I’m coming out.

For years I have felt that I am somehow different. I wished I could just be like everyone else as that would make my life sooooo much easier. Over the past couple years I have been slowly telling friends and even some coworkers – only to hear comments from people ranging from incredulous disbelief to smug admonitions that I would soon change my mind – somehow suggesting that this is some sort of phase I am going through.
Over the same time period I have been slowly seeking out people to form my support network – other people and couples who have decided not to have children.
Some people may feel that I have somehow overstated the level of public (and private) scrutiny and discomfort people in my situation have to deal with. Some may attempt to diminish the impact of my situation – stating that I have a choice like everyone else – I don’t have to live a *childless* life – My wife and I need only do what comes “naturally.” Unfortunately for us, the instincts so many claim to have – both paternal and maternal – seem incredibly weak in us. We are constantly questioning ourselves – maybe something *is* wrong with us – aren’t we *supposed* to do this?
My defense mechanisms kick in at this point, and I usually brandish such armaments as “people simply don’t know what else to do with their lives” or “people aren’t strong enough, or unselfish enough to do what we are doing”. Regrettably, these aspersions, while fun to cast, rarely make me feel any better about my lot and do absolutely nothing to guide me as to how exactly a life without children will be.
My wife and I agree that we have an actual taste of what it might be like to be gay in a society that sees homosexuality as an abnomality (or worse). We know what it is like to lose friends after we acknowledge that kids are not in our future. We know how it feels to contemplate faking it and living a “normal life” just to fit in. We understand the stigma that can be attached to people with our same lifestyle – one of selfishness, coldness or even downright unwholesomeness. Mother’s don’t understand it – won’t accept it. Friends distance themselves, instead finding the favor of others who are more “like them”. And people in general simply do not understand why two otherwise typical people would do something that defies nature itself.
I want everybody to recognize that I do not make this comparison to be flip, or sensationalistic (ok so there is a touch of that) but rather to illustrate the depths of the alienation and frustration my wife and I have felt since we arrived at the conclusion that bearing and raising children isn’t for us some 6 years ago. Maybe if I can do my small part to convey the profound affect others can have on the lives of people like us, it can get better.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Nobody likes to go first so I thought I would start the discussion myself. First off are there any others like me out there? What do people feel are the biggest positives to being parents? And the downside?

  2. I always find these posts interesting. Interesting because I’ve pretty much come to the same conclusions, yet I am not hastled by anyone about it. Then again it’s not like it comes up in conversation much.
    Perhaps when you’re married, or you know a lot of married people w/ kids it’s different, I dunno. I certainly don’t have a lot of those types of people in my life, so maybe that’s why it’s not an issue. A lot of my friends just have a hard enough time finding a girl/boyfriend, let alone thinking about kids.
    Still I just can’t imagine any of them looking at me differently if I did not have children. Maybe it’s because most of my friends aren’t big on the kid thing either (well, yet anyway). But personally I’ve never had a problem w/ people, so I always wonder who these people are who are condeming you. It seems rather wierd to me.
    But just think of the good side. We could go see the Packer/Viking game together every year if we wanted and would never have to get a babysitter. That just means more money for beer! 🙂

  3. I agree. It’s so surreal that people should give you such a hard time about this. It’s nobody’s business. And bottom line, you’re views are more practical. There are no good reasons to procreate. I’m not going to (if I can help it).
    But I’m sure it does get lonely after awhile. Similar to the way it gets lonely after all your friends get married. I clearly recognized the shift that a group of friends make when everyone starts getting married, but I only recently realized that eventually everyone starts making babies and a similar “weeding” takes place. Ugh. Babies.
    Don’t give in.

  4. Posted by Rebekah on August 5, 2003 at 1:17 pm

    My husband and I didn’t “decide” to have a baby. It just happened. We were sure we didn’t want to have one. For us, it worked out. If it hadn’t happened by accident, it would’ve never happened. I’m very happy with our daughter. I wouldn’t have planned it though. And if you don’t think you’d make good parents, don’t do it. If it happens, you survive.
    Funny thing is, I don’t like having friends that have kids. Most of them are taken over by their children. They don’t have passion for anything else. So I don’t hang out with the parents. I don’t always feel like a parent. It’s hard for people to understand that. I’m a good mom.
    Just not the model mom.
    Don’t have children if you don’t want to. But if it happens by accident, don’t be afraid of it. You adapt. You love. It works. And you don’t have to be boring because you do have a child. There’s still time for yourself. Maybe not right away. But in time.

  5. Vitaflo –
    I’ve pretty much come to the same conclusions, yet I am not hastled by anyone about it.
    I think you will find 2-3 times in your life where “losing friends” happens the first you have probably experienced when many people you knew got married – the second is begins around the time when everyone you know is either swelled up like a Buddha, or trying to placate that swollen bundle of enlightenment.
    h- There are no good reasons to procreate.
    I wouldn’t go this far. I think there are actually many decent reasons; here are some of the main ones I see:
    – you get to teach someone “everything”
    – you can be the other part a pretty rare (in 1 person’s life) relationship.
    – you can expect that someone will be there with you when you are old and dying
    – you can avoid being alienated by people who see you as weird or different
    – you get to see what a combination of you and the person you are in love with turns out like
    Rebekah – My husband and I didn’t “decide” to have a baby. It just happened. And if you don’t think you’d make good parents, don’t do it.
    My wife and I have decided that, regardless of our views we would have the child (and most likely two then) if it “just happens”. I am 80% sure we would be good parents. Our main issues I think would be consistency and patience. If you have those I feel you can’t go too wrong.
    Funny thing is, I don’t like having friends that have kids. Most of them are taken over by their children. They don’t have passion for anything else.
    That is interesting – I have noticed that having kid, for most people does transform them. I have said that there are 2 occurrences that change people’s perceptions of their lot in life – in affect 2 events that turn them into adults: having children of your own and/or your own parents dying.
    I think, with some, that they only measure their self and their worth by their children. These are the ones that will talk about nothing else. Unfortunately parents like this don’t make the best role models for the kids that they are “devoting everything” to.

  6. Ben,
    Like anything else, why would you give birth to an idea if you didn’t want to own it? Why marry if you have a swell relationship?
    It’s OK to attack your concerns with logic however I think having children isn’t a logical decision. It’s an emotional one.
    As we returned from our honeymoon, my wife suggested we start trying to have a child. My first response was why, then why not? Truth be told I couldn’t think of one solid reason why it was a bad idea to have a child. So we started . . .
    So Ben what’s your reason why not?
    Nobody is giving any pro-child debate here so I will. I love being a dad and I learn a lot from the experience. It makes my relationship with my wife more complex and interesting. It adds a huge layer of concern to any decisions I make but forces me to make better decisions.
    It has always been my desire to procreate. I feel my role in life is to continue the family lines and possibly one of my children or my children’s children hundreds of years from now will be something amazing to our planet.
    I’ve always wanted to change the world, I want my children to know they can and raise their children to feel the same.
    If we were only meant to be on this planet to eat, shit, pay taxes and die, that would nullify the existance of our species. I think there is something greater beyond us that we cannot see. I think my child allows me to see that picture fresh again.
    The downside to being a parent is being afraid you’ll miss a moment in your childs life. I cannot explain this in a more logical way other than to say you relive your youth vicariously through your childs eyes.
    You get to design the world they understand and teach them things you wish you had been taught.
    I’m not attempting to convince you to have children. In fact I hope you don’t without knowing why or why not. you have had the courage to be outspoken about this topic but you haven’t had the courage to push a little further up the river to find your OWN reason why you don’t want a child.
    It’s not a matter of public discussion, it’s a matter of personal reflection and the honesty of your replationship with your spouse.
    Stuart 😀

  7. P. Strunk says: “I think you will find 2-3 times in your life where “losing friends” happens the first you have probably experienced when many people you knew got married”
    This has and hasn’t happened. There are people I’ve known that have gotten married and I don’t talk to them as much, but there are also people who I know who have gotten married that I talk to and hang out with a lot more now than ever before.
    I guess if someone wants to dump their friends for a wife and kids, that’s fine w/ me. I just try to live my life differently. I know that regardless of my situation, I will always make time for friends and try to understand whatever situation they’re in. This goes for people I talk to every day and those I may not have heard from in years. That’s just how I am.
    I don’t expect anyone to be like me, or want to be like me. I just try to do what I feel is right. The rest is just water under the bridge. Perhaps that makes me a bit naive, I don’t know. But it’s worked for me so far, and I’m pretty happy, which is all I can ask for.

  8. Posted by Rebekah on August 5, 2003 at 11:59 pm

    When I found out I was pregnant, my first thought about more kids was to have two. So I wouldn’t have the spoiled brat that doesn’t know how to share. And so my child would have a sibling to play with. As my pregnancy went on, I realized that I didn’t want to have another. I was completely happy with one. And having another child would quite possibly ruin my life. That probably isn’t true. I figure that if you don’t have money or room for another child, then you shouldn’t try to have anymore. Even if it means that you have to only have one child. But really I felt like one was perfect for us. It made us our own little family. Now she’s 5 and I still don’t want another. But it varies for each family.
    I’ll agree with Stuart. I love being a mom. My daughter makes me happy. I can’t imagine a life without her. She’s become a necessity for me. I need her to be here. If she died, I would feel dead. She’s a huge part of my happiness and self worth. In a good way.
    No one should have a baby just to fit in. The best reason to have a baby is because you feel like you would love to have one. And you believe that you could raise them to be mostly normal. You can’t be the perfect parent. Your child will tell you they hate you. They sometimes probably will hate you. You end up compromising yourself when raising a child. Doing things you thought you’d never do. But no more that with a marriage. Disciplining for things that you thought you’d be ok with. But it’s not such a compromise. If you want it, you’ll be ok. There’s nothing wrong with being selfish while you still can be. It’s a lot harder once you have a child. Going out can be a hassle. Weekend getaways don’t happen unless you have someone to babysit. Concerts are the same. You become limited. But also, the good can outweigh all of that. If you don’t have a child it’s hard to feel that way. Why have one unless you really want to.
    My daughter, it turns out, is a really good sharer.

  9. I have been urged by Stuart above and privatley to respond to a few of his comments. I will oblige as the act of responding privatly has allowed me some more time to think things through or come up with some other ideas.
    I was not intending and, after review, do not feel that I was NOT giving a viewpoint against having kids – but merely attempting to explain what it feels like for my wife and I to go through life in a society that is very procreation focused.
    The comment about finding the true reason I do not want a child is interesting – perhaps I do not have a real solid reason other than an emotional desire to not have one – and as you (stu) said, in many cases, the decision to have a child is an emotional rather than a logical one. So can emotions be considered as reasons? I don’t know.
    Perhaps what is more interesting however is that I feel that the majority of people who do have kids have no more of a reason for doing so than I have for not having them. Part of this post (and previous posts) have focused on the perception (mine) that people have kids because they do not know what else to do (in general, as the next step in a relationship, or in life). I can see (and in many ways understand) the idea that people may feel that they are not leading a complete their life if they do not have a child.
    A few more random comments before I am done:
    – I think it is very difficult to discuss this topic with anyone who has children because more often then not they cannot separate their feelings for their own children from the feelings about children in general. That makes for some very emotional, but generally pointless discussions.
    – I generally am pretty all right with my (and my wife’s) decision to not have kids, however it is much harder for Jena as she has a different set of expectations and pressures on her in our society than I do. Every once and a while the pressures affect me to a degree that I feel I need to express my thoughts on the subject or I will explode. Generally this is when you will see posts on this topic.
    – I am not a crusader for “not having children” but rather a crusader against the idea that your life cannot be complete without children or that there is something wrong about not having children. More importantly though, I am a campaigner against people having children when raising children is not their #1 priority. I have always told people that I will have kids when I am ready for them to be the #1 priority in my life and not before. I don’t think kids deserve any less. Do you?

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