Have you seen the new Time Magazine issue titled “A Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.” This whole mindset makes me weak at the knees. I am the youngest Smarty Mom and a member of the millennial generation, which unfortunately is known for being a bit self-centered. Despite my natural millennial instincts, I decided to sacrifice a bit (ok, a LOT) of my own comfort to become a Mom at a very young age (23). I was taught to shoot for the career of my dreams – and I did! But even with a blossoming career in front of me I just couldn’t help but feel like my life was missing something. Luckily, I was blessed with a sweet baby girl a year later (something I know many yearn for and are not blessed with). As a mom, I am completely happy. Yet, I can’t tell you how many questioning looks and doubts I have received as a young mother. According to Time, various studies show that women who are childfree are smarter, richer and often more fulfilled. I feel this mindset in the questions and the looks – it’s as if people assume I have given up my life in nurturing another life.
The article argues that women who choose not to have children are “judged” but I beg to argue the opposite. The norm is no longer to be Suzy Homemaker with a casserole in the oven and a baby on the hip. No, the new normal is to be career driven and childfree for as long as possible; to put parenthood on hold for jobs, vacations and, of course, to keep that flat stomach. According to one economist, having a child just set me back $1 million (as if the sleepless nights and saddlebags weren’t a big enough hit).
I will be the first to admit that motherhood isn’t all sunshine and roses. I’ve lost sleep, gained stretch marks and consider dinner at Chipotle luxury. As a stay-at-home Mom, I definitely have moments where I wonder “what if” I had continued my career. But then my sweet baby girl climbs on my lap gives me a big, open-mouthed sloppy kiss and I can’t help but feel rich in life. These are the moments I live for. Despite the luxuries of my previously childfree life, I wouldn’t trade it. Not even for $1 million.
Now in my “mid-twenties” the topic of when or if to have children seems to be floating among those in my graduating class. What I hope for my fellow “millennials,” whether they choose a life with or without children, is that they will experience the same joy that I have as a mother. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will compare to my first moment as a parent. Despite what the childfree studies show, my life is so incredibly full with a child.
That was a great post, Karly! I feel that way so much here in NYC… people look at me like I’m a teen mom or a nanny because why would someone my age CHOOSE to have a baby when the city has so much to offer?
As one of the “early adopters” referenced in the Time article, I’ve never seen sloppy kisses as a fulfillment in life, and a million mommies hoping it for me isn’t going to change that.
My joy in life comes from other experiences. You, Karly, do not have more joy than I have because of motherhood; you only have different joy.
Your stated feeling that something was missing at 23, when a new marriage and a barely-started career weren’t enough, leading you to jump into motherhood, is exactly the want-it-all-and-want-it-now attitude for which millennials are taunted.
You have no idea the judgment child-free women endure. You have not been there and never will be. You also aren’t old enough to see your contemporaries experience this. It’s startling how rude and intrusive people can be.
Nobody is asking you–a married, educated, white woman in America–to defend parenthood.
I think maybe you misunderstood my tone. I was simply arguing that parents also have joy, even if they do give up some of these other things. In NO way do I think child-free people have less joy. In fact, when I shared this on my Facebook page I pointed out that women always feel judged – damned if we do and damned if we don’t – and that is horrible! We are not mean to be cookie cutters. My question is, why can’t we just be happy with OUR choices. As I pointed out in my last paragraph, whether you choose to have kids or not I simply hope we can all find joy. Thanks for your comment.
How wonderful that you have made a personal decision to find fulfillment in other amazing ways besides having children! I too have decided for the time being that traveling, my career, community involvement, my church family, and truly wonderful friends, is joy enough. I do not pretend to know whether this choice to remain childfree will last 2 years or a lifetime, but I do know that I feel fulfilled and have immense joy in my life at this time, not being a mother.
With that being said, I think you may have missed Karly’s intention. I too, read the Time article and the emphasis was clearing on showing this new trend of women choosing to not have children. And it is a rather new phenomenon, at least at the rates we are currently seeing, 1 in 10 in 1970 to 1 in 5 women today choosing not to have children. That is a major shift in US culture and it has significant societal and economic impacts. And I believe Karly responded beautifully as she showed feeling 100% fulfilled as a mother. Simply presently another viewpoint or idea should not be viewed as divisive and we are far to quick to assert that a different opinion, presented in a respectful manner is not judgment. Not to mention, as women, we should have a dialogue about these things, they affect our community and our greater society as a whole.
Karly may never know the judgment you feel stemming from your decision to not have children, and you clearly do not realize the judgment Karly endures as a new mom. She never judged you or your choice, she wrote a piece defending parenthood in response to an article that glorified not having children. She never once said your or my choice to not have children is selfish or wrong. Instead your remarks of “barely started career” and “Nobody is asking you–a married, educated, white woman in America–to defend parenthood” are examples enough of your judgment of her choices.
Every day we judge women, it seems like no matter what we do its wrong, women who continue with full time employment after having children are seen as less devoted than those moms who elect to be home full time, women who put off having children until later years are seen as selfish, and finally women who ultimately decide motherhood is not for them are seen by some as not having a fulfilled life. In 2013, women are as diverse, cultured and accomplished as they have ever been, and we should be able to cheer one another on, even as we make different life choices, and that’s exactly what Karly has suggested as she closed her piece “What I hope for my fellow “millennials,” whether they choose a life with or without children, is that they will experience the same joy that I have as a mother”
Thank you Karly for providing this venue to have a real dialogue! You’re amazing!