and overwhelming process. That's when I realized that I was more interested in 'having a child' than 'being a parent'. Once the distinction was clear in my mind, I just knew it wasn't going to happen. Luckily, my family was very education- and career-driven and encouraged me to pursue my Ph.D. and an ambitious career. 

I joked about "birthing" my dissertation- an expensive and laborious process. Now with my student debt, I couldn't afford a child anyway, but I'm increasingly happy and certain about my choice. I'm fortunate that in Los Angeles, I have a circle of childfree friends in their 30s and 40s, without whom I would probably feel very lonely. Other people may think I'm selfish, but I've had a handful of honest parents tell me that they love their children deeply, but envy my lifestyle. 

The easiest part is my family–no pressure. My father's large family continues to multiply, but my mother's big family took a turn during her generation. With her generation, it became more important to provide a justification for why they DID want children and were ready for them. Half of her siblings had 1 or 2 children; the other half had none. I don't hear anything from my father's more traditional family. Maybe I get a get a pass because we moved out of the small town into very different lives and feel kind of foreign. Or maybe they judge me with the same standards, but are too polite to tell me about it.

The hardest part is finding a partner. I'm divorced and in my mid-30s. I'd like to get married again, and there are plenty of single men in my city who don't have kids, but many of them want to eventually. I make sure to drop it into the conversation by the 3rd date so I don't waste anyone's time. Thus, I go on a lot of 3rd dates. The most dangerous men are the ones who pretend to be OK with my decision but think I'll change my mind with enough time or love. I've ended two of those relationships already-- one of them I almost married, and one I actually did. –Marina

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.

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

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.

Gracie: "Even if I was healthy I still would not want children. I have never had the desire"

I'm 25 with many health issues, including a somewhat rare genetic disorder, hypogamagolemia which makes my immune system basically nonexistent. I used to be paramedic then became a nurse but I had to leave the medical field because of this issue. There is no cure, I find it morally wrong for me to have a child and pass this on. My lifespan is estimated to be shorter because of this disorder. I'm constantly ill.

Furthermore I just have never liked children, they make me uncomfortable and even when I was a kid I knew I never wanted to be a mother. I also have PTSD which I am still trying to handle and am on multiple medications for it, all these medications are known for causing birth defects. If I ever got pregnant I would have to get off my medications which I honestly do not believe I could last 9 months without it. I also have a syncope disorder, when I am ill I lose consciousness even more frequently, this would make for a high risk pregnancy.

Even if I was healthy I still would not want children, I have never had the desire to have them and would rather pursue career goals instead. I have absolute no patience with children and know that I would be a terrible mother. – Gracie

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.

Nyx: "I don't desire to pass along my hearing disability to a child that didn't ask for it"

I've never really had that great desire to have children, and my maternal instinct is almost nonexistent. But more than that, I don't desire to pass along my hearing disability to a child that didn't ask for it. I remember how cruel children were to me growing up for being different and I do not wish it on any child, not to mention the sheer expense of hearing aids as they are not fully covered by most insurance plans on top of the expense of having children. (For comparison, the type of hearing aids that work are about $5000.00 for a pair). – Nyx

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.

Carolyn: "At 38, I have yet to 'change my mind.'"

At 38, I have yet to "change my mind." I've come up with plenty of reasons for not having kids, from mental health to physical health (I have a condition that can cause fertility issues, no idea if I'm fertile as I've never had it checked). The real reason however is simple: I don't want children. Never have, never will. 

I have no maternal drive, no interest in babies or small children and no desire to find out if it really is "different when it's your own child". I am constantly told I am wrong about this, as though other people know my mind better than I do. 

The only regret I have about not wanting children is an inability to really empathise with friends who do, but are struggling. If I'm "selfish" so be it. The population is hardly in decline. I think the world can easily get along without a mini me. – Carolyn

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.