One of the most annoying childfree bingoes is the one that pops up the most when you say you’re childfree or you don’t want children. “You’ll change your mind.” It doesn’t really matter the reason, but, people say sagely, you will change your mind. The implication is no matter your protestations of not wanting kids, something much greater – usually the feeling that you must have a child – will have you off the fence and down on the “other” side pretty quickly. The younger you are when you announce you’re child free, or that you don’t want children, the more likely you are to be told you’ll change your mind. As far as you’re concerned though, it’s settled you’re not changing your mind.
The last article about Bob Childfree? Bob You’re Not Alone has some amazing insightful comments (which I thank everyone for sharing) nearly all of which could be a post in itself. The post got me thinking – I felt for Bob. I would hate to be in a situation which seems to be a no-win – being childfree yet faced with potentially having to give up my relationship because of that choice – a choice we’d both agreed to. That is an awful choice for anyone to have to make. The comments also got me thinking as they always do… what if it were me? One of the big reasons we decided not to have children was that we wanted to put each other first. We didn’t think that would be possible if we had kids. While everyone said having children only makes it better, we saw much to the contrary. The point is we didn’t think it would be true in our case, and we didn’t think we needed a child to make our relationship “better”. Whatever the case, we didn’t want kids enough to risk it.
I know that if my beloved suddenly had a hankering for having babies (he won’t) there is no way I would even consider having one. I am not even open to it. It’s less about being childfree – although that is key – and more about the fact I just do not want children and I know that having them when you don’t want them is a recipe for unhappiness. And I don’t see why I should agree to such a disruptive event to please someone else (always remembering of course that we both agree this was what we wanted). Some might say that if one of the couple suddenly wanted kids and the other didn’t, it would prove the love if the person who didn’t want them had them. I think this is the perfect road for the guilt trip. Unfortunately some buy it.
This brings me to my central question. I have always believed the childfree choice is a state of mind. More – a state of being. You’ve chosen not to have children, and you know you don’t want to have them for whatever reason. And, most importantly, you are happy with that choice. That means you aren’t childless, you’re childfree.
So if, being childfree you then consider and decide (for whatever reason) to have a child, are you still childfree? And if so, why? Or have you crossed some invisible line into being “childless” rather than childfree. Is it possible to say “I’m child-free but I would probably have a baby if ….”
The reasons could be myriad… to save a relationship, to avoid resentment, to keep the peace, to fit in, to make someone else happy… it doesn’t really matter
But if you agree does that effectively mean you have after all changed your mind?
Some say the childfree choice isn’t simple. It’s certainly not an easy road to travel, as we’ve seen. You find very little support. For me, it has always been quite simple. If I was asked or it was even implied that I should consider having kids it would entail me doing something I patently do not want to do. And if I do not want to do it and feel it is not right, I have to ask myself why am I doing it?
For others in the midst of having to make a painful choice it may not seem as simple, fundamentally it comes down to making your own choice. So is the answer to give in and have a child? And what if you suddenly decide, after years of being childfree, that you want to have a child…are you/were you childfree. Let’s leave aside the intense societal pressure that insists that having a child is the answer… the person who wants one is usually encouraged they are right (because it’s natural), and, as has been observed in the comments, the one who doesn’t is the unnatural one.
As Lurker says, “to parent or not to parent” is the question. There are really no ifs and buts. You either will – or you won’t. I’d go further and say that if there is pressure from without: “to give in or not to give in.” In the end, doesn’t it come down to your choice?
I know there are childfree people who have given up relationships because of this one wanted kids and the other didn’t. And there are many happily childfree couples for whom this would be a non-issue. There are also many young men and women who for the first time are realizing they can be childfree, that they don’t automatically have to have children and that they can choose. What do we tell them? Does it even matter? I think it does.
And here’s another thing. Would someone who loves you really want you to something they know you don’t want to do?
OK, over to you. Do you think the childfree state of being is changeable? Is it a question of standing firm and being true to yourself – despite the lack of support? Or does a sudden change of heart by a significant other mean you change your mind? Where do you draw the line?
There are far more questions than answers in this post. As always your comments are most welcome.