Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Childless by Choice with Kids

More than a few times I have been contacted by someone I had interviewed for the Childless by Choice Project who has emailed to say “Hey, I've just become a stepmom (or foster parent), am I still in the club?”

I always respond with a hearty, “Yes you are!”

I guess because people make the assumption that all of us who choose to remain childless hate kids they are surprised when they find out that some of us happily choose to have children in our lives. We teach, coach, mentor, babysit, foster, or marry someone who has children from a previous marriage, and sometimes we even adopt. These actions do not negate the choice we made to live a life without biological children. Life brings opportunities and some of these opportunities include caring for and loving other people's children.

We can choose to embrace those opportunities as childfree persons or we can choose to say no. It all depends where on where we are on the kid loving/hating spectrum and what we feel we can do, or desire to do, at that moment. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail that I received recently from a couple who, until previously, had only furry four-legged children.
An update on us: we celebrated our 8 year wedding anniversary this year! It’s amazing how 11 years together goes quickly.
I want to also tell you something interesting that happened to us. Although we hadn’t planned to, and still have not, had our own children, my husband’s cousin was not able to care for her children any longer and we decided to take them into our home. I think if we had our own kids, this arrangement would not have been possible and these kids would have ended up in foster care.
My husband and I struggle daily with becoming ready-made parents but we think about the service to society we are contributing by bringing these kids up in a home with strong values, plenty of means, and a home where these kids can see that having kids is a choice. Their mom had them before she was twenty and she struggled (obviously). Feel free to take us off your list since we no longer meet the minimum requirements, lol.
Lisa Steadman, who wrote this article titled Why You Don't Need to Have Kids to 'Have it All' shared a similar experience of fostering her husband's niece. Her choice to remain childless, and her choice to be a temporary foster parent, led her to the realization that “having this child come into my life and my house does not feel like having it all. In fact, I feel like I have less now than I did before.” Less time, less sex, less money, less travel. And although she “gets” that there is value in the special moments with children too, Steadman still felt compelled to write:
Instead of judging each other's choices or condemning another woman who has made different choices as being incapable of having it all, wouldn't we all be better off to broaden our definition of having it all and celebrate what that looks like for each and every woman we know?
To me, this is the new woman's right to choose. And while we may never agree, I would hope we can adopt the new definition of having it all and honor each other's choices for the complex and unique women of the world we are.

flickr photo by Benjamin Lehman

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