Complete Without Kids

Exploring all facets of childfree living.

Childfree Adults— Not All Alike: Three Subtypes Explored

Three Subtypes Explored

I recently blogged on misconceptions about childfree adults, many of which are unflattering.  Such misconceptions lead to typical stereotyping in which a group of people is treated as a whole, as if they were all exactly the same.  The reality is that childfree adults are as varied as any other category of men and women, but when listening to their stories, three subtypes rise to the surface. Read on to decide where you fit in.

Childfree by Choice

There's a whole subset of childfree adults who insist that they have always known they didn't want to have kids. Oh, sure, there may have been an occasional thought that they should, because of pressure from friends or family or not wanting to be a misfit, but deep inside the desire to parent has never presented itself. 

One woman I interviewed shared that she had these definitive thoughts as a young teen, and she told me that when she was in her early twenties she began to talk to her physicians about having her tubes tied. She wasn't able to find a doctor who would perform the procedure on her until she reached her thirties. She insisted that all through the years, she never once shifted from her position. Instead of becoming a mom, she's adopted several dogs and has had the opportunity to work in a challenging career that allows her to travel. This lifestyle would not have been a good fit for motherhood.

Many childfree by choice adults surround themselves with friends who are also childfree. They, as a whole, are independent and enjoy having control over their lives.  

Childfree by Happenstance

Many life decisions are not consciously made, they just happen. Sometimes it's because we don't take time to fully examine our options, and other times we encounter opportunities or lack thereof, and this leads to a certain conclusion. Such is the case with childfree by happenstance adults. I, myself, am in this category. If I'd married differently,  not been accepted into graduate programs or offered jobs that were fulfilling, it's very likely that I would be a mother today and would be enjoying this role.  Instead, I've become a career woman, and my life is adult-oriented.  Keep in mind that many, if not most, children born in the United States are not planned, so we might consider their parents to be mothers and fathers by happenstance.  

It's not uncommon for those of us who are childfree by happenstance to have occasional mixed feelings about our status.  In our minds' eyes, we can see ourselves as moms and dads, and we sometimes feel sadness about not having had children of our own. We're able to see the positives that would have come with this but also the positives about our lives without children.

Childfree by Circumstance

This group of nonparents often refers to themselves as childless, because they truly wanted to become parents but weren't able to do so. For some, their childlessness is due to infertility, while for others it's because they never met the right partner and weren't willing to become parents on their own. Childlessness often results in deep feelings of sadness and grief, and many of these adults find it difficult to be around families or to see a pregnant woman. It's a brutal reminder of what they weren't able to have. For others, however, not having their own children leads to making life choices that involve being around the children of others. They become teachers, or they spend lots of time with children of friends and relatives. This latter group of childless men and women has grieved the loss and managed to move forward with their lives.

The Benefit of Self-Awareness

It's helpful to take a look at why our lives have gone in a certain direction, whether it's because of intentional action or by default, and to then make a conscious decision to embrace and accept where we are. There are many aspects of life that we cannot change, and acceptance of these and focusing on what we are able to control is the healthiest choice to make.

 

Ellen Walker, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living By Choice Or By Chance.

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