Guest Writer Wednesday: Tara chooses to live her life without children
Today’s guest writer is near and dear to my heart! Tara has been my younger sister Karli’s best friend since kindergarten. She has been the bread to Karli’s butter for 24 years, and I’m grateful to know her! Today, Tara shares her story about choosing to lead a childfree life in a society that constantly pressures her to reconsider. She is articulate, honest, insightful, and hilarious. Please welcome Tara to the Unicorn Mission!
“So, when are you going to have kids?” said the person I just met…
When I was younger, having kids of my own someday seemed like a given. I grew up in a wonderful (and privileged) family. My life was soccer and Girl Scouts and piano lessons and my parents were always there, cheering me on. So of course, I was going to have my own kids and do the same for them.
As I got older, that “given” began to slip away and a different life began to take shape in my mind. It’s funny and heartbreaking and amazing how that happens as you age. The ideas you have of your future self when you are young feel so solid and then suddenly, it’s like you’re trying to recall a dream after waking up. I started to realize I was no longer seeing children in my future around the same time I was realizing that the way I dressed and presented myself to world through high school and college was very often not for me, it was for everyone else. It was to please a guy or not be judged by other women. I still struggle with quieting the voice that tells me to care what others think of me – the one that says that maybe I should cover my cellulite, or have my career path figured out, or keep my thoughts to myself, or dye my emerging gray hairs, etc., but she is getting easier to ignore.
So then it became easier to ask if I really saw myself with children or if that was just something expected of me. When my answer came back maybe I don’t see myself with kids, it was a bit unsettling. Women are often made to feel that if they don’t want to have children they are selfish, cold, and ungracious. Your mother gave birth to you and put her whole life into raising you and you think it’s too much of a burden to do yourself? What kind of woman are you? What kind of woman doesn’t love children? What kind of woman doesn’t want to nurture? What kind of woman doesn’t want to embrace her full womanly potential and bear a child? To be a woman is to be constantly held up to some Madonna like figure; an infant on her breast, serenity and calm abounding, all because of the beautiful child that gives her purpose. This unreasonable image impacts all women whether they have or want to have children, or not.
I recently got married and find that even complete strangers feel comfortable asking the entirely personal and intrusive “conversation starter” So, when are you going to have kids?
Can we just take a minute on this question?
The “when” always gets to me, like no other option exists. Or even if I get a “do you want to have kids” the inquirer still seems to expect a certain answer. I’ve frequently felt shame when trying to respond and instead of saying “probably not/never” I say “I don’t know, not until I/we ____” (insert: finish my degree, buy a house, make more money, etc.). With this slightly hesitant and non-committal reply, I am immediately bombarded with all the reasons I should definitely bring a child into this world.
You’d have beautiful babies!
You’ll regret not having them when you’re older.
You never really know what love is until you love your own children.
Who’s going to look after you when you’re old?
Now, I have considered all of these reasons, and more. I do have moments where I wonder what my and my husband’s children would be like and what kind of parents we’d truly be. And still, I know there is a low chance I will decide to have a child and it can be hard to explain why. Not because I don’t have the answer but because it’s a difficult thing to express, especially when I am so frequently told I need to change my mind. A challenging thing about discussing my plan to maintain a childfree life with someone and them trying to convert my view is that I cannot imagine ever telling a future parent that they should change their mind to match my opinion and not have a baby. These decisions are completely personal and someone else’s views (unless maybe they are a doctor…) should not matter.
For the most part, I grin and bear the questions and unsolicited advice when it comes from more distant relationships or strangers, but the hardest conversations come from close family that feel they have a stake in my potential motherhood. I know I have parents and in-laws that hope, if not yearn, to be grandparents and me not having children means I am depriving them of that experience, of that identity. That kind of pressure is intense. I have no viable alternative to the identity of grandma or grandpa to provide if I don’t have children. But having children just because it’s expected of you is, of course, no reason to bring a life into this world.
We humans are pretty much in agreement that taking life is bad and that we don’t (unless under extreme circumstances) have the right to take the life of another. But creating a life? Any contemplation on the magnitude of that decision is almost seen as odd. Aren’t we all grateful for the lives we’ve been given? I am grateful but I can’t say in confidence that is true for everyone. No one can be asked if they want to be born. I can’t have some sort of cross dimensional conversation with my potential spawn’s life force floating out there in the ether to chat about the emotional, physical, philosophical (and so on) repercussions of living a human life on earth before I give them a physical form. I also can’t peer into the future and see if I adequately prepare and support a child for all that comes with life; or which flaws of mine might negatively impact them; or what having children would do to my marriage or my career or my mental health; or what the world may provide for future generations. In this point in my life and for the foreseeable future, I know I am not in the right space to take that on, and I also don’t have the desire to. And that should be ok. I shouldn’t be immediately told that I’ll change my mind someday. I want to be able to easily share “I don’t want kids” and have the response be, “that’s great you know what you want.”
“I am in awe and adore many an amazing parent out there, I just don’t see myself as one,
just as I don’t see myself being a high powered CEO, or a body builder, or a famous artist. Hey, it could happen. I could wake up tomorrow and think I want a baby and I also want to be a totally shredded boss lady babe who paints.”
I feel that I must make clear that my thoughts and feelings should take nothing away from those that decide to have or adopt children. These thoughts and feelings are my own and I use them to make my own decisions in life. They should never make other parents out there feel that those who decide not to have children judge those who do. I am in awe and adore many an amazing parent out there, I just don’t see myself as one, just as I don’t see myself being a high powered CEO, or a body builder, or a famous artist. Hey, it could happen. I could wake up tomorrow and think I want a baby and I also want to be a totally shredded boss lady babe who paints. Who knows. But for now, I feel what I feel and I am entitled to these feelings and they do not define my womanhood. I am proud of the woman I am, but like many aspects in my life, I must work on releasing myself from the expectations of others. I’m still a kick ass, caring lady. I just may talk to your kids like they’re doggos, or adults. Sorry about that. I never really learned how to converse with the tiny humans.
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Bio: Tara lives near Denver, CO with her husband, dog and cat (Armin, Mika, and Lyla, respectively). She used to have many crafting hobbies until she decided to go to grad school. Now her free time mostly involves being a sloth in her pajamas. If you ever join the Korsts for dinner, be ready for a night of beer and board games. Also, don’t admit that you don’t like Harry Potter in front of her. It’s alarming and she’ll ask far too many questions to get to the bottom of such a bewildering opinion. One last important thing: the longest relationship of her life has been with Karli, sister to Kristen. 24 years of friendship. Silver anniversary is right around the corner (too bad Karli is allergic).