the library of alexandra


They Asked a Childfree Person Anything

whenever you tend to make life choices that go against what folks have been accustomed or normalized to do, you might find yourself often defending against the decisions you make. i wanted to compile some of the most frequently asked questions i've gotten over the years, which is still shocking to me, as a ciswoman in my 30s about my decision to not have children.

as i begin to detach more from social media, i want to contribute what i can to the small web that will help others learn perspectives and ideas that might be different than their own. it'd be nice to not have to rely on companies like reddit for these, and i hope i can provide some insight as someone from this individual perspective, not as a monolith. i appreciate you, dear reader. thanks for being here.

are you against having children in general?

no, not at all. while i do think the planet is suffering from an overabundance of population (despite what elon musk thinks), i think that it's ultimately a personal decision that someone should come to themselves. if anything, i think more folks should think about whether or not they actually want to have children more than folks just shouldn't have children. it's deeply ingrained in all of us that having children is what we're "supposed" to do, when our need to repopulate has been overstated for some time. i'd much rather folks be enthusiastic about having children than being ambivalent and doing it anyway.

i think the world would be a better place in general if folks are given the room to grow into the people they want to be before having children, and if folks are able to get into a better place financially before the fiscal effects of having children (almost $240k!). in the united states, especially, it's hard to justify having children without state-provided support like what is offered in many other countries (including mandated family leave).

who's going to take care of you when you're old?

i have a couple of thoughts about this concept. first, hopefully, my partner and the love of my life, to whom i hope to return the favor. at the stage of my life when my medical care becomes too much, i hope to weigh the quality of my life against the idea of staying alive for the sake of it. i may never feel "done" with life, but i have seen what aging into your 80s does to your body and mind. i would prefer to have a shorter elderly life if my health falls significantly, in order to reduce my strain or burden on others and reduce the amount of hardship my partner may experience. i feel lucky to live in a state with death with dignity laws, where i can make that decision when i'm still of sound body and mind.

second, it's my view that your children are not your default caregivers: children move away; parents treat their children poorly throughout their lives and then expect to be taken care of later; poverty can be generational, where children are unable to afford taking care of their aging parents. this is an ongoing subject of conversation, and one that is often had with my partner. i think it's up to individuals to figure out how they're going to be taken care of when they're older, and this shouldn't fall to their offspring by default.

our plan, specifically, is to make sure we are financially taken care of (while we're still able to build our savings) to the age in which we would like to retire from consciousness.

what will you do with your free time?

that's the best part! literally anything i want. i have a long list of things i want to accomplish before i'm unable to, and so far, i've done a great job of crossing things off that list. i'm an ambitious person, and there's a lot of personal goals i want to reach. there's even some things i can't do because of the time i spend working, so i look forward to my retirement, when i'm able to cross some additional things off my list.

i travel a lot, but eventually, even that will become cumbersome. i hope to build my own paradise at home, living a life of my choosing. i refuse to be one of those folks who don't "start living" until they've retired and their kids have grown up. i just decidedly want my life to be mine with the ability to choose how i live out my days from morning to night. having children complicates that, and the decision to have children can interfere with personal happiness. i know it certainly would interfere with mine.

there have been so many times my boyfriend and i have turned to each other and said, "good thing we don't have kids! we would not have been able to do this." it makes me continually grateful for my decision, and reframing my life periodically to imagine what it would be like helps me remember in those moments that i'm experiencing the joy of missing out of children.

don't you think you're going to regret it?

i've had a lot of opportunities in life to regret my choices, and i have yet to do so. i believe this is partially due to my belief in the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, where i believe that there are an infinite number of versions of me; at least one accomplishes the thing that i think i would regret. there is probably many versions of me with children, living parallel to my own existence right now, that are living out the life that i am not choosing in this one. it feels incredibly calming to me and stills any twinge of regret that i might have in a moment.

i think when it comes to the choices we make, we have to do the best we can with the information we have at the time. even if i'm no longer at peace with them for some reason later in life, i accept that the decisions i'm making are permanent ones.

i recognize that my partner might pass away before me, that i might find loneliness where, in another world, i would be surrounded by family in my time of grief. i believe i will be able to see that i was lucky enough to find a deep, true love in my life, something many people do not experience that even for a short time. i got to experience it for as long as i was able, and i was grateful for every moment while i had it. i will still be capable of love and may never get it again in the same way. however, i can always find peace in being alone, and i have always loved my solitude.

in the most extreme outcome, if i do end up deeply regretting my decision and feel as though parenting is the actual path i want to take, i am absolutely in favor of adopting children from the foster system and believe i would be happy with an older foster child at a stage in my life where i have so much love to give and no one to share it with.

what's the point in life if you don't have kids?

this is an amazing question to me, because it feels like the person asking is getting close to discovering what they feel like their meaning in life is. to me, my life is meaningful without children. i contribute to my communities, i try to make the world a better place than when i arrived, and i work toward goals that give me meaning and purpose. my purpose is dictated by myself and myself only, and i experience great joy in that alone; reducing children to be the "point" is reducing our existence to being baby-making machines. i think we've evolved past that as a species.

did you choose a career over parenting?

no, and frankly, as james baldwin famously said, i do not dream of labor. i do not find meaning or purpose in my life by making corporations richer, and i have grown out of the idea that my identity is tied to my work. my worth is not measured in how much money i make, especially for someone else. this took a lot of unlearning to do, but i eventually want to have lived many lives, many careers, and develop a wide breadth of knowledge and experiences that enrich my life. parenting is not one that i find interesting, once i weigh the pros and cons.

do you just never want to grow up? you can't party forever!

i think i'm pretty past my partying days, but what is "growing up"? if that means settling into adulthood (my life after childhood) supporting myself, being childfree allows me to do that more than being a parent ever could. if "growing up" is no longer having fun, i refuse to do that, no matter how old i get.

i believe "growing up" is evolving, learning how to adapt. to me, it's just growing as you age. growing as a person is integral to maturity, especially emotionally and mentally, and i find myself loving that part of myself the most. i'm always growing, always learning; taking in perspectives different than my own, weighing my ethics, opinions, and feelings periodically. i have a deep understanding of myself, who i want to be, and where i want to go. i'm an anxious overthinker, and i've thought deeply and pedantically about even the most mundane of actions to consider outcomes and how i feel about those outcomes.

i want to settle down, yes. but i'd rather do things on my own terms.

how do your parents feel, depriving them of grandchildren?

my mother actually understands. she knows what i've experienced, she experienced some with me, and she understands the toll. she told me once that she saw me married, but never with children. she never saw me with kids, and i think this is something that i've been traveling the path since i was young. it hasn't really come up with my dad. i think he'll just be happy when i get married. and, luckily, my sister has three children, so at least they have some grandkids. pressure's off!

isn't it selfish to not have children?

yes. deeply. and i think if we were more selfish when it came to decisions that affect our lives profoundly, we might come to different conclusions and actually be happier with our lives at the end of it all.

really, though, i'm of two minds about this, because it can be selfish to have children, especially if one just wants them for the sake of having children and without considering their reasons for actually wanting a child. wanting a friend, wanting someone to love, wanting to save a marriage or relationship, wanting something to have ownership of, wanting an identity, wanting to find meaning in their own lives, wanting someone to shape or create, wanting someone to take care of them when they're old, wanting to fit in to their community, wanting status, wanting a change or something new—are these not also selfish reasons?

i think decisions we make for ourselves are inherently selfish. we have to act in our own best interests, and being "selfish" in this way isn't a bad word. i am not hurting anyone by not having children. to me, it's taking charge of my own life, and removing agency of others' in my life as well as certain societal rules that are imposed on me and that i find no joy partaking in.

don't you want to pass things onto your children?

i believe in mentorship and shaping people who are already here rather than try to create people in my image. i believe having children for the sake of having something to pass onto (including values or knowledge), or thinking that my children would automatically be interested in anything i would be, is for folks with bigger egos than mine. too many people i know are so different from their parents that it feels antithetical to having children for this reason. you can also see this when a business owner's children take over their business and then either run it into the ground or completely change it to the opposite of what the owner wanted.

this plays also into the idea of "legacy," an outdated concept to me in the sense of having a family. i believe your legacy is actually the people you touch throughout your life and after through your actions, your words, and the things you leave behind, tangible or not.

why do you not want to have kids?

i wanted to save this one for last because it's ultimately my personal reasons for not wanting children. while this is a personal question and one i wouldn't exactly answer with a stranger, i thought sharing my answers would help others who might be wondering about this perspective or mulling things over for themselves. none of it is meant to be a criticism of others' decisions to have children. in true blogging fashion, a top 10 list:

  1. based on our current trajectory, i believe climate change is not going to be mitigated by the goodwill of corporations that are directly causing and perpetuating it. i believe we need less population on this planet, and not having children is my way of ethically furthering that cause while reducing my carbon footprint.
  2. i don't want to pass on illnesses and other genetic issues that are in my bloodline.
  3. i enjoy being able to decide what to do with my day-to-day, as well as a having a stable, self-determining life.
  4. i am spontaneous and enjoy spontaneity in my life.
  5. i get a lot of joy and accomplishment out of my hobbies, relationships, and goals. i do not feel like children will add more meaning to my life than what i can create.
  6. i do not subscribe to the idea of having a legacy, especially as the human population grows. i believe i have a responsibility to free up resources when i pass rather than perpetuate generational wealth.
  7. i did not have good parental examples growing up, and i do not think i would have the sufficient skills to be an adequate parent.
  8. i have a hard time around young children as a neurodivergent individual as i get overstimulated and need frequent breaks.
  9. i love sleeping in.
  10. i just don't want to.