Image by Jerzy Górecki
She has come straight from work, eager to talk to me about the topic of not having children. Not yet for her, she says—maybe later; potentially, never at all. How to decide? How to know what will give true fulfilment in life? How to realize what is meant to be?
I pour tea and let her catch her breath, but she is on a roll.
“A friend of mine has never wanted children, nor has her partner. When they say this out loud in our group of friends, they are met with an icy silence. Those who are trying for children turn away, singles raise their eyebrows, people who just had a baby look offended, and no one really knows how to start the conversation again. Yet I feel some envy, for they seem to have this clear-cut idea of their future. I waver in view of the momentous decision whether or not to have children, because it will colour my life forever.”
She takes a small sip and frowns whilst I remain silent, allowing her to think her own thoughts, marvelling at how we can’t predict what will arise in another person.
“I think I would love to have the experience of being pregnant,” she says eventually, “but with so much to do and to discover, this doesn’t really rank high on my priority list. Also, of course, after nine months of pregnancy, there is a lifetime of worry and care about another human being.”
She shudders involuntarily, and I am not sure if she notices this physical reaction to her own words, before she continues.
“I wonder if, later in life, I will regret not having children. I also question if I am even capable of having a child and a partner and a job. I don’t know how people do it. Can we have it all? I don’t think so, to be honest. Yet, wouldn’t it be great if we could?”
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Having put her cards on the table, she looks at me questioningly, this young woman. Clearly, she wants to hear how I, who have no children, look back on my life, now that children of my friends start to have children of their own.
“I do not envy my friends who become grandparents one bit,” I can truthfully say to her. “I just see the whole child circus start over again, and whilst I note my friends’ deep pride and joy and begrudge them none of it, not one little smidgen, I am delighted to be able to go my own way, unhampered by granny days.”
I pour more tea, always more tea—pu-erh this evening, cultivated high in the mountains of Taiwan, pressed into compact tablets, brought down on muleback, shipped all over the globe, sold in a small shop here in Amsterdam, now fragrant in our cups. I think of the tea farmers and their daughters and sons, who may not have the wide array of choices that the young woman across from me at the kitchen table and I have. They may be destined to marry someone who is willing to toil the land of their forebears and procreate so there will be new hands to pick the leaves.
The Freedom to Choose
“I live in a small town. The impact of being 35 and not having kids in small town America is definitely something we need to start talking about as women. Do I think I would feel more accepted in a more urban area? 100 percent yes.” — Woman, 35, teacher, United States
Across the globe, the freedom to choose what will define our lives is vastly different. We who have many options open to us often suffer from stress, because this freedom brings with it a responsibility of being a good judge of what fits us best.
We cannot blame our parents or the system for forcing our hand. The choice about how we lead our lives is up to us, so we had better get it right. At least, this is how it seems.
©2019 by Lisette Schuitemaker. All Rights Reserved.
Publisher: Findhorn Press, an imprint of
Inner Traditions Intl. www.innertraditions.com
Childless Living: The Joys and Challenges of Life without Children
by Lisette Schuitemaker
This book is for everyone who has not gone the way of parenthood, who has close family or friends who lead self-directed lives without offspring, and for all those who are still contemplating this essential life choice. The stories in this book also testify that not having children of your own in no way means the joys (and trials) of children pass you by altogether. This book shows that it is ok to celebrate not only the parenting way of life and the children who come to those who love them, but also those who are brave enough to follow the lesser known path of non-parenting. (Also available as an Audiobook and as a Kindle edition.)
For more info and/or to order this book, click here.
About the Author
Lisette Schuitemaker founded, ran, and sold a communications company before becoming a healer, life coach, and personal development author. She studied the work of Wilhelm Reich as part of obtaining her BSc in Brennan Healing Science. She is the author of The Childhood Conclusions Fix and Childless Living and co-author of The Eldest Daughter Effect. Lisette lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands.