The moment the realization struck me is still vivid in my memory – much like any other life-changing moment.
It was the summer of 2003, and I was in Germany. My fiancé (now husband) was stationed there and had just moved there a couple months prior. Instead of planning a wedding, I was there preparing for married life. I wasn’t just marrying someone. I was moving to another country. I was leaving my life behind for something new and unknown. I was there to test the waters. To help set up the house. To basically get everything ready for me to move there for good.
We were at a party. The weather was beautiful. Everyone was outside, enjoying food and conversation and laughter. And here I was, playing with the hosts’ new puppy. Avoiding people. Especially children. The kids were loud, screaming, getting on my nerves.
It occurred to me, then. I’m happier with dogs. I don’t want children of my own.
L found me, then. I realized I had to tell him. We never discussed having kids, to be honest. It’s so much part of the status quo … it’s just expected. So, I actually never knew his honest feelings about having children. How had we never discussed it?
I just took a deep breath. A lot was riding on it. And then I told him the truth. “I really don’t want to have kids. I want dogs instead.” He didn’t even hesitate. He told me that he didn’t see himself having kids either.
It was decided, then. We were not having kids.
We told our families just so there wouldn’t be any questions after the wedding about when we were going to start a family. Regardless, I still got a lot of criticism, especially among the other military wives.
“You’re not a real woman unless you’re a mother.”
“How can you be so selfish?”
“It’s different when it’s your own.”
Etcetera, etcetera …
I think I’ve won this childfree BINGO game several times over.
I had a difficult time making friends once I knew my own mind. I was a pariah among most military spouses. (There were a few who had interests outside of their children and would deign to socialize with me.) I can’t tell you how many times I would meet a spouse, and the first question she would ask is, “Do you have kids?” Once I said no, she would end the conversation right then and there and have nothing more to do with me.
Whatever. I don’t want to waste my time with people who don’t care to know me for me.
It even impacted choices I tried to make over my own body. Male doctors would never entertain the notion of me getting my tubes tied because “that’s not fair to your husband.” Nice of them to assume he wanted kids and I was a selfish bitch depriving him of fatherhood.
Anyway, I’ll be 45 next month. It’s actually been a really long time since anyone harassed me about not having kids. I guess that’s one of the delightful perks of getting older.
So, do I regret not having kids?
No. I don’t. Despite numerous people telling me that I would. They were all wrong. L is also perfectly happy not to have kids. We often discuss how content we are with our life just as it is, and we don’t feel like we’re missing anything.
That said, we love being an aunt and uncle. We don’t hate kids (as many people wrongly assume). We just don’t want any of our own.
Since I’m writing about this subject, I want to thank everyone I’ve known on my journey through this life who has been understanding and accepting of our decision. For some reason (even though it is nobody’s business but ours), I’ve been judged (way more than my husband has), and some people have been really offended by our choice not to have kids. This has always baffled me.
I guess the takeaway from this is live life on YOUR terms. Who cares what the status quo is … what culture and society expect from you? You are the one living your life, and you need to live YOUR truth. You will get pushback if you go against expectations. If people are offended by your life choices, that is THEIR problem, not yours.
Just remember that when things get difficult. Take a deep breath and be grateful that you are being honest with yourself.