A parent's apology to couples without kids

Bath time at the Timmerman house

The young couple jokes and laughs over their entrees. She forks him some steak. He spoons her some soup. I imagine delicately slamming their faces into their mashed potatoes. But when our 1-year-old chucks his milk, splattering it everywhere, and our three year-old-starts to cry about us not letting her sit upside down on the table with an elephant (or something), I look at them and apologize.

Maybe they looked at us while we juggled toy cell phones, sippy cups, and outrageous demands, and they thought, “We are SO glad we don’t have any kids,” or maybe they thought our kids were charming in their own unique way and a discussion on becoming parents began.

Maybe they didn’t think of us at all. But we thought of them.

We’ve only been parents for 3.5 years, which doesn’t seem like an amount of time you could forget what it’s like to only feed yourself at a restaurant or only wipe your HANDS. But we have.

We envy the couple. They have more than 30 seconds to themselves each day. They can read books that don’t rhyme and aren’t about using the potty. They can have a hobby other than stacking rubber blocks and Legos.

“Remember when we were awesome,” a friend with four kids told me. I wrote a post about our conversation. We could be romantic on a whim. We could pull all nighters working. We could pursue an array of projects, interests, and passions.

But now we’re parents.

“I would write/read/exercise/volunteer more if I didn’t have kids.” I don’t verbalize this, but I think it a lot. I’m guessing other parents do too. At times I look at couples with no kids and hold their childlessness against them because I’m jealous.

There. I said it. I’m jealous of couples with no kids. I’m jealous of their time. I know other parents who’ve hinted at the same thing.

I’m not sure it’s correct to think that I would write more or accomplish more if we didn’t have kids. Maybe I would just watch a lot more movies and play more video games. I would love to play more videogames. I don’t play any, but I SO could. Kids need to eat and they need diapers and they need college educations and stuff like that, which are all things that push me to do my work more for two reasons:

1) I’m responsible for providing all of these things;

2) I believe my work makes the world a better place.

(Maybe you think #2 is a little boastful, but everyone should be doing something that they feel makes the world a better place for the next generation. If you don’t feel that your job is making the world a better place, you aren’t doing the thing you are meant to be doing.)

Regardless of the reason (choice, biology, etc) a couple is childless, envying them isn’t fair. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that when you mentioned your quick weekend vacation that was 10 times longer than any vacation we’ve had in 3.5 years that I rolled my eyes. I’m sorry I imagined slamming your face into mashed potatoes. I’m sorry I imagined setting my son’s biohazard diapers on your front porch, setting it on fire, and ringing the door bell.

I adore my kids. If you’ve read about my homesickness you know that. I have a month-long trip coming up and I’m already almost in tears about it.

As much as I envy them, I also feel sorry for them. Again, this isn’t fair. Sorry.

When couples who don’t have kids have a bad day, they don’t get to come home to funny little people who call them mom or dad, who make them forget about all their troubles. Some days I’m not a good writer, I’m not productive, I get bad news, but when I go home and little arms wrap around my knees and little smiles are smiled in my direction, nothing else matters. No matter how bad of a writer I am, I can always be a good dad.

If you are reading this and don’t have kids, let me explain this to you: You know how a dog can make you forget that you sucked at work or that your boss yelled at you? Well, being a parent is like 10 times the feel good a dog can give you, unless of course your kid is being a brat and then you wish you could throw them in a cage. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Do you envy couples without kids? Do you envy couples with kids?

Mia says:

I don’t have kids. I don’t have a husband either. And I have envied those who have one or both of those things. Because at some point they chose to participate in that life… even if it’s an accidental pregnancy, there’s a choice made to participate in that life, or not.

This isn’t a choice that I’ve made. I’d like to have a husband, and kids. And I think that’s the hard part for some who are single and/or childless. For a lot of us, it’s not a choice we’ve made. It’s just what the cards life have handed us.

I appreciate your post. I get frustrated when time after time my parent friends use their kids as excuses to not want to hang out anymore. I recently had a friend say, “I can’t do XYZ because I have a BABY.” It was just going out out to dinner.

I’m trying to find that spot in life where finally at age 34, I can feel like a responsible adult, contributing to society. I’ve lived well on my own for the past 16 years. I have college degrees, I’ve traveled, and I have a good career. I have my own house, and I’m active in my church. Yet, this isn’t exactly the fullness of life I thought I’d have.

You have to be careful about what you envy. It may not be the life you imagined.

If you want to send your kids to my apartment around 5:00 pm today, I’d love to have some funny little people make a mess of my house and make me laugh.

Maggie says:

Hey! You described my life right there. I am 33 and I couldn’t have written it better. What happened to you now? Your reply made me cry as i felt it to my heart. I hope you found your significant other and have your own little people who cheer you up at the end of a busy day.

I remember just wanting to eat a HOT meal for a change. One I didn’t have to cook would be a bonus. When my kids were about 6 months and 4, we were trying to enjoy a family lunch out, and they were both demanding my attention at the same time, the little one loudly. Daddy tried to help, but for some reason he couldn’t–don’t remember all the details, only that I felt bad about disturbing the other diners. But as I walked past the table of a couple who had been enjoying their meal alone and quietly before we showed up, the woman looked up, smiled, and said, “What do you do in your SPARE time?”

Kelsey says:

Mia, We’re on our way!!! Thanks for sharing. I know that this issue can be a touchy one. Know that I don’t take my life for granted. I’m so lucky. It’s human to have grass is greener thoughts. Each of us should try to appreciate what we have instead of what we don’t. That’s what I’m trying to get at here.

You’ll want to stock up on Mac ‘n’ Cheese and size 4 and 5 diapers for our visit!

Kelsey says:

Angela, Dining out with kids can be an extreme sport, as can parenting. Why we try to eat out sometimes is beyond me. Love the ladies comment!

Alicia says:

I am a new mother (my darling daughter is about to be 4 weeks old) and I am already envying couples without children! I do feel extremely guilty for thinking it, as there are many couples who wish dearly for the life of diapers, tiny milk glutens, and helpless cries for mom and dad.
I am about to start my very first year (full time) at Ball State and hope that I am able to scrape out even the smallest amount of time for my studies. Heck, I wish I could find time to take a shower!
However, through all of the scary diapers, piercing cries at 3 a.m and late night feedings I am so incredibly happy to have her. I didn’t think it was possible to love someone so much in only an instant. I hope everyone someday feels the love of a child. it’s the best feeling in the world.

P.S. I read your book “Where am I wearing?”, I was forced to read it as a summer assignment (haha), and I thought it was going to be dull, like any other book that I had to read for school, but I was delightfully surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see you at Emen’s in September!

Joel says:

“Remember when we were awesome?” HA! Made me laugh.

About envying people without kids — I do miss the freedom and convenience, no doubt. All the stuff we used to do, or do more often (like each other!). But I’m also assuming that having a child is more meaningful than any career or fun adventure or whatever ever could be. And if we live our lives and fail to realize that… then it’s our own fault.

Megha says:

We are childless couple for the past 13 years. Yes, we have more time than people with kids. We plan holidays without much thinking, many a times we can take quick decisions, we can explore career, study at any age, watch movies, read books, browse the net etc etc…

What we noticed through these years is the shrinking social circle. As we don’t have kids, we don’t have interaction with school. School is the place where parents find their kids friends & parents. From there a lot of interactions arises. we don’t have that. But, we r not worried about that 🙂

Cool hand Dan says:

I’m glad you were honest about the pros and cons, and that honestly makes it a lot easier for me as a childfree adult to appreciate your view point, it’s not all “just so great” your real with the problems just like for a childfree person it isn’t all great. So kudos to you.

T. Morison says:

2 things I like about your post:
1. I think that more parents should admit that parenting isn’t all sunshine and roses. Yes, you’re right it’s socially taboo to admit this, although more people are, which is good because this helps create a space for people who arent’ sure or keen to have kids to bow out. Not everyone should be a parent. (Pressurising people to become parents seems like the best way to ensure unhappy parents AND kids!)

2. I also think it’s good to start acknowledging that there are positives to not having kids that don’t have to be stereotyped as ‘selfish’ – like volunteering or helping others. Not that I’m saying either choice (to have or not have kids) should be entirely unselfish. I just think there should BE a choice based on a blanced view of things.

I think both parenting and childfree life have advantages and downsides. For some people the rewards they get from their kids make it worthwhile. I don’t think this would be the case for everyone, certainly not for myself. I wonder if your response, of envy, isn’t why many childfree couples get flack from parents? Hmm…

PS Yes we notice, and yes, some of us do feel relieved that we can have a quiet meal.;) BUT there are times when we also worry that we might miss out on some fun stuff. In the end I’m OK with that because I’m happy with my choices.

Kelsey says:

I think you might be onto something about envy being the root of some of the tension. I really appreciate your thoughtful response. My parents owned a business for a few decades and I remember seeing the tension play out in employee complaints and company policies. It’s great to have an open conversation that respects both the parenting-life and the non-parenting life.

The Underfiend says:

I was appreciating your writing until you had to pout this disclaimer in…
“When couples who don’t have kids have a bad day, they don’t get to come home to funny little people who call them mom or dad, who make them forget about all their troubles”

That’s true, I come home to my partner, who listens and sympathises and rubs my feet and tells me he loves me, through choice not because he’s too young to know what the word eans or biological necessity.

It seems your partner has fallen off the face of the planet and doesn’t feature in your world at all any longer. Which is a shame, because when your kids are older and see you has a hinderance to their life, when they’re more interested in their Facebook account and swapping sexts with their latest crush, when they roll their eyes at any attempt from you to interact with them, then maybe you’d wish you’d focused more on your relationship with the one you professed to love above all.

You’re kids will be those ‘funny little people’ for a short time, then they’ll be pre-teens, teens, young adults with no interest in daddy other than a means to an end.

In the meantime as a childfree couple we’ll have been nurturing our relationship and taking care of each other. It won’t have been a fleeting couple of years of sticky kisses and arms around the knees. It will be a lifetime of love and development of a deep understanding.

Oh, I don’t have a dog either and your piece lazy writing is breathtaking arrogance to assume that your relationship with your kids is better than any relationship with pet or partner that any childfree person enjoys.
if you want to recognise the fact that parents can be envious of the lifestyle of the childfree then do it, but you can’t can you. You have to justify and validate your own choices and hand out a sop to any parent reading this article by coming out with the usual hackneyed prose about it ‘being soooooooo worth it’..

Kelsey says:

Thank you for demonstrating why this divide exists by quoting a harmless sentence, being totally offended by it, and then being ten times more offensive than said harmless sentence.

You know nothing about my relationship with my wife. Having kids has brought us so much closer together. And don’t read that as, “You will never know a love like ours because you don’t have kids.” There is something amazing to have little people who are half me and half the person I love most in the world. And I expect those little kids to grow up into big people who I’m equally proud of. Granted they could grow up to murder me, but I like to be an optimist.

I’m sorry that you have such a bitter view of parenting.

Lillith272 says:

I wholeheartedly agree. I am childfree, too, and I have yet to find an honest article that doesn’t end with the cheap way out “oh, but it’s so worth it” at the end. Kelsey, I highly recommend reading this reddit here about people who regret having their children. I appreciate someone finally saying it out loud without the obligatory way out at the end.

J says:

I feel like you totally nailed it! And, I too, love the quote about “remember when we were awesome?” I feel like the biggest difference and pre-child me and post-child me is that I did not appreciate So many of the things I took for granted before my daughter came along! Obviously, free time and sleep, but even selfish things like having to change what restaurants we go to because some don’t have highchairs and/or are not kid-friendly. After my daughter was first born I was hyper aware of every sound she made when we went out in public, but slowly I have come to realize that not only do the majority of people have children of their own, and thus, have been in the same shoes as I am currently in, but those who don’t, more than likely have nieces and nephews or cousins or friends with kids, and they would not want someone getting irritated at those little children in their lives so, they probably aren’t going to be irritated by my loudly giggling child. Also, I keep telling myself that this is only for a very short period of time, as in the blink of an eye, they will be off to school and grown.

lilah says:

As a person who hates hearing a child when I paid to go out and enjoy my meal, don’t think people aren’t bothered by your giggling child. It makes me not even want to eat, as well as parties I will not attend if there’s a child there because that ruins any desire to drink and have fun, I have a nephew that I love but I would not be offended if someone was annoyed by him. My brother understands this and makes him be quiet and not bother anyone, keep in mind you’re the only one who enjoys your child’s noise

Becki says:

My husband is one of those who cannot tolerate the sound of children crying; he tends to ask for restaurant tables away from families, and will shop in a different area of a store to get away from that sound. I made the decision long before I met him that I did not want to have children, because I knew a bit about what was required and knew that wasn’t how I wanted to spend my life. I won’t go into my reasons here, but they are not entirely selfish. And I have never regretted my decision. But I do enjoy watching those who are good parents: encouraging their kids to try new things (and trying not to panic or overprotect that child), being fierce protectors when necessary, and watching their kids sprout their own wings to fly. Being a parent is incredibly tough, and my hat goes off to those who decide to go that route today.

Beth says:

Oh, Kelsey…..Gerald and I were childless for twenty years before we were given our daughter. I can remember envying families like yours, thinking I wouldn’t mind cleaning up the milk and dealing with the screamies if only. And I was so tired of overtired parents saying, “You want kids? You can have mine!” Because I knew they didn’t really mean it. They needed a breather that most likely they weren’t going to be getting any time soon.

And then the Baby came, the one you met as the Kid and who is now the Teen. And as joyous as we were–no one could be more so who hasn’t waited so long for that miracle–we too would remember uninterrupted sleep or eating at a restaurant that didn’t have crayon cups and clown placemats. We could remember midnight movies and lazy weekends.

I am so glad to have been on BOTH sides of this. It makes me much more patient with young families….and much more appreciative of the times that have returned now that our girl is so much older, especially when we realize how very few years are left to have her home.

I love, love, LOVE the way you write. Thank you.

Jen says:

As I sat waiting for my son outside the Kirwan Tower at the University of Kentucky, I decided to rummage through his backpack one more time, I have been convincing myself I now have to stop the teacher/manager role I have embraced and adored for the last 18 years, “your test is in 2 days, did you study yet.” He’s making the giant leap to college and as proud as I am, I secretly want him to stay home, turn his music up real loud, ask for gas money, and need new cleats for baseball but instead I drive him to Lexington Kentucky and tour his campus; he had several loose leaf papers, some free pencils, a frisbee and a new copy of Where Am I Wearing. My mother hen skills kicked back in, I ran straight into the UK book store and bought my own copy. I eagerly read two, three, six pages before he returned. My baby boy is going to be living 360 miles away from home and perhaps this new book will be our academic connection and I can’t wait to devour the book and compare notes! You are right there’s nothing like being a parent and coming home to your kids who need you, whether it be for gas money or just someone to play catch with – there’s nothing better…..!! I sent your “remember when we were awesome” comment to my husband via text, I tweaked it a bit and said we no longer have kids at home, now “we can be awesome” his response, I’m too tired, what’s on tv tonight?

Kelsey says:

I think “We’ll be awesome…after a short break on the couch watching Big Brother,” is perfectly acceptable. We can’t be awesome all of the time. Gotta refill the tank. I’m really looking forward to visiting UK next month and I’m honored that I got to share my stories with students like your son, and a few of their awesome parents!

Becky says:

Interesting piece. As a childless 41 year old woman who is coming to terms with the fact that I most likely will not be a parent (at least not biologically) I’ve been thinking about and reading about this issue a lot lately. Yes, there are definitely pros and cons to each lifestyle. I envy my friends with kids sometimes. It can feel very isolating to not have children. As much as I know that having a child is probably not a good idea for me, I feel a sense of loss at all that I will miss out on.

However, I certainly don’t want anyone’s pity or anyone to feel sorry for me just as I would guess that you would not want the childless couple at the restaurant to feel sorry for you because your kids were being messy or noisy. I really don’t like the division between those who have kids and those who don’t and feeling pity continues the whole “us vs. them” dichotomy. Of course, you can’t help your feelings-you were just being honest-but when you are on the childless side of things it sounds condescending and a bit hurtful. No one wants to be pitied.

L says:

I was with you up until the end when you became condescending. Honestly, the thought of coming home to children after a hard day at work makes me want to weep. Children don’t care that you’ve had a bad day (nor should they, their world is all about them). I’d rather unwind in the sympathetic company of my husband and the unconditional love of my dog, or spend time on my own doing other things I enjoy. That’s how I’d prefer to relax. But that’s me, and you are you. You don’t need to feel sorry for me anymore than I should feel sorry for you. It sounds like neither of us would want to trade lives and that’s fine – it means we have both made the right choices for ourselves. But try to remember that at the end of this life, it’s our partner who is ideally at our side. When your kids have grown up and moved on,I hope for your sake that you’ve remembered to be more than just parents, but have also remembered to be husband and wife to one another. You chose each other, didn’t you?
We do not all want the same things. “Little arms” hanging off of me isn’t on my wish list, making your pity quite unnecessary.

Em says:

When I get up in the morning, or come home from a bad day, I come home to a mule that makes happy squeaky little brays and wants me to get her out so we can go for a ride.

I hope everyone feels real sorry for me, ’cause I feel just as sorry for them.

Melissa L. says:

I love the cheap conclusion! If you want to be honest and pour your heart out, do so with courage! And comparing kids to dogs? Really???

Rochelle says:

Hi, I just came accross your article. You’re not only judgmental, but jealous. Trying to make yourself feel better by feeling sorry for someone is pretentious. How does it make you feel if I feel sorry for you because you look at things the way you do. Your life isn’t any better or worse than ANYONE. Whether its some person on the streets, or Warren Buffet. It’s simply your life at this moment. Having kids means you have kids, habing no kids means you have no kids. Neither determines happiness or amount of love. It’s human nature to feel envious at times, but that doesn’t mean you kill that envy by putting someone down(that’s what you’re doing). Love or happiness and fulfillment comes in many forms. What If you’re child grows up to be a drug addict or treats you poorly when you’re elderly in the hospital? It happens. How do you know what life has in store for you and where you will be? Do you want someone to feel sorry for you because you had a stroke and can’t talk ? What if you get Alzheimer’s? I bet you wouldn’t like that. Someone may pity you based on the amount of money you’re a le to earn. My intention is not to offend you, but to understand that you are not exempt from trying to be a better person, and you don’t have more than someone else…you just have different things. Happy new year!

Kelsey says:

And I admit being judgmental and I admit being jealous. However I don’t pity anyone here. I’m simply exploring my thoughts and feelings. I’m genuinely open in my post about the origin of my thoughts and feelings. How about you? Obviously this post struck a nerve with you.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year.

JennyNim says:

I have been experiencing this for years. My husband and I, really want kids but we don’t have any yet because I have been waiting to finish school and find a job. After two bachelor degrees and three years of marriage we are totally ready. It is a choice not to have them right now, but we want them. But the major thing that bugs me to high heaven is my brother (or people with children) always throwing it in my face they seems to have the higher moral grounds because they have children and I have none. Its hurtful and annoying when they say… “wait until you have children, you don’t understand.” My brother didn’t come to my graduation for nursing school because he said his sons could not miss their first basketball game of the season. (4 and 6 years old). I wanted them at my graduation! I’m sorry but missing one game would not hurt them. AND No matter what discussion we have about politics or life, I always seem to be wrong because – “I don’t have kids.” I don’t see how having kids makes you better than childless couples. Being in this position for many years, I would NEVER say that to a childless couple because I’m so scarred. I’m glad that you mentioned that jealousy maybe the root of all this tension because my brother did start to have children in his mid-20’s and maybe he wasn’t ready. And keeping me down makes him feel better about himself. Its sad to think that my own brother would be like that… but that’s life.

Kelsey says:

Jenny, Thanks for the thoughtful comments. There definitely needs to be more communication and empathy from all sides on this issue.

Also, your other comment about couples who want kids but can’t have them is spot on. They’re stuck between two worlds. Tragic. I hope you have wonderful children some day and your kids can play with your brother’s kids.

JennyNim says:

And the discussion always seems to focus on people who have kids and people who don’t want kids. What about the people in the middle, the ones who don’t have kids but want them? Why do we have to suffer through the spiteful comments of our fellow parents? Making us feel bad that we don’t have kids that we absolutely want… What about those couples who want kids and just can’t physically have them? I feel bad for them. My heart breaks for them because they are treated like it was their choice not to have children when they are trying and praying for a baby.

Bren says:

Read my comedic memoir Jive Chalkin, which relates to this discussion. Jive Chalkin opens the door of today’s public schools.

Some parents would back their house up to the school and walk away, if they could.

I am a childfree teacher.

No regrets.

LJ says:

The part about feeling sorry for us strikes a nerve with me too, I’m afraid. I think the reason for it is because we’re so often painted as emotionally less-than and/or as silly people who are missing out on the world’s greatest joy because we’re too selfish.

In reality, most of us have put a lot of thought into our decision and things would not end well if we were to go against our better judgement. The media is full of stories about people who didn’t want kids but then had an accidental pregnancy, carried it to term and ended up loving being parents, but the opposite outcome is a very real and much less talked-about issue. Google “regret having kids” – that is an extremely likely outcome for me. Abject misery that needs to be kept under the surface for the sake of a child who does not deserve to grow up knowing that Mummy doesn’t want him or her. For two decades.

So while you’re grateful for your choice when you come home after a shitty day, know that when I come home after a shitty day, I am just as grateful for mine.

myop says:

There is no reason to feel sorry for people without kids. NEWSFLASH: WE DON’T WANT KIDS. I don’t depend on others to make me happy or feel better I don’t need a kid to come home to to call me mom to make me feel better about my life? That seems like a really messed up mentality. I am a complete person without kids.

Belinda says:

I know I’m weighing in on this debate a long time after the original post and comments but “Myop” ‘s comment really angered me. Not all childless couples or singles choose to be childless. Sometimes the privileges of being parents has been denied to us, as is my situation.

I tried for 7 years to have a child, I’ve been divorced almost two years and I’m staring down the barrel of my 41st birthday alone and still childless.

I don’t want anyone to tell me how lucky I am to be childless free, for me it’s not a “freedom”, it’s a sentence. Unless by some miracle I am blessed with a child, I will always have to deal with this gaping hole in my life. I ache and grieve for the baby boy I lost at 10.5 weeks, and the previous pregnancy losses before him.

I see children his age and I think of him, wondering what I did wrong to be denied the gift of parenthood. I’ve been cast aside by friends because I don’t fit in anymore, they seem to think I have nothing in common with them anymore because I can’t compare notes on my children’s progress or go out for lunch or play dates.

I’ve never felt more alone and isolated by society because I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent.

Erik Deckers says:

I think people are going to feel morally superior to anyone else not in their situation.

“I have kids, so that makes me a better human, because I choose to care for people smaller than me.”

“I don’t have kids, so that makes me a better person than YOU, because I choose to live the life I want, not the life thrust upon me.”

“You suck!”

“No, YOU suck!”

I loved being single when I was, but after I got married, I wondered what the big deal was. I loved being childless when we were, but after we had kids, I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

The life situation you find yourself in at the moment will always seem like the best one, until you have the next one. And if you like the one you’re in better than the alternative, stick with that choice.

I believe everyone should find their own happiness and not worry about whether they’re keeping up with the happiness of others, or trying to live a life set by other people.

(And by believing that, that makes me the best person of all, so NYAH! 😉 )

Kelsey says:

Well put Erik. I thought I took a pretty open-minded, middle of the road approach to this post, but reddit is hammering me. That said, it’s a reddit Child-Free group. And I’m not attacking their decision to be child-free, in many ways I’m envying it.

A friend on Facebook said that having a child is like “winning the lottery and having a leg amputated at the same time.” That seems about right.

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Bob says:

You weren’t mean about folks not having kids, but I think you failed to realize that along with the hugs and love and smiles one gets from coming home to a kid, there’s the lingering, relentless, never-ending responsibility to provide. Comes easier for some than others, and I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about it. Don’t feel sorry for me!

IJ Dee-Vo says:

Not so much an apology as it is a nicely packaged “FU for choosing differently then me.”

Meridith Mokriski says:

Help me to understand why my best and oldest friend got a big attitude once she had a baby, and immediately began implying that I was irresponsible. Like when I went through my divorce (after a very short, anticlimatic, meaningless marriage), she accused me of “running from responsibility”. And all the references to her being so responsible because she was a parent now (never mind that I basically took care of my emotionally unstable mother my entire childhood). Anyway, and why do my mom friends at the beach all seem so full of themselves and their wonderfulness, and neglect to include their non-mom friends so often? I have tons of responsibilities, just not children. And I won’t list everything that I do take care of in my life, pay for, deal with etc, because we all have them. I just feel like a lot of my friends with children really,really do think they are better, more enlightened people than those without kids. It hurts my feelings quite a bit and I feel insecure around them. So many insinuations that I just can’t understand because I don’t have a child, stuff like that. I’m 47 years old and thankfully have a fantastic life and a group of amazing friends, most of whom don’t have children. And after I graduated from college and my four closest friends from there got marriend and had kids? They didn’t even want me to hold their babies because I couldn’t possibly know what I was doing!

kelli says:

Hi Kelsey
I really enjoyed reading this article. I am someone who chose not to have children and while I personally haven’t received too much pushback in my own life, I am well aware of the stereotypes and what have you. Though I recently wrote a piece about my decision not to have kids in the Huffington post and one of the commenters noted how my use of the word ‘I’ so much indicates I am self-centered ‘to the max’ and it’s good I don’t have kids. I can’t say I agree with this…when writing about your own experience, life and thoughts, the word ‘I’ tends to make its way in a lot 🙂 But anyway…

Having children is a huge change and I think it is totally normal for a parent to miss aspects of their old life and the greater degree of freedom and flexibility. It is acceptable to make surface statements that having children is difficult, but as for actually talking about it in detail, and sharing true feelings, that is kind of taboo, and so many parents have all this guilt about their feelings, not realizing so many other people feel the same way. I imagine the experience creates quite the mix of deep, complex emotions.

The first step to really making the best of life, and being happier, is admitting what we aren’t happy about, and how we really feel about certain aspects of our life. If parents can become comfortable admitting these feelings, they can find a way to effectively deal with them and think about what changes could be made so they can have more time to themselves, pursue hobbies or whatever it is they would like more of in their life.

Great stuff!

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Tracie says:

Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m childfree and I don’t regret it. So take your apology, tape it to a brick and shove it up your ass sideways.

Monika DeLeeuw-Tanchyk says:

I’m 32 years old. My husband and I have just celebrated our seventh anniversary. We have no kids, and we like it that way. I’ve always know that I didn’t want to be a mother, but even at my age I still get “You’ll change your mind some day!” or any number of condescending phrases (or articles like this one) that the childfree have to put up with. As more and more people realize that having children is not a necessity, the childfree movement is growing. Don’t tell us you’re sorry. We don’t want your pity. We want respect for our choices as fellow adults. We alone know what is best for our lives.

Limey says:

I’m so sorry, too…..that I’ll be going to the Bahamas instead of buying diapers this year.

No pity needed, wanker.

Jayne says:

I am so totally sick of my friends being all about them and their kids!!! Absolutely none of our conversations involve what I’m doing, how I am or any of the news that’s important to me. Why? From what I can see, nothing I say or do is as important as having kids. I have a birthday party and my friends cant make it because 1. Cant get a babysitter 2. Don’t WANT to leave baby 3. [insert other child related excuse]. But God forbid I miss the baby shower, christening, birthday, communion and all other child related events! I would be shunned! My friends circle has diminished. My friends with children get offended if they think I’m not putting in enough effort. Are they putting in any effort at all though? No. But they “can’t” you see, they’re busy with their kids! What has this got to do with this post? Everything.

Celeste says:

I’ve ended friendships over the one sided expectations.
Parents think the world revolves around them and their children.

The author clearly has some insecurities about the choices he has made.
Otherwise, he wouldn’t feel the need to write snide articles like this.
While my husband and I take trips, enjoy frequent date nights and disposable income, parents like Kelsey need to convince themselves that their lives have not been ruined by the most banal choice a human being can make.

I’m glad that my mommy friends are honest about parenting. Many of them tell me that they would not have had children if they could have made the decision again. One of them tells me that I should stay childfree in order to keep having a happy marriage. A bitter mommy friend loves to make comments such as “You’re childfree so you have more money.” In most cases, parents are not forced to conceive babies so they need to stop whining and harassing childfree folks. They made their beds.

Sharon says:

I made a decision to NEVER have kids and zero regrets.
I think sex ed should include a link to parent confessionals of how much they regret it.

That said, you have a right to adult time. I really believe it was healthier in the 70s when parents chased their kids out of the house to play, and didn’t orbit their entire lives around keeping their children entertained.

Sara says:

This post made me so mad! I actually wanted to tell you to go pound salt! Sorrrry (said sarcastically) that I don’t have kids. I do enjoy my childless life. It’s a super great wonderful life. Some would say it’s boring. But I loooove asking my husband on a Thursday if we have any plans for the weekend and he says no. It was your choice to have kids so maybe you should have re-thought that. You know what? My husband and I are trying to have kids and it’s just not happening yet. So sorrrrrry that we go out to dinner and have an awesome time by ourselves. While I wait to get pregnant I’m enjoying everything that life has to offer. You don’t have to feel sorry for me. It’ll happen when it happens. I’m thankful that I’ve had a childless life for such a long time. So now when I do get pregnant, maybe I’ll enjoy it even more. Because I won’t feel like I’ve missed out like you are coming across. So stop looking at us childless couples and feeling sorry for us. Just like you, I deal with it when I have a bad day. You may have kids to distract you, but I can go home and make love to my husband on the couch in the middle of the day! You don’t know what other people’s stories are. Some couples possibly have been trying for a really long time, like my sister. Do you think she and her husband are going to go out in public and just be miserable every day, hating on parents like you? No. They go out to dinner and laugh and joke and be romantic. Because they can. Let them enjoy it!

Cathy Shouse says:

I’m intrigued by the responses you’re getting on this post. From my perspective, you’ve done a good job of showing the advantages and disadvantages of having children vs a child free lifestyle. You seem reasonably happy with which side you’re living, which is a good thing! Now that this post is an old one, I like seeing you posting about things you enjoy now that your kids have grown some. My older kids have introduced me to experiences and thought processes that I’m grateful for and I think the warnings of raising teens are overstated. The only cringe-worthy part about your post was the end, about what to do if you and the kids are having a bad day. I thought everybody knew the proper response to that. Ship them off to their grandparents! The great thing is, on a rough day with a teen, they can drive themselves to the grandparents on their own. Bonus! I commend you for attempting to put into words the complexities of life and for having courage to face the inevitable blowback. How about an updated post on where you are now in this journey?

Ettina says:

And I envy you for having kids. You may think my life is carefree, but I feel like it’s empty instead.

jaimie gonzales says:

We dont have kids.

Like you, there are things we really cherish about our lives and would never want to change (a lot of them you touched on, some you might not guess).

And there are things we envy. I’ll elaborate on those more:

* kids holiday traditions: Santa & stockings, making little valentines cards for school, dying easter eggs, participating in trick-or-treat, etc.

*kid movies & cartoons: You’ve seen Frozen 1000x & can vent about Caiyu (probably not spelling it right). You’re in the know and catch cultural references I miss.

*parents only conversations: these account for probably at least 30% of all adult conversations and it is is dangerous territory for a couple without children. Examples: to breastfeed or not, potty training techniques, first day of school problems, when kids should have cell phones… all the way up to teenager troubles. I instantly feel like the kid at the adults table.

*parents communities: if your kid is involved in sports you get to sit by other adults for 30 mins to an hour 1-2x a week with an obvious conversation opener (your kids). Use it to your advantage! Make friends. I would love some of those opportunities. You don’t get those in the office.

*kid milestones: helping a little human figure out how to walk, talk, make friends, use a fork, etc seems like a pretty freaking awesome and fulfilling achievement.

*kid games & homework: what’s wrong with blocks, sidewalk chalk and bubbles? Those are great! I miss them! And for the record, your kids are learning things in school that we were never taught (Neptune isn’t a plant? Since when?) You have the opportunity to stay current on your most basic education.

All in all, like you said, be grateful.

jaimie gonzales says:

Excuse the grammar

J says:

I don’t have kids. You don’t need to feel bad for me. I don’t envy your decision at all.

Bomb Jr. says:

God, you’re as big of a crybaby as your kids. People can choose whatever they want, and your opinion is pretty useless. Having kids is never “an accident” people just are too stupid and irresponsible to take proper precautions anyway or think “whoops I”m pregnant, there goes my life.” When abortion exists. Not telling anyone they should get an abortion, but it’s much better to have a kid when you planned for it. It’s much to do ANYTHING when you plan ahead, and this is the problem with many modern parents. They buy into pro-life propaganda and let their entire existence be swallowed up then write stupid articles like this to whine about people that are more responsible with their bodies. You feel sorry for having pity for childless couples? This is the most pitiful article I’ve read in a couple months. But I don’t feel bad for you, you made the choice you have.

Mrs Mayer says:

My husband and I don’t have children by choice. When we come home from a bad day we have each other. We have a beautiful marriage. We have time to spoil each other. We have a relaxing home with pets to love. We have hobbies and volunteering that we enjoy because we actually have time for it. We don’t have to attain and keep jobs that we dislike to earn a certain salary to pay for raising kids. With that being said, we love our jobs because we have the flexibility to do what we want for a living. This is a very serious topic for us because we’ve had family and friends straight out treat us like crap because we live our lives how we want and have a lot of freedom, and for the most part, they can’t. We’ve cut people out of our lives, reluctantly, because there were snide remarks, and negative comments about our child free life style. We’ve been told we’re selfish, arrogant, or even that we hate kids, which is hurtful all bull crap. We love kids. We chose a different life. And really because we have more freedom with our jobs and our free time, we really don’t have bad days. Unless someone we care about dies or falls ill.

Celeste says:

The people who insult you for being childfree are just jealous of your freedom.
It’s not your fault that they look awful, they hardly get to sleep and their relationships are suffering because of their choice.

Parents who are confident about their decision to have kids are not going to take shots at the childfree.

Tiffany says:

I don’t want kids nor do I feel obligated to have them. My only obligation is to live my life abundantly and to the fullest and I will accomplish that by living child free.

Kelsey says:

Hope you live a life of purpose and do good things for others. You’ve got more time to make a difference than all of us parents.

Kiki says:

Feel sorry for me? For what? We have made different lifestyle choices. I’m choosing a life without kids and you chose a life with kids(who will eventually leave but you will still feel responsible for them until the day you or they die). I know I’d be miserable with children for the rest of my life so no need to put myself or them through that. I’m content with my choices and my life. It doesn’t sound as if you are though.

Kelsey says:

I think you are bad at reading.

lilah says:

There is absolutely no way that getting a hug from someone I love/and loves me is worth all the monotony and total loss of my past self that parenthood creates. I think that is the only highlight, a special kind of love. Children are purely selfish they want a hug from you because they want your attention. They are parasites in every aspect, children do not give, they take and some patens find enjoyment in a creature that purely takes. There is no other reason to have a child than for self fulfillment, you need to put all your time and energy into something so you can feel loved? That sounds pathetic and desperate. I look at it as I love my children enough to let them live in peace in my ovaries, I’m not forcing them into living a life they did not ask for, and may not even enjoy or thank me for. I do enjoy my life and have all the privileges I could hope for but given the choice I would rather had not been born, I don’t see any logic into forcing someone into existence for something to do or for someone to love. I wish my mother had kept her hormonal urges at that, but no here i am so my mom could have some fulfulillment. Quite idiotic I think the whole parenting thing is.

Kelsey says:

Kids or not, I hope you find some happiness and joy in life.

RR says:

Kelsey – Sorry for coming to this party so late. You posted this years ago. I’m 49, never married and no kids. I always wanted kids. I wasted my time with the wrong men who didn’t want to get married or have more kids with me. Both of these men are divorced with kids. I become attached to the son of one of my ex boyfriends. He was 3 when we got together and we broke up when his kid was 10. I was like a mom to him. We loved each other. And, then, my second “big” relationship ended over the subject of commitment and kids. We were talking about getting engaged and then the next day, my ex freaked out and left me.

Now, I accept I won’t have biological children. I’m dating and haven’t met the right guy. I date guys with kids because people this age are divorced with kids. Men who date me like the fact that I don’t have kids because there is less negotiating for my time and I don’t have “baggage.” It annoys me when single Dads say that. And, men have boldly asked me if I can even “get pregnant” now. They don’t want more kids and their single parenting has left them overwhelmed and burnt out. Some of these guys think that they can cancel plans on me for kid related problems and that I have the flexibility to see them another time. It’s self-centered and I can’t deal with those guys. Single Dads, depending on their involvement with their kids, can make annoying dating partners because of their expectations of me and some think I am happy to be involved with their kids because I don’t have my own. Look, some kids just suck. My second ex had college aged kids and the older one was a brat and I couldn’t deal with her.

Then, I get a lot of judgment from my parents’ friends. Some pity and a woman’s fertility is public domain – and people tell me freely that I am probably too old to have a baby of my own but that I can adopt.

So, I do feel like parents are annoying when it comes to their parenting. The single dads make assumptions about child free women and then the parents also judge us. You don’t mean to be condescending but I did feel patronized by the whole “you don’t get to come to weird little people.”

There is nothing wrong with my life. When I look at what’s missing, I don’t add kids to the list. I miss having a good man in my life. I know I’m missing out on something there. I can live without having children. I can’t live without loving a good man and he loving me back.

By the way, I’m a career legal aid attorney. I helped the poor for most of my career. I’m not selfish. I just don’t owe you, parents, single Dads, mothers or anyone, for that matter, an explanation for the way I live my life. Don’t need your pity. I deserve respect because I am a human being. Period. The End.

Britt says:

I don’t have kids and I don’t want
To. My pets give me such joy and I don’t always think kids make your life better or that if you had a bad day it totally makes it worth it. But no matter what we have choices in life and I respect moms and I respect women who don’t have kids either. I find my career the most rewarding thing.
I feel it’s all about doing what you love and what makes you happy. I know my own mom was totally okay with me not having kids and saw that i was super ambitious woman. I started me own business young and I actually have no regrets about not having kids that’s how i knew i made the right choice.
Its not for me and never will be.
Just like some women love kids and made their choices. Whether you have kids or not we all on the same
Level and one doesn’t make it better than the other. Do what makes you happy.

Daisy says:

I come home to my loving husband and other childfree friends and we’d have “therapy dinner” which I host because I love to cook to have talk therapy over their office woes. The fact that you “pity is is as degrading and condescending as us saying we pity you, which I don’t. We made different choices, one we conscious chose in one form or another. Don’t pity or envy anyone else… you got one life, don’t waste time or energy regretting. Make the most out of the choice you made. Neither are inferior or superior, they are just different. It’s also pointless to be jealous of other’s height, weight, material things etc… pointless and wastes the limited time on our life clock that is counting down no matter how you spend it.

Thomas Lines says:

Hi Kelsey.

Great post. It actually makes me feel better to know that someone is envious of me and my childless lifestyle. Now I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me, but like you stated, feeling sorry isn’t fair either.

I’m not childless by choice. It’s just one of those totally unexpected curveballs life decides to throw at you. I’ve always dreamed of having kids, but I can’t let my existence be defined by their absence.

I didn’t particularly like your ending. Reading it made me feel like coming home to a loving spouse after a tough day isn’t worth a damn compared to being met by a couple of cute little critters crying for mom or dad. I see the great value in both situations, and I’m sure you do too. From my perspective no one will ever be more important than my wife. I know I’ll love my children if I ever have any, but for me, my first love will always be greater than the second.. and third..

AmusingWorld says:

Hmm…I’m pregnant, so I’m in between. I didn’t even know this crazy rivalry existed! Well, maybe I was vaguely aware of it, but in was never relevant to me. One childless person here said something along the lines that she thinks it’s sick to need a child, rather than your spouse, to make you feel better after a hard day. (I think it’s silly to expect the author to reject his choices. Of course he thinks his babies are better than a dog. It’s not about you!) She and some others implied some sort of absolute dichotomy between relating to your children and relating to your spouse. Maybe this happens, but I find the idea that it is inevitable quite weird. I think raising a kid should be a project you do together. We want to make a little person who is like us, who will know the things we teach it (languages, culture, philosophy, science), but take them in some amazing new direction of its own. That is my relationship with my parents. I think if your idea of raising a kid is some tedious, mundane thing disconnected from the wonder of being alive, you probably shouldn’t have children, but I don’t see anything enviable about the life of someone with that outlook either. It sounds dismal in every way, quite apart from the issue of actually having children. It is a basic misunderstanding of what children, what human beings, are. Have them or don’t, but your choices don’t justify a false perspective on humanity. Moreover, if you raise your kid right, it WILL continue to have an awesome relationship with you when it grows up, so I don’t think the joy should ever end unless you’re failing at it. On the other hand, if you don’t want to have kids and just want to contribute to the world in some other way, I think that’s perfectly fine. I want both…which is why I only want one kid. As for sleep, restaurants, etc., with or without kids those things only have relative importance. No one’s life choices should be about restaurants. Read some great literature. Then tell your kid about it. Or someone else. Just do something that matters.

AmusingWorld says:

Of course there ARE tedious parts of raising children. Everyone knows that. But there are tedious parts of everything. It comes down to what tedious things you are willing to be involved in for the sake of something else that is NOT tedious.

Also, I just wanted to add something rather serious. Postpartum depression is real. The isolation of struggling to raise children while trying to pay the bills is real. If parents get envious sometimes, if their emotions are complicated, cut them some slack. Everyone cut everyone some slack. Have compassion. The kids raised in a world with more compassion on all sides will be better kids.

Jasmin says:

Not having kids for me was the greatest decision I have ever taken in my life i seen so many parents that clearly dont enjoy being a parent they look fed up theres a reason theres so many kids abused abandoned and killed by their own parents.Many used them as a trophy or to live their lives throught their child lives.Is pretty sad those kids grow up to be psychopaths.

Haha yeah right says:

This is an apology? Who said you had to apologize? Besides maybe apologize when your child is uncivilized in public and it affects other people maybe. This sounds more like a passive aggressive post. Oh and I just laughed ed at your audacity to think you can measure my joy of having a dog bring me happiness. Get over yourself!

Jeff says:

What a passive aggressive dig at people who don’t have kids. Some people just don’t want kids and if you can’t respect that, you can at least not shit post on the internet claiming you feel sorry for them.

Julie says:

Envy couples who have kids..can’t have kids naturally or I v f. It’s like why is God punishing us? When we see people who can’t close their legs get knocked up. Or hear on news that another kid is getting abused. We are foster /foster to adopt. But we keep getting older kids. Want younger. But any chance we do get to get younger something falls through. Just hate life anymore. I am starting to hate my husband.just stuff he is saying /how he is acting. Hear family/ friends are pregnant. Happy for them but I am jealous and it hurts. Just want to be happy again . Wish we would get placed with a baby/young child. But don’t see that happening. It don’t happen to people like us.

Bruce Capin says:

I’ve rescued animals all my life. Saying a child’s love is 10x better is beyond offensive. Pets do what humans cannot, offer unconditional love no matter what. Watch an episode of two of Scared Straight and then tell me how great kids are.

Kelsey says:

I’m glad that you find joy and purpose in animals. I do as well. From now through childhood, I’ve had 10 dogs, 2 cats, 2 rats, many fish, and a hamster. I’ve only had 2 kids. I really appreciate your response. It made me think. How could I explain to you the difference that I feel between the love for my pets and kids. I landed on this… Most of my pets have died. I think about them fondly. Good times. Some sadness. Some tragedy. But life goes on. If one of my kids dies? I’d be devastated. I’m not sure how people find the strength to go on. I would be changed and sad forever. It would be more than 10x the loss of any pet I’ve had.

Bruna says:

Make no mistake, Kelsey. I feel sorry for you too.

Happily Childfree Woman

Tiffany says:

I so understand this, having a child, which I have a 2yr old, always makes my day better when it’s been horrible. I love seeing that smile of hers and when she says “mama huggies” and then will grab me and her father and she wants a huge group hug, ah best feeling in the world. It’s definitely helped me so many times! But I do admit I miss the freedom my husband and I used to have. But now I see it is I traded in our old life and got something even better. It can be challenging of course when she’s acting up, but at the end of the day I realize we didn’t lose ourselves we instead gained something even more than our own selves can begin to even process.

Leigh says:

All I know is I dont have kids and I do not envy anyone who has kids and when I get home I have loving pets who love me, dont talk back and dont demand a new toy or talk back or someone that I cant trate like a human because society says you cant do that and we are all winners. We are NOT all winners. Children need to learn about disappointment and stop being so coddled. I feel sorry for you and I feel sorry for the rest of the world wheb all of these small humans grow up and think they all deserve a trophy when China is going to kick our ass. Parents today should care enough about their kids to PREPARE them for the world not protect them from it because the world is not going to change.

Strats n Cats says:

Lol. You ended on such a douchebag note, it’s hard to really get behind you.

John Allen says:

I like how you were honest in your article, I like when people can do that without fear of backlist.

That being said you were very super concdencing at the end of your article. I’m childless and I don’t need your pity. I am perfecting fine and don’t need comfort from a child or pet at the end of the day. Perhaps you do, and that fine, but don’t assume everyone is like you. Here’s a general tip in life, don’t try to guess how people feel, just ask them. Plenty of us who are childless I am pretty sure don’t want your pity.

Ashley says:

Kelsey, what was the point of your article? It started out great and ended terribly. Your ending makes me wonder if this wasn’t written just to make yourself feel better about your decision to have kids. Cause if you were truly happy about your decision you wouldn’t have ended this article on such a rude note. There’s pros and cons to everything in life. I am childfree by choice and I love my life, I look at my friends and I do not envy them RIGHT NOW in the least. But Believe me I often wonder if in the future I will regret not having kids…and that’s something I will ultimately have to live with. As of right now though the pros outweigh the possible cons.. ..There’s no right or wrong way to live your life period so ending it with saying you “feel sorry” for childfree people is ridiculous. Pointless article.

D says:

I’m so confused by the responses to this post. I appreciate your having written it. I’m 24 and weirdly, I don’t want kids. But, I want to want kids. My fiance dearly wishes for children and I’m looking for something that will make me look forward to the endeavor. Not to speak for every childfree lady but I had a very difficult upbringing that was devoid of emotional support. In my adult life this translated to my trying to make up for lost time and love, and needless to say, my life revolves around me. This is my personal truth, not to be applied to another. I’m grateful to see that a parent who loves their children still has feelings of longing for their autonomy because it adds humanity to those who otherwise seem so different from me. I’m always told “it’s different when it’s yours”, “wait until you first hear them cry after birth and you’ll be overjoyed”, “your hormones will kick in and everything will fall into place”, but these words come from women who have always envisioned children. Thank you for shedding insight on your envy for people like my fiance and me. Your post helped me to better understand the perspective of a parent.

Elaine Lieberman says:


Theworldisoverpopulatesanyway says:

I’m 32, my partner 30, we chose to be child-free. We both have well paid jobs, double salary and no little crotch gremlings to suck it our money or plans.
When we have a bad day and return home we have each other to make us laugh and forget about every bad thing because we love each other and we also are best friends.
If your significant other can’t make you happy enough and you need to make more little humans (that will grow up and ignore you at 12+) I pity you.

Kid-free and loving it says:

This is a completely condescending and self-righteous article, which is typical of a parent. I can’t think of anything worse than having children. This doesn’t mean having children is bad, but it would be bad for me because I have never had the desire to be a parent. I am missing out on nothing. I don’t need your pity or your attitude. It sounds to me as if you wrote this article to convince yourself that having children was the right decision, but deep down you have tremendous doubt and therefore have to rationalize. So, maybe you need pity. But I certainly don’t.

Rachel Farina says:

Nice post. I don’t know why you’d feel sorry for us though? I get the upsides of kids – those are legit, but they in no way cancel out the many types of joys/decompression we childfree folks experience as well. I do feel parents always resort to explaining how parenthood is the ultimate joy – despite the misery – to kinda convince themselves or us that it was all worth it, and that we childfree people are somehow missing out. Besides, most kids don’t greet parents with delightful little hugs and giggles when they come home! Especially kids with special needs. I know parents who walk into tantrums and chaos. I seriously pray for my friends with autistic/ADD kids – their lives or so hard.

Parents will never know what life feels like as non-parents so how can they assert that we’re missing out? Makes little sense. At leas half the parents I know admit they would never do it again if they had the option – they didn’t know what they were signing up for.

Myself and other non-parents I know are very fulfilled and very happy in life with plenty of joy and meaning. Each path has it’s own joys, but for me and my partner, the childfree path has the most with the least misery. That path is unique to us. I don’t doubt yours is very joyful and fulfilling.

Amy says:

Interesting read and also interesting how many people for years are commenting here, like me. I came to find this because I have reconnected with some friends from my college years. One of them keeps saying to me: “I can’t believe you have kids” over and over. At first, I just laughed, like yeah, we’ve both lived a lot since we last saw each other…. but she keeps saying it. I am not sure why.

I don’t feel like I am a different person because of my “status” as someone “with kids”. Whatever stereotypes I had about motherhood or being a mother, those were just hindrances for me. When my son was born, I had a job to do, and that job took over my life, and I did it well, but I felt like I was an imposter sort of, because I never did feel like a “mother” the way that I stereotyped them to be. Maybe I thought I’d really feel like a different person, but I was still just the same old me, but with diapers to change and a baby who cried all the time. And so I went on with the job of mothering even though it didn’t define me or become my identity. I am just me… the same me as before… but just with different responsibilities than before, and that kept changing and keeps changing even now, just like any child-free person’s life changes.

I am two months away from being an empty nester now, with my kids off to do adult things and live their adult lives. I don’t have little ones who get upset when I leave the house or demand my time and attention like before. I’m at the stage where I am having to adjust to NOT really having kids. They aren’t at the dinner table asking questions about gravity anymore. I feel this as a loss and I’m sad and feel alone sometimes. Like I was laid off from a job just when it had gotten fun and manageable.

My friend chose not to have any children and that’s a choice that makes total sense to me, back then and now. I am not sure I’ve lived a happier life having made the choice to have kids. Parenting was shockingly hard. Shockingly hard. Yes, there was joy, but I had to do some mental gymnastics sometimes to feel it. I had to push myself to make joy happen. Having kids did not bring joy automatically on it’s own, at least not for me. Like most life choices, it’s a mixed bag. Marriage is a mixed bag. Parenthood is a mixed bag. And the single life is a mixed bag.

I have another friend who did not, due to circumstances, have a choice to have kids. She feels like she’s missed out. I am torn between feeling her pain because not having a choice really sucks. But also wondering if the yearning and the disappointment lead her to romanticize what having kids might have been like for her. She feels like she missed out and she definitely did, but none of us know what the road not travelled would really be like for us. Would her kids have been healthy? Would having kids have brought her more joy than she has had with her child-free life so far? Maybe, but maybe not. But perhaps it is the frustrating and anger and resentment about not having had the choice to make at all.

It’s always funny when a parent will say “but I wouldn’t change it for the world” because the truth is that you can’t change it. Once you have kids, that’s it. No going back. There is no undo button. None of us knows how it will be until we go down that road. For me, the road was bumpy and there were definitely times I wished I’d had an undo button. And now, my kids are grown and I’m alone again, essentially child-free for all intents and purposes, and feeling a bit shocked once again, only this time not about how hard it is to have kids, but how hard it is not to.

Cathy says:

I also disliked Kelsey’s ending about “getting to” come home to kids. I “get to” come home to quiet, a clean house, and a supportive spouse after a super-stressful day at work, and to me, that’s priceless.

Kelsey also replied to someone who’s childfree and said he hopes that she is doing something with purpose and contributing to the world at large (paraphrasing). What’s with all the self-righteousness and pomposity? Why should anyone have to spend their lives in service to the world? Why can’t we just live as we please? I prescribe a life of shallow enjoyment to offset the earnest moralizers among us, like Kelsey!

Kelsey, if you enjoy life more, you won’t feel the need to put such weighty expectations and moral judgements on other people. I’m sorry you made the wrong choice for you and had kids – clearly you are very unhappy with your lot. If you were happy, you’d be a lot more fun, instead of all this moralizing and navel-gazing and Victorian finger-wagging about having to live a purposeful life if you don’t have children.

I live a life of blameless indulgence, and I’m a better person for it! I’m happy and so I don’t feel the need to put others down. Happy people don’t make snide remarks to others or ever think about comparing their lives to others’ lives. Parents, non-parents, kids, animals – I love ’em all. Throw another shrimp on the barbie, paint your nails, and mix up another cocktail! In today’s emotionally overwrought climate, where everyone is SO EARNEST, and where everyone has to describe how heartbroken they are and how they’re in tears over everything every single second, I highly recommend being a massively shallow biatch!

Bob says:

As a parent, I fully accept that I made the choice with my wife to have kids – and I don’t regret it one bit. What I do find interesting is that I have experienced being child free (in my 20s) but couples choosing not to have kids haven’t experienced having children (a dog isn’t the same – sorry dog lovers but it isn’t , kids coming around for a day or two isn’t the same). What may come across as arrogance by saying I prefer having children is not some personal vendetta I have against couples choosing to be childless, it’s based on my experience of both lives. I couldn’t care less if someone chooses not to have children, but for me it’s been the best decision of my life based on experience of being child free and a parent.

Josh says:

This article reeks of insecurity and an inferiority complex. I have a child. I love her. I don’t think having kids is the end all be all. I find it disgusting how much emphasis society puts on having kids, and tripe like this perpetuates that.

Let your voice be heard!

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