There’s always a story behind the number of kids a person has – even if that number is zero.
People with kids can fall into several categories – biological parents, step-parents, adoptive parents, legal guardians, and foster parents. (From what I’ve learned over the years, many would cut out those classifications and simply categorize themselves as mom or dad – which is totally valid.)
People without kids fall into two categories – childfree and childless. Childfree people have chosen not to have kids. Childless people want kids, but don’t have them. However, I think I’m in a third category – “kinda childfree”.
I’m childfree in the sense that I’ve chosen not to have kids through adoption or advanced medical treatment. However, even though I’ve chosen to stop the journey, I can’t say that I don’t want kids either. Hence – kinda childfree. And here’s the big part people don’t understand. People feel like if I REALLY want kids, I should never stop trying every avenue until I get them. I understand how they can think that.
My best way to explain it is comparing it to someone who’s single. Some single people are so uncomfortable with the idea of not having a significant other that they’re fixated on finding one. It’s all they talk about. Seeing other couples together just reminds them that they’re missing out on the life they’d planned for themselves.
Other singles may think it’d be nice to have a companion, but they don’t feel an overwhelming urge to exhaust every chance of finding their soulmate. Instead, their desire is to not focus on what could’ve been, but to open their hearts to the people and opportunities already in their life. They entertain the idea that even if this is what their life permanently looks like, it’s really not that bad, even if it wasn’t their first choice. Or, there are factors in their lives that have already led them to be content with not having a partner. They are proudly single and satisfied.
One is not better than the other. The single person who longs to be with someone shouldn’t be looked down upon for being upset they don’t have a partner. It’s something that’s important to them. It’s natural to want to be loved and love in return.
The single person who has accepted a life of independence (unsure of what it will ultimately look like – or even resolved in always being single) shouldn’t be looked down upon either. It’s a GOOD thing that they’re not settling for someone just because the societal norm is that they should be with someone. They’re developing themselves and have other meaningful relationships in their lives.
In the same way, some people are fixated on becoming a parent. It’s a natural drive within them that they can’t shake, regardless of the obstacles they face. They can’t let go of it and will do whatever it takes to become a parent. It doesn’t matter how many treatments or adoptions fail. They’ll never stop trying.
Some people only want a biological child. That’s something natural within them too. Telling them to adopt because there are hundreds of children waiting for a family is totally minimizing something very personal to them. You wouldn’t tell a girl whose fiancé recently passed away to just go marry someone else because there are hundreds of guys waiting for a wife. Her heart chose the guy she was going to marry. She pictured an entire life with him and it never got to start. She’s in mourning of the dream that ended. It’s not like any available guy can instantly and perfectly fill that void. She may never move past the loss of what could’ve been. Everyone grieves differently.
Some people simply don’t want to have kids. This is also natural. There’s nothing wrong with someone not wanting kids. Now, it is unhealthy for them to be married to someone who does want kids. However, if the spouse agrees to a childfree life (or they never have to consider a spouse’s opinion because they never marry), then all is well.
My kinda-childfreeness is comparable to the single person who has stopped the maddening search for a partner and is accepting a new normal. A lot of thought goes into stepping off an original path, taking a breath and living out a life that’s different than the one that you’d originally dreamed for yourself. I’m not looking for “love” to happen anymore, but I would also find it special if “love” came my way. Just as single people don’t appreciate people digging, no matter how well-intentioned, as to why they’re single, the same is true for me when it comes to why I don’t have kids.
So, instead of asking me about kids, ask me about other things going on in my life. Ask me about my husband, my job, my friends, my hobbies, and my adventures. I’m not ignoring the issue. Kids are in my face all the time. They’re in my community. They’re on my TV. They’re in the songs I hear and the holidays I celebrate. Trust me. I’m not living in ignorance. I’m aware of kids and the value that they bring to a family. I just hope other people are aware that while I’m living kinda childfree in this child-full world, I have a family as well. We’re a family of two. And for us, it’s beautifully full.