At a distance, I’ve always been fascinated by motherhood.
On the one hand, it’s our most natural, biological function as women. It’s what our bodies are built for.
On the other, after spending the past 20 years watching and witnessing dozens of my friends get pregnant, give birth and raise children, I feel all the more sure I made the right decision in my 20s that motherhood wasn’t for me.
It’s true, I didn’t grow up dreaming of marriage or babies. For me, I’d always envisioned my life as more unconventional than that — travel, writing, great love affairs and grand adventures.
Throughout my 20s and 30s, whenever friends or family members would ask about my desire to have children, I’d jokingly reply, “I’m missing the Mom Gene.”
“But you have the perfect birthing hips,” my mother would frequently argue, never realizing that her benign comment about my pear shaped body actually contributed to my own body image struggles — one of the earliest reasons I never wanted to have children.
The fear of what having my own baby would do to my body was among my top reasons not to have kids.
No kids means more choices
Over the years, my reasons multiplied. As a freelance writer, I’d long ago discovered that personal freedom and financial independence were core values intrinsically linked to my happiness and fulfillment.
Maybe, in my estimation it was simple: being child-free afforded me choices. Choosing to have children limited those choices.
Case in point: At the age of 33, I made the bold decision to leave my corporate job, the only steady, stable paycheck I’d ever had.
After five years working for someone else, I simply wanted to explore new and exciting adventures beyond the confines of a cubicle.
On my last day of work, I watched with fascination as a parade of married-with-children co-workers stopped by my cube, a look of envy in their eyes. “You’re so lucky you get to do this,” they whispered.
And I was lucky. I didn’t have another gig lined up. But with my single-gal salary, I’d managed to sock away plenty of savings so that I could walk away without a plan.
Having no dependents to depend on me — and no spouse to get permission from — afforded me the luxury of leaving that steady job to explore the great unknown.
A freelance writing career and published books followed. So did those great love affairs and globetrotting adventures I imagined in my youth. And as my 30s progressed, I became all the more committed to my choice to remain child-free.
There are lots of us out there
I’m not alone. Plenty of women have come before me and traveled this same path. And plenty more are following.
Perhaps Stevie Nicks best summed up my point of view in an interview with InStyle Magazine in 2002: “Do you want to be an artist and a writer, or a wife and a lover? With kids, your focus changes. I don’t want to go to PTA meetings.”
Or more recently, Mindy Kaling leads the charge, telling Us Magazine, “I don’t need marriage. I don’t need anyone to take care of all my needs and desires. I can take care of them myself now.”
These famous women illustrate a growing trend among women nationwide. According to the most recent U.S. Census, 1 in 5 women between the ages of 40 and 45 don’t have children. In 1970, that number was 1 in 10.
According to an article published on dinklife.com, a 2011 study by the Center for Work-Life Policy finds that 43 percent of Gen-X women and 32 percent of Gen-X men do not have kids. And they’re not the only ones.
“No babies,” I heard myself say over margaritas and Mexican food on my second date with my now-husband. “I just don’t know any couples who have kids and are still happy.”
In my experience in the world of relationships — both as someone who stumbled and bumbled through them as well as someone who wrote about them online and in books — it had become clear to me that the biggest issues couples with kids fought about were child-rearing, money, household chores, a lack of sex, and lack of free time.
“By not having kids, we keep our money, hire a cleaning lady, have plenty of sex, and tons of free time.”
Oh, baby, the changes!
This was and still is my “Child-Free By Choice” life motto. So the irony isn’t lost on me that life intervened three years ago with a hysterical phone call from my mother-in-law to my husband: “Your sister’s been arrested. The baby’s in foster care.”