by Dr. Suzana E. Flores
Mike, a 38-year-old, attorney has a Match.com profile where he clearly states that he does not want to have children. Several women he’s dated through this dating site have tried to change his mind by telling him that he would make such a great father if he “weren’t so selfish.”
Christina, a 35-year-old, freelance writer said that she has been marked as the black sheep of her family. She can’t attend one family holiday without someone “casually” mentioning over dinner how women who wait too long to reproduce will surely regret it, because one day they will wake up “with a shriveled up uterus” and will die alone.
I’m 30-years-old (cough, cough), okay add 10 years to that, and I’ve NEVER wanted children. As far as I can remember the thought of having children made me cringe. Despite this, given societal expectations and the biological tick-tock issue, at one time my husband and I figured we should seriously consider this possibility. We both ended up experiencing severe anxiety. The mere thought of losing our freedom, restricting our travel plans, and taking on all the obligations involved in parenthood, made our life appear hectic and (truthfully) quite miserable. We had to admit to ourselves, and each other, that given everything that we’d have to give up – the many things that we love about our life together – having children just seemed so…inconvenient.
As you can imagine, I can’t share thoughts like these with most parents because if I do I’m met with looks that could easily put me 6-feet under. It’s somehow socially acceptable for parents to share the joy they experience with their children but it’s not acceptable for me to express the joy I experience with NOT having children. I've found that some parents take such comments too personally, as if I’m implying that their children are annoying, or that I’m making passive-aggressive jabs at their decision to become parents. And joking about this topic? Forget about it. While most parents understand, and even enjoy, the humor behind how stressful children can be, some parents are too attached to their role as parent to accept any other viewpoint. Even in today’s world, with a more liberal mindset when it comes to women and our choices, women who choose to be childless are met with societal negative attitudes.
When I tell people I'm married, most people follow through by asking if we have children. “My husband and I are childless…BY CHOICE,” I respond. The “by choice” proclamation has to follow with lighting speed otherwise I receive the sympathy stares. Even worse, when I say that I never wanted children, I’m often faced with sneers or judgmental remarks, “Oh, so you’re one of THEM.” Yes, I’m one of “them” – women who love their partners, their careers, their freedom and gosh darn it, we sure do love our sleep too.
Many people feel uncomfortable around those who choose to defy convention. They simply can't understand how a couple can feel ecstatic with not having children, the same way some couples can't understand how single people can feel ecstatic with remaining single.
Being childless was not an easy choice to make; we know the risk of never becoming parents at all – we’re missing out on a lot of meaningful experiences. But at the same time, we are childfull; we choose to fill our lives with the children we love like our nieces and nephews and friends' children. The way I see it, being childless by choice gives me the best of both worlds: I can enjoy my freedom and still be "the cool aunt," and although I never wanted to have a child, I do have a daughter, albeit a four-legged Diva named Lille…and life for me (and my little family) couldn't be any better.
Dr. Suzana E. Flores is the resident clinical psychologist to Prose & Cons and author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives due out October, 2014 through Reputation Books.
Dr. Flores frequently presents at universities and organizations, and was recently quoted in Esquire.com, Mashable.com, Everyday Health Magazine, Dame Magazine, The Nation, SheKnows.com, New Parent Magazine, Newlyweds, Upwayve.com and Moms.me.
She can be reached at email@example.com or through her literary agent, Liz Kracht at firstname.lastname@example.org.