A Man's Perspective on Being Childfree
I am very aware that my guests so far on the 'Are Kids For Me' podcast have all been female. I have some interviews recorded with men as part of a couple which will be shared soon and I have one interview arranged with a man on his own. I would really love to hear from more Irish men and men living in Ireland about their perspectives and experiences of being, or considering the choice of being, childfree.
This could be single men, men in a couple, men in an LGBTQI relationship, men who have had vasectomies just to name a few! I completely understand that it is a big ask to share your personal experience in this way but it will help others greatly and I think it is very important to have men's voices and opinions included on this topic.
The following is an interview I did with a 45 year old man who preferred not to be interviewed for the podcast but was happy to share his answers in writing. Hopefully this might help get the conversation going!
Was it a realisation or a decision to be childfree? Can you talk us through what influenced you in this, what the experience was like and the general time scale involved? I believe that my mind was made up at a very early age. I’m the eldest of a scatter of brothers and sisters and, also, the eldest of all my cousins, from both sides of the family. Therefore, when growing up, I was often the ‘designated’ adult when adults were unable to be present, particularly during a spell when my mother was ill. I’m quite a solitary person by nature, so - if I had to put an age on it - I think by the age of 10, I had my mind made up not to get into the business of rearing noisy children.
How has it impacted your life, either negatively or positively? (What has it allowed you to do that you might not have done otherwise? Has it impacted family/friends/romantic relationships in any way?) All positive. I’ve led the lifestyle I’ve always desired. I enjoy my work, I enjoy the time I spend with people, but just as importantly, I enjoy long periods of blissful solitude and having the time to pursue my pleasures - whether travelling/ weekends away (though not at the moment, obviously), listening to music or reading. By choosing not to have children, I have had more time to enjoy these pursuits. This was particularly clear to me during our recent national lockdown. Before I met my partner - a lady I’ve spent close to two decades with - I was in a couple of relationships, and when the conversation of having children came up, I would make it clear that having kids or getting married weren’t part of my future plans. Even when in relationships in my late teens, I can recall being quite steadfast about my position, when queried about it. Mostly the response of my ex-girlfriends to my position was this: ’I could never spend my life with a man who didn’t want to have kids’. Which I eventually interpreted as ‘this relationship, while wonderful now, is never going to work out long-term’. In my mid/late twenties, I was in a relationship with a lady who did desire to have kids, but she reluctantly accepted that it wasn’t part of my plans. Parting was necessary for both of us to give ourselves the chance to lead the potential future lives we desired. How did you navigate the topic in your relationship? The topic came up quite early on and we were thrilled that both of us agreed that it just wasn’t for us. We both value our independence highly and having children would be anathema to our lifestyles. This has remained a constant almost two decades together. Occasionally, over the years we have ‘tested’ one another with ‘Wow, you seem to love hanging out with your nephews/nieces, maybe you really do want to have children?’ But, those windows of time spent with nephews and nieces merely consolidated our position: while we enjoyed their company, we were always relieved to hand them back and return to a house of peace and quiet. Do you tell people about it? How do people react if/when you do talk about it?
It’s no secret and all of our friends and most of our acquaintances would know our position from casual conversations over the years. We’ve had younger friends contact us to discuss our experiences, when the question of whether or not to have children may have arisen in their own personal relationships. Most people have accepted our decision without any fuss or fanfare or opposition. Do you think people react differently to you than your partner on this topic? When she was younger, some people would be taken aback by her decision, as if she were somehow ‘odd’ for not choosing to follow the status quo. They may have thought the same of me, but it was never made overly apparent. Is this something men talk about with each other, in your experience? Yes, many of the men in my own age-group who have decided not to have children, when we do meet up, would occasionally clink celebratory glasses at the quality of life we lead from not going down the procreation route. Not just men, mind you, the ladies I know who decided not to have children, tend to respond in a similar fashion: happy, relieved, content. Do you feel supported or isolated by society on this topic? Do you know other childfree people? I have a mix of childfree friends and friends with children. It hasn’t affected my relationships with either. No, we certainly don’t feel isolated by society. Is there any advice you could give someone who is unsure about whether they want to have children or not? If you’re in a relationship where one half of the couple is adamant to have children and the other isn’t, then there really is no point in continuing with your relationship. The reason is this: the decision that you will take (whether to have children or not), might cause resentment down the line. So, my advice would be to finish the relationship and give one another the opportunity to lead the kind of life you each want, perhaps ‘freeing’ one another up to the possibility of meeting someone of a similar mind-set as you in the future. If you’re both crazy to have kids, by all means go ahead and have them. But, if you both enjoy having extra change in your pocket, not being an unpaid chauffeur who is permanently on call, and going where and when you choose, without having to execute military-style planning, there really is no point in procreating. There are more than enough humans on this planet already, our resources aren’t infinite, you’ll be doing both yourselves and the planet a favour. Also if you find yourself visibly wincing when you hear a child having a tantrum in a public setting, ask yourself ‘do I really want this in my life?’. What are your ideas on legacy and what will yours be? I’m happy with my modest contribution to the world of arts. That is sufficient for me. Do you worry about who will look after you when you are older or have you thought about it? No. Anyone who thinks like that needs to reprogramme their way of thinking. It makes absolutely no sense to think like that. To procreate in order to have a carer in your dotage? The notion is absurd. You are born into this universe alone and alone you shall leave it. You are only here for the blink of an eye. Enjoy your brief stay. Your child or children may grow up to detest you, or many not have the resources to look after you. They are under no obligation to care for you. The only guarantee is that The Third Law Of Thermodynamics will ultimately look after you.