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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

But, I Thought You Didn't Want Kids!

When my blog was in its infancy, I wrote a few posts about how I did not want children. These days, I tend to shy away from blogging about such personal subjects, but I wanted to talk about this one. It's not that I have to explain myself, it's that I want to.

It was 2005 and I was 27. I had converted from thinking that marriage means children, to thinking that marriage means marriage, and children come sometimes, if you want them. Honestly, I had gotten married young - I was 22 when I said "I do" to my ex-husband, and I'd had a plan to go off of birth control and start "seeing what happened" in that area by age 26. However, at 25, a year short of that goal, I started to freak out. I was not ready. My husband wasn't ready. And as a couple, we certainly were not ready. The problem was, I didn't think we'd ever be ready.

As I often do with life choices big and small, I turned to Google to see what advice others had about this, and I discovered a whole community of people out there who don't believe that children are necessary to live a complete life. I started considering the other option - not having children at all - and I liked it. I liked it so much, that instead of just going about living my life and not discussing my childfree status with everyone, I mentioned it to people. I discussed my dilemma and my eventual decision. I was happy with my choice.

The problem was, other people weren't happy with my choice. My family tried to talk me into having kids. My friends desperately tried to understand, and some became down right hostile. On my blog, I listed a lot of reasons why I didn't want to have children, and they were pretty typical of the childfree - I wanted to be able to travel, I wanted to keep working without the stress of daycare, I was concerned about money, I was afraid I would not be a good parent, and I was afraid I would have kids and then regret it and feel resentful towards them. Reaction was mixed.

The real, single biggest reason I didn't want kids in 2005? My marriage was not stable enough to bring a child into. I am a child of divorce, and I will not divorce a man with whom I have a child, and in 2005, I was not willing to commit to my ex-husband for life anymore. We had discussed having children, of course, and our conversations revolved around  the other reasons I mentioned. I don't think we ever really told each other "well, our marriage won't survive kids," but I think we both felt that way. It was all a huge strain - the stress and pressure of being in a not-so-great marriage, combined with the stress and pressure of friends, family and strangers to take that not-so-great marriage to the next level. Obviously, we did the right thing, because our marriage ended in 2006. Like magic, those voices trying so hard to get me to have kids were silenced.

So, now what? It's 2013, I'm 3 1/2 years into another marriage, and I'm almost 6 months pregnant. Clearly, my mind has changed. Eight years have passed since my initial foray into childfree land, and in that time, I have totally redecorated my life. My marriage is happy and strong, and I cannot see myself with anyone else other than Todd, ever. I have eight additional years of travel under my belt, and in that time I've traveled from London to Indonesia to Belize to basically the entire Caribbean, and I feel like I'm ready to start doing that travel with a third person along (yes, I insist that I can travel with a child. Maybe not the same travel we've been doing, but this baby already has a trip planned). I am, for the first time in my career, working at a job where I feel I will be staying for a while, and where I have the flexibility to work and be a mom. I feel financially stable, and I feel old enough and mature enough to take on raising a human. I am in a good place, and I was in such a bad place in 2005, that I couldn't possibly see myself ever getting here.

So, a word of advice for those people who feel concerned or insulted that someone has made the choice to be childfree. Having children is a big deal and not having them is a valid choice. What's more, those people who have chosen to skip child rearing may have some pretty wonderful reasons to have done so, but they may not be sharing all of those reasons with you. Finally, do not, ever, insist that they will change their minds. While I did, and many people do, it's still a rage inducing stance to take. I could have decided to stay with my ex, and if I had done that, I can say with certainty that I would not be pregnant now, or even considering it. Even after I got married to Todd, we still were uncertain if we wanted children. Sure, our marriage was strong, but we still needed to decide if children were what we wanted. And yes, the "when are you having kids" questions started up right away as soon as we said our vows, especially from those who didn't know me during my first marriage.

Just remember, things are not always what they seem.

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misszippy said...

Well, I for one and very happy for you! I am never going to judge someone for not having kids--I think it's such a personal choice. And it took me a long time to want them myself. But I can tell you, now that I have two, I know how much I would have missed out on had I not gone down this road.

So congrats and enjoy the big journey!

James said...

It's funny how a few years can change your perspective on life. It sounds like you've made all the right choices. I foresee your baby being well traveled and brought up in a happy home!

lindsay said...

I'm in the "not right now" phase and it bothers me when people are/seem judgmental that I am not rushing to have kids. I don't feel comfortable saying "I don't want kids" so I just use "not right now". I already stress out that if in 3 more years I still don't want them I will start catching grief for it. I dot judge people with their choices of kids-no kids and I wish others would do the same!

Amanda Brooks said...

i want to hug you :) I think we have commented back and forth about this before when I posted about choosing not to have kids. There are times when I start to think maybe I do and I wonder what the heck are people going to say after I declared we didn't...I have no idea what will happen, but I have fully expressed my belief that we are all doing what feels best at the time!

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