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One of the first things I had to consider when I was changing my mind about having kids is why I was childfree in the first place. It took a lot of soul searching and introspection, but I think I know at least part of the answer.
I grew up in a lower middle-class household. I had a decent childhood. However, one thing that I will never forget is my father drilling into me (and my siblings!) the idea that having kids would ruin our lives. He had his first kid, my sister, when he was a teenager and had two more kids before he turned thirty. Having us at such a young age did limit him. He wanted to move to California and pursue acting. But he couldn’t do that because he had kids. He wanted to take time from work to write a book. Yet another thing he couldn’t focus on because he had kids.
I know my dad doesn’t regret us. I know he loves us, and didn’t want us to make the same mistakes he did. He wanted better for us. Our dad wanted us to go to college, pursue careers, and enjoy our lives before settling down. He never meant for my sister and I to internalize the idea that having children is the most terrible thing we could ever do. What he actually meant was that having children at a young age could ruin our lives. Unfortunately, that message wasn’t entirely clear, as we both are well into our thirties and terrified that having kids will ruin our lives.
Other Family and Friends
It wasn’t just my parents who had their lives disrupted by having children. Some of my family members and high school friends had kids at fairly young ages as well. It seemed as though everyone who had kids struggled, while everyone who did not have kids did pretty well for themselves. Even as I grew older this seemed to be the case.
I look at my brother as the best example. We are about the same age, we are both pretty intelligent, both college educated. But he had kids immediately upon graduating college and I did not. He continues to struggle, and I do not. I know that he loves his children dearly, and wouldn’t trade them for anything, but is it really worth the struggle?
He’s definitely not the only one! I’ve seen other high school friends and family members struggle through life after having kids. To a younger me, it seemed as though my dad was right. Having kids would ruin my life.
The weird thing here is that I also have family and friends who have kids and are doing perfectly fine. They don’t seem to be struggling and they are super happy with their lives and their families. I guess I was always looking for the negative due to my father’s message.
Things I want to do
Outside of the internalized message I heard growing up, I had my own reasons for being childfree. There are so many things that I want to do with my life, so many personal goals that I have, and I think having children could really hinder that. I want to travel, I want to do some crazy adventurous stuff, and I want to live my life to the fullest. Hell, that’s why I’ve been pursuing Financial Independence! There’s so much that I want to do, and I know having children will prevent me from accomplishing all of it. But I’m not going to go into that right now, as my next post will be dedicated to how having children will change my FIRE goals. I will say that having kids may prevent me from doing some of those things, but they also may provide me with experiences that I never even considered.
The Physical Toll
I know many women have many kids and they are incredibly happy with that choice. However, it’s impossible to ignore the effects that childbirth and childrearing can have on the female body. Some women have easy pregnancies and love being pregnant, while others are miserable for nine months. And then there are the things they don’t really tell you – like you will have to pump afterward to prevent your breasts from being swollen and painful – how do you even decide on a breast pump? And then there’s the sleepless nights, the early mornings, the constant worrying, and probably more that I’m not even aware of.
For many women, even those with miserable pregnancies, the physical toll is worth it. But for a fence sitter like myself, it’s a huge check mark in the “No” column.
On Disliking Children
My final reason for being childfree is something that I really had to give a lot of thought too. I really didn’t like most kids. But as I thought about the reasons why, it turns out that it’s not the children I don’t like, it’s the parents. I’ve seen too many examples of parents letting their kids do whatever they want. I see kids running around tables knocking things over at restaurants and being little jerks to whomever they please. My siblings and I would have never gotten away with acting like that when we were a kids!
I think some parents view their kids as a friend or an accessory; and therefore, they refuse to discipline or actually parent their child. I’ve seen other parents that are just so worn out from all the struggling that they’ve just given up. Those are usually the parents that had a bunch of kids at a young age. But the more I thought of it, the more I realized that it really is the parents (or parenting style) that I don’t like. In fact, one of my best friends has two young kids, and they are incredibly respectful and well behaved. I like those kinds of kids, and I hope that if I have kids, that’s how I will raise them.
Understanding my Childfree stance
Being introspective really helped me understand where my hesitation to have kids came from. Now I know that I internalized the message that having kids would ruin my life, even though that wasn’t really what my dad was trying to say. I looked for examples that supported my cause rather than looking at the entire picture. I realize that now, and I realize that having kids when you are ready, both financially and emotionally, can make a positive impact on your life.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.