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.