Respect my choice to be childfree

When I was around 14 years old, I realized I had no desire to have children.

And here I am, a few months away from hitting 30, and still, I have no desire for children. Neither does my partner.

It’s not just a lack of desire though. The thought of having my own children, of the ways in which their presence would fundamentally change everything about my life, is unappealing. I enjoy the ability to go out when and where I want without need to tote along a toddler or scramble for a baby sitter. I like being able to control my environment, to rest when I need to. I like spending money on books rather than diapers.

To be fair, I don’t know anyone who actively enjoys changing dirty diapers or waking up at 2 a.m. to a screaming infant, but most people, it seems, are happy to do these things because of the rewards they receive: a burbling laugh, a joyful smile, watching something they created take shape and become a person.

I am genuinely and truly happy for my friends who have (or are going to soon have, or eventually want to have) children. But it’s not for me.

(Considering also my chronic illness, preparing for pregnancy, going through pregnancy, and then caring for an infant would be incredibly difficult. Not impossible, but not pleasant, either.)

childfreeecard

My opinions on lots of big things have changed over the years, but excluding children from my life plan never has. My partner agrees. My parents don’t care if we have kids or not. They’d be happy if we did, but they’re just as happy if we don’t. My in-laws, too, have never hinted that they want more grandkids. They have instead expressed many times that they want us to be happy, in whatever we choose. My friends, too, even the ones with kids or who are planning to have kids soon, think nothing of the fact that I don’t want that life.

Not having children is our choice. It is not a comment on your desire (or lack thereof) for children. It is not a comment on the state of the world, overpopulation, or politics. It is simply the choice we have made for our lives.

Many people—customers I meet at work, business acquaintances, friends of friends of friends, distant relatives, random strangers I meet by happenstance—do not seem to understand, nor to respect, this choice.

Frankly, I am fed up with that bullshit.

Before I got married I heard, “Oh, just wait until you find the right man.”

After I got married I started hearing, “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” and “Oh, if you have dogs you’ll definitely have kids,” and “Just wait until you settle down a bit.”

Found right partner. Got stable jobs. Bought house. Writing career is progressing well. Library career is progressing well. Health is better than it’s been in a long time.

And guess what? We still do not want kids.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why people who hardly know me care so much whether I want children, and I have a few theories.

  1. Women are “supposed” to want kids. We are expected to want marriage and motherhood and to make dinner for our families and do the whole housewife thing, even if  we also have a full-time job outside of the house.
  2. People sometimes see the choices of others as attacks on their own choices. So, me not wanting children is another way of saying their decision to have children is less valid or somehow “wrong.” (It’s not, of course—both choices are equally valid.)
  3. The choice to eschew child rearing is often seen as selfish. Young people are generally considered to be self-absorbed navel gazers, and supposedly become less self-absorbed as they mature. So, to some people, the “selfish” decision to be childfree will eventually be worn away by life experience and the realization that the world is not all about you.

The irony, of course, is that most of these points of view are inherently self-centered. They are based on the assumption that having children is “right” and not having children is “wrong.” These feelings often come with more assumptions: That I hate children and/or look down on parents, especially stay-at-home-moms.

I don’t, of course. Parents are rock stars, and humanity could not go on without them. I love seeing my friends raising awesome little people, and I’m excited for what those little people will do.

The choice to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom is a personal, individual choice that every mother has to make for herself. One isn’t inherently better (or more “feminist”) than the other. Every family is different. What’s right for one family may be wrong for another.

And I don’t hate all kids, either. Sometimes they drive me up the wall and make me want to scream (I have to deal with them a lot at my job), but sometimes they make my heart melt and they give me hope for the future of the world.

But I personally do not want children of my own. If you want children, awesome! Go for it. Raise the next generation of creators, inventors, doers, movers, and shakers.

But please, please, please stop telling me how to feel or how to live my life. Respect my choice to be childfree, and I’ll respect your choice, whatever that may be.

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Six Years

kellydjkissToday, I have been married for six years.

This surprises people. We married young by today’s standards—I was only 23, and he, 24.

Since then we’ve switched jobs multiple times, lost our first German shepherd to kidney disease, adopted another shepherd, bought a house, gone on many, many hikes, gotten into our fair share of disagreements and fights, and spent almost every night cuddled together in bed.

Our partnership confuses people. It started with the “wedding,” which was really a Wiccan handfasting. We held it in my favorite park, and stood in the center of a circle of our closest friends and family while we said our vows and our designated priestess and priest tied our hands together with ribbon and we jumped over a broomstick (traditionally meant to bring fertility, but we modern Witches interpret “fertility” in a number of ways, not just the “get preggo and have lots of children” way).

We wrote our own ceremony, based on a version of the handfasting ritual in Janet and Stewart Farrar’s Witches Bible, and we used a self-uniting marriage license to make our partnership official in the government’s eyes.

My partner is not Wiccan, or even Pagan, but he recognizes the power of ritual, and that ritual is important to me. We didn’t want a big, fancy wedding with an expensive reception and top 100 pop hits. We didn’t want some person with power vested in him or her by some church or some state. We wanted something that had meaning to us. Something that expressed in action and words the commitment we had already made to each other, and the responsibility we accepted for each other, our furry “children,” and our partnership.

Fun was also a requirement at our handfasting.

Fun was also a requirement at our handfasting. These ladies know how to bring it.

We discussed hyphenating our last names, but ultimately decided we would leave our names intact, the way they’d always been. Of course, people assume that Thomas is my married name if they meet me first, and that my husband’s last name is my last name if they meet him first. We get mail addressed to us in all manner of last name combinations.

But what people call us and what people think of us doesn’t matter so much. It doesn’t change who we are or how we work together. The thing that matters is that we have found, in each other, true partners. We split the housework, each of us doing more or less depending on how the other feels. We work together to solve problems and come up with solutions. We reassure each other when fears and doubts surface. We love each other.

We chose Midsummer, the Summer Solstice, as the day of our handfasting because it is the longest day of the year. The sun shines at his brightest and strongest, and we hope for and work for a long, vibrant life together.

Six is a lucky number. It’s a strong, powerful number. And our sixth year together was wonderful and magical in its own way, even though we faced challenges and hardships—that’s life, right?

As we begin our seventh year as life partners, I am thankful for what we have had and what is still to come. Whatever happens, we will meet it head on, the way we always do: as partners.

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Voice

All around me, people are declaring loud and clear that other human beings with different genders, sexualities, and religious beliefs are not, in fact, human beings. That they are less than. Different (in the worst way). Other.

There’s Orlando. And the scores of black men being killed by police for no reason. And Trump. And Christian religious extremists. And Muslim religious extremists. And all the wars and shootings and murders and violence that has come before.

Some days that hatred forms a large enough wave that it bowls me over and the only thing to do is cry. I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit that sometimes, I’m scared. I’m scared of the people who would take away my rights as a human being, who would try to control me and limit me. And I’m afraid and sad for those whose rights have already been taken away, or who never experienced them in the first place.

But I have a voice, and I will use it.

I am scared, yes, but more than that I’m tired. I’m tired of men harassing me in the street. I’m tired of senseless violence. I’m tired of making less money than men. I’m tired of having my reproductive choices taken away by rich men who will never, ever have to make those same choices. I’m tired of xenophobia and homophobia. I’m tired of us versus them.

You can call me unrealistic. Idealistic. Crazy. Naive. Foolish. Stupid. Think of me what you will. I don’t have power, or money, or much influence. I don’t have physical strength.

But I do have a voice, and by the goddess, I will use it.

 

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