This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Audi and her choice not to have children. I know that family and child-rearing can be an emotionally charged topic; please keep all comments respectful.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Audi and I’m 42 years old. I live in San Francisco with my husband, 2 dogs, and a Chuckwalla lizard. I’m a scientist in the biotech industry, and among other things I make hats, brew beer, travel, and attend all sorts of interesting events in my beautiful city.
How old were you when you decided you didn't want children?
I’ve pretty much always known. I remember at about 8 or 9 years of age thinking about what my life would be like as an adult. I always pictured myself as a professional career woman, but never as a mom. I never played with baby dolls or dreamed up names for my future kids. In fact, I didn’t even really enjoy the company of other kids all that much. When I was in my late teens or early twenties I started actively thinking about getting a tubal ligation because even then I was very sure I didn’t want children.
What lead to your decision to be child-free?
There were a few times when I thought my ex-husband was going to eventually win out and get me to agree to starting a family; primarily I thought this because I figured I wouldn’t be able to save our relationship if I didn’t. But ultimately I had to make the decision to let come what may with the relationship and stay true to my own needs and desires. Our relationship might have survived, but it was a huge learning process and ultimately led to me realizing that if we didn’t agree on something as fundamental as children, then it wasn’t the right match to begin with. He might have been the right person to have a relationship with, but not the right one for a lifetime commitment. Big difference.
How have the people in your life responded to your decision?
I remember my mom once telling me that she felt she’d failed as a parent because I didn’t want kids, and at the time that hurt a lot. But she’s since come to accept my decision and is incredibly supportive now, as are the rest of my family and friends. But it has obviously been an evolution; people are much less likely to take you seriously if you’re saying you don’t want kids at age 22, but now at 42 I think most people are as convinced as I am that my mind won’t ever change.
And that’s really what it comes down to; the people who care about you don’t want to see you make a decision you’ll later regret. Most people that I talk to about it now (parents especially) tell me how lucky I am to have such certainly about it. My good fortune is not lost on me either; I’m deeply grateful for the clarity with which I’ve known that children weren’t for me. It makes everything so much easier.
What steps have you taken to remain child-free?
At 35, after many years of dealing with various forms of hormonal birth control, I had a tubal ligation. I first asked my doctor for one at age 22, and was told he wouldn’t even consider it until I was at least 30. At 30 I discussed it with a few different doctors and was again denied; one even told me I would need my then-husband’s written permission to get one. And while I understand that women who proclaim not to want children often later change their minds, it was still infuriating that I had to wait so long and advocate so vehemently for a choice that was 100% my own. However, the past is the past; I got my tubal and I’ve never once felt the slightest pang of uncertainty or regret about it.
How has your decision to be child-free affected your relationships - romantic and otherwise?
Romantically it was tough at times. When I was newly single at 36, I figured that men my age would feel the way I did, but I was shocked at how many still wanted and expected to have kids, even when dating women their own age. Eventually I met my husband online, which was a much easier way to screen out people who wanted or had kids.
Friendships have sometimes been tough; there have been several friends who I lost touch with when kids entered the picture. It would be one thing if I even remotely enjoyed being around children, but I just don’t. A couple times I came to the painful conclusion that the friendship wasn’t worth keeping if every time we got together I had to listen to hours of talk about preschool or daycare or soccer practice, and if I couldn’t talk about a trip abroad or a concert without getting a comment suggesting that my life was meaningless and selfish.
However, my friendships with other child-frees or people with older children have grown ever stronger, and I expect that some of the people my age who started families many years ago will eventually re-emerge and become interested in other things besides child-rearing. Relationships are always a process.
I'm sure there are some people who have told you won't feel fulfilled without children. How do you respond to that? And where do you find your feeling of family and community?
Yes, I’ve heard that a few times, primarily from people who don’t know me very well. It’s amazing the presumptions people make when it comes to the life choices of others. I’ve never taken that sort of comment seriously, and in fact I feel like it’s only someone whose life is incredibly unfulfilling who would say it in the first place.
It’s a narrow-minded person indeed who thinks the only way to fulfillment is reproduction. I’ve got a great husband and two beautiful dogs who fill my days with plenty of love and affection; I’ve got lots of amazing friends who I cherish and enjoy spending time with; I’ve got my parents and two sisters and extended family that I love deeply, and I’ve got a whole wonderful city full of interesting people that I can interact with every day. San Francisco is a great place to be child-free and I feel incredibly fortunate to be living here.
What advice would you give to others facing questions about their reproductive choices?
Probably the best advice I can give is to know yourself and stay true to your own wishes. Making the decision whether or not to have children is huge and life-changing; don’t do it lightly and don’t let anyone else do it for you. Once the decision is made then own it, don’t apologize for it, and don’t put up with people saying you should’ve done otherwise. Being happy with your choice is the surest way to convince others that you were right.
Are any of you childless by choice? Or doubt that you'll have kids?