Pondering being “childfree”

16 Sep

I have lately been very interested in hearing about couples who are “childfree”.   I am not totally comfortable with the expression as it sounds like having children is something to avoid like “sugar free” or “smoke free”.  However “childless” sounds much worse,  like you are lacking and empty, so I am not using that term.  Whether it is for the short term or the long term I recognize that having examples of happy couples without children is just plain healthy.  I have this ridiculous idea that a complete family includes children.  As much as I would like to have one or two immediately, I recognize that it’s still a while away – a min of 10 months or more.

Lately I’ve been hearing about studies on happiness and they all seem to confirm that having children does NOT make people happier.

Daniel Gilbert in his book Stumbling Upon Happiness suggests that having kids actually makes you LESS happy and that parents actually delude themselves into thinking they are happy.  The book reviewer grabs your attention in her review  “Don’t Worry Be Happy ” in Forbes by saying “If you want to be happy, don’t have children.”

On the day to day, I can understand that, because of the demands, but in the larger scheme when you are reflecting on your life and looking back I hear again and again from people that their single greatest joy and satisfaction in life came from raising their child.  So maybe happiness isn’t the right word.  It is more about deriving meaning and a sense of importance.  I don’t see myself being happier by not having kids.  Now that I’ve been at it for almost 3 years it feels like the one thing I need to get back on track and feel normal again.  This whole process of trying to have a baby is hands-down the single most miserable experience I’ve gone through in life- so unfortunately I don’t see being child free as much of a ticket to the easy life.  Perhaps if I was someone who truly didn’t want them and then never tried to have them this is true.

In “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting” in New York Times magazine they talk specifically about the negatives of parenting and the toll it takes on your life and your marriage.    The author writes “This is the brutal reality about children—they’re such powerful stressors that small perforations in relationships can turn into deep fault lines.”  If anyone quoted either of these stories after I confided to them about my repeat pregnancy losses I think I would slap them, but finding the stories on my own I admit I was slightly fascinated and also frightened that the road ahead is hard on both sides.  Unfortunately, having trouble having kids doesn’t let you off the hook for everything after (although in fairness, it seems like you’ve earned a break somewhere down the line!).  For years I was focused on that and worried about how hard it would be, no idea how hard this first part would be.

So for now we are childfree, not by choice.  On our vacation last week we visited historical homes on Nantucket and occasionally there was an example of a couple  that never had kids.  I was fascinated with what they did with their time.  I think of other famous childfree people like Oprah and Julia Child.  Unfortunately I don’t have quite the same level of career ambition.  If anything I feel a bit guility that I haven’t been using my childfree time to be more productive.  Since I  don’t have an amazing career or a family I admit to feeling a bit lacking.  (Supermoms who have both- I hate you!)  My career is pretty low key and a great fit for a family.  I work from home for a large high tech company doing web marketing.  On the side I am pursuing a Masters degree in counseling psychology and part-time I teach aerobics (got certified last year).    I am interested in any other great examples of childfree people.  I know they are out there.

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7 Responses to “Pondering being “childfree””

  1. Katie September 17, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    I’m childfree, but also not by choice, and I always find it interesting when people say that having children made them LESS happy. I think that, when you have to work so hard to achieve motherhood, you view having and raising children differently. I wish that I could say I’m a happy-go-lucky childfree woman. Though my husband and I do have a fun, carefree life, it doesn’t mean we still don’t desire a baby. I’m still hopeful that we’ll conceive OR that I will warm up to life without children. Right now, both of those seem like distance occurrences.

    • starfishkittydreams September 18, 2010 at 10:39 am #

      I feel your pain. Waking up this morning “childfree” felt pretty damned empty. Picking myself up each day with the weight of this is really getting to me. I find myself bothered by both groups- those that hate parenting and those that love it. Both upset me in different ways, so there is not winning and I find myself avoiding parents of young kids, in general. I took find that either carrying a healthy baby to term or coming to terms with the childfree lifestyle seem like distant occurrences. I’ve just always wanted to have my own kids, so it is a complete game changer to start wondering if maybe it just isn’t going to happen.

  2. Nelly September 17, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    Trying to make the most our of my “child free” life. It has been difficult for me to focus on myself after giving so much to my son for so long and not able to have kids at this time in my life easily. However,I’m trying to stay positive and keep my life crazy full of stuff I never had time to do before.

    • starfishkittydreams September 18, 2010 at 10:45 am #

      I am sorry for your loss. I just checked out your blog and I see you recently had a miscarriage. I hope you get some positive news soon!

      On your blog you post amazing photos! You are such a talented photographer!

      • Nelly September 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

        Thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed the pictures and stopped by. Just starting out on the photograph and it’s helping me cope with being “alone”. Husband is out of town during the week and now being childless is even harder. So I take walks and go on adventures with my new camera – my baby – keeping me company.

  3. Gail K. September 27, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    I have recently started to seriously contemplate living child-free. (I, too, hate that word, but prefer it to “childless”.) My diagnosis is unexplained female infertility, so they really don’t know what is going on to cause the problems nor how to fix them. I don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have children when none of the procedures are guaranteed to work. And, I don’t know how I feel about raising someone else’s baby or child through adoption. So, I am stuck in limbo and living child-free for now, but not by choice.

  4. electric_bonzai November 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    found this article on a Google search.

    A quick comment I would like to make about this quote:

    I have lately been very interested in hearing about couples who are “childfree”. I am not totally comfortable with the expression as it sounds like having children is something to avoid like “sugar free” or “smoke free”.

    The designation ‘Childfree’ is intended (by most) as a self-referential term/label for people who DO NOT WANT to have children (and who have made a decision not to have them). The term childless tends to be used for people who want to have children, but do not pr can not have them.

    For a person who does NOT want to have children, and has made a decision to not have them, children ARE ‘something to avoid’.
    Because it is a self-referential term, all this means is that children are undesired, a possible negative and something to avoid for that particular person who does not want them and identifies as childfree. It does not extend to some sort of blanket claim that children are a negative thing to be avoided for everyone – just for that one person.

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