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Back in June 2018, I wrote a long piece on why being childfree needs to be taken seriously. Then I wrote a follow-up piece on parenting as seen through the lens of being childfree.
I even wrote an open letter to the people who feel compelled to tell others they should have children, without understanding why someone wouldn’t want to.
I count myself among the childfree, and listed a few reasons why:
- The risk of passing on my type 1 diabetes
- My anxiety
- Other genetic markers, like my family’s history of anger problems
The thing is, every childfree person chooses this lifestyle for a different reason.
I want to take the time right now to list out and detail several so that it might make more sense to those people who still don’t understand why anyone would choose to be childfree.
Children are expensive.
The government has estimated that it takes upwards of $250,000 to raise a kid from birth to 18 years old, so that number isn’t including any potential post-high school education costs like college or trade school, which can add up to a lot more than just a quarter of a million, depending on the school.
On the flip side, if that $250,000 is wisely invested over the course of 18 years, the return on that is astronomical, making financial independence a reality for a family that might otherwise have struggled all their lives.
And without a doubt, financial emergencies happen.
If a family is living paycheck-to-paycheck (which you should attempt to fix ASAP) then a trip to the emergency room could wipe out any and all financial stability—especially if your insurance coverage is lacking.
There’s also research that less-educated women have more children, and generally, that means more children she can’t afford. Interestingly, it could also be argued that having children causes women to become less-educated.
A good movie that illustrates this concept is Idiocracy.
Mental & Emotional
Postpartum depression is a real, legitimate thing.
When a woman who just gave birth feels depressed for months afterward, she’s conditioned to think that something’s wrong with her.
Why should she feel depressed about her newborn child? About the new life in her family? Society has trained us with the Life Script to expect happiness and perpetual glowing after giving birth.
Women with postpartum depression feel guilty for experiencing something that’s an entirely normal part of becoming a mother.
But that guilt can feed more bad mental pathways.
Feelings of resentment.
And none of these are socially acceptable to talk about.
God forbid a woman posts on Facebook that she’s struggling to handle her three-year-old and is wondering if it was even a good idea to have the kid.
For every supportive friend, someone now exists who thinks less of this mother.
Social stigmas abound.
But What About the Mental Reasons?
Illnesses like anxiety, full-blown depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, mania, OCD, ADHD, dissociative identity disorder, psychosis, and on and on and on.
Take a quick glance at the DSM V and tell me that you’d be okay passing any of them on to your child.
In Gay Hendricks’ book The Big Leap, he talks about how a set of parents said something to their highly-gifted son that caused him to sabotage his own success for forty years. Can you imagine doing that? I can’t. I don’t want to be that parent. Not in a million years.
There’s one last thing I want to mention in this section, and that’s an actual fear called “tokophobia,” which is the fear of pregnancy and everything relating to it.
A tokophobic woman would see a pregnant woman and immediately feel sick and disgusted. It has nothing to do with the woman and everything to do with the idea of pregnancy.
It’s not something that you can just pop a psychiatric med and suddenly be okay with—women with tokophobia will never have children despite how many times they might be told that they’ll change their mind.
This is going to be a controversial section.
Pregnancy and childbirth are not easy on the female body.
Not at all. Not ever—not even if your mom says every birth of hers was easy, well, that was her. She’s not you or any other woman on the planet.
It’s interesting how older women will tell younger, not-pregnant women how wonderful it is to be pregnant and give birth and have a child.
They fill the minds of young women with idealistic views of what happens in the birthing room, encouraging them to, you know, get on with it.
Cries of “When are you going to give me a grandbaby???” are rampant among the JUSTNOMIL stories.
And as soon as the young women get pregnant, the older women change their tune.
“Your sex life will never be the same!”
“Enjoy your sleep while it lasts!”
“Did you know you’ll shit on the doctor or nurses when you’re giving birth?”
That’s not even getting to the physical trauma your body experiences when pushing a child out.
Things like tearing.
In fact, I get super uncomfortable even thinking about all the terrible stuff that happens to the female body during pregnancy and childbirth, so if you’re interested in reading more about it, click here. It’s an archive.org copy of a 2010 article titled “What pregnant women won’t tell you. Ever.”
This section is usually the one that results in parents and other non-childfree people insisting on how the childfree are selfish.
Quick aside…if you ask someone why they had a kid, they usually start with the phrase “I wanted.”
In fact, there’s even a book called Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids!
There are a ton of practical reasons to not have kids, and for some people, these reasons are enough.
It requires a major lifestyle change. Your career will suffer, your relationships will suffer, you will suffer, your finances will suffer—pretty much everything in life is affected by a kid showing up.
Even if you think it won’t be that much of a change, it is.
For the rest of your life, you will have a child.
Adult children are now more likely to remain living with their parents into their late twenties.
As someone who left home for college at 18 and only stayed at “home” during the summers, the idea of living with my parents well into my twenties (even when I was an unmarried woman) makes me shudder.
Sure, it might be a financially-driven choice, but at least for me, I had other reasons to dislike that idea.
It Doesn’t Dissuade Adult Kids
My mom looked forward to being an empty-nester. When I went off to college and my sister got married (and moved to NY) she had the run of the house! No kids to worry about! No one to interrupt her mornings or afternoons spent in her art studio!
And then my sister had a kid, and then her marriage imploded, and then she moved home.
With my niece.
And my mom felt trapped. Freedom was taken away from her because an adult child (and now, grandchild) came back to live with them.
Imagine if that’s you.
If you’re thinking about having a kid because your partner wants them, and you think, “it’s only 18 years,” nope.
It’s not just 18 years.
It’s for LIFE.
Once you have a child, you will never not be a parent.
Having kids means your vacations will always be about the kids unless you have magical in-laws or parents who can babysit for a week or so.
You’ll have to choose kid-friendly destinations, with kid-friendly restaurants, museums, theme parks, and activities. Disneyland will be about how many times you can go through the It’s A Small World ride without losing your goddamn mind.
And I don’t think you can take a toddler on the Tower of Terror. Just sayin’.
These reasons are mine.
I shared a few in the other childfree article, but this goes into more depth. Maybe these reasons resonate with you. Maybe you know someone who might also be like me in this respect.
I have dreams of financial independence. Given that I have a full-time job and have a virtual assistant side business as well as this blog and my book project, my time for things like children dries up faster than California in the summer.
Financial independence takes time to develop. Multiple streams of income take time to cultivate and grow.
In addition to all of that, the genetic risks are real.
I have type 1 diabetes and generalized anxiety disorder. I carry the gene for inherited anger. My sister has a chromosomal abnormality (not Down Syndrome) that I could possibly have a recessive version of.
I would wish NONE of that upon a child, yet any child of mine would be at risk of receiving any or all of those from me. My husband’s side of the family has other problems that are his to share or keep silent. He too would wish none of them upon a kid.
Physical, visceral reactions are real too.
I physically feel sick—a deep pit in my stomach—whenever I hear a shrieking, screaming, or crying child. It doesn’t matter if there’s a legitimate reason for the kid to be making those noises, my stomach doesn’t care. It twists in discomfort and anxiety at the noises. And this happens even if I like the kid!
Why would I wish to subject myself to that on purpose?
It doesn’t matter how many people tell you that “it’s different when it’s your kid,” because that’s just not true. It’s a lie that people tell themselves to make themselves feel better about the decision they made.
There truly are some magical people out there who love being parents and some of them are parents to a ton of kids.
I salute you guys, and would never tell you that you shouldn’t have had your little monsters because it was your choice.
This choice is mine.
Join the Discussion
No matter which side of the fence you inhabit when it comes to the issue of having kids, I invite you to share your opinion in the comments. Just please, keep it respectful.