This Is Us

Despite well-intentioned urging from others, you’re the only one who can say when the time is right

Two swings tangled together.
Two swings tangled together.
Photo courtesy of author.

As young as five years old, I understood without real understanding that when I grew into a woman I would someday, inevitably, become a mother.

As a little girl, I semi-regularly played the game of House with a friend who lived in the next apartment building, and we’d choose our roles before each game: Husband or Wife. We took for granted that choosing Wife also meant playing the role of a mother.

We believed this because we watched as much TV as any kids in the late ’70s, and studies show TV programming has a long and largely unchanged history of featuring women or girls in absurdly stereotypical roles. …

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Parents, in everyday life, often think childfree people have it easy. “You’re ‘tired’? You don’t know what ‘tired’ is,” they’ll say, for example.

The holidays are no different.

This season, especially, with COVID and elections and fraudulent fraud, we all have our unique challenges, many of which come with living the lives we’ve chosen.

I know we the childfree have ours, just as parents do.

In fact, and this may be surprising to some, parents actually have it a lot easier than we do, so it can make us feel unseen or misunderstood when they make assumptions about how “easy” and “carefree” our lives are compared to theirs. …

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Diane Keaton shows a toddler flash cards in Baby Boom. imdb

Within the first five minutes of the 1987 movie Baby Boomabout female advertising executive J.C. Wiatt — a partner at the firm, Fritz, delivers this piece of advice after telling J.C. he wants her to be a partner:

You know that normally I don’t think of you as a woman. But in this case, I do have to look at you as a woman-slash-partner. What if you and Steven decide to get married somewhere down the line? What if he expects a wife? Do you understand the sacrifices you’re going to have to make? I mean, a man can be a success and still have a personal life. A full personal life. My wife is there for me whenever I need her. I mean, she raises the kid, she…eh…decorates, she…(laughs)…I don’t know what the hell she does. But she takes care of things. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m lucky. …

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Last week, in a moment of weakness fueled by love and wine, I slipped. I kissed my husband. On the mouth.

That kiss is the first we’ve had in three months. He’s been counting.

The last time he and I went such a long time without kissing was from 2003 to 2004 when he, then my soon-to-be fiancé, was deployed with his Army unit in Iraq.

That year-long lapse in lips-on-lips intimacy was, in a way, involuntary. This one is different, because with COVID-19, the decision to be physically close, or not, is entirely one’s own.

He doesn’t have COVID-19, as far as we know. Neither do I. We don’t have symptoms, anyway. But if we did know he was negative one day, it would be irrelevant, as far as kissing goes, because he — like the rest of the country’s approximately 48.7 million essential workers — would just have to return to work the next day. …

Whether people should need a license to have children isn’t a new conversation. In 1980, Hugh LaFollette, Marie E. and Leslie Cole Emeritus Professor in Ethics at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and Editor-in-Chief of the International Encyclopedia of Ethics, argued in favor of licensing parents because, in short,

…any activity that is potentially harmful to others and requires certain demonstrated competence for its safe performance is subject to regulation — that is, it is theoretically desirable that we regulate it.

It’s hard to disagree with a measure that would serve in the best interests of children. Yes, it would challenge people’s “right” to have children, but anyone who loves children would have to agree that a child’s quality of life is more important than a person’s right to sometimes thoughtfully, but often cavalierly/recklessly/accidentally/greedily/selfishly, have a child. …

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

During this interesting time, there are a few reasons a live-in partner will ask you to keep six-ish feet of distance between the two of you at home or will beg you to social distance outside of the house:

  • You travel regularly for work
  • You stay in hotels whose sanitary practices can’t be verified/trusted/confirmed
  • You work in the health industry and are likely to come into contact with people who are infected
  • Your partner has read that many carriers are asymptomatic and can infect others without ever showing symptoms, themselves

You probably believe you won’t get it. Therefore, you might not think this whole COVID thing is a big enough deal for you to be forced to abstain from engaging physically with your partner. “Most people recover just fine,” you might argue. “If you get it, it’ll just be like any other sickness and you’ll get over it.” …

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Image by John Hain from Pixabay

One thing that makes me crazy is reading criticisms of other people’s choices when the critics are forming their opinions as if they live in a world of their own creation, and not the one we’re all stuck with.

For example, in our latest Childfree Girls episode, our guest Jamin Mays–a devout Christian, and a perfectly lovely person with a warm smile, a lot of patience, and a willingness to discuss abortion with three atheist and/or agnostic women–said he believes abortion is an immoral act and compared abortion to murder.

But when asked how committed he is to stopping this atrocity of “murder” on embryos and fetuses, Mays seemed — as many are — unable to cross into the world of “how things are” from the world he and many others live in, which is the world of “how we think things should be.” …

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Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

A woman in Atlanta knew she had a 50/50 chance of passing her own childhood eye cancer onto her offspring.

She gave birth to three children, anyway.

All three have eye cancer. One of them started chemotherapy at a week old.

Somehow, acts like this — this woman isn’t alone — haven’t managed to garner the seething “you’re selfish!” chant the way choosing not to have children, which by definition hurts no one, has.

“Oh, but that mom wasn’t selfish,” someone who’s incorrect might argue. “There was no guarantee her kids would get cancer.”


What would you say if someone approached you and said, “Hi! I have a syringe in my pocket, and half of it is cancer juice, but the other half is a placebo, or something, so you could be totally fine. The thing is, it’s very important to me that I experience the joy of injecting you, so…can I? I swear you probably won’t get cancer.” …

“You’re annoying as f — with this childfree nonsense.”

That was a comment spit at me virtually by a former Facebook “friend.”

He was responding to a link I’d shared, a short piece written to help the childed better understand the childfree.

His response in full:

You’re annoying as fuck with this childfree nonsense. You don’t want children, don’t have children. Why spending [sic] your whole life bitching about not wanting to have children? Lol

Haha lol! Indeed.

His aggression was handled first with a polite reply on Facebook, and then passively with this happy meme —

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Me, innocently enjoying a breezy day at Ender’s Island.

But I have to admit that when I initially read what he wrote, it took some breathing and silent counting before touching the keyboard to not be equally vile, doubly profane. It shouldn’t have affected me so viscerally, but it did. …

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Antique store photo

When I was married to my second husband, Ted (whose name is not Ted), we had the kids conversation before we got married. (This is addressed in both No Children, No Guilt, and — in a fictional context—The Age of the Child.)

The conclusion: It was fine that I didn’t want kids.

However, a couple years later, kids came up again. He wanted them, he said.

“Come on,” he said. “It would be neat!”

I didn’t think it would be so neat, but I tried to see his point of view. I wanted to make sure I was considering this parenthood thing from all possible angles. After all, it’s the one permanent decision one makes in one’s life (outside of getting a tattoo, but even that can be lasered off). …


Kristen Tsetsi

Author, THE AGE OF THE CHILD & others. Former adjunct prof & journo. Co-host, ChildfreeGirls series:

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