I Am Childfree But Mostly, I Am Human

I am Childfree But Mostly, I am Human

I Am Childfree But Mostly, I Am Human

If you follow me on Twitter (which you totally should!), you will know about my new obsession with spoken word poetry. A few evenings ago I was watching and listening to poet after poet perform on the Button Poetry YouTube channel. Many of the poems evoked emotion but none quite like Paper Babies by Rachel Wiley. She put into words something I have felt in the past and have been feeling lately – guilt. So much guilt. And this may just prove that yes, I am childfree. But mostly, I am human.

“The minus sign almost feels like something is lost. They don’t make Hallmark cards for your first pregnancy scare. There are no showers thrown for the moment that you accept that you are much more wind-drift feather than all-mighty motherly root.” In between listing off potential baby names, Wiley goes on, “There is this knowledge that he and I would make beautiful babies…he would make a good father…and I would, despite my protests, make a really good mother…There is sadness in knowing that I will not be that piece of miraculous for him or with him.” She continues,

There is a strange and unexplainable guilt for wanting none of this. There is ache here.

Wiley appears never to have wanted to have children. Even still, her words felt so familiar to me.

Struggling to Belong

In December, I had the privilege of sharing my story on nonparents.com. This would be the first of many times I would write publicly about how I decided to be childfree.

In my article, I wrote, “I was soon overcome with a swell of emotions that ultimately sent me to our bedroom in tears. It was on that night that I mourned for the child I would never have.”

I cannot claim that my decision has always resulted in joy. I cannot claim that being childfree has always been painless for me. What I can claim is that I’ve always been a bit jealous of both women with children and women without. I’ve known some women who didn’t think twice about getting pregnant. And others yet who were living happily and unapologetically childfree. Where did I fit? I was a fence-sitter. I couldn’t relate to either extreme so I just stayed where I was. For probably far too long.

Childfree by Whose Choice?

It felt isolating standing there on that middle ground. I struggled with sadness- maybe even a type of grief- when I initially chose to be childfree. Although I am even surer now that this was the right decision, the pain still sneaks up on me at times.

When thinking of those who are infertile, we often imagine that their choice to be childfree was the runner-up to parenthood. They didn’t get to have their first pick. But we do not apply that same notion to the childfree by choice. Shouldn’t we though? Shouldn’t we at least consider that, for some, it is? Because it is for me.

I am childfree by second choice. Maybe this means I didn’t want kids bad enough or I didn’t not wants kids bad enough. But I don’t think it matters, really. In a different and perfect world, I could picture and probably would have a big family. But isn’t that irrelevant? Because I am not in a perfect world and because I am indeed in this one, I will not have children.

Even as a fence-sitter I knew there would come a day when I would have to choose. I considered the seemingly endless external factors and it became obvious what was best for my husband and me.

I’ve always been more comfortable talking and writing about how, not why, I came to be childfree. I’ve learned along the way that everyone has a different reason for ending up here – whether it was their first, or second or third, destination. And regardless of the ‘why’, we’re all here.

You’ve Made Your Bed, Now Lie in It

When I posted Rachel Wiley’s poem to Twitter,  fellow childfree woman @sunnysankalpa tweeted back:

I love the poem but folks will twist it around to “See, she’s sad without babies, babies will make her happy.”

As much as I wish she were, she is not wrong. People who are not childfree often hold us to a standard of actions and consequences –  “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” We have made the choice not to have kids and now we have to just deal. We can’t be anything but happy about it. But only a Sith deals in absolutes (sorry, couldn’t resist a Star Wars reference).

At times, this standard has even boiled over into the childfree community as well. We know that it is acceptable to voice our frustrations when parents and others aren’t happy with our choice to be childfree. But what if someone who is childfree is temporarily less than happy with her choice? This isn’t often discussed but when it is, are others receptive? From what I have seen, sadly the answer is usually no.

But doesn’t every childfree person have the right to feel disappointment, or anger, or boredom, or resentment, in her lifestyle? Doesn’t every childfree person have the right to any emotion we as humans experience? Shouldn’t we talk about it? But we don’t. Why? Maybe we are scared. Maybe we hear this voice in our heads:

See, she’s sad without babies.

Let’s Talk About It

I want few things more than I want to see the childfree choice become normalized. But we can’t fight stigma with a dogma that all people who are childfree never doubt themselves- that we are always happy with our choice and likewise never sad. Not all of us have felt this way – that is true. But it is up to those of us who have to talk about it. And it’s up to those of us who haven’t to listen with respect – without blaming and without labeling.

I want to be able to talk about the things that are hard. I want to talk about them without the fear of being misconstrued. Like, when I held a little girl a couple weeks ago, my first time since my job as a teacher ended in June, and I couldn’t help but look at her and feel burdened by what I’ve sacrificed. And worse than that though is this feeling of guilt I’ve been carrying ever since. Guilt that I am some how less childfree now when really, I am just human. I am just a woman who misses her classroom of kids and a woman who is allowed to wonder “What if.”

For those reading, I hope I did not offend. And I also hope my goal is clear. We need to let ourselves just be human. We need to let ourselves just be childfree -for better, for worse, or for whatever we are that particular day. We need to let ourselves just be.

What did you think of this article? Share your thoughts with me. Please comment below. 

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  1. Reply

    Brittany, I love this. I completely understand the feelings of guilt. I am childfree by choice, and have known my entire life that I wanted to be childfree, but I’ve had moments where I feel sad, moments where I feel the weight of my choice and the sacrifice I’ve made. I’m not sad without babies but I can still feel sad about knowing I won’t be a Mom. It’s not often but occasionally I wonder who I would be if I had sought the path of motherhood. Yes, let’s just be human. It’s beautiful, it’s messy, it’s freakin’ hard, so let’s just be us, whatever that means today.

    1. Thanks so much Courtney! “I’m not sad without babies but I can still feel sad about knowing I won’t be a Mom.” – there’s so much truth to that. Sometimes, being childfree can be incredibly easy and convenient. Other days, it can be quite hard. But I suppose that is just part of being human! Thanks again for your comment 🙂

  2. This is beautiful, Brittany; thank you for this post. As a fence-sitter tending towards childfree, I can totally relate. It’s sad that it’s so difficult to temporarily feel down about not having a baby without the fear of the “see, she’s sad without babies” rebuttal. The reality is that people with children don’t always feel sure about their choice either. So many parents have said to me, assuming that I might one day have kids, that I should never have kids. Of course it’s in jest but you can see they are imagining how wonderful their life might be like without children. No one questions those people and responds that, well, maybe they shouldn’t have had children. No, the response is invariably that no matter how bratty their offspring is being, this too will pass. It’s always assumed that they’ll go back to loving being parents after things calm down, so why can’t it be assumed that we too will go back to loving not being parents?

    1. Lisa, thank you so much for your kind words. You’re very right – even those who go on to have children can be unsure about the decision they’ve made. Just like they have those ups and downs, we can as well. It doesn’t mean we’re giving up. Not. At. All. Thanks again!!

    • Maria
    • August 11, 2017

    Thank you so much for sharing. This is exactly my feeling and it’s so difficult to manage. And I feel so lonely. I wish I were one if those women who always knew she always/never wanted to be a mother. Not my case. The burden of doubting my decision everyday is huge. Thanks again.

    1. Maria, you’re very welcome! It can be very difficult. I will say that although these feelings seem to be a normal part of the process, there will still be more ups than downs. Thank you for your comment 🙂

  3. Reply

    Brilliant article. This is more complex than anyone knows. It’s hard for onlookers to understand the complicated emotions without resorting to knee-jerk reactions such as ‘Well, just have kids then!’ or ‘Your fault for not having them’. I spent some time recently with a resolutely childfree friend who based her decision on her own traumatic childhood and the fact that she has never, ever felt any maternal instinct (a good enough reason, I think). As she hits her 40s all the fears of dying alone, no one at your funeral, missing out etc are coming home to roost – she doesn’t regret the decision, but as you say, we are human, it’s never going to be clear-cut and black and white. Should she have had children, then? No one should tell her that. I stopped pursuing having kids because I didn’t want to go through low-odds, nuclear-strength ivf and the adoption system is so impossible where I am; am I now not allowed to have complaints, doubts, fears about my decision? According to the prevailing opinions on social media comment sections and from the general public, I should just shut the f up or go and get myself a donor embryo. It’s an area that whips people up into a frenzy of vitriol. We should be allowed to be ambivalent – just like parents are. Thank you for speaking out about this x

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I agree – we need to have all the same rights. We should be allowed to experience ambivalence from time to time.

    • Erin
    • August 20, 2017

    I think this was beautiful written and in showing the complexity of being CF, makes it more human.

    Because some CF speak out against children so harshly, it’s easy to get the impression that they just hate them… that it’s black and white. And of course, these aren’t hypothetical children for those of us with kids–we feel that hostility as though it’s aimed at ours and feel defensive, protective.

    But of course it’s more complex than that. Any honest parent would also admit that there are moments they wonder how their life would’ve been different if they hadn’t had kids–moments of frustration at screaming kids or the inability to do something they otherwise could–even if they’re happy about their decision overall.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Erin. I agree. Everyone should be able to feel ambivalent at times and we shouldn’t criticize people for feeling that way!

  4. Pingback: Resolutely Childfree: Goals to Get There in 2018 (Part 1)

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