Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On Not Having Kids

Aloha! I am vacationing in lovely Oahu, Hawaii (feel free to hate me) but my friend Becky was nice enough to do a guest blog for me on being child free. Becky and I have been friends for almost seven years now but have never actually met. Ah, the beauty of the internet. Be sure to check on her blog Casa Caudill for lovely posts on home, cooking, and travel.

When Kate asked me to write a guest post on being child-free I was pretty nervous; I mean, her's is a blog about raising her twin daughters, I can't really relate. (I'm very close to my sister and her kids, but I realize it's not the same thing.)

Even though (or maybe because of?!) I am one of five kids and grew up with an incredibly large extended family, I've never felt desire to have kids. When I was six my first grade teacher asked me how many kids I wanted when I grew up. I scowled (and thus began the giant line down the middle of my forehead that grows with age) and told her I wasn't having kids, thankyouverymuch, because ... wait for it ... "I don't like kids." You see, I was the six year old that would rather hang out with the grown ups than play in the sandbox. Go outside and play baseball in the street with the neighborhood kids or sit with my grandma in the cool air conditioning, listening to talk radio and brushing her hair? No question which one I enjoyed more. I vaguely recalled telling my second grade teacher that I found other children "dirty and tiresome." (I never said I wasn't precocious.)

Fast-forward to junior high and another teacher asked me the same question. Armed with better dirty looks and a larger vocabulary I explained to her that I wasn't having kids because I didn't feel any great desire to procreate. And then again in college a professor (?!?!?!?!) casually asked when I would be getting married and starting a family. Having found my boyfriend - now husband - at the ripe old age of 18, I knew marriage was on the horizon but yet again I was asked to explain myself: I'm not having kids, I've never wanted kids, I don't need to have children to feel fulfilled and not having kids is actually the economically and environmentally responsible thing to do.

As I've gotten older the explanations have grown to include the fact that I probably can't have kids without a lot of medical intervention. (Note: several of my friends and my sister have suffered with infertility and so yes, I know what this means and how hard it can be.) So here I am at 32 and (1) people are still asking and (2) my desire for children hasn't changed.

I think the hardest part of having this conversation over and over again is that I find it so disrespectful (especially when it's with the same people over and over again). By continuously asking me year after year when I am having kids or telling me that I am only getting older you're essentially telling me that you don't believe I'm firm in my convictions and that you somehow know what is better for me (and my husband) than I/we could ever know my/ourselves. When you act disinterested in anything I tell you that's not related to us having children, you're telling me that you believe my life lacks value and meaning because I don't have kids. While I have friends who love their children - and by extension, I love their children - the sum of my life is no less then theirs. It's just different value and meaning. I assure you, my life quite full and rewarding. You should be happy for me, and yet, you're not - not unless I'm having kids.

The latest - from my mother in law, no less - is that we could always adopt; after all, who will take care of us when we're old? Yes, apparently that's reason enough to give birth these days. No thanks, I've got a pretty awesome 401k portfolio to take care of my golden years.


  1. he, he, he. As a former teacher who met more than my fair share of parents who truly did not want kids but had them anyway (I guess they felt pressure), I want to thank you. You know what you want and what makes you happy, that is all people really need and all others need to know. If anyone asks who will take care of you when you are older again, I would say that my nieces and/or nephews will (this is the one my SIL uses).

  2. Just spent five days with my niece and nephew and that's about enough kid time for me. :-) Thanks for the response.