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.

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

Karen: “I dislike the assumption that I hate all children simply because I chose a life that didn't involve having any of my own”

I consider myself lucky; as a childfree woman I never faced pressure from my family to have children. I got married at 25 and was never asked "when are you starting a family?"

Perhaps it was obvious to those close to me that I wasn't cut from maternal cloth...perhaps my (male-dominated) interests and career put things in perspective for them. What I dislike, however, is the assumption that I hate all children simply because I chose a life that didn't involve having any of my own. I don't hate all children; in fact I used to be a sports coach to kids of a wide age range.

My other dislike is that women in my neighborhood don't express any interest in getting to know me, because, goodness, what would they ever talk to me about, since I'm not a mother like them (yes, sarcasm is implied)? –Karen

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

Robin: "The female doctor tried to refer me to a psychiatrist when I asked to get my tubes tied"

At 30, I went to get my tubes tied before I lost my health insurance. No doctor would discuss the procedure with me while I was still in my 20's even though I always knew I wanted to be child-free and had already had three abortions (using birth control all three times).

The female doctor tried to refer me to a psychiatrist - I refused. I told her she could talk to my family, my shrink, my pediatrician, but that I was not delaying this procedure to get vetted by a stranger. It was really weird to have to argue and advocate for myself. I've never regretted it for a minute.

Two years ago I started dating a man with a daughter who was 10 at the time. I love her a lot and she is really fun, and I'm much more like an aunt than a mom, which is perfect. We have a great relationship. I'm more grateful than ever that I chose to not have my own kids (biological or adopted) –Robin

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

Sam M: "Although being a stepmum wasn't really on my radar, it has been brilliant and such an education"

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I grew up in a Mormon family in Australia in the 70s and 80s. So having kids (lots of them and starting young), was a big feature. On my 16th birthday my mum sat me down and said "it was time I thought about getting married and having children." Every part of me recoiled in horror at the thought of it. But it was a useful conversation, because it crystallised what I'd kind of known already for years - having kids was not for me. 

I was all but openly ostracised by the church members for my non-conformance, which helped bring about a merciful end to religion being a part of my life.

When my boyfriend proposed at the age of 23, I was very honest and gave him multiple opportunities to back out. But he insisted it was fine. Fast forward ten years and it wasn't really fine for him any more, and he is now a happily married father with someone else. I'm glad he got that chance, I would hate to have taken it away from him.

My career has always been in leadership roles, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to use my nurturing, caring and developing skills on many generations of 'children' who have gone on to become amazing, successful humans in their own right.

I have also found a wonderful man who has 3 kids from his first marriage. Although being a stepmum wasn't really on my radar, it has been brilliant and such an education. 

Now at 45, I love all the children in my family and friendship group, and I am super proud of all my 'work babies.' I wouldn't change a thing.

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

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

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

Lenore: "I got through the years of friends having children and thought all that was behind me only to find it's starting again with a wave of grandkids"

Is it selfish not to want to have kids? Sometimes, it's selfish to have them. Leaving aside the planetary concern about there just plain being too many of us, what about the personal tragedies when children are brought into extreme poverty, violence or ill-health?

Maybe I am not in the best position to write about this as I knew from very early on that I had no choice about whether or not to have children. There were mental health issues in the family that no one could tell me would not be perpetuated if I did take the plunge and let nature take its course. My reason for not having kids is definitely not part of a laugh-riot conversation, and it doesn't go down well over cocktails, so generally I don't talk about it. But that doesn't stop others from surmising. The supposed truth about why I did not have kids has run the gamut from 'You're too involved with your career' to 'I'm sorry you didn't find the right guy'. 

But I have to say, the thing that upsets me the most about not having kids is the number of mostly female friends who, even though they know the truth about why I did not have kids, are insensitive enough to give me books about the rewards of having children, recommend poems about the joys of pregnancy, or simply tear me up inside by going on and on about how wonderful life is because of their kids.

I got through the years of friends having children and thought all that was behind me only to find it's starting again with a wave of grandkids. Be still my sticky heart covered in the candy-coated fingerprints of other people's grandkids. Despite the toffee treacle, I try not to be selfish about it and bring others down. –Lenore

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

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

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