The story of my voluntary childlessness

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Obviously from the title you know what this post will be about. Believe me when I say that I thought twice about writing it. Just like certain illnesses, a decision to remain childless, is often stigmatized. Many people assume that childless women have a physical inability to have children, and may therefore be pitied, or seem cold-hearted in some ways for not liking children. There are other reasons, too, that may be judged. I don’t think that because I choose childlessness for certain reasons, that other women similar to me should, too. I believe in freedom of choice, and hope that I won’t be judged harshly for mine.

There is a brief article in Wikipedia about voluntary childlessness. It includes a very long list of reasons why some women and men choose it. I could of course pick out many reasons from that list (some of which I’ll mention below), but one that was missing was “partner or spouse prefers not to have children.” I’ll admit that my spouse fits that category, but I will not discuss his reasons here. I think they should add that reason to the list. It’s certainly one that applies to some people, and is often cited as a reason for separation of couples. My husband’s views on children have not significantly affected my decision to remain childless. I’m not sad because of his views. Of course I’m not 100% sure how another man’s views would have affected mine, but that is neither here nor there.

I remember as a child being given dolls. I liked dolls, but to be honest I preferred full grown Barbie instead of baby dolls. I guess I preferred playing a grown up woman, and not a mother. Why that was, I’m not sure. I had a very loving mother. She treated me like her baby, and then her little girl, and then teenager at the appropriate ages, but I still never thought of myself as any particular age. I liked being young, but that’s about it.

I remember when I went to college it was extremely exciting. I wanted to take advantage of all of the learning and social opportunities it offered. I did find my first love in my senior year, but we were still in learning mode. He later began working on his Ph.D., while I was still figuring out my next steps. I worked during that period. I was in a bit of a party mode at times, maybe hypomanic, and other times depressed. I have bipolar disorder, and surely had it then, even though I wouldn’t be formally diagnosed until I was 32 years old. I remember at 23 years old wondering if that first love and I would marry, but circumstances made him change his view on me, so we broke up. It turned out to be for the best.

After my break up with my first love I moved to Taiwan. I loved travel, and Taiwan made sense since I studied Chinese at university. While there, I worked teaching English to Taiwanese children. I didn’t like the job because I didn’t know how to interact with them. I guess I’ve just never been a “kids kind of person”.  The stress even made me ill with bipolar. I then eventually returned to my home state of New Jersey for a “break” before a planned return, but was blessed to find the true love of my life, my husband, so stayed put.

After my marriage I became hyper-focused on my career. Having a family was not really discussed, and not anywhere at the top of my mind. I, of course, took precautions to ensure there would be no “surprises” in that respect. Years passed as I moved up the corporate ladder. As my responsibilities became more and more challenging, my bipolar disorder worsened. The unexpected death of my mother exacerbated my illness. I found myself hospitalized for my bipolar disorder the first time at age 34. Hospitalizations continued off and on for four years. I ended up unable to work, and terminated from my job. The challenge of recovery has continued since then. There was no time that I, personally, felt having children was even reasonable for me. Having a pet parrot seemed sufficient as a third being in the house, and provided love and support to me and my husband. Caring for him was about the maximum I could handle besides basic housework and errands. Really, the thought of being responsible for actual children would have been frightening to me. Mental illness was also rampant in my family genes. That’s something I considered.

Last February my husband and I lost our pet parrot, and then another extreme loss in my family amplified that grief. I’m just getting over a depressive episode again. My goal in the near future is to recover sufficiently to find work again. Getting back to work will be a challenge for me, and one that I will start slowly at. Ideas like retirement are not that far off on the horizon now that I’m heading towards 50. Obvious preparations need to be made. Honestly, even if we were interested in having a family late in life, which we’re not, the financial requirements would be exacting.

I guess I’m lucky that I don’t regret being childless, but being childless certainly has had and will have some disadvantages. It is difficult when all of your friends have children and you don’t. A disconnect often occurs. I do have one living nephew on my side, but I rarely get to see him for various reasons. My bond with my husband is very strong, perhaps because we focus so strongly on each other. I do wonder what will happen if I’m the last person standing in the end, though having children doesn’t always equal support in old age. Anyway, looking at children only as a support in old age has, for some in my country, become somewhat antiquated. No, the rest of my life has to be planned differently. I owe it to myself and my husband to make our remaining years productive and satisfying in our own way.

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32 thoughts on “The story of my voluntary childlessness

  1. stoner on a rollercoaster August 1, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    I wrote a post about it few months back. I guess you have read it already. As i am not well and i know my condition is here to stay i made a 180 turn in my perspective about kids. I was planning to adopt a little girl when i was 16 i loved kids.

    But now i know practical implications of adding a life to the equation. There was a time when it did concern me i will me the last person left or everybody has kids to take care of them when i will grow old who will be there. My parents are already old and unwell and all my siblings will have thier own families.
    But then i stopped thinking about myself.
    Now i know i am strong and i can take care of myself. I already arrange for my financial security, thats the first thing i did. I know i can survive alone. But what about that child? What if something happens to me??

    So i think if you have decided you know your reasons. Just stay content in your decision. You are lucky to have a doting husband. May God bless you guys always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight August 1, 2017 / 9:52 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story, stoner on a roller coaster. I’m so glad to read that you feel strong and can take care of yourself. I’m still trying to gain that strength.

      I’m am so lucky I have my loving husband. Honestly, I’d have a long road to travel to gain the strength to take care of myself.

      I apologize that I’m not sure if I read your post on this subject. Could I ask that you send me a link to that post here (if you want) so I can read it, and perhaps others can, too?

      Like

      • stoner on a rollercoaster August 1, 2017 / 10:35 pm

        Sure. Here is the link http://wp.me/p8eksp-3l

        I do feel strong in this matter. I recently was facing some uncertainties and one of my plants died. For people with chronic illness things are different.
        In the end having to take care of a life adds tons of pressure on our brains which we cannot tolerate. We are already fighting our own battle.

        If you are content with what you decided dont worry about the rest of the world. I do suggest u secure your future financially so you dont have to depend on anybody.

        Liked by 2 people

      • updownflight August 1, 2017 / 10:54 pm

        Thank you so much for reminding me of your post! I’m sorry it slipped my mind. April seems like years ago. I definitely appreciated what you wrote, as you saw by my comments in April. I saw some other peoples’ thoughtful comments, as well. You suggested a lot of important questions that I hope couples ask themselves before starting a family.

        In your post, you, too, wondered if it would be received poorly by some people. I can’t help but wonder what those who didn’t respond to our posts thought about them.

        We both know how hard it is to talk about mental illness to people. Even in the family, sometimes. I find it equally difficult to talk about voluntary childlessness. Yes, I do feel there is still a stigma against it.

        Like

      • stoner on a rollercoaster August 1, 2017 / 11:07 pm

        Honestly i have stopped caring about people. Especially when its about my illness. They are just audience and shouldnt be treated like that.

        Now when people see me for the first time i dont even tell them i am unwell.
        And the people who have met me before my illness and now they ask what has happened i just tell them ‘auto immune’ or ‘steroids’. Thats it.

        I wanted a pet i am not even getting that untill i am really stable.

        Illness, mental illness, voluntary childlessness, chosing to stay single, all of these are complicated choices and are hard to talk about.

        I am waiting for the day when people stop questioning our choices.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 1, 2017 / 11:18 pm

        Me, too. I also know what you mean about not bothering to always explain the illness. I mean, it’s not just that I don’t want to be defined by it, but also that I’m just so tired of it. And tired in general. And just want peace and quiet without any more struggle than I have to deal with.

        Like

      • stoner on a rollercoaster August 1, 2017 / 11:21 pm

        Exactly! Isn’t it already taxing enough?? Why waste our energy on explaining to people who just want to hear and forward a story.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 1, 2017 / 11:24 pm

        It’s a shame, but oh so often the case.

        I need simplicity. No conflicts.

        Like

  2. Jessica Bakkers August 2, 2017 / 12:19 am

    I can’t express how this post makes me feel Cindy. Your story, your thoughts, feelings and rationalizations mirror my own so much it’s quite scary (right down to a debilitating mental illness exacerbated by the early death of mum). Children have never been a desire for me. I adore my niece and nephew but I DO NOT want to be a mum. I find looking after my own dogs, myself, my house, my hubby and my mental state more than enough of a challenge.

    I often feel like something is wrong with me for not playing along with society’s tune but I KNOW I would be utterly miserable as a mum and do unto my child what my own mum did to me (which is to wield guilt and anger due to suppressed and unexpressed depression). It’s so comforting to know of someone else going through the same feelings and thank you for speaking out on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight August 2, 2017 / 12:40 am

      Thank you for sharing that, Jessica. I’m glad you feel good about your decisions as I am with mine. I know our mental illnesses play some part in our feelings on this topic, but it surely isn’t just a topic for us. I know there are many people around the world who have made this decision for various reasons.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nel August 2, 2017 / 1:49 am

    I’ll keep mine simple here. I personally never wanted children. My mom raised me and my sister as a single parent and it was no desire of mine to be that way. I always promised myself if I ever had child, I’d be in a loving, long lasting relationship. Fast forward 10 years and I’ve been in the relationship long enough to know that I think I can handle this. Childbirth still scares the shit out of me. But for my husband, I’m willing to give it a go. I think it’s great that you’ve come to and accepted the terms that your life has put in front of you. It definitely takes great courage. Thank you for sharing your story Cindy. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight August 2, 2017 / 12:36 pm

      Thank you so much, Nel.

      It is clear from your story that there are an array of considerations when planning to have a child or not. I’m glad you feel you are in a situation you like that is conducive to having children in your mind. I hope that you will have a child someday when you’re ready. Though I only know you through blogging, I can sense that you would be a wonderful mother.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nel August 2, 2017 / 12:37 pm

        Everybody says that but I’ll believe it when I see it 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 2, 2017 / 12:39 pm

        It will be exciting if when the time comes I am able to learn of such a joy of yours.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Vandana August 2, 2017 / 7:18 am

    Cindy, you are an amazing person with a very beautiful heart. The choices and decisions of your life are precious to you and your husband. There is nobody perfect in this world and so no one has the right to be judgmental or critical about one another’s preferences and decisions. I love you for the person who you are right now, enduring all your difficult times with such courage and positivity. I respect your husband for his endless love and support. Mental illness by itself is a huge struggle that you have overcome. To be honest, I always felt that healing mentally is a journey to wiser life experiences. Not many of us face trying times and not many achieve such wisdom. Being happy accepting all your flaws and perfections is all what is needed. Hugs to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight August 2, 2017 / 12:38 pm

      Vandana, you are always such a treasure of a blogging friend. Thank you for all of your kind words and suggestions.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mohamad Al Karbi August 2, 2017 / 7:21 am

    Ok, I can say good and smooth words and leave. But because we are friends, I’d encourage you to work on this case (something like adoption). It’s not selfish to have someone around to take care of you. Hopefully, you’ll be always fine and healthy and don’t need it. But rather someone to talk to, to laugh with, … It’s never late. Additionally, kids aren’t always good; they might be very painful/awful sometime when we got old and probably we regret having kids…

    For me, I’m having one kid and I worked so hard on another but I failed. For me, the obstacle now is financial (for further treatments)… But I still have a hope that I can make it before the time is over – I want to help Syrians surviving the extinction. At the same time, I see how much the situation is bad around; I’m thinking why to bring more into this world to suffer or to cause suffering…

    Cindy, we’re always here for you too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight August 2, 2017 / 12:33 pm

      Hello Mohamad. I appreciate your honest reaction to my post. It’s true that in many families around the world, having children to take care of them in old age is still considered important and valued. For that reason I slightly adjusted my post, but I did keep the mention that in some families, at least in my country (the U.S.), it is becoming less common and looked at differently than in the past.

      I want to reemphasize that I am neither able nor desiring a child, even an adopted one. I cited some reasons in my post. That doesn’t mean that I think others shouldn’t want/have children either biological or adopted. I absolutely think people having children is a wonderful thing if they desire them. Again, just not me.

      I am so happy you have a child to love and love you, and enrich your family. I’m sorry you are having difficulty having another. I wish that you will have another child if it is meant to be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mohamad Al Karbi August 2, 2017 / 12:41 pm

        I see your point. Thank you for elaborating… I wish you all the luck… You’re wonderful and I’m sure things will be wonderful with you too

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 2, 2017 / 12:47 pm

        Thank you, Mohamad. Again, I really appreciated your comment to this post. It helped me to improve it a bit.

        You are a wonderful man, and I’m so fortunate to have you as a blogging friend.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Joanna Maguire August 3, 2017 / 3:19 pm

    No kids here either and I know exactly what you mean about people acting like they pity those without children. I have faced it all – pity for me on missing out, the assumption that I don’t like children, the questions on why. I love children and have worked with them on several occasions. My reasons for not having them are complex – illness (both mental and physical), them not fitting in to our life plan, husband not being too bothered. It is my choice though and I wish people respected it as much as they do other life choices.

    Liked by 2 people

    • updownflight August 3, 2017 / 4:50 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Joanna. I have a feeling that in the decades to come, voluntary childlessness will become more common and less stigmatized. Then maybe we won’t have to do so much explaining.

      Like

  7. Cece Alex August 21, 2017 / 1:39 am

    I love your post – so open and honest.
    When I was little I wanted children of my own, but then the older I became the more doubts I had. Mental illness runs rife in my family, on both sides, plus I’m ill both mentally and physically. There are days when I cannot look after myself and I realised that I had to make a choice about having children, so I did. And it’s funny, the only person to judge me harshly was my childhood best friend who claimed to have never wanted children either! She was extremely disrespectful and we no longer talk.
    I have an amazing partner who is supportive, we both have the same view (he doesn’t want children either) and I definitely wouldn’t be able to do this without him xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight August 21, 2017 / 12:16 pm

      I’m glad you and your partner agree on this. I know that makes it easier.

      Unfortunately, losing friends who have kids when you don’t is all too common. Thanks for contributing to this topic by sharing a little of your story.

      Like

      • Cece Alex August 24, 2017 / 12:48 pm

        Oh she doesn’t have children of her own. In fact, she’s never wanted children, which is why I found her reaction all the more puzzling. I think perhaps she was upset because it felt like she didn’t know me anymore? Which is a shame really, because we had know each other since school. But it’s definitely encouraging to see other women sharing their stories so I’m glad I stumbled upon yours. So thank you. xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 24, 2017 / 1:03 pm

        I’m happy that my post seemed helpful to some people.

        I guess a lot of childless women do have some periods in their life when it does cause a little grief. I can certainly understand that.

        Like

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