How to Stop Fearing Regret and Find Clarity

A few weeks ago, we delved into the topic of regret. It was once assumed that every parent loved being a parent, but we now know that’s not true. As a childfree person nearing closer and closer to thirty years old, I am often warned that I will eventually regret my decision to be childfree. While I know these people do not possess the ability to predict the future, the question tends to haunt me.

Back when I was on the fence about the decision to have children, I was most worried about regret. What if I have kids and it turns out terribly? What if I don’t have kids and start to regret it once its too late?

Just as the people questioning me cannot predict the future, neither can I. There’s really no sense trying, either. The only thing anyone can do when facing a major life decision is to consider matters carefully and choose accordingly. I’ve learned that regret itself isn’t all that bad. The fear of regret, however, can be paralyzing.

By nature, I am an indecisive person. A question like “What do you want for dinner?” can send me into a spiral in which I may never formulate an answer. However, when my husband returns from the local deli with an egg salad sandwich, I’ll quickly realize what I don’t want to eat. And that may just be the key.

Sometimes we have to figure out what we don’t want before we can figure out what we do. In my case, I had to realize that despite the fear of regret, I truly didn’t want to have children. Once I decided against parenthood, I could begin focusing on what I wanted my life to look like.

I spoke about regret and indecision with Ann Davidman, Motherhood Clarity Mentor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and co-author of Motherhood – Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity. Ann holds comprehensive 14-week clarity courses that help women and men who are struggling with indecision about parenthood.

Here’s what Ann had to say:

Continue Reading

Being Childfree: Its Impact On My Relationships

Relationships are, by default, complicated. It doesn’t help that we have to balance so many of them in our lifetime, which is exceptionally difficult considering humans literally cannot multitask efficiently.

Not unlike many spouses, I view my marriage as the most important connection in my life and thus, most of my ‘relationship energy’ is funneled into its maintenance. However, this doesn’t mean I neglect my other relationships – friendships with close friends, my family, my in-laws, even my workmates – the list goes on and on.

By very definition, a relationship is the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected. But what happens when there is a break in what connects us?

For instance, I had a very close friend when I was a teenager. We spent a lot of time together doing the typical teenagery, boundary-pushing things and formed a bond based on shared interest. This friend is now married with a young child, owns a business, and lives some two hours away. The glue of our relationship – essentially, immaturity and convenience – had come undone as we aged. Many refer to this phenomenon as growing apart.

Unfortunately for the childfree, mainly those of us who are still in the “child-birthing years”, we experience this loss of connection at a seemingly more frequent rate. Many of our closest friends have gone on to have children and the bond that once held us together is severed. Rightly so; most of that ‘relationship energy’ is now set aside for their most important connection – the relationship with their child(ren).

But what about those relationships that have been affected, but not broken, by our decision to be childfree?

Continue Reading

The Fence-Sitter’s Guide to Anxiety and My Leap to Being Childfree

Is there a correlation between mental health and childlessness?, I started wondering while browsing the childfree sub-section of reddit.com. I had read several posts with members citing mental illness as a contributing factor to being childfree. I typed “anxiety” into the search bar. I ended my search prematurely at page 18, sensing bottomless results. Well then, does this stand to prove that yes, the childless and childfree are more anxious than parents? Well, no.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 18.1% of the US population is affected with anxiety. Perhaps, then, some of us just make up a percentage of the percentage. Myself included.

My Personal Struggle

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression as a teenager, as well as social anxiety as an adult. Even still, I was going to have children because that’s what you do, right? You just have those babies no matter what.

My husband and I married young so, despite the myriads of people asking the if’s and when’s about babies, I knew we had ample time before expanding our family. However, if we wanted the best chance for a healthy child, I determined the perfect age for me would be 27. With each passing year, I grew proportionately more anxious. I am no closer to being ready than I was this time last year. Next year will be different. Rinse, repeat.

Continue Reading

Five Realistic Ways to Overcome Regret

It has been scientifically proven that we are more likely to regret the things we didn’t do as opposed to regretting the things we did do. However, many would agree that they would rather regret not having children than feel remorse over having them. More and more parents are coming forward and admitting having kids was a mistake. Last week, I interviewed a woman who told me she will always love her children but would much rather live without that bond than live with the regret she feels.

It is only human to both feel regret and hate regret. But, regret in itself can be useful. This emotion helps us to gain insight and understanding. It also helps us hone our future decision-making skills. Rumination, however, is never useful.

So just how can we overcome regret, even over major life-changing decisions? Follow these five simple ways:

Continue Reading

“I Would Give Anything to Not Be Their Mom”: An Interview About Parental Regret

“You’re going to regret not having children.”

Whether this statement is given as a warning or uttered out of ignorance, if you’re childfree, you’ve probably heard this before. In retaliation to parents’ bluntness, some childfree people have been know to reply, “Well, do you regret having children?” This question is, of course, meant to be a conversation stopper. Little did we know though, some actually do regret having children.

Recently, we are seeing more and more brave individuals stepping forward and admitting that having kids isn’t all they thought it would be. The Guardian published an article last month featuring parents who regret having children. One of whom is Victoria Elder. After giving birth to her baby girl, her immediate instinct came by way of this thought:

“‘Oh, no. What have I done? This was a huge mistake.’”

When Colin and I were trying to determine whether or not to have children, regret is a topic that came up often. Our society as a whole seems to be regret-centric.

“…regret in cultures such as the U.S., where individuals have more choice over their life’s course, versus in cultures with arranged marriages, where family have much more control over life choices…regret is much more commonly experienced and reported…”

-Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D of The Psychology of Regret

I suppose it is not unusual, then, that I can quickly call to mind several of my regrets. From eating something unhealthy for dinner last week, to snapping at my boss a year ago, to the purchase of our fixer upper home some eight years ago, I’ve certainly felt my fair share of discomfort from poor life choices- both big and small.

Even though I am no stranger to this feeling, when I think of Elder’s experience of looking into the small eyes of her brand new and totally dependent human and seeing a giant mistake staring back at her, I can’t help but think her feelings are stronger than regret. When reading her story, I myself was overcome with an overwhelming sense of sadness. A sadness that gives way to empathy and helplessness. A sadness that makes me want to travel back in time to wrap my arms around both mother and child and replace remorse with assurance instead.

Shortly after the article on the guardian.com was published, a woman came forward saying she would give anything to not be her children’s mother. She was kind enough to speak with me and gave me permission to publish her words anonymously. Here is our conversation:

Continue Reading

How To Be Bold for Change and Stop Shaming

In just two short days International Women’s Day will be upon us. When I observed the campaign theme for this year, #BeBoldForChange, I started wondering. Just what does it mean to be bold?

We live in a world teeming with of sexism and bigotry, yes, but we also live in a time and place where these prejudices are being combated. From celebrities to Joe Schmoes, everyone is speaking their minds.

A few weekends ago my husband and I watched a comedy special on Netflix in which the male comedian joked about the bravery of plus-sized women. He mentioned how some of these overweight models and actresses pose for the covers of magazines and after doing so, people attribute them with bravery. He claimed using the term “brave” for these women was an overreach, though. He goes on to say,

I know you’re not supposed to make fun of fat people. I don’t know why though.

A quick Google search could have quelled his uncertainty. In fact, if you type in “why you shouldn’t make fun of people”, page after page of results will load with the reasons why you shouldn’t tease not only overweight people, but people with autism, acne, people who dance for a living, it even brought up an article about not making fun of people who make fun of you. So really, if you took the word “fat” out of this comedian’s sentence, it could stand on it’s own.

Continue Reading

My Top Four Replies to “When are you having kids?”

by: Colin Brolley

So, when are you having kids?

There are very few questions that make me more uncomfortable than this one and I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. It’s not a matter of being insecure in the decision my wife and I have made to remain childfree that makes me feel awkward. Rather, it’s the nonchalant responses to my answer(s), which usually consist of brushing off our decision as immaturity or trying to delay the inevitable.

“That’s what you say NOW”

“You’ll find out”

“Yeah, wait until your wife decides she wants one”

And the list goes on and on and on. I’m sure you’ve heard this all before.

These replies are usually coming from co-workers and general acquaintances – people who don’t even know me very well. Frankly, there are times when I just don’t feel like getting into it with these people. So, I’ve come up with a new game- a game in which I volley the awkwardness back to the boundary-invader before the conversation has a chance to devolve into dismissive clichés.

Continue Reading

The Struggle to Sterilization: An Interview with Childfree Woman of 2016

 

Childfree Woman of 2016, Crystal Money

There has been a lot of buzz lately about women’s reproductive rights. After reading the many stories of women speaking out about their method of choice for birth control, I was even inspired to share mine. I also felt encouraged to get in touch Crystal Money, 2016 Childfree Woman of the Year. Although Crystal was not nominated for the way in which she remains childfree, her tubal ligation has certainly sparked interest. In fact, Crystal will be giving a TedX talk next month about her recent sterilization surgery. Prepare to be emboldened as we hear from Mrs. Money herself:

In your interview with Laura Carroll, you mentioned trying a variety of birth control methods at the insistence of your doctors but were unsatisfied with the side effects. Which contraceptives did you try before ultimately choosing a tubal ligation? Can you elaborate on the side effects?

I honestly don’t remember the names of all of the pills I tried, but I can say that I tried a variety of pills over the course of several years, and the worst side effects were frequent night terrors and night sweats. The shot option made me bleed non-stop for four months. Then the last option I tried at the insistence of doctors was an IUD. With the IUD I felt a constant depression and as if I was always being jabbed from the inside. While these side effects aren’t detrimental, I just didn’t see a reason to have any of them when I knew that I never wanted children. For the past 5 years I have known for certain that I wanted a tubal ligation, and the only thing standing in my way were all of these alternatives that the doctors were actually willy to prescribe.

Continue Reading

The Nonprocreating Presidents of the United States of America

But who will carry on your legacy?

This is one example of a bingo, or common phrase one may hear when they tell others they do not want children. I don’t hear this one very often but when I do, I can’t help but chuckle. It’s hard to formulate a proper response.

I think to myself, It will be no great tragedy if my lineage ends with me. But if I say that aloud, I may sound self-loathing or perhaps a bit antinatalistic. It’s just that when I contemplate legacies being carried on through generations, I don’t think of myself, I think of kings and queens and even prime ministers and presidents. I wonder if George Washington himself was bingoed when he didn’t carry on his legacy.

History has shown us time and time again that if a person’s legacy is truly of importance, it will live on through his or her own name.

This is true of the following childless presidents of the United States:

Continue Reading

Childfree Date Nights – Separating Myth from Truth

Sometimes I get a little sick of dinner-and-a-movie dates. And when I do, I search the interwebs for new ideas.

One time in particular, I stumbled upon the article When You Don’t Have Kids, Every Night is Date Night written by Julia Pelly, a working mom/blogger.

Julia begins her post with “To my childless friends”.

A little background info: I try to keep an open mind in most situations. My goal is to listen to all sides of an argument. Even if I do not personally agree, I look to understand how others might. Even when I read articles addressing the childfree from the prospective of a parent, I do my very best to understand. I want to understand. I would say I’m fairly successful in doing so.

My mindset for this article was no different. After reading though, I did feel the need to separate fact from fiction regarding the childless and childfree. Here goes…

…the thing you might not realize, the thing I sure didn’t realize before I had my son, is that when you don’t have kids, your whole life is a date night.

-Julia Pelly

Is it, though?

Continue Reading