Saw this on Facebook a bit ago and I had some thoughts, thought I’d share.
I spent many more years without children than I did with them at this point in my life. I was well into adulthood when I began having babies, so I have heard every one of these things. Each point on this list was an issue for me and, I admit, I took offense to it. As the youngest in my immediate family and the oldest on on record to go without having children, I didn’t just feel I was being judged, I knew I was.
I also felt I was expected to do something a certain way simply because I didn’t have babies. I was expected not to care about Halloween because I didn’t have children to take out that night. I was expected to work on Christmas Eve and not care because I didn’t have babies to go home to. People thought I was “open” to work on weekends because I didn’t have children attending ball practice or whatever and that made my time at home less valuable, so I could just be scheduled for the crap shifts instead of the parents on the team and I should just be fine with that because it was more fair. It was an issue. All of this, every point on the list was a part of my reality. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
Here’s my observation; People who had children early in their lives and didn’t spend a whole lot of adulthood single or without children do not understand what it is like to be an adult without family. They don’t understand that “freedom” without children doesn’t mean freedom in the way it would probably mean to you if you knew you came home to tiny creatures who depended upon you for their survival.
But here’s the thing…. I didn’t know either. I simply didn’t know what life could be like with children. So, here are my thoughts on this list going around. I’d love to hear your thoughts, both those who have children and those who do not.
The money loaning thing – why anyone would think that anyone without children would automatically have extra money just lying around is ridiculous. Not having babies doesn’t mean you don’t spend money, in fact, it probably means you save it, invest it, USE IT in ways that a person with children find difficult to do unless you have no debt and are pretty financially stable. (Saving and investing also means you don’t have it to spend, by the way.)
The extra time thing – I didn’t think I had extra time, but I did. I mean, who knew I didn’t need to take more than 8 minutes in the shower? I learned that once I had a crying baby waiting for me to get out as soon as possible. I exchanged time spent reading books or playing video games for time getting stuff done because if I didn’t it wouldn’t get done and then life becomes chaos. No one ever has “extra time”. We all have just as much time as we have allotted for a certain activity. It’s not that people without children have MORE of it, it’s just that people without children are using more of it for themselves and not, necessarily, others. See, it’s a matter of how much time you give to certain tasks and what tasks you value more. I don’t have any less or more time than I did before children, I just have more things that matter and MUST get done for others, not just myself. It’s not about more, it’s about priorities. Everyone has different ones and that is totally okay.
The responsibilities thing – I learned that responsibility to myself meant a whole new thing once I was caring for another life that was completely dependent upon me for it’s ability to survive the afternoon without dying. There is no possible way anyone could fully understand this shift in perspective until it becomes your way of life. I am a thousand times more responsible than I was before I had children because I MUST be, because their lives depend upon MY life.
Heh… the tired thing – There is a level of “tired” that I never knew could exist until I had children. I can’t speak to anyone else’s life here, but for me, I had no idea what tired was because there is a whole new kind of full-body/mind/soul tired that exists when you are a parent that far exceeds anything I ever experienced before I had children. And as strange as it sounds to someone who doesn’t have any… that tired… is TOTALLY worth it.
The “responsible” thing – I was super responsible before I had children. I was responsible for myself, for my car, for my apartment, my rent, my job, my cat and my day to day activities that ensured I could keep my commitments to others. Yet, people thought, because I didn’t have children that I wasn’t capable of keeping another human safe and alive. I was often judged because I had a corporate job and was too busy to have a family and it was often assumed that I didn’t know how to care for or that I was one of those “cold hearted”, feminist, corporate women because I had no babies yet. Strangely, now people assume, because I DO have children, that I AM responsible. I feel as though I am most of the time, but believe me, I know plenty of parents who have zero concept of what responsible means. You can no more assume a childless person is a flake or knows nothing about babies or whether or not they like them, than a person with a child is on top of everything and loves all children. I know plenty of parents who actually don’t like kids and can barely stand their own half the time! We all make mistakes, we all fall short of “responsible” sometimes. That’s being human. It has nothing to do with whether or not we have procreated. Oh, this list should also include one that says “Does not mean I don’t like children” because that’s an assumption everyone makes. If you are an adult who doesn’t have children, you MUST be a selfish, child-hating and irresponsible person. I remember that assumption was made ALL the time and it was terrible, mean and flat out wrong.
The direction and meaning thing – My life had exceptional direction and meaning before I had children. Having babies doesn’t mean you automatically have a compass implanted in your forehead. What it does mean, however, is your compass that has always kept you on your path suddenly now has a new North and can sometimes go spinning out of control at a moment’s notice. I had more solid direction before I had children than I do now because now, everything in my life is mutable in a way that I had never realized it could be until I had babies. My life had meaning before and I would have argued this same point “I don’t need children to have meaning in my life”… but I never understood the depth of meaning life could be with children. I don’t think my life was less valuable without them, but I know I am more *ME* now because of them. I couldn’t possibly have understood any of this until I actually HAD children and I would never expect anyone who doesn’t have children to understand it. All I can know is how it feels within me.
The growing up thing – I think it’s so silly how offended people get about this. It’s not about growing up, guys. You’ve got the words wrong. See, it’s about being respected for the growth you have accomplished thus far in your life. I STILL have “growing up” to do. Here’s a secret – ALL people still alive still have growing up to do! If you think you’re done growing up and should be recognized for your “up”-ness, you’ve probably got a long way to go. If you have nothing left to learn, nothing more to strive for, what kind of life can you live beyond that? “Growing up” doesn’t mean you have to have children. I know PLENTY of people who have children and make idiot, immature, childish choices. Being a grown up means you have to take responsibility for your personal growth and you act responsibly. If someone tells you you have to have children to understand the concept of personal growth, they’re doing it wrong and they still have work to do in their own lives. Personal growth is personal. Yes, external things move that forward and change the path, but it’s still a personal path and can be accomplished for different people in different ways. Before I had children I felt like people didn’t respect me as an adult. They would say this same thing to me about how I don’t have to “grow up” because I don’t have children to care for. I would be deeply hurt by that because I was being judged for my interests and how I spent my time. Guess what? My interests are the same and now no one cares NEARLY as much as they did before! That proved to me that it’s all about *their* perceptions, not my reality. The simple fact is, making a child doesn’t make you less of one if you are not making good, adult choices.
The Life being easy thing – … Heh… I never understood that my life had actually *been* easier until I had something to compare it against. My life before children was hard because I made it hard. I made decisions that over-complicated my life in so many ways and until I had children, I didn’t understand how to strip away the unnecessary and just live for myself. Now, “myself” includes two small children and a husband and a household with two cats. If I had made better choices, my life before children could have been much “easier” but it would never have been less complicated than my life now. It’s just different. It isn’t more “worthy” of anything now… it’s just different. It’s not about “hard” or “easy” and we need to stop using the word “hard” when we should be saying “valuable” and own up to the fact that many of us don’t believe that people who get to do what they want to do have valuable lives. That’s the reality of judgement, here. People think if I don’t have layers of responsibility and other humans to care for, my life is not valuable. That was their perception, not my reality when I did not have children. I allowed people who held that judgement to manipulate my life because I believed them. I felt less valuable because my life was “easier” than theirs. I also think people believe the word “easy” is a good thing. Like, “wow, getting this lifeboat inside the truck was easy, hooray!” but when you are talking about life, do you want your life to be “superficial”, “undemanding”, “facile”? These are all synonyms of the word “easy” and none of them are things people typically want their lives to be. Having children automatically removes the option for any of these things to be the case, but only if you MAKE it that way. JUST as you would if you were single or didn’t have children. You make the choice to live a life that means nothing or means everything. You don’t have to bring new life into the world to create that… you CAN do it without babies. It’s just… once you have them, if you’re a decent parent anyway, “easy” is simply not a word you use to describe much of anything, ever again, unless you are talking about how easily you can lose your sanity. LOL
Now, the last one… that’s a big one. Missing out. *sigh*… okay, here’s the deal, guys. We all know you cannot miss something you have never had. If I were a parent and that right was suddenly stripped away or my life altered like George Bailey and I KNEW what I had lost… the missing out would be extreme. It would be devastating. It would be impossible to recover from. There is no amount adjectives I could use to describe the pure living hell that my life would be if I knew what I was missing out on if I’d had it and it was taken away from me. But when you never know… there is no loss. There is no sense of something missing. I mean, there is for some people who believe they are meant to be parents, but even then you can’t truly understand that level of missing. When people tell you “you are missing out” by not having babies, I believe, what they really mean to say is “you have no idea how awesome this is and I wish the same level of joy for you in your life, whatever you decide to do with it”, but they don’t know how to say it because that level of joy isn’t something you can share with someone who hasn’t experienced it. There is nothing to equate it to. Being an aunt or uncle is awesome and meaningful, but it just isn’t the same. Being a pet parent comes REALLY close… but… it’s just different. I don’t wish for any of my friends who don’t have children to feel that they are missing something in their lives by NOT having babies and no, I don’t think any of you are missing pieces of your life or should feel like you can’t be a whole, valued individual unless you make children. I felt like a whole, valued person before I had kids and I feel like a whole, valued person now… but the way that is different can’t be shared in words. I’d need to pull some kind of Eric Draven mind-meld trick on you to get you to experience what I mean, otherwise, no words could tell you. That doesn’t mean your life is “less” and mine is “more”. It means my life is different. And that’s just fine.
Before I had children, I could say with full understanding that I felt great about where I was in my life. I had a great husband, we were doing well, we had extra money, we could make split decisions without worrying about stuff, when I got sick I could climb into bed with heavy medication and pass out until I felt better and life was good. Now, I have a great husband and we are doing well, we have no extra money and decisions are made considering the total of things we have to consider between finances and potty breaks and how age appropriate is that decision for everyone… And guess what?
Life is still good. Life is what you make it and can be filled with joy, deep meaning, profound value regardless of whether you make life.
I hope this helps clear this up a little.
Much love to all!