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Off-topic: child-free by choice

For anyone visiting Later Levels today and expecting a new post about video games, please accept my apologies. This one is off-topic and more personal than my usual ramblings. If you’d prefer to read about gaming, please come back on Monday when normal service will resume.

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An article appeared on my news feed in mid-July which stood out among all headlines declaring COVID-19 doom. Written by Emma Gannon and published on the Grazia website, I’m Child-Free By Choice – And Not Everyone Accepts That was her account of the reactions towards her decision.

The anecdotes shared in her post sounded all too familiar. In one paragraph, she wrote: “I’ve known from a young age that I don’t see myself having children, at least not as a biological mother. And yet, even in 2020, I have felt pushback from society and acquaintances about this. Comments describing child-free women as ‘selfish’; telling me I’ll ‘have regrets’ and ‘never experience true love’. I’ve even been told, ‘You’ll be miserable when you’re old and grey’.”

Similar things have come my way. Some people are unable to wrap their heads around the fact I don’t want my own children and reactions have ranged from disbelief to mild anger whenever the subject has come up in conversation. We might be told we’re free to be who we want to be and that we can live our lives however we choose, but society as a whole still seems largely unsure what to make of women who don’t feel the need or desire to be mothers.

This is something I’ve known about myself for a long time. I distinctly remember walking home from secondary school one afternoon after a discussion in a Personal & Social Education class and realising that being a mother would never be for me. That feeling has barely wavered in all the 30-plus years since and I don’t expect it to ever change. The only thing that’s different now is that I’ve got a better vocabulary to explain my reasons and a higher probability of being offended when told my choice is wrong.

Trust me, I’ve heard all the counter-arguments before and none of them come as a shock any longer. Apparently, not wanting children and depriving my partner of the joy of them is selfish; one day I’ll wake up and realise I do actually want to be a mother; the reason for me not wanting kids must be because I can’t have them. If I’m to believe what I’ve been told in the past, my life will ultimately feel unfulfilling without children in it and I’ll never know what it’s like to love a child the way a mother does.

It’s that last comment which stung the most because it related to my stepson and was said by two so-called friends who have seen how I behave towards Ethan (I rarely speak to them nowadays for obvious reasons). I’ve always refused to believe you can only develop a bond with a child if you’ve given birth to them. Science has shown that maternal instincts are caused by spikes in oxytocin and anyone – including grandparents, men and adoptive parents – can experience those feelings when they’re around children.

It still surprises me how many people think all stepmothers secretly wish they were the kid’s biological parent though. This isn’t true: I’ve never asked Ethan to call me ‘Mum’ and he has never expressed a desire to do so. I chose to take him into my life and be the best role-model I can be, to teach him all those annoying life skills like how to swim and tie shoelaces, to spend my Saturday mornings going over algebra at the dining-room table. I don’t want to be his mother and I don’t just take on those responsibilities because he popped out of my womb.

That’s not an easy concept for everyone to grasp though. Although things are slowly changing, society on the whole still casts women in the role of the family-orientated carer and many individuals believe you must want children ‘because you’re female and that’s what you do’. When you try to explain to them that you don’t feel this need, they immediately assume there must be something wrong with you either mentally or physically.

For the record: there’s nothing wrong with me (if you ignore the insane amount of ice-cream I’ve eaten during lockdown and my strange love for Eurovision). I’ve simply made the decision to not have my own children, for personal reasons I don’t require anyone else to live by but myself. The world is so overpopulated and messed up that I don’t feel it’s right for me to bring another child into it, and I don’t believe I have to be a mother in order to live my life in a way which is happy and fulfilling.

It doesn’t mean I’m incapable of caring for others. Pete and Ethan have my heart and a family isn’t formed by blood or sharing the same names – it’s a group who choose to love each other, even on the days when it’s a struggle to like each other. And just like other families, I’ve thought about the kind of legacy I’ll be leaving behind after I’m gone. It might not take the form of my own biological children but I can make a mark on the world by supporting the causes I feel passionate about.

wedding, Kim, Pete, Ethan

I’ll continue volunteering and raising awareness for SpecialEffect, showing people the positive effect of video games and helping everyone to play them regardless of their physical ability. I’ll continue encouraging everyone to talk about their mental wellbeing for Mind and take on the responsibilities of being a mental-health first-aider. I’ll continue being the best role-model I can be for my stepson and, if I manage to do all these things, I’ll know that my decision to be child-free by choice was the right one for me.

As Gannon wrote in her article: “If there’s one thing lockdown has given us, it’s the space to confirm a lot of the things we want or don’t want. No path is better or worse – it’s just ours.”

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

28 thoughts on “Off-topic: child-free by choice Leave a comment

  1. Yes!! I highly encourage everyone to write about whatever topic they want to write about. You’ll discover the true power of blogging that way 😎

    Ugh. I can very much relate to the pressure you feel about society forcing women to settle down and have kids, else they’re “wasting their lives” (society still has a bad case of White-Picket-Fence-Syndrome if you ask me). My life is mine to live and I don’t give a damn how other people think I should live it. There are 7 billion plus humans ravaging the planet’s resources right now. I’m sure nature won’t mind if a few of us don’t want to have kids. I also know people who are trapped in awful relationships because they had kids with the wrong people. Not everything is the perfect fantasy people what it to be, but I digress.

    This also reminds me of the biggest comforting messages I got out of Metal Gear Solid 2, believe it or not….

    “Life isn’t just about passing on your genes. We can leave behind much more than just DNA. Through speech, music, literature, and movies… what we’ve seen, heard, felt… anger, joy, and sorrow… these are the things I will pass on. That’s what I live for.” – Solid Snake

    Liked by 5 people

    • I guess Solarayo beat me to that MGS2 quote…📦❗️

      My opinion on blog content is pretty simple – it’s your blog and you should write what YOU want.

      I’ve lost count how many discussions/rants my wife or I have gone off on about this, I have heard plenty of this type of thing, people telling me “you’ll change your mind and want kids one day”. My experience as a male in his 30’s isn’t as riddled with constant interrogation by family members, or even complete strangers for that matter, about when we’re having kids as my wife gets on a fairly consistent basis. Because as we all know, the only way to achieve any sort of fulfillment in life is through children 🙄I had this in a little bit mind when writing my most recent post and mentioned your family doesn’t HAVE to be biological but surrounding yourself with those you care about, whether people, cats, dogs, hamsters…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Damn you lot and your Metal Gear Solid references… 😆

        I absolutely hate it when people tell me I’ll change my mind one day. It’s as if they think I don’t know myself or haven’t given the subject any thought and I find that really disrespectful. I’ve always said that I’d like to foster, because there are so many kids out there who deserve to be cared for and given the opportunity to succeed. *This* might happen one day but my own kids? Nope.

        Liked by 1 person

    • As much as I can’t say I’m now a Snake fan (ha ha), I totally feel this quote. I’ve always believed that having a child would never define me or my contribution to this world; I’m capable of more than popping out a few kids and creating the next generation in a world that’s far too populated already.

      For example, years in the future, people will look back and admire us for starting our cat island.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 2 of my sisters are child-free. One couldn’t have children and so has adopted 3. The last one has 2 of her own, so not even the 2.1 needed for “replacement.” Her 2 each have 2 so far and plan for more though.

    One of my daughters (age 19) has stated often that she’ll never have kids. She may change her mind in the future, or she may not. Who knows? All i know is that I love her for her she is and I support and respect her choices.

    Like

  3. I get the same crap. I have no husband or children. I thought they would quit being snarky after I turned 40,nope. People act shocked and constantly say aren’t you lonely? Hell no! I have peace and quiet and a passably clean house with no toilet seat left up. I can pour Jack Daniels on my oatmeal if I want!As long as I don’t need to go out that day. I can stay in my underwear all day and headbang to Judas Priest. You can’t put a price on freedom. What burns me is people trying to modify my behavior and personal habits. They make comments on how my home isn’t child friendly because they got knocked up. They insist I rearrange my life because they have kids. What is really selfish is not teaching your kids to be polite when they visit someone’s home and don’t touch breakable knick knacks and such. I have a lovely yard they can play in when the weather is nice. I liked being the fun Aunt. My Skyrim children get in enough trouble! I like my freedom and privacy. No one says boo to a man who chooses to remain a life long bachelor. Women must be old maids no one wanted. The world has always sucked in one way or another. Children are tougher than they are given credit for being. I’m content to be the eccentric mentor who undoes all the bad habits,fearful anxieties,and whining the Molly coddling has caused; so they actually have a chance to make it to adulthood ready to face the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t get me started on mollycoddling… that’s a subject I could write a whole separate post on! I totally agree that kids are more resilient than some people believe, and that they need to be given freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Wrapping them up in cotton-wool may feel safe but it’s damaging; it doesn’t teach them to be themselves, or make their own decisions, or handle the consequences of their choices.

      Like

  4. I’m a bloke, 35, and have similar issues. But I should imagine women get a more caustic response due to tediously longstanding societal norms.

    I knew by 17 I didn’t want kids. I think when that comes up in conversation, especially with people who have kids (or want them), they view it as some sort of negative reflection on their life choices. And they go into lecturing mode to try and justify their decision. Anyone with traditional/conservative values seems to particularly struggle with the very idea of a childless life.

    One of the weirdest responses I get is, “Oh, you’ll be very lonely when you’re old.” For a start, that implies you’ll somehow not be able to make friends when you’re 80+. The other implication is you have kids due to the horror of solitude, with the added expectation of making your kids (who’ll have lives to be getting on with) hang around you whilst you ramble about the weather.

    No, it isn’t for me. I just want a pet cat. Or a hamster. Excellent topic, nothing wrong with breaking from gaming chat at all. Innit.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I have every intention of still playing video games and going to expos when I’m 80 – and hopefully there’ll be some other cool pensioners t do that with too. There’s no way I’m going to be bored or lonely! 😆

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you for writing this, Kim. I relate in every way, and it gives me a headache how much society enforces that the only “correct” path for anyone is to become a mother/father (and more specifically, a bio-mother/father). It is 2020, and yet so many people still hold these views.

    In my experience, I’ve seen several women who don’t really seem enthusiastic to become a mum, or even outright say they aren’t interested, become one due to pressure from their family and friends, or believing it’s “just what you do” as if there isn’t a choice.

    It makes me really pleased to see more people voicing their opinions on this. 🙂

    Like

    • I was a bit worried about publishing this post at first, but now I’m glad I did: I’m genuinely surprised at how many people have come forward and said they feel a similar way. I’m sure being a mother or father is rewarding but it’s not necessarily for everyone, and we can make a positive impact on the world in other ways!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for the non-gaming post. Made a nice change. And yeah, your choices are yours to make.

    It must be worse for you but I have just one kid and my wife and I even get loads of stick about not having a second one! “You’ll change your mind”, “you’ll regret it”, “you’re selfish” etc etc.

    Looking at the comments you clearly have a lot of support here, so that’s good!

    Like

    • I’m honestly surprised at the number of men I’ve spoken to since this post, who have said they receive similar comments about having children or having more children. I’m glad I wrote it now because it’s opened my eyes to the fact that it isn’t only women who feel that pressure. I think it’s like Solarayo posted above: society still has a case of White-Picket-Fence-Syndrome, and it’s believed that you need two kids and a dog to be truly fulfilled. But that’s simply not the case!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for the non-gaming post. Made a nice change, I should probably start expanding past the gaming posts and into more IRL stuff. I’m a man and I’m 25 years old and I just happen to be single but I’m already getting questions about girlfriends and settling down and I just don’t know if that’s what I truly want. I’m happy being single. I’m happy being child-free, I look at young parents with their children and I just somewhat cringe. Just the other day, I went to eat at a restaurant and there was a baby crying and the parents had to walk out before the meal was even served. I look at that and I just say, “Ehhh. Do I really want that? Looks like a mess.”

    Like

    • It goes to show that you don’t necessarily need a partner or children to be happy. Happiness comes in all different forms and it’s up to each person to figure out which one is right for them – and for some of us, that doesn’t involve kids!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nothing but facts! I think the notion of “finding someone, the one.” is kind of old-fashioned and old 20th century ideals. You don’t need to settle down or need to find someone who is a 1:1 representation of yourself. I kind of gave up on all that in this past year and I couldn’t be happier!

        Like

        • The ‘one’ may exist for some people and for others it could be the ‘several’ or the ‘none’. I think attitudes on this have changed a lot in recent years, even if the more conservative areas of society still see partner-and-two-kids as the ultimate goal. As long as you’re happy in what you do, then that’s what is important. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I honestly baffles me how offended people get when you say you don’t want children, especially the older generation. I mean I understand the psychology behind it. It’s what was expected of them, and they’re also the ones most likely to touch a pregnant belly without permission/ But if you think about it for just a second, why would you want to foist parenthood on someone who didn’t want it? Why would you want them to bring a being into the world they’re wholly responsible for that when the very idea isn’t something they even desire? It would be such a better world if ever child were a wanted child.

    Like

    • ☝️ This.

      I’ve always said that if I did have children, I’d adopt or foster rather than have my own. There are so many kids already in the world who just need to be given the opportunity to succeed and if I’m able to give that to them, then I’d like to step up and do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have two, but I have always felt if someone does not want to have children that is great because there is enough unwanted children in this world.

    Like

    • No child deserves to feel unwanted. I might not feel the desire to be a parent myself, but there are certainly things I can do to make sure I’m putting a bit of good into the world.

      Liked by 1 person

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