I grew up Catholic. I attended a Catholic grade school and went to church every Friday for all-school mass and Sundays with my parents. I remember, before I went to sleep, I'd close my eyes and pray for everyone I loved. I'd try to picture every aunt, uncle, 2nd cousin, friend, and teacher, asking God to protect them.
Then I entered an all girl's Catholic high school. We were taught to serve others, do our best, and try to make a real difference in the world. We were taught not to have sex before marriage and to follow natural family planning (aka no birth control).
When my husband Michael and I met at the tender age of 17, we held similar views on what it meant to be a good person. We'd both been taught that the path involves having a good job, getting married, having kids, and serving your community.
But somewhere along the way, through our decade of dating, we both came to the same conclusion: maybe having kids isn't for us.
Saying this aloud always makes me feel as if I'm a bad person. Surely there's something wrong with me for not choosing the path I should be on. We must be selfish or shallow to not want kids. There must be something wrong with us.
Michael's family is also Catholic, but with more rigid rules and strict guidelines about right and wrong. My parents were very open and honest with me and let me see the error of my own ways. Which worked fine for me. I was always a self punisher and felt immediately bad when I did something I knew I shouldn't. They were (and are) laid-back Catholics. They may not go to church every Sunday and they don't necessarily believe everything in the Bible, especially about birth control.
But again, despite growing up in very different Catholic households, Michael and I managed to reach the same notion: we just don't want kids.
Michael and I differ in lots of ways. Politically and socially, we have different views. But when it comes to lifestyle, we agree. We want to travel, we want to have lots of money in savings, we want multiple dogs, we want to be comfortable, and we don't want kids. We love kids, but they don't fit in with our plans.
When people ask us why we don't have kids I feel a tinge of indignation. It's honestly none of your business. I could very well have issues trying to conceive or have personal reasons why I don't want kids. When it comes to having kids or not, there's a lot of disagreement about how people should talk to one another.
But the fact is I don't. And because of this my Catholic guilt creeps in and I wonder where I went wrong. I read articles about how having a child changes your perspective on everything, how you've never really loved as deeply until you have a child. But to me, having a kid means thwarting my mission to take over the world. Just kidding. But I know that having kids throws a wrench in the system. It's no longer about your needs and wants. It's about theirs, as it should be.
I don't want a tiny human form inhabiting my body for nine months and costing me financial freedom. I really really like working. And I don't want to stop. At age 29 I still have a baby cold.
Let me be clear, I have no problem with others wanting kids. More power to you. You have one of the toughest jobs out there and I appreciate and respect that you are raising our future.
My parents weren't sure about having kids. Mom had me when she was 33 and my twin sisters at age 39. So I know my mind could eventually change. But for now, this is how I feel and I don't see this wavering. I also know that if I do, I'll have to answer to all my friends and family, who'll laugh, “We told you so!”
Maybe it's Catholic guilt or societal norms that tell me I'm supposed to want kids. All my friends seem headed down the kids path. So I feel alone in this. And feeling alone can make you question your choices.
I think we have to live the way we see fit, with as little judgement of others as possible — within reason. You want to live together before marriage? Do it. You want to have kids and never get married? Great. You want to be single and just travel the world? Go for it.
What do you think? Is it okay to choose not have kids?