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Writer's Block: Kids or child-free?

Whether you've chosen to have children or live child-free, how and when did you (or will you) reach this decision? If you're in a relationship, did you (or will you) decide separately or together?

I'm going to post February's books later (!), but I spotted this chance to witter about childfreeness too.

I'm childfree. I can't remember ever wanting kids, and I do remember having an argument with my friend's mum when I was 14, because I said I didn't want children and she said I'd change my mind. (I still want to run into her again sometime, just so I can say "I HAVEN'T CHANGED MY MIND!!" and she can say "What on earth are you talking about, freak?")

So it's never really been a decision for me. It's not that I don't like kids; I like them OK, mostly, and I've been told I'm good with them. ("You should have some of your own! You'll make a brilliant mum!" *stabbykill*) It's just that the whole idea freaks me out more than almost anything in the world. I want to be in charge of my life, and as always, I need to have an escape route from things. My first panic attacks used to be triggered by being in lectures and feeling like I couldn't leave without drawing attention. Shop queues, too, and the theatre. I still tend not to go new places unless I know that I can leave at any time and get myself home relatively easily. If you have kids, there is no escape from them, at least not instant escape. Their needs have priority over yours. Everything you do, you have to at least consider them, if not include them. They limit your freedom in a hundred ways. And yeah, I know there are bonuses that make up for those things tenfold, for most people, but I'm pretty sure I'd just feel trapped.

If it HAD been a logical decision, rather than a gut feeling, then I might well have come to the same conclusion. Yeah, I'm quite good with kids on occasion, but there are lots of reasons I shouldn't have them. First off, there's the high chance they'd make my anxiety issues worse, and also given that they run in the family to a certain extent, they might inherit them and worse. Even if they don't, growing up with a parent with mental health issues is...not always fun, oddly. Secondly, there's me on a good day. I'm lazy, not outwardly affectionate, untidy, bad with money, unhygienic, wildly procrastinatory, irritable with interruptions and unwilling to compromise. These traits do not a good parent make.

I think my entire lack of biological clock is one reason I'm perpetually single - I don't have any need for a sperm donor ;) So I can afford to be ridiculously fussy and procrastinatory, and my pool is limited by not wanting children anyway. (Plus, of course, a partner often brings some of the same issues that children do.) I've been wondering if it's also related to my opinion of humanity. Because I've realised that I'm not that bothered if humanity dies out, actually. I don't think it's objectively anything special - although subjectively it's fascinating and awesome and terrifying - and the way a lot of people conflate "the end of the world" (or "the universe") with "the end of humanity" sort of baffles me. If nothing else, it means that my answer to "if everyone was childfree like you, the human race would die out" is *shrug*.

I identify as childfree because I think there's a useful distinction to be made between childfree and childless, and people can be horribly insensitive to the involuntarily childless. To me, "you'd make a great mum" is a mild irritation at worst. To someone who's infertile, trying to conceive or prone to miscarriages, it can be devastating. There are some batshit child-haters out there under the childfree banner, but mostly people are just venting their annoyance about things that you aren't supposed to get annoyed about in our society. If I wrote down what was actually going through my head as two small children chased each other round the cinema tonight, you'd probably call me a batshit child-hater, too. But don't worry - I like YOUR kids.


( 24 comments — Comment )
Mar. 10th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
If I wrote down what goes through my head when I see kids being annoying little bits, no one would believe I was a parent. (Or, they might be convinced I was a parent, depending on their own agenda!)

I always intended to be a parent, but didn't plan to be a parent when I did, IYSWIM, so adjusting from childless to parent status was a heck of a jolt, and very constraining and frustrating at times. I wouldn't wish that on anyone who didn't want to do it!
Mar. 10th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, I can't even imagine the adjustments. You occasionally hear about the women who don't know they're pregnant till they go into labour, and I just have no idea how they cope - although in a way it'd be a good thing, I suppose, no time to panic or to get a million different views on what the Best Way To Do It is!
Mar. 10th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
As you've probably noticed by now, I am a parent with anxiety issues :-D

I had a desire to have children and so I did (well, okay, there was a little more to it than that), but if I'd thought about it logically I wouldn't have had them either because everything you say is absolutely true!
Mar. 10th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
Oops, yes, I did mean to put in disclaimers about the awesome parents with anxiety/ mh stuff on my flist :D

I suspect the good stuff about having kids is much less quantifiable than the restricting/worrying stuff, so logic isn't really a good way to go about deciding! Most people, if they WANT to be parents, they'll be good parents, I think.
Mar. 11th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
No need for oops on my account: I took no slight. I could have written this post except for the fact that I differ in that I wanted children.

Logic has to -- well, should, I think come into having children somewhere, but, yes, logic is problematic where feelings are concerned. Some sort of leap of faith has to be made. I think most parents-by-choice, if they left their gut desire to have children out it just wouldn't have become parents! (Mind you, if we could behave in accordance with logic, there'd be no social anxiety and no panic disorder, heh!)
Mar. 11th, 2010 01:55 am (UTC)
Mind you, if we could behave in accordance with logic, there'd be no social anxiety and no panic disorder, heh
So true! Maybe that's why I overcompensate.
Mar. 11th, 2010 08:52 am (UTC)
I do worry that a lot of people who would be fantastic parents, and would get a huge amount out of it, talk themselves out of having kids with logic, because the stuff that is bad about parenting is so obvious and the stuff that is good about it is so personal and intangible.

I rather think of it as a rhythm of life thing; I want to lead a full life; I had a good bit of years without kids and I expect to have a good bit more with grownup kids, but just now I'm enjoying that part of a full life that includes growing little people. Except that one of them is enormous. But there you go. That's what happens if you feed them.
Mar. 11th, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah - and these days, I think a lot of people keep thinking they'll have children in "a couple of years", until it's too late, because we've extended adolescence for so long in some ways.

I totally get the full life thing, and the rhythm makes sense too - my parents are having a fabulous time in their "retirement"!
Mar. 11th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC)
What she said
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 10th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Yup, you're absolutely right. I don't think there's any way to know for sure short of doing it - but the trouble is, if you do it you're kind of stuck with it. And if I had a kid and found out I was right about how much I would hate it, that could only end badly. What we need are trial periods!

(Also, Shrubby IS awesome and amazing!)

I'm 95% sure that if I fell pregnant I'd be straight down the clinic, but again, it's something you can never be sure of till it happens.
Mar. 10th, 2010 11:22 pm (UTC)
"I'm lazy, not outwardly affectionate, untidy, bad with money, unhygienic, wildly procrastinatory, irritable with interruptions and unwilling to compromise."

A good percentage of those traits (though I won't admit to quite all of them) fit me as well, and I've never particularly wanted kids (which is good since I'm 42 and not even dating right now). I'm not a nurturing sort of person, and think I'd make a lousy parent. I've also struggled with depression since my last year of college, and am sometimes lucky to be able to take care of myself, much less anyone else.
Mar. 11th, 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
Mmm, yeah, the "just about able to take care of myself" is a big issue too.

And as for nurturing...it's taken me three years, but I've managed to kill the two rubber plants that came with my flat!
Mar. 11th, 2010 04:36 am (UTC)
Rubber plants
Lets be honest here, it took you a year and half to kill them, the other year and a half was you just not wanting to admit the obvious :D
Mar. 11th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Rubber plants
They were PINING for the FJORDS. Or some other kind of water.

Now they're dead.
Mar. 11th, 2010 08:47 am (UTC)
One of the things I liked best about being a parent of small children, though it is wearing off now that mine are finally beginning to learn how to behave, is that I lost all sense of irritation with other people's badly behaved children. Instead, whenever I saw loud, badly behaved, unstoppable, exhausted, miserable kids, I was filled with a massive sense of relief that *these were not my kids*. Except when they were, but there you go. Neither of mine have ever run around a cinema, though J went through a bouncing on the seats phase which he is now thankfully free of except when we go to a film with *child of our acquaintance whose mother does not stop her doing outrageous things quickly enough*. Oddly, I've stopped including that family in theatre/film outings.
Mar. 11th, 2010 12:00 pm (UTC)
I think I might die of embarrassment if either of mine were to run amok in a cinema.

A mother I know is often heard to say, "Pack it in or I'll text your dad." The dad who doesn't even live with her and the children.

If that's not parenting FAIL I don't know what is. What's he going to do, send a very stern text back? "do as u r telled or else ill fone!"
Mar. 11th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
That's.....boggling. I mean, I know the whole "wait till your father gets home" thing, but by text?!
Mar. 11th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
Ha, that's a benefit I hadn't thought of!
Mar. 11th, 2010 10:08 am (UTC)
Yup, I pretty much feel the same way as you about it. Never had any desire to be a Dad, on a gut level of a cerebral one. So if I had kids it would be because other people wanted me to, and to hell with that!
Mar. 11th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah, exactly. Whether it's because my mum wanted grandkids or because Society Says... No.
Mar. 11th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
I've never wanted kids either. I don't dislike kids, as long as they're not ASBO brats, but I don't really want one for my own personal use.
I've had people saying 'You'll change your mind' to me too. I suspect those people are the people who would, nowadays, ask me openly if I regret never having had kids. (To which I would reply 'no, it's great!') People who assume that, as a childfree woman of my age, I must be longing to grab the first man I can and desperately make babies with him, are irritating.
I'm perpetually single too, although in my case it's probably less to do with not wanting kids and more to do with a deeply-held belief that I am terrible at relationships and that getting into one would be a quick way to end up with the prospective partner hating me.
And the thought of being responsible for the welfare of a tiny human being - well, frankly, that would be so scary I'd probably want to run away. Especially since I'd probably be a single parent, due to the general 'not very good at relationships' thing.
Mar. 11th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
I think I'm on the cusp of the change from "you'll change your mind" to "don't you regret it?" I'll probably just look at them like they're mad, though :D

I haven't even worked up the courage to get a cat, due to the whole "being responsible for another life" thing. (Plus shifts and living on the second floor and various other excuses.)
Mar. 12th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
The other thing is that having children is a decision you can't take back. If you're in a relationship that isn't working, you can split up. (In theory, of course. This isn't taking into account religious views on divorce). If you're in a job you hate, you can at least try to look for another one. But you can't say 'I'm not cut out for being a parent' when the kids are already a reality. (And of course, most people who have kids wouldn't want to do so, but this is just an illustration of the commitment having kids requires)
Mar. 21st, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
Children running around and causing a ruckus in a cinema is not on. You can rest assured mine will not be doing anything like that!

I kind of always knew I wanted kids, even though I do find it all rather terrifying.
( 24 comments — Comment )


bad wolf
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