Why I Choose to Be Childfree
An Open Letter to Family and Friends
My wife and I decided not to have children. But, many people are unable to fathom how we arrived at that decision. This letter will help clear a few things up.
Let’s start this off properly with a disclaimer. There are many individuals that have a burning desire to be parents. To them, the idea of not having children makes them feel incomplete. As a result, many of my reasons for wanting to remain child-free may not make sense to you. They will seem trivial and inconsequential next to the joys of having a child.
Additionally, there are some people who are unable to have children. Some of these individuals would literally give anything to be able to add a child to their family. To you, these reasons almost certainly will not make sense. For you, it probably seems as if there is no price too high to pay to be able to have children.
However, this entry is written from the perspective of one who has no desire for children. My wife and I do not have that internal yearning for parenthood. In fact, the only reasons that we could list in our “pro-having-kids” list had nothing to do with being parents, but rather with pleasing our family and friends:
- We could give our parents grandkids.
- We could be a part of the “parent club” with our family/friends and could better identify with their situations.
- We would have someone to take care of us in our old age.
I don’t feel these are good enough reasons to have children. In fact, my wife and I feel that these would be rather selfish reasons to have children.
I want to speak on this point before I go any further. There are many that will read my reasons for remaining child-free and think, “Well, those reasons are all rooted in selfishness”.
Are you correct? I think, partially, yes. However, some of the reasons are not selfish at all, but involve decisions that my wife and I have made together as part of our commitment to each other and to others.
Additionally, many (if not most) of the motives that people give for having children are no more noble than ours:
- It’s just what you’re supposed to do. (Obligation)
- It felt like the next step in our relationship. (On a whim)
- I want a “little me”. (Conceited and assumptive)
- We will have someone to take care of us when we are old. (Self-interest)
- We felt like it would bring us closer together. (Misguided self-interest)
- It was an accident. (This is arguably the least-selfish reason to have a baby. In fact, it takes genuine altruism to raise a child you didn’t intend to have.)
Very few people choose to have a baby for noble reasons. I rarely hear someone say, “I feel like I am capable of raising a child that can do a great deal of good in this world. I want to help shape the future of our planet by bringing up intelligent, capable children who will impact this world in a positive, meaningful way.”
But, you know what? That’s okay! It’s fine that you want to have a kid because you just “want” to be a daddy! The idea of holding a child makes you happy. Hearing the phrase, “I love you mommy!” makes you melt inside. That’s wonderful for you!
I don’t have those same desires. My heart doesn’t swell with warmth at the thought of coming home to a house full of anyone but my wife. And that’s okay too. Because, ultimately, having a child is a personal choice. It would be unwise for any of us to make our decisions based on the opinions of others.
However, I am often asked why I don’t want children. So, for the curious, these are a few of the reasons my wife and I are choosing not to have children:
Kids are expensive. It is estimated that it costs around $245,000 on average to raise a child in the United States. That’s before college! If you intend to send your child to college, that figure can raise dramatically to around $285,000 (for a public in-state university)! I live in South Carolina. Do you know what kind of house I could buy in 18 years with that kind of money?
What about groceries? Utility bills? Medical insurance premiums? Gasoline (the kids can’t drive themselves to soccer, ballet, and karate)? All of those expenses are going up when you have children!
The cost of college is on the rise with no signs of slowing down. It is estimated that college costs will have doubled in the next 18 years! That would knock that cost above to over $300,000 by the time you are done raising your child.
What about holidays? Christmas can be insanely expensive with children. Obviously, parents can choose not to indulge in the exorbitant costs associated with the commercialism of the winter holidays, but most parents want their children to wake up to abundant gifts from Santa Claus. My wife and I buy each other one gift each year (typically for under $100.00). Our Christmas budget normally comes under $250.00 each year and we could easily get it much lower if we wanted to.
There are obviously many other expenses associated with children. We didn’t even talk about what happens when your kid joins the band and chooses to play the tuba (costs around $3000.00+ for a cheap one) and that band field trip to New York. Then, you’ve got child care which can cost thousands per year. Children are expensive. Period.
If you really want a child, these expenses are nothing. The smile on your child’s face is worth every dime of that band trip and you can’t put a price on quality child care. But, to someone who doesn’t want a child, the cost-benefit analysis is greatly skewed in the wrong direction.
One of my favorite sayings:
“Time is precious, waste it wisely.”
Children are very time-consuming. In the first few years, you will lose gratuitous amounts of sleep, creating a sleep debt that will seem likely to never be repaid.
Every simple task becomes more difficult when you throw a child into the mix. Don’t believe me?
If I want to run to the post office, here is what I do:
- Grab keys.
- Get in car.
- Drive to post office.
Total Time: 15 minutes
If a parent wants to go to the post office, it’s a bit more difficult:
- Change child’s diaper.
- Dress child.
- Pack diaper bag.
- Find keys (kid was playing with them earlier).
- Balance keys, diaper bag, and child while walking to the car.
- Put diaper bag in car.
- Place child in carseat.
- Wrestle with child to buckle carseat.
- Amidst wrestling, smell odd smell.
- Go back inside to change child’s diaper again.
- Bring child back out to car.
- Seatbelt wrestling match #2.
- Get in car.
- Put on kid-friendly music.
- Drive to post office (while keeping an eye on child in mirror).
Total time: 45 minutes
The amount of time you will spend on housework will skyrocket. In laundry alone, your housework time will double (babies go through a lot of clothes).
And you have to make time to visit with other kids too (unless you want your child to be an awkward unsocialized child). So guess what? You have to make time for play dates and birthday parties! It seems like my sister has spent the past 16 weekends at various birthday parties for children.
Personal hobbies have to take a backseat to your kids. I love taking martial arts! Currently, I have the time to go 3 or 4 times per week. I couldn’t do that if I had kids! I couldn’t reasonably abandon my wife for 3 or 4 hours each week and make her take care of the kids by herself. I would have to cut my training time back significantly!
With no kids, my life is quite relaxed. I spend my weekends doing things that I enjoy. I never wake up with a beat-the-clock mentality while being forced to corral multiple human beings into a “ready” status. My mornings are very peaceful. When I get home, I might watch TV with my wife. Sometimes, we might just take a nap!
My wife and I can be totally spontaneous! Do we want to go to the movies at 10:00 pm tonight? Sure! Do we want to go to the beach this weekend? Sounds great! Do we have to find/pay a babysitter? Nope. Being child-free affords you a type of freedom that you lose when you have children.
Let’s talk about marriage. This topic will likely step on the toes of some. But, studies show that there is a distinct drop in happiness when couples have a baby.
It shouldn’t be that shocking really! You have to deal with all kinds of new pressures and situations. A combination of financial worries, lack of sleep, and less time for yourself and your spouse can deal a sharp blow to your happiness levels. This doesn’t even include those that suffer from postpartum depression.
By not having children, my wife and I are free to continue focusing on each other. My wife is the most important person in my life and I am her’s. Though, this mindset doesn’t have to change for every couple, many people proudly proclaim that their spouse becomes second as their children become number one. This can potentially lead to marital strife and/or resentment. In fact, a recent study reveals that couples without children are more satisfied with their relationships and are more likely to feel valued by their partner.
As a child-free couple, we don’t have to worry about the impact children will have upon our physical intimacy. Most couples report that they have a drastic reduction in physical intimacy after having a child. That sounds absolutely dreadful! We enjoy our physical intimacy and don’t care for the idea of having that drop off in any way.
Your identity is important. It is, literally, who you are. But, having kids fundamentally changes your identity. You are no longer that cool couple that can hang out late and talk about your vacation to Australia.
You can no longer hang out with friends late at night. You can often only stay out until 8:00 pm and much of that time may be spent talking about poopy diapers and your child’s latest developments. Those things are awesome. And, if you are someone that I care about, I seriously want to hear all about those developments.
However, as someone who is child-free, I am also free to pursue my own path. I can pursue my career and go to out-of-town lectures without worrying about leaving my wife with the kids. I will never be forced to hangout with random people that I don’t care for in the spirit of a “play date”. And rushing home in the middle of a fun evening because it’s past my child’s bedtime? Forget about it! I can stay out as late as I want on New Year’s Eve… And any other night!
But, here’s one thing that parents seem to forget. Are you ready for this?
Believe it or not, my identity can include children without breeding on my own! I have plenty of nieces and nephews that I adore! They are seriously some of my favorite people! All of my other siblings are having children of their own and my wife and I can be truly engaged as an aunt and uncle and make sure we are always there for them.
Do you need a last-minute babysitter? Maybe we can help out! As it turns out, we don’t have kids. So, we’re free! Need someone to pick them up from school? I’ve got you covered!
Just because I don’t want to have my own children, doesn’t mean that I hate children. I love the children in my family and I also have a pretty awesome godson as well! My wife and I consider ourselves very lucky to have such great people (and their children) in our lives!
I won’t pretend that there are not some materialistic reasons for our decision to remain child-free. Having a kid changes the way that you view your purchasing decisions.
For example, being part of a child-free couple, I am free to decorate my house however I want! Spiral staircases? Sharp-edged countertops? Glass handrails? These all sound like great home decor to me! With a kid? Not so much…
My home will never be covered in plastic toys or lego deathtraps. Nothing I own is coated in a sticky, unidentifiable substance. My home can be a quiet oasis of peace. I can decorate my backyard with gardens and waterfalls. I don’t have to strip it down to make room for that above-ground pool and swingset.
I am also free to own whatever vehicle I want! I don’t need to drive a mini-van or an SUV. I don’t walk into a dealership and ask for a family-friendly anything. I recently bought a new Dodge Challenger! Why? Because I’ve always wanted one! And it’s fantastic!
When we get ready to buy a new house, I won’t have to think about school districts, child-friendliness, or pedophiles! And when it’s time for a vacation, I won’t have to think about ways to keep the kids entertained. We can go where we want and do what we want!
A Few Bonuses
Here’s a couple of bonuses that didn’t seem to fit into any of the categories above. But, I still felt like they are worth mentioning:
- My wife will never suffer the agony of childbirth.
- My wife will never have to deal with residual body changes of childbirth.
- My Mom’s curse of “Your children are going to be as bad as you were”… Totally avoided!
- Rarely am I put in a situation where I feel compelled to beat a family member in public.
- I don’t have to worry about whether there is a kids’ menu when I go to a restaurant.
- I don’t have to deal with jerks that get upset when my child is being… a child in public.
- 2 words… Dirty. Diapers.
Having kids is a choice. No one needs to have kids. The world is not in need of more people. In fact, there is a serious overpopulation problem right around the corner that may significantly impact the world within the next 50 years.
But, if you want to have children, that’s awesome! I am truly happy for you and I fully support your decision to do so.
I’ve decided that I do not want to have children. I think that’s pretty awesome too! Maybe you can do me the courtesy of supporting my decision as well, rather than giving me a list of reasons why you think I’m wrong.
Like this article? Then you also might enjoy my other article, Having a Baby Doesn’t Make You Wiser. And don’t forget to hit that little “heart” button below!