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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Greenberg

Childfree by Choice

Two years ago, my husband and I made the commitment to remain childfree and went through with a vasectomy. Reactions to our decision varied within our community and families, but the general vibe was disappointment. People came out of the woodwork to proclaim how sad they were to be deprived of seeing us as parents. We were told over and over that we would regret it, we were asked who would care for us as we age, and I was told that I was missing out; I would never know how much I could truly love someone as a mother.

It was as if people assumed we hadn’t considered any of these things, like we didn’t take time to intentionally discuss what we wanted our future to look like. However, there are many carefully considered reasons we chose this lifestyle. One of my clients recommended I share my experience because it could be helpful for others making difficult decisions about family planning. So, here we go.

I didn’t realize it until recently, but I have never really imagined myself older. When I was in the thick of my eating disorder, the only thing I could focus on was myself and my weight. I struggled with feeling a lack of control around my body, so the possibility of losing further control through an accidental pregnancy terrified me. Not to mention the drastic physical changes that come along with pregnancy; I didn’t want to have to come to terms with a new body. I also knew I was pretty mentally ill by my early twenties, and I knew I would likely be on medication for the rest of my life- not ideal for pregnancy.

Though I am older now, I have personally never experienced a deep pull to become a mother, and I don’t really like being around kids much anyway. Once the babies in our lives became kids, my husband and I began to understand the reality of what being a parent really meant. Activities and germs, centering your schedule around your child’s, being needed constantly, losing parts of yourself and your relationship. It was, and is still, not enticing to us. Plus, as a therapist, after many years of working with adults in therapy, I’ve seen firsthand how parents (even the well-intentioned ones) can really screw up their kids. I’ve realized that I would rather regret not having kids than resent them, because I know what the other side of resentment looks like.

It may sound selfish, but at this point in our lives, we just want to enjoy the things we’ve worked so hard to achieve. We both spent more than half of our lives working multiple jobs. My entire twenties were dominated by school, not knowing who I wanted to be, more school, Covid, lack of finances, mental illness. When family started asking about kids, we had only traveled in the states and usually for something other than an actual vacation. We couldn’t afford a house and were living with my parents. And yet everyone was asking when we were going to have kids, the most expensive thing you can do. “You find a way to make it work,” we were told, but we just don’t want to. I want to be able to stay up late, sleep in, decide when I want to go to the gym, or choose to do nothing with my day.

I enjoy being the aunt, the other safe adult they can come to when they need. I want to be clear that I believe parents, and in particular mothers, are the strongest people to exist. Mothers have described the love they have for their children as if their hearts are living independently of their bodies, walking around and being exposed to humanity. I don’t know if I could handle that in our current world; a world that terrifies me. Mass shootings, bigotry, racism, bullying, the further stripping of human rights, and the climate crisis looming over our planet were all considerations for me. The lack of maternal care and the rise of capitalism and greed, forcing women to make difficult decisions about their care of their children and themselves. The uncertainty around abortion rights, the fact that a literal rapist and criminal is viewed as a savior of the nation by half of its people. I could go on. It is all too overwhelming.

And then there’s the feminist in me, the woman who rallies against the expectations society has put on her. Over the last several years, I’ve been deep diving into my beliefs, society’s beliefs, and the effects that those beliefs have on my experience as a woman. I am not here to fulfill expectations or duties by acting as an incubator. Now, more than ever, we are seeing how ruthless our government is and how little it cares for the people with uteruses it governs.The campaigning and fundraising to force people with uteruses to carry pregnancies to term, regardless of viability, demonstrates that we do not respect or care about women and LGBTQIA+ people in this country.

I simply don’t want to bring another life into a world where struggle is the norm and capitalism is the machine we all function within. Of course there is some sadness in never getting to experience a piece of life that can be so fulfilling for others, but the sadness is not enough to undo the reality I exist in. I have amazing relationships in my life with people from many different backgrounds with different goals and desires. I enjoy doing everything and nothing with my partner. I have found meaning and purpose within myself and the life I want to create as it is that adding another factor, an unpredictable human life, might not support. I wish more people asked themselves what they wanted for their futures without assuming it looks like a traditional family. Hopefully, someone reads this post and it helps to untangle whether this is what you want, or what is expected.


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