“Paula, did you hear what your daughter just said!?” My grandmother yelled across the kitchen to my mother in a scandalized voice.
“Yeah, she doesn’t want to have kids,” my mom responded, unfazed, “I’ve always known that. She can have dogs if she wants.”
I still remember this conversation with my grandmother plain as day. I don’t remember what exactly brought it up, perhaps it was when my cousin and his fiancée became pregnant with their first child. Either way, when I told my grandmother (who I really have a great relationship with) that I wasn’t interested in having children, she was shocked. I guess she had expected my mother to be shocked, as well, although my mom knew that I was childfree even before I did.
In this world where phases are villanized and people are constantly told that they’ll change when they’re older, I always just assumed I would get baby fever eventually. I had never liked the idea of being pregnant, or giving birth, or raising a child, but since most people just say the condescending, “You’ll change your mind when you’re older,” I just assumed that my mind would change someday. I wasn’t anxious for that change at all, but I just assumed that it would come.
When I was a teenager, I had this way of thinking challenged by my mom when she told me that she always knew she wanted to be a mother. She told me that it was okay for me to change my mind, however, she didn’t think that my stance would change. She always knew she wanted to be a mother, I always thought it wasn’t for me. So far, at the ripe, old age of 28, motherhood still holds no appeal. I just have no interest in sacrificing sleep or watching over what they’re doing/saying/watching or who they’re interacting with or dealing with their meltdowns over nothing or driving them to their stupid soccer games or watching their stupid soccer games or trying to figure out the best ways to raise them then screwing them up anyway…
The only part of parenthood that I could imagine being fun would be being friends with my child when they became an adult (primarily because I’m so close with my parents), but that’s not the best reason to have a child. Plus, you can’t have that relationship unless you, you know, put in all of that work to raise them into adulthood. And I don’t wanna do it. Being a parent just overall sounds like a pain.
I remember one trip to the beach that I took with my friends, we heard a mom and her children behind us.
“You know,” the mom began, “I wish you guys would thank me for the nice day we had at the beach.”
“Thank you!” her kids sang in unison.
“Yeah,” she replied, almost defeated, “but I don’t want to have to ask you to thank me, I just want you to thank me.”
I was cringing the entire time I heard this exchange. The challenging part is that I knew that the children should be taught gratitude, but damn, being a mom in instances like this does not sound fun. Telling my friends about this story and recounting how annoying the mom sounded while also recognizing that the life lesson was necessary, they joked that I would hate them when they became parents. Well…maybe I will if they condescendingly insist that I thank them every time we visit the beach…
Now that my friends and I are of the age where people typically do have children, we chat about the inevitability of my friends having kids. Some of them joke that I won’t be friends with them anymore once they have kids, while others joke that I will never be a possible babysitter (to these people, I mostly comment that Dan and I can babysit as long as he’s the one in charge because he would definitely be a better babysitter than me). However, I would like to think that, as the childfree friend, I can offer something to them that they might not get otherwise: a break from baby talk.
I remember when one of my ex-coworkers had a child, his child was unfortunately in the hospital for several weeks. We all checked in on him regularly, asking how his child was doing. Beyond that, I was also careful to ask how he was doing then and throughout the next several months that we were able to chat. I know that everyone was constantly asking about his child, and I’m sure he was happy to talk about his child as well, but I wanted to make sure that he talked about himself and his interests, too. He is not just his kid! That’s not his whole identity!
Not only do I plan on being the cliché childfree aunt, but also the cool childfree friend. Do you want someone who won’t judge you for your parenting style? I’m your girl! Do you want to vent about your kids without feeling guilty? Lay it on me! Do you want to talk all about yourself and your interests for hours without bringing up any baby stuff? Just go ahead now!
I’m happy to hear all about my friends and their parenting struggles, but I also want to lend that ear to them if they want to talk about themselves. Parenting is very clearly a full-time job that takes literally everything you have, meaning that people can understandably lose themselves a bit in parenthood. I hope to be that friend that allows them to identify with themselves and not their children, for however brief a period of time.
Finally, I think it’s important to point out that PARENTS ROCK. One of the reasons that I don’t want to be a parent is how challenging it seems. Parenthood literally takes all of you (and then some), taking a toll physically, financially, emotionally, etc. Because I am childfree due to the difficulty I see it takes to raise a child, I think parents are the bomb dot com. Y’all are amazing and awesome and don’t get nearly the credit you deserve. Keep on keeping on.