It seems like everybody around us is at that stage of their lives where kids are the next step. And more and more, my family, friends, (ex)-co-workers and even my personal finance blogging buddies are expanding their families with little ones.
It seems like everybody’s doing it, so why aren’t we? Truth be told, we are no longer DINKs. Since I retired in 2016, I am no longer bringing in the income I once did. The “Dual Income” part isn’t true any longer.
But, the “No Kids” part sure as heck is.
I’ve been asked several times since I married my wife in 2014 “when are you going to have kids“? When? Like, there isn’t a question of “if”. It’s a question of when?
I had toyed with running a post like this for quite some time, but I’ve always kept myself from sitting down and writing it. It just seemed like too much of a controversial topic. But hell, I like controversy. In the years since I started this little blog, I’ve definitely found my voice and built the confidence needed to discuss this personal decision.
We are not having kids.
After all, our choice not to have kids is a large part of who we are, and this blog is one that talks about how WE are implementing our early retirement plans. The truth is our DINKiness is a huge part of what’s making this whole thing possible – on our truncated timeframe.
The absence of kids enabled my departure from full-time work at 35. If we had kids, I’d still be working. There’s no getting around that point blank fact.
Make no mistake about it, everyone who has kids views them to be a tremendous blessing. They bring so much joy and companionship into the lives of most parents that the sleepless nights and extra costs associated with raising a child pale in comparison.
And it’s also true, most people need to feel like they are needed. It is in our nature as people to want to raise a child, mentor him or her and support them in their upbringing. After all, a child’s early years very much shape how that child will operate in this world as an adult. This process is as natural as rainfall or a Christmas morning snow. It also perpetuates the species.
So why do my wife and I have no plans to have children?
The truth of the matter is we don’t want them bad enough. Having children is a lifelong commitment. To be a parent, you must be all-in and fully prepared to devote every waking moment, at least for many years of your child’s early life, to your child. It changes everything, quickly.
Our plans for full time travel would almost definitely change. Our yearly expenses would certainly increase. While we could travel with our child, it would make the entire situation a little tougher to manage. We’d be stuck in the RV for longer periods of time. We couldn’t do some of the spur-of-the-moment adventures that we love so much. A lot of what we’re looking forward to essentially gets put on hold for a while – possibly a long while.
My wife and I would gladly accept a child’s additional demands on our lifestyle if our hearts and minds were more open to the commitment. But alas, our minds are elsewhere. Neither of us wants the commitment bad enough to start down this road. I for one have known for a long time that a child free life was what I wanted. The Mrs. on the other hand, while never actively planned to have children, always assumed she probably would. After we discussed kids before we got married (essential conversation!) she started to examine that assumption. In truth, the only part of having children that she was actively looking forward to and afraid to miss out on was her future relationship with adult children because she highly values the relationship she has with her mother. But wait?! There are a LOT of years between then and now. She realized she also wasn’t all-in on the whole experience of raising children, and unless her whole heart was in the decision, it was not the right path for her or us.
But like I wrote about earlier, it’s only natural for humans to want to mentor and have a positive effect on kids. Without little ones, how do we satisfy this very natural part of who we are as people?
I have two nieces, and both my wife and I have already talked about how we might support them and spend more time with them in the future. During our travels, we may drop by and spend a couple nights with them out in our RV. Or, we may invite one or both to fly out to where ever we happen to be for a summer vacation. We may help pay for college or a trip overseas.
There are so many ways to get involved with kids though family and friends, and we will definitely explore these options when the time comes.
But it’s not the same, right?
Right, it’s not – and, we like it that way. Because eventually, we get to do what the traditional grandparents get to do after they spend some time with their grand kids – we get to give them back! We spend time with them, have fun, experience new things, go on exciting adventures, but in the end, we return to our RV – just the two of us – and the nieces return to their folks, back to their regularly scheduled programming.
It will never be the same as actually having children. We know this, and we’re okay with it.
What we are not okay with is bringing a child into this world if we aren’t fully on-board with raising a child. It’s not fair to the child. And to be perfectly honest, I was never looking forward to diaper changes, 2am feedings or getting peed or vomited on. I know, these things pass as the child grows up, but there will always be worry, frustration and stress along with the happiness and feeling of satisfaction with how your child is turning out.
Let’s face it, raising a child is a big deal and a ton of work.
Once your little one reaches school age, then your job turns to guide him or her through the realities of life, like making sure your child doesn’t fall into the wrong crowd. Sex, drugs, alcohol, consumerism, grades in school. And then the parental questions abound: Am I making the right decisions? How many mistakes should I let my child make? Was that punishment too harsh?
This stuff is a full-time job!
And then there’s the cost of raising a child. According to a study by the Department of Agriculture, the average cost to raise a child until they reach 18 is $241,080. Of course, these costs represent traditional families with more typical American spending habits. Those of us who are more frugal won’t spend that much, but that cost also doesn’t include college – if you choose to help, and also assumes you’re completely done footing the bill when your child hits 18. And then there’s daycare.
No kids are helping bring our early retirement date closer than we ever imagined possible just a year ago. Dual incomes help big time, and the ability to save 70% of our income while living incredibly comfortably is what our entire future at the moment is built on. We like this arrangement.
And having kids would most definitely change that, and neither of us are looking for that responsibility at this point in our lives.
Remember, I am in no way criticizing anyone’s decision to have kids. I am simply describing the reasons why my wife and I have made the decision not to raise a child. For us, we do not believe that our hearts and minds are prepared to undertake this responsibility. So, we aren’t.
But, having children is wonderful for those who are all-in. At the moment we consider our dogs to be our children, and they provide a lot of the same companionship and happiness that we humans naturally crave. At least for now, they are all we need, and giving a loving home to a couple of rescued dogs who suffered abuse and neglect in a previous life might be our way of influencing other lives.
For my wife and I, keeping our DINK status (or DINKWAD, if you will) is the best thing for our lifestyle and future plans. And in the end, doing what’s best for you and your family is the ultimate responsibility.
Note: This article was originally published in October of 2015, but has been updated after my retirement from full-time work last December.
Steve is a 38-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.