Inspiration for childless and childfree women

Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice

doubts

Do childfree people ever have doubts about their choices? I suspect most do at some time or other. An image of motherhood suddenly seems appealing. An experience of being the-odd-one-out suddenly seems overwhelming. A comment somewhere on the bingo spectrum suddenly gets under your skin. And what follows might be a chilly moment of uncertainty. Is my life on the right track after all?

If we refuse to acknowledge the likelihood that a good proportion of us sometimes experience doubt, what will that do to the experience of childfreedom? I think it will create a social role for women that is every bit as oppressive and unkind as motherhood has sometimes been, with all the complexity and richness of real, lived experience hidden behind a brittle smile and an insistence that we are completely, uncomplicatedly, unreservedly satisfied.

The anonymity made possible by the internet has meant that mothers in large numbers have been able to find release from the obligation to pretend that they are one hundred per cent happy, one hundred per cent of the time. There are long, constantly updating threads with titles like Does anyone else regret having children?, I hate being a mom and I hate motherhood.

My hunch is that these threads are not evidence of full-blown, no-returns maternal regret, but rather moments in which women have become overwhelmed by frustration and despair and sought human company in that frightening experience. Their admissions don’t bring the joyfulness, meaningfulness or sacredness of motherhood tumbling down. But they help us, mothers and non-mothers alike, to see past the façade of perfect satisfaction that the media promotes without conscience, piling guilt, shame, fear and misery onto women with children.

Childfree and childless-by-choice women have the option to mirror and match the oppressive ideal of motherhood by insisting, with brittle smiles, that we too are all perfectly happy, perfectly fulfilled and have never experienced a moment of regret. But given that we have resisted so many social pressures and norms already, I think we can muster up the courage to resist this one too.

Being fully alive and fully awake means experiencing real life as it actually is – not a plastic ideal or a fragile façade, but an energising, exhausting swirl of dissatisfaction and fulfilment,  fear and security, discomfort and pleasure, confusion and clarity.

If you’re interested in some of the challenging aspects of being childless/childfree, you might enjoy a post about rage in the childfree community or a post about finding contentment in the lifestyle.

But in the meantime, what are your thoughts on childless/childfree doubts?

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30 comments on “doubts

  1. childfreefeminist
    March 12, 2012

    I feel the same way. There are tons of blogs where childfree women speak about their insecurities, mourning the loss of friendships with women who have children and wondering Am I Making the Right Decision? If anything, we should feel even MORE doubt in our lives because of so few child-free role models out there who can tell us, “I did this and it was worth it. It was rewarding and I don’t regret it.”

    Instead, all we have is a parade of mothers who are telling us their job is so worth it. Personally, if I didn’t see what my own mother went through and became from being a mother, I wouldn’t thank my lucky stars every day for the opportunity to be childfree and having that be acceptable in my country. Not so many women are as fortunate to have the choices we have.

    It IS complicated, but it is a choice. Do you feel doubt sometimes? I can see how children can be enjoyable, but for all of the sacrifices–it’s not worth it to me. However, I do want the mothers out there to know life is not always a beach for child-free women. We struggle too, sometimes picturing what life could have been like with kids. Even if it is not what we are choosing, having it available as an option always makes you compare and evaluate (whether constantly or occasionally).

  2. olivia
    March 12, 2012

    Thank you for leaving me my first comment, childfreefeminist, and such an interesting one too!

    Yes, certainly I experience doubt sometimes. I have a habit of thinking far too hard about everything, so I wouldn’t expect this to be any different :). But my pros list (for remaining childfree) is much, much longer than my cons list, so most of the time that is good enough for me. And like you, I’m very thankful to have grown up in a world that has allowed me to make a choice.

  3. A nonny mouse
    March 13, 2012

    Hi – just wanted to say how much i am enjoying this site. You’re giving me a lot to think about.

  4. olivia
    March 13, 2012

    Thank you very much for stopping by, a nonny mouse 🙂

  5. Heidi
    March 13, 2012

    Hi Olivia
    Great post & I think having comments open is great too! Ultimately you have veto rights, afterall it’s your blog, so you can have all the good comments & if it gets too rough – the bad comments can go 🙂
    I don’t know if I’d couch my thoughts as doubts. Doubts is defined by an uncertainty or a lack of conviction. I don’t experience either of these in my childfree choice. What I do sometimes experience are the ‘what if’ moments when I see a particularly touching mother/child moment or the ‘what if’ pictures of what my life could be like now or far into the future if I’d chosen differently. These are certainly not doubts & definitely not regrets for me and are particularly fleeting, so I’m never overly concerned when they pop into my head. I know that almost as soon as they pop in to my head they’ll slide out and I’m left with the knowledge that my decision is right for me. Ultimately that’s all that matters – the decision you have made being right for you…..
    Keep up the great blog 🙂

  6. olivia
    March 13, 2012

    Thanks so much for this wonderful encouragement Heidi! So far the comments idea definitely seems to have been a good one 🙂

    I like the distinction you’ve made between doubts and ‘what ifs’ and especially the important point you’ve noted about the experiences being fleeting. Mine are too and I’m sure that’s why they don’t seem to ruffle me too much.

    It’s lovely to hear such familiar feelings being expressed 🙂

  7. Diane G.
    March 13, 2012

    It’s good to be able to talk about all of it – the good, the bad, the uncertain.

    I’ve ended up telling myself this: if you are looking for a path where you will never have moments of doubt, fear and/or frustration…guess what? You are never going to find it. Nobody gets that.
    I’ve also found when I’ve tried to repress or ignore any of those feelings, they seem to double-down and make me miserable.

    I made the choice to not have kids and I will own ALL of what that means.

    We’re only human. There is no perfect way. Just the best way for yourself – and I feel very lucky to be living in a time and place that allows me a choice about having (or not, as in my case) a child.

  8. Diane G.
    March 13, 2012

    Oh – and I really like this blog! Nice work!

    • olivia
      March 13, 2012

      Hi Diane. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and for the kind words too.

      “There is no perfect way. Just the best way for yourself.”

      I think I might write that down and pin it up somewhere prominent! It relates beautifully not just to this issue but almost every other.

  9. Laura
    March 13, 2012

    Although fleeting I do have doubts. They’re generally triggered by seeing, hearing or reading about a particularly special moment – like when someone describes the wonder they felt when they first saw their new baby. I don’t feel jealousy or longing, it just sometimes gives me a moment of thinking “What if I really am missing out?”. But then reality kicks in and I think “No, I really don’t want that life!”. It can be hard to admit these doubts but they are certainly there, and I’m trying to embrace and explore them rather than ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away.

    I think those feelings can be very healthy because it gives you a moment of seeing parenthood from the other point of view. Nowadays I feel that I can appreciate more why people want to have children just as I can appreciate why I don’t want them.

    In case you decide not to keep comments open I want to take the opportunity to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog and I appreciate the serene space you’ve created here, Your posts are thoughtful, inspiring and upbeat and I enjoy reading them.

    • olivia
      March 13, 2012

      Laura, that is wonderful to hear and so encouraging as you’ve described my hopes for this site exactly!

      I hadn’t really considered the way that accepting the reality that there may sometimes be feelings of doubt also opens us up to understanding parents better, but I think you’re absolutely right and its a great point. I’ll borrow it for a future blog post, if I may?

      Thank you so much for your thoughts on these issues!

      • Laura
        March 13, 2012

        Absolutely, feel free!

  10. julie
    March 13, 2012

    I can honestly say that I have never, not once, doubted my decision to be childfree. I have always known that I do not want to have kids, but it was only in recent years that I realized that I had a choice in the matter, and that there was a name for it. This isn’t some plastic facade or posturing, it’s the simple truth. I really can’t imagine regretting not having kids any more than I can imagine regretting not doing every drug imaginable. To me, breeding goes in the same category of desirability as jumping off a cliff. I see absolutely no appeal in it, and not for even the briefest moment, even though I have tried for the sake of a writing assignment.

    I may be happy or unhappy from time to time in my life, but the only baring being childfree ever has on that is that I have at least one less misery added to my troubles by not having kids.

    Let’s each ensure that when we speak, we only speak for ourselves.

    • olivia
      March 13, 2012

      Thank you so much for sharing this viewpoint too, Julie. I know it is one shared and often expressed by many childfree people (and of course, the absolutely-zero-regrets position is obviously shared by lots of parents too). Hopefully it is clear enough that any blog only represents the viewpoint of its author, but I’m very grateful and interested to hear alternative angles on the issues I raise here.

  11. Lynn T
    March 13, 2012

    An interesting post and interesting comments. Childfreefeminist, your comment on how there are so few child-free role models has made me think to point you in the direction of Olivia’s Pinterest board on childless and childfree women (http://pinterest.com/oliviareading/childless-and-child-free-women/). It’s very inspiring!

  12. Lydia
    March 13, 2012

    I love this post.

    I’ve had moments of doubt, too. Especially when see all of the joy my nephew brings to his parents. He’s such a sweet, funny little boy.

    But when push comes to shove I really don’t have any interest in the day-to-day realities of raising a kid.

    Thank the gods for Aunthood – all of the fun, none of the responsibility. 😛

    • olivia
      March 13, 2012

      You wouldn’t believe how closely I relate to this comment, Lydia. Exchange nephew for niece, girl for boy and Lydia for Olivia and I’d be racking my brains trying to figure out why I’d left a comment on my own post 🙂

  13. Sylvia D. Lucas
    March 16, 2012

    I think it’s often difficult for parents and non-parents to admit to doubts (and I use “doubts” somewhat loosely, because I think those feelings are closer to the “what-if” questions Heidi wrote about). If a childfree woman admits to thinking/wondering about kids, friends or family will say, “See? We told you you’d change your mind!” And if a mother fantasizes about having no children, she feels like she’s somehow being disloyal to her children.

    But it would be unnatural to not wonder about the other side, the other life. It’s much like wondering about any path not chosen – a different man, the single or married life (whichever one you’re not living), a different degree…

  14. olivia
    March 16, 2012

    Thanks so much for your thoughts Sylvia. I think ‘unnatural’ is the perfect word to have used to describe trying to be completely blinkered on the path we’re walking.

  15. Amy
    March 31, 2012

    I just discovered your blog tonight (via Pinterest) and I love it! Although I’ve only read a few posts – I really appreciate this one. Thank you for highlighting the likely parallel: that women with children might have similar incidental doubts (raising children does not guarantee that life is 100% fulfilling, 100% of the time). I agree – that is likely a female trait.

    As a childfree 29 year old, I currently don’t struggle with doubt – I know I don’t want kids. I’ve known since I was 16, when realized that children aren’t a life requirement. Parenthood just isn’t for everyone.

    I think the main reason I don’t have doubt is because at this point, I can always change my mind (although – I really hope I don’t!) So, instead, I occasionally struggle with the fear of future doubt and/or regret. What about when I’m too old to change my mind – what if I regret it then?? Or what about when my cool, world-traveling friend that I admire finally settles down and has a baby and makes it seem awesome and effortless….will I be overwhelmed with regret and envy then??

    I 100% agree that it’s important to acknowledge these fleeting thoughts…and after reading this post I feel better, remembering that doubt is just a human emotion that we’re all prone to, kids or no kids.

    Keep up the great work! I really appreciate your wisdom and insight, and I look forward to catching up on all of your posts! 🙂

    • olivia
      March 31, 2012

      Amy, thank you so much for stopping by and especially for taking the time to comment.

      I feel I know just what you mean when you write about anticipating regret. That has been a worry of mine too. For what it’s worth, I’m seven years further along the track than you (36) and I haven’t felt it yet – at least, nothing that comes close to challenging my love of the life I live now.

      But perhaps it will come later and if it does I will try and remember to find and reread your comment because I love the way you’ve put this – ‘doubt is just a human emotion that we’re all prone to, kids or no kids’.

      Thanks again Amy 🙂

      • Anonymous
        April 1, 2012

        I had no doubts or regrets at all about choosing to not be a mother until I hit 38 (last year). I was amazed that this feeling arrived, until that day I was adamant to anyone who would listen that being a mum was absolutely not for me. childless by choice is great until it no longer becomes a choice but something imposed and then, in my experience, it looks and feels totally different. Whilst I don’t look back and regret the relationship choices I made earlier on (I have only met one man I would have considered breeding with and he already had 3 children) I do wish the desire had presented itself earlier on when I had much more time to do something about it. This feeling of perpetual panic is not enjoyable at all and clouds all potential new relationships.

        • olivia
          April 1, 2012

          Anonymous, that sounds really difficult and I think you’re very right to highlight the significance of the shift from choice to no-longer-a-choice. Although I’m experiencing it differently, I feel that I’m in the midst of that shift now too.

          I wonder if you already read at http://gateway-women.com ? The post Jody put up today is a really lovely one and deals closely with that feeling of perpetual panic.

          I wish you every good thing in moving through the difficult time you’ve described here. Thank you for stopping by and adding such an important point to the discussion.

      • Tia
        July 18, 2012

        It is great to know I am not alone in wondering about “future” doubt/regret. I am turning 30 this year, and my husband and I have no plans for children. But being at that age where majority of our friends are having children, planning for children, etc., the pressure intensifies. I have been in this state of anxiety lately over it.

        Olivia, I find this blog extremely comforting, uplifting, healthy, and generous. I am very glad I found you and look forward to catching up on the rest of your posts! Thank you so much!

  16. Amy
    April 1, 2012

    Thank you for the response Olivia! With all do respect – you are wise beyond your years! I misread your age on the About page and thought you were 63 (haha!) – which made sense in my head because of all the wise points you make in your posts. Thanks for the reassurance that I should be good for the next 7 years or so 😉

    Anonymous – I can absolutely relate to what you describe. In addition to worrying about future regret, I truly fear the feeling of wanting to have kids. As I mentioned in my first comment “I really hope I don’t [change my mind about having kids]”. I like this plan and don’t want emotions, hormones or even the elusive “biological clock” changing my mind! I hope that it’s just a phase for you.

    Sometimes when I really try to question my decision, I realize that “having kids” is a general term that sounds nice enough…but then I remember to think about the daily (/lifelong!) commitment that it REALLY entails and I come right back to “Nah, not for me.”.

  17. Stephanie
    April 1, 2012

    Great post, thanks for addressing this important point of view. I agree with Sylvia’s comment, the childfree are often reluctant to admit occasional feelings of “what-if” because it gives all those people who told you you’d change your mind a chance to say I-told-you-so. Many of them are so convinced that we can’t possibly be happy with this choice, that even a slight waver is reason for them to believe that they were right.

    I have “what-if” thoughts often, but they are of the romanticized variety – what would it be like to see a child that was part of me, what would he/she look like? What personality would he/she have? Would I like to have a fictional snapshot of what that child would be like, just to see? Maybe. I have those curiousities, but like a previous commenter, I’m 100% certain that I don’t want to day-to-day responsibility of being a parent.

    • olivia
      April 1, 2012

      Thank you for your thoughts on this, Stephanie. I really like the distinction you’re making between the romanticised variety of ‘what if’ thoughts and the more serious questioning of our choices and decisions. Its a great clarification. I think I’d better quote you in a follow up post, if that’s okay :).

      • Stephanie
        April 2, 2012

        Of course!

  18. Mona
    January 17, 2013

    Just in the way that a parent might need a weekend away from their children, perhaps we occasionally need a weekend with children. We, as a race of humans, used to live in villages. Ages were less segregated than they are now (my apartment building houses hardly anyone over the age of 30, and no children, self-segregation). Maybe this goes against our nature as people. I can imagine that after that switch of the clock (I have not experienced it yet) a weekend with children might scratch that itch, and then make you feel grateful for your childfree life. Much in the same way a parent can greatly relish time away from their kids, almost pretending to be single, but feel very relieved and ready to go home to them later.

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