Nancy got in touch wanting to share her story with Anotherhood and we are delighted that Nancy took the time to share her thoughts on deciding not to have children.
Nancy shares her feelings and thoughts around how choosing not to have children can still be viewed as taboo subject, speaking to the reasons why her husband and her decided not to have children, covering subjects including the climate change and debunking the notion that all women will feel broody and want to have children.
We hope you enjoy this read as much as we have.
Anotherhood is about turning up the volume of the voices of women who do not have children, can you tell us why you wish to share your story with Anotherhood?
Normalize childfree and childless women! There are so many women who cannot or simply do not want to be mothers for a multitude of reasons but it continues to be questioned and viewed as unusual. I personally identify as childfree, as it was a decision I have chosen to make and wholeheartedly celebrate. I wanted to share my story because there aren’t enough spaces for childfree by choice women to openly and freely discuss our choices and experiences. I think it is especially important for me to share this as a Latina woman, as our narratives often lack representation to begin with.
I hope that our stories not only lead to normalizing our existence as women without children, but also spark the realization that motherhood is a CHOICE and that we are capable of resisting these societal and often, patriarchal expectations if we feel like it’s the right thing for us. It’s crucial that society recognize that women without children are just as worthy of respect, and are capable of contributing in meaningful ways that do not revolve around being a mom.
Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you realised you would not be having children?
I don’t think there was any particular thing going on at the moment in which my husband and I decided we weren’t going to have children, the realization that we did not really want to be parents just happened over time. Like a lot of other women, I grew up with the presumption that I would someday become a mother and never really questioned it. I come from a decent sized Mexican family and many of my cousins had children pretty young so I feel like I was always surrounded by little ones and the idea of motherhood being the norm for women in our culture.
I think there’s a common misconception that when women reach their 20s and 30s, we develop an emotional desire for a child, or baby fever. Well, I’ll definitely say that’s not true and I think it was more of the opposite for me once I started to realize the physical and emotional challenges that come with having a baby. The first couple of years my husband and I were together we talked about having children, but I don’t think either one of us was seriously considering whether or not this was something we truly wanted, it was just the thing that was supposed to happen after getting married. My husband and I began having more intentional conversations about it and really just came up with SO many reasons why we both did not want or need to be parents. When it comes down to it though, our biggest reason for making this choice and what would likely stop us from ever changing our mind is climate change and the uncertainty of the future on this planet. We see climate change as a pretty serious threat and the impacts we are already experiencing are sad and terrifying, not knowing how bad things could be in just a few years is even scarier. Furthermore, I think that living under a fascist and racist government in the U.S. the past four years and more recently the pandemic, has actually helped to affirm we are making the right choice. So while we respect other people’s choice to have children, personally we just wouldn’t be comfortable and don’t see it as an ideal time to bring a child into this world.
What has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you?
Most of my friends and family who I have shared this with have been supportive. I was a bit nervous to tell my mom, especially because this type of decision is pretty unheard of in our Latinx family, but she was very accepting and encourages me to do what I feel is best . I do often get the “but who will take care of you when you are old?” and “won’t you two get bored with each other ?” reactions from friends, but these types of responses are so ingrained in our culture that it is to be expected. My friends generally respect the decision and it really doesn’t become a big deal for the most part. I’ve also had people reach out on social media that have been really helpful, including parents who admit their struggles and aren’t afraid to suggest I’m making a smart choice. However, there are still others, both people I know and complete strangers, who have made me feel uncomfortable to discuss my decision to be childfree, but I think a lot of that has to just do with doubts and their own insecurities as parents so i don’t let it bother me too much!
I wonder has it impacted relationships with those around you, in the past and to this present day?
I think we’ve stopped relating to some people with children and it’s assumed we don’t understand a lot of what they are dealing with anyway. However, this isn’t always the case as we have become closer to my sister and her partner since they had their first child a couple of years ago.
Do you feel not having children has impacted the way you view your body?
Like many women, I’ve always struggled with my weight and body image, although understanding diet culture has been really helpful in learning to love and accept it. But, I do feel that the physical and mental changes along with the ridiculous pressure to “bounce back” after having a baby would be detrimental to my mental health and self esteem. So, I choose to continue my progress towards body acceptance and healing uninterrupted. It brings me so much relief to know I won’t have to go through that experience
I also think that not having a child has enabled me to think more critically about the way in which society attributes strength and femininity to the child bearing experience. Women are powerful, worthy, and amazing beings regardless of whether or not they give birth to a child and/or experience motherhood.
What has been the most challenging part of your experience of not having children?
The only challenges I would say have to do with outside perceptions and how folks react to childfree people, especially childfree women in general. The way people inaccurately judge childfree women as being selfish or immature, when in reality we have given more thought to the decision of not having children than lets say 95% of people have given to actually becoming parents. Making this decision can be very layered and complex and it’s interesting how people think they know you better than you know yourself by suggesting you’ll change your mind and regret it someday.
It’s also definitely hard to discuss climate change and the current state of the world as a big factor in our decision. I would assume that if you have a child you have given some real thought to this and are comfortable enough with your choice that you wouldn’t take offense to mine. I do hear many parents constantly express fear and anxiety over what the world will be like for their children one day, so I’m hoping that more people will be able to at least respect and accept this as a valid reason for opting out of parenthood soon. My hope is that if we start having conversations about this, more people will be inclined to organize and advocate for better climate policies.
As well as the challenges you have experienced, I wonder can you share any positive aspects?
I can honestly say that everyday I am thankful to have made this choice. I really enjoy the freedoms that come with being child free, from easily keeping a clean and quiet home to focusing on my relationship with my husband. A lot of people suggest that children bring more happiness into a couple’s lives, but I think we live our happiest and best lives being able to fully enjoy each other’s company and skipping any added pressures or stressors. We have three dogs that we adore and are able to give our full attention. I also enjoy having the availability to advocate for social justice issues, and donate my time and energy as much as possible. Most importantly, I think that being childfree allows us to better support the people around us who do have children. We have so much love for our 2 year old niece/goddaughter and as she grows older we have hope that she will really see us as a second set of parents. We feel so much joy and fulfillment in our roles as her ninos (godparents) and will always be there for her as much as we can. We also have a couple of close friends who are expecting or are currently planning to grow their families and we are so excited to see that happen and maybe be allowed babysit someday!
If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed, what would you wish to change?
I really wish people would stop taking it personally and finding offense to our joy as childfree people. If folks are able to freely celebrate having kids, we should also be able to celebrate not having them.
Anotherhood is about connecting women with shared experiences, I wonder can you share anything that you have found that has helped you to embrace your life without children?
I think finding childfree communities through social media has been so helpful to me, and further helped to affirm my decision to be a childfree woman. One of the most helpful has been the account, Rich Auntie Supreme curated by Black educator and writer, Rachel Cargle. Rich Auntie Supreme encourages women to really own and celebrate the childfree lifestyle while recognizing the ways in which we give to our families/communities. I love this because It also acknowledges and honors the different kinds of care work a lot of childfree women are doing, like taking care of an elder or supporting the growth and development of children as their teachers. Rachel also really highlights and uplifts the role of the auntie, which is so underrated in our society!
Are there any podcast/ books that you have found have helped you on your journey?
Not at the moment, but I am interested and look forward to reading Dr. Amy Blackstone’s Childfree by Choice as well as an anthology called The Truth about Motherhood.