I sat with a friend last week who’s 50 years old, never been married, and childfree. As Paul talked about his colleagues who are busy raising kids, taking maternity or paternity leaves, and being consumed with family activities, I asked him if he ever has regrets about not having children. He said he not only lacks regrets but is relieved to not have the responsibility of parenting. He was so sure of himself that I had to question him further.
I asked Paul to talk more about his own sense of peace with his childfree life. Based on his experience, here are three reminders to help you find childfree contentment.
1. Help others outside of your own inner circle. Happy hour and fancy vacations don’t count here. Paul is talking about activities like serving on community boards, helping out an elderly neighbor, picking up the slack at work while parents deal with children, or engaging in volunteer work. The demands of parenting make it tough to find time for this kind of community service. Meanwhile, Paul is working extra hours this summer because his colleague has several months off with her newborn son.
2. Help reduce humanity's carbon footprint on the earth. Like Paul, I feel good about using fewer resources by not bringing another child onto this crowded earth. Plus, I have a bit more time each day to make meals from scratch rather than hitting the drive-thru. My husband and I have one car and fewer errands to run for our household of two. We rent out our spare bedroom to a student, which means that three adults are using the energy needed to run the household instead of just two. As for Paul, he doesn’t even own a car, but instead walks wherever he goes or takes public transportation.
3. Put creative passion into another endeavor, such as a career or a hobby. Last night I watched the movie Chef, in which the busy main character struggled to find time and energy for his only child. He solved this problem by bringing his ten-year-old boy to work with him in the kitchen. This might work in the movies but it’s not likely in real life with child labor laws and busy school and activity schedules. One of the movie previews was for an upcoming film starring Helen Mirren and produced by Oprah Winfrey, two of the childfree greats of our generation. How would they have had time for their prolific careers if they had chosen motherhood?
What aspects of your childfree life are you particularly pleased with?