I don’t think I’ve ever engaged in a more monotonous discussion than one about having kids. And, it all began when I was a wee teenager, then fired up full-bore as I joined the workforce. Apparently, it’s abnormal not to want kids.
For the record, I previously wrote about why my wife and I are DINKs. However, as one of my astute commenters rightly pointed out, it almost came across as apologetic. I wrote that article before I “found my voice” on this blog. Here, I’m talking another stab at it – no apologies offered.
As I grew into a “senior teenager”, talk about life suddenly materialized – mainly, job, wife and kids. Boom, boom, boom – the big three, I guess, that everybody gets to deal with in the United States (and the majority of the world, I would imagine).
The job? Yes – I need to support myself. It’s a natural question to ask a teenager as he or she flirts with college and selecting a major. Inquiring minds want to know.
And the wife? Yup, I guess this is also perfectly natural, though a great many people do go through life single – either by choice or because they are an absolute bear to live with. I was perfectly happy living a single life until I met my wife. I also assumed that I’d get married.
I just didn’t know exactly when. Needless to say, I didn’t rush the process. I got married at 33.
And then, kids.
I never wanted kids
Even as a teenager, I harbored absolutely no desire to raise children. It just did not appeal to me. It’s not in my blood, and I’ve held pretty firm to that throughout my life when people ask me about kids. But as a teenager, it was apparently “just a phase”.
I mean, what teenage boy thinks about raising children? I’ll come around, they said.
The kids discussion became more real as I entered the workforce in my mid 20s. Now, I suppose, was the time that the majority of my co-workers had their kids and, naturally, it was assumed that I’d follow suit. “So, do you think that you’ll have kids?” they would ask.
“No, I’ve never wanted kids”.
“Oh, I thought the same thing when I was younger. You’ll change your mind“.
Rinse and repeat – more times than I can possibly count – up to and including a dinner engagement I had just a couple weeks ago. I’m thirty-freaking-five, mind you.
After hearing about our early retirement plans, I was asked, “So, do you guys think that you’ll have kids?”
“Nope, we won’t be having children”.
“Oh, well you’re still young. There is still time“.
Pardon me, but F-you.
Maybe – just maybe, kids aren’t for everyone. Why is it so tough to believe that someone may not wish to raise children? It feels like I’m required to want kids. I don’t.
I never have. Even through all those years and reassurances that “I’ll come around”, or change my mind, or comforted with the knowledge that there’s still time, look at me now. I’m 35 and still don’t want kids. I haven’t “come around” because there is nothing to come around to.
My wife and I are both strongly agreed – we have no interest in raising children. Sorry mom, you aren’t getting grand kids from me. Ain’t gonna happen.
Why do we assume all people want kids?
I’ve been called selfish and self-absorbed because I don’t want kids. A narcissist.
This blog is about questioning the norm. Go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, spend lots of money and retire around 65 is the norm. Most of us in the personal finance community recognize that the norm doesn’t work well for everyone. Some of us have found better ways to live our lives. For my wife and I, that happens to include a lack of kids.
But, this question has plagued me for many years. I understand that having kids perpetuates the species, and raising children is a part of our DNA. Many of us are born with the innate desire to raise children because, if we weren’t, none of us would be here.
However – A desire to raise kids isn’t in all of us. In fact, I believe this desire is absent from more of us than we care to realize. Many end up having kids anyway because, well, that’s what you do.
It’s okay to choose otherwise. At least…it should be okay.
I admit that this post is part-rant and part-question. I really am tired of people assuming that I’ll eventually come around and want kids. It is not going to happen. It never will happen. Kids aren’t for me, plain and simple.
I will not change my mind. I will not come around.
Why does society steadfastly assume, even though years and years of saying “no”, that people will still suddenly change their minds?
A few ideas:
- External factors change our minds; ie: we meet someone we love who wants children
- A powerful event might change our minds (like saving a child’s life, etc)
- We feel an increasing fear of “being alone” as we grow older?
- Perhaps we want to feel needed and to nurture?
Honestly, I don’t know.
Challenge the assumption that raising kids is “normal”
Make no mistake about it – there is absolutely nothing wrong with raising kids. After all, it does perpetuate the human race. They carry on the family name. They give us a feeling of immense love, satisfaction and companionship. That’s all great.
Sadly, far too many unfit parents have kids. We’ve all seen examples of this in society. Parents yell and scream at their kids. Some even hit them. Many do not have the financial basis for supporting, nurturing and raising another human being. Others are flat irresponsible.
Child Protective Services protects millions of children nationwide. Millions! Yearly, CPS checks up on more than 3 million children who have been abused or neglected, and these are only the cases that we know about.
Of course – most kids are raised in loving families. I was. But far too many aren’t, and society’s insistence that CHILDREN MUST COME! isn’t helping.
Raising children is a personal choice. It needs to be made independent of societal pressures. After all, it’s a lifelong decision that comes with responsibilities and challenges. Our kids are too important to bare under pressure. That is unfair to the child.
If raising children is right for you, that’s great. But, it’s not for me.
Society – please stop asking me to have them. It won’t happen.
Steve is a 37-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.