When I was a kid, I was sure I was going to have little brats of my own one day. Replicas of me to love and herd like a bunch of ducklings. I didn’t question it. Like everyone else, I was just told that was what I’d do. As I blossomed into a teen, I daydreamed about my future, and just assumed kids would be in it.
That didn’t mean I was looking forward to it. In the back of my mind, I worried that being a parent meant squashing my dreams. Not to mention that, honestly, the whole idea of carrying a child in my uterus felt less like a happy ending and more like that one scene from Alien where the guy’s chest bursts open. I waffled between loving kids and hating them; having baby brothers only muddied my perspective. They were everything to me, and since my mom was more or less a single parent, I did a lot of legwork taking care of them. For the most part, I loved it. Bath time and singing my little brothers to sleep remain among my favorite memories to this day..
But still, the wriggling feeling that kids would be a burden lingered, and the disconnect between the thought of having my own kids and spending time with my brothers grew. I figured everyone else secretly felt what I did: that having kids was life’s biggest compromise, one that derailed your future and left a string of lost ambitions in its wake.
To make things worse, my nightmares had one recurring theme: babies.
The dream always went one of two ways. In the first scenario, I was being driven to the hospital to give birth just after realizing I was pregnant. In the second, I’d just dropped acid or gotten drunk and remembered I had a baby somewhere.The rest of the nightmare, I’d race through a dissolving world, searching for a kid whose name and face I couldn’t recall.
It was awful. Still, I figured it was how everyone felt. Weren’t we all in on the same gag? I mean, deep down, didn’t we all agree that childrearing was Mother Nature’s torture device, that changing diapers was the number one way to burn your novel manuscript to the ground and put a stop on all impromptu kitchen sex?
It took me a long time to realize I was in the minority – and even longer to see that I wasn’t alone. But since at least 1987, couples who wanted to stay a family of two had been common enough to give themselves a name: DINKs.
Shorthand for the very austere “Dual Income, No Kids,” this word runs the gamut. It’s either shot out as an insult by folks with kids, or flashed by DINKs themselves like a Girl Scout flaunting a new badge. For the most part, this silly little word speaks to the rivalry that’s been brewing between the child-free and the child-ful. Women especially are vilified when they choose to keep their lives diaper-free.Just look at the way Jennifer Aniston has been accused of being pregnant several times a year for the past decade to see what I mean.
People can’t wrap their heads around the fact that she’s happy without them. Celebrity or no, when you choose not to have kids, extended in-laws and strangers on Facebook shake their heads and say “tsk, tsk.” They usually follow it up with, “You’ll change your mind.”
Something snaps in folks when they hear someone doesn’t want kids. There’s a knee-jerk reaction. Maybe they feel like someone’s choice to not have kids is a way of ragging on their own choice to have them. My only guess? People get angry at others for finding joy in not having kids because they never asked themselves if parenthood was something they wanted. If you’re confident in your own life choice, there’s no anger in someone else taking a different path, right?
For the most part, people without kids don’t feel salty about the existence of families of four. Those living a child-free life are too busy feeling blissed out by their own choices to worry about what their neighbors are doing.
Everyone has their own rationale for the way they live their life, and deciding whether or not to have kids is no different. But there are a few common threads that strengthen some people’s choice to never be parents:
Why bother with kids when your film project is taking off, or the company you built from the ground up is reaching new heights? Whether your passion is making damn fine hotdogs in a food truck, or traveling the world by train, it’s just a fact that those goals are easier to achieve without kids in town. If your goals don’t involve a family, then babes in arms will only slow you down.
Adding another human to our global population contributes 58.6 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year. For many folks who were already on the fence about having kids, the cost of bringing another human into the world well outweighs any potential rewards. A 2017 study published in Environmental Research Letters found that “the greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change is to have one fewer child.” For many millennials (and, I would guess, Gen Zers down the line), that statement alone is enough to make us swear off of having kids for the long haul.
Living child-free doesn’t exactly translate to a new BMW in the driveway. In the United States, wages are stagnating while housing costs continue to go off like fireworks. The majority of folks are overworked and underpaid, and many can barely cover their own emergency funds for two. Kids are expensive, and most of us just can’t afford them. Children cost an average of $14,000 each per year; now I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t have that lying around to spare. When caring for a kid calls for so much cash, child-free couples feel they’re better off investing that money in their health, education, or maybe (if they’re very lucky) an annual vacation.
Around the globe, infertility is becoming commonplace – and it’s happening to folks with XX and XY chromosomes alike. In 2017, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem published a shocking study showing that sperm counts have dropped by half in the past forty years. Combine that with a societal collective agreement to have kids when we’re older, and we’ve created a perfect storm for childlessness.
Many folks (like myself) who were ambivalent about having children before they found out they couldn’t have any take one look at the costs of trying to conceive or adopt and immediately drop the subject. While having a baby through childbirth is incredibly expensive in the United States to begin with (around a jaw-dropping thirty grand if you include pre– and post-natal care), adopting, hormonal treatments, and surrogacy are even more expensive, as well as less reliable.
Those four big facets are enough to make most folks reconsider adding a baby to the mix, but there’s something else: unless you absolutely love children, life’s just better when you’re child-free. Forget those articles you’ve read pushing you to start a family. If this were an old cartoon, imagine me as the devil sitting on your shoulder, whispering all the fun reasons to chuck motherhood out the window. Here are six things that are better when kids aren’t on the table.
Okay, okay, writer Jamiee Bell may have something entirely different to say about how having kids improves your sex life, and she makes a good point that, for folks who want to be parents, seeing your partner be good with kids is straight-up sexy. And I’ll be the first to admit that I obviously don’t exactly know what it’s like to have sex while being a parent. But I do know this: being able to have a partner over for a threesome on a weeknight is one of the most liberating feelings in the world, and a mid-morning romp with no kids banging on the door is something I take for granted.
Without kids, your sex life is wide open, splayed across the home, and free for you to dive into at any given moment. Plus, everywhere in the house is fair game. Sometimes (okay, often), my husband and I have sex in the kitchen in the middle of the day, just because we can. And if you want to strip down in the living room to give your partner a show, the only thing stopping you is your own shyness.
While the closeness and intimacy of creating life together has to be magical, Bell herself seems to have no problem exploring lush sensuality, and I know we all love some Leonardo DiCaprio-level dad bod, attending an orgy without worrying about the babysitter is one luxury that can’t be beat..
I have a confession: my morning routine takes about two hours. Most days, I wake up, journal, wash my face, and do some yoga, all before making a morning hot bev, a veggie juice, and some kind of nourishing breakfast.
That’s all just to get ready for the hour of creative writing time I take. If I had a kid, I’d be lucky to do a third of all that in a morning. Working from home as a freelancer definitely helps me craft this schedule, and folks who work in offices don’t have the same luxury, with or without kids. But even if you have an hour commute to work, you know that the morning is just for you, and you could get up a half hour earlier to drink coffee and work on your panty-selling side hustle if you wanted to.
And when you don’t have kids? That weekend morning is all for you. You never have to wake up extra early to make sure you’re getting your kids fed, dressed, and entertained. There’s bliss in waking up whenever you choose to, and folks with insomnia are even better off, free to wake up (or stay up) for as long as their unrested bods need.
Best of all, if you’re with a partner, there’s no better feeling than those tender moments in bed, rolling around in your lover’s arms, kissing them and tasting their morning breath (you know you kind of love it), and talking to them about the day before it officially begins. Say whatever you want about a baby being soft or whatever, but having the freedom of the morning stretch in front of you is unparalleled.
Hear me out. The little things in life are our deepest pleasures. For the epicurious of us, food is a divine sensuality in and of itself. And while parents can definitely still enjoy the small pleasures of quality morsels, there are times where kids call on you to cook and serve things that range from bland to downright gag-worthy.
When I was a nanny, the kids loved plain peas in water (like a soup) and microwaved sweet potato without the skin. They would also ignore their cereal in the morning until it was a soggy mush, which they then proceeded to eat. Kids like these are the standard bearers of how children like their food. It’s not their fault; kids have roughly twice the amount of taste buds as adults, so all that spice and nuance that sets our souls ablaze is likely to spark a meltdown at the dinner table.
That means making something adventurous like your own sushi or buffalo soy curls is probably out of the question when kids are involved. Spicy food gives many folks life, but we can’t throw in all those complex flavors when a kid is waiting for you to deliver their plain bagel..
As if that weren’t rough enough, kids require a commitment to a schedule. For folks without kids, time is kind of irrelevant. Personally, as a child-free adult, breakfast sometimes doesn’t happen until the afternoon. Dinner? Occasionally, I’m a good egg who cooks and sits down by seven, but most times, I don’t get around to it until ten in the evening. There’s no pressure to eat dinner at a certain time, or even make something at all. On busy days, you may just opt for popcorn or a mug of hot cocoa instead of throwing dinner together. If you do that, the only consequences are your own, there’s no worry about losing your Mother of the Year Award.
Obviously, folks with kids have hobbies and satisfying careers. But what parents lack that child-free folks have is the good grace of time. Those hours parents spend taking care of their kids is time other people spend working on a novel, embroidering, doing yoga, making a babka at two in the morning just because, taking long midnight walks, or learning how to play piano.
Often, I do all those things in one week (except the babka; that takes forever). My schedule is blissfully my own. Me time is the story of my life. It’s a common refrain to hear parents accuse the child-free of selfishness. How dare they enjoy this time without surrendering it to creating life! But the thing is, there’s no rulebook saying you have to surrender your time to childrearing in the first place. If you’re crafting a happier world, and are doing your best to enjoy life, then it’s not selfish to live child-free.
Like everything, it’s just another choice you get to make. Without kids, you’re free to delve into all the hobbies. And right as you’re painting naked in your living room at noon on Tuesday, you’ll realize the best thing of all: it doesn’t matter if other people think you’re selfish. In moments like those, you’re living your best, hobby-filled life.
Spur of the moment decisions are your best friend when you’re living the child-free life. A late-night walk in the park? Check. Heading to the movies on a whim? Check. Friend having a bad day and really needs some company? You’re there in a heartbeat. Without children in tow, the biggest concerns you have are getting back home in time to water your garden.
Babysitters aren’t the end of the world, and I’m sure it’s not an astronomical hurdle for things like date night, but having kids ties your hands, making it much harder to surrender to a night drive or a late-night cocktail.
Maybe this last one just confirms the fact that my old ovaries were, in fact, filled with nothing but sesame seeds to sprinkle on late-night sushi instead of, you know, the potential for human life, but to an outsider, having children looks like a way to hide your truest self. When you don’t have kids, you don’t have to perform in your own home, or care for anyone other than your partner, your plants, and maybe a dog.
Sure, you perform ample emotional labor for the people you love, but you’re free to be yourself, pursue your own ends, and not worry about sacrificing your schedule for someone else’s immediate needs, like instant mac and cheese or a bubble bath for someone who isn’t you.
It’s not just those little things, either. It’s the big ones. You get to explore life as you see fit, completely and unabashedly you. Child-free, my husband and I moved into a camper for two years and got to see what that was like. We go out hiking or to a new town on a whim. I get to embark on messy art projects and make loud noises at midnight (barring my neighbors) and strum a guitar at all hours. There’s no pressure to be on my best behavior, only the self-imposed pressure to be authentic.
For some, having kids teaches them how to be themselves, but for folks who just don’t want to be parents, staying child-free is the only way to express themselves fully.
There’s nothing wrong with being a parent. It’s a miracle. Having kids is a beautiful, fulfilling choice many people make. Just yesterday one of my best friends told me she’s recently been contemplating having a baby. My only feeling? Total, unadulterated joy for her. She would be an amazing mother, and I can’t wait to meet the child she cherishes and raises, whenever that may be.
The thing is, my friend spent a long time weighing her options, and is making a conscious choice to become a mother. And those are the kinds of parents the world needs. People who want kids should be the ones that have them – and not everyone should feel obligated to broaden their family.
Choosing to have children isn’t wrong by any means. It’s just that having and raising children should be, well, a choice. Just like everything else you do in your life, the question of having kids is something you need to ask yourself based on your own life, your own happiness, and your visions for the future. Everyone deserves to make autonomous decisions in line with their own lifestyle.
I may stan the dad bod with the rest of you, but for me? I’ll admire it from my child-free perch, writing naked at midnight, sipping black coffee. The more of us that choose to never have children, the sooner it’ll be respected as just another choice we’re allowed to make.
Somewhere, I think I just heard Jennifer Aniston heave a sigh of relief into a martini while unwinding in her private jacuzzi on a Tuesday, not a child in sight.