I was thrilled to meet Ashley because, not only do we have the whole no-kids thing in common, but we work in the same industry! We chatted about navigating friendships with parent friends, prioritizing our careers, and most importantly, adopting tortoises.
What made you want to share your story?
I work in the animation industry which is typically a very male dominated field. I’m a Supervising Director for an animated TV show, which is a high level position that is unusual for a woman to occupy.
I think it’s important to let other women and girls know that this is a viable career path that is available to them. And also, that it is totally acceptable to have life goals that don’t revolve around having children.
Have you found a lot of other women in your industry who share a similar path?
I wouldn’t say that it’s “common,” but there are a number of women I work with who don’t have children and are very career focused – whether that’s now or forever is up to them.
How did you come to the decision to be childfree?
I don’t remember a specific moment where I decided against having children. It just never appealed to me. It happened organically.
I wasn’t a little girl who daydreamed about weddings, and being a mommy. I have probably been vocal about not wanting kids since middle school or high school.
My loves have always been art and animals. And as long as I always have those two things, I don’t feel like I have an empty space to fill.
What sort of animals do you have?
I have 3 cats, an adopted desert tortoise, a bunch of seahorses, and 9 geckos.
What has been your experience in sharing your journey with the people who are important to you?
My friends are all very supportive, and accepting.
Early on, my parents thought I would change my mind. My dad made the case that the world needs smart and talented people to leave a lineage, and pass on what they know so the world doesn’t collapse under a giant pile of idiots.
But I think the last few years have shown that a bunch of smart people having kids is just a drop in the bucket compared to the world’s problems!
I get what he was saying, but fortunately I never felt pressured by them. They never really got hung up on it. They’re really proud of what I am doing, and my mom openly refers to the cats as her grandchildren.
Has being childfree impacted your relationship with family and friends who have kids?
It definitely meant changes in some friendships as we’ve all gotten older. Some of my close friends are great at knowing that I absolutely want to be caught up on what’s going on in their lives – but I don’t necessarily know what to do with detailed progress reports on the kids specifically.
I try to find the nuggets that they tell me that I can get excited about. Like, my friend tells me that their kid started making finger puppets, or is going out and hunting for bugs in the backyard – that’s awesome! I loved doing those things when I was a kid, and I’d love to do them now.
I also enjoy being the friend that the tired mom can be honest with. So many women feel pressure to pretend that parenthood is this nonstop magical gift that they wouldn’t trade for anything. So I am a safe space. You can tell me that you would much rather be eating tacos in a jacuzzi in Palm Springs, and I will not judge you!
How has being childfree impacted your relationship with your body?
Well, I liked it before and I like it now!
What are some of the more challenging experiences you’ve had in not having children?
Mostly, just knowing that so many people assume childfree individuals live a stress free life, which revolves entirely around themselves.
People think that without the demanding hustle of caring for children, and making meals, and doing baths and bedtimes that I must just have loads of free time. And that’s just not true.
Sometimes this is manifested in the workplace, where it’s assumed that childfree people can stay behind and finish work because “… you don’t have anything to go home to.”
It’s an unfair assumption to think that we don’t have anything we’d rather be doing. The truth is that there is no secret childfree resort full of margaritas and naps!
I manage dozens of artists every day. I’m the final stamp of approval on everything that goes into the show. And that’s a lot!
In my off time from work, I volunteer at an animal shelter. I do online rescue for cats. I do mentoring programs for young artists. At one time I was very active in the animation guild labor union, advocating for worker’s rights.
So, I’m booked up!
There are just so many things to do with your time, and energy, and money when you’re childfree that are not selfish things at all.
It would be nice if more parents understood that.
And what are some of the positive things?
Honestly, all that cool stuff i just mentioned!
I get to help storyboard artists grow and become directors. I get to help homeless cats get connected with someone who will love them the rest of their lives.
I get to focus completely on the career I’ve wanted since I was 10 years old.
And then I get to use the income I earn to reward myself in any way I choose. That’s a type of self care, which we need now more than ever.
For instance, I’m really interested in supporting independent nail polish brands. I discovered that I’m really good at raising begonias, so I’m trying to propagate them.
I happen to collect a bunch of things that tend to be very breakable, so not having kids around is ideal.
What are some of the things you’d change about the way childfree women are viewed?
This becomes a bigger conversation about gender roles.
Women don’t owe the world children. Women should be able to decide for themselves what makes them happy.
For many people that includes having children, and that’s fine! But what we need to stop doing is referring to any life that doesn’t look like that as abnormal, or immature, or cold or selfish, or salacious.
There are people who assume that there’s no way you can be happy without being a mother. As though they expect childfree [by choice] women to somehow realize that they “want to be normal.”
I think it would be great if people started raising their girls to be assertive, and to be bold, and to find real world role models. That way, more women would understand that reproduction is a choice that is theirs, and theirs alone.
There are a lot of things in the world that could be corrected if our culture raised women to stand up for themselves, in a broad sense.
I enjoy being a part of the variety of people that young girls can be exposed to that can show them what is out there – hobby wise, job wise, life style wise. But of course, that’s not to say that every childfree person is obligated to be a mentor, or deal with children at all.
I sometimes just think that if I could skip motherhood, but somehow be a Grandma one day, that would be great.
So with all of that energy going toward volunteering, and mentoring, and leading your team, what are some things that just light you up?
Honestly, watching my tank of seahorses! It’s like visual ASMR.
Memories of my grandparents light me up.
Feeding my tortoise in the backyard.
I still like getting Just Because care packages from my mom.
But mostly, I like drawing something so gross that it makes my male bosses blush.
Just as a side note – I was fascinated by the tortoise, so here’s some of the info:
He’s about the size of a dinner platter.
He’s from the California Turtle and Tortoise Club. They rescue tortoises who cannot be released into the wild, so they adopt them out to new owners. They require a fish and wildlife permit because the California Desert Tortoise is a protected species.
His previous owner had him for 30-ish years, but he was dying of cancer so they had to re-home all of his tortoises. They think the tortoise was between 30 and 40!!
CA desert tortoises live to be 80-100!! Other types can live even longer.