…two co-owned wiener dogs and a child-free marriage!
Our dachshunds just turned 16 and 15 earlier this week and I think this is as good of a time as any to take a break from blogging about Em and Pie adventures to not only share my proud dog mom birthday photoshoot, but to also bring up something more serious I’ve been wanting to write about for a while: being childfree by choice.
Growing up, I had a complicated relationship with my mom, which resulted in an unhappy childhood. However, one thing I did enjoy from my childhood was having lots of dogs and puppies! My mom was a dog breeder and having puppies around was a dream come true, especially for a kid!
While I grew up with tons of dogs and puppies, I was NEVER around babies or kids. My inexperience with kids/babies eventually led to increasing uncomfortableness being around them, especially as I got older and realized most other people were so natural around them.
It’s no surprise that the “dream” of having kids one day was never something I looked forward to, but rather something I just assumed I would naturally start wanting someday when I met the right person and fell in love. As the catchy nursery song goes, “First comes love, then comes marriage. Then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” I wouldn’t have to worry about the baby part until I had the other two things lined up first, so I had time!
However, as I began experiencing love and getting a step closer to marriage, I still didn’t feel like I was warming up to the idea of having kids. For the most part, it just felt like it would be a check box to tick off to make me feel like I was all grown up and accomplished.
Getting my own puppy though? That was always high on my list! My junior year of college, I began thinking about how much I wanted a puppy. I thought about how it would be difficult balancing my time to take care of a puppy while going to school full-time and waitressing late nights part-time. I also thought about how it would be inconvenient to figure out what to do with a puppy when I left on trips.
I decided I definitely still wanted a puppy and even knew exactly what breed I wanted! My mom bred Cocker Spaniels while I was growing up, but after knowing how much frustration it was keeping up with the grooming for long-haired dogs, I wanted a short-haired dog that was easier to take care of. One summer while camping with my college boyfriend, we had seen a fellow camper with an itty bitty dachshund and I was in love. I was sure I wanted one of those short-legged, long-bodied doggos!
Roxie, my first dachshund, was a Valentine’s Day gift from my college boyfriend in 2005. One year later, we decided to get Roxie a play mate, so we got Banana and we all lived happily ever after… the end.
Fast forward to 2013: I’ve fallen in love (for reals this time), I’ve gotten married, and the next thing up is that baby in the baby carriage, right?
Well, not so fast. I reasoned with hubby that I would feel ready to have a baby after we spent some time just enjoying being married and after we had a long and memorable vacation together.
Another vacation to Hawaii in 2017 came and went and I still wasn’t ready!
The decision on whether to have kids had never left my mind between our Hawaii trip in 2016 and our subsequent one a year and half later in 2017. Hubby and I had had some really uncomfortable conversations in 2016. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty on my end and impatience and disappointment on his end. Looking at this situation on the outside, one could wonder how we got to the marriage stage and yet hadn’t agreed on this very important aspect of a relationship. But we had!
Hubby and I had openly talked about kids at the start of our relationship, and as he always jokingly points out, we both had specified in our online dating profiles (aka, binding contracts) that we wanted kids. He wanted three; I wanted one… and it would somehow have to be a girl because after having three bratty brothers growing up, I couldn’t fathom the thought of raising a boy. We even picked out a name for our unborn, future child! But beyond picking an ideal number of kids and names, there wasn’t much else to talk about in regards to having kids.
As time went on, I noticed that I still wasn’t developing that overwhelming longing for a baby that I thought would kick in as soon as I got married and settled down. The thought of having kids, even just one, was actually becoming a frightening thought! I didn’t know if the anxiety I was feeling was normal because, after all, having a kid was a big, life-changing step. I really liked where things were at in our marriage and didn’t want to change a thing!
For a long time, the decision on whether to actually have kids weighed heavily on me and I think it’s because it didn’t seem like there was an option to NOT have kids. We had to have kids to continue our legacy and create something out of the love my husband and I shared for each other. It would be absurd not to. And anyway, as many couples with children have unabatedly pointed out to childless couples, any woman that decides to not have kids will ultimately regret it further down the line when it’s too late.
I had created an obligatory pro/con list and while the cons heavily outnumbered the pros, the answer still didn’t seem clear. The reasons for not having a kid just seemed insignificant and unimportant in the long run.
Eventually, the conundrum of whether to have kids or not was solved by the simplest solution… by pretending like I had made up my mind to not have them. I had only been allowing myself to see how it felt to have kids and obviously that thought was becoming more terrifying the closer I became to it. Putting myself in the mindset of not having kids allowed me to see how it made me feel on the other side. If I felt disappointment and sadness at the thought of not having a kid, then perhaps I was making the wrong decision.
Surprisingly, I felt relieved! Not only that, all the reasons I had for not having kids no longer seemed like silly reasons, but for once, felt like good enough reasons to justify my decision.
Although I had pretty much made up my mind that having kids wasn’t right for me, there was still a big task left… having a difficult conversation with my husband and laying out some of the reasons for my decision to be child-free:
- I wouldn’t have a clue how to raise a kid: I don’t have a “mom bone” in my body! Children require so much guidance to grow up to be good people and I certainly hadn’t learned anything useful growing up in my dysfunctional family. Not to mention, my mom passed away two years ago and Pie’s mom is not present in our lives. It’s intimidating to raise a child without any mother figure to go to for advice or guidance.
- My body would never be the same again: The things that pregnancy does to a woman’s body aren’t always minor and temporary inconveniences; they can be painful, shameful, and/or permanent things that aren’t talked about much. Postpartum depression. Stretch marks. Abdominal wall separation. Hemorrhoids. Perineal tears. Pelvic bone and pubic symphysis problems. Vaginal laxity. Incontinence. Sagging breasts. Loss of sex drive. The list goes on. Plus, do I want to give up alcohol for several years while I’m pregnant and breastfeeding? No thanks. Do I want to ruin all the hard work I’ve done to keep my body in shape for 30+ years? Definitely no. Do I want the sole job of pushing a 9-pound baby out of my body? Heck no!!!
- Kids are expensive: As if it’s not bad enough that you have to plan months or sometimes years in advance to get on desirable daycare waitlists, then you have to pay for said daycare. And then it never ends after that. Toys. Medical care. Soccer lessons. Piano lessons. Summer camps. Cell phones. Car. College. I would much rather spend that money on something I know will always bring me joy like relaxing vacations to see the world. I can already hear Hawaii calling my name again and that sounds way better than a crying baby or sassy teenager!
- This planet doesn’t need another resource-consuming human and a human doesn’t need to be put on this dismal, deteriorating planet: ‘Nuf said. There’s so much going on in the world these days. Just pick up a newspaper.
- Kids complicate marriages: I’ve seen how kids ruin marriages, even really strong marriages, but finding examples of where kids have made a relationship strong are far and few between (if they even exist). It’s hard to put a spouse as a top priority in life when you have a tiny human being whose entire existence and life literally depends on you. Furthermore, I don’t want to have bitter resentment towards my hubby when I’m getting up endless nights in a row to breastfeed a needy, screaming poop machine or when I become the parent that’s always tagged with the responsibility of taking the kid to daycare/school/activities/doctor appointments and watching after them during “free time” or when we inevitably disagree on parenting styles.
- My life already feels fulfilled and happy: There are obviously benefits to waiting until you’re older and more financially stable to have kids, but at the same time, at this point in my life, I’ve become very comfortable with my lifestyle and routine. I’ve gotten used to enjoying my free time to do the things I need for my own self-care and I enjoy the option of doing fun and spontaneous adventures on a whim! I’m also well past the age where I can recover from a lack of sleep for one night, much less several in a row. Most of all though, in my previous relationships before hubby, there always seemed to be something missing (a connection? a shared joy? a mutual love?) that I think I assumed could be filled by having a baby. With Pie, our life is perfect as is and filled with happiness and adventure and I want for nothing more! Basically, when it comes down to it, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in my life right now. Adding a baby/kid would just make me feel mournful for my past lifestyle, body, and mental health.
As if the decision to not have kids wasn’t hard enough itself to make, it was even more difficult to tell my husband that I had officially changed my mind from what we had talked about early on in our relationship. I knew that I would be breaking his heart and I could risk losing our whole marriage, but I also knew that I couldn’t bring a human being into this world that I wouldn’t be happy or excited about.
I had hoped that maybe my reasons for not having a kid would be good enough to convince my husband to change his mind, too, but they weren’t. To this day, he still really wants to have a kid. So where does that leave us?
Well, obviously, my husband and I are still together, but we have never agreed on this subject and it’s not ideal, to say the least. My husband could decide at any point to leave our otherwise happy marriage in pursuit of someone who does want kids, but would he still end up happy? And I could decide to have kids after all, in hopes that it wouldn’t be so bad, but would I be happy?
There’s no good solution to this situation, so for now, we continue to enjoy life as it is: two people, in love and married, raising adorable and uncomplicated fur babies in lieu of complicated human babies.