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

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

A: Why are people offended when I say I'm more interested in furthering my career and travelling the world than having children?

I'm a 26-year-old Photographer's Assistant and one day at work I was talking to some of my co-workers. I work for a woman, and the majority of the people that we hire are a) female and b) have no desire to have children. We sat around one day at lunch discussing why we don't want to have children/don't have children (our ages range from mid 20's to late 50's), and someone made a really interesting point: "Why are people so comfortable with asking if we regret not having children? Should I ask if they regret having children?" 

This popped into my head again while I was at my partner's family get-together. His sister, who had two children at a very young age, his mother, and his aunt (with four children from a young age) were grilling us on when we would have children. They all were surprised when we told them we weren't planning on it and explained that the field of work I'm in doesn't allow much time to dedicate to making a family. I was floored when his aunt explained that we could begin having children when I feel like I have gone as far as I can go with my job.

Why is it expected that I'll give up on my career and then have children? Why was his aunt so offended when I told her I was more interested in making money, furthering my career, and travelling the world? Does it make me a bad person that I don't want kids? –A

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