Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A life without kids

There is an article floating around from Time Magazine about the Childfree Life. It's what makes up the worst nightmare of policy makers in developed countries like Singapore. But it also truthfully talks about how women who choose not to have children are judged and are often labelled as selfish.

It got me thinking about what life would be without JED. In the last decade, I've gone from not wanting kids, to wanting kids and realising that it wasn't going to happen to having twins and realising how full my hands were to having a third as a surprise and being exhausted ever since. That isn't to say that I haven't been happy and fulfilled. But there are days, when I'm particularly exhausted, frustrated and have my nerves ground raw by fighting with them (the most traumatic fights are not amongst JED but between myself and either of the JEDs), that I wonder what would life have been like if I had taken up Packrat all those years ago on just accepting our childless status. He had told a heartbroken sobbing me (we had been told by an unsympathetic heartless obgyn-that combination should never ever exist- that we would never have kids naturally) that if we didn't have kids, we would be able to travel to the ends of the world.

Now, 3 children later, I constantly dream about long vacations. But if I really thought about it and were truthful to myself, there are reasons why a childfree life does sometimes seem appealing

I wondered if I felt the same way and I polled some of my mommy friends. I asked them to be honest,  not tell me what they felt they were expected to say about motherhood being perfectly fulfilling and them not wanting nothing more.

There were 3 categories of answers.

There were the flippant and short-term answers.
1. I could sleep in more.
2. I wouldn't have aged so quickly.
3. I could wake up late on the weekends and go out for brunch.
4. I could take naps in the afternoon.
5. I wouldn't need to go to the spa just so that I could get uninterrupted sleep.
6. I wouldn't have a flabby tummy/ thighs/ hips.

And many other illustrations that revolved heavily around the need for sleep. That in itself is telling.

Then there were more serious ones.
1. I wouldn't worry so much. Children exponentially increased the number of things we worry about. They get sick. They sometimes have difficulties that require diagnosis and therapy. We have to see them through school which can be especially hair wrenching in a system like Singapore's.
2. I would have more money.
3. It wouldn't take a year of planning go on a vacation. We could do it at a drop of a hat.
4. We could go trekking in Timbucktoo or the Patagonias.
5. We could go to grad school without having to worry about logistics and support.
6. We wouldn't be so short fused and frustrated all the time.
7. We would be nicer to our spouses and more tolerant of their sometime clueless nature that we found a little bit more endearing pre-kids.
8. Our spouses, whom we married because we loved them and wanted to spend our lives with them wouldn't be relegated to second place and to varying degrees neglected. On this note, even my phone's autocorrect has placed the children before the spouse or in this case, affection towards the spouse.

But the ones that sometimes make me shut my eyes really tight and wish I could go back to pre-kid days are
1. Never being able to see any type of conflict beyond how much a child suffers in it. I declared stupidly, at the beginning of the Syrian conflict that I would stop following the news till they stopped reporting the death and suffering of the children. That was 2 years ago. My profession requires me to keep up with the news, especially the human interest side of things. And hearing about children dying from Sarin gas poisoning or being forced into slavery, prostitution, behead people and the likes makes me ache and cry as if they were my children. And they all become my children. Every time I hear something happen, I imagine how I would feel if that happened to JED.

2. I have never been able to look at stem cell or genetic research in the same way again. Previously, I could think about it extremely academically; a bunch of cells extracted and grown in the name of science. But knowing that the twins were these little 8 cell balls that were grown in a petri dish and put back into me made me think of every single one of those stem cell research projects as taking cells that grew to become what Jordan and Evan are today.

3. Sometimes, my imagination gets the better of me and in a situation where something could have gone an inch the wrong way and there could have been great tragedy that would involve JED, I am paralysed with imagined horror.

4. Nightmares that used to involve only myself and or Packrat (and those were bad enough) now have taken on a new level of terror when they involve JED and the sense of helplessness in my dream is a million-fold. 

At the end of the day, I now take every single injustice, pain and suffering inflicted on children personally and it's hard to carry a load like that in a world like ours.

So, since it causes us so much grief, would we ever trade it?

Most moms are unanimous with me on that one. No, they wouldn't trade it for the world. Their lives would be a lot easier yes, but the nights would be darker and the silence would kill them. 


But being fully aware of my own occasional ambivalence makes it a lot harder for me to judge those, who by choice, decide that they do not want kids. It's another way to go. It's different. But who am I to judge them for that? In many ways, they have a point too.


  1. I love your honesty. Most people avoid being so honest about themselves. Guess that avoidance has been pressure-cooked into us.

    Thank you for a wonderful sharing, even though you must be feeling a bit ambivalent about writing it (I could be wrong, of course).

    An ambivalent dad.

  2. Thank you JayY. :)

    The only ambivalence I felt about writing this was imagining the hail storm of criticism unleashed on me for saying all these UN-mum things! :)