The truth about living a childfree lifestyle by choice
My parents met on vacation and were engaged by the end of the week. They married five months later, and walked around holding hands for decades, until death did them part. From this auspicious beginning, no one could have predicted I’d be childfree by choice.
Growing up, my folks’ tableau became my touchstone: love at first sight that lasts a lifetime. They were a tough act to follow. I did my best.
At 25, I met a man who appeared to tick all the boxes for “appropriate husband and future father.” He asked me to marry him within a month. I said yes. We moved in together.
The family tableau was unfolding in perfect harmony.
Undoing The Expected
But instead of a wedding five months later, we broke up.
The outer appearance aligned with the script. My parents adored him. (Mom even threw her arms around him during our “announcement visit,” exclaiming, “I’m just crazy about you!”). His folks loved me.
We just didn’t love each other, though we tried hard to believe. Only my brother acted aloof towards us. He knew we weren’t a fit.
In my gut, I knew motherhood wasn’t a fit, either.
First Sign: Childfree Is The Path For Me
One evening we visited my fiancé’s friends, who’d just had a baby. The dad placed his newborn in my arms. Cradling her carefully, I glanced up at my future husband.
His eyes were soft, and I could read them with exactitude: “I can’t wait till this is our baby!” My whole being contracted.
Perhaps it wasn’t so much the idea of having a baby, as the idea of having his baby, since I was following a script rather than my heart.
Whatever the impetus, my true feelings were apparent: I did not want to be a parent.
It was my first inkling I might lead what’s come to be known as “the childfree life”.
Birthing A Business
So we didn’t get married. But it was nice to be asked.
This is the coda I shared as the years rolled on and no further suitable prospects materialized. While I wasn’t averse to meeting and marrying the love of my life, I wasn’t actively looking, either.
Having fulfilled and diverged from the family script, I relaxed about the timeline.
And then I became pregnant — with my business.
I spent a year gestating the idea of solopreneurship, landed my first client in secret while still in my corporate role, then jumped.
It was exhilarating. The business was my baby. And it felt like a birth process. I labored for nine months, putting the “nursery” in place — home office, small business license, computer, printer — prior to opening my virtual doors.
Giving birth to a child was not on my radar; nor was I seeing anyone I’d consider marrying. (Interestingly, I wrote in my journal the prior year, “Now I’m 32, and maybe I’ll not be a mother. That would be all right…”).
Kids Or Career Or A Calling, Oh My!
I feel it’s important to distinguish between self-employment and the much ballyhooed “women and career” focus.
My 10 years ascending the corporate ladder was a career. If I’d met the right guy during this period (or decided, on my own, that having a child was paramount), I might have happily surrendered my job for motherhood.
Or taken extended parental leave. Or figured out another way to be a mom and also hold down an outside job.
Launching the business was something else. It was not yet a calling — this would come later though it was a major commitment.
I had no idea my new endeavor would also be the gateway to deep personal transformation.
Time Out Of Mind: Reclaiming Purpose
Four years in, the business was thriving — and I was physically ill, yet in a place of profound awakening. I refer to it as a subtle shift: from density to destiny.
Dismantling my business and well-orchestrated life, I embarked on a classic “dark night of the soul.” My time-out pilgrimage initially took me across the country, from California to New York State.
I learned during this period of solitary spiritual journeying how to live minus the trappings I’d thought defined me: home, possessions, business — even my friends and my health.
Pared down to essence, I started listening to the “still, small voice” within as never before. It had a lot to say.
I returned to California three and a half years later infused with purpose. Article ideas poured through me. I began crafting my website, and framing how I would work with clients on their awakening path.
Once again, I was giving birth — not to a child, but to a new life trajectory: a service in which I would “midwife” others into their true purpose and potential. I had discovered my calling.
Childfree By Choice, With A Maieutic Role
Motherhood didn’t enter my life equation, not because being a mother isn’t a sacred calling; it is. Nurturing the next generation is an incomparable gift and responsibility.
However, I needed to contribute in a different direction.
Years ago, at the edge of my awakening, an insightful astrologer told me I have “a maieutic role”. Since she described me as a midwife for others on their journey, I assumed this was what maieutic meant.
Much later, when I looked the word up, I was astonished to discover “maieutic” denotes Socratic inquiry: helping to “bring a person’s latent ideas into clear consciousness.”
This is precisely who I’ve become: a midwife who helps deliver your dreams through incisive inquiry!
And while choosing not to have children is usually a subject approached with unremitting gravity, injecting a little levity can help (en)lighten people on both sides of the child/childfree discussion.
Ellen DeGeneres, for example, airs a recurring segment on her show called, “Why I don’t have kids.” The short videos viewers send in feature children engaged in cringe-worthy behavior.
Ellen makes it clear that while she loves kids, she’s glad she doesn’t have any of her own. This is how many of us who choose a childfree lifestyle feel.
Is Biology Destiny?
What I’ve learned along the way is: there are many ways to mother beyond birthing one’s own child.
I never felt that ticking time bomb in my ovaries. Except for my brief engagement (during which I sounded like a line from a bad movie when I told him, “I want to have your baby!”), I didn’t have a biological urge to continue my bloodline.
My only wistfulness? No grandchildren for my folks.
They would have made wonderful grandparents — which would have been a terrible reason to have kids. I even apologized to my mother once, for the grandchildren I never gave her.
But aside from this, I have no regrets about remaining childless.
Making An Unpopular Decision
Is there something “wrong” with women who, like me, don’t want to have children?
Psychologist Christie Hartman, PhD, who is also childfree by choice, offers, “I think the desire is biological, and it can change. We all have certain biological leanings toward who we are.
“Some people may be open to and interested in having children, but if it doesn’t happen for them, that’s OK. Their desire is not that strong.
“In my experience, the desire to be childfree — and to know this without ever wavering in your decision — is less common.
“My maternal instinct gets funneled into helping and caring for others: relationship advice, coaching people in relationship. That’s rewarding.”
Like Hartman, my maieutic and maternal instincts take shape as service to others. I’ve enjoyed numerous enduring friendships over the years with young people who, in another timeline, might’ve been my children (i.e., they were the right age).
Along with nurturing teens and twenty-somethings, I’ve had elders in my life who have held this space for me. It’s very rewarding to be able to relate to someone whose wisdom you value, and with whom you’re able to deeply engage, precisely because they aren’t biological kin.
Maryam Henein, founder of HoneyColony, also elected to lead a childfree lifestyle and give birth to a book, documentary, and website in lieu of children. She says, “I am very clear on my purpose. I have much respect for mothers and realize the richness a child brings. But it just wasn’t in my cards this time around, and I needed to accept this to find peace.”
Childfree By Choice — Or Motherhood Not By Choice
Women or couples who do not have children but wish they did are usually referred to as childless. When a woman or couple chooses not to become parents, on the other hand, they’re known as childfree, or childless by choice.
Proponents of parenthood often view those who opt to be childfree as selfish, or somehow unnatural. But choosing a lifestyle that includes children — or not — is as individual as whether one chooses to be vegan or omnivorous, devout or agnostic, live in the city or the country, and so on.
Relationship expert Hartman says there are “pain points” on both sides of the child/childfree equation. “Those who want kids and can’t have them think, ‘what’s as natural as the sun coming up in the morning for someone else didn’t happen for me.’
On the other hand, those who choose not to have children usually face a lot of judgment. In some cases, the judgment can come from people who are deep down envious — glad they have children, but with mixed feelings about the tremendous role of parenting.
Hartman’s observation also speaks to the volatile issue of the many women who become pregnant when it is not their choice, and choose to release the pregnancy, give the child up for adoption, or keep their child regardless of the consequences.
In a recent Common Ground interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker speaks about her two abortions when she knew she could not afford to raise a child.
She also shares what it was like to grow up feeling loved yet unwanted:
My mother had eight children but never wanted to have eight. She wanted to have six. I was the eighth child. One of the things I learned was how it feels to really know that your parents do love you but that they really wish you hadn’t been born.
The powerful poignancy in her raw reveal affirms that I made the right decision. Biological children were not meant to be part of my path. And, I am grateful for the young people I have the privilege and joy of knowing and serving, not having given birth to them.
Pressure Cooker Or Possibility
I made my decision about having children prior to the Age of Social Media, where every aspect of our lives is recorded, shared, dissected, and shamed or praised (or both).
It’s exponentially more challenging to make the smallest choices these days without being besieged by feedback, daily and instantly.
How we as women define ourselves, and how much we buy into society’s pressures to follow the script, is changing with every breath.
More than ever before in herstory, we’re discovering how to hold the “both/and”, to give voice to all of who we are. It’s about compassion and fierce strength, vulnerability and strong boundaries. An initiation, and a freeing possibility.
Many Ways To Mother
The creative process can take myriad forms. Having a child is one highly creative act. So is writing a book, inventing an app, discovering a cure for a disease, scaling Everest, opening a restaurant, offering another a listening heart … the list is endless.
The role of life purpose midwife, by the way, isn’t unique to me. As planetary awakening accelerates, we’re all becoming midwives, stewarding the birth of a new way of being.
I encourage you to bring a maieutic inquiry to childbearing. Question whether you’re meant to procreate, or cocreate, or both, and how this will best serve your purpose on the planet.
You may be a maiden, mother, midwife, and more during your lifetime. These are archetypal roles, ancient patterns in human consciousness, not confined or defined by biology.
In The Circle of Life, seasoned midwives Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard (the kind who do deliver babies!) speak to 13 aspects or archetypes of a woman’s life. What we embody at a given time on our life journey is unique to each of us.
Your potential pathways are unlimited. What’s necessary is giving yourself permission to pursue them.
To make the choice to have children, or not — and to know you can reverse this decision once or several times throughout your life (before having kids, obviously!) — is your birthright.
Becoming Your Own Archetype
Being a mother — or not — does not have to define you, unless you choose to be defined in this way. Either choice (or both, at different life stages) is perfectly acceptable. And, it only needs to be acceptable to you.
The blaming, the shaming, the haters, the pressure to live in a certain way, is so last millennium. Letting go of what no longer serves is the watchword of now.
What is the script you feel you must live up to, or into? If it entails having children when you sense in your soul this isn’t right for you, know you can choose again.
There are wider waters than the pond you now know. The maiden, the mother, and the midwife are archetypes that live within you.
There are many ways to be a mother.
© Copyright March 2019 by Amara Rose. All rights reserved.
Amara Rose is a metaphysical “midwife” for our global rebirth. A former personal health columnist for Nation’s Business magazine, she’s written for numerous publications, both digital and print. Amara is the founder of Live Your Light.
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