“One of the most difficult parts of this journey is feeling like an outsider or at least not ‘normal’ in the world.”

Dana, 34, USA

One of the most difficult parts of this journey is feeling like an outsider or at least not “normal” in the world. Finding these online communities has been very helpful for me to approach the decision and the lifestyle with less fear.

I knew early on I wasn’t very into kids. I point blank refused to babysit and had little interest in dolls. In college, I even had nightmares about it; literally, I once woke up in a cold sweat after dreaming 2 babies were left on my dorm bed I was told I had to take care of. I was flabbergasted but all my roommates just cooed over them and laughed at my dismay.

As I got into my 20’s I had the attitude of, “I think not but always reserve the right to change my mind!” My reasoning also became more nuanced. My studies on climate change convinced me that adding to the population wasn’t necessarily the right thing for the earth (especially if my desire wasn’t strong) AND that the next generation would be coping with a much more difficult world.

At the same time, I started to struggle emotionally as friends had babies and became shadows of the friends I had known. It made me worry that the life without children would end up lonely. I didn’t see any good example paths forward where older childfree people had family and community around them. When my sister, long undecided about children herself, decided to, I thought aha! here is a true litmus test. Here I would have a child that was my own family and interact with regularly. But meeting my nephew didn’t change that feeling even though I grew to enjoy time with him (sometimes). I hated the lifestyle of parenthood.

Entering my 30’s, I was suddenly forced into a more anxiety-filled mental space. I know the “right” I had “reserved” to change my mind is now closing sometime soon, and more and more friends were very rapidly in succession getting pregnant and having kids. I went to a therapist, had long talks with my husband, and Googled “childfree”. I’ve come out of this deep introspection and struggle still feeling like having children doesn’t feel right but the anxiety about lack of family and deep connections and societal disconnect remains. How much will I miss out on? Will I be deeply lonely in older age? What I know is I have navigate with the confidence of knowing myself, and work hard at building community and family outside the standard societal mold.