My husband and I are childless 28-year-olds.
We don’t get to claim any dependents on our tax returns. The only pitter-patter of feet echoing in our hallways comes from four-legged creatures. We don’t have car seats in our vehicles, and we’ve never heard someone call us “mom” or “dad.”
Perhaps it is because we don’t have any human children that we are overly obsessed with our 3-year-old mastiff Henry. The older he gets and the stronger our bond grows, the more and more he seems to seamlessly fill the void of our childlessness.
It may sound crazy, especially to those who (*gasp*) don’t like dogs, but in many ways, Henry is basically our child.
1. He has a social schedule complete with playdates.
We joke that Henry has a better social life than some children, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. There are weeks he has activities almost every night. From the dog park to pet friendly stores, he’s always out and about. He also has a playdate with his favorite Bull Terrier Holly every Friday. We worry about his socialization more than some parents worry about their children.
2. We brag about him like he's a kid.
Moms and dads of human children are often zealous to talk about their children, pulling out stacks of photos and sharing accomplishments. Our phones are brimming with photos of Henry, and we’re quick to talk about his achievements. This week, our big news was that he was working closer to mastering his glove carrying at obedience school.
3. Our house is overrun by toys.
Don’t worry... this picture was taken during our bi-monthly purge of his toys. But yes, our house is littered with Henry’s beloved toys, including his favorite comfort toy―a stuffed zebra he got his first Christmas.
4. We get his Christmas gifts before we buy for each other.
Henry is usually the first on our list for Christmas gifts, and we make sure he has plenty of gifts to open―wrapped, of course.
5. We specifically pick activities he can do.
We search far and wide for activities that are dog-friendly, even moving our schedules around so we can attend events where Henry is welcome. From outdoor festivals to the Dip n’ Dive at our local pool this weekend, we are always up for a Henry-friendly venue.
6. Henry goes with us on date night.
Saturday is our date night. In the fall especially, we’ve been known to take Henry on date night so he didn’t have to be home alone, choosing to walk to our local Subway and eating outside on the patio with Henry.
7. He gets mail so he doesn't feel left out.
He is a member of Bark Box, even though he already gets way too many toys. Anything to make him feel special...
8. We've turned down plans to spend time with him.
We hate leaving him in the evenings, often turning down plans so we can spend more time with Henry.
9. We dress him up for Halloween.
It’s not easy finding mastiff-size costumes... but we still make sure he’s got the perfect outfit for Trick-or-Treat.
10. He gets a good-bye kiss.
I’m more worried about saying good-bye to Henry when I leave than my husband.
11. We get insulted if someone makes fun of him.
A few years ago, a lady asked me: “You actually let that thing in your house?”
I still fume about that woman and her rude comments. When people shun Henry on our walks, turning their nose up at him because he’s “too big,” they get a death glare. No one talks about our Henry like that.
12. We have more photos of him on the walls than most people do their children.
13. He gets to see Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.
And yes, we pay for the expensive photo packages so our parents can have pictures of their “granddog.”
14. He goes to the park.
Henry is a member at our local dog park, so he gets to go play. During the fall, we try to take him at least one night a week.
15. We enroll him in school.
He’s been through several rounds of dog school, and we always make sure he does his homework.
So yes, we are completely obsessed with our mastiff Henry, and we basically treat him like our child. Henry is living the life with his hectic social schedule, plenty of toys, and activities galore.
Some people think we’re crazy, and some scoff at us for calling him family.
But we don’t care.
The love we have for Henry, the unconditional bond we have with him, is irreplaceable. We do everything in our power to give him the best life we can, but it’s nothing compared to what he gives us―loyalty, companionship, and memories we’ll cling to for a lifetime.
To see more of Lindsay's writing and her time with Henry, visit her Facebook.
I’m 28 and happily married to my junior high sweetheart. We have steady jobs, a house, two vehicles, a mastiff, and more cats than I’d like to admit to.
But we don’t have any kids.
This October will mark 5 years since our wedding. I wish I had $1 for every time in those 5 years I’ve been asked when we’re going to have kids. The truth is, once you say “I do,” children become the expectation.
This is okay, to an extent. It’s just part of the carefully plotted equation society sets before us. When you choose to break that equation, people start to wonder why.
I’ve seen so many blogs and articles about motherhood, but I think it’s time we talk a little about my subgroup, the childless. Here are things no one tells you about being a childless 20-something after saying, “I do.”
1. You’ll be asked about your biological clock… by everyone.
For me, I’m lucky in the respect my childlessness isn’t breaking my heart. I’m perfectly fine with holding off on motherhood until my thirties. I don’t cry at the emptiness of our spare bedroom. I can walk right by a rack of baby clothes without blinking.
For many women, this isn’t the case. Being childless is not a choice, a privilege, or an accepted state. For many women, being childless is a source of constant pain.
My childless state has made me more aware of the pain these women endure. I experience it when every restaurant wishes me a Happy Mother’s Day. I experience it when my bank teller asks me why we don’t have kids yet, or the mailman, or the lady at the mall, or every other person I come across. It seems like asking, “Why don’t you have kids yet?” has become an acceptable conversation starter with any married woman.
For me, I smile and just shrug. I’m happy with my life currently. What bothers me, though, is how our society doesn’t stop to think about the other childless women, the women who are literally falling apart with the wish for a child.
For these women, it must be hellish being constantly reminded of their childless state by every stranger who thinks it’s acceptable to point it out.
2. People will demand a reasonable explanation why you don’t have kids.
Are you traveling?
Are you still in college?
Are you saving the world?
Simply stating, “No, we don’t have kids yet,” is not sufficient for most people.
If you’re married, female, and in your 20s, then surely you want children immediately. There must be a very, very good reason you don’t have children yet.
I’ve found, “We love Netflix,” or “We like spending money,” or “We’re taking our time” read as selfish answers not deemed as acceptable.
The truth is, people are wary of 20-somethings who are married, stable, and simply don’t want children yet. I’d like to think people in 2016 could be open-minded enough to realize there are simply different lifestyles. I’m not so sure this is the case.
My husband and I are not celebrities. Work keeps us busy, but we’re good multi-taskers and could manage. We’re certainly not traveling the world or saving it. Most nights, we sit in front of the television or he plays video games while I read. Some weeks, our biggest excitement is a spontaneous trip to the mall. We are not living a Gatsby-style life.
So why don’t we have kids yet?
Because. That’s why.
3. Everyone will assume you have baby envy.
“Do you want to hold him?”
These are the words I fear the most. However, every new mom assumes because I don’t have a baby, I’m dying to get my hands on every single one I come near.
This is not the case.
Sometimes I fear the mothering gene skipped over me. Most women see a baby and “ooh” and “aah,” crowding around to make a fuss.
I usually try to find the closest corner to pick my nails or stare at the wall or do just about anything to avoid holding the baby.
It’s not that I don’t like your baby or think it’s awesome you have one. But not all women are naturals with babies or dying to hold one. Still, as a childless woman, you will be given the privilege of being first in line to hold a baby because clearly you must have baby envy.
4. People will assume you are living a life of luxury.
“You wouldn’t understand.”
These are the words I’ve heard from countless tired parents when they’re discussing their child’s latest all-night rant about Barney or Cheerios or any other thing children have a tantrum about.
The truth is… I can’t understand your struggle as a parent, nor do I claim to. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child screaming over a candy bar at the grocery store. I don’t know what it’s like to change diapers or buy formula or breast feed or find a daycare. I don’t know what it’s like to host a birthday party for five-year-olds or deal with potty training accidents.
However, I do have my own struggles.
Just because I’m not a mom doesn’t mean I’m sitting on the couch eating chocolates, watching soap operas, and taking naps (okay, so to be fair, I do those things from time to time).
However, a childfree life is not a carefree life. Life isn’t easy, kids or not.
5. You will be excluded.
Motherhood and fatherhood lead to friendship clubs the childless are excluded from. Childless couples are left behind as friends with children move on to groups of parents. My husband and I have seen this happen with so many couples who were our close friends.
I don’t think it’s intentional. Life with a baby is busy, it’s challenging. It’s different. Plus, when the baby grows up, suddenly it makes more sense to spend time with other couples who have children. It’s about having someone to share experiences with, to share playtime with, to share tips with.
My husband and I can fill none of these needs. Sure, we can offer our mastiff as a playdate, but that usually doesn’t suffice.
As a childless, married 20-something, you will find yourself on the outs. I think we’ve learned not to be bitter about it or to ask why. I think you just have to accept life changes, people change, and circumstances change.
Handling Life as a Married, Childless 20-something
Being childless has its benefits. I get to sleep in on Saturday mornings. I don’t have to watch rated G shows in the middle of the day. I don’t have to worry about serving healthy, kid-friendly meals or making cupcakes for the PTA or going to pediatric appointments. I don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of money on talking dolls or remote-control cars.
I have a lot of freedom.
But this freedom is accompanied by condescending looks, nosy questions, and classifications as selfish. Being childless, especially as a married 20-something, puts you on the outskirts of your peer group.
Someday, I may find myself a married, 20-something mom. Until that day, though, please know there’s more to being childless than meets the eye.
Our identities should not be based on how many dependents we claim. The most important thing I think all 20-somethings should remember, childless or otherwise, is that in life, you have to be confident enough to go your own path.
You’re on your own time. Don’t rush it for anyone.
For more reading on this topic, check out my article “Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Have a Baby” on Ripped Jeans & Bifocals Blog.
Also check out my post on the Huffington Post.