By Steve Lutz
I never thought being child free was a choice. I just assumed that I’d eventually become a father, do the best I could, love my kid, and suppress any resentment that may bubble up. That was until I met my wife.
Growing up as a boy in the 80’s, society wasn’t too concerned about whether or not I had children. They were far more concerned with selling me action figures, sugar-based breakfast cereal, and the promise that the latest technology would bring me the happiness and peace my life was so sorely missing. Since I had to discover the pessimistic cynicism I now wear like a badge, I ate it all up like a bowl of Smurf Berry Crunch on a Saturday morning. They didn’t care if I would eventually be a parent or not, and If I was, they didn’t care what kind of parent I was, so long as I passed along that healthy consumerism I was taught so well.
As time went on, I found myself awkwardly (and often unsuccessfully) spending more time with girls and women. Simultaneously, the public school system was doing some stumbling of their own. Tasked with educating about our bodies and ourselves, without being too graphic, too vague, too religious, too secular, and most of all, not too pro-sex. The message seemed to be : “Sex? Bad. But inevitable.
AIDS? bad, but most likely inevitable.
Periods? vague but bad. Also inevitable.
Masturbation? Bad, but ultimately harmless, THOUGH YOU MUST NEVER DO IT FOR IT SHALL BRING UPON THE MIGHTY SHAME OF YOUR ANCESTORS!!! Wet Dreams? Probable.
While I proved the latter points of knowledge to be completely false, the rest seemed muddy and confusing to me. When I found myself in a serious long term relationship, it was first clunky, excited passion with caution thrown to the wind. As weeks turned to months into years, the prospect of a life together began to grow. Moving in together, sharing things, the prospect of a future. Naturally, questions arose. One that frequently came up is when we were going to have kids.
When? Yeah, at the time it was just kinda assumed it was a “when” situation, not an “if” situation. We talked about having kids in the distantish future as assumed agreement to a discussion we never had. Honestly, I wasn’t upset by it. I just figure that’s what one does. You fall in love, move in, get a real job, have a kid or two, raise them, retire, die. I didn’t think about what I thought about. I just tried to imagine myself as a cool dad, driving them around in an old Volvo, teaching them to appreciate black licorice and They Might Be Giants. The concept of choice hadn’t even entered my mind.
As most good relationships in your 20’s do, this one ended. It was sad, but not surprising. Things had run their course, and I think we were both the better for it. From there, I found myself
in and out of relationships of varying seriousness, mostly learning more about myself, and what I wanted out of life. Then I met Laura.
Laura and I fell in love fast and it stuck. We moved in together after 7 months and never looked back. As we cohabitated, she taught me a very valuable lesson that probably should have already known: You can just live the life you want. You don’t have to live up to someone else’s expectations. You can find your own happiness, and that’s all you have to do. I remember being in a grocery store with Laura, and a loud, screaming child was going berserk, throwing items from the shopping cart they were sitting in, while a harried mother tried her best, offering ineffective bargaining tools to calm their progeny down. “I’m never having kids’ ‘, Laura retorted, with a sense of relief.
This blew my mind. Though I knew the concept in the abstract, I really never thought people could just opt to not have kids. This was the most liberating thing I had ever heard in my life. Here I was, spending my life with the person I love the most, with a job that provided me with financial comfort and not too much dread. My days were filled with shopping, going out for drinks, plenty of naps, reading books, and staring at screens. It was the perfect balance between being a happy 6 year old and a content 76 year old. That’s all I ever wanted.
Laura was resolute in never having children. That was completely fine by me, as I was discovering that my ambivalence in being a parent was more of trying to please others than to ask myself what I really wanted. Which was to have a life with Laura, a cat, and nobody else. It was a simple choice.
For other people, however, our decision wasn’t so open and shut. When the topic arose, we would happily declare our childless future, and would always be faced with “oh, you’ll change your mind”, or “but you would make such good parents!”. It’s weird for people to try to convince you to do something that doesn’t benefit them, that you don’t want to do. If I stood on a soap box and shouted “I do not want to be a professional balloon animal artist”, I feel most people wouldn’t try to change my mind.
As annoying as the reactions we received as a couple were, what Laura experienced individually were far worse. People just could not believe that she, a healthy woman, wouldn’t want to wreck her body for 9 months to have an onus for the rest of her life. They all believed there was an emotional time bomb inside of Laura’s brain, about to explode and make her baby crazy. They would not believe her when she said otherwise.
We enjoy our freedom. We give our love to each other and our spoiled cat, Milo. I have a life better than I could have ever imagined, and there is nothing missing. If you desire to procreate, more power to you, I guess. It’s just not for us.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with children, they’re just not my kind of people. To be fair, most people are my kind of people. But kids have no filter, no need to please others. They just are who they are until they’re told otherwise. I respect that. I’m jealous of that. I just don’t want to spend any time with that.
Kids also feel the need to constantly be entertained. I get it, so do I, but they’re just so bad at appreciating humor. When something tickles them, they just want to hear the same thing over again and again. They just run the joke into the ground, until the semblance of comedy is nowhere to be seen.
Have you heard how loud kids are? They’re always screaming at something. As a bookish introvert, that wears on me quickly. When my parents picked me up on my first day of kindergarten, my primary review of the day was that the kids, my peers, were too loud.
Okay, so I guess for me, there are several things inherently wrong with children. But more than anything I like being able to do or not do whatever I want whenever I choose. It may seem selfish, but I just think it’s realistic and honest.
Steve Lutz is an improviser, writer, and podcaster. He can be heard weekly co hosting the 138th Simpsons Podcast.