The Childfree Life

I could have been a decent, if reluctant, father, just like my own father was. I’ve made a different choice.

I’m a man who’s childfree by choice. I have made a conscious decision not to have children. It would be most accurate to say I avoided making a decision about it for a long, long time, and then came to accept what I had deep down already decided, which is to live a childfree life. (I use the word “childfree” to refer to people who don’t have children and don’t want them, as opposed to “childless,” which means you don’t have them but still want them.)

Contrary to the stereotypes, and sometimes not so contrary to the stereotypes, people choose to be childfree for all sorts of reasons. I don’t see my decision as a statement to other people about their lives. For me it was an individual choice about creating the kind of life I want for myself. It is a recognition of who I am, what I want, and what I am capable of, as well as what would be best for society on the whole. It is one of the most important decisions anyone can make, so it should be done thoughtfully and with a deep sense of responsibility.

I never had a desire to have children. I never daydreamed about having children around the house. When I was younger and I imagined my future life, I did not envision being a father. If anything, the idea seemed quite depressing and completely foreign to me. I didn’t think I should become a parent if it was not something I deeply wanted. Becoming a dad seems to me the absolute worst thing to do without putting any thought into it. It would be irresponsible to have a kid with the hope that suddenly I would just love being a dad. That’s like rolling the dice with someone else’s life. There are plenty of people who become parents without ever liking children, not even their own after they are born. I remain unconvinced by the idea that “it’s different when it’s your own,” because clearly that is far from universal.

I need more peace and quiet than the average person. I need quite a bit of alone time in order to feel sane, in order to be able to function at all, really. I have a very low tolerance for noise, irrational behavior, people demanding lots of attention, people without good personal boundaries, people who demand things from you without any gratitude in return, and people who act immature. I can’t stand the feeling of being hijacked by other people’s schedules, waiting for other people, or feeling like I can’t leave the house. Because of all these things, it seemed really clear that having a kid would be a really bad idea for someone like me. Children are people, and they rarely behave like the people I want to spend time with.

There are clearly people who never should have been parents. I decided that I was one of those people. I thought about what life would be like with kids, and I decided I preferred the life I would have without them. We hear all sorts of people complain about their lives and we think, “well, you should have thought about that before you _____.” That won’t happen to me. I won’t have children without thinking of the consequences for myself. I did the thinking that I know that I should have done and came to the conclusion that is most appropriate for me.

I think I could have been a decent father, at least not a disastrous one. I didn’t choose to be childfree because I thought I would be a horrible dad. For me, the question is what it would have taken out of me to be a good father, and what it would be like for that kid to grow up with a reluctant father. There’s an excellent chance that I would be one of those fathers who never really wanted to be a father but became one, anyway. I can’t imagine being able to keep that secret from my children. I couldn’t guarantee that my heart would be in it, so it seemed especially cruel to put me and my children through that. They would have no choice about being born, and I chose to have them when I didn’t want them, so I decided to ruin at least two lives at once? What a stupid course of action.

My own upbringing is probably a factor, but not in the way you might think. I had a more or less good childhood, not overly happy nor miserable. One of the least dysfunctional families I know, really. My parents loved us, took care of us, and did their jobs well. Their kids grew up to be independent, educated, well-adjusted, contributing members of society. But, looking back on it, I don’t think they became parents because they wanted to be, and I don’t think they especially enjoyed it. They did it because it was just what you did. To do otherwise would have been too weird for that generation, especially for my parents, who had very traditional outlooks. In my memory, there are clues that being parents actually made them quite miserable at times.

I’ve heard all the arguments pro and con. I’ve made the lists, read the books, meditated on my inner life, written journal entries, talked with people whose opinions I value, done some research, and observed people with and without kids. Considering the fact that I’m 42 and have never wanted children, I’d say there’s an excellent chance I will never change my mind. This is the standard defensive disclaimer, not because I am insecure about my choice, but because there are so many people out there who cannot conceive of making such a choice. Telling people you are childfree by choice requires me to anticipate some very common responses—I’ll change my mind, I’ll be lonely when I’m older, I’ll never know true love, I’m bitter, immature, selfish, etc. If you are thinking those things about me, all I ask is that you consider the possibility that you could be wrong, wherever that thought may lead.

After all, I assume I could be wrong. I recognize that I will miss out on some things by not having children, and I accept that I will probably miss out on some wonderful things that I can’t even imagine. There are brief, fleeting moments when I wonder what could have been, and those moments almost feel like regret. Almost, but not quite. For me, it’s a question of what I would gain compared to what I would lose, and what the likelihoods are compared to the risks. I accept that I have made a choice, and no one else is responsible for the outcome. I’m engaged in a grand experiment, because everyone is. Having children is a huge experiment, and so is not having children. So far the experiment has been a rousing success, and I’m confident I’ve made the right choice for myself.


Read more on choosing to be childfree: The New Normal

Image credit: Challot/Flickr

About Anonymous


  1. Tha N Kyu says:

    Thank you for the honest article. I wish my mom had been capable of thinking the way you do.

  2. Love the article. I have known since I was a kid that (1) I didn’t like kids and (2) I would never have kids. I have stuck to my guns, getting a tubal ligation in my early 20’s (and for FREE I might add). One of the best decisions I ever made. My husband and I are child free by choice and loving it. I can’t stand kids, I hate noise, dirty stuff, and everything kids stand for. I honestly don’t know how people deal with it. I just know that GOD did not put all of that maternal crap into me. My life is SO full and exciting- with racing cars, riding and building Harleys, hunting, DOING WHAT I WANT, WHEN I WANT…..That I will NEVER regret my decision. I am 40 now and I am meeting more and more people who tell me that they wished they would have never had kids and that they don’t love their kids, much less even like them. I find people with children VERY jealous of the lifestyle I have. When people see me in my Corvette or riding my bikes, I see the distaste on their face while they are stuck driving a mini-van going to ballgames and crap.

  3. PursuitAce says:

    I agree completely that too many people have children for little or no reason. It’s also an interesting development in our society that so many people really don’t like kids. Me on the other hand….kids are the greatest thing on the planet. So much better than adults. I’d have to find something else to live for without them.

  4. Thank you for this post. I found this especially resonant:
    “I think I could have been a decent father, at least not a disastrous one. I didn’t choose to be childfree because I thought I would be a horrible dad. For me, the question is what it would have taken out of me to be a good father, and what it would be like for that kid to grow up with a reluctant father.”

    That’s exactly the conclusion I came to before deciding to get divorced. I married young, not because I felt any natural pull to do so, or some kind of passionate, “Wow! Yes! Forever!” connection to my ex-husband, but because he’s a great guy and we had one of those long-term, perfect-on-paper relationships that society says is supposed to lead to marriage.

    But I wasn’t satisfied with it, and the more I learned about myself, and life, and a host of other things I didn’t foresee before making that choice, the harder it became to pretend that I was. I could have “made it work,” but what that would have taken out of me was a set up for the kind of resentment that would have poisoned the rest of our lives together. Instead, I chose to end it, before things got any more entangled with kids or homes, etc., and while I’m still young enough to pursue a life that truly makes sense to me.

    Life is short, and “‘Cause that’s just what you *do*!” is just about the worst reason to do anything. Looking back (and around, as I see people doing this all the time), I find it stunning that so many of us make these kinds of momentous life choices in such a mindless– as in, not mindful– manner. But we do, and it’s no wonder many of us are quietly miserable as a result. Some say it’s selfish to choose to go against the grain (not have kids, etc.), but I agree that it’s much worse to do things that don’t actually feel right, and then drag other people through your subsequent misery.

    Which is all a long way of saying, thanks for publishing this, and for having the courage to live the life that works for you, not just the one that makes sense to other people. Living your truth, and putting it in print, presents that possibility for others, which helps us all make better choices and live freer, better lives.

  5. gale Malone says:

    I think it is a wise person who knows him or herself well enough to make a thoughtful and deeply evolved choice to have children or not. We all know too many people have been unhappy parents (for all number of reasons. Some feel inadequate, while others feel weighted down, and others never made a choice other that to just not prevent pregnancy). In the best of situations, one plans and is totally awake and conscience when the plan is made. I think that leads to the best result. But all in all, it is no one’s place to judge why someone has chosen a life that doesn’t include parenting. In most cases where people don’t have children, it is probably a well reasoned an felt choice.

  6. YES. All of it. YES. (I actually wrote a blog post of my own about this not too long ago). When I was a teenager, I always used to say that I never wanted kids. Then I got into a couple of relationships where I started considering it, before finally realizing that no, I don’t want any.

    I LIKE kids. I’m overjoyed that my best friends are having children and that I get to watch them grow up and be an auntie to them. But I absolutely love my childfree life. And fortunately so does my partner.

    I can’t imagine how I’d function with all the not sleeping and the noise and the constant demands. I also need large quantities of quiet time and sleep and alone time. I love the freedom of my life now and I have no intention of giving it up.

  7. Im a 45 year old straight man, and decided at 19 I’d never get married or have kids. Unlike the author, I’ve never felt anything that remotely feels like regret.
    I have a dog and a pet snake. Sometimes to be funny I tell people, with a very straight face, “The dog is not a replacement for having a kid. Its the snake the replaces having a kid”. LOL

  8. Thank you. This is my biggest soapbox issue, which is no fun because it IS such a big issue that I choke every time I try to take a bite. Thank you for digesting a small corner of it with simple common sense. The grand and heavy choice is to HAVE children, not to refrain from having children.

  9. Other than the moments of regrets and thinking that I’d be missing out an anything more wonderful than the wonderful I’ve already experienced and will continue to without kids — I could have written this article, replacing father with mother. That “wonderful I can’t imagine” part always sounds like someone who is talking about the high one gets from meth or crack. I’ll take your word for it, it’s amazing, but it’s fleeting and has a very strong chance of ruining your life. Not a gamble I’m willing to take.

  10. I agree completely. Some people should be parents, others don’t have the temperament. It’s just something I never really wanted, and I certainly did not want to be a resentful parent. I’m 50 and female. My mind still hasn’t changed, and won’t.

  11. If only everyone who didn’t want kids went ahead and didn’t have them! We don’t have to worry about breeding en mass to ensure the survival of the species, and it is possible to save our wealth in order to be able to pay for any care we might need later in life, so the only real reason in industrialized countries to set out to become parents is because it is something we want and feel ready to do.

    We have a child, deliberated over becoming parents, waited until we had come to a point in our maturity and relationship where we knew we could a weather whatever and whomever came, and I am profoundly glad that we did, but that was our path, not yours.

    Eloquently written, thank you!

  12. I agree whole heartily. I too never wanted children as I don’t want the extra noise and complications, not to mention the costs of raising children these days.

    • The cost scares the shit out of me + the time required, and constant responsibility scares me as I don’t have the best of health.


  1. […] These are comments by Phil, Pursuit Ace, and Sabrina on the post “The Childfree Life“. […]

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