Why people need to be more respectful of those who choose to remain child-free

Me and my sister when she was a baby

The pressure to procreate when you’re turning 30 is overwhelming. You hear it from family, friends, in-laws, and even strangers. Once you get married, then everyone wants to know when you’re building a family . It’s so strange because my husband and myself are a family on our own without a child. I get so many comments like:

“You’ll know what it’s like one day…”

“You’re missing out on the greatest love on this planet…”

“Why don’t you want kids?”

“I promise, you’ll change your mind, EVERYONE does.”

“I know you’d be a great mom.”

“You need to learn to compromise”

As far as I could remember, I always knew I never wanted children. I was still a kid when I felt this way too. I never liked playing “house”. As a kid, I remembered young girls would love to hold and play with baby dolls and pretend to be in their kitchen making “food” on those kid play-sets, and I hated those games. I was the kid playing in the dirt looking at bugs and playing with race cars.

I can’t say there was a specific event or trigger that caused the nauseating feeling I get when I think of child-rearing, but the idea of sacrificing my body to be subjected to pain and emotional torment during pregnancy definitely frightened and scared me to death. I didn’t understand why I was born in a body just to suffer and provide a future husband “offspring”.

I’ve had a culmination of feelings from my upbringing as a child myself and the relationships I had with my split family that led me to feeling this way. The idea of being pregnant, or raising kids frightens me on many different levels. When you grow up in a split/mixed family, a part of your soul never really feels complete.

I was raised by the two strongest women I know: my mom and my grandma. I didn’t have a strong fatherly influence growing up to understand the role of a man in society. My dad was around in my life, but not very involved in my upbringing emotionally.

My dad re-married when I was only two years old, so I always associated my family as being in two different houses. I didn’t understand the concept of the Nuclear family. I had my mom and grandma in one, and my dad and step-mom in another. It wasn’t strange to me as a child. To be honest, I remember being happy seeing my dad and his wife, and coming home to my mom and grandma. I didn’t miss out on much in terms of feeling like I belonged in a family.

Yet, I still grew up with feelings of abandonment, self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, and the general mental strain that women growing up without a masculine figure in their life tend to have as they grow older. Of course, as a kid I didn’t know any of this. I just always felt different. I didn’t have a strong sense of self-love for myself, or even much of a self-esteem. I felt like I would always be left behind and undeserving of love.

As a young adult, I became insecure, needy, anxious, and seeking love and relationships as a teenager to make up for the lack of love I did not receive from my father — at least that’s the conclusion I came to when I was so desperate for relationships and connection when I was growing up.

I wanted so badly for a man to be proud of me that I would end up in toxic and emotionally abusive relationships just to get that false sense of fulfillment from the masculine side of wanting to be needed and be important to a male figure.

So — how does not wanting children play into this?

As a child, I internalized my sibling relationship differently due to how my father and stepmom raised me when I was at their house for the weekends. It was no fault of their own, but when they had their first child, my sister (who I’m so proud of and love to death now as an adult), I didn’t feel included.

I felt singled-out.

Abandoned.

Unloved.

Insecure.

As a kid, I acknowledge that I was included by being able to go over to their house, go to Chuck-E-Cheese with them, and see my sister and play with her as a kid, but I saw how I wasn’t a priority to my dad and step-mom once she was born.

I felt like I was pushed to the side.

In my head, I didn’t associate my dad and his wife as their own family, because to me, my mom, grandma, dad, and his wife were all MY family.

I was as kid, it was all about me.

ME, ME, ME, they’re MINE! Why aren’t they looking at me in the same way as before? Why is she important now? Look at me! I can make you happy!

The moment they built their own family, the abandonment issues hit me hard. I didn’t understand why my sister was such a priority to them and why I came in second.

I was only 7 years old.

The rational part of my brain wasn’t fully developed.

The feelings that emerged were depression, hatred, anger, frustration, and ultimately — a defense mechanism to push everything and everyone away who ever wanted to get close to me.

As an only child with my mom and grandma raising me in their own house, it was all about me, and I was their entire world. That’s what I primarily knew as a child.

Yet because I didn’t understand the family distinction of having two separate families, when my sister was born to my dad and step mom. I didn’t have that same attention given to me. I couldn’t rationalize it.

It wasn’t about me anymore. I wasn’t properly integrated to understand how a sister dynamic and family relationship would work.

And that’s what happens when you have a child — it isn’t about you anymore. It isn’t about your selfish needs or wants. It’s about putting them first and giving them the world. Maybe due to this traumatizing childhood experience, this is what really deters me from the idea of having a kid.

I didn’t know how to be a sister, so I pushed her away without even understanding why at the time. It was a primal jealousy as a child. She got the “love” and “attention” that I felt I didn’t get with a complete family. As I got older and rationality kicked in, I wished I could have gone back and been a better sister, a better step-daughter, a better daughter.

Then again — I know this was never my fault. I acted in the only way I knew how. I wasn’t taught differently. No one sat with me and looked me eye to eye to explain my new roles and responsibilities. In fact, when I wanted to take care of her and feed her, I wasn’t allowed to because I was “too young” to help out. When my step mom and dad didn’t allow me to help in the way I wanted to, I felt rejected.

I didn’t understand why someone so small wanted so much attention, and needed to be around me.

I didn’t know that the family dynamic from my dad and step-mom would cause me to feel resentment towards her, when she didn’t deserve the way I treated her when I was a kid.

She didn’t deserve to feel pushed away, or neglected, or unloved — all the ways that I felt.

She was the innocent life that got the brunt of emotions I couldn’t process since my brain wasn’t fully developed to understand that my dad and his wife deserved a child of their own blood and this is what they wanted for their family.

They say that people who are hurting, project their hurt onto others subconsciously.

At the time, from ages 7–12, I was never conscious of this, and this is exactly what happened. There’s always so much pain and regret associated with these memories.

As I grew older, I wish I had that close sister/sister dynamic with her, but I didn’t understand the damage I had done unconsciously — the way my family didn’t understand the damage they had done to me. It wasn’t their fault.

This was just life and I learned to forgive myself for the pain I had. I had to forgive my family for not knowing better. Yet, ultimately, I’m still in the process of forgiving myself for how I acted when I was not conscious.

Even after this experience, I still grew up disliking children. Even after I understood what had happened to me as a kid.

I would see babies and be disgusted. I was turned off. I didn’t have any passion to ever become a mother.

I remember when I didn’t know what marriage was. I was in Catholic Grade School at the time, and as a kid — I thought that a magical spirit in the sky put a baby inside of a woman after the marriage ceremony was complete so I remember saying, “I NEVER WANT TO GET MARRIED IF IT MEANS I HAVE TO HAVE A KID!”

I was only 9 years old when I exclaimed that. It makes me laugh to think back at how naive I was on where babies came from, or what marriage even was. I was pretty innocent for a kid.

I’m 29 now, and married and I can proudly say that no magical spirit put a baby inside me.

It’s funny because my husband grew up the exact opposite of me with a different family dynamic than my own, and I am so grateful that he has those differences.

He had the “complete” family as I call it: mother and father in the same household with a brother who he grew up with.

He told me as long as he was consciously aware, he knew he always loved and wanted kids. The idea baffled me, but of course, we’re two different humans with two very different upbringings. He loves the idea of raising life and watching a human being grow and the idea of passing on your legacy —and I genuinely find the thought endearing. I don’t understand the primal need for passing on your name, but I always respected his feelings on this matter.

Yet, in my own personal thoughts and feelings, raising a human life would be an absolute burden that wouldn’t bring me any happiness or satisfaction.

I remember growing up wondering why people would say congratulations to someone who is having a child.

I never understood why someone would be congratulated for their sleep and sanity being taken away from them. At least, that’s how I feel, because I value other things in life much more than the idea of sacrificing for a physical part of me and my husband to grow and become a productive member of this society.

I feel complete now as I am — a growing career woman, a loving cat and reptile mom, an ambitious human always striving for personal growth. There could be a chance that one day I would have a child of my own and can look back laughing at this article — but to be honest with myself, with my current experiences in life: I don’t think that’s something I want.

And here is my roar and declaration that I have been telling people my whole life who would never listen to me.

To those who would dismiss my trauma, telling me to move on, telling me it was duty as a woman to be the bearer of life, to those who would dismiss my pain, and never fully understood the emotional whirlwind I went through as a child:

ITS OKAY TO NOT WANT SOMETHING.

IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO.

IT IS OKAY TO BE CHILD-FREE.

AND IT IS OKAY TO BE A MOTHER!

IT IS OKAY TO EVEN NOT BE SURE RIGHT NOW AND MAKE UP YOUR MIND LATER ON IN LIFE!

MAKE THE CHOICES YOU LOVE — AND DO IT WITH ALL YOUR HEART!

No matter what choices you make in life — you need to WANT to make those choices in order to be successful.

I could hate myself forever if I raised a child in this world who felt unloved. I would never forgive myself for trying to force a “love” and desire on an innocent being that I can’t even provide for myself right now.

I would of course do everything I could to raise my own child and be there, but my soul would never be 100% there knowing it wasn’t what I wanted in my life plan.

There would always be that part of me wishing I could go back to life before “it” arrived in my life.

There will always be a part of me that will hold resentment because I didn’t get the time to properly heal from the wounds of my past.

And yet, being a perfectionist, I would burn myself out by trying to be the perfect parent and lose myself in the process.

I’ve been through so much childhood trauma that I’m currently healing from. I am in an intense healing stage in my life as I near my 30s — and it’s okay to not be emotionally ready for something.

There are people who will still argue with me saying “You don’t know until you have one” — but you can’t change how you feel in your soul about something you are passionate about.

And as of now — I’m proud of recognizing that I have pain yet to resolve before I even think of children. I am proud that I can forgive others and myself for what has happened to me. I am proud that even though my husband loves kids and always dreamed of having a family — I respect his feelings and don’t belittle him for his ideas because I respect our differences. I am proud that even though I do not want kids, that he can stand up for me and stay by my side through it all and provide me devoted love and understanding and respect despite my answer being upsetting to him.

Life is too short to be judgmental of people’s lives, and their history. Learn to understand if they say they don’t want something, or why someone wants something.

There could be a valid reason.

Yet — no matter the reasons for, or against children, we should all just be more respectful of those who we love and understand them and respect their choices.

-Cecilia J. Sanders

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