Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reflections (5): I Don't Want Children

[image: rlv.zcache.com]

I don't want children. Period.

I've moved away from some ealier ambivalence on this issue. I think there is still a part of me that questions whether I could have the patience and commitment necessary to be a good parent. There is also a measure of selfishness in not wanting to place an irrevocable limitation on my finances and my personal life.

But what has completely transformed my thinking on this issue is a new-found understanding of what, specifically, I want out of life. There was a time when essential life decisions (education, career, love...) were clouded by social, cultural, and class expectations, by other people's opinions, and by perceived familial obligations. No longer.

Jack's new life paradigm is rather simple: (1) figure out what I need to secure long-term “happiness,” and (2) go out and find it. Anything that I don't consider an essential componet of this theoretical “happiness” is just not prioritized. And guess what? I just don't find child-rearing to be essential to my long-term happiness. After some soul searching I have come to the conclusion that I just don't have an overwhelming need to pass on my genes. I also don't believe that children are required to sustain meaningful love between two people. And, more importantly, I strongly suspect that the valuable lessons a person learns as a parent can be learned thorugh other endeavors.

This is not to say that I will NEVER have kids. It just means that having them is not a personal priority. I could see a situation in which I meet a person that becomes very important to me and who does prioritize child-rearing. At that point, a decision will have to be made that might very well change my life forever.

[Reflections introductory post]

72 comments:

Meg said...

I'm not planning on having kids, either. There are plenty of reasons for me to not have kids, but mostly it's because I don't have a compelling reason to have kids. And as big as a life changer as kids are, I think people really should have a reason to have them before they do, even though the default position is still probably to have kids because there is a lot of pressure from society.

Is it selfish? Well, maybe, in the way that MOST decisions are probably selfish. And I don't think that's a bad thing. We should look out for our interests and that doesn't mean that we don't look out for others' interests as well. In fact, one could also argue that having kids is selfish seeing as they and their descendants will be using a lot of already scarce resources. But then someone has to have kids if the human race is to continue and that's something I'd prefer (not that there's a big threat of extinction in the near future barring some really big catastrophe).

I must say, I do appreciate all the thoughtful parents out there who are honestly trying to raise respectful, thoughtful kids. I hope that they will help make this world a better place than what they found it. And I do think of future generations when I make many decisions, even knowing that it's probably not *my* descendants that will have to clean up the mess.

Kerry said...

I love kids... I really do. But I don't want to be a parent. I'm so with you on this.

Not ruling it out, but certainly not making it a priority either. I've never been happier than when I realized that I don't need to be a parent.

cjdatt said...

Someone once said that having children is like getting a tattoo on your face: you better make damn sure before you go ahead and do it. Good for you for thinking about this and knowing what is and isn't right for you at this point (and, who knows, maybe forever).

bill h said...

I think no 1, it's important to a. be honest about this, and not have kids, simply because it's the norm, and 2. Be on the same page as a spouse before you are committed. I've seen relationships really harmed by a lack of harmony on this issue.

As usual, I applaud your candor.

I have 2 boys 18 and 21. It is a matter of real joy...and equal exasperation. If I had it to do all over again, I'd have two sons just like my two.

One think to consider: Is being 'happy' really your ultimate goal? Wouldn't fully experiencing all that life has to offer be a part of a living a fulfilled life? Parenting is a big piece of that.

I'm not quarreling with your decision, only your criterion.

thanks.

Anonymous said...

How does "I don't want children. Period."
go with "I could see a situation in which I meet a person that becomes very important to me and who does prioritize child-rearing. At that point, a decision will have to be made that might very well change my life forever."

Kids really are a black & white issue. Either you have them or not.

PS I applaud your choice and think more of us should consider no kids/one kid.
EJ

Julia said...

Jack:

As always, it's interesting to observe as you grow and discover your life path! Good for you! I do have to give my two cents on this statement, though:

"And, more importantly, I strongly suspect that the valuable lessons a person learns as a parent can be learned thorugh other endeavors."

I can't fully agree because the valuable lessons I have learned as a parent are completely unique to actually being a parent to my munchkins.

That said...whatever lessons and experiences you need as you make your way through life, I suspect the universe will provide! It usually does. The lessons learned by parenting aren't necessary for every person to live a fulfilling life.

As always, sending warm wishes...

Julia

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how great I think it is that you have recognized this about yourself.

My husband and I very much want children, but that's what we want for us, not for everyone around us. I'm actually really impressed by how many people I know who don't want children, and I have so much respect for that decision.

That said, I can't stand child-free people who refer to those who do want children as "breeders." I think that term is dehumanizing and tremendously disrespectful of others.

Spork said...

Not me Jack. I don't see it as selfish, on the contrary, I think having children is selfish. How many people have children for the sake of the children? I just don't think it works that way...but I'm a poor sounding board as I'm nearing 50 and am childless.

There are two major things people can do to reduce their personal pollution, carbon footprint, planetary impact, or whatever you want to call it. One, don't have kids, and two, don't own a car. Just my opinion, others may differ, but it works for me.

Fonk said...

I take exception to the button in the image atop your post, though. Having kids doesn't mean you give up being yourself.

Do aspects of your day-to-day change? Absolustely. That doesn't mean I give up who I am though. I'm still a cyclist, but now some of my rides are towning my kids around the park instead of always climbing up mountain passes (though I'm heading out for a 4-day wknd w/ a friend for riding over mtn passes this wknd!). I'm still a skier, but this winter I'll be spending some time on the bunny slopes teaching my daughter to ski. And so forth - blah, blah, blah...

Does that mean I'm suggesting you should have kids? No, do whatever makes you happy (I didn't want kids before our "oops!" moment). Too many people have kids for all the wrong reasons. However, don't be so rigid in your definition of happiness that only one way of living can make you happy. Those who are truly happiest are those that can adapt to whatever life throws at them.

Anonymous said...

Yes you don't have to do the kids thing and it gets easier the older you get. There are plenty of people already. I wonder how many would skip the raising kids stage if they could go back? Your going to be unpopular and maybe called selfish but it is your life. I'm glad I never had any. Your ahead of me by ditching a job you didn't like, too late for me to switch now. (54 M no kids)

stiffie said...

Is it wrong that whenever I think of kids I think of this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRj-S8Aklcw

Father said...

The final two sentences of this blog entry describe my situation. I became a father at age 42. My wife had just turned 36. I can't imagine a better situation for me personally.

I was on the cusp of being permanently child-free. Then I met my wife. And then I met my son. Life-altering, indeed.

Having a child that you want and that you love is to be in love; permanently. If you've ever been in love and longed to see that person when you were apart, even for a couple of hours, then you have a glimpse of what it is like to have a child. (try to imagine being in love without the romance)

Your children can go along on your life's journey. If you are doing things right for yourself, you're going to be doing things right for them, and they'll learn invaluable lessons in the process. You don't necessarily need to build your life around your child. I think that is a late-Twentieth Century, North American cultural phenomenon. It isn't universal human nature to structure one's life around offspring.

These are personal opinions. YMMV

Knitty said...

Good for you. Sometimes knowing what you don't want is as important as knowing what you do want. But also having the flexibility of mind a spirit to know that those may change over time.

There was a time in my life when kids were not in the picture. Then as I got older my attitude and ideas changed. I am a happy parent of two (and only two). And I hope they grow strong and wise to determine their own paths.

You are not being selfish but self aware of your wants and needs. There are those out there that probably wished they had taken a little more time before getting the tattoo on their face (love that quote).

"You need a license to go fishing or hunt deer but you don't need a license to be a dad. That's f***ed up." - Parenthood.

Nancy said...

I work in the early childhood field which I decided to go into because I wanted children. My relationships were not working out and I knew that my chances of having children were diminishing.

I have a new perspective on children which I have changed 10,000 diapers, been spit up on, pooped on, bit, had older children hit, punch and kick me, swear at me (these are children under age 5). But I also have never been loved more then having them hug me and want me to play with them.
I am 44 female, and although I wished for children, I know how rewarding and hard they can be.
If you really don't want children, then find a woman who doesn't either...older than you.

I respect anyone who doesn't feel the need to "pass their genes". Better to know it now then when you are about ready to have one.
You can't put it back once you have it.
I have seen parents who treat their children as a "dog and pony show" but you can tell that they aren't all that thrilled at having children. I feel sorry for the children involved.
And I have seen parents who love their children to no end.
There is much joy in having a little person love you unconditionally, but it is hard work.
Good luck to you.

The Executioner said...

Most people marry. And most married people have at least one child. Throw in the minority of people who have children outside of a committed relationship, and you will find that most people wind up as parents.

For this reason, most people will tell you that having children is a necessary part of living a complete, fulfilled life. I believe it's because they have chosen that path for themselves in life, and are happy with the way their lives turned out, and cannot imagine having lived their lives any other way.

My wife and I have been having the "Should we have children?" conversation for several years now. So far, we're still planning to remain child-free. However, to satisfy my own curiosity about how a child-free life would play out, I've actively searched for other couples who willingly decided to remain without children, in an attempt to find out whether they feel their lives are incomplete. So far, none of these couples has expressed regret that they chose not to have children. In fact, their own experiences mirror the parents: they cannot imagine a life with children, and in many cases they explicitly stated that they could not have lived the lives they chose for themselves had children been a part of it.

Mind you, this was not a scientific survey, but it still helped reinforce my own belief about how to handle lifestyle decisions like this: make a choice, then decide that you've made the right choice, and once it's done, don't look back. Just live your life to the fullest given the choices you've made.

Avatar said...

I know what it is, if you have children.
First you love them too much; you do all what you can for them, so they don't learn to do nothing themselves.

Then you begin to live through them, you forget to live your own life. And therefore they begin to hate you.

And at last, when they have children of their own, they bring them to you in the meaning you take care for the children, because they haven't any time to do it; they will live the life of their own and enjoy it. :)

dtb said...

Agreed with cjdat. You can't be feeling ambivilant about wanting children. You gotta really, really want them.

I really, really want kids. But it's funny, because I also think this is selfish. But just like Meg says, MOST decisions are probably selfish.

And that's okay. Because yourself is the one who has to live with them.

Good on you for knowing what you want!

Jonna (aka mom) said...

I see 'balance' in your inner being.

It is respectful when it happens that one can see with courage and clarity the path that is right for them within the moment of time they are living within.

This is not selfish. This is honesty and a true baring of one's inner self. This is the essence of full 'giving' exhibited.

And for the child that isn't to be, you are giving a great gift in this moment of time. Because you are being a true nurturer for what this non-child needs. This is a lot to give.

And if it should change someday, this same strength will rise up from within you again, and no child born of you will be left lacking. Rather any child that you would have would be greatly gifted with a sire of integrity and conscientiousness that would choose to be in tune to the younger person's needs. A fortunate child that would be. Just as fortunate as the one that isn't to be. Both are being thought of intensely. Both matter.

Once again, you impress.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep...... said...

At least you put thought into your decision. There isn't anything wrong with coming to this conclusion based on reasoning and personal feelings.

I had my children before I grew up really... Love my children more then life itself but there have been battles along the way.

And if you change your mind in the future, more power to you. Good luck :)

Kevin M said...

Wow, it only took 3 paragraphs for you to go from an absolute statement back to your "earlier ambivalence".

Life is certainly simpler without kids - and since that is what your blog is about I guess it makes sense.

I do disagree with your statement about learning lessons by being a parent. My son has taught me a lot in his 2 years I don't believe I would have learned otherwise.

Jack said...

@Meg,

Maybe that's what I was trying to bring out in this post...the fact that I don't have a compelling reason either. I respect your stance, particularly since the societal and familial preassure is probably alot higher for a woman than a dude.

@Kerry,

Kudos to you. Nice to have some company here.

@cjdatt,

Best line of the week:) and very insightful.

Jack said...

@Bill,

"One think to consider: Is being 'happy' really your ultimate goal? Wouldn't fully experiencing all that life has to offer be a part of a living a fulfilled life? Parenting is a big piece of that.

I'm not quarreling with your decision, only your criterion."

I think that's a fantastic point. I think, however, that while I fancy myself as somone who wants to experience everything that life has to offer, having kids is a pretty permanent decision that should not be taken lightly. In my head, as life-changing an experience it might be, it might also limit my ability to experience other things precisely because of how permanent and life-changing it is.


@EJ

"How does "I don't want children. Period."
go with "I could see a situation in which I meet a person that becomes very important to me and who does prioritize child-rearing. At that point, a decision will have to be made that might very well change my life forever.""

The way I see it, even if I don't want children someone else that I could come to love and cherish might. And then the choice to have kids will come down to what it always comes down to: the ebb and flow of compromise that is inevitable in a long-term, committed relationship. In the end, I may find that my conviction on this is so strong that I may change my life forever by NOT compromising and losing someone special.

@Julia,

You may be right. Having never had kids I'm really only speculating. Assuming you are right, here's an interesting question: is it ok to forgo certain experiences, as fulfilling as they are, just because you may value others more?

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

I wish you luck with your future family. That sounds like the best decision for you. Never heard of the term "breeders" but I would think any term that is unnecessarily disrespectful doesn't belong in public discourse.

@Spork,

"I think having children is selfish. How many people have children for the sake of the children?"

I dig the environmental aspect of this issue, though, to be completely honest, it takes backdrop to the other stuff highlighted on this post.

@Fonk,

"I take exception to the button in the image atop your post, though. Having kids doesn't mean you give up being yourself."

I take your point and apologize if the photo bothered you. It's a personal statement and not a condemnation of parenhood in any way. I think there are plenty of people, parents included, who would not find happiness taking the path I have chosen. Choosing to not have kids is just as legitimate for me as for choosing to have kids for other people.

"Those who are truly happiest are those that can adapt to whatever life throws at them."

I'm with you there as well. I don't think my world will collapse if I ever have an "opps" moment of my own for example. It's just a preference that I think I will have for the rest of my life. But it is not immutable.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

Never wrong to be unpopular if you speak from the heart and do what you love.

@Stiffie,

Classic!

@Father,

I like your description of love re children. I can almost imagine...but never been there so not quite.

Jack said...

@Knitty,

"Good for you. Sometimes knowing what you don't want is as important as knowing what you do want."

You've just described the purpose of my blog. :) And great quote from a rather great movie.

@Nancy,

What a complicated back and forth, between love and dedication, affection and practical necessity. It sounds like you've been a parent to many kids.

@The Executioner,

That sounds about right. The problem with so many people is that they choose one door over another and constantly think back on what might have been.

Jack said...

@Avatar,

PROFOUND!

@dtb, Jonna

Agreed. (Jonna, very well put). I still don't understand why selfishness should be part of the equation here. There is a bit of selfishness on my part because I don't want to have the financial responsibility but if I really think about it that's ridiculous. We are talking about hypothetical children whom I owe nothing to. And I most certainly don't believe I am denying the world a life by not procreating. So, in the end, I think the selfishness argument makes no sense.

Jack said...

@Miles,

Never say never.

@Kevin M,

"Wow, it only took 3 paragraphs for you to go from an absolute statement back to your "earlier ambivalence"."

See my response to this issue above for more context. But let me see if I can simplify it:

I've always been ambivalent about having kids. Could never quite figure out if it was right for me. I've since figured out that is it not right for me. But to say that I don't want kids is like saying I don't want to ever go to Canada; you never know what (or who) life will throw at you and before long, in one way or another, you might find youself in Canada.

"I do disagree with your statement about learning lessons by being a parent. My son has taught me a lot in his 2 years I don't believe I would have learned otherwise."

As I said elsewhere above, you might very well be right. On the other hand, I think sometimes we are so wrapped up in the contours of our lives that we might overemphasize the importance of what we have and what we know vs. what others have and come to know. Maybe the very same day you teach your child how to play ball for the first time, Jack will be playing hide and seek with the child of a woman I love.

Jonna (aka mom) said...

EXACTLY. Selfishness doesn't fit into the scenario. Square peg. Round hole. The two have nothing to do with one another.

Linda said...

I never wanted children. I agree with Meg: I don't have a compelling reason to have kids.

Some, of course, get really provoked by me not wanting to have children, but most people don't think I'm selfish or "unnatural".

The modern age we live in have given us the choice to NOT have kids (in the rich Western world, at least), and I think it's great to be able to choose. Just because "everyone" does it, doesn't mean I, or you, have to.

What I'm trying to say with all this, is that I think it's great that you've come to your OWN decision and not just doing what you think is expected of you (like you might have done before?).

charmed said...

i never want children either. it just seems like an awfully big responsibility and i think it would just get it my way and i would end up frustrated at all the things i couldn't do b/c i had a kid. plus a crap ton of other reasons along with everything you said in your entry. i do think women get more crap from not wanting kids though. both my parents want grand kids, but i'm not an only child. they don't seem the least bit concerned with their sons(my mom has three and my dad has two, 4 of which are to young to be dads but still) having kids or wondering when their sons will make them grand parents. all the focus is on me and me alone. its a lot of stress, its gets brought up all the time even though i keep telling my mother i don't want kids.

i think its more responsible to choose not to have kids when you know that what you want than to have them b/c of family pressure. i know i will be happier being child free than i could ever be with kids.

i am content to spend money on my friends kids, and enjoy them once in a while and then hand them over when they start acting out.

Todd said...

Jack,
I also did not really deeply desire ot have kids. I had lots of other priorites. My wife on the otherhand really wanted a baby. Due to my love for my wife, we had a baby.

Having our son was an absolute life changing event. I never knew such a deep feeling of love, joy and happiness until my son was born. I asked my wife if should have another. 2 yrs later our daughter was born.

Our kids are now 14 and 12 and their existance in my life has brought me more joy than anything else. Actually, nothing is even remotely close.

I am still not a "kid person". I don;t "love kids and want to be around other's kids, be a coach etc" but.......

I get on my knees and thank God for the gift of our kids. If we never had them I would have never known true deep, total, unconditional joy and love.

Heather's Moving Castle said...

Having kids has been a life changing event for me as well. But it hasn't been easy either. I am not patient all the time, but there are certain parenting practices that make parenting a lot more fun, and help us to be emotionally connected.

Not everyday is easy. And it is not for everyone. Nothing on earth has made me feel crazier at times. Nothing on earth has made me happier either.

I respect your decision. I just wish the people who actually shouldn't be parents for financial reasons, or otherwise, would think things through instead of after they become pregnant---or get someone pregnant.

Peace!
~Heather

Jasont said...

Have you ever worked with or played with kids for long periods of time? Perhaps doing some babysitting will provide you with another perspective on being a parent.

Anonymous said...

If there is such a thing as a "term that is unnecessarily disrespectful doesn't belong in public discourse"
there must be necessarily disrespectful terms that belong in the public discourse.

Jack said...

@Jonna,

Well put.

@Linda,

Yes, I sort of see it as a privilege. Not sure this is decision that is viable in other parts of the world.

@Charmed,

Way more pressure on women for sure. It's too bad, but you seem to be holding on to your convictions.

Jack said...

@Todd,

It is stories like yours that gave me pause for so long. Glad you found so much love, in an unexpected place.

@Heather,

That's a pretty good summary of how many people feel about having kids. Again, it's a personal decision. Just glad I was deliberate in thinking about all the issues.

@Jason't

Have several nieces and nephews that have given me plenty to think about.

@Anonymous,

Yeah, that's right.

charmed said...

on the babysitting comment. i know it wasn't directed towards me, but i did a lot of baby sitting, i have two younger brothers that i feel like i was practically raising at times. that pretty much burned me out and was my original reason for not ever wanting kids. whenever my mom tries to pressure me i tell her its all her fault for making me baby sit two kids that were 5 years apart who constantly fought all the time. changing diapers, making bottles, as soon as i had a job and was paying her rent i stopped all babysitting. i only did it once so she could go see a horse show i knew she really wanted to see, but that was it since i got out of school and started working, they are old enough now that it doesn't matter. but babysitting doesn't always make someone want kids, sometimes it has the opposite effect.

Anonymous said...

Me neither. Hundred reasons. Hoping to eventually find a good, decent man, who doesn't insist on me "having lots of babies" with him.

PurestGreen said...

Thanks for this. As a woman who is nearing the end of the time in which she could have children, I feel comfortable with the knowledge that I won't be a mother. I think I have always known that I would not be a parent, and that's okay. Having children doesn't immediately signify a person's contribution to the world.I like to think I have many things to offer besides passing on my genes.

Anonymous said...

If you don't mind me asking, if you had a chance to do it all over again would you still go to law school?

frugal zeitgeist said...

Hi Jack,

Well, you know my thoughts on this one: Kids are great, but they're not for me. The biological clock never started ticking, and in a few years that'll be all she wrote anyway.

Parenting is an awesome responsibility. I respect anyone who takes the time to really consider whether it's the right one for him or her.

Nancy said...

there is no rule that says one must have kids - but be open to changing your mind later. I was 37 when my twins were born - and prior that I had sworn I would NEVER have kids! Somehow, as life moved on, I changed my mind - and am more glad than ever that I did!

Nancy

Jack said...

@Charmed,

I know what you mean. Have babysat for family before and have only had to deal with the nice side of it all (playing, horsing around, etc...) and I always have my fill.

@Anonymous,

I hope you find one as well.

@PurestGreen,

That's a great way to put it.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

Interesting question. No longer believe in regrets so it's hard to say. On the one hand, not having gone would have probably meant getting to the same exact place I am now alot sooner. On the other hand, I might not have had the economic independence I have now where it not for going. Again, don't regret anything.

@Frugal,

Yeah, figured that. Agree with the parenting thing.

@Nancy,

I thik my mind is less than closed but more than open. It would take a pretty big change of heart, not to mention the right person, for me to have kids in the future.

Grace. said...

Nothing is more personal or more important than the decision to parent. A decision to be childfree is as valid as a decision to have 19 kids (though I have yet to understand the Duggar mentality--but at least they can afford them!) I am 60; my sister is 59. She married but she and her husband chose to be childfree. I didn't marry. Somewhere along the way, I realized that when I said I didn't want children, it was because I didn't want babies and I had no desire to experience childbirth. Five children later (who were all adopted as older children), I can say I wanted to be a parent after all--I just didn't want to go about it the usual way. Neither my sister nor I regret our respective decisions.

Lissa said...

For a first time visitor this is a stellar post/conversation to find. It's still a gutsy thing to say 'I don't want kids', so hats off to you.

At 35 I was crystal clear that being someone's mommy wasn't for me. Two year's later I was head-over-heels in love, and marrying (for the 1st time) a man with two teen girls.

Girls still grieving the sudden death of their mom two years before.

It's been a wild trip, being a step-parent, with some of the longest and hardest stretches I've ever known. But I'm so very glad I had the nerve to say yes to him and to them: nothing's taught me more about life and myself than the everyday loving and caring for two young people who, for all kinds of good reason, just couldn't bare to love me back for a long while.

As it turns out I was both right and wrong about myself and the whole 'kids' thing: I was never meant to give birth to, and raise babies. But I'm a great parent - and you don't need to have babies to be one of those.

As for the simple life, interestingly life is both more and less simple with kids. There's a thousand more things to consider, coordinate and support. But priorities and bottom-lines are clearer: love just decides, and few things are more simple than that.

Having said that, our girls are both grown and on their own now. And my guy and I sold the 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, wired-for-sound home in the burbs and followed the call to a simpler life-style. The girls got most of 'the stuff' and we moved to a sweet little (and I mean little) cottage on Lake Huron.

LiveWorkDream said...

Jack, my husband and I are with you on that. Be prepared for lots of people to tell you you're selfish, self-centered and so on.

I've heard it all since the day I decided not to be a breeder, way back in my teens. I'm now 40, and well, guess what, I feel the same exact way I ever did about child-rearing. Lucky for me I met a man who feels the exact same way.

What ultimately solidified my decision was a mentor of mine, a woman in her 50s, who didn't have kids. She told me that after an honest conversation with all of her girlfriends in their 50s and 60s who did have kids, only one said if she could do it over again, she would. The rest of them were brutally honest and said "no way," they gave up too much of their lives.

To me, life is too short to give up at least 20 years of it towards raising another human (which takes up more space on the planet, costs way too much money for my lifestyle), who may or may not reciprocate all the care and feeding I gave it at some point. There's too much I want to see and do.

Good luck!

Jill M said...

I'm a little late to this post (and have not read the comments), so I apologize if this is a repeat.

"Happiness" is not a commodity or a resource, like money or fuel (food, oil, etc). It is not something that you can identify, obtain and store up reserves for the sad times. It is ever-evolving. I think you are setting yourself up for unnecessary suffering with your stated goal "(1) figure out what I need to secure long-term “happiness,” and (2) go out and find it."

Who knows, maybe that was an over-simplification of your plans.

Anonymous said...

So who's going with you?

You're not going alone in South America, that's for certain, or you'd be dead.

I love the place, and have been to Machu Pichu twice so far...

Well perhaps I'll se you there...

Buddy

Miss B said...

I don't want kids because I don't like them. Simple as.

MarylandMom said...

Jack,
That post just made me sad. What a wonderful person you are, who has the heart and mind to really bring joy to another person for their ENTIRE life.
You may want to keep your heart and mind open to having a child WITHOUT passing along your genes.
Adoption, with another person or alone, is a blessing.
Our miracle bio-daughter is 3 and my husband and I want another but it may not be in the cards. Keeping in mind that we are a mixed-race family already, and my husband comes from a place where kids aren't always well cared-for, we are thinking about taking in someone who is really in need. You seem to get that giving to others is a way to fulfill yourself. You can do that without kids, with your biological kids, or through adopted kids. Just my cheapo 2 cents. Keep on thinking...thanks again for the blog.

Miss B said...

Maryland mom: It's kinda tiresome when people say "Oh but you'd make a great parent..." blah de blah...Some people DON'T WANT the little time and energy vortices that they are. I'm a really great caring person so I will be able to bestow lots of tlc on a loving partner and friends, be a joy to be around, be 100% available for them, and for myself. I can't imagine anything worse than having a baby. Seriously. They make me feel nauseous!

Meg said...

@MarylandMom

I agree with MissB.

I've gotten the "You'd be such a great parent!" line a lot and, while I try to appreciate it in the spirit I hope it was said, I think it's very narrow-minded. I mean, what's wrong with just being as I am sans-kids? What's wrong with all the other things I want to do that I wouldn't if I had kids?

I don't think having kids is like this great path that's for everyone and anyone who chooses something else is missing out. I think we all have different paths we're on and who's to say which one is better for another person?

After all, how would you feel if all us childfree people came up to you and said, "How sad we are that you chose to have kids! What a shame it is that you chose to spend so much time/energy/money on them instead of doing so many other things! Being childfree is SUCH a blessing. I can't imagine giving all this up to have kids."?

Miss B said...

Meg you are so right! :)
I do not envy those with children whatsoever!

Girl Japan: April Marie Claire said...

This is my very first time commenting, and I did a search on "Not wanting children" blog and found yours = )

There was a time when I did want kids, but at that time I felt I had the innate NEED to validate my life or give me validation, after I grew up more, I no longer needed that validation and have no motherly instinct at all.

But I always feel I am justifying myself to others.

Jack said...

@Grace,

Your experience is indicative of a very fundamental truth about life: there is never just one way to live a life. Sounds like you chose a path that made sense to you. Congrats.

@Lissa,

I'm a bit jeaolous. Sounds like everything happened for a reason. As for the struggles you endured entering into that marriage, with everything that came with it, it certainly feels like it was worth it.

Simple doesn't mean you are looking for the path of least resistance; it means you are looking for a path that makes sense to you and you are simplifiying everything by rejecting all other paths.

@Liveworkdream,

Sounds about right. I actually admire you guys and have for a while now. This just makes you even more cool. I wonder how many people would come out and say that it just isn't worth it if we took a similar poll here on this blog...

Jack said...

@Jill M,

“"Happiness" is not a commodity or a resource, like money or fuel (food, oil, etc). It is not something that you can identify, obtain and store up reserves for the sad times. It is ever-evolving. I think you are setting yourself up for unnecessary suffering with your stated goal "(1) figure out what I need to secure long-term “happiness,” and (2) go out and find it."

Who knows, maybe that was an over-simplification of your plans.”

Jill, once again, a fantastic point. I think its self-evident myself, but you have to start somewhere in terms of deciding what kind of life you want to live. As ephemeral as the term happiness may be, it's where I am most comfortable starting the conversation.

@Buddy,

Actually, wouldn't mind going with other bike tourists, assuming I can find some willing to come at around the same time, etc...

@Miss B,

That's honest and to the point.

Jack said...

@MarylandMom,

Not opposed to adopting per se, and certainly not saying that I will NEVER have kids. I just don't feel an overwhelming need. Maybe things will change, but I just don't think so. Congrats on your kid and follow up if you can. I would love to know what you guys decide on the adoption front.

@Miss B,

Again, to the point and honest. Don't stop commenting, please!

@Meg,

Maybe there is a bit of a disconnect here. Choosing to have kids does not mean (or, at least, I don't see it this way) you are somehow wasting an opportunity to give back to the universe in some way. I think there are other ways to “give back” and I intend to do so.

Jack said...

@Miss B,

I can see that.

@Girl Japan,

That sucks. You should be able to live the life you choose without having to justify yourself to anyone. That's one thing I've been able to accomplish since I started this journey: leaving behind societal “musts” and embracing something that is all my own.

MarylandMom said...

Whoa! I'm feeling pretty blasted. Obviously what I wrote was entirely mis-interpreted by folks for whom it was not written. It isn't a judgment. I happen to think I have a great life and I've lived all over the world, done lots of different jobs - had similar adventures to what Jack is doing now, completely by myself, for about 20+ years BEFORE I had kids. I, too, thought it would never happen and was sure I didn't want it to. Just like Meg and Miss B. My daughter was an 'accident' who came along later in my life before my now-husband and I were even living together. I see nothing wrong with not wanting kids. Or getting a vasectomy (in a later post). Clearly, Jack, you are in a transition. The person you are now is not the person you were one year ago, right? Situations change. People change. Childless folks probably haven't stepped in my shoes, either. There are many honorable perspectives here. There is adventure and excitement and honor in raising a kid - and I was not someone who would have bought that before it happened to me. Neither was her dad. At the risk of being blasted again, that's my two insensitive, judgemental cents. I do agree with Meg on children using up resources. That's why, instead of another bio-kid, we're trying to help someone whose life isn't so great due to the circumstances of their birth and the lack of responsibility by their own mom and dad. My husband's brother is a drunk, in and out of jail, wife-beater, on the dole, etc. He lives about 2 miles from his son but doesn't see him hardly at all. He doesn't really do much but lay on the sofa all day and get drunk when the tribal checks come in. Not a dad in any sense. Mom's the same, when she's around. But neither one of them wants to give up rights to his piddly tribal checks, so they won't let him go. It sounds like your nieces and nephews have functional, loving parents. My husband's 10-year-old nephew doesn't. Or a bed. Or anyone to wash his clothes. Or new clothes. Etc. How many kids do you know who flunked third grade because they can't read? Sometimes, you have to step up and do the right thing. Good luck, Jack. I'm going to follow your blog from afar from now on and remain slap-free.

Miss B said...

No-one is "slapping" you Maryland Mom. But surely you can see that your comment on how Jack's perspective "saddened" you was something of a dig at him.
You've made a judgement that you find his life sad!
I am regularly miffed by even my close friends who tell me they are "concerned" I will be a lonely person with a drink habit because I won't have kids. I find that an unimaginitve underestimation of me in the extreme! Maybe that's what they think their lives would come to without kids, but not me!
The point I'm making I guess is that, yes ok, there are folks who have ended up with kids who thought they wouldn't and they're happy- I'm happy for your happiness- but really, we're not all like you!
Some people really do break the biological mould and do it very happily!

Meg said...

@MarylandMom

I second what Miss B said.

I'm glad that you ended up happy, even if things didn't go as planned. However, it doesn't go so well for everyone. There are plenty of people who even planned for kids but discovered that they didn't like how it changed their lives and, frankly, regretted the decision -- or at least say that they would choose differently if they could. And I don't think these are bad people necessarily. I've known a few and some ARE great parents despite their feelings. Others, not so much. Not everyone's cut out to be a parent.

Maybe some of us will regret not having kids. Maybe some of us will have unplanned pregnancies, decide to keep them, and find that having kids is worth it after all. However, seeing as I have no desire to have kids, I don't think it's worth the risk that, if I did have kids, I'd regret having them. That wouldn't be fair to them or me -- or my husband, either.

And as for being sad, I think it's a lot sadder to see unwanted kids than childfree adults who don't want kids.

Jack said...

@MarylandMom,

It makes me sad that you have felt so “blasted.” I'm sure the other commentors were not directly attacking you; I have a feeling they were just focusing on the whole having-a-child-is-the-only-way-to-live-your-life point of view. The bottom line is that the point of view you expressed is not all that controversial. I think it was a rational, defensible response to the post and to the issue at hand. And, quite frankly, the focus should probably be on your decision to adopt which I find more heartfelt than the whole having kids thing.

I sure hope you don't stop commenting. Have always enjoyed your perspective and we would all suffer if you stopped.

@Miss B,

“The point I'm making I guess is that, yes ok, there are folks who have ended up with kids who thought they wouldn't and they're happy- I'm happy for your happiness- but really, we're not all like you!
Some people really do break the biological mould and do it very happily!”

I think there is quite a bit of balance here. There are people who find happiness they expected because they always wanted to have kids. There are people who do not find the happiness they expect when they have kids. Still others find a certain kind of unexpected happiness when they have kids. And then there are people like you and me...probably not happy having kids at all.

@Meg,

“And as for being sad, I think it's a lot sadder to see unwanted kids than childfree adults who don't want kids.”

Well put. Though I have a feeling MarylandMom's use of the word “sad” was intended slightly differently than what has been interpreted.

James said...

Jack: thank you for your perspective and for starting a very interesting dialogue amongst a wide spectrum of experiences. I think that the comments from those who have children, those who don't and those who are still unsure have truly helped me to gain more insight into what I want.

I have been with my partner for 9 months now, and we are both nearing "that age" where friends, family and others are asking us about marriage and having children (again, the social and cultural pressures to do what "everyone else" does). At the onset of our relationship, I was honest and mentioned that I didn't see myself ever being a father. She unfortunately took this as "he'll come around", in much the same way that my mother (a grandmother of 3 to my brother and his beautiful family) thinks that I'll one day realize the need to have children.

Ultimately, at this point in my life and for the last number of years, it has been clear in my mind that although I've also been told that I would make a great father, I am not interested in having children. This is partly because I want to have the freedom to do many of the things I've yet to do in life and partly because I feel that this is not the path that I am to take in life. I am a volunteer in my community, mentoring and tutoring economically disadvantaged children; I am planning on coaching youth athletics (hockey - you should come to Canada!); I am going to be entering teachers college next Fall; and I plan on being the very best uncle that I can be to my two nephews and to my niece. As such, I feel that I have identified ways to ‘give back’ to society by being able to pass along my experience, my knowledge, and my guidance to youth in a variety of ways, none of which involve having children.

This has obviously put a strain on my relationship with my partner who has expressed that although she doesn’t want children now, she does want them at some point in her life. I have told her that I understand her need to experience childbirth and raising children, and told her that I would understand if she needed to look for that with someone else as I could not commit to sharing that experience with her. Is it selfish? I don’t think so. I am being true to myself, and I think that this is not an area in which one can compromise. We are on the verge of breaking up, as understandably she may not want to keep investing in a relationship with a man who is not interested in experiencing having children. This saddens me quite a bit, but I don’t know what else to do. I believe that if I were to compromise my own needs and have children, not only would my life change in ways that I do not want, but I could also grow to resent my loving partner and our children.

I know that there are many people out there that will question my decision, will tell me that I’m missing out, and will express the sheer love that they have experienced by having children. I believe them, but I also believe that life is full of choices, and some choices simultaneously close just as many doors as they open.
That’s life.

Miss B said...

Hi James. I'm afraid to say that clashing wishes about having kids is a bit of a deal breaker. Something I've had personal experience of. It's a horrible thing but I had to let the man I love go to find his baby mother. I will have to one day see pics of him being a proud dad with another woman. Nothing I can do about it. I did go through a phase of thinking I could have kids with him because I was so in love. I'm glad that craziness ended soon enough. Don't have kids for anyone else but yourself. And make your position very clear. My ex thought I would change my mind- we both got hurt. But it's gets worse the longer it's left. Good luck x

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this. i've long felt absurd for lacking maternal instincts...it's not the kind of thing anyone wants to bring up on a date. for most of my life, i've been severely afraid of getting pregnant and giving birth. however, i thought that it would clear up eventually and i could convince myself to let it happen.

time passed. i met my ideal companion got married (rather young, before this decision had fully formed in me). unfortunately, in time, i came to realize that parenthood was really something i didn't want. imagine the trauma when i told my spouse. we are both minimalists, left-minded, and artistic people. but the idea that he would not be a father nearly killed him. in fact, it is, i would say, the root of our (now) marital problems.

i hate that this lifestyle (which is surely as biologically sound as homosexuality) is still so stigmatized. i'm sure you've already considered the difficulty in sharing this with others...it's painful to admit that i'm unsure i would have been married if i'd told my husband upfront that i didn't want children.

best,
k

Jorge said...

Many of you have echoed my thoughts and experiences.

I've been divorced for two years--never had or wanted children. This had nothing to do with the divorce by the way.

Since my divorce I have been very unsuccessful in finding like-minded women. I have a fairly high set of standards but throwing the no-kid thing on top of that just makes for poorer odds.

I've tried dating sites, speed dating, matchmakers, social networks--nothing. Great singles are out there but great people that don't want kids--not so much.

Anyone out there have any successful methods or avenues?

The Traveler said...

I've never wanted kids, so I always love hearing about others who also CHOOSE to be Child-Free :) It seems to me like you can always find men who don't want kids, though - It is harder to find the women who don't want kids. I do love kids, but I'm glad I don't have that inate motherly desire to have my OWN. I can stay free! Not to mention, I believe there is a rather large degree of selfishness involved for many people who have kids. And a large degree of stupidity for many others who have kids. The really good parents seem few and far between, and the people who really shouldn't have kids are the ones who have them coming out their ears! In my opinion of course.

mKat said...

I have never wanted kids. I knew this as a kid, I know it now at the age of (almost) twenty-eight. I am often frustrated by married parents (or soon-to-be parents) who feel it necessary to suggest that I'm less of a person for willingly remaining child free.

Maybe it's selfishness, I don't know, but I don't see it that way. I "know" me. I know what I can and can't tolerate. I don't buy the notion that I'd magically feel different if they were my kids. The fact is, children require a long commitment that is as much emotional (if not more so) than it is physical and financial. I am not prepared for that and I'm honest enough to admit it.

I think some people genuinely want to be and love being parents. Some people make great parents and I see genuine happiness in their faces when their kids are around or when they recount stories of their children. By contrast, I also believe that some people aren't all that happy about the burden of parenting (see Corinne Maier's "No Kids") but many people are too afraid to admit it.

One woman I know who has been married for several years and who has two young kids remarked to me recently (while at a wedding) that she thought it was great that I knew I didn't want children. She said that more people need to be honest with themselves and not cave to societal or familial pressure to "do the normal thing".

I wholeheartedly agree.

Anonymous said...

One word:

Vasectomy.

http://www.vhemt.org/

ehartsay said...

@ Fonk
"I take exception to the button in the image atop your post, though. Having kids doesn't mean you give up being yourself.

Do aspects of your day-to-day change? Absolustely. That doesn't mean I give up who I am though. "


So having kids did mean that YOU gave up being yourself. Fine. Why does this make the button offensive to you?
It is from the perspective of a childfree person - one who does think that having a kid would prevent them from being fully themself.
Who the f-ck are you to say trhat just because having a kid did not prevent you from being fully yourself, that you get to project YOUR experience on others?

I am childfree and having a kid WOULD affect MY ability to be fully myself.

Just because it didn't do that to YOU does not mena that you get to preach to me, or project your life and experience onto my life.

The button is about the experience of a childfree person who would be damaged by a baby, it is not about YOUR experience, so what you feel is irrelevent.

ehartsay said...

@ bill h said...

"One think to consider: Is being 'happy' really your ultimate goal? Wouldn't fully experiencing all that life has to offer be a part of a living a fulfilled life? Parenting is a big piece of that. "

In my opinion, you CAN'T experience everything that life has to offer. Every decision that you make in your life, while it opens certain paths closes off many others.

The nature of being alive means that you have to make choices - every day you are choosing to follow certain paths and not follow others.

What may be a big part of "what life has to offer" for YOU , to someone else is just going to be another one of that infinite number of 'paths not followed to someone else'.
It is not that this person is missing out on a big part of life - it is that the 'big parts' for them are DIFFERENT than the big parts for you.