Childless By Choice

Writer and filmmaker Jason Headley ( recently published a poignant essay in about his decision to be childless. Excerpts from his well-considered point of view are presented here, with his permission:
“Picture this: I’m thirty-four years old. I’ve been married four and a half years. I don’t have any children. People ask, ‘When are you guys going to have kids?’ They ask it a lot. It’s just conversation, the sort of thing people inquire of one another. They ask at dinner parties and at work and, almost without fail, when any children are around. But no one is asking it here. The answer is pretty obvious now.”
“I had a lot of different ideas of what I might be when I grew up. An astronaut was an early vision before I learned how math can ruin anything. I went through life like everyone does, trying on different ideas of myself and seeing how they fit. I could have been a lawyer, I could have been a musician, I could have gotten a tattoo, I could have lived in Nepal. But I couldn’t have been a dad. Mainly because, in most cases, the first step to becoming something is to think, ‘Hey, I’d like to become that.’ And I just never really had such thoughts about fatherhood.”
“’Why?’ you ask. ’I don’t know,’ I answer. It just always struck me as the kind of thing you should really want to do. It’s not a casual decision that you can openly regret later like, ‘Hey, do you want to eat all these nachos then go ride the Tilt-A-Whirl?’ Fatherhood has life-long repercussions for at least three lives. Maybe more. (Again, math and I aren’t particularly friendly.)”
“Then a funny thing happened. I fell in love. With my wife, of all people. It had already happened once, so I really wasn’t expecting it. But there it was. We went and foolishly fell in love with one another again. And again. And, hey look there, again. We learned how to be married to each other, an ongoing lesson if ever there is one. This increasing fondness for one another led to greater intimacy. Greater honesty. Then one day, one of us — and I truly don’t remember who — said it for real: ‘Maybe we don’t have kids.’”
“There isn’t much of a social template for being deliberately, permanently childless in your thirties. People often talk about ‘when you have kids,’ and it’s sort of awkward to correct them, so most of the time we just let it go. If it does come up, there can be a lot of questions. I don’t mind that. I’m not the guy with the face tattoo shouting, ‘What are you looking at?!’ Uncommon things evoke inquiry. I get it. But there are several different types of reactions.”
“There are the parents who suddenly get defensive. As though our decision is somehow a judgmental view of parenthood as an institution. It is not. Amy and I are both products of parents. We’re big fans of their work. It’s just that parenthood isn’t for everybody. And we’re part of that ‘not everybody.’ That’s all.”
“There are the people who feel sad for us. They insist that we just don’t know what we’re missing. That’s true. I, as a matter of empirical fact, don’t know what I’m missing. But that shouldn’t make you sad. You love your children wholeheartedly and want us to know that same affection. That’s exactly the kind of all-encompassing lovefest that parenthood should be. I love your love. I just don’t need your sadness. I’m as happy in my decision as you are in yours. It’s just that neither of us will ever know what the other’s happiness feels like. But we can still be happy for each other.”
“There are the people who feel they should pretend that they don’t like their kids. This is entirely unnecessary and based on a misunderstanding. Just because we’re not having kids doesn, we’ve grown to truly love our lives. It’s not all tickle fights and finishing each other’s sentences. We have days where we’re over the moon for each other, and days where we seem to not be talking for some reason that neither of us can really remember, but we’re fairly certain has something to do with how the dishwasher got loaded, and we’re definitely sure is the other person’s fault. You know. Marriage.”