Before I had kids I could never understand how any one could choose to live childfree. How could you not want children? Once I had started actively trying to have children I actually envied those who didn’t seem to have the same primal need I had to have children. At times it was unbearably hard to carry on trying, it took every single ounce of whatever I had inside of me to do yet another cycle. Yet there was no way I could ever switch that yearning off. Impossible.
While I love my kids more than I thought I could love any one or any thing, and would have even more if I could, I can now understand the appeal of NOT having children. Now that I have kids of my own, I realize what an absolute and total sacrifice it is. And if not forever, it is for a very long time.
This is not about being a martyr – that look doesn’t suit me at all, although some might wear it. This is about how you put yourself second, or third to your kids for as long as they need you, which might just be forever.
I was lying in bed last night, after a day of baby relay and I thought about a woman I used to work with, she was about 42 at the time and had decided that she didn’t want to have any children. I was just starting out trying to conceive and at the time I found it fascinating that someone could choose not to have children. I asked her about her decision (not in a horrible way, we were chatting about how different our lives were). She explained to me her reasons why. It was her second marriage, he was a little older and they had a divine life together. They travelled, they slept late, they read, they had breakfasts out every weekend etc etc. And it made sense. For her. Looking back now, I get what she meant. It wasn’t that she didn’t like children, it was just that for her, she preferred her life without the sacrifices you have to make in order to raise a child. I now understand her position.
Besides the actual sacrifices you make, there is the part that says once you have kids, your heart is forever exposed. While the children are little, you can still do your best to protect them from sickness, heartache, life. And even then, insidious diseases like cancer and other terminal illness lurk in the dark murky depths of the plausible, scaring the hell out of you.
Then they grow up and move ever more into the big bad world that is everyday life. And your precious darling who now owns your heart has to face things like rejection, betrayal, bullying, teasing, heartache. It’s like a punch in the gut to think that some day, someone might break my child’s heart, someone might reject them. Once you have kids, you might as well rip your heart open and expose it to the world.
But besides that stuff, there is the practical, day-to-day stuff. Stuff that you take for granted. Stuff that when you are young and single, you think of as your right. Stuff like sleep. Sleeping when you want, waking up late. Forget about it, at least for a while.
When are you both sick, you will just have to pull yourself together and look after your kids, they need you. There is no sick leave for mothers.
Hungry? You first feed your family, then yourself.
Like spontaneity? Yours will have to be the planned, well thought out version.
Like to travel? Travelling light is a thing of the past.
Life is really no longer about you, or your needs. Your needs are secondary to those of your child. And this is how it should be. For as long as your child needs you, you will have to sacrifice whatever it takes to meet those needs.
And yes, in the ideal world the child fits into *your* lifestyle (I honestly don’t buy that), or the child’s needs and yours gel in a way that you don’t have to sacrifice any thing (doesn’t always happen I’m afraid), yes this might happen, but sometimes, often, your life is very different once you have a kid or two. Being selfish, or self-absorbed is no longer possible.
And it is for those reasons (and others) that I am glad I had my children in my thirties – my twenties were a wonderful time of hedonistic pleasure. I did all the things *I* wanted to do. It was all about me and my needs. I feel like I have got that out of my system and I am more than ready to take second or third place to my kids for the next phase in my life. And who knows, maybe once the kids have grown up it will come full circle and it will be about me and my needs again. Who knows. Although I probably wont be partying in quite the same way as I did in my twenties ;-) Some day I will tell you about my wild youth. Maybe. You will probably be horribly shocked. I might just be excommunicated from the friends in the computer list.
Two Sunday’s ago I went to my sister’s house for lunch. Lunch was an interesting affair. The table was beautifully laid out, the food was divine. The company…well, sparse, really. We had to eat in shifts – one person ate while the others held babies, gave bottles, wiped snotty noses, rescued crawling toddlers, separated fighting siblings.
It’s divine, it’s chaotic, it’s wonderful, it’s totally different to my life before kids. I totally love it, but I also get why people would choose to have a life with just their partner. Without the chaos, without the sacrifice. Quite honestly, there is something to be said living childfree, if that is your choice*.
I hope you can read this and know that I am NOT saying I regret having children – oh no. I am 100% happy with my life – I wish I could have more kids! I am just able to understand the other side’s point of view.
*living childfree because you don’t have a choice, for whatever reason (i.e. infertility) sucks more than any thing in the world. I am not talking about that kind of childfree. I am talking about the conscious decision type.
WAIT! I can NOT believe this – how weird is this…. The woman I was speaking about, the one I used to work with? I haven’t seen her in over three years. I saw her today in the shop, AFTER I had written this post!! Freaky. I think about her last night, and I see her today. Coincidence? I think not. Weird. I told her that I was thinking about her and her decision to live child-free, and she said she is still loving her life and her decision.