Deborah: "My first and enduring role models for the child-free life were...nuns"

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There's an irony in hearing Pope Francis pontificate about the absolute necessity of having children. I say that because my first and enduring role models for the child-free life were...nuns. I was lucky to be taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame until age 18. They were the most impressive scholars, finest teachers, and–dare I say–some of the happiest women I have met in life. 

True, there was another set of reasons for my decision. My grandmother had 12 kids and died at 46. She never had a moment to herself. My parents loved and enjoyed us, but working full time as janitors, living in a tiny apartment, made parenting appear overwhelming.

But huge numbers of women with overwhelmed, depressed–even abusive parents–choose to have children. That's why I say that what made up my mind was not saying "no" to motherhood, but being able to say "yes" to a life devoted to intellect, art, sisterhoodspirituality and community service. 

The nuns didn't recruit me; maybe they sensed I was boy-crazy. But their example held strong until I learned the word "Bohemian", thanks to another single woman–our music teacher. I learned one could accentuate one's free spirit, flaunt convention, flounce one's skirts, have adventures, and create a kind of non-family out of kindred spirits met along the way.

I've treated patients–including the very poor and homeless–for 40 years now, and have written 3 books translated into 6 languages, have acted in a community theater, traveled, and had more fun than I sometimes care to admit.

SO! un-holy fathers of Fox News, let's remember that even Charles Darwin acknowledged that the maternal instinct–strong as it is in nature–is NOT the strongest instinct of all. (The migratory is stronger, for example). 

Without "selfish" women like Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Amelia Earhart, Emily Dickinson, Judge Sotomayor, and all the saints and nuns, we would be spiritually malnourished as women. 

If I could start over, I would choose this life again. –Dr Deborah Anna Luepnitz

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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

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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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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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Gwen: "I mistakenly got pregnant, and just KNEW I was not made to be a mommy, so I opted for an open adoption with two wonderful moms"

For years and years, when I mentioned that I have no desire for children, and that babies and I have a mutual distaste for each other in the form of screaming, friends, strangers, family, coworkers, and even bosses would tell me about how "that will change when you have one of your own." I mistakenly got pregnant, and just KNEW I was not made to be a mommy, so I opted for an open adoption with two wonderful moms. They were even present for the birth, and as soon as the girl was born, she went cooing to both of them, instant bonding. Then the doctors decided to bring her to me to see how things would go.... both of us started to scream. They immediately took her back to the adopted moms. So, no, it wasn't any different when it was "my own"!

As an addendum, we are all still in touch, and treat each other like adopted extended family. I send her birthday and holiday gifts, and they do come to visit (and invite me to visit them). I was even in touch with them earlier today! As she has been growing up past baby-hood, we have bonded as a sort of Aunt/Niece relationship, and are both very comfortable like that. And she is very happy with her wonderful mothers. I am grateful every day to have found them. –Gwen

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Jo: "My grandmother's misery have been a strong warning of the risks of having children because society wants you to."

My grandmother did not want children at all. She was a brilliant administrator, fundraiser, and business woman who did amazing things for the hospital she worked at, and was a wonderful mentor to many of the women there. But because of the times, she was also forced to have children, and they suffered for it. My mother and her brother had very unhappy childhoods, and it was always clear that their mother would rather do anything else but be their parent. 

My mother was a wonderful mother, but she wanted children so badly she would have to excuse herself to weep uncontrollably in the bathrooms at work when a coworker announced a pregnancy and she still had none. She used to ogle the babies in strollers at the zoo, and ignore the animals. 

I have never particularly been interested in having children. My mother's desires to be a mother have been a strong guiding light in how to identify and pursue a passion. My grandmother's misery and the damage she inflicted on her children have been a strong warning of the risks of having children because society wants you to. 

There are plenty of people in the world. I am happy mentoring the next generations, teaching, and being the safe auntie my friends' kids can come to with questions too embarrassing to ask mom. –Jo

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Cynthia: "I am just wired this way. I have no dark confessions, no intellectual reasoning, and make absolutely no apologies"

It started after college. I was dating a man who wanted to know what our future was. He wanted a future with me, but I knew he wanted children, and I didn't. We were young, so it didn't matter at the time, but I knew the topic would resurface again, and it did. He said he never met a woman who didn't want children and he couldn't really understand my choice. I was atypical, I knew it and now he did too. We went our separate ways.

When I did decide to get married, my husband and I were both clear and on the same page when it came to procreating... we didn't want to. Well, it was clear for us, but for family, friends and strangers... not so much.

As many women can probably attest to, when you are in your 20s and 30s, people – and by people I mean everyone – feel free to broach the topic. My response became rote, "I will never say never, but not right now." It seemed to satisfy most of the inquiries, and was much simpler than what I really wanted to say, which was more along the lines of, "I am not having children, I don't want to have children. Stop asking me, it's none of your fucking business." But, I didn't dare. God forbid I made anyone uncomfortable. But that was then, and this is now.

The reality is that I have no definitive answer as to why I chose to be kidfree. I am just wired this way. I have no dark confessions, no intellectual reasoning, and make absolutely no apologies.

Although it hasn't always been easy, I am proud of my decision, and of the fact that I never allowed myself to feel guilt or shame for choosing to not have children, despite societal pressure. Going down a different path, no matter where you are headed, is always a bit bumpy. – Cynthia Hornig, co-founder, Women You Should Know

A version of this story previously ran on Women You Should Know and is republished here with express permission from its author.

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Red Cent: "When I was 18, I made a list of various things I was interested in doing. Kids just didn't make that list."

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When I was 18, I made a list of various things I was interested in doing. Today it would be called a bucket list. Kids just didn't make that list. I mean, having them just never crossed my mind while writing it. I've never been against becoming a parent, it's just never been something I felt compelled to pursue. –Red Cent

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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

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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."

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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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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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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

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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

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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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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

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

Leah: "To my friends and family, I'm not nearly as accomplished as my cousins who are congratulated for doing the same thing dumb teenagers do by mistake."

I'm 30 and childfree. I served as a Naval Officer (including going to flight school to fly tactical jets) and now I'm a federal prosecutor in NYC, but to my friends and family, I'm not nearly as accomplished as my cousins who are congratulated for doing the same thing dumb teenagers do by mistake. 

When I married my ex-husband, I told him I didn't want kids. He also thought I'd change my mind. Getting a divorce was my way of freeing him from having to spend the rest of his life resenting me and freeing me from the risk of him swapping out my birth control for baby aspirin. 

I've always known I didn't want kids. A few weeks ago, my mother asked if I thought she was a good mother. I asked why she was asking, and she said it was because of my childfree status. I told her two things about why she is such an amazing mom: (1) it was thanks to her and her mother's generation that I get to CHOOSE whether or not I have kids rather than being forced into motherhood against my will, and (2) I'm happy with my life (thanks in large part to my upbringing) and I have no desire to change that. –Leah Gould

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

Marie: "Even from a young age, I equated motherhood with a loss of independence."

I've always known that motherhood wasn't for me. I never played with dolls as a child. For me, make believe meant dressing up in my mother's high heels and father's suitcase and proclaiming that I was going "off to work." Even from a young age, I equated motherhood with a loss of independence. As I got older, I wasn't shy about disclosing that I didn't want children, but that information was generally met with some form of, "you'll change your mind," "you just haven't met the right person yet," or "but who will take care of you when you're older?" Luckily, those arguments never came from my parents, who were older when I was born, and seemed to understand that I didn't have the maternal instinct.

Eventually, around my late 30's, the arguments mostly stopped (though they were sometimes replaced with pitying looks, as though I'd squandered my childbearing years and was now paying the price). I'm now in my early 40's and have become even more outspoken, particularly when it comes to championing girls and young women who say they don't want kids. My niece is 13 and has been saying she's not having kids for the past few years, much to my sister's dismay. I've recently seen more chiildfree older women publicly stating unequivocally that they don't regret their decisions, which makes me feel really good. –Marie Fisher

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