Welcome to part two of my Child Free Soul Sister conversation with my good friend Petra. If you missed part one you can read it here. I’ve collected some questions that others have asked regarding being child free and these are our answers. We hope that readers out there will relate, and stay tuned for part three!
Do you consider yourself a feminine woman? How does being child free by choice impact your view on your identity as a woman?
Leandra: I do, but it’s been a journey. I live with a visible disability and wearing feminine clothing in my teen and young adult years only brought more attention to my disability. I felt like I couldn’t be a woman “the right way” so I shouldn’t even try at all. A big part of finally being happy and taking control of my life was embracing dressing the way I want (so many Librarian dresses) and allowing my nurturing spirit to shine even when society would rather push me away. I certainly have some qualities that some would consider traditionally masculine, fostered from my experiences growing up as well as being a natural part of my personality. But I’ve reached a point where I am content with the whole. But traditionally feminine traits like being warm and inviting, nurturing, and facilitating connection are all driving forces in my life. And I don’t feel that these traits are required to be expressed exclusively on or for children. I want to express these things in all areas of my life!
Petra: I am feminine. I enjoy dressing up, makeup, being female. I enjoy things that are considered feminine, and things that are not considered feminine, but regardless of that, I am feminine. I’m a strong-willed, decisive, driven female often found in heels and eyeliner. I wouldn’t say it impacts my view of my feminine identity as I regard myself whole as a female and woman completely independent of my procreation history or intent. I don’t need to be the parent of someone to be and embrace being a woman.
Some people have said that women who don’t want children are outliers and that most women will want or need to have children in order to live a fulfilled life. If we as women rebel against our biology, we will live to regret our decision. What are your thoughts on this?
Leandra: I know my biology wants to procreate. I’ve had dreams where I’m pregnant and woken up euphoric. I am working on a couple category romances where forming a family and caring for children are integral to the plot and I really care about writing these stories. But I still don’t want to have children. It’s a long story, but I consider myself a Hedonist in the fact that I consider pleasure to be sacred and recognize the role pleasure plays in having a fulfilled life. And some people look down on that. They think it’s dangerous to give in to pleasures and desires. And yet these same people would say giving in to your desires no matter the consequences to have a baby is perfectly fine and not Hedonistic at all. Because… biology? Well, this confuses me, but I don’t want to get into a philosophical fight. If you want to have kids, have kids! I am going to look out for my health and do what’s best for my family and not have them. I’m no less of a vibrant, biological human being than a person who does have children.
Petra: I think if a woman wants to become a mother and does, fulfillment in that capacity may be a possibility for her. I think if a woman doesn’t to be a mother and by whatever circumstances has to take on this role, it’s foolish to expect her to be fulfilled by someone else’s desires realized in her own life. We don’t all want to be lawyers, therefore attending law school won’t fulfill all of us. I think it’s small-minded and short-sighted to decide for all hearts and minds the dreams placed in them. I am not rebelling against my biology; instead I’m honoring my heart in not trying to wedge it into a scenario it doesn’t fit.
Someone could argue I’m rebelling against my biology for shaving my legs, too.
There are a lot of people in our lives who are impacted by our decisions to remain child free including spouses, parents, and other family members. What are your thoughts on having healthy relationships with those who want you to have children?
Petra: That is a balancing act! Some with kids are actively trying to raise them while still finding fulfillment and engagement outside of child-centric situations. I don’t lose friends because they start to have kids, necessarily. They get babysitters to go to restaurants, and in kind we go to their homes for dinner because they can put their kids to bed and stay up late talking with us without worrying about relieving a sitter on time. If a friendship burns out, it isn’t because of us. We try to accommodate to our friends’ situations and be sensitive to the fact that they might not be as rested or focused as they used to be! Life happens to us all, and we hope our friends would be thusly accommodating to us.
There are those people who badger us constantly, asking us when we want to have kids and join them in parenthood—usually while engaging in some kind of parenting moment—like they’re doing a product demo trying to sell us on children. Sometimes I think they actually are trying to normalize the situation, like a subconscious resetting of a relational pH with a bad litmus test, as if they feel uncomfortable by the fact that we continue not to have kids, even though they now do. Those are the people who seem to be obsessed, and not necessarily happily, with their kids’ lives. They forget themselves. I understand and have lived what it is to be so heavily demanded of you start to lose grasp of pieces of yourself. I understand what I’m seeing, and why it’s happening. I accept that I cannot control that situation, or determine single-handedly that all friendships continue to grow together and not apart. We do our best to be good, understanding friends though. We don’t have to want what some are selling. 😉
Leandra: I’m not the only child free person in my family. So even though some people might really want me to have children, my family has already had practice seeing those of us not having children and still going on to have fulfilling and productive lives. I always remind people there are many ways you can be involved in children’s lives in your community and so many of these roles are desperately needed. Just in my own small home town there is a reading group that partners with schools and the library. We are always looking for volunteers to read to children or help us with book events for kids of all ages. Another group through the schools is a mentoring program where you attend band concerts or sports games for kids you support or go eat lunch with them at school a couple times a month. Many of these mentors go on to be a part of their kids’ lives beyond high school graduation. There are also church groups with youth focus that are looking for reliable people to keep these programs going. I encourage people to get involved in these groups (or start one!) if you want to have a real and important impact in the lives of children in your community.
Both physical and emotional/psychological aspects have impacted our decisions to be child free. Can you elaborate on some of those?
Leandra: I was born with nerve damage and as a result I live with several chronic conditions. I can’t feel over half my body. I’m underweight because my nerve damage impacts how I digest food. I’ve had kidney failure. Physically carrying a baby to term would be very dangerous for me. This isn’t to say that people who have health conditions can’t have children. They can and do. But it’s not a risk I am personally willing to take and I get a little riled up when people tell me I should *still try* to have a baby.
But it’s not just my body. I worked 3 jobs at once when I was in my prime child-bearing years. I couldn’t afford separate shampoo from the one me and my husband shared let alone buy things I now take for granted like vitamins or sunscreen. Even though my husband was also working (our record was five jobs between the two of us) we often only ate one meal a day because money went to our other bills. We were making it on our own without any support from family or other sources. (Yes I’m disabled, no I don’t receive government assistance. Another personal choice not meant to spread shame for anyone else’s choices or circumstances.) But the truth is we could not have given children, even just one, a healthy life during those many years.
I’m now paying all my bills, taking care of my health, and enjoying a deep relationship with my husband because we didn’t have children.
Petra: Besides the lifetime result of undertaking a significant life-change of being a mother, I don’t desire to experience pregnancy or childbirth. It basically backs up my desire to be Child Free, and is in agreement with itself. I don’t feel torn by wanting to experience the “beauty of pregnancy” but wish I could do so without raising another person. I’m grateful all of my heart is in alignment with those factors!
Many people who have tried to force the square peg of themselves into the round space of a life have reported dissatisfaction with their decision to attempt to do so. I have reassessed and reevaluated my choices many times over my teen and adult years. When I considered what it would be to me to become a mother, I wasn’t filled with joy, nor did my heart roar with satisfaction and purpose- I felt sad. I felt resigned. It wasn’t for me, and trying to talk myself into something that wasn’t for me won’t yield the opposite spirit, if you will.
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