Because no one writes a guidebook about what to expect when you’re not expecting.
Sometimes there’s a moment when you realise you don’t want kids. Or maybe you’ve known since you were little that having kids was not for you. But even with more and more people now choosing to remain childless, it still feels like conversations about what it is like to not have kids are kept in the shadows.
So for everyone out there who is wondering what it’s like, here is my quick guide about what to expect when you’re not expecting.
Sometimes you’ll doubt your decision
It’s OK — no decision is black and white. Don’t think that wondering ‘what if’ means that you’ve made the wrong decision for yourself. It’s just the curse of imagination and the ability to spend time wondering about alternative paths you might have taken. Don’t stress. You probably spend time wondering what it would be like to do a thousand other things that you wouldn’t actually want to do in real life. Like going to Mars. I’m curious, but I hate flying and I’d miss the sea too much. So I’m happy for that one to stay in my imagination.
Others will doubt your decision
People will give you all kinds of unsolicited views about your mind and your body as if they somehow know better. They will call you selfish a lot too. I have no advice for this one, except to try and move away from the conversation as soon as you can. It’s your body, your choice, your decision.
Your friendships will change
But this isn’t a bad thing. Don’t resist that life becomes child-centred for hangouts and conversations. If you love your gang and you want to be friends forever, be a part of the journey with them. Or like me, slightly annoy them by comparing childrearing with fostering and rehabilitating troubled dogs. (Seriously though — dogs and toddlers are the same. It’s all poo, wee, vomit and tantrums).
The way you make friends will change
Schools and parenting are set up for adults making friends with other adults. At times that can seem hard when you don’t have that network around you. But you have to find out how to make friends in different ways. Like a retired person you have time and money and so you make friends like any retired person would — through lots of cool activities. You’ll make painting friends, sewing friends, choir friends, sports friends… you get the drift.
You will feel lonely sometimes
You’ll feel lonely sometimes, so it’s best to get used to that. And like everyone, you can feel lonely when you're with people or not, and if you're in a relationship or not. Everyone gets lonely. It’s part of the human condition. So discover what works for you when you’re feeling low. But remember that having kids is no antidote to feeling lonely.
You’ll wonder what you’re doing with your life
There’s no script for being a childfree adult, and sometimes the possibilities for life can feel overwhelming. You might even get into a bit of an existential crisis about it all, as having a family is a predictable, well-trodden path. But remember that by not having kids, you’ll have endless opportunity to create the path you want. Try not to let it freak you out and just enjoy following the threads of anything that interests you.
And it may feel like this is exclusively the feeling of the childfree person, but this exact same thing seems to happen to parents when their kids fly the nest. You’re just ahead of the curve with finding out who you truly are.
You’ll think about getting older and death
This is a good thing. Too few people plan for ageing, so it’s good to start thinking about it when you’re young. What does a happy older life look like for you? What does death mean to you? What would you regret not having done in life? You have the choice to go and do it. But definitely make one of those choices exercise — it’s the key to a happy old age.
You’ll feel pressure to do something extraordinary with your life
The only way society can seem to accept stories about childfree women is if they have done something remarkable with their life instead. You know the ones — the CEO, the superstar, the world-renowned scientist. Don’t worry. You can just live a good, ordinary life, following your hobbies and interests. You do not need to do anything amazing to be worthy of your space in the world.
You might not hate kids
A lot of people who don’t want kids, seem to hate them. I get it. It’s easier to hate kids and not to want them than to like kids and still not want them. But don’t feel like you have to play a part. I like kids. They make me laugh. I like playing with them and hearing their weird stories. I just don’t want them in my life 24/7. Or in the pub… but that’s a topic for another post.
You might not have a definitive answer as to why you don’t want kids
Some people have a really strong sense that they don’t want kids. They’ve never wanted them and they never will. For some, it’s much more of a grey area. Just lots of little things adding up to ‘I think it’s a no for me’. You don’t have to be able to clearly articulate why you don’t want kids. I can’t. I just don’t, which seems to be frustratingly vague for some people! Remember this isn’t an essay or debate club — it’s your life, your body, your choice. Sometimes you can know things emotionally without necessarily being able to articulate them intellectually. Your decision is still valid. You don’t need to back it up with a well thought out, coherent story about why your decision is right for you. It just is.
Stevie Cooke is a London-based writer and content creator. You can find out more about her at www.stevie-cooke.com