Why does it seem that people react so strongly when the choice not to have children becomes known? Do they feel threatened by that choice? Is it because the idea is so alien to our culture and the world we live in? Perhaps expectations play a part.
Choosing to remain single may also be looked at adversely in a culture which values family and marriage. Yet even those who do not get married may still have children. Those who choose not to, especially when married, seem to be considered odd, abnormal, and on the fringes of society. Though the views of what constitutes a family may be changing, the choice to not have children still evokes strong responses.
The decision not to have children brings even more animosity when it is a Christian couple who makes this choice. Though infertility brings about sympathy and understanding, if the decision is deliberate, then the couple is viewed strangely. Some even go so far as to consider the choice sinful. After all, did not God command us to be fruitful in the book of Genesis?
The scripture – “Be fruitful and multiply” is used to support the argument that married Christians are to have children if they are able. Yet this Scripture, in the original language, is actually a blessing, not a command. Here’s an article about Genesis 1:28 – Be fruitful and multiply. Children are a blessing. And many couples grieve the lack of this blessing in their lives. Perhaps this is why many find it hard to believe that couples would voluntarily choose not to have any children.
Some may view this choice as selfish. They think those who choose childlessness do so out of selfish motives or ambitions. But isn’t that making an assumption on another person’s motives? Who are we to judge someone’s reasons for a decision they make? Perhaps there are health reasons we are not aware of. Or for the Christian, there is a desire to serve God in other ways than raising children. Perhaps there’s an abusive background and a desire not to put children in a difficult situation. Others may feel that they are not able to handle the challenge of parenting and don’t want a child to suffer. Many other reasons abound, including overpopulation, lack of interest or desire, and financial concerns. Whatever the reason, it is a personal choice, just as having children is a choice. This can be a volatile topic and quite controversial, especially among Christians. There are those in Christian circles who believe that a married couple who chooses not to have children are sinning against God. Here’s an article from that standpoint Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion.
Obviously I don’t agree with that viewpoint. Here’s an article from Christianity Today with a different perspective Is It All Right for a Married Couple to Choose to Remain Childless?
There seem to be a lot of Christians out there that think it is wrong for a Christian couple to choose not to have children. Verses such as “be fruitful and multiply” are quoted as proof text (see above). Yet the reason that God created a wife for Adam was to be a helpmeet, a companion, so that he would not be alone. Obviously they had to have children in order for the human race to exist, but I think we’ve pretty much taken care of the “fruitful and multiply” aspect! My hubby put it like this “man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one” – “not five or six”. Reproduction is a benefit of marriage, not a requirement.Sometimes I struggle with how to reconcile being a Christian with being childfree by choice. Most people who are childfree by choice are also pro-choice or for abortion. I don’t agree with abortion as I feel that life begins at conception. But I don’t have a problem with using birth control as long as it’s not abortifacient. And I don’t think the “be fruitful and multiply” is applicable to today’s Christian. But sometimes I feel like I’m on the edge, tottering. It is possible to be a Christian and yet choose not to have children, but sometimes I feel like it’s a difficult balance to handle. And I wonder how much flack I’ll get in conservative circles about the choice that we’ve made.
I do a Google search for childfree or childfree blogs and am amazed at how much animosity is out there. There are some extreme childfree folks who not only don’t want children themselves, but actually despise children and those trying to have them. I do not think they are the norm or standard when it comes to the childfree by choice. I certainly hope not!
I have made the decision (with my husband) not to have children. That does not mean that I hate or even dislike children. On the contrary, I like other people’s children. I love my niece and nephew. I can enjoy other people’s children without feeling the responsibility of raising them myself.When my husband and I made the decision not to have children (a decision we discussed during our engagement), I didn’t realize how that would impact my life. I had never heard the term “childfree” at that point. I knew that I had never really had a desire to have children, something that was talked about when I was a teenager. My mom even mentioned that I had never been very “motherly”. As I began to fall in love with boys during my high school years, I realized that I would probably have children for the sake of the man I loved. Having reached that conclusion, I spent the remainder of my high school and college years assuming that I would have children. Imagine my surprise and delight when my fiancé and I got into a discussion about children and I learned that he didn’t really care whether or not he had children. We both determined to wait before taking any “drastic measures” to see if we changed our minds, but both felt confident that we would not have children. In early marriage, I heard the “you’ll change your mind” comment when stating we didn’t plan on having children. This comment would irritate me for it assumed that the other person knew my mind better than I did. As time went on, it became clear that choosing not to have children was a decision that few people make, especially in Christian circles. I began to realize that the decision not to have children was a major lifestyle choice, one that would impact the rest of my life. Choosing the “childfree” lifestyle put me in a minority, especially among other Christians. It also seems to be a controversial and even volatile topic, ranging from it being considered a sin to being perceived as selfish.
Many of those who choose not to have children get asked the question why. There is not always a simple answer. There can be multiple reasons for choosing not to have children. Health issues are one reason and a reason that many consider valid. Others get married later in life and feel that having children is too risky for their age. For me the decision had mostly to do with lack of desire. Some choose not to because of financial reasons, others because of concern for the environment and over-population. Whatever the reason behind the decision, it is a personal decision and one that most childless couples take seriously. I was thinking one night that I can’t understand the desire that so many women have to be a mother. I’m happy for my friends that are able to have that desire come true, but I don’t really understand it. That all-encompassing, soul-wrenching desire to have a child of their own, to be called “mommy” – it’s just not in me. I don’t seem to possess that motherly instinct, that nurturing aspect of womanhood. Maybe it has to do with my independence streak. I’m naturally independent and a loner. I like my space and my time alone. I also have a very low tolerance for stress. My energy level also seems to be low, though that may be due to diet and lack of exercise.
Why have I chosen not to have children? The simple answer is that I don’t want them. It’s not that I don’t like kids, I just don’t want my own. I don’t want the responsibility of taking care of them. I don’t want to be a parent or mother. Is that selfish? Maybe. But I’d rather run that risk than have a child and resent the child. I’m an independent person and like my alone time. I need my alone time in order to function and keep from getting too stressed out. The responsibility of a baby and then a child would be too much for me. I know myself well enough to know that. I’m also not very responsible when it comes to money. We are in a lot of debt, mostly because of unwise choices and foolish spending. We couldn’t afford to have a child, even if we wanted one. I need to learn to be more disciplined when it comes to money. How on earth could I expect to take care of another human being when I’m so irresponsible with money? I haven’t proven to be a wise steward in this regard.
Some people might wonder why I have scrapbooking as a hobby when I don’t have any children. For me, scrapbooking is a creative outlet. I have found lots of things to scrapbook. I started with my childhood and also did a small album on my hobbies. I’ve scrapped past vacations and our wedding story. Also, football games that we have been to, family get-togethers, my niece, and our 2 cats. I’ve made an ABC album of my best friend and I growing up, as well as an ABC album of my cats. I’ve scrapped my brother’s time in Africa. I’ve scrapped my sister on a cruise and their house getting built. I don’t even have to be part of an event for me to scrapbook it! I also enjoy scrapbooking my friends and their kids, as well as baby showers for my friends. And scrapping my 30th birthday party was a blast!
My take on Mother’s Day: Mother’s Day is a great holiday and one in which we can honor our mothers and the impact they have had on our lives. However, for many people, this is a painful holiday. Perhaps because they long to be mothers themselves. For others, their own mother has passed away or they don’t have a good relationship. Perhaps they live far away from family.
For the childfree, Mother’s Day can be a good opportunity to spend time with our own mothers, thanking them for all they’ve done for us. But Mother’s Day can seem artificial and superfluous since we are not mothers ourselves. In Christian circles, most churches seem to emphasize mothers on this particular day, making it difficult for the childfree to feel comfortable going to church on this holiday. Even if not being mothers is a choice that we have made, the over-emphasis on this particular holiday can be difficult to endure.
While honoring our mothers is important, it is also important to remember that not being a mother is fine too. In many ways, we can offer our contributions of being women to society without the motherhood aspect. We all have unique abilities and gifts which we can offer to others. Often our time and money is freed to contribute to important and worthwhile endeavors. For the childfree that like children, being a part of children’s lives while not being the parent can be very rewarding. Perhaps we can make a difference in a child’s life.
Let’s honor our own mothers, but also honor women in general for the many contributions that women bring to society. And remember to use your unique gifts to better the world and community in which you are a part.
Church issues for the childfree: It seems most churches are geared towards families – parents and children. There are some with good singles ministries, but I haven’t come across any that are geared towards the married without children, unless they are newly married and haven’t had any kids yet. Children’s ministries abound at most churches. AWANA is a ministry where children gather weekly to play games, do crafts and recite memorized Scripture verses. Most churches have a yearly Vacation Bible School with a theme to attract kids. For all these children’s ministries, the church needs adults and teens to run them. But what if you don’t enjoy working with children or don’t have a talent in that area? In my experience, churches tend to focus on making sure their children’s ministries are run and they scramble for volunteers wherever they can find them. If you’re not good about telling people no, you may find yourself involved without really meaning to. I think it’s good to have children’s ministries in a church. But I think the focus is skewed. The childfree often feel like outcasts in their local church, especially if they don’t enjoy working with children. My gifts lie in the realm of drama and interpretive dance. Yet I don’t have much opportunity to use these gifts in a church that has multiple children’s activities and is focused on running them.