Childfree = “Having It All”
I have it all. I have loving family, a nice house, a decent job, and no limit on potential. I don’t mean to brag, but it really is nice. I’m pleased with my place in life. I think I’m doing quite well. I want for nothing and live happily. I have it all. Oh, and I have no kids.
Wait, I don’t have kids? Then how can I claim to have it all? Lately, childfree-positive articles such as Time’s recent piece, The Childfree Life, insist that “having it all” need not include having children. The aforementioned Time article even used that idea in their subtitle. You really don’t need children to have it all. In fact, children may even stand in the way. It’s refreshing to see this message slowly gaining speed in the media.
Almost invariably, however, this positive message will be challenged. Either in the article itself or in the comments, someone will insist that no one can really have it all, and that we must choose one thing or another. That’s not a bad point. It may even actually apply to some people. For instance, someone who would have wanted kids but decided they wanted the benefits of not having children such as personal freedom, financial stability, career and education, general success, relationship satisfaction, and so on, more than they want parenthood might really be making the choice to sacrifice one thing for another. Likewise, someone who would have wanted such benefits that a life without kids can bring, but gave up on the full realization of those dreams for the sake of having children might be in a similar boat.
The fact of the matter is, even if people like children and are happy with them, they cannot have them without any negative impact on certain aspects of life. Now, it’s not impossible to be successful in one’s career while having children, but it’s less likely and the process is slowed and becomes significantly more difficult. To someone not interested in career, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. It’s not impossible to be satisfied in one’s relationship with their partner while having children, but it won’t be without the damage that comes from the strain and distraction of parental responsibilities and the consequences of failure become much more severe. Some people, however, might not be all that concerned about such a thing. It’s not impossible to be financially-stable while having children, but it requires a lot more money and whatever it takes to acquire it to remain that way, and becomes an uphill battle to become that way for those who did not start out with significant capital. Basically, what I’m saying is that life with children has a negative impact on other aspects of life, making them significantly more difficult even when not outright preventing them entirely, which it certainly can do as well.
So perhaps it could truly be said that, in such a situations as those I just described, cases in which a person might want a life unhindered but also want kids, it’s impossible to have it all. They cannot have everything they want and so must choose one or the other: the benefits of a life free of the negative effects that having children brings, or children. For such people, it’s a trade-off. They pick from two incompatible things they want the one they want more. They must decide whether or not the price they would pay is worth the product they want, no matter which perspective they look at it from (which of the two options compared is the price and which is the product.)
But this doesn’t accurately describe people who don’t want kids anyway, which I argue is what being childfree really means. Even if I didn’t have the benefits of a childfree life to weigh against having children, I still wouldn’t have children. I don’t want them. At all. There is no circumstance in which I would want them. Motherhood truly holds absolutely no appeal to me whatsoever. There is literally nothing about it that I want. It wouldn’t matter if my status in life was guaranteed to be exactly the same with the one and only difference being motherhood (which is, by the way, a wholly unrealistic scenario,) I still wouldn’t want kids. My desire to not have kids would persist completely independently of the life benefits of not having them. Forget the price, I don’t want the product.
Not having children is, in and of itself, a benefit to me in much the same way being healthy is. I’m no more sacrificing motherhood for the sake of the life I want than I am sacrificing the ability to be sick for the sake of the life I want. I don’t want children in the same way I don’t want to be sick. It’s an undesirable condition regardless of effects on other aspects of life. I really don’t need children to have it all in the same way I don’t need malaria to have it all. Being free of such a condition is precisely what I do want.
At this point, someone is surely ready to complain about comparing children to diseases. It sure does sound harsh, doesn’t it? And at this point they’re probably expecting me to soften the blow by saying that it was only an exaggerated comparison, meant to illustrate a point, and doesn’t reflect my true options. And here is where I reject expectations and just tell the truth.
To me, having children (that’s having children, the children themselves,) is like a disease, one of the life itself rather than just the body. It’s a state which I would never be happy or comfortable in. In fact, I’m sure that I would be miserable. This may not be the truth for you, but it is nonetheless the truth for me. I don’t want children in my life. At all. Under any circumstances. I don’t find children interesting or even all that likable. Nor do I find a life that included children even remotely desirable. I would find it draining to just be around children, even well-behaved children, for any extended period of time. It would bring me absolutely no pleasure and would suck the joy right out of my life to have children. I would never be satisfied with being a mother. Even if I could be guaranteed the absolute best children in the world, and somehow having them had absolutely no impact on the way I lived my life (finances, education, career, relationship, potential, etc,) I still wouldn’t want them. A life that includes children is as undesirable to me as illness. And since I’m sticking with this unpleasant-sounding comparison, I think here is where I will point out that I can’t very well insult children who never existed and never will.
To state it plainly, it’s not just the benefits of a childfree life that I want; it’s a life free of children in it as well. I’m not choosing between two incompatible desires the one I want more. My wants on both matters go hand-in-hand. I don’t want children. I do want the benefits of not having them. For me, it’s not a trade-off in any way. It’s win-win. I sacrifice absolutely nothing and receive nothing but reward for it. I really do have it all.