WASHINGTON – I’m so glad I didn’t have children.

Every Mother’s Day affirms it.

I’ve never understood the desperate fertility treatment dance so many women go through in order to have children that they can’t conceive naturally. It’s a miracle it’s an option, but the torture of it all. But when I found out my niece and her husband finally conceived we cracked a bottle of Tequila and did shots in their honor.

Some girls want a different life.

When I grew up it was an expectation you would get married and have children. It’s what women did. I refused, wearing the childree stigma from those days as a badge of independent bravery. Because when the modern age of feminism blasted off Phyllis Schlafly’s harping was a loud noise in our ear.

Thankfully, it’s not so anymore.

As a kid, the doll I loved was Barbie. She was independent, had lots of clothes and cool car and dream house, though I wasn’t interested at all in Ken. What did Barbie need him for anyway? Her perfect body didn’t faze me. All I saw was her freedom. She wasn’t one of those loathsome dolls that I was expected to pretend feed, pantomime diaper changing and roll around in a fake stroller, which was obviously meant to prepare me for something I always knew I didn’t want.

When I got a Thumbelina for Christmas one year, she came in a pretty basket all cuddled up. My interest lasted about a second.

I love being around little people. Their reaction to me is entertaining, because I don’t treat them like children. The encounters are inevitably magical for me, but it’s a vacation zone not a landing strip.

What’s your life all about without children? Everything you can think of to do and then more. It’s about discovering or creating something else you’re passionate about that teaches you, inspires you and expands you. It’s a never ending cavalcade of experiences. As a thinker, artist and writer it’s been about making an impact in my little corner of the world.

Contrary to the stereotypical propaganda, not having children can also keep you young. You are the kid in your life, just with heaping responsibilities and the rewards that come with adulthood.

I can’t imagine my life any other way and wouldn’t have it any other way either. It’s been a madcap, non-stop whirl of amazing miracles and evolutionary thrills.

That was before I met Mark and got married, when it was thought a feminist was more likely to be hit by a terrorist than get married in her 40s. What has made it so strong and exhilarating is we’re on this journey together. I’ve married the strongest feminist I know who stands beside me in all I do, as we create our life lived in a perpetual roller coaster of events. He’s a great dad, but that’s his life to manage, not mine in which to interfere. I can hardly wait ’til his kids come visit us in Virginia. What fun that will be!

Every day begins when I ask myself what will I explore or discover today? Then off I go.

I’m grateful I had the guts to say no to kids when I was very young and hold on to that vision all of my life.

When I read about more and more women today putting off motherhood or choosing to forego it entirely, I send them a secret blessing for what is possible in front of them if they choose to stay childfree. A big, messy board of bright colors and life free of being tethered to shepherding anyone’s journey but your own. Loads of hours and days and weeks and months where you have nothing to think about but your own adventure.

If you get really lucky, you’ll find someone who wants to come along and has great ideas of trouble to get into and together you’ll have a madcap blast.

For all you mothers out there, happy Mother’s Day. I hope you’re as blissfully happy with children as I am childfree.

Taylor Marsh, a veteran political analyst and former Huffington Post contributor, is the author of The Hillary Effect, available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media blog www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women and power.

graphic via 7DeadlySinners

TAYLOR MARSH, Guest Voice Columnist
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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • I never liked kids. When my mom gave me baby dolls, I habitually took them apart. I have never had any maternal instinct towards human infants.

    I am protective towards children, though. If I see an unattended child, I’ll keep an eye on it until a parent arrives or I’ll make sure the child is pointed out to a security person. But seeing a human baby doesn’t make me go gaga, and I have no desire to babysit, feed, hold the baby, etc, etc.

    I knew from an early age that human motherhood was not for me. When I married a man who knew ALS ran in his family, the choice to not have kids was a no-brainer.

    My husband’s aversion to children is worse than mine. I at least tolerate them. Him, not so much.

    Give me a baby animal, however, and I am right there. I’ve hand raised dozens of baby animals, from bottle-baby orphaned kittens, baby lovebirds, to an orphaned foal. I have nursed sick animals all hours of the day and night, in the cold, in the wet.

    My maternal instinct for the four-legged babies is very strong. I am also an inherent caregiver, which is why I went into nursing, but I specialized in geriatric and hospice care.

    My mom laments my childlessness (and her lack of grandchildren) and blames my husband. We’ve been called selfish and immature. I had a friend who practices attachment parenting tell me that I don’t want kids because I wasn’t breastfed as an infant. *head desk*

    It seems inconceivable to them that there are women for whom motherhood is not the be all and end all. For me, I think there are a lot of women out there who had kids who shouldn’t have, and I am a huge proponent of birth control in the booze. No more “alcohol made me pregnant” babies, please. Thank you.

    I see my friends lifestyles and other members of my family’s lifestyles with kids. I herd cats better than they can get the kids moving. When we go on vacations, my husband and I are “Free Range Adults.” No kids. No bags. No hassles.

    I’m lucky. I did find someone who had the same no-kids vision I did, and we do have madcap fun. I can say I’m sorry to be a disappointment to my mother, but not enough to have a child just because she wants grandchildren.

  • VeratheGun

    Breeder Bingo. How droll.

    Actually, I meant “Way to sound simultaneously bitter, supercilious and self-absorbed about your lack of offspring.”

    I don’t give a s**t if you have kids or not. Just don’t label the people who DO, BREEDERS.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Well written, as usual, Taylor.

    However, I can understand why some, including I, may ask, “But, why on Mother’s Day?”

    I am sure you’ll tell us.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    Thanks Taylor for telling about your journey…

    and Blessed Mother’s Day to those who are in any way tending to the vulnerable of our earth… and to you Vera and to you Dorian and your wife, it’s a good moment in time to reflect on all the profound challenges and learnings that our having children has brought to us, not to mention the beauty and love. Thanks for your comments.

    I have several friends who felt it was best not to have children, for one couple, they are first cousins, refugees from WWII and long ago in the tiny villages people often married cousins. But when they came here, they went to school (not a part of village farming life) and learned that there may be serious consequences that they did not wish to visit on a child. They are darling in their love of other children, both in and outside family, and carry that tinge of sadness, but also are so loved by so many, and will always be cared for.

    Too, another friend from school long ago married across what were then called steep racial barriers. They felt– pre civil rights laws– that it would be even more making their little family a target (and the hideous threats and vile ostracisms against them were huge in those times, so much so that they had to go underground for a time) if they had children. Though bi-racial little souls are far more accepted across culture today, it was not so long ago, particularly in the south. These two persons, one black, one white, also are caring of others who have children and caring to children. And I think I carry my own sadness lifelong for both these couples who are so child-caring and yet…

    There is a third situation of ‘without child’ I’d like to mention also. When I entered Europe through the portal of Auschwitz, I was accompanied by Lubivitchers and other groups of Jews who had been prisoners at Auschwitz and Birkenau. One of the stories they told that made us all weep beyond this world… was about being in the boxcars on the way to Auschwitz and the filth and fear and people trying to calm one another and sing and hold to center… all believing they were going to a ‘work camp’ to make service goods for the war machine. But there was this one couple, man and wife who though muddy and tattered like the rest, seemed absurdly radiant, and when someone inquired, they shyly said they’d been married for 10 years and tried and tried to have children, and could not… until just 4 months ago. And the woman opened her shawl to show her little swelling belly.

    She and the living child inside her were shot to death at the side of the train tracks, as were all pregnant women in that transport.

    I understand that those who choose not to have children for whatever reason ought not to be harrassed, and send blessings for fullest life. And also, I bless the preciousness of child bringing.

    And I too, find the word ‘breeder’ not the most peaceful word, and think it is better just to say, live and let live, Bless and be Blessed in whatever good ways we can with one another.

    Just my .02

  • adelinesdad

    Dorian, I think it’s an appropriate topic for Mother day. At least, if it came up some other day, Taylor would probably be accused of instigating a fight. At least Taylor didn’t bring up the topic–she’s just responding to the day at hand. I think as we celebrate mothers it’s a legitimate question to ask: should the choice to be a mother be held in higher regard than other choices?

    To start, of course I think we can all agree that we should respect each others’ choices. This choice falls under the category of “important and personal” that also includes such things as ones religion and SAHM status. Regarding the later, to paraphrase a wise remark from roro recently, I think topics under this category often necessitate defending ones choice, but doing so almost necessarily is offensive to those who make other choices, because the choice is so important. So, I don’t take offense to Taylor post, nor do I intend offense by the rest of my comment. I’d point out that I’m sure those with more than a few children could fill up their own bingo board or two with insensitive, passive aggressive, and/or rude comments directed towards them over the years regarding their choice.

    I will make a partial, respectful rebuttal to Taylor’s points. I believe that children are a great moderating influence in our society. If it weren’t for children, I’d probably be a libertarian. But, politics aside, I think having children is an important check on personal ambition. I’ll admit that I do sometimes daydream about what my life would be like without children (I feel guilty admitting this–please understand I would not trade my children for anything). Taylor sums up what I feel like this would be like:

    “Every day begins when I ask myself what will I explore or discover today? Then off I go.”

    How wonderful that would be, honestly. If I could wake up the morning and devote myself to that task until well into the night. After a while of this I could accomplish something really great, with all of that time and attention devoted to a single fulfilling and important thing. So, why, I ask myself, did I decide to have children and give this up, at least for now? It must be because I view my children as an even greater accomplishment. Yes, it sounds cliche, but it must be true. How else can I justify the amount of time and attention I devote to them (and of course I could and should do more)? If my goal is to leave this world with more than I took from it, then raising my kids to do the same should yield multiplied results. Therefore, the most important thing I can do is to raise my kids to do great things. The other great things I can do, which I hope to have time to do later, are secondary.

    In the process I learn to truly care about someone else more than myself. I emphasize that I’m speaking for myself here, but I don’t see how I could have learned to do that any other way. Even in marriage, the partners can act independently. But a child cannot survive and thrive without a diligent and loving parent. Speaking for myself, I don’t see how else I could as fully develop empathy and self-sacrifice. Maybe others have found other ways, and maybe others possess these attributes more naturally and don’t need the lesson. But I do believe that, in general, whether you believe it is God or evolution, humans are generally intended to have children not only to propagate the species but also to develop these attributes.

    A very personal topic. Of course I would never go around proclaiming this view to childless folk (and of course would not assume they are childless by choice), but since Taylor brought the issue to our attention, I wanted to give my thoughts since I’ve done some thinking about it.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    AD and Dr.E:

    Nice, thoughtful comments

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    Thanks AD, trust… Once children are grown, every day is yours, as you wish. For myself, I wish to remain interwoven with my children, hubby, grandchilden… and before my elderly parents passed, we took care of them and held them close also… another calling regarding one’s parents that will ‘interfere’ with being free each day… but to our family, worth it. To each their own, for certain, and what you wrote moves me with its realism and insight. I think people who decide not to have children, dont call themselves ‘childless’ but other words. I have heard ‘child-free’ but I am not sure that is the word people would like. We’ll wait to see and maybe Taylor will remind of how to address.

  • yoman

    I think Mother’s Day is fine for this kind article.

    While some of us chose not to breed, we are still women and have the same plumbing and hormones. We just put them to use in other ways.

    I consider myself nurturing and I have aided mothers and their children in ways that I truly believe another ‘mother’ may not be able to do. No conflict or competition with the baggage of my own apron strings/silver cord or whatever name you want to give it. Co-giving as a woman focused on care.

    Mothers have opened up to me in ways, I don’t think they would with other moms. . . I listen and care, because I nurture as what I feel is ‘the great mother’

    I am sorry their is any judgement at all regarding what we call it or them. . . Child free or less or Breeder, Mother of (place # here.)

    Life is for the living no matter what!

    I am child free and have no regrets. I am thankful to be 50 plus in years and no longer have to endure some people (not all) and way too many comments and questions about my not starting a family. Usually explaining once was enough. But, sadly their are people who do have to make unfair ‘judgmental comments’ repeatedly and then not being included in weird ways.

    I am married to a wonderful man who is child free as well. Our lives are full and meaningful and we love each other very much. We parent each other:)

    Mother’s Day. . . Earth day for me is when I celebrate that children will one day have a world where thoughtful care is taken as to another car on the interstate.

  • Zeeuw

    I respect Ms. Marsh’s choices, and sympathize with those enduring the tiresome and insulting cultural pressure to reproduce, the insensitive comments and cultishness of parenthood.

    It’s okay to be be inherently averse to children. If you are, it’s surely nobler to stay true to oneself and resist the social pressure than it is to subject a child to being unwanted _ they do sense this.

    Individuals who don’t reproduce not only have the freedom to enjoy themselves, but can contribute to society by putting much energy and resources into anything from creating employment to preserving the arts. Humans as all living creatures are to some degree hard-wired to replicate our DNA, and to ensure it’s survival. The contribution that non-parents often make to this survival and enrichment is crucial and immeasurable.

    However, all that being said, Ms. Marsh’s use of the word ‘breeders’ is contemptuous, as is the sneering tone of this article. It could do a disservice toward those who do choose not to have children, by re-inforcing the stereotype of being selfish and derisive. I do understand her frustrations, and would also castigate the amazing insensitivity of people who urge others to have kids, whether they want them or not. It’s okay to call people out on this, but she could do it without stooping to this.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    breeder was a term used in several regimes of hatred in the last 250 years, the african slave owners jargon and also the jargon of the Reich in their eugenics madness. [it’s also a livestock term used for mating animals] I think there must be another word more bridging and of heart. This would be just my .02 whether I had children or not. Im not interested in PC BS, but am interested in bridging people across spans of heart and spirit.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    Mothers of past generations may not have shared with one another other, in part where was the time in a non-convenience world of no ‘help appliances’ easy access to the bus or one family car?

    My witness of many many mothers of the current generations is they are huge forces in sharing with other moms, in circles, in friendships, and massively on the internet. Plenty of books of honest talking/telling about mothers, dads. Ann Lamott is a favorite, but by no means the only reporter from the family. Anna Quinlin [sp] also and many others. Real bottom line, tell the truth sharing of their own minds and hearts with plenty of other mothers, down to the bone. Anne and Anna are friends and they say they receive often a thousand letters a month more or less saying how much their ‘honest mothering’ books mean to literally … I think Anna’s book in print are in the 10s of millions.

    Relationship is everything in confiding or sharing. Many moms have tons of mom-friends they confide in. I’ve several daughters and many grandchildren. Trust this: nothing is held back that one would have to seek a certain kind of person to tell their woes or triumphs to. That a person who chooses not to have children is a confident to some mothers is great. But speaking as a mother of many mothers, I dont find at all that because a woman has no children –or has children– that confidences are given by mothers. It all depends on warmth of relationship as the qualifier.

    My sense is that men and women need all the support they can get, all the listening, wisdom and reciprocity they can get. That’s not based on moniker re children or no children. The warmth matters more than most anything, and the humor. Being in a group of humor-filled mothers and fathers supporting one is one fine experience… mainly because all are included, vis those who are not mothers or fathers and are friends of the families and of course, children.

    I still think no one should bedevil a man or woman about having children or not. Nor marrying. Nor a man marrying a man. Nor a woman marrying a woman. Nor a woman like myself who is a shooter and a biker and and a writer who has more tattoos than la bella angora, and was kick a## in most any drag race with my old Shelby ‘souped without a single noodle, just ALL MEAT.’ You get the idea. lol. I think it’s like the state motto: Dont freakin’ tread on me. Except I dont think it says ‘freakin”. lol

  • The “Breeder Bingo” graphic is utilizing the same tactic that Tina Brown has made famous. It’s called marketing. It is absolutely clear that the artist who created the “Breeder Bingo” graphic was in no way referring to the word’s origin. That the message contained in the graphic is spectacularly accurate I can attest to personally. The same tactic was used this past week by Time magazine on “attachment parenting” cover, which I didn’t post about on TMV because I couldn’t show the full cover.

    Mother’s Day, much like Valentine’s Day, even Father’s Day, are all economically created “holidays” as anything else.

    I’ve seen through friends and my family how difficult the job of mother and father is, so I don’t think one day is enough.

    That said, it’s also a choice that people make, with conservatives all too happy to make women who choose a childfree life guilty for going down another road.

    Also see “spinster,” “old maid,” and many other terms for women who don’t want to marry, while men are only seen as bachelors and even hot prospects at 80, something that doesn’t happen to women. Why? Because when women are past childbearing years their sexuality is demeaned, their womanhood considered dried up.

    It’s the 21st century and with all of us living longer, challenging all stereotypical roles for women is long past due.

    Enjoyed reading all of your comments. Thanks for taking the time to chime in.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thanks, Taylor

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    Thanks Taylor

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    I’d mention that men who dont marry are often called gay when they are not, and married men who dont have children are suspected of ‘not having the stud’ instinct, that is not being able to have babies because they are infertile for whatever reason. There is significant projection on men. Older and old men are often thrown out of companionship and comfort for not having money and for having health problems, and possibly other issues. They are called, dried up, old coots, old maids, ‘acting like an old woman’ (double points apparently), Mr. Rogers, and other names that let them know in spades their manly days are over.

    The nursing homes, assisted living homes, the VA (in my humble witness) are filled with men who are discarded on the basis of age, or illness or lack of wealth. They are the hidden men of our culture and they suffer greatly and there are several million of them in the US alone.

    The sexuality of both genders is diminished in pop culture, and long before child-bearing years for women are up.

    And you’re right Taylor, mother, father, grandparent, exec assistant, and other ‘hallmark’ days of honoring others are made up. I’m happy to do that for others. But, for myself, I’d rather people just be nice to me every day if they can. I despise ‘enforced’ fetes.