Tina reached out to us wanting to share her story. After a few emails back and forth, Tina decided to write up her story was the best way for her, and we are so thankful she did.
Tina shares how hard it was to make the design to not have children, and notes about societal pressure and putting of making the decision.
Thank you for sharing your story Tina.
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?
I once felt like I was alone in not wanting kids, so I hope that sharing my story can help another woman feel less alone and aid in their journey towards deciding whether they want kids. I know many out there may still be on the fence or struggling with the decision, and that was the hardest part of the journey for me. Communities like this one helped validate my decision and make me feel heard, and it will bring me so much joy to know that I can do that in even a small way for someone else.
Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you realised you would not be having children?
My journey towards deciding I didn’t want kids was a slow evolution that started around 2015 and culminated with my public announcement that my husband I would not be having kids sometime in 2018, so I can’t pinpoint the exact time when I became 100% certain. In fact, growing up, I wanted kids SO badly. I am very good with kids, and was always a go-to for babysitting in my family and neighborhood. I was always told I would make a good mother, and seeing my cousins, aunts/uncles, and neighbors having kids made me feel that there was no other option out there. Even now, thinking about my friends and those I grew up around, the only people in my life who didn’t have kids within a few years of getting married did so because of medical issues, so it was not seen as much of a choice as it was something that was decided for them.
On the day my husband and I got married in 2012, I was so sure that we would have kids together someday. He wasn’t over the moon about kids, but said he would have them if I wanted to. We were both in the military, so initially, whenever we were asked the question about kids, we both said that it wasn’t good timing because we both worked long hours, one of us was always gone at a training, we were either preparing for or coming back from our deployment in 2013, and we just didn’t feel like our life was “stable” enough to have a child. Then, I unfortunately experienced a back injury that would become an extremely defining journey for me. I ruptured a disc in my back, and after a few years of trying to push through the pain and seeing doctors for various attempts at pain management, I decided that I needed to prioritize my physical health so my husband and I transitioned out of the military in 2015. We decided to make the most of our new found freedom, and went back to school for masters degrees. With a back injury, and both of us in full-time school (with only part time jobs), it was easy to explain that it just wasn’t the right time for us – we needed to prioritize school work, wait until we had a steady income, and allow me to further take care of my back. It was during grad school that we started to get a glimpse into what it was really like to have kids. Some of our friends started having kids, and we saw how much of a commitment it was physically, emotionally, and financially, and how difficult it became to keep in touch. We also had a friend who had a toddler at the time tell us that 95% of the time, they hated being a parent, but the other 5% made up for it. That was a very scary realization for us – my husband in particular, especially because he already had a lack of experience with kids. I grew up seeing and taking care of kids in short spurts, but didn’t really know what it was like to be around kids 24/7 and be fully responsible for everything (rather than just as a short term babysitter).
Throughout our time in grad school, my husband and I talked often about whether we wanted kids, and the pros and cons based on what we were seeing from friends and family. We truly were on the fence at this point, but there was still an overwhelming sense of pressure I felt to have kids, because I still did not know anyone without kids who had publicly shared that they were not going to be having any. I felt as though if I decided not to have kids, I would be judged, details would be speculated about, and the decision would be questioned (especially because of how open and enthusiastic I was about wanting kids growing up and even into my marriage).
In 2017, I had back surgery, which again gave us an “excuse” to put off making the decision definitively because it was easy enough to tell everyone I needed at least a year to fully recover. Later in 2017, we moved from Illinois to New Mexico, and both started new jobs. Yet again, the excuse we made to friends and family was that we wanted time to get settled in our new home and establish ourselves in our new roles. What they didn’t know, was that over time, we had become more and more certain that having kids was something we no longer wanted to do. We were enjoying our life the way it was, with our three dogs, and truly felt that having kids would take away rather than add to the life we built. (That is the most controversial part of our whole decision, because everyone we know with kids talks about how fulfilling having kids is, and how you don’t know true love until you have a child. I can absolutely see how people who have kids cannot imagine their life without them, which makes it tough for some to imagine us being content with never having that experience. And to loosely quote an article I once read, I would rather disappoint someone by not having kids than have a kid to please someone else.)
What has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you?
The reactions to sharing our definitive decision were luke warm at first. Some friends who had kids were completely understanding, knowing how difficult it is to raise children and agreeing that if it’s not something we want to do, we shouldn’t. Others were concerned that we would regret the decision someday, which may still be the case, but that will have to be something we work through if that time comes. Most notably, I think the biggest reaction was based on my strong desire to have kids growing up and well into my 20s. Some wondered if my husband was pressuring me into this decision, or asked if we had been told by a doctor that it wasn’t going to be possible for us. Some people tried to pressure us, but most were understanding and supportive and have only gotten more supportive as the years have progressed.
I wonder has it impacted relationships with those around you, in the past and to this present day?
I’m very fortunate that over time, my friends and family have fully supported our decision, even if they were skeptical at first. If they aren’t supportive or have concerns, they choose to keep that to themselves for which I am very grateful J
Do you feel not having children has impacted the way you view your body?
I think that the body’s ability to grow and create life is absolutely spectacular. And though I don’t want kids of my own, I have always considered acting as a surrogate some day to be able to experience pregnancy and childbirth because of how amazing of an ability it is. I think there is an intrinsic feeling of guilt that I’m “wasting a perfectly good uterus”, but I have to remind myself that my worth is based on so much more than whether or not I use my uterus. I know that my body can and has done amazing things, even if one of them has not been carrying a child. My body is strong, it has allowed me to be an athlete, join the military and complete difficult physical challenges, go through and recover from a very painful back surgery, train for and complete a 50-mile bike race, go on long, hard hikes all over the country, and so many more things that make me so proud of what my body can and has done, even if one of those thing has not been having a child.
What has been the most challenging part of your experience of not having children?
The most challenging part of this experience was the time when we were on the fence, going back and forth, and being asked CONSTANTLY by friends and family when we were going to have kids. As a woman with a uterus, I felt an unbelievable amount of societal pressure to have kids and the fear of “coming out” with the decision and potential backlash or judgment was incredibly difficult. I went through a period where I became extremely defensive, felt the need to launch into an in-depth explanation (rather than just saying “no” to the question of “are you and Jesse going to have kids?” and leaving it at that), and even becoming emotional at times because I was so anxious and self-conscious about what others would think of me.
As well as the challenges you have experienced, I wonder can you share any positive aspects?
Some may call it selfish, and I know there are parents out there who would refute some of this, but we enjoy our freedom. We enjoy being able to sleep in on weekends, participate in hobbies without one of us having to feel as though they needed to give up time to take care of kids, taking trips without having to worry about finding “kid-friendly” activities, go on spur of the moment dinners, date nights, trips to the movies, and outings with friends, and having disposable income. We have both been able to pursue more education, volunteer, and simply have free time to relax and recharge. The older I get, the more and more I learn about myself, and I know that I have anxiety, can be very particular about details and timelines, and become more and more introverted every year which means I value and need down time in order to avoid burnout. I think about the things I enjoy and the life that my husband and I have created with our dogs, and I can honestly say that I would not change a thing. It may have taken me many years to get to that point, but all the time spent pining over the decision in order to be 100% confident was worth it to feel the contentment we feel with where we are in life.
If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed, what would you wish to change?
The first thing that comes to mind is the overarching societal pressure we put on women to have kids, and that a woman who doesn’t want kids is less than, wrong, or broken in some way. From a young age, girls are taught to play with and pretend to take care of baby dolls. In the media, it’s rare to see a woman portrayed without kids of some sort whether they are married, divorced and co-parenting, single parent, step-parent, etc. And even when they do have a woman that is portrayed as not wanting kids, they are usually a party animal or something out of the ordinary that perpetuates the misconception that the venn diagram of “normal” woman and a woman who doesn’t want kids cannot overlap. I think there is an odd obsession society has with whether or not a woman is going to use her uterus and too often it is tied into a woman’s sense of self-worth. I wish women could be worthy based on the amazing things they do for themselves and others, even if one of those things is not having children. I once upon a time included this in a Facebook post and I think it summarizes mythoughts pretty well! “In a society where as a woman with a uterus, I feel like I’m defined by whether or not I’mgoing to use it rather than how I treat others, what I contribute to society, or any of my other traits oraccomplishments.”
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?
The first thing I did to help me along the journey, was seek out support groups on Facebook. I was desperately craving a community of other people who were in the same boat as me to normalize what I was going through. At that time, I didn’t have anyone in my life that I felt I could talk about this with, because as far as I knew, everyone in my life either had kids or wanted kids some day. I found a variety of groups, and they really turned me off to the childfree community. They were groups of people who truly hated kids, called parents “breeders” and referred to kids as “evil spawns”, among other things. I was frustrated, because my decision has nothing to do with how I feel about kids or those who choose to have kids, and I didn’t want to commiserate with people who spoke or thought that way. I then stumbled upon a group called “Respectfully Childfree”, and it was one of the things that helped me the most. I was finally seeing posts from people who made the decision for them, and didn’t take the opportunity to bash or put anyone down. Even better, I met some people on there and we started following each other on Instagram, and have become e-friends! Being in that group made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and I slowly began to develop more confidence knowing there were other people out there who felt the same way I did. In 2018, I finally bit the bullet and made a post on Facebook explaining once and for all that my husband and I would not be having kids. I was shocked at the amount of support I got, and even found out that a few of my friends and family members were in the same boat! It was completely exhilarating to feel like I could finally be open and honest instead of continuing to make “excuses” and putting off the inevitable.
Are there any podcast/ books that you have found have helped you on your journey?
There are a few that I have listened to here and there over the years: Kidless, Is Child-Free for Me?, and Not the Mama. I find most of my inspiration from those I have been able to connect with who have also chosen to be childfree – whether friends/family or those I have met via FB/Instagram. My husband and I also discovered minimalism in 2017, and I have found some awesome overlaps between the childfree and minimalist communities further expanding my childfree network, which has been amazing!
Note: Throughout these answers I frequently use the word “woman”, however I recognize that not all women have uteruses, and not all people with uteruses identify as a woman, so I just want to ensure that I include that caveat to be inclusive to anyone who may be reading this J