DISCLOSURE: If you find the topics of pregnancy, infertility, or the parenting journey to be triggering in any way, please be aware this blog post delves into all of these topics. My sole intention with this childfree by choice post is to share my truth, our story, and our journey to the decision. It is not to judge those who are on a different path or meant to displace, persuade, encourage or discourage you to follow our path. To be clear, I will always support, encourage, love, and adore our friends, family, and strangers alike who have children. Parents are phenomenal. Children are a gift. Whatever stage you are in, I’m here for you. I respect your choice, your journey, your body, and your decision.
Grab your coffee and settle in for a very long (perhaps my longest ever) blog post, friends. Transparently, I’m feeling nervous and incredibly vulnerable, as I would never want to offend anyone or say the wrong thing.
My heart goes out to the couples and individuals who are struggling with infertility, still searching for a partner, struggling with the costs or barriers to adoption, and countless other complications and emotional journeys that relate to the parenting journey. At my very core, I realize the fact that Bob and I have the opportunity to choose this path forward is a privilege in and of itself.
It is for these reasons (and more) why this blog post has been collecting dust in my drafts folder for more than three years. What changed? Well, a few days ago, Kate Kennedy, host of the Be There in Five podcast, posted her Childless Millennial episode. Kate handles the conversation with care and candor. Plus, she expresses so many opinions with empathy while sharing tough truths that often feel too taboo to say out loud (e.g. mourning friendships, parents not selling the idea of kids that well on social media, etc.).
In part, her episode gave me the courage to post. Plus, after sharing some of these feelings on Instagram Stories, I received so many encouraging messages, and your notes gave me the strength to do so. I’m forever grateful for your kindness, compassion, and support.
Additionally, after sharing some of my childfree by choice thoughts, I received a DM from my good friend, Grace Atwood of The Stripe. She’s also had a post about the topic in her drafts folder, and we decided to post at the same time. Please go read her post too! Grace has her own unique perspective and experiences; it’s a phenomenal post.
Thanks for bearing with me with this long intro. Without further ado…
A Weekend Brunch DM
The Direct Message hit my inbox, crackling in potency like sparks in the air. Reading it during weekend brunch, I breathed in the words deeply, inhaling the full hit of its fury.
In an instant, a stranger threw a dagger aimed perfectly at its target (me).
“I heard from someone that you and Bob aren’t having kids. You’ll regret that decision as it’s the most fulfilling thing that will happen in your life. You will look back one day and regret it. I feel sorry for you.”
My heart stopped. I sat stunned, speechless even. Not exactly “normal” behavior for me. I’m in the field of communications. All I do in my life is communicate. In fact, I’m always the first (and the very last) to speak my mind. Trust. 🙂
Livid and flushed, I turned to Bob and snarled, “How dare this person. It’s my body, our choice, and our future.”
I sat back and ate my scrambled eggs in silence.
Good, bad, and ugly messages come with the blogging territory. Exposing my life online opens me up to criticism, and I accept that fact. Moreover, I’m a believer that feedback can be a gift, and I greatly value constructive criticism. In many ways, that’s why I spend time reading and responding to so many comments and messages on social media.
However, this particular note wasn’t constructive. And to be clear, I’ve received similar comments and messages before and since. It’s as if my body and future are up for a vote.
When you’re “childfree by choice” (more on this term later), comments and judgments about your decisions, lifestyle, and future come flinging at you everywhere you turn. Plus, they’re made without knowledge of my life plans or ability to have children. Often, people assume it’s a choice without knowing if it actually is or not. Comments like…
“You’ll regret the decision.”
“You’re making a mistake.”
“You still have time to change your mind.”
Then there are the general life-related comments…
“Must be nice to wake up on weekend by choice and not by an alarm clock in the form of children.” Fair. But does that mean I still don’t have responsibilities, duties, a mortgage to pay, or other life commitments?
“You wouldn’t understand, you don’t have kids.” Understandable, but are you open to allowing me to walk alongside you on this journey? I want to be here for you, even when it means not being able to share in the experience firsthand.
“Who will care for you in your old age?” I have no clue, but you better believe Bob and I are already saving up for retirement and additional care so as to not be a burden on our families. Plus, we’re 100% going to head up the social committee wherever we end up. Expect a full schedule of Netflix showings, beer and cheese pairings, vino and vinyasa, and music concerts by candlelight! Just sayin’. 🙂
“But you and Bob would make such wonderful parents.” Yes, I agree! In fact, my largest emotional rollercoaster is knowing what a phenomenal dad he would be – the best. Plus, in my heart of hearts, I’m confident I’d be a good mom. And in many ways, I have strong maternal instincts.
Having great maternal instincts and being childfree aren’t diametrically opposed.
“You must not like kids.” This couldn’t be further from the truth! One of my greatest joys is seeing our friends and family raising children, watching them grow, and getting to know their personalities.
“Parenting gives you a better, stronger, and different understanding of love.” I’m not a parent, so I can’t comment on this perspective. However, I will say this statement assumes I am not fulfilled by the love that already exists in my life, couldn’t understand unique aspects of love, or in some ways, that I’m missing out by not having it.
One thing is clear –
We have so much work to do in normalizing the idea of women, individuals, and couples who are childfree by choice.
Growing up, friends and I would sit in a circle saying, “Jenny and (insert my boy crush name), sitting in a tree – K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”
Looking back, this is a simple example of how little girls’ perceptions (including mine) are shaped at an early age. It also goes to show how painful it can be, and how judgement quickly develops, when you choose a different path.
First Comes Love
During Bob’s and my first date (which you can read about in this post), we discussed children. No, not if we would have kids (that would be one wild first date, haha)! Instead, we just talked about what how we saw our futures. Both of said the same thing – “definitely open to children, but keeping all options on the table.”
Then Comes Marriage
After a few years of being married, Bob and I decided to have “baby talk.” No, not the lovey-dovey inflection of voice… I’m talking THAT talk. The, “when are we going to have a baby?” talk.
I remember this talk very clearly because my personal doctor was worried about my health. Without going into too many details, there was cause for concern.
Jenn: “Well, looks like we should talk about where we stand about kid(s).”
Jenn: “I’m so happy with our lives right now. I love our life, our relationship, our routine, everything. I can’t imagine changing it right now.”
Bob: “Ummmm, I feel the exact same way. I truly don’t see a baby right now.”
Jenn (almost cutting him off): “Right???? I don’t either.”
So we agreed to revisit the conversation about a year after the date. So we did…
Then Comes (No) Baby in a Baby Carriage
Well, friends… years came and went. Every year, we’d have the same conversation. The answer was always the same:
“We’re happy. We love our lives. We’re good as is.”
At one point, as a couple, we wanted to come to a final decision, and as you now know – we have made the conscious choice not to have children.
Sounds like our decision was simple, right? Well, let me tell you, coming to the conclusion wasn’t easy.
Some friends and family pester you, the questions and side eyes come flying, and “pregnancy watch” is a very REAL thing.
If I happen to post and/or be photographed at an unflattering angle, I’ll still receive messages, “Big news coming soon?!” “I have a feeling you have something exciting to announce!”
Awful. Gross. No, it’s just the extra slices of pizza I ate last night. But thanks for noticing. I digress…
On the flip side, there has been so much support. One of the biggest blessings during our decision process was how Bob’s parents and my dad never ever ever ever pressured us into have kids. Not even once. I will be forever grateful for that fact.
However, telling family that we made the conscious choice not to have kids tops the list of the toughest things we’ve ever had to share. My heart shatters even writing these words now. I know having children would make so many of them happy. But our decision isn’t for them – it’s for us.
Why We Aren’t Having Children
Below, I wanted to share a few of the reasons for our decision. There are many reasons why people choose to not have children, and they vary by individual/couple.
Simply put, the number one reason why we aren’t having children is because we love our lives. We love (and really like) each other. We love the freedoms that come with the lifestyle. We have a blast together, and we can’t wait to grow old with one another.
We rarely get sick of each other. In fact, the pandemic has brought us closer and made our love even stronger. I find joy with him each day, and I go to bed thinking how thankful I am to have him in my life.
Our love fulfills me. God has truly blessed us with a faith-centered love that overwhelms me. That’s not hyperbole – it’s the truth.
Other contributing factors to the decision? Health and finances. As I mentioned above, health was something we needed to take seriously. Plus, one of the cruel aspects of being a woman is our fertility as we age.
In terms of finances, we’ve always been strong at budgeting and planning. At the same time, we aren’t rolling in dough.
Bob put himself through college and has been financially independent ever since. Moreover, while I was fortunate to have monetary support from my family as a young adult, that was many many moons ago.
When I graduated college, my family made it clear – you’re on your own. Bob was given the same message after high school. It’s not that our families don’t love us. Their viewpoint was/is just simple – you’re an adult; it’s on you.
As such, my first apartment after college was a three-bedroom walk-up with four total girls and one bathroom. We even turned our dining room into a bedroom to save on rent. Thankfully, our landlord lived in San Francisco and didn’t check in on us. Lol. We were such rebels.
Since getting married, we’ve built, saved, and paid for everything we’ve done. I’m proud of that fact. We’re proud of that fact.
As financial planners, we’re also very clear on some of the financial commitments of having children. Those reasons have slightly (key word – slightly) contributed to our decision.
Lastly – and it’s taken many years of deep internal reflection to come to this “aha moment” – after losing my mom from a stroke in my 20’s, and Bob losing his mom just over a year ago, we both understand and have experienced the full scope of the grief related to losing parents.
Grief that is so immense, so vast, you can’t help but wonder how to go on. It feels insurmountable.
Those feelings, the grief of losing a parent, are something that we would never ever wish upon anyone. Again, let me reiterate – this is just my story and our viewpoint. However, I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit it’s a contributing factor as to why we don’t want to have children.
Watching a parent die – in my case, my mom was lost in a minute. Bob’s mom passed from a cruel cancer journey. We cannot imagine putting our child/children through that.
Plus, there’s sadness associated with not being be able to share the parenting experience with either of them. Simple things like asking for advice, getting a second opinion, and other layers like holidays, birthdays, graduations.
Death is a part of life. Birth is a part of life. It’s the circle of life. Pain, grief, anger, resolution all come along with the journey.
However, based on what we know and our lived experiences, we have chosen a different path.
Instead of feeling like we’re “childless by choice,” we’ve decided to embrace a child-filled life and a childfree by choice existence. I heard these words from friend, Sarah Lagen (who sent it to me), and a few others on social media.
We’re excited to attend concerts, recitals, baseball games, school functions, theatre shows, and anything else to support our friends’ and family’s kids! Just because we’ve chosen to be childfree doesn’t mean we can’t support others. Plus, I follow a significant amount of parenting blogs and social media accounts. It’s a joy to witness and support their journeys!
Also, I want to be clear that Bob and I are “childfree” NOT “childless by choice.” The choice of words MATTERS. In helping to remove stereotypes and stigmas, in further normalizing, I’d like to encourage everyone to use embrace the childfree by choice verbiage. In many ways, childless automatically carries the weight of being “less-than.” And we’re not here for that. 🙂
Childfree by Choice, Different Problems
Before diving into this next section, I need to acknowledge the outright privilege I have of being a white-presenting, cis-gender, heterosexual woman from an upper middle class background. Bob has a similar set of social privileges. As such, we have an unfair leg-up in pretty much all aspects of life. Please take these next thoughts with the full knowledge of our ongoing work in the journey to better understand (and fight against) white privilege.
At times, the world can have different expectations women who are childfree by choice. Beyond the outright judgement, there is an entirely separate set of rules and expectations.
In any other country in the world, parents are given phenomenal benefits, medical coverage, and childcare support. I am disgusted by the lack of rights, benefits, and parental leave we have in this country; we have a lot of work to do in these regards. I want to acknowledge there’s a whole other side of the coin of being a parent that isn’t being addressed here.
As such, I encourage you to look for resource that talk through these topics to have a more well-rounded view of the struggles of parents too. There are SO many!
My Lived Experience
Childfree by choice isn’t all sleeping in and traveling on a dime. We also have commitments along with immediate and extended family responsibilities.
Meetings and events on nights and weekends? Well you don’t have kids, so you should be able to make it.
Tired or stressed? Well, you weren’t caring for kids all night.
Need to leave slightly early one afternoon? Well… wait – why? Where do you have to go?
I’m only scratching the surface, but I encourage all workplaces, colleagues, friends, and family to be empathetic about the unique set of judgements and separate expectations of women, individuals, and couples without kids.
As a takeaway, it’s imperative to create an environment where everyone can set appropriate boundaries without feeling like they need to explain why. Additionally, as it relates to the workplace, it’s important to fairly evaluate workload and contributions, especially when it comes to weekend work, events, and travel.
What’s the auditing process to ensure everyone is thriving? Childfree and single people shouldn’t have to carry the load just as people with family deserve flexibility and judgment-free zones to do their very best work.
Where I Am Right Now
I can confidently say that we have never regretted our decision about kids. Granted, I know this is not true for everyone, but we feel comforted in knowing the plan for the future.
Sure, I feel slight twinges of sadness when I see birth announcements, family holiday photos, Instagram Stories with babies cooing, kids playing or making funny faces. Most importantly, I just feel pure joy for my friends, family, and strangers in these moments!
My biggest struggle is when I see our niece. My heart shatters into a million little pieces as I know she will never have immediate cousins on our side of the family. This void for her, based our decision, gets to me. But again – we didn’t make the decision for her, we did it for us. Plus, she gets even more time with us!
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received in life is to never make a decision solely for another person. That way, you can’t blame, regret, or hold grudges against anyone. Yes, I realize pregnancy isn’t always a decision. It’s complicated, complex, and can be incredibly challenging. When possible, the freedom of that choice, in and of itself, is freeing.
I hope one day our niece will understand. Above all – I hope she’ll make up her own mind when it comes to decide what she wants with regards to children. I implore her to never conform to societal expectations or familial pressures/concerns.
The funny thing about listening to your heart and discernment is that it’ll never let you down. If you follow the compass, you can never be led astray. As a woman of faith, I know God had a plan, and His plan is for us to not have kids in this chapter of our lives. I’m thankful for listening and trusting His guidance.
You’re Not Alone
While the childfree decision can feel isolated and lonely at times, there are plenty of public figures who are living child-full and childfree existences by choice too. For example – Oprah, Jennifer Aniston, Betty White, Sarah Paulson, Ellen DeGeneres and countless others have made indelible impacts on our society.
While, at times, it feels like a selfish choice to not have kids, I believe it’s a much more selfish choice to do so for the wrong reasons.
I’m going to list some helpful resource below if you’re looking for additional childfree by choice resources, or if you’re struggling and want more information.
In closing, maybe that woman who sent the DM is right. Perhaps I’ll regret the decision in the years ahead. At the same time, we have other options we can explore like adoption and fostering.
At the end of the day, it’s not up to her, or you, to decide what’s best for me and Bob. In the same way it’s not up to me to decide for you. Our decisions, our journey, our path.
All in all, I want to use my platform to do good, spark positivity, shine light, to give back, and to find ways to support others who have children in any way that I can.
In part, I hope by blog post helps reduce the stereotype and normalize the idea of childfree by choice or just childfree without needing to explain why or get questioned about it. Furthermore, I hope it gives a more well-rounded view of the judgements, complexities, and roller-coaster ride of a childfree by choice existence.
Lastly, as someone without a child, I hope you’ll consider me a Great Aunt. Being an Aunt to my niece is the greatest joy of my life. Moreover, I am here for you, where you are, to be an Auntie that does life with you. No matter where you’re at.
When my friend Kit refers to me as “Aunt Jenn” to her daughter, Gwen, or Megan and John calls us “Auntie Jenn and Uncle Bob,” my heart explodes. It’s the best feeling, and I hope you will think of me in the same vein when you need an extra dose of support.
Let’s all strive to be more compassionate to one another no matter what.
Childfree by Choice Resources
Why So Many Are Satisfied Being Childless by Choice via Psychology Today
What We Get Wrong About Women Who Don’t Have Kids via Refinery29
Childfree by choice book options on Amazon