Home » Rambles » Turn off the autopilot. (musings about why people seem to worry about the fact that I don’t have children and don’t go to church any more.)

Turn off the autopilot. (musings about why people seem to worry about the fact that I don’t have children and don’t go to church any more.)

I don’t have children, and I no longer go to church. Somehow these facts seem to bother people. I’ve started to wonder why they seem so upset when they find this out. So this is an attempt to work that out. I’ll talk about not having children first because I’ve dealt with those questions a lot longer.

People tend to freak out a little when I tell them that I don’t have children. They aren’t really sure how to process this. Surely I want children, right? They wonder if perhaps there is something wrong, some biological reason that I don’t have children. They start to get concerned.

When I tell them that, no, there isn’t anything wrong, I just don’t want children, they get even more concerned. They feel a need to reason with me. “Your feelings will change once you have them” they say. My answer is “But what if they don’t?” Children aren’t like puppies. You can’t give them back. There are way too many unwanted children as it is. Why would people find it necessary to talk someone who doesn’t want to have children into having children?

Yet, for some strange reason people feel it necessary to try to talk me into having children all the time. The oddest part is when they try this after complaining about their own children, and about how hard it is to have time for themselves.

The worst time was right after I got married and everybody thought my fertility was their business. I can understand family members and friends asking if I’m going to have children. I do not understand why strangers think it is something they can ask about. It doesn’t concern them.

There are way too many people on this Earth as is. You’d think that there would be a push for people to stop having children, to reduce the impact on the Earth. Too much demand (people) and not enough supply (natural resources) is a bad combination. Yet we in American society seem stuck on the idea that having two children is a great idea.

The best answer I’ve come up with is this (and again, I shouldn’t have to defend my decision), I tell them that I want a dog. But dogs require a lot of time and money and patience. I know I don’t have any of those things. So if I am not mature or stable enough to have a dog, I certainly shouldn’t have a child. People then agree with me. They say they are glad I have thought about it. I had thought about before explaining it to them, and they weren’t glad at all. I had to justify my decision to them.

So my question is why do they feel it is their right to challenge me on this? Are they afraid of their own decision to have children? Does the fact that I don’t want children make them feel self-conscious? Or perhaps they were unconscious about having children. They did it because that is what you do. They didn’t realize that they didn’t have to have children – it is an option.

I think it is terrible to have children when you aren’t mentally, emotionally, or financially capable of properly raising them. Children are a huge responsibility, and require parents to be totally self-less. Children are dependent on their parents for many years. If they are raised by immature parents, they suffer for the rest of their lives.

I feel there are way too many people who have had children just because that is what you do. Perhaps they got challenged by well-meaning family and strangers and they didn’t have an answer. Perhaps the unthinking questioners need to start thinking about their questions.

Are we suffering from some sort of psychosis? Why do we keep doing the same things just because we’ve always done it that way? Why are we unable to change what are obviously bad habits? They need to stop being habits and start being intentional actions.

I’m beginning to experience the same thing with church. When people find out that I’m no longer going to the church I’ve gone to and been very active at for three years, they ask where I am going instead. I’m not. I’m revising my whole perspective on church. I don’t think there is any church that fits the bill. So I’m studying and praying and walking this journey with the Spirit. I’m staying at home during the church hour and reading religious books. I’m not confining myself to one particular tradition.

That alone freaks people out. It freaks me out, truth be told. But I’m in good company. There are countless people in the Bible who walked away from everything they knew, all the usual trappings of life, and walked out in faith. We read about them every week, yet most people aren’t brave enough to see them as role models.

I think if children are a huge responsibility, then the care of your immortal soul is even more important. Life is precious and shorter than we realize. It is important to be the person God made us to be. That is never one-size-fits-all.

You’d think with so many denominations, there would be a good match, or at least a near fit for everybody. But sometimes the near fit just isn’t close enough. It chafes. It causes blisters. It rubs you the wrong way.

This is not because of the rules. We all need rules otherwise we grow up wild. It is because what is said in the Bible isn’t what is practiced. There are too many people in church who feel fully justified in their homophobia. There are too many people in church who feel uncomfortable if someone who doesn’t look like them (read “white, middle class”) comes in the doors and sits next to them in the pew.

For me, right now my issue is with the entire structure of church. I feel that ministers hold all the power, and don’t teach their parishioners how to connect with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The ministers don’t equip the parishioners to be ministers. Perhaps it is an ego-trip.

I recently read this quote on a Facebook meme. “People may hate you for being different and not living by society’s standards, but deep down, they wish they had the courage to do the same.” While the author is unknown, the sentiment rings true. Perhaps this is the answer. Perhaps people freak out when I tell them I don’t have children and I don’t go to church because deep down, they wish they could do the same.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have children. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go to church. I’m saying that both of these things should be conscious decisions. They should be well thought out, and not done because that is what everybody else is doing.

Life is too short to run it on autopilot.

3 thoughts on “Turn off the autopilot. (musings about why people seem to worry about the fact that I don’t have children and don’t go to church any more.)

  1. Long comment, but apparently I had a lot to say. 🙂 You clearly found a point of reverberation … wonderful post, Betsy.

    Throughout my 20s, I hoped for a relationship; I wanted to love and to be loved by that one person who would be my partner. When I turned 30, I was full of sadness that I hadn’t found a partner. I faced the possibility of a life as a single woman, how sad that would be, and I started to get anxious about it.

    Then I took some time to really think about it. Why would it be so sad, so awful, to live my life as a single person? Well, I mean, obviously, I would miss out on the special love that comes from sharing your life with the right person. But … if I never found that? If for some reason the right person never came along? That circumstance had nothing to do with who I was, am, or will be as my own unique person.

    If I lived my life as a single person, that would be just fine. It didn’t make me somehow any less of a person (although there’s a subtle subtext in our culture that a woman living life singly *is* somehow a failure, or to be ever so slightly pitied; I don’t know if that same subtext is there for a man living singly). I realized I had a choice. I could see myself as somehow “lesser”, and I could desperately pursue a man, any man, regardless of how well or how poorly we suited one another, just so I could be part of a couple. I could see myself as somehow “lesser”, and I could hide in my home waiting for some mythical prince charming to find me & “take me away” from the loneliness, and become bitter because I was alone. Or, I could love & respect myself, and I could live a full and fabulous life. I could embrace the freedom of living for myself, doing whatever I wanted (within my resources & limits of personal decency), exploring what interested me, being fully independent and fully myself.

    Yes, there were painful bouts of deep loneliness. But there was also the glory of utter freedom. I could pick up & go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted. I could get a cat if I wanted. I had sole possession of the TV remote. I could go see a chick flick.

    I realized that living my life to the fullest was the best way to honor the Divine that created my life. If I was lucky enough to find my soul mate, then that was icing on the cake. And I realized I was a lot more likely to find said soul mate, if I was out living my life. If I was out there doing stuff that he liked to do, too, happy & confident & at peace with myself, we were much more likely to find one another, & be the right people for each other, & live happy compatible lives.

    Which is what ended up happening, but I figured out how to be in a place where I was at peace with myself, and where I was happy with who I was, and I was ready to live that solo life fully & utterly embrace it.

    Similarly, when Himself & I realized we were infertile, we had some long talks about what we wanted for our family. Our decision was to pursue adoption, with the caveat that once we jumped through all of the hoops, the actual fact of having a child was out of our control.

    We wanted kids, but we also faced that facts that, singly and as a couple, we don’t always get what we want. We might be destined to be a childless couple.

    We were fortunate that people weren’t intrusive about why we were childless. And it amazes me that sometimes people can’t get past the fact that some people simply don’t want to be parents. As if that, like being single (through choice or circumstance), makes a person somehow “lesser”.

    It doesn’t.

    We wanted children, but were faced with being a childless couple, and we realized we would be okay with that. That if having a child wasn’t meant to be, then we had a choice. Essentially the same choices I faced earlier in my life. We could be bitter & rail at the world, the universe, for not being given what we demanded. Or we could live our lives fully, joyfully, and enjoy what we have received, & do what we could to be open to opportunities.

    Because children ARE a huge responsibility. They are magnificently joyful, and they are terrifyingly horrible, and they are everything on the spectrum in between. I have friends who have beautiful, fabulous children. I have friends whose children have been soul-crippling disappointments and disasters. I have friends who face enormous challenges every day to raise their children. You never know what life will bring. They all love their children. But their worlds revolve around their children.

    As DINKS (dual income no kids), we had freedom. We had disposable cash to play with. We had resolved ourselves to being childless, convinced it wouldn’t happen for us, and had started planning foreign vacations. And looking at the future with a sense of joy & anticipation.

    And then an adoption came through, and we had to totally readjust our outlooks. And we are delighted and terrified all at the same time.

    But we would have been as content in our lives without children as we anticipate being content in our lives as parents. Because we thought about it, and we talked to one another, and we made choices for ourselves.

    Every option in life has pros & cons. It’s important to decide for yourself what is important, rather than let society/culture force you into those parameters. It’s important to make peace with what may be. It’s important to know who you are, and what makes you happy, and what will make you the best person you can be, and then BE that person. It’s important to understand that sometime, society’s expectations and yours won’t mesh, and as long as you aren’t breaking laws or hurting other people, you will be fine.

    (And pretty much ditto with faith. You have to figure out how best to commune with the Divine to feed your soul … or not to commune at all. It doesn’t make anybody “lesser” if they aren’t part of an organized religion, if they aren’t even spiritual. Good people are good people, and the important part is to live life to the fullest, with joy and love and respect for yourself and those around you. The details are just window dressing.)

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  2. Smile. I actually started blogging some time ago on WordPress. Generally just on whatever was moving me at any given moment, rather than on any particular theme. And then life got busier. My main focus of daily commenting is the 3 Good Things, & for the most part I copy those both to Facebook & WordPress. When I have ideas to work out, I’ll occasionally put them on my wordpress blog; sometimes they go on both FB & WP.

    I set up my wordpress blog as public, but not searchable. I wanted it to be available to my dad & to some others who don’t have (nor do they want) WordPress accounts, so I didn’t make it private. But it was more of an exercise for me & I didn’t necessarily want random strangers viewing it as well. Generally, you have to know where it is to get there.

    And life has gotten a lot busier of late, and just doing my daily 3 Good Things update is sometimes all I can manage, if that.

    I keep the wordpress blog open as a place to go to talk about stuff when I need that ability to express something that is rumbling around down deep. I just don’t do it as much.

    The link is windroses.wordpress.com. (I don’t mind putting it here. I just don’t want it on search engines.)

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