I am one-half of a childfree couple, and just under one year ago, I quietly launched my website in The States- a blog for the childless and childfree alike. The rinky-DINK life ‘your source for unmotherly advice’ (Incase you didn’t know the acronym DINK stands for dual income no kids).
I say quietly, as technically it was a soft launch, although soft wouldn’t be the adjective I’d choose. Words like terrified, panicked, and regretful, come to mind instead.
You see, at that time I had never even uttered the word “childfree” in real life. My husband Colin and I had decided not to have children, of course, but this choice wasn’t something we advertised. To be completely honest, it wasn’t even something we were proud of. Over the years, I became comfortable considering myself as someone who didn’t have kids. If people interjected, “You don’t have kids yet,” I’d muster a fake chuckle but I did not correct them.
Labels aren’t important. It’s none of their business. As long as my husband and I are comfortable with our decision, that’s all that matters….
I told myself these statements over and over again until I began to believe them. I turned to my website as ‘my forum’ or place to vent about my experiences as a childfree woman and part of a childfree couple. But when I sat down to write, my head became clouded with nagging thoughts: What if my coworker reads this and thinks I hate children? What if my friends don’t understand?
Yet, I somehow managed to put words on a page and publish them. As a result, the content was safe and my opinions were indistinguishable.
However, in a matter of weeks, I stopped publishing posts. In a frenzy of anger – at myself for worrying about the opinions of my peers, at my peers for their opinions- I wrote. I wrote no holds barred but each and every time, I’d hover the cursor atop the unassuming “publish” button and froze. Save draft.
This continued for several months until a conversation with a friend sparked courage. I can’t remember the words she used to motivate me to write honestly but I suppose that is irrelevant. I sat across from this friend – an elementary school teacher, a wife, a mother of two, a friend of mine who, in many ways, wouldn’t be able to relate to my decision. And yet, she gave me her support.
In December, my website had the hard launch, a more accurate depiction, it deserved. I told complete strangers about what it was like to get an IUD, I chronicled my battle with an anxiety disorder that worsened when I waffled about having kids, I interviewed women who regret having children and women who don’t regret getting sterilized. In an effort to empower others about their choice, I too was empowered by own decision to be childless by choice. Today it’s as if I wear the Childfree label across my lapel. I’m proud of this decision. I want people who are unsure about parenthood to hear the truth about a childless life and my own experiences as part of a childfree couple. We’re generally not the narcissistic, child-hating, and selfish monsters we’re often depicted to be! We are just people – people who made a different choice.
Although we often think of this stigma surrounding the childfree movement to be a women’s issue, it also affects men. On a regular basis, my husband’s coworkers throw in snide remarks: Just wait ’til your wife wants to have children or You’ll understand after you have kids.
My husband even became resolved to tell them we couldn’t have children. “Imagine the looks on their faces,” he said to me. Although I didn’t condone his decision to feign infertility, I understood.
Ultimately Colin ended up taking an honest stand against the pronatalist assumption that having children was simply a matter of when and not if. Since then, we have both experienced the liberation that comes when telling others about our choice to be a childfree couple. We have also experienced what it’s like to be demoralized when others don’t understand. It’s especially heartbreaking when those we are close to downplay our decision and chalk up this choice to our age or lack of experience.
Even with all the ups and downs, Colin and I were content with talking about the childfree movement. Eventually, though, that wasn’t enough; we knew we needed to change the conversation to help and support other childfree couples. Too often parents dominate the discussion about children and assume the offensive position, relegating the childfree to the only place left – defense. We wondered what would happen if the roles were reversed? What if we were the ones asking questions instead of answering. Instead of hearing day in and day out, “Why don’t you have kids?” I imagine the day we lead a conversation with, “Why do you have them?”
Spurred by the desire for change, Colin joined me this year as a monthly contributor to the rinky-DINK life. Though the majority of our readers are women, the male perspective on childfree living proves to be of interest. After all, the vilification we experience is not bound by gender. We all can and should have a voice, not one that is only used for speaking out against the stigma, but one for teaching others about our lifestyle, one that is proactive in explaining who we are and what we stand for.
After all, we are just people – people who made a different choice.