What is Child-Free Living, and Why Would Anybody Want That?

April 24, 2015 at 3:41 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sometimes I feel like I am at the fringe of every possible mainstream there is whether that be political, social, musical, religious or, in this case, the dating world. Of all the things that “normal” people find odd about me or to which they simply can’t relate, my desire for not having children is easily the biggest, baddest skeleton in my closet. It is the biggest single obstacle in my path to achieving success and happiness.

Child-free living refers to someone who consciously chooses not to have children. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t include women who are infertile but trying to adopt or anyone who is trying to date someone who already has children. The philosophy of child-free living is just that: child-free.

I think it’s an interesting topic to discuss because it’s sort of an autopilot thing for most people. The idea that you grow up, get married, and have kids is so incredibly ingrained in to our heads that almost nobody out there even thinks twice about it, or they don’t think about it until it’s too late. Society has given us this idea that you simply have to do it, or worse – that you want to do it. The decision to have children is a big one and the overwhelming number of women out there who insist that they do want children leads me to believe that most of them have not actually given it any thought beyond a primal urge to motherhood (same thing goes for men). So I urge you to consider the benefits of choosing a child-free life, even if only as an exercise in thought.

Oftentimes, when I tell a prospective mate that I don’t want children, they are dumbfounded. The most common response is to cut the flirtation process off completely and disappear from my life. The second most common response is to ask “Why don’t you want to have children?” My response is simply, “Why do you want to have children?” Interestingly, I haven’t personally heard an answer to that question that didn’t sound entirely selfish or remotely begin to outweigh the drawbacks. I know, I know. You parents out there are screaming, “You’ll understand when you have kids!” I don’t doubt that I would make a great father and that my life would change, and that I would be filled with pride to see a tiny extension of myself out there in the world doing good things.

But think about that – most of the reasons people want kids are for themselves. For their own selfish reasons. Sometimes I respond, in my head, with “Really? You want a tiny extension of yourself in the world? Isn’t that the most selfish thing anyone has ever said? And do you really think you are the best thing we could replicate in future generations?” Okay, I admit – that sounds a bit elitist. But we all know that most of the people who are reproducing shouldn’t reproduce.

I’ll share with you some of the reasons that led me to my personal choice of not wanting children. Some are good things, some come with a negative tone. Just like life. So deal.

More time to do adult things like travel, work out, cook, hobbies, etc. What woman’s favorite hobby isn’t traveling? A research project was done to analyze trends among women’s profiles on dating sites and almost every single dating website profile for a woman lists an interest of hers as traveling. Sorry, honey, but you don’t travel much once you squeeze out a baby (or two or three or four…shudder). And why are a lot of parents fat and out of shape? One reason: time. There isn’t time to cook a healthy meal. There isn’t time to cook at all. Hell, even single people hardly have time to cook. There isn’t time for exercise. The average working couple is exhausted by the time they get home, and more exhausted by the task of caring for children 24/7 (and that’s what it is – a 24/7 job). If there is barely time to eat, you can damn sure bet there isn’t time for the gym. You can point out plenty of exceptions to the rule, I’m sure, but remember that these are just that –  exceptions. Hobbies like hiking, going on dates, or practices that increase your health seem to be the first sacrifices that people make in the interest of time.

More money. There can be no doubt that raising children requires a lot of financial resources. And a very steady income. The stress of losing a job is so great when you are providing financially for tiny human beings that you are likely to stick around through good and bad and worse and ugly and all of that at any given job. Employers know they can sucker someone with children in to doing a lot of things they can’t get a child-free employee to do. Some people cite tax breaks for children as balancing out the financial deficit created by caring for their children, but this is simply incorrect. The deficit far outweighs the break. What would you do with your extra money? Travel? Get a pair of quads and a trailer? Remodel your house? Quit working 40+ hours per week?

Bigger goals, bigger dreams. A person without children is free to focus on his or her own goals and dreams. Without children comes more money, more time, and more mobility to pursue whatever it is that makes you tick. A lot of people who are very career-driven have to make sacrifices once children enter the picture. Forget taking that promotion in Phoenix – your children simply can’t move elementary schools at this time in their lives. And that house you have had your eye on in the south end? Not a chance, buddy. Time that you might use to work on your own projects or business in the evenings is suddenly gone to caring for the children or recovering in front of the TV. There are certainly plenty of people out there who have had success pursuing other goals besides raising children with children in the picture, but they are few and certainly not “average.”

More friends more of the time. Ask any married couple with kids and they’ll tell you that their social life dive-bombed once they tied the knot, and fell through the floor once they had their first baby. The couple that lives next door to me had a child about six months ago and they haven’t attended a single bonfire (NEXT DOOR) since. Unreal. Maintaining friendships and connections requires time, effort, and resources. Be prepared to sacrifice that social life for your future babies.

Mobility. I mentioned it earlier, but if you have children, you are limited in where/how you can move. Sometimes even moving across town is out of the question because of school district boundaries. If you choose not to have children, you preserve your mobility not only in terms of where you live, but also in terms of employment. If an employer begins to treat you badly, you can switch jobs or move without fear of having to provide for tiny people or upsetting their social lives. It helps you avoid being taken advantage of at your job. It also allows you to take promotions that might require moving to a new city. And it expands your housing options as well – you don’t need as much space. You don’t necessarily have to be in the suburbs. And if you feel like roughing it in a bad part of town to save on the rent, you can.

Those are all the great, flowery points of having children. The following points are less than rosy and we might be reluctant to think about them, but extremely relevant all the same.

Lack of commitment from the opposite sex. This is true on both sides of the gender spectrum. There isn’t any guarantee that anyone you are with in any capacity will still be there tomorrow. So why would you want to tie yourself to someone for the rest of your life with a commitment like having a child? And why in the world would you want to risk having your relationship with your children potentially severed or decreased by tying it to the health of your relationship with your spouse/significant-other/baby-mama/baby-daddy? The potential for separation of relationships is higher than it ever has been and people who make decisions to have children blindly typically rush into that decision without consideration of that uncomfortable fact.

Bad divorce laws. Almost all of the time, someone gets screwed. Having children involved in a divorce settlement makes that divorce 1,000 times worse. On both sides of the gender spectrum.

Drain on the world’s resources. We already know that the world, in terms of its ability to support human population, is straining. There are doomsday models all over the place. Each time you bring a new human being in to the world, consider the impact that organism will have over its entire life. People will say that the population in the first-world countries is either stabilizing or declining, and that’s true. But the ecological footprint of a single person in a first-world economy is equivalent to far more than one person’s ecological footprint in the developing world. As a species, we are already walking a fine line in terms of our ability to preserve what we have for future generations. I personally don’t want to be responsible for handing someone the remains of my life if everything goes to hell in the next decade or two. It already sucks. And I definitely don’t want to be held down by tiny people baggage in a zombie apocalypse scenario.

So there you have it. The reasons people choose not to have children vary widely, I’m sure, and these are just my observations on the topic.

So now you might be wondering: Frank, if you don’t look in to your future and see a family and children and all that garbage, what do you see? How can there be happiness in that future?

This is a relevant question. In all honesty, the answer varies because I don’t know what my future holds except for tremendous potential. But in my dream future, I see a wife (or some equivalent type of best-woman-friend-relationship-type of thing), two great careers, two social beings with plenty of connections and a great social life, two fit people who like to share gym time together, or outdoorsy time together, and plenty of traveling. Perhaps someday we would settle down with a small acreage and get AN ADORABLE MINI PIGLET CHILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahem… My point isn’t so much about the details, but about the fact that you can live a fulfilling, happy life without raising children. The flavor is different, but it isn’t bad.

So I hope I have at least inspired you to think critically about the decision to have children. The reality of having a family is almost always different from what people imagine it will be. Sometimes I think that those brief moments of “overwhelming pride” and “indescribable fulfillment” might just be a bit of a dopamine high combined with the need to validate a decision that person made which consumed half or more of their adult life and at staggering personal cost. But who am I, and what do I know anyway?

In the words of my local friend on this topic, “Some people should just get a dog.”

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