In the academic department I’ll join later this year, everyone except me has a child. Seeing this reminded me of stigmatizing comments I’ve received about staying childfree, like an ex-friend who once said that my nurturing and feminist spirit would be wasted if I didn’t have a kid. I also thought of one of my past therapy supervisors who told me about how because she doesn’t have a kid, her former coworkers expected her to do more work, as if she didn’t have other things to do with her time.
To cope with this childfree stigma, I searched “childfree” in the Podcast app of my new iPhone and found the amazing “The Childfree Girls Podcast,” where three women living in different countries talk amongst themselves and with guests about being childfree. I’ve felt so validated after listening to just a few of their episodes. I resonate with all their reasons for embracing a childfree life: valuing freedom and autonomy, prioritizing oneself fully in endeavors like writing or traveling without fear of interruption, and simply not wanting to have kids, period. I once asked my dad about his decision to have kids and he told me didn’t think about the decision, it’s just what everyone did. I’m so grateful for the women leading this podcast for sharing about their lives and facilitating these childfree-focused conversations, to promote critical thinking about having children and to dismantle pronatalism.
I suspect their podcast feels so meaningful to me because of my gender identity. As a nonbinary person who’s leaned into femininity my whole life, I’ve sometimes felt that that part of myself contradicts with my desire to remain childfree. At times it feels like people will view me as another cisgender gay man who doesn’t have kids, when in reality I don’t always feel like a cisgender man and I love the more femme parts of myself. Listening to this podcast has reaffirmed for me that identifying with femininity doesn’t have to entail raising a child. In fact, associating or equating femininity with raising a child affirms patriarchal gender roles, the problematic notion that it’s inherently feminine to want or to raise a child while it’s masculine to prefer breadwinning or working instead.
Listening to this podcast has also helped with my PTSD. Sometimes I feel isolated or alone, like no one understands or gets me, even when I have great friends and community. Witnessing these women challenge pronatalism helps me feel connected, like other people know my experience, even if the specifics are a little different. It makes me feel grateful for all the women who have produced art that comforts me through my day-to-day: Chantal Johnson’s Post-Traumatic for depicting a Black Latinx lawyer who confronts her abusive childhood and decides to go to therapy, Weike Wang’s Joan is Okay for highlighting a Chinese American woman who’s content with her job helping others as a doctor and doesn’t want a husband or a child, and Caroline Knapp’s The Merry Recluse, for her ruthless search for self-insight that helped me get through a minor conflict, now resolved, that I recently had with a close friend.
Given my identities as a gay childfree oftentimes more-femme Asian American genderqueer/nonbinary man, it feels unlikely that I’ll meet someone who matches all my characteristics, not to mention my
consistent self-disclosure on the internet specific personality quirks. Still, it’s nice to know and connect with people who share some of my features and some of my views on the world. Even though I love my time alone, I like forming bonds with people and with community who challenge the status quo.
How do you feel about having kids, being childfree, pronatalism, or related topics? What messages have you gotten from people around you or broader society about being childfree or having kids? General reactions to this post? I titled this post the way I did because the name of the podcast reminds me of “Lovesick Girls” by BlackPink lol. Until next post!
7 responses to “We Are the Childfree Girls!”
This is quite a difficult one for me as I did want to have children and wasn’t able to through infertility: I wasn’t that bothered about giving birth but when we looked into adoption there is so much gone into about your background, including mental health struggles, that it seemed a no-go. The useful thing was that I thought I had “unexplained infertility” which made me feel super-guilty, like I’d willed it somehow, but then I found out 4 years after treatment for that that I have a health condition that has caused it. Phew!
I try to be a good aunt to my niece and nephew (husband’s brother’s kids) – mainly pushing against gender norms that are applied to them non-stop, and other young people around. I try to stay there for my cousin’s twins, who are turning 18 soon. My best friend’s children, who are now 23, have told me that I influenced their first forays into activism and social justice (they are way more activist than me now, though in the way of Young People, e.g. telling me off (OK 9 years ago) for taking my husband’s name …). I strongly support people’s right to choose whether or not to have children, and in what situation to have them, and am glad to know all sorts of families.
Thank you for sharing vulnerably about your experience Liz! That sounds tough especially the guilt that stemmed from the “unexplained infertility” label/diagnosis, and I’m glad that you figured out the health condition underlying the issue. Adoption is also super complex too from what I’ve heard and your experience does align with what others have told me (e.g., that people often assume adoption is easy and hear things like “oh well you can always adopt!” when it’s really not that easy).
I love hearing about all the ways you show up for younger folks in your life. They’re lucky to have you. I feel lucky to have you, you’re like an older and wiser friend/mentor figure to me. I appreciate you so much! And I agree and resonate with letting people choose whether or not to have children and the best situations to have them or not.
I found your work on goodreads and I love your blog! I’m glad this podcast made you feel less alone. I think that’s what draws us to any form of story (written, verbal or visual) – to connect about our shared humanity and feel less alone. I have always wanted children (in theory/at some point in the future – I am not currently pursuing having children) but I am obsessed with stories of women who did not have children. The redemptive arc of women’s lives in media most always results from becoming a mother. Childless women are painted as “witchy spinsters.” I read the memoir “no one tells you this” (because of your review) and enjoyed it. However, I still feel like this topic has not been explored enough in mainstream media. Do you have other recommendations? I am now on a childfree podcast binge as well.
I still feel that I want to have children. I don’t know when I’ll ever feel ready to try and I worry so much about losing my identity. I’m a female and I know I will do more of the work because we live in a white patriarchal society and although I love my husband – he is still a product of this environment.
I also have so much growing to to – I want to know myself deeply before focusing on another life. I hate the view that not having kids is selfish. Having children is the most selfish act in my opinion!! I feel that people have children as a way to bypass learning who they really are. Instead of looking themselves in the mirror, these people project and live through their children.
Thank you for your vulnerability! You inspire me to (one day) want to share my own blog publicly!
Yesss love the notion of being drawn to stories to find connection. I agree with your commentary on the redemptive arc of women in media and am so glad you enjoyed No One Tells You This. For books, I’d recommend Joan is Okay by Weike Wang and Regretting Motherhood by Orna Donath, both of which are thought-provoking and empathy-eliciting imo.
I think it’s great that you’re able to name and honor your desire to have children while also recognizing the elements of that experience that may be affected by white patriarchy, as well as your growth you still want to do. Totally agree with you about having children as selfish. Thank you so much for this deep and thoughtful comment, reflections like this keep me motivated to blog. Thank you (:
At one point in my life I wanted to have kids. J’s nephews and nieces (when they were much younger) were fun to play with. Sometimes when I was shopping at Costco, I would absentmindedly go towards the baby carriages and push a couple just to see what it was like. Of course reality deals you a different hand so I knew that wasn’t my role.
p.s. there hasn’t been enough self disclosure.
Have a great week!
Awwww thanks for sharing about at one point wanting to have kids and at the same time contending with reality. Haha I hope my most recent post and future posts will contain enough self-disclosure. Have a great week too and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment as always.
It took me a while to decide if as a gay man I wanted children. It took me a while to get to place, but now I know I made the right choice in not. But after making that choice, I feel like every time I meet new people, and get talking, the question keeps coming up again and again. As someoneone in a long term relationship, now married, I keep being asked, do you think you’ll have children? It’s the question that annoys me more than any other. Like, would you ask that it a straight couple? I think not. Just because legally we can have children now, doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.