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Our Story: Deciding to Not Have Children and Live the Otherhood
A few years into being married, I wrote a brief post about possibly not having kids, called “the otherhood” and shared our lack of desire to have children, just thinking maybe it was temporary. Now that we are coming up on our 8 year anniversary this December, the question about babies has stopped (only asked by new friends which is totally fine!) and we have made a confident decision that we won’t be going down the traditional route of parenthood. Instead, we’ll be living the otherhood. We came to this decision after 3 years into our marriage and I’ve been wanting to write this post so I’m finally doing it and hitting publish.
Arriving to a decision to not have children was not an easy one, and I wouldn’t say it was a natural decision when society often tells us we should. Since most people desire to have children there’s often a bit of confusion on why someone wouldn’t. I suppose it’s a similar assumption if someone said they didn’t want to get married, we assume everyone does, because, why not?
There was a lot of confusion before there was confidence in our decision to not have children.
There were many difficult, hard conversations we had together, and with ourselves.
Photo by Melissa Schollaert
I’m thankful we live in a culture that is starting to accept a woman or couple’s decisions to not have children. Though it’s still not the popular or traditional route, women can now feel like they don’t have to if they don’t want to or are unsure for whatever personal reasons. Overall there have been some positive responses like, “Good for you to know that!” to, “That wasn’t an option we really had back in my day or else I probably would have gone that route,” to “I have friends who decided the same and they just want to travel the world.”
But even for those who don’t agree or understand it, that’s not why I am writing the post.
This post is for those individuals who are trying to navigate their feelings about children, and to reassure those who decide not to have children that it’s not only okay, it’s more than okay. You can have a fulfilled life. One lifestyle is not better than the other – it’s your life.
I want to share our journey of coming to this decision and share some thoughts to lessen the stigma of couples who choose the otherhood – we can be fulfilled, happy and still pour into others and love children. There are 38% of women age 20-40 of child bearing age that don’t have children do to several reasons (see video embedded in this post) – that is 19 million women *source. I am here to share my story to explain. Thank you for being here!
I never said growing up that “I just want to be a mom” like everyone else around me
You know those little girls that always carried baby dolls around? Or that toy baby that went to the bathroom when you fed it? I remember watching the commercials and being horrified as a child that a doll would do that sort of thing, nonetheless which one of my friends would want to play with it.
I didn’t grow up saying I wanted to be a mom. I did have lots of friends who always said, “I just wanted to be a mom,” which is so lovely that they are that now and I see them beaming living their dream as a mother. But I didn’t, and I never thought it was wrong or even gave it a second thought because I assumed I was going to be one, because that’s what everyone did – had kids.
I did have children names picked out growing up – a boy and a girl for those sleepover conversations because no one in the room says at 10 years old they don’t want kids (because you really don’t know that for certain). I did say I wanted to have one of each, it sounded great, two kids, but I wasn’t yearning to be a mom, but I just figured I’d go down that path.
In college I became a Big Sis to a 9 year old girl in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. I did it because I was extremely active in community service and also wanted to be more comfortable around children – really. I cannot imagine my life without my sister. (We are still close to this day and I photographed her and her sweet girls here.) You can say that was my little sample of children, I kind of feel like I experienced a small part of it and maybe I feel like I got my sample and I feel good about that experience.
When Benjamin and I started dating, we discussed kids, but barely. It wasn’t the most important thing for either of us, it was a thing we just assumed, “one day,” and two sounded just fine. We did plan for it, but it was just a discussion.
So I figure in transparency, I should mention that having a child for us would have to be very planned and very thoughtfully executed due to personal medical reasons. This is something I knew would be an obstacle as a teen and all the guys I dated knew, not a big deal. Knowing this didn’t stop from discussing that I probably would have a family with whoever I ended up marrying.
However, I say it doesn’t matter because desires can always be met in many miraculous ways. So I wouldn’t pinpoint that reason as why we aren’t having children – having a child is still something I most definitely can do if I wanted. My mom told me she’d pay for whatever assistance I need if I wanted to explore the process of having children and I jokingly responded, “No, I’m good but can I have the money instead?”
Even though I knew the obstacles, I still never did any research for the ways I could have a child. I was asked if I’d consider adoption, absolutely, only I still needed the desire to be a mother.
When I hit the age of 30, I didn’t panic on having my eggs frozen. While the Bible instructed Noah to be fruitful and multiply, I worried we were being disobedient. I really did. And that was the hardest thing, to know that God has a different path for me, and to also remember, there are Christians that have a purpose and didn’t have children their life. I’ve spoken to friends about this, I know God made me who I am for a reason, and given me the desire for specific things, lack of for another reason, and perhaps this has given me more time for me to serve others who have children.
I’ve looked at adoption pages but I don’t feel the heart strings that we’re called to do that. I know when I feel called to something, I will do it, I always have.
Benjamin has great aunts and knew Godly couples who didn’t have children for whatever reason – a choice, inability to conceive (unsure), or didn’t get married. They still had a life of purpose. He talks about them to this day and their impact they had on his life.
I believe that I can still love and pour into many children throughout my life without them being mine. It is a gift to us to be able to love many children throughout our life. My purpose in my lifetime may not to have the role of a mom, but I know my spiritual gift and if I continue to do that, I know my purpose will be fulfilled when it’s time to say goodbye to this world.
I spilled my guts to a friend who is like a big sis and told her I felt like something was wrong with me to not want kids. She pointed out from her own observation of my life that anything I desired to do, I did. These passions of mine include traveling, starting a business, moving jobs, buying a house, those things that I desired, I pursued, because I had passion. If there was no passion for children, then there wasn’t, and to recognize it and accept it. When she said that, it gave me peace, she was right. If I felt OK about it, and if Benjamin did too, then we’re OK to not have a family.
^^ At the Grand Tetons on a 10 day trip in September (middle of school year for kids)
A little more about the statistics of the otherhood –
How We Decided We Wouldn’t Have Kids -The Discussion That Started it
So how did we decide we weren’t going to be parents? Two years into our marriage, out of the genuine goodness and out of concern, a friend said to me, “You and Benjamin need to decide if you’re having kids. You aren’t getting any younger.” I was glad she made us think about it because I wasn’t. When I got home, Benjamin was at the dining room table and I immediately blurted out, “OK, what are we doing? Are we having kids? Should we start researching options?” And then we both looked at each other and shrugged. We weren’t sure.
I prayed to have the desire to have kids. I wanted to be like my friends, I want to do all the things you are supposed to experience in this life and I wanted so badly to have the heart and mental preparation to want to have a baby. My friends were all having babies and I wasn’t seeing them anymore. They’d all be at a playground or splash pad and I kinda felt like I had to have a kid to be friends with them into the future.
But the reality is, I don’t want to go to a splash pad. I don’t want to go to amusement parks, I don’t want to schedule play dates, and I don’t want to be sitting at a park. I don’t want to change diapers, teach ABCs, hear screaming or crying, I didn’t want the responsibilities of parenthood.
We all knew that if Benjamin and I didn’t have the desire now to have children, it would make it especially hard in the future for the challenging parts of parenthood – getting up for feedings, having patience, teaching life lessons – the times when it’s hard it’s when you remember the desire you have for kids is what keeps you from going completely insane.
A few days later after the big “Are we or aren’t we?” talk, one morning I was making eggs for breakfast and I said to Benjamin, “Ok, so I thought about it. What happens to my stuff, like if we don’t have a kid who do we pass down our things to, like my fur coats? Or who will take care of us when we’re old? I mean, I guess we have to have a kid?” And Benjamin said, “Well, those are hardly the right reasons to actually have a kid.”
One night we laid in bed in the dark and I said, “Do you think we’re doing the right thing not having children?” And in the dark he answered, “Absolutely.” And that gave me confidence that we were both on the same page.
We laughed. And I think that’s when we knew we were going to go down an untraditional path.
When you don’t have FOMO and you have a peace about a decision that may be going against the grain of traditional life expectancies, it can also give you comfort knowing that you are doing what YOU want to do. There will be no regrets. (And let’s also be honest, you can always, always change your mind). When friends have baby showers I’m happy for them, but I never desired to have my own shower one day. I don’t have dreams of a kid going to prom or going off to college or starting their own family – I see my Little Sis do these things, we’ll be able to see our friend’s kids who we love very much do these things, we do not need our own to experience the joys and celebrations of these milestones.
Our best friends already knew our decision as we debated it, then came to a conclusion. I am a very open person – if you ever meet me I’m happy to share every thought that crosses my mind, even the embarrassing stuff, I just share it all so you don’t feel alone. I had many, many talks with my girlfriends about if I wanted to or not. They just listened. They encouraged research and said it was OK if I didn’t, and no one said we were wrong for not going that route. Of course many said we’d be great parents and I don’t want to brag but I’m sure we would be, haha, but we’ve had the best support and when you are confident in your decision, everyone else will support your decision – so never worry about what others think. You may feel like you are in a different boat, so let’s talk about that.
Outcast Feelings and Struggles From Our Decision to Not Have Children
For me personally it took about 2 years to be confident in my decision (I’m unsure of Benjamin as I think he was just cool with it immediately once we decided). Saying we weren’t going to be parents still took getting used to, and we kind of had to tell our parents.
I wasn’t letting go of a dream, but rather letting go of what I expected or assumed my life had to be, it’s like the game of LIFE. I’m not going to be picking up the life tokens that represent life events or land on the square and add a colored peg to my car which represents a kid.
Deciding I was going to skip that life square or go a different route feels like I am playing an entirely different board game of LIFE.
I also wondered if we kept putting our aging faces on Christmas cards if people would get tired of not seeing children instead or an update on kids. I had a sweet friend say, no you keep sharing your life and you traveling to cool places the rest of us can’t.
There were a few Christmases where I feel “behind” like I’m going against the grain is when we have Christmas cards that are on the wall. I look at them and I wonder, Is it weird we’re not in the same life boat as our friends?
I shared these feeling “behind” emotions with a girlfriend laughed and said, “You are seeing a single photo of one day on a Christmas card. You didn’t see that they were crying and screaming in the other frames. You see ONE photo that’s on a card, not a photo of the other days of real life.”
Our friends understand us fully, and our lifestyle that we love and support our decision and will even say to us, “Don’t have kids,” when funny things happen with theirs. It’s a light hearted humor, they just know what I wouldn’t be able to handle. Then there are the deep talks where my friends who are parents and love their kids share how hard it is and reassure me (knowing my personality) that I am not missing out.
I remember sitting with my best friend at a Diamondbacks game talking about kids and I said, “What do you do if you can’t control everything? I would go crazy,” and she laughed and said, “Then definitely don’t have children.” The humor is real and my friends are cheery and lighthearted about it, so don’t be afraid that your friends won’t be your friends if you don’t have children, in fact you will probably be a wonderfully attentive Auntie ever to their littles!
Our Role as Auntie + Uncle
Our friend’s children are blessings in our lives. I often buy them small gifts when I think about them. My girlfriends sent me videos and photos of their kids opening the gifts, artwork for my birthday that the kids have made, and pictures of funny things and share things their kids say. I send photos back or videos that make me think of the kids. We are always thinking about the children in our lives and talking about them.
^^Some of the wonderful kiddos I’m auntie to, see this post about how to create that special bond with your friend’s children.
The Children in Our Lives
We may not have children to raise, but we do to have a life with children. When we decided not to have children Benjamin made it clear that we were to be very involved with our friend’s children. We were to a blessing to them, love on them and still be a part of a community that helps encourage and raise children and provide any support and relief to our friends who are parents. We would volunteer, serve and love the children in our lives.
Benjamin and I are proud Auntie and Uncle to a tribe and we love being active in their lives, loving them, spending time with them. We try to offer babysitting when we can to really spend good time with our friend’s kids if we haven’t seen them and give mom and dad a date night.
When we are done with this life, our property and belongings will be sorted to family, children of our friends, it’s just stuff. I’m sure a few of our friends kids will become our friends one day and check on their Auntie and Uncle. (See this post).
How we exit this world or who we have or don’t have by our side does not devalue the incredible life we’ve lived or life experienced we’ve had.
What about death
I used to think that when you die you’re in a bed or hospital surrounded by those you love, your kids, your family and that’s the way you have to exit this world to win at life. As if dying any other way to die is just sad. That’s not true.
We can all have an incredibly beautiful fulfilled life – it doesn’t matter how we die. I think my dad told me the chances you die in the hospital isn’t any greater than in your car with a heat attack or at home, we never know how we will exit this world.
And if I can be totally honest, I don’t care what happens with my body when I’m gone, or my things. When I’m gone the last thing I’ll be concerned about is what is happening here. I will be gone and present with the Lord.
The common question on who will take care of us when we’re old? We joke we’ll have enough money to hire help. But really, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure a few kiddos will come by and visit, or a sweet couple from our church, whatever! These are not reasons to have kids, they are not a guarantee to a lifetime of happiness or to be there on our deathbed if somehow God takes us in a different way.
At the end of life, going into those heavenly gates to meet Christ is my goal, for Him to see the talents and time he gave me and know that I spent them wisely for His glory, that’s what matters. What the world thinks about the decisions we made or didn’t, does not matter and if I used my spiritual gifts God has given me then I know my purpose here has been fulfilled. That’s what gives me peace and if God changes my heart on children I will be joyfully obedient to His calling for my life.
We just enjoy the lifestyle we have (and we have other challenges that are taken into consideration that are personal) and wanted to keep going this way. I’m not sure if it was an active decision to not have kids, opposed to just wanting to continue what we have and not having the desire. I believe God made me, as I am, my body, for a good reason.
I’m thankful that we live in a society where it’s a bit more acceptable to decide not to have children. People are understanding that it’s a choice and are starting to respect that decision couples and individuals make without assuming the worst.
And if others think badly, or think you’re being “selfish” then let them. How they view you certainly shouldn’t affect your life. Some people won’t get it, but if I said I think every human should visit at least a dozen countries before a certain age or travel somewhere internationally every year and people don’t have desire – that’s how I feel about not having kids, I don’t have the desire.
Our desires are different. How we view life and want to experience life differs from person to person and that’s what makes us all unique! And I can tell you that I’ve visited so many countries and I have the freedom to work at all hours of the day and pursue my dreams and also serve and love on others with the time I have.
I don’t care what people who I don’t know think about me. First, happy people who are fulfilled with having children also know how hard it is. Also honestly, people who are truly happy in their own life can focus on their own life. Unhappy people judge others – because out of the heart the mouth speaks. So even if I disagree with anyone I certainly don’t have the energy or desire to voice it or nonetheless share my opinion to make others feel bad – so if anyone does that to you, that’s a person who is struggling with their own life and it’s sad to be a person who judges others and their lifestyle.
Do what makes you feel fulfilled in this lifetime. It is your life.
If you don’t desire to have kids, don’t. If you do, do it! You are free to change your mind and you can also have a life filled with amazing wonderful kids and still go to kiddie birthday parties, change diapers (I’ve done it!) and enjoy the glimpses of parenthood without fully going in.
We don’t feel like we don’t have a family, in fact we feel like we have a huge family with all our friends and their kids – we even host Easter and we are never alone! Just invite your friends and their kids over – chances are they would love to spend time with you! here’s a post I wrote about Creating Bonds: Children and Aunties – Friends that are like Family where I discuss how to create close bonds with your friends kids.
I hope this post reassures you that you aren’t alone with going down the path of living the otherhood. You can and will still have an incredibly fulfilled and happy life. There are many paths to a destination of happiness. ♥
You do you! I like this post. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t want kids growing up and even in my 30’s but had an oopsies. But I love my son. We are all blessed for whatever reason so there is really no need to prove to anyone why ya’know?