Why I Don’t Have Children

I’m at that age where many people are surprised that I do not already have children and that I don’t want any children in the future. Especially for women, not wanting children can invite a lot of criticism, judgment, and assumptions from others. Not all of them are ill-intentioned. For example, recently, when I told an older lady I am not married and do not have any children, she patted my hand and said, “That’s okay. You still have time” (assuming that I am discontent with my single and child-free status ).

So why wouldn’t someone want children? First, let’s examine some of the common reasons for wanting them. Some people want to be assured there will be someone to take care of them when they’re old. However, isn’t this an inherently selfish reason? Most adult children who take care of their elderly parents don’t do it because it’s easy and fun. They do it because of feelings of love, loyalty, and obligation. It requires a lot of time away from their own children, possibly a lot of money, a lot of reconfiguring things to fit the needs of the elderly parent, and a great amount of patience (especially in the case of dementia, Alzheimer’s, incontinence, physical incapacitation, etc).

Some people want to pass down their legacy to their children. Again, isn’t this an inherently selfish reason? It’s all about the parent. And what if the adult child makes decisions that do not please the parent, maybe even go against fundamental beliefs and paradigms about the world held by the parent? The legacy the child lives might not be the one the parent wanted to leave.

Others want their families to be able to enjoy grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Although this is a more noble reason, it still does not take precedence over the numerous reasons for not having children.

Some people see it as “normal” to have kids and do not want to appear “abnormal”. These are often people who are being urged to have kids by friends and families, told “what good parents they would make”, and don’t like to stand out from the crowd. People in this group might also be worried their lives won’t mean anything if they do not raise children. However, something’s value cannot be proven simply by the fact that it’s prevalent. The value of making more human beings cannot be proven simply by citing the fact that a lot of people do it. There is nothing inherently noble about having children, nothing shameful about not. It is my opinion that our lives have no inherent meaning and that they must be given meaning by each of us as individuals (perhaps more on this in a future post?).

I suspect most parents never really weighed all the pros and cons seriously before having kids, and many, I’m sure, weren’t even aware of all the cons. But what could possibly be the cons to having children? I have identified many cons to having kids, some of which apply to everyone, and some only to myself.

In no special order…

I don’t want children because mental illness runs in my family. There is mental illness in both my immediate and extended family. In fact, three members of my immediate family have attempted suicide. I have also suffered with mental illness, myself. I wouldn’t want to pass this down to my children or to give them a sub-par childhood because of my own issues.

I don’t want children because they make me nervous. I prefer adult conversations. Children are more unpredictable, have not yet developed filters, and have not yet learned the social norms that often govern our conversations and interactions with each other. There are many adults who not only can handle this, but thrive working with children. Generally-speaking, I am not one of them.

I don’t want children because I am not financially stable. I have worked menial jobs my entire life, despite having a higher-than-average education. I have come pretty close to living in my car. It takes a lot of money to raise children nowadays, and I would not want to make children to whom I cannot offer every advantage. In a past era, a person who was honest and a hard-worker would be financially set. Nowadays, it’s far harder to reach financial security, due to wages not staying up with inflation, jobs requiring higher education and more experience, the weakening of unions, everything being much more expensive, and more people vying for fewer jobs as the population has exploded and many jobs are now automated or obsolete…

just to name a few.

I don’t want children because I would be tied to the child’s father. I have known other women have children with men they thought they knew and could trust, only later to find out they were wrong. It’s hard for me to trust someone enough to make this important decision with them, especially considering people often change, and parenting is an 18+ year commitment. If I choose to have a baby with the wrong person, that doesn’t just affect my life. It affects my child’s, as well.

I don’t want children because of the heavy responsibility parenting is. I take parenting to be a very serious endeavor and not something to be chosen lightly. Parenting really isn’t about raising children — it’s about raising future adults. It is imperative to consistently use authoritative parenting techniques (as opposed to dismissive or authoritarian), which give children boundaries without stifling their natural curiosity and independent spirits. To form children into adults who are strong, yet kind; are sensitive, yet not thin-skinned; appreciate humor, yet show respect; put themselves and their families first, while caring and doing for those outside their own circles; are ambitious, yet at peace, ETC., is not an easy feat. And although it’s possible to engage in child-minding and child-rearing roles (working with children, helping to raise a niece or nephew, etc.) motherhood is permanent, and you can never “put the genie back in the bottle” once you’ve decided to bring a child into the world.

I don’t want children because I want to feel free to be spontaneous. Children need consistency and stability. For example, it would be irresponsible and selfish to pick up in the middle of a school year and move or to take an unplanned vacation without your child. Every decision I made would need to pass the “Is this the best thing for my child?” test.

I don’t want children because I have already had a lot of experience with child-rearing duties with my own siblings. For many years I had heavy child care responsibilities for my younger siblings that surpassed mere babysitting duties. Because of my parents splitting up and neither one’s mental health being great, a lot of the burden of my siblings’ wellbeing fell on me, and I acted as their primary parent. I feel that I have already experienced parenthood and am not ready for it again. In a way, I feel thankful that I am in the minority of people who were able to “try out” parenting before committing to it.

I don’t want children because the earth already has enough people. The world population has more than doubled just since the 1960’s. There are a finite amount of resources to go around, and already scientists are warning that things cannot continue at this rate or human beings (as well as all other species) will go extinct. Advances in fertility treatments, life expectancies increasing, and infant mortality rates decreasing have all contributed to the earth’s population explosion.

I’d like to make a special point of saying that a career is not one of the reasons I don’t want children. Many people jump to conclusions when they hear someone (especially a woman) say she doesn’t want children — the implication being these are the only two choices for women. However, there are many ways to live a life, and I’ve decided neither of these ways is fit for me.

It feels good to get my thoughts surrounding this topic organized and compiled in written form. Thank you for taking the time to read them. Is there anyone reading this who has also made the decision to remain child-free? Do you have other reasons than the ones I listed for doing so? I would love to hear your thoughts on this controversial and sensitive topic.

Contentment vs. Striving

Both contentment and goal-setting are lauded as positive by society. Yet they seem very much like opposites. If you’re content, why are you striving to reach goals? If you’re striving to reach goals, does that mean you’re not content?

Let’s examine the issue. What is your reason for goal-setting? How do you know if your goals are worthy and are coming from a positive place? Is your motivation internal or external? What positives will reaching the goal bring into your life? Is it a lasting or temporary positive?

Be honest with yourself about why you’re setting a certain goal and whether the motivation comes from a place of good faith or insecurity. For example, wanting to lose weight because your BMI is dangerously high, you have trouble breathing after walking up one flight of stairs, or your knees have started to hurt are all healthy reasons to want to lose weight. But losing weight in order to catch your crush’s eye is not. The first set of reasons are in the spirit of self-care and self-love and have lasting positive effects. The second reason is due to feelings of inferiority, of not being “good enough”. And even if you do lose weight and win over your crush, a relationship based on looks is unstable, dehumanizing, bound to cause resentment on your part, and can be easily severed by the introduction of someone who is even better-looking. In other words, the effects are temporary. Likewise, setting a goal to make an A this quarter instead of a B is a worthy, healthy goal if it’s springing from yourself instead of your parents and is due to you knowing you are capable of making a better grade. In this case, the goal emanates from your knowledge that you are highly capable, intelligent, hard-working, and an A is within your grasp. On the contrary, giving in to your parents or professor and setting a goal to make an A when you used all your talents, skills, abilities, and other positive traits to make the B, is self-defeating, self-sabotaging, and inherently comes from a place of seeking to placate others by admitting to the falsehood that you’re not good enough as you are.

Is it lazy to be content? Should you always be goal-setting? Feeling contented (fulfilled, satisfied) when you already have what you need is often an indication you have not given in to societal standards that urge you to always be buying, upgrading, competing, and climbing life’s “ladder of success.” And goal-setting should not be considered inherently positive. Contentment and striving are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. You can feel content but also set goals. If you don’t meet the goals you set for yourself, does your unconditional positive-regard for yourself become diminished? It shouldn’t if you are truly content. If so, reappraise the motivation and origin of your goals. Are your goals the result of self-hate, lack of confidence, not feeling like you measure up, or not feeling like you play an important role in the world? This might mean self-care and introspection should take place in the immediate and goals set on the “back burner” until they can be re-evaluated when you are in a healthier and more loving frame of mind towards yourself. According to the Buddha, “the root of suffering is attachment”.

Happiness should be a positive effect of contentment and goal-achieving. It should not be the goal, itself. It should be the means, not the end. Striving for happiness is the best, fastest way to rob yourself of contentment. Happiness is an amorphous, abstract concept, and therefore, it’s easy to chase it your whole life. Instead, ensuring that you are living in a way concordant with your physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, financial, social, and spiritual health will bring happiness. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

How to Increase Your Self-Esteem

There are many terms that all basically refer to an internal positive regard towards one’s self. These include self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect, self-assurance, etc. I’ve noticed that nowadays self-esteem is often described as something you’re supposed to achieve before you can accomplish anything else. However, I have a different view of it. I believe that self-esteem is something that must be built, nurtured, and encouraged — that self-esteem can only come after accomplishments, not before. First instance, Baby Boomers have been criticized for rewarding their Millennial children with “participation awards” and doing away with bad grades in order to raise self-esteem. They have been criticized for this, at least in part, because many argue these practices have resulted in children who are unmotivated, unhealthy, and irresponsible (ironically, traits that often lead to self-loathing — the opposite of self-esteem).

I have noticed in my own life that if I give into unhealthy habits (for example, eating bad food, lying in bed all day on my day off, reacting without thinking, etc), I feel nothing but self-loathing. However, if I do what I am supposed to do (eat healthful food, get my cleaning or errands done, react appropriately to a confrontation, etc), I feel good about myself and feel an inner calm and stability. This isn’t because of the tasks themselves, but, rather, because I’ve shown myself I have certain admirable, or esteemable, qualities, such as diligence, time management skills, delayed gratification, impulse control, empathy, etc.

Another factor in building self-esteem is that it should come from permanent, non-superficial sources that are within your control. That way, it will be lasting. It should not be based on being the “best” or at another person’s expense, but rather on doing your best. For example, winning a race is a bad source of self-esteem. Why? Because it’s something that can change (there is a big chance you won’t win the next race), and it’s predicated upon someone else “losing”. It’s also very much up to chance, since the other competitors probably practiced just as hard as you did. Instead, an appropriate source of self-esteem would be setting a new fastest record for yourself. Why? Because you’ve proven to yourself that you are hard-working, perseverant, and capable at the task you set out to accomplish. Reaching goals (as long as they are not harmful, and the motivation behind them is not harmful) and building positive character and personality traits, is always a positive source of self-esteem.

It’s important to note that true self-esteem always comes from the internal, not the external, by doing right by others and to yourself. A friend telling you they like your new outfit is nice and gives a very temporary mood high, but is still a superficial source of self-esteem. Whether another person likes your outfit is outside your control, and clothing styles change, so that trendy outfit you’re receiving compliments about today might be ridiculed in a couple years. Likewise, the fancy car you’re driving might get compliments, but did you work hard to be able to buy it or was it given to you? Even if you did work for it, did the people you went to school with and your current coworkers without fancy cars work just as hard as you? It’s quite possible the answer is, yes. Did your schoolmates go into a line of work that is fulfilling in many ways but doesn’t garner them the kind of salary needed to buy a fancy car? Again, it’s quite possible the answer is, yes.

Before closing, I just want to say building self-esteem is something I continue to struggle with and am really working on. I’d like to get to the point where an insult does not unduly negatively affect me and a compliment doesn’t unduly positively affect me, either. Do you have any tips for building self-esteem or any thoughts regarding what I’ve written in this post? Do you agree or disagree with my conclusions regarding this topic? I’d really love to hear!

Enjoying the Present Instead of Documenting the Past

I used to be an avid amateur photographer. Whenever I traveled somewhere new or did something new or exciting, I’d make sure to bring my camera along and get pics of EVERYTHING (and multiple angles of each, in some cases). It made a time I should have been having fun and enjoying myself a little less enjoyable and relaxful and a lot more stressful and onerous. Finally, I realized that I was spending my time documenting the past, as the experiences I photographed are technically part of the past once they’re over. I decided to begin soaking up each experience and participating in it fully by putting the camera down and living in the present. I achieved two things: 1) I now enjoy each experience much, much more and 2) My memories of each experience are much more pleasant. I haven’t stopped taking pictures, but I’m happy getting a few, and taking them with other people as opposed to scenery/landmarks.

In which ways have you been inspired to live more in the present?

Applying Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Every Day Life

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular short-term, evidence-based modality used by many mental health practitioners for the treatment of an assortment of mental disorders that teaches applicable skills for everyday life. The theory behind it goes something like this: Our thoughts affect our emotions, which in turn, affect our actions. So if we ruminate over negative thoughts that enter our minds, those thoughts will make us feel like crap. Feeling like crap will incite us to make unwise, rash, myopic decisions.

Controlling our thoughts is often easier said than done. I struggle with obsessive, negative, sometimes paranoid thoughts constantly and often am controlled by my thoughts instead of my thoughts being controlled by me. So what are some ways of controlling thoughts researchers and mental health practitioners advise? One is meditation. This practice involves emptying the mind and welcoming whatever thoughts want to flow through, regardless of content, and without judgment. To quote Buddhist monk and teacher Sunryu Suzuki: “Leave your front door and your back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.” This encourages desensitization to negative thoughts and surrender to the inevitability that they will come up at least every once in a while.

Journaling is another way to handle negative thoughts in a healthful manner. Writing them down, with or without showing them to anybody, can be a healthful way to feel that you’ve gotten them out of your system and can now move on — that you’ve “handled” them instead of bottling them up inside and avoiding acknowledging their existence. Writing them down can also make possible solutions to a problem clearer.

Reframing thoughts is another helpful strategy. Reframing thoughts involves seeing the positive even in negative situations, much like the titular character in the movie Pollyanna. For example, not getting hired could mean you get an even better job.

Breathing exercises can also aid in controlling the negative emotions that arise when we have a negative thought by slowing, deepening, and evening out our breathing pattern and relaxing our neck, back, and shoulders. The medical and mental health communities now realize how deep the connection is between physical and mental health, and this is a perfect example.

Engaging in pleasurable activities, such as hobbies, is another way to deal with negative thoughts and emotions, because they are less likely to pop up while you are doing something you enjoy. These activities result in feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that naturally put you in a good mood.

These are just some of the techniques that could be helpful in dealing with negative, controlling thoughts and allowing you to take back your life. Negative thoughts are a natural part of life and will never entirely go away. However, it is possible to decrease their intrusion into your life, as well as the intensity of their effect when they do appear. And due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, after a while of dealing with negative thoughts and emotions in appropriate ways, it will become second-nature to do so. Does anyone else find themselves dealing with negative thoughts, and what practices have you found useful in managing them?

The Art of Shower-Sitting

So I mentioned in my last post that one of my hobbies is shower-sitting. This is a hobby that I have had since early childhood, starting with me getting the stomach flu almost every year around my birthday. The hot water felt so good raining down on my ache-y, chilling body, but I didn’t have the strength to stand the entire time. So I got the idea to sit in the tub. Ever since that time, I have used long, hot, sit-down showers as a relaxful respite from sickness, stress, and looming responsibilities.

I was lucky for a long time to have my own bathroom so I didn’t have to worry about sitting in someone else’s filth. I have since lost my own bathroom, so have taken to using a $10 plastic patio chair.

Generally, I turn off any glaring lights and either have it pitch black or leave on an indirect light or light some candles. This aids greatly in relaxation, especially if you have a headache. With nothing but the roar of the water in your ears and its steady drumming on your back/shoulders/head, etc, the rest of the world and its noise is locked out and you get a partial sensory-deprivation experience. As an introvert, it’s especially important for me to get away from the rest of the world and have time to myself. I’ll sit with my back to the spray, as well as away from the spray.

I have even read books this way (with my back facing the spray), which protects the book. Sometimes I use this time to think of absolutely nothing and let my mind go blank, engaging in a form of meditation.

Sometimes I use it to brainstorm and reflect. My greatest ideas and epiphanies generally come during two periods: In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, or during a sit-down shower. And sometimes it’s cathartic to have a good cry in the privacy of the shower stall.

Granted, it’s a waste of water (I’ll admit some of my sit-down showers have been 45 minutes long, although I have not taken one nearly this long in several years and most are under 20 minutes), but it’s a pretty mild vice to have, comparatively-speaking.

It used to be that taking a sit-down shower was associated with being depressed, elderly, or hung over, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that, while it’s still considered somewhat of a weird taboo, it’s become much more popular as of late. Does anyone else reading this indulge in this pastime? Let me know! And if not, I’d recommend it as a cheap and easy stress and pain-buster!

Let’s Talk Hobbies

Some people have many, some a couple, some none. Some are expensive, require a lot of skill, and/or take up a lot of time. Some are free, require no special skills/talent, and/or can be done anytime/anywhere. Some people prioritize making time for them, while others only do them as an afterthought when they’re bored.

What are your hobbies? What do you consider the definition of “hobby” to be? According to dictionary.com, it’s “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation”. Using that definition, my hobbies are reading, writing poetry, watching movies, gluttony, taking sit-down showers (more about this in another post!), taking drives, and — my newest! — blogging. I hope to add exercising to that soon, although I guess there are definite non-pleasurable aspects to that activity when you’re first starting out in the pitiable shape I’m in. In listing them, I notice many of my hobbies are passive, solitary, and/or unhealthful.

Do you find you have the time/motivation to put into your hobbies after taking care of your daily responsibilities? Do you consider them important enough to prioritize as part of self-care so that you don’t get burnt out and so your entire identity doesn’t become worker/parent/spouse/etc? I’d love to hear what place (if any) hobbies have in your life.

Not Finishing Books (or Other Things) We Start

I’ve loved books since before I could even read, starting when my mother read to me as a baby. I used to feel bad about not finishing a book I had started. However, as I got older, I realized how fleeting time is and how many books exist, and began to “quit” some books early. It might not be that I quit some forever, but rather that I pick them back up at a later date when the time is right and they are ready to “speak” to me. Some may never have anything to say that I want to hear (here’s looking at you, As I Lay Dying, third time did not end up being “the charm” :-/). Do you stop reading before the end of a book if you’re not enjoying it/getting anything out of it? Could this concept of putting it down to perhaps pick up again later at another time in your life apply to other endeavors you “quit”, as well?

Welcome to WritingOne3583

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by! I feel drawn to having an outlet for myself to write about things that interest, bother, confuse, or inspire me. I wrote many short stories and letters as a child, kept a diary as a teenager, and have written several poems, as well. I find writing cathartic, and it’s one of the few things I believe I do with some level of skill (but that’s for you to decide). My blog topics will most likely be varied and a bit “all over the place”. I hope you enjoy the content and can relate or at least get a chuckle every once in a while out of my latest writing project. If no one reads my blog, it will just be an online journal, which is fine, as well. Regardless, I am going to strive to be as honest as possible and only write what’s on my mind and heart. Ttys!