The In-Between: Child-Free By Choice and the War Between Ideals

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that we all know I’m not a fan of Katie Couric. I won’t get into it, but let’s just say- she’s no Diane Sawyer. Still, somehow, I found myself watching her talk show yesterday and finding the topic of conversation compelling. I’m also compelled to tell you I was watching her show at the gym, but that’s a straight up lie. I was on the couch, but if it makes you feel better, I felt guilty the entire time.

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The ‘Time’ feature that inspired the discussion.

Katie’s discussion was about couples who chose not to have children and are totally happy with their decision. At this particular spot in life, I find this to be an endlessly interesting conversation. Now, it is and always has been in my plans to eventually start a family of my own, and truthfully, we’re pretty excited about whenever that time arrives. Still, there have been fleeting moments when I thought, what would it be like to not have children? What if it was just my husband and I, having time to spend with each other traveling, spending money selfishly, focusing all of our energies on our own relationship and personal/professional fulfillment? There are definitely appealing factors that accompany that lifestyle, and it’s refreshing to even be able to consider them. Ultimately, I believe that children will enrich our lives because we’ve both always been very family oriented. I admire people who know and confidently make the other decision, and live their life fully that way. Yesterday’s episode of Katie dove into the stigmas associated with both lifestyles, and the judgement that people often carry for each.

The couples featured on the program were very different. One was a pair of 40-somethings living in New York City, very professionally successful and enjoying life. The other was a young couple, married for 5 years and still building. Ironically, the younger woman was a nanny! She basically said that although she loves working with kids, she knows firsthand how hard it is and appreciates being able to go home at the end of the day and not “be her best self.” As a (?former?) educator, I relate to this very much. So, does this make child-free couples selfish in some way? Turns out a popular societal response is, yes it does. We could go into all the biological reasons and even heavier, religious and spiritual reasons why many believe that able women should have children, but all of that aside, why the hard feelings? Why can’t two hardworking, educated people decide that they want to spend their lives with each other, contribute to society in other positive ways, volunteer in their community, mentor, or teach? Isn’t it more responsible to make that decision, rather than to bring children into the world, just because you’re biologically able to? It seems that the bigger issue is all of the people who are able to bear children, who maybe shouldn’t!

Katie also touched on the “haves” and “have-nots”, how families without children can often feel alienated and vice versa. I’ve seen many people experience that shock, when close friends suddenly have kids, never leave the house, and are only interested in talking diapers and mommy-and-me classes, all before 7PM, because that’s when the baby goes to sleep. All I know is it’s made me more aware of lifestyle balance, whether I’m 29 and childless or down the road when I’m living the parental dream and potentially lugging around twins (it could happen.) It’s made me vow to continue enjoying the benefits of social media without barraging my friends with endless pictures of my kid, or complaining about how my pregnancy is way harder than every other woman’s pregnancy. See, despite my personal excitement to be a part of that club, even making these comments separates me from a growing group of my peers. It makes me sound like a “child hater,” or something. GOD FORBID I don’t appreciate every picture of someone else’s kid eating, 3 times a day. (I actually do enjoy most of the pictures, but the amount makes it fair game for me to comment on the growth rate of your child and speculation that they aren’t eating enough.)

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? How are people treated differently when they do or do not have children, both personally and in the workplace? This isn’t a new discussion but it’s one I’ll continue talking about frequently. I could go on forever. Isn’t it funny what a loaded topic this has become? I’d love to hear your thoughts.. and how much you hate me for not gushing over your pickle and ice cream cravings.

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9 thoughts on “The In-Between: Child-Free By Choice and the War Between Ideals

  1. thefoodandwinehedonist says:

    Tried commenting on iPhone, but the app sux like that. Ugh.

    I always thought it’s funny that childless couples are labeled as selfish. Almost all of the reasons for having them are basically selfish – we want them, it’s what WE were meant to do, WE owe it to the world or to an unborn child. Unless of course the kid’s a “mistake” and you go through with raising it – then that’s pretty unselfish.

    BTW – twins rock!

    1. The Daily Sampler says:

      Damn you, iPhone! Just kidding, I love you iPhone. Please don’t be mad at me. 🙂
      I am among the selfish. I WANT kids. I hope that we can have them and enjoy life with them (because I know people that are having trouble, that is a whole ‘nother barrel of scary.) But even those people, who wanted kids but maybe won’t be able to go down that path- they are faced with a stigma they didn’t ask for. There shouldn’t be one, period.

  2. the winegetter says:

    Great post. Naturally a topic in this household as well. While I always saw myself with kids, I have come to a point where I also realize (which is a good thing!) that I don’t need to have kids for my own happiness. Now da missus thinks that I don’t want kids anymore, which is also not the case. I just think I will enjoy each stage of my life. And right now, I don’t have kids, so I am happy with that. And I will be happy (albeit so much more tired) when I have kids…

    1. The Daily Sampler says:

      Thanks, Oliver! I think it’s really cute that my first 2 comments were from very smart guys! 🙂 I think that’s why I am more aware of it than other people- I’m living kind of a weird, non-traditional lifestyle, full of travel and living with year-to-year changes. Where I’m someone that definitely is starting to yearn for a more settled lifestyle (mind you, we’ve been doing this for 5+ years now,) it’s so important to be fully able to enjoy opportunities like we’ve both had recently. Enjoying the present stage you’re in is something all of North America really needs to work on!

  3. Cowboys and Crossbones says:

    Fab post! When I was with a very long term boyfriend, we were hounded more about when we’d have kids than when we’d get married. And I sometimes found myself feeling guilty saying, “I’m not worried about it.” But in truth, I’m not. I really love my life and I will be happy with or without the kids. Plus, I’m a really kick ass aunt! 🙂

    1. The Daily Sampler says:

      Thank you! I find it so interesting that around this time in life, it’s THEE thing to do- get married, get pregnant. And obviously, that’s super exciting and important (I am one of those geeky excited people.) Still, there isn’t any celebration for people at this age who are doing other great things in their lives. I just think we should celebrate both lifestyles instead of making people feel bad about it! And it’s VERY important to have kick ass aunts like yourself around 😉

  4. wanderingglutton says:

    We were married for seven years before we had our first. We knew we wanted kids, but we knew we wanted to be a couple for a while first. We traveled and did a lot of the things that are deemed selfish. We also were like an extra set of parents for all the kids in our neighborhood. It prepared us to become parents and we don’t regret any of it.

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