March 11, 2013

living childfree: uncertainty and being open to change

the "living childfree" series is about learning about the experiences, motivations and opinions of childfree women and couples - whether it is by choice, by circumstance, or still undecided. if you are interested in sharing your thoughts, please drop me a line at yael.santo(at)gmail.com.

today's feature is brought to by the wonderful world of buzzle - say hello to tatiana of the dubious hausfrau fame!

photo by lori greig via compfight

tell me a little bit about yourself.
I'm Tatiana. I'm the blogger over at the Dubious Hausfrau. I am a Canadian expat living in Switzerland with my husband. Prior to moving overseas I was a fundraising professional and on track to go back to school for an after degree in Communications. The day after my meeting with the head the program I was hoping to get into we found out we were moving to Switzerland for the next three years. My husband works for an UN organization. I am currently trying to write a book. We've been married for 6 years but a couple for 9. I'm the youngest of two and he's the oldest of five.

when did you first know you weren’t interested in having children? what was your reasoning for choosing a childfree life?
There wasn't a defining moment for us and it wasn't necessarily a matter of us not being interested, it was more a matter of being unsure. I've always been unsure if I wanted kids and my husband is on the side of no kids, but admits that it is possible his mind will change. We are completely and totally unsure if we want to have children. And this is something we've known about each other since day 1 of our relationship. 

When we got married we decided we would wait 5 years before we decided about "the whole kid thing." We were young when we got married and I had just graduated from University so having kids was not a good idea. On our 5th wedding anniversary we were packing to move overseas so we but the decision on the back burner. Right now the thought of having a kid while living 7000 km away from both our families and support systems is absolutely terrifying. I know very little about raising a child but I do know it takes a village. We're still establishing our village so having a kid here at this point would be a bad idea. That being said we're still talking about it and we're still open to things changing and our feelings changing.

what were your family and friends reactions like when they first found out? did they take you seriously?
It's been a real mixed bag. Many people knew about our "five year rule" but some family members got it into their heads that at 5 years we would have kids. Um no. We said the topic would be open for discussion again in five years.

We've been told it's a shame we're not contributing to my husband's family by not having a child. We've been told we're selfish and that obviously we don't care about our parents becoming grandparents. We've been told having a child would give me something to do while living in Europe. And it just goes on and on. The judgments that have been made about us are actually quite hurtful and condescending. My husband was the second grandchild in his family to get married. I was the first grandchild to get married (I'm also the only granddaughter on one side) so the pressure to have children was intense. Mostly our families don't get that we're unsure. They don't get how you can be unsure about having children.

However, once we moved here my parents sort of changed their tune. They agreed to us having a child this far away from everyone who loves us would be scary and probably not the smartest thing to do in our situation. They would both LOVE to be grandparents but they understand our situation at the moment and have eased up on the grandparent chatter. I do also have an Aunt who has really been our champion. She flat out told us "don't have kids unless you really, really want to. You're young, you're having an adventure and that's all that matters." She went on to tell us she would be perfectly happy never being a grandmother. Not that she doesn't love her grandson, she absolutely does. But she also thinks there is too much pressure put on women to have kids immediately after getting married. She has really been a bright spot for us among all the dark clouds the rest of our families have been throwing our way.

Our friends on the other hand could really care less. Many of our friends here have children, but it's not a big deal that we don't have kids. We're not seen as the odd ones out. Our friends back home are the same way. My best friend would love it for us to have kids because we're the godparents to her children, and she is dying to spoil any child we might have should we change our minds.

did you face any other kind of opposition regarding your choice?
Oddly enough we both found opposition in the workplace. Not that people were telling us we should have kids. More that we were told "well you don't have kids therefore you can work Christmas" or "you don't have kids therefore you can cover this person's shift so they can leave early to go to a school function." Or "you don't have kids so you can work late while we all go home and have dinner with our kids." Or "you don't have kids so you can be on call 24/7 every other week." Apparently those of us who are child-unencumbered don't celebrate Christmas or want to have dinner with our families. The fact that we have a life outside of work is often overlooked. It's almost like our lives were unimportant because we didn't have kids.

Interestingly enough we haven't encountered that at all living in Switzerland. In my husband's workplace there are programs to help expat parents - for example, they bring in the international schools to do presentations, so the parents don't have to leave work to do it on their own time. But there are also things for people without kids, like language classes. Regardless, everyone, with or without kids, is welcome at everything. They're more focused on  trying to make everyone feel more at home in Switzerland, since most people who work for the UN are living far  from home.

do you see your choice changing at all in the future?
We're open to the possibility of change. We've found you need to be open to change. Our lives changed with one email on June 30 2011 - on July 28, 2011 we landed in Switzerland. You have to be open to anything life throws your way. And in our case, we're open to our feelings about having children changing. It's possible because anything is possible.

childfree women and couples are often described as “missing out” or “being selfish” – do you feel this way at all?
No I don't think we're missing out because we have children in our life that we love more than anything. We are godparents, and we are an uncle and aunt. Those kids are such a joy to us. Just the other day we saw a video of our godson singing soft kitty. He's 2 and it just killed us it was so cute. I live to hear my Goddaughter call me Auntie Tana. Our niece is probably my husband's favourite person in the entire world. She's also 2. If you were to ask him who he misses the most while we're living in Switzerland, it would be her.

As for being selfish, we don't feel that either. We think other people who are pressuring us to have kids are being selfish. They are trying to force what they want on us, which is unfair.

what do you enjoy the most about your childfree life? what do you enjoy the least?
The freedom it gives us. Living in Switzerland, we're not far from Italy, Germany, France and Austria by train. It's a quick flight to the UK and various other places people dream of going. Last February, on a whim, we decided to go to Milan for the day. You can't do that as easily with a child in tow. We go on 4 hour hikes in and around the Alps which, again, is not easily done when you have a child. It's easy to just hop on a train and head to Germany for a day of shopping. Again, not easy when you have a child. So the freedom of movement about Europe is amazing for us.

What we enjoy the least is that when we say "I don't know" the conversation about us having children doesn't end. It only leads to more questions from people who don't understand you are allowed to be unsure about having children. If I blurted out, "well, we can't conceive" the conversation would end right then and there, and people would feel like complete jerks for even asking. But because I don't know, I'm fair game. No one would question someone if they stated unequivocally they wanted children because that's the natural order of things. You finish school, get married, have kids, move to the suburbs and own an SUV that carries exactly one child and a latte. Or  that's what cliche stereotypes tell us we need to do. But somehow, as someone who doesn't have kids yet and still isn't sure if she wants them, apparently I need to be interrogated about this because it's outside the perceived norm.

what would you tell someone wanting to live childfree, but under pressure to have children?
You are not the selfish one. The people pressuring you are the selfish ones. And if you don't know, that's okay. Not knowing is totally fine. You don't need to be firm one way or another, being uncertain is a totally valid place to be.

Also, personally, I've always felt it's okay for my parents and in-laws to ask about us having kids. So be open to this. They are personally invested in our relationship. They are the ones who will be Oma and Opa (or in my in-laws case Grandma and Grandpa.) Be open with your parents and in-laws. They're allowed to ask. But set boundaries and don't let them bully you.

any last thoughts?

Most people think if we do have kids here our child would be Swiss. NO. Our child WILL NOT be Swiss if we choose to have kids. Our child would be Canadian. The only way our child would be Swiss IF we choose to have one is if we were here for over 6 years (continuously) and the child agreed to do the two-year mandatory military service when they were older.


thanks again, tatiana, for sharing your thoughts with us! don't forget to stop by her blog and give her a big internet hug.

2 comments:

Lauren said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you for posting this. For someone who hears the "When are you having kids?" question frequently, it's lovely to know I'm not alone in my feelings about it. ~ L

sylviadlucas.com said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Interesting interview, Tatiana. I was once called selfish for not wanting kids, too (by my father), and what you say here always strikes me as kind of...ironic?

"We've been told we're selfish and that obviously we don't care about our parents becoming grandparents."

Is it not selfish to want someone to create a whole new life and then care for that whole new life forever just so someone else can have grandchildren?

Sylvia (author of "No Children, No Guilt")

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