Deciding to Be Child Free
This post was originally a tweetstorm from June 20th, 2019. I delete and archive my tweets older than 7 days (using an app called Jumbo), and want to retain thoughts shared below. These tweets have sparked a widespread discussion, with more than 1.8K likes, hundreds of retweets and comments, and about 400K total impressions. It has been lightly edited for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
I finally decided to be child free, after nearly 12 years of marriage. Would it help anyone out there for me to share my long and thoughtful process?
A few people said yes, so I guess Iâ€™ll just share here. For starters, I got married at 22, so there was zero time pressure to have kids then. Ended up getting pregnant and having an abortion in the first year of marriage, which woke me up to reality of this choice.
Super grateful to Planned Parenthood, and I am a donor and customer (for my birth control) to this very day.
So then my career took off, and it was easy to put off thinking about kids. And then San Francisco was astronomically expensive, and then I was a founder and it seemed impossible to imagine... so I put it off, I had an IUD, no period, so no reminder.
So I was just kind of happily 20-something and then 30. Btw the pressure from my parents was non-existent, after some gently questions in my first couple years being married. I realize now how lucky Iâ€™ve been, after reading r/childfree on Reddit for 5 minutes.
Then my younger sister had her first son just over a year ago, and I realized the time to think through this and start working on a more conscious decision had come. So I started reading parenting books, so so SO many parenting books.
And I also began processing a lot of my own experiences as a child, my issues with my parents (most of us have some) and then... we sold Mattermark. I was totally free to write whatever new chapter of my life.
Which was scary af but also awesome in the true meaning of the world. Full of awe. But also a void of meaning... and this is where it was so tempting to have a kid, to give my life meaning in the face of this yawning void of an unknown future.
So I didnâ€™t, because that seemed like a really unfair reason to make a new human.
But that scared me because I started to wonder if everyone was secretly doing this whole due diligence process, not talking about it, and coming to some conclusion that I just could not figure out.
So I started something different, taking an inventory of the things I liked and didnâ€™t like about my life, my self, my relationships, and anything else I could come up with. And I started to map out the underlying things that enable and hinder those things.
And I realized that I have a lot of things that I havenâ€™t given enough time to over the past 10 years (like making art, writing fiction, traveling in non-Western culture) that I want to prioritize now.
I also got really into the American Time Use Study (Iâ€™m a data nerd) ans camr to the conclusion that I would not be able to maintain the time allocations to reading 100+ books per year, working out 3-5 times a week, cooking most of my own meals and meditating 20-50 minutes per day.
And I know this is probably where some people will mention Iâ€™m selfish. But I am starting to think that is okay, that I can chose anything. If I didnâ€™t write this, youâ€™d never know or care about my choice and my little life over here. And that got me thinking...
Self help books make people think there is â€œone right wayâ€ to do X. Parent, exercise, eat, date, fuck. But the reality is that you only have to care about that if youâ€™re caught up on being â€œgoodâ€. Iâ€™m so tired of performing the good role. Iâ€™m going to chose something different.
I donâ€™t know what to call it. â€œHappyâ€ seems like what the Instagram quotes would say... but thatâ€™s not quite the right word
So this is the amazing thing, to me at least. At the end I just am choosing the risk of missing out on one experience, in favor of the other experience I am having now. When we are kids we can pick endless choose your own adventure options, but eventually doors start to close
Can i still have kids at 40, 50, 60? Yes. The technologies are incredible from drugs to surrogacy (remember I read like 50 books!) but also adoption. Thatâ€™s not the point. For me, I needed to come to an answer so I could plan the next phase of my life.
I never felt super angsty about this choice, but I realize now I have had the immense privilege of a mostly secular family without much judgment, and wonderful friends who have never acted like â€œoh you must not like kidsâ€ and they never kept theirs away from me.
So yeah, thatâ€™s my story of my choice. I enjoy nurturing many people (mostly adults, a few kiddos) and a couple dogs, and those who know me in that role know it is a passion of mine. I hope this helps a few other people feel more seen. Btw, child free is a choice men face too.
So if you read this and it got you thinking, thank you!
P.S. some of you asked about my husbands role in this, and he was supportive of the exploration but put zero pressure on me to have kids. This was more about my inner journey to peace with my choice, and he helped me imagine how life together would be good either way.
I also want to acknowledge my friends with kids who have heard me think this through and been so real and loving with me, the respect you showed my process is so incredible and I am so grateful.