childless by choice

I am mindful of the emotional weight a post like the one I’m about to write shoulders. In the proximity of both friends and acquaintances who have painfully toiled with infertility–some with success, some without–it is not fair that Dave and I choose childlessness. To Dave’s parents who long for grandchildren, it is not heartening that their son and his wife deny a course of parenthood. To a culture that views progeny as some form of social and/or religious duty, it is not moral that we enjoy and preserve our life without kids.

But we do. And at times we feel guilty for this, like it’s some secret we have to hide because our child-driven (or consumed; you pick the word which has the appropriate connotation for you) culture might look at us as if we have three hairy heads, twelve green warts, and zero wombs.

But most of the time, we find joy in our choice: vast, comforting, delicious, freeing joy. This is why:

  1. I don’t think I would make a good mom. I am ridden with anxiety and fear. When I spend time with others’ children, I am consumed with worry that they will trip, or choke, or die, or any other of the 100 catastrophes I can think up in the time it takes to wipe a child’s runny nose. The last thing I want is to raise a child in an environment of fear, for that is nothing short of prison, a life sentence of some variance of bred mental instability.
  2. We actively prioritize ourselves and our life together (or we are selfish, again, pick your connotation). When we want to travel, we go. When we want to get up at 7 on a weekend morning and go out for an early breakfast and then come back to nap, we do. When we want to be next to each other in a yoga class, we go. When we want to pull an all-nighter watching a TV marathon, we do. When we want to wander around our house naked all day long, we can. When we want the innocent laughter, light and love of children, we welcome them into our home or hang out with our friends who are parents. When we want quiet, we have it. When either of us wants to be independent and alone, we just disappear into our own hobbies. We are not consumed by diapers, school bullying, or college funds. We are 100% present to our lives, as we, and we alone, want them to be. We honor this as a blessing.
  3. I have already hit the mother lode, literally. Currently, I have 34 children, whom I teach. Add that to the 500 or so other students I have taught in the past. When I enter school, my classroom, I give everything I have to those students. They ARE my children. They are my heart. I work for them, pray for them, advocate for them, cry for them, sing for them… I live for them. I know my limits. I could not come home at night–after pouring myself out physically, mentally, emotionally, soulfully–and give equal access to my energy, my heart, my action to more children. Children from whom I can’t escape or establish boundaries.  I find fulfillment not in burping a child, but in believing in the underdogs of our society; not in changing a diaper, but in challenging an oppressive system; not in attending parent teacher conferences, but in hosting them; not in finding ways to raise a healthy and happy child, but in building healthy and happy relationships with students that help them achieve.
  4. I am a work-oriented person. My sister and I were talking this week about our parents and how we see ourselves in them (or don’t). I realized that our parents functioned as two completely different archetypes: the nurturer and the worker. My Dad was the nurturer. Soft, kind, loyal–he was the one I remember taking me to the playground, patiently waiting for my little eyes to reach up and over the 31 Flavors counter to pick my ice cream choice, and driving me everywhere in my teens…not my Mom. My Mom was the worker. Confident, sharp, strong, perpetually-in-motion, I remember her rising early in the black morning and leaving for work while I woke much later to the trail-scent of Aqua Net. My sister spent her entire life longing to be a mom; like our Dad, she is the nurturer. I, on the other hand, once I could discern and escape from the imposed expectations of society, have come to see–and embrace–my role as a worker, like my Mom.
  5. #2, #3, and #4 combined with motherhood can be explosive. Unfortunately, I have been witness to women who have sacrificed their children on the altar of their careers and selves… and I refuse to be one of those stories. I would rather not have children and be committed to my career (even if it is the unpopular or unacceptable choice), than have children for having-children’s-sake, and not be able to give them my first-fruits. I know our society likes to tote that working mothers (or fathers) can have it all… and they can, perhaps, but at what cost? I refuse to pay that price.
  6. Though cognizant of problems, we like our life; we like each other. Dave and I went into marriage like most people do…assuming kids would come someday. But then 3 years passed, and we said, maybe later. And then 8 years came and went, and still we said later. But later has kept arriving, alone, devoid of the desire for kids. Like every married couple, we have problems, but they are problems that we don’t think kids will fix (in fact, we’re sure they’ll confound them); problems we know we can chip away at more successfully without little lives depending on us. Ultimately, we are best friends, best friends who like to be lazy and like to explore, best friends who like each other and the little life we’ve created.

Perhaps someday we’ll change our minds (or God will). And we’re OK with that. But for now, we’re enjoying living childless by choice.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stefani Anderson
    Feb 21, 2015 @ 12:49:03

    Mary, this is. SO. GOOD. You are so brave. You are so true to yourself. You are such a good writer. I am so lucky to call you friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. mom
    Feb 21, 2015 @ 13:31:52

    Mary, you should not carry the burden of quilt for a choice you have made together. You have your children with you everyday while in class and you carry them home in your heart every evening. I know how much your students mean to you and you are blessed to have so many children. People often ask me when you are going to have children and I stand by you and David declaring that you are free spirits and long to travel. It should not matter what others think you should or shouldn’t do what matters is the heart and happiness and I know the happiness you and David share. I admire the choice you have made and I’m sure there are others who do to. Be free of quilt and live your dreams.

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  3. edpeters06
    Feb 21, 2015 @ 14:19:58

    “…we’re enjoying living childless by choice.” Beautifully articulated. I applaud this post. This perspective is needed in the world, and I am so glad you shared it. Xo

    Like

    Reply

  4. Heather Wheat
    Feb 21, 2015 @ 16:04:40

    I love this post, and you, and your voice.

    Like

    Reply

  5. Grief Happens
    Feb 22, 2015 @ 19:38:50

    Great post. You obviously know yourself and are a wise wise woman…

    Like

    Reply

  6. abrainwithfeet
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 13:51:56

    As a teacher as well, I perfectly understand what you are saying. 🙂 here in the philippines, financially speaking, being a teacher and raising children is very difficult, especially if your partner is a teacher as well. :p

    Like

    Reply

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