March 25, 2015

Childfree Series: Live Your Life!

Welcome to a series about the most controversial subject in my life: our decision to be childfree. This series should end up as 3 posts over the next few months, but I could talk about this forever, so we will see! I tried to wait to write these posts until I would be too old to have children, but I can't wait 15 more years to talk about this, I'll go crazy. You might be thinking, "This is soooooo not what I thought Swags' blog was about!" But really, Volleyball = Travel for us because we are childfree!

I always thought that being a Christian would be the most controversial thing about me, but as it turns out, it doesn't bother nearly as many people as when I say, "I'm not having kids." Whether you are a man or a woman who wants children, who doesn't want children, or who is still undecided, this series is about a lot more than just babies. It's about life, death, marriage, singleness, and for anyone who cares about what they want their life to look like, both right now and in the ever-distant future. Et alors...

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Always smug.
I believe every new day is a bonus.

With that said, I never expected to live this long.

Yes, it's true: I'm only 29 years old. But my perception of life and time was radically altered at 16, when my best friend was killed in a car accident.

I didn't become a morbid, death-obsessed life-hater. Nor did I become greedy, thinking I deserved to live to be 102.

I have goals and dreams - maybe you could even call this my "bucket list" - just like a lot of other people. But unlike a lot of other people, my "things to do" come with a clause.

If given the time, I will experience [insert anything here]. If I don't get around to doing something or going somewhere, that's okay, too.

I hate hate HATE hearing someone assert, "I have to go to [insert place] before I die," or the worst, "If I don't [insert verb] before I die, I will have never lived!"

My best friend, Kristie Priano,
a few months before she died.
How dare we assume that we deserve to be alive, that our allotted time on earth has anything to do with who we are, or what our schedule looks like?! Many see their lives, their times on earth, as something they should have, something they've somehow earned by being born, a kind of "right" to live long and prosper. But instead of believing everyone should live to be 102, we should wake up everyday, grateful to be 85, 55, 25, or even just 15 years old.

If you've experienced the death of a young person, you hopefully get this. "Their life was cut short," everyone said. Unfortunately for our finite thinking, that's simply not true. Their life was all of the life they were meant to live. This can be very hard and uncomfortable to accept, and you may disagree with me. But that doesn't change the fact that the person is, indeed, not physically with us anymore.

Whether you are religious or not, it's irrelevant. We will all die. Some sooner than others. The longer you get, the better you should make it. For some people, that means having children. For others, it means not having children.

My decision not to have children is firmly rooted in my worldview of life and death. I have thousands of other reasons (don't even get me started on the idea of pregnancy), then add in my husband's even more reasons for a really wild number that's a waste of time to count that high.

I'm not trying to convince you to not have kids.

I just want 2 things. I want you to really think about it beforehand because it will change your life forever - sometimes for the best, sometimes not so much for the best. And I want everyone to laisse tomber, with me and with everybody else. It's nobody's business but your own.

The parent-to-child relationship is not one I will pretend to understand through experience, but what I know is from observation. A lot of observation. I feel like I've been spying on families for 29 years, taking notes on these most intense relationships humans can have. I've seen a lot of love, a lot of pain, and a lot of emotions, in general.

Thankful for my parents and sister, who have always given us 100% of their support.
I don't think any parent will argue with me the fact that "parenting is a full-time job." I've mostly heard that quoted by parents, then quickly followed up with, "but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world." I am sincerely very happy for you. You've chosen your path, you are happy with your choice, and you have all the love in the world for your child(ren). And I agree, parenting is an all-consuming lifestyle.

Travel with me on the "full-time job" perspective of parenting for a minute. If something is a full-time job, it takes on a role of a career in our lives. Volunteering at a homeless shelter can become like a full-time job and career, just as much as what we would consider a "real job" with pay. Parenting is a sort of surrogate career add-on to whatever else someone already does.

I have been told or thought at some point in my life that I would make a great: surgeon, lawyer, engineer, artist, psychologist, sniper, architect, hotel manager, journalist, advertiser, President of the United States, missionary, athletic trainer, wedding planner, computer tech, diplomat, actress, novelist, and P.E. teacher, to name a few, and some I even tried out for some time. I was blessed with a lot of motivation in school and I know I could have trained for tons of different careers. We all know that we can't take every life path. Just like doors and windows don't always open or present themselves. We are the product of our choices, which are the reactions to our circumstances. What have I ended up as? A volleyball player and coach, moonlighting as an English tutor, who loves writing and traveling.

I also seriously considered a career in pop music.
I do not choose the career path of motherhood. It's not for me. I would choose nearly every single one of the aforementioned careers over motherhood even now. I would rather go back to school for 10 years and become a doctor instead of growing a child inside of me for 9 months to become a mother. I would rather raise the money and support to become a missionary in the African jungle with no running water or electricity for the rest of my life instead of trying to keep a new human happy and alive everyday for 18 years.

Me being a missionary. Bless you, and you, and even you!
No, this is not just because that imaginary biological clock has not started ticking. If you want to insist the clock is real, then realize that I didn't get one embedded in me.

If you want (or need) someone to blame, blame Barbie. She had awesome careers and great friends (Hey, Ken) and family (Skipper was the coolest!), but never became a mother (at least as far as I know). Her physical image may not be something to aspire to, but her lifestyle image sure left an impression on me!

Barbie may not be a feminist, but she's never been a mother!
I chose the career on the far left (just change out the soccer ball for a volleyball).
(For a more realistic role model than a Barbie doll, see what these successful women have to say about their decisions about children here.)

Think what you want about my character, personality, and decisions. I'm outrageously and annoyingly happy more often than not. My life is AMAZING, and better than anything I could have dreamed up 20 years ago. Teenagers ask me if I'm on drugs, I'm so happy. My coworkers say I'm like "a wrecking ball of sunshine," and "the only person who really loves her job."

Just know this: my husband and I know ourselves and each other best. We don't want children for way more reasons than anyone needs.

We believe that if you don't have multiple excellent reasons to have kids, you shouldn't have them at all.

Blakers is almost 2 already!
Will I miss out on motherhood and the love of my own child? Yes, and I'm okay with that. I have children and future-children all over my life through friends and family. "Phase: Aunt Swags" is just getting started.

But the path I've chosen has things mothers will miss out on (if you can't imagine what those things could possibly be, read the rest of my blog to see what my childfree life is like) (spoiler alert: it's rad). I have more love and happiness in my life than I know what to do with, so don't worry about me. We all have to pick and choose, and pray we can be happy with the final version of ourselves, whenever our time draws to a close.

Next up in the series: Real quotes from real people when they hear I don't want kids. You've either heard these before, or said them yourself!

P.S. If you hate-mail comment me below, you'll probably get included in the next post. Yay!