Warning: This article contains a somewhat sensitive (although it shouldn’t be) topic. I am simply sharing this part of myself in an effort for people to understand why I made the decision I did and to inspire others to reflect upon their own lifestyle choices when it comes to having kids. I have no intention to offend anyone and I tried to write this as diplomatically as I could without sacrificing authenticity or betraying what I personally believe in. This wasn’t easy to do but I am forever grateful for the opportunity to share it. Here goes nothing!
Growing up, I never asked for baby dolls to play with and pretend to be a mother to. Toy animals? Sure, I proudly owned a menagerie of different species that I loved and cared for and gave outrageous personalities to. The closest thing to dolls I possessed was a few Barbies and they all had fabulously exciting careers and adventures that transcended time and space. There was also very little desire to play the part of “Mom” in the classic pretend rounds of “house” with friends and schoolmates. I always opted to be the dog, cat, or a neighbour. When I did assume the role of matriarch, it was to organize and provide order to the chaos as it was clear my household was in desperate need of some leadership. I ran a clean, efficient, but fun pretend establishment. Husband sometimes, but not always, included.
My Mum never emphasized the importance of having kids to me or ever uttered the often inevitable “so when are you going to give me grandkids?” Instead, Mum was a consistent driving force of self-exploration, career development and provider of countless opportunities for me to develop a wide variety of interests. My Nana never really discussed it with me at either and I wonder to this day why that exactly was. Perhaps she could sense it was never really an interest of mine. Maybe my Mum instructed her not to. I will never know but am I ever grateful I grew up free from those external pressures from the women in my life.
As I grew older, I never developed that “instinctual” desire to hold an infant, to fawn over other people’s offspring or get super jazzed about babies in general. Ironically, my main source of income at the end of elementary school and throughout high school was babysitting. It was a job and I didn’t mind it but it certainly didn’t kick-start any dream of making babies of my own. Here’s a little human for me to take care of for the next 4 hours. OK, cool. Let’s go play with Lego and do try not to eat the pieces, please. I want to make it clear that contrary to some rumours out there, I DO NOT HATE KIDS. They can be hilarious, good fun and amazing little beings that I can teach and learn from. I quite enjoy spending time with them (preferably the well behaved or the ones with an excellent sense of humour) but I am all for giving them back to their rightful guardians at the end of the day and being on my way. It’s the best of both worlds in my opinion.
Now you may ask: What does this have to do with a blog about living a sustainable lifestyle? Well, much of my decision to not have kids is due to the environmental impact human procreation has on the planet. My hero Sir David Attenborough is a fine advocate who explains the negative impacts of overpopulation. The world has way, way too many people to sustain the current wants and needs of everyone at the rate we are multiplying and consuming resources. I could go on a totally different tangent here but I will try to stay focused. Essentially, the decision to have one less child is the single most effective way every single person can drastically cut their environmental impact on the planet. It results in less carbon emissions from all of the resources that must be collected, refined, grown, consumed and disposed of to support that new life. This is applicable worldwide, regardless of culture or lifestyle, although this decision makes the most positive impact in consumer-driven and highly resource-intensive countries like Canada, the USA and other developed nations. I will just mention that in an age of extreme uncertainty with climate change shaking up the way the planet operates, it is a very unstable, unpredictable and rather frightening future to bring a new life into. Detrimental consequences could even start within my lifetime (that’s the next 70 years as I plan to be a centenarian). Sorry to bring in that downer but it is very likely a reality we are going to face.
Speaking of terrifying thoughts, let me just mention that I have been 100% petrified of everything related to pregnancy. There is ABSOLUTELY NO desire to experience the drastic and sometimes permanent body changes or the pain of childbirth. Some people claim it’s an enlightening experience. I get my enlightenment from high quality chocolate, stumbling across beautiful vistas while travelling and watching BBC’s Planet Earth. I have never had any primal urges to dedicate all of my time and energy to taking care of a baby. Baby animals always piqued my interest far more than a human-in-training ever could. Yes there are similar levels of dependency but it takes far less than 18 years for animals to develop into their adult selves with various degrees of independence.
So what kind of life did I envision myself having as I became conscious that I had no desire to embark in that default “next step”? Before my final decision was made, I had set myself a timeline of being married by 29 and having the first kid of two at 30. I had thought about the mother I wanted to be and it was one that was going to be ready to give myself fully to the upbringing of my kids. There was a determination to copy what my Mum did, more or less. I figured I would get to a point where I would feel tired of living for me and would want to live for someone else. After the terror of pregnancy set in, the plan shifted and I decided that my kids would be adopted, preferably out of the infant stages, and that my partner and I would have a wonderfully blended family who celebrated a wide variety of cultures and traditions. My kids would be so worldly and open-minded and would never discriminate based on race, appearances or social status. I would raise real solid contributions to future generations!
Currently, I cannot see any recognizable end to my own personal adventures and pursuits. There is zero desire to settle down in the traditional sense. No desire to declare that I have had enough of living for myself and the people around me and that I want to focus all my time, money and energy to a nuclear family. None whatsoever. My desire for a while now has been to be the fun, globetrotting, walking encyclopedia (but yet still surprisingly cool) Auntie to all of my friends’ and family’s kids. I am totally determined to put time and energy into having fun with them, teaching them everything I know, engaging with their personalities and interests, having experiences with them and at the end of it all, giving them back to their parents. I made a realization that this way, I would have the opportunity to love and inspire many kids in different capacities rather than limit myself to just one or two. This approach is totally fitting with my personality and my personal mandates. Decision made!
Unfortunately, this resolution has brought along a good handful of social difficulties that I am learning to navigate through. Apparently, this is not the obvious lifestyle choice for a woman or people in general. I quickly came to realize that the vast majority do not have this option on their mind at all. As a result, it has been very hard to relate to some people, especially a lot of women. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why making male friends has been so much easier for me. Babies and child rearing is not usually a main topic of conversation. Speaking of men, this decision of mine makes dating very difficult and usually ends up with me flying solo. Most men I encounter want their own biological offspring or envision themselves starting a family in the near future. Expressed sentiments include the want to continue their legacy, to have kids that look like them and/or act like them, or to do what just comes naturally. The idea to forgo children, primarily enjoy my company (and the company of a few fur babies instead) is not on their radar, nor do they give me long enough of a chance to even entertain that thought. This is not the baby-making vessel you are looking for. Move along.
What happens when I bring up the idea of adoption? Apparently there is this rather terrible assumption out there that many people share that raising adopted kids automatically comes with or creates a very high risk of related “issues” somehow. I don’t understand where this mentality comes from. I have witnessed enough biologically-acquired kids with behavioural issues or ones that have proved rather “difficult” to raise that makes me seriously question this sentiment. There is also this fear out there that over time, adopted kids will stop loving their parents or leave them and devalue their connection as they are not their “birth parents”. Again, through personal observation I think this is just an issue across the board, bio-kids or not. Your child leaving you, taking wrong turns in life and ending up in less than ideal situations, disappointing you or not being anything like you is just a risk of raising kids in general. So most of the points people bring up are irrelevant in my opinion. They tend to leave out the possibility of an adoptive child loving you unconditionally, being there for you forever, growing up to be everything you wanted them to be, or more, and never hating you because you don’t share the same DNA. It is just as possible. I’m also just going to mention that this is a more sustainable option for the planet so obviously it’s an option I would gravitate to.
Another sentiment that has been expressed to me: “Don’t you want someone to love and care for? You will never feel a deep love or a personal satisfaction until you have kids!” I am extremely fortunate to have an incredible network of friends all around the world that I love and care for in various capacities. My heart nearly bursts with pride and joy when I am with my horse or my dog. Most of all, my dedication, love for and desire to take care of the planet in any way I can keeps me quite occupied and fulfilled. My life is filled with adventure, excitement, opportunities to influence others, an ability and desire to make a difference, and a willingness to help people. I am satisfied daily with the way I chose to tackle the day and I rarely go to bed wishing for more. There are certainly regrets of not accomplishing more but there are only so many hours in a day I suppose.
Perhaps some people may think this childless decision is selfish. I believe that this is farthest from the truth! Without an immediate family, I am able to dedicate my time, energy and love to many people in various capacities. I can give myself without restriction to my friends, family, work obligations, and other entities in whatever capacity I see fit.
I realize that my social life will change as more and more start families and become absorbed in their nuclear families. They simply won’t have time for me or the activities we used to like to do together. Values and priorities will change and it’s a bit sad to realize that I will cease to be a priority to many people I give myself to. I will inevitably lose the closeness of some friends or lose others entirely. But apparently this happens anyways and the dynamic shift between friends is inevitable. This has been pretty hard to come to terms with as I am a very social creature by nature. But I am also resourceful and opportunistic so I’m confident I will survive, thrive and make new connections throughout my life.
To be perfectly candid, I am somewhat scared of the fact that I will not have direct lines of support as I grow older. There won’t be any default care givers or people that will look out for me when I start slowing down (if that ever happens!). In my later years, it may mean being rather lonely as well. To counter this, it just means I need to be prepared and find a solid network of people who I know will be with me throughout my life. It will mean a bit more legwork planning out my long term living arrangements, management of my resources and having people designated as next of kin. I am also really banking on technology advancing to such a level that it will assist in allowing me an independent lifestyle for a long while.
I try to do my best to respect other people’s decision to go the traditional route and have children. It is never my intention to tell people that their choice is wrong, irresponsible, selfish or not for the right reasons. It is unfair for me to push any of this while asking people to then respect my lifestyle choices. I am always just curious to find out if people have fully thought it through. If they have sat down and considered the short and long-term effects that creating human life will have on their goals, dreams, and ultimate happiness. Have they considered all lifestyle options? What kind of resources would be needed? How this lifestyle will impact their friends, family, and the planet? Knowing that climate change is going to change life as we know it, do they still want to bring kids into the world with this uncertainty? It always makes me happy to see people who make conscious, informed decisions based on a lot of inward and outward reflection. People who understand the self but also understand where they fit within the global community. Not everyone wants to or has the ability to do this. I can and I did, and this is the decision I have made based on it. I am confident and content with it. All I can hope for is that everyone else feels the same way, whatever decision they choose.
Let me start wrapping this up. If you have thought long and hard about it and have no doubt in your mind that starting a family of your own biological children will give you the ultimate happiness and fulfillment in life, amazing. I genuinely wish you best of luck on your journey. If you are a friend or family member reading this, know that I will be there for you and your kids and do my best to be a fantastic role model, friend, Aunt, teacher, babysitter or whatever you would like me to be for them.
If you have always figured that your end game is kids but have not ever really thought of the other options to get to that point, I implore that you do so! Consider adoption and what that could mean to a child already existing in this world that could be given the amazing opportunity to be loved and raised by you. Or find a partner you are crazy about who already has kids and let them become a part of your world. I find it beautiful to hear of people who give unconditional love to children who are not of their own “blood”. To friends and family that go this route, I echo the same sentiments as above; your kid(s) will get all of that from me!
If you are totally at a loss of what you want to do, question everything! Talk to people who have bio-kids, who have adopted, who have step-kids or who don’t have kids at all. Gather intel for all of your options and make an informed decision after getting lost in your thoughts. It’s a life-changing decision and an exciting adventure no matter how you slice it!
Lastly, a shout-out all my peeps out there that have made the decision not to have kids! It’s a hard decision to express to others to be sure. There will be people who won’t understand your decision. There will be times where you feel excluded or be treated differently than those who have kids. You may be a bit scared for your later years when loneliness may be a huge concern as you will not have successors. But know that you aren’t alone. There are other ways humanity can love for, care for and be cared for by one another. The family we choose can be just as good as or even better than family by blood. There are others out there that support and encourage this lifestyle decision and you should never feel inferior because of it. If more family is what you’re looking for, just hit me up! I got your back.
I fully encourage comments, discussions, personal messages or links to anything related to this. It helps us all understand one another and builds community rather than divides it.
Thank you for reading this. It means the world that I have a place to express myself. I now have zero fear of showing the world who I am and what I believe is right for me.