The Multiplication Situation

I am surrounded by babies.  I’m at the age now where every time I turn around, a friend of mine seems to have popped out a kid.  And that’s fine for them, but now that they all have children – with the last hold-out being the Manimal’s besty who now has a little girl of his own due in November – all eyes are on us.  Well, specifically me – no one seems to be terribly shocked when the he says he doesn’t want kids, but when I say it they all lose their damn minds.  I am apparently a huge disappointment to all of my female friends who have children, and the wives of my male friends and those of the Manimal’s friends seem to find my childlessness by choice to be somehow dangerous.  We were the first of our friends to get married, and apparently at the very moment the rings were exchanged and the champagne opened, we began to fall behind in a race we didn’t even know we’d entered.

And you know what?  It’s really beginning to tick me off.

ask-me-again

To set the record quite completely straight: I have never wanted children.  I am not the sort of woman who goes all googly-eyed over human babies – animal babies, yes, but human babies… not so much.

Once people find out our childlessness is by choice – with the only “acceptable” reason for two married people to not have kids apparently being infertility – it suddenly becomes a personal affront to them.  Everyone wants to give their opinion on how we ought to think and how we ought to live.  One moment they’re bemoaning the fact that they’re more exhausted than they’ve ever been, or that they never get to take vacations, or that they haven’t slept through a night in years, or that they don’t have time to themselves… and the next they’re turning to us asking when we’re going to join their club and seem genuinely shocked, appalled, and confused as to why we won’t.

So.  This post is for all of your child-pushers out there who cannot wrap your heads around why anyone would opt not to have kids.  And if you’re also childless by choice, then maybe you’ll find something familiar here – or a response you can use the next time someone gawks at you with an expression of mingled shock and suspicion.

trex-baby

“I Don’t Want Kids…”

You think that now, but you’ll change your mind.

No, I will not.  And how dare you assume to know my own mind better than I.

I have known since I was at least 15 years old that I do not want children.  I can tell you almost the exact moment I had my first actual, concrete opinion of having children of my own someday: I was neck deep in the midst of oh-my-god-this-will-last-forever googly-eyed first love, and the object of my affections asked what sort of children I thought we’d have.  “Kids?” I repeated in a panic.  “But I don’t want kids!”

Nine years later, before I’d even met the Manimal, I began looking into permanent sterilization by tubal ligation (i.e., getting my tubes tied) only to be told by three different doctors that I was too young to fully understand the long-term ramifications of what I was asking for.  They each told me they’d be happy to meet with me again later (one said age 26, one said to wait until I was 30, and the last one almost got punched in the throat when he told me he’d be happy to consult with me and my husband once I met “the right man and settled down, but,” and I quote, “… I don’t think I’ll see you again once that happens – you’ll forget all about this notion you have right now.”).

I did not forget.  And three years after that, when I was happily married and living in another city, I went to two more consultations.  The first was with a female doctor who told me to wait until I was 30, since the Manimal is a few years younger than I and we might still change our minds, while the second, a male doctor, told me he would only meet with me regarding this matter if I would agree to bring my husband with me for a couples consultation.

As you hopefully now understand, I have never wanted children.  I do not want children.  And I am not going to change my mind.

But that’s so selfish!

You decided to have kids.  I decided not to.  Neither of us is hurting the other one in any way, and we’re both doing what we wanted to do… so how is anything about either of our decisions selfish?

If you mean that I am inconsiderate of others, then I fail to see how that’s the case – my choice to have or not have a child has no impact on you whatsoever.  On the flip side, if I chose to have kids, none of you would help me raise it or take it off my hands if I decided parenting just really wasn’t for me after all.

If you mean that my primary concern is my own happiness, then… you got me there.  But I fail to see how it’s wrong to want to be happy and to do everything possible to ensure that you live a fulfilling, satisfying, and – dare I say – happy life.

You have to have two kids, one to replace each of you.

This is the most ignorant and arrogant response you can make.  First of all, it’s not like the planet is on the verge of a human-shortage; there are more people on this planet than it can even sustain, so all of us doing a bit less breeding is probably the better idea.  And secondly, and most importantly, what the hell is so great about you that you think the best thing for the world is another one just like you?

toys

Who’s going to take care of you guys when you’re old?

I live in a place called the Real World.  You should visit more often, so you’d not ask questions like this.

How many people do you know who are actually taking care of their elderly parents now?  How many grown children go to see their parents on a daily basis to make sure they’re cared for, have food to eat, clean clothes, etc?  I know far more grown children living at home with their parents or who are still more dependent on their parents than the other way around, and when they get the slightest bit of freedom, they fly the nest and only return when they need money or to be propped back up until the next opportunity to flee arises.

So, to answer the question: the Manimal and I will take care of ourselves and each other, just as we have been, and if we ever reach a point when we can’t, we’ll pay someone else to do it.  Just like most of you will end up doing – kids or no kids.

I can’t believe you don’t like kids.

It’s not that I dislike children or don’t understand why people might want them – I just don’t want them for myself and am completely indifferent to them on the whole.  To me, they are just smaller versions of adults – some are nice, some are assholes; some are cute, some are downright fugly; some are smart, some are as dumb as a bag of hair; some are good-natured, and some are fucking evil.  They’re just human, and, as with all humans, they are the products of their genetic makeup and environments.  Until almost 125 years ago, they were treated similarly to adults – it was the Victorian period, when a third of the queen’s subjects was under the age of 15, that the Cult of the Child arose to give us this modern idea that children are piles of cherub-like innocence and that everyone should have one to dress up and pat on the head.

You don’t know what real tired is.

You think?  I’m so glad this is a competition to see who’s more tired, overworked, and under-appreciated than the other.  Maybe next year Santa will bring you that cross you’ve always deserved, and whenever any childless person is talking about being exhausted, you can crawl up on it, look down upon them, and remind them for the umpteenth time that you are a parent.

Not that it’s any of your business, but I have had chronic insomnia since I was 17.  So, yes, I do know exactly what real tired is.

You guys live so comfortably, though – a child would really benefit from that sort of lifestyle!

Probably, if we could afford to maintain it, which we could not if we had a child.  A lot of our childless friends will dismiss the Manimal and I with a disgusted, “Yeah, but you guys are rich, so that’s fine for you to do such-and-such,” but we aren’t rich.  We are two grown people who worked our tails off for years until finally landing good careers.  We have two full-time salaries on which to live with only ourselves and our furbaby to spend it on, we aren’t big spenders, we don’t live above our means, and we don’t rely on credit cards.

Children are expensive.  Childcare is expensive.  If one of you stops working in order to raise the kids, your income will drop while your expenditure will rise.  But that doesn’t make your childless friends suddenly wealthy – and if they had children, their lifestyles would change, as well.

You’ll never know real love.

Love is not a switch that only gets flipped on when a kid arrives on the scene.  And if I hadn’t known it already, my time with the Children’s Services Department would have proven to me that the arrival of a kid does not promise love.  That whole “blood is thicker than water” thing is complete bullshit – giving birth to someone else doesn’t force them to love you, nor does it mean they’ll respect you when they become adults themselves.  You may find out you don’t even like the people they become… or they may learn to dislike you as they grow.

You’re going to miss out on so much, like the pitter-patter of little feet and the sound of their laughter!

Well, actually I can’t miss that since I’ve never had it, but it’s just not something I ever find myself wishing or willing to trade my current life for.  I mean, I still have the sweetness of waking up at 8 AM on a Saturday morning to a silent house, the option of spending entire weekends in my pajamas, and having whole evenings full of “me time.”

four-legged-kids

You’re going to end up a crazy old cat lady.

And?  I don’t see how that’s a bad thing, really.  I quite like cats.  And we’ll be crazy old cat people, because the Manimal will be here with me.

And you know what?  Those cats will be loved and well cared for, and they will never repay our love by turning around and telling us to go fuck ourselves, or lying to our faces, or demanding our car keys and worrying us to death about their whereabouts.  We’ll never have to worry about whether they’re getting knocked up – or knocking someone else up.  They’re quiet.  They’re clean.  We can leave them at home for hours at a  time with nothing but bowls of water without anyone calling the police.  Toilet training involves dropping them in a mound of litter and scratching their hands into it.

Nothing about being a crazy cat person sounds bad to me, really.  Nothing ‘t’all.

Your poor husband must be so disappointed.

Why?  Are you assuming the discussion of offspring never came up during all the time before we were married?  Because if so, then clearly we have much bigger issues to work out – namely communication and honesty.

I am not the vessel for his genetic code any more than he’s the seed for my fertile earth.  He didn’t want kids any more than I did, and we had that hashed out long before marriage or even engagement became a factor.

Well, it’s a good thing your parents didn’t think that way, isn’t it?

That depends on who you ask and when.  🙂

Of course I’m glad my parents got together and decided to have kids.  Of course I’m glad my mother didn’t abort me.  Don’t be stupid about this.

My parents also raised me to be an independent and intelligent woman who can take care of herself and make her own decisions.  Le Mumz and Daddoo lived very different lives from mine, and they are both different people than I am; I think even now, if they could have known ahead of time how much they would struggle when the Bruddha and I were little to make ends meet while giving us a memorable childhood, they might have made different decisions themselves, and you and I would not be having this conversation.

Why even bother getting married, then?  Or having a house that size for just the two of you?

I must have missed the part of the marriage contract that stated that marriage was for children.  And here I thought people got married because they loved each other.

And people can have however many rooms and square-footage they want and are willing to pay for, last I checked.  There’s no fine print anywhere in mortgage documents or rental agreements that states that certain rooms within the walls of the property may only be used for particular functions.  Bedrooms can become offices or workout rooms or guest rooms or walk-in closets.  And banks don’t make you prove that you’ll have one child for every 150 sq ft of space.

But kids are so sweet!

Maybe they are, if you cover them in corn syrup and dunk them in confectioner’s sugar.

Kids are not sweet – kids are people, and people can be cruel.  And kids are often the cruelest of all because they know they can get away with it because you, their parent, believe your little angel would never be a bully or a brat.

Assuming you didn’t burst full-grown from your father’s head, you were a child once, too, and if you think back you’ll remember: kids pick on other kids.  Older siblings pick on younger ones, richer kids pick on poorer ones, white kids pick on minorities and vice-versa, thin kids pick on overweight kids, athletic kids pick on bookish kids, heterosexual kids pick on LGBT kids.  A roomful of children quickly crumbles into a Lord of the Flies scenario.

But your life won’t have any purpose!

You’re assuming now that each of us is here for some reason, which is absurd.  Nobody put you here – you’re alive at all because a sperm successfully fertilized an egg, and nobody from that point until the moment you came screaming out into the world ever opted to terminate the pregnancy.  And from then until you die, you’re in free-fall – the overall purpose of your life is simply to live one, and hopefully while you’re doing so you’re making choices you can live with.  And if you happen to be useful to others along the way, even better.

If you think you were “put here” to have kids, that your purpose is to be a parent, then I have to admit that I feel a little sorry for you, that you feel so strongly that your only value is in ensuring that your genes remain behind when you’re gone.

“Because I Don’t Want To!”

We don’t answer to you, so this is really the only answer that should be necessary.  The rest isn’t any of your business.

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