I’m a member of an online forum (as many are, these days) where a discussion about the child-free lifestyle has gone on for pages. And pages. Who knew people had so much to say about it?

It turns out there’s actually very little to reasonably argue: you either want kids, or you don’t. However, it turns out some won’t be satisfied to be content with their own decisions, but have more fun criticizing the decisions of others. For some reason.

Parents: “People aren’t living their life’s purpose until they have children.”

Childfree: “People who have children are throwing away their lives and their money and messing up store aisles with screaming kids knocking over spaghetti sauce jars.”

In the psychological studies arena, there seems to be a basic assumption that women have children because that’s what women do, but when it comes to women who don’t want children, you see book titles like the following:

“Unwomanly Conduct: The Challenges of Intentional Childlessness,” by Carolyn M. Morell; “Voluntary Childlessness: The Emergence of a Variant Lifestyle,” by Ellen Mara Nason; and “Without Child: Challenging the Stigma of Childlessness,” by Laurie Lisle.

“Hey, now,” I say, as someone who doesn’t want kids. “My lifestyle is hardly ‘variant,’ I’ve experienced no challenges outside of having to answer ‘So, why don’t you want kids?’ and the occasional ‘You’re just selfish,’ and if I’m challenging the stigma of childlessness, I’m not doing it intentionally. Quit studying me. It’s just a preference!”

In the interest of presenting the idea of child-free-ness as a simple, personal choice,  one that hardly warrants so many books explaining it, I wrote “How to (Not) Have Children” (update: this book ultimately published as No Children, No Guilt, written under the pseudonym Sylvia D. Lucas [used primarily for branding purposes]), a straightforward and humorous collection of musings, arguments, anecdotes, and even some helpful advice for those living, or thinking about living, a child-free life.

One reader wrote to tell me she, as someone who was “on the fence” about children, found it incredibly useful and was able to relate to several of the passages (people’s reasons for having or not having children, in particular).  I don’t know what her ultimate decision turned out to be, but if “How to (Not) Have Children” helped (and, by the way, I don’t try to convince women not to have children), I’m happy.

I’ll post an update when it’s available for Kindle.

For an archived article I wrote for the Journal Inquirer titled “They’re Not Kidding – Childless and Loving Every Minute of It,” click here.

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Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. I would have to say that if one is on the fence about having children, one probably shouldn’t.

    Reply
  2. Cover came out very nice

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  3. People can be odd. This tendency of attacking a decision another person makes, simply because it’s the opposite of the one we’ve made, has always fascinated me. Someone who is happy with a choice they’ve made wouldn’t need to do that…seems to me, anyway.

    Reply
  4. Thanks, Heather!

    Kel – seems to me, too.

    Reply
  5. I always love this argument because the irony is we are all someones child. So those who feel:

    Childfree: “People who have children are throwing away their lives and their money and messing up store aisles with screaming kids knocking over spaghetti sauce jars.”

    are an interesting contradiction to me. But, it takes everyone to make the world go around.

    Reply
  6. Michelle,

    When I was little, there was a man who lived in my apartment building who made it clear he didn’t like me. He made one of those adult faces I’d come to know when I got on my father’s nerves. But, this man didn’t know me, so the expression confused me.

    I asked my dad about it, and he said, “I don’t know, Kris. I think he just doesn’t like kids very much.”

    “How can he not like kids?” I said. “He used to be one.”

    It made absolutely no sense to me.

    I don’t agree with the child-free person’s sentiment you find an interesting contradiction, but as someone who has chosen not to have children and has found it certainly is less expensive, and that I do have more time, I can understand what they’re perhaps TRYING to say. What I don’t understand or appreciate is why the lifestyle can’t simply be accepted as different. There’s no reason to treat one of the choices – children, no children – as inferior or superior to the other.

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  7. I have one child and I think I get far more criticism for having one child than I did when I had no children. I constantly get the “when are you going to have another?” question and “if you space them too far apart….”

    I think having children is something that is either a yes or no answer. There was never a question in my mind about kids. I always wanted them. I know that individuals who choose to not have kids must think the same. They probably just never wanted kids.

    I have to say though that as a parent my respect for those who evaluate their decision about having children is very high. I find too many people have kids for the wrong reasons (e.g. trapping a guy into marriage, boredom, loneliness). Children are incredible but they are also a huge investment of your time and resources.

    And additional children are too. Just because you have one, and seem to manage that one fairly well, doesn’t necessarily mean you HAVE to have another child. People should think through their decisions in regards to whether or not to have children, how many children to have, and when to have children.

    Reply
  8. I know the response well! I think it hits on an insecurity in parents. They give their heart and soul into raising their children; they lose much of their identity and maybe even wonder what it all means. Then to have someone enjoying life saying they simply chose not to do it? Maybe they didn’t think they had a choice and that is just what everyone does. Or perhaps, because they have put their entire selves into being a parent, it is central, and the largest thing in their lives and they can no longer imagine life without it. Maybe they imagine us saying “that thing you do, the most central thing to your life, the thing you gave up almost all of yourself for… well, ha, I am having a blast not having to do that!”. One thing is clear, if they were 100% sure of their decision, they would not be defensive or feel insulted.

    Reply

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About Kris Tsetsi

Kristen J. Tsetsi is the author of the novels "Pretty Much True..." and "The Year of Dan Palace" and the short fiction collection "20 Short Stories," all published under the name Chris Jane. Website: http://kristenjtsetsi.com

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