One woman is tired of explaining that she and her husband are completely fulfilled as a family of two.
When I was in high school I told my mother not to expect any grandchildren from me—and I haven't heard one tick of a biological clock since then. No tiny alarm bell that I put on snooze, no moment where I felt having a child was something I truly wanted. While my sister dreamed of a life with husband and kids, I fantasized about being an artist in New York like my hero Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary Tyler Moore's bohemian best friend.
Luckily, the man who became my husband didn't want kids either, and after eight years of a happy and fulfilling marriage, I still marvel at our luck in finding each other. When people ask me, “Do you have kids?” I get looks of shock and confusion when I tell them we’re child-free by choice. Sometimes, I just answer “No—thank god!” Needless to say, that can be quite a conversation killer.
This fascination with how we can possibly be happy without children makes me feel like I’m an exotic zoo animal, or a visitor from outer space explaining our home planet. But I get it. Having kids feels so mandatory in our culture, that it sometimes can be hard to see that there’s a viable alternative. Here are a few of the things I’d like people to know about our choice:
We didn’t choose this life to save money. There’s an assumption that people without kids have all this extra cash, since there are no braces and piano lessons to pay for, and no college tuition to save for. I’d love to say we’re rolling around in hundred-dollar bills on our golden bed aboard our diamond yacht, but in fact, we’re paying for my own college tuition as I work towards grad school. We also put in long hours at jobs that we love, my husband in tech, and me making documentaries. But it’s not all work and no play; we’re known for our showtune parties and homemade brunches, and we love to travel. Last year we took a trip to Vienna, Budapest, and Prague that we dubbed #PastryTour2016 for reasons I think you can imagine.
We don’t hate kids. On the contrary, we love our nieces and nephews, and every year we host an extended group of family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner. We fly my nephews in for visits to New York as milestone birthday presents, build over-the-top gingerbread houses together, and recently, I rocked out at a Billy Joel concert with one nephew on his 21st birthday.
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We are not being selfish. Sometimes people tell me I’m being selfish not to give my parents grandchildren, but my sister—who truly wanted to be a mom—did that quite excellently, thank you. Some people have even told me I’ll never know what it's like to experience real love, which...seriously? That’s just an insult to everyone.
No, I don’t have any regrets. A few years ago, my ovaries shut down for good, and I knew I that after 40 years of trying not to get pregnant, I had made the right choice. What I would have regretted was having a child to make another person happy—or because of a misguided belief that motherhood was the only path for a woman.
While my husband and I love our freedom, and are grateful that we both have the time to do the work we love, the only reason anyone should need for why we didn’t have kids is that we had a choice—and we chose ‘No.’ We picked these lives, and I think Rhoda Morgenstern would be proud.
Therese Shechter is a filmmaker, writer, and multi-media storyteller based in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently directing the documentary My So-Called Selfish Life, about choosing to be child-free.