I was born and raised in a country where there is a well-founded expectation that once a couple is married, they should bear children. In the first few years of being married to my husband and the first few times that I went back and visited my place, many people known and less known to me would ask me how many kids we’ve got. And when I counter “No, we don’t have one” or “we don’t have any plans”, I would be thrown in a wall where they would open fire me with machine gun of intrusive questions, foreboding and even unsolicited unnecessary advice.
“Why? That is so selfish! Why don’t you share your blessings!”
“Do you have a problem? You know I can recommend my doctor. I once struggled to get pregnant but lo and behold, I now have three bunches of joy.”
“God will never bless you if you don’t procreate!”
“You are not getting any younger. Have kids so you’ll be happy!”
“What do your parents say? I’m sure they do not agree with your decision!”
“Have kids even just one, so someone will look after you when you get old and frail.”
To opt out of parenthood is a choice my husband and I made. It was a decision sealed conscientiously and more than eleven years later, that decision still stands firmly. No, we don’t have animal pets either.
Our society has made a huge progress into accepting gay rights, same sex marriage, feminism, freedom of speech and other issues that decades ago would nail someone to a spot of perpetual condemnation and punitive measures once found committed. However, progress seems to be quite slow when it comes to understanding that parenthood or natural motherhood for that matter is not a mandate, social or otherwise. That some women may not have the maternal instinct or even if they do, they made a conscious decision to keep their bodies from serving as a vessel for another human even with a properly functioning reproductive system, thus posting a no exit sign to their gene pool.
The reason can be varied and highly individualized to personal beliefs, experiences and preferences. There are those who choose not to reproduce because of the marked influence of less than desirable family dynamics. Some want to focus on their careers and build wealth and believe that they can do these if they are not bound to major domestic obligations. Others unflinchingly suppose that our biosphere is already suffering from the inflictions caused by population explosion, to such a degree that they don’t want to count up to its carbon footprints. A few refuse to become reproductive prodigies due to medical conditions. And some just simply revel in their autonomy from children.
The reasons are positively personal but are absolutely not short of logic and sensibility. And it is as normal as the rationales of women who are inclined to be pulled into a maternal magnetic field.
Normal as those on the other side of motherhood fence may assert, being childfree is still viewed by many with moral outrage. The society’s attitude towards the deliberate nonbreeders can be too condescending to emphasize that the choice is morally wrong, thus charged with selfishness and sentenced with unhappiness beyond reasonable or should I say, unreasonable doubt by a handful of people. More so, they are unwarrantably accused of utter insensitivity by a few of those who have strong desire to bear their mini mes but sadly, have weak reproductive capacity to do so.
Personally, I feel sympathy for those people who yearn natural parenthood so strongly that it is impressed in them that this is the absolute purpose of their existence, however, the potential to do so may either be too slim or completely absent. That is in all respects heartbreaking. Some may feel that life may be too cruel and unfair to snatch from them the only thing that gives essence to their being. I can fathom the depth of their griefs. Nonetheless, for some who take offense and get infuriated in knowing that there are other people who are biologically equipped to reproduce but commit themselves to childlessness, is also cruel and unfair. The latter is sometimes subjected to brutal criticisms and comments to mean that their decision magnifies the former’s anguish and despondency. This is preposterous and irrational to the core.
One time, a friend blatantly commented that I fall short of comprehension of the sacrifices parents make for their children because I am not a parent. We were talking about her child throwing tantrums then. I am still a child to my parents and I fully understand what they had to give up for me and my siblings.
While it is literal that I am not a biological parent, I have my fair share of parenting to some of my nieces and nephews. I have changed diapers. I have bravely faced the giant poop attacks and projectile motion of pees targeting my face while changing their nappies. When they were left to me a few times so their parents can have a brief respite, their cries in the middle of the night became my alarm clock that it was yet again another feeding time. At times, I woke up in the morning with their feet on my face. I took them to their favorite kids restaurants and chased them around while apologetically asking a waiter or a waitress not to collect our foods yet. When they were sick or hurt, I got worried sick too. True, happiness is multiplied… and so is the pain. I have loved them like my own. Should I add, I take pride and joy to be called “Nanay” (mother) by them.
To not meet the conventional expectation of our society regarding procreation does not breach social norm. Deliberate nonbreeders just created a different path and made a different choice, a choice that is prudent and equally purposeful as those who choose to have children. Once that choice was precisely calculated, carefully thought of and willfully executed , potential regret is unquestionably out of the equation. That choice should be respected.
6 thoughts on “Living a Childfree Life is a Purposeful Choice”
One does not have to give birth to become a mother. I have known people who can not have their own children or do not want to take the responsibility of becoming parents but are happily looking after their nieces and nephews. They live their lives happily without any problems.
Many couples say they enjoy their time together so much that they aren’t willing to do anything that might jeopardize their relationship. They feel complete and don’t see the need to have a child to round out their family unit. Half of all marriages end in divorce, and growing apart due to not having time for one another is one contributor. Bring a child into the family and all kinds of changes occur-a couple has less time and energy for sex, less leisure time together, less discretionary income, and more day-to-day responsibilities. These changes can all put stress on a relationship, even one that is solid, and the end result may be divorce.
Some couples who have had the opportunity to be around friends and relatives with children may recognize that, even if they like kids, the lifestyle and the sacrifices they’d have to make to be parents is not for them. For example, they may not want to replace the cozy dinners for two with meals focused on a child. Or, they decide they’d rather put energy into their careers and community service projects rather than devoting eight hours a day to parent a child.
Everyone should be allowed to make their own choices in life and live the way they want.
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Thanks Zubeda. Your points are plausible. Indeed, some childfree couples choose to be so because they don’t want to take on the responsibilities of being parents. That does not equate to being irresponsible at all. Many of them prefer to focus their time and energy to equally important things like career development or helping others. My husband and I had weighed the pros and cons of our decision and we remain happy with our choice. Such choice doesn’t harm anyone although it does challenge the traditional social norm. As it is the case, it still doesn’t make it wrong.
What an insightful blog ‘Living a Childfree Life’ is! Through her personal life Dora has proven that remaining childless did not prevent her from making this world a better place. Not only by being a nanay to her nieces and nephews, but by dedicating herself to many charitable endeavors like her campaign for breast cancer when she allowed her beautiful hair to be cut … My wife and I are proud to be Dora’s aunt and uncle. We are married 47 years and have remained childless ourselves. We have repeatedly heard the ‘unsolicited advice’ Dora lists in her article.
We happen to believe that this was God’s plan and being childless has allowed us to take care of our nieces and nephews in the Philippines by giving them a chance to go to college. Not having to spend time and energy on our own children, we were able to touch the lives of many during our journey. In this sense, we were parents to many . . . We all have a role to play in life: some are called to be parents, others are not. So, I do hope that Dora’s insights persuade people from refraining to judge couples who decide to remain childless.
Congratulations on this deep essay on the lives of childless couples so often misunderstood. We share in your dreams and in your quest to live simply.
Jeff and Felicitas Goethals
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I have always been so grateful to both of you. I have always considered you as parents and in so many ways, you continue to inspire me to do better and to be courageous on my choices, though at times they are daring.
For people who know you, they might grieve the fact that such beautiful people (inside out) who undoubtedly are capable of raising beautiful children have chosen not to do so while others who should be medically and/or physically castrated are spawning. No harm yearning for betterment of future generation!
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Thanks Irma. At times, I cringe when I hear children being neglected and abused by their own parents. Unfortunately, the statistics seems to be on the rise.