Mom of Two: Is a Childfree Life Legit?

beachcouplebig_cropIt’s a beautiful August evening and I am catching the last rays of sun in my backyard. It’s one of those golden moments: I’m hiding from my kids. I can’t leave the premises, but I can take cover. I can make it a bit of work for them to find me.

After all, my girls are 11 and 8. I often leave them home for an hour or two while I grocery shop or meet a friend at a coffee shop. And it’s the last stretch of five single-parenting days and nights, since my husband has been gone on his yearly fishing trip. It’s like the last mile of a hike when everyone is whining and the car seems really far away. Except it isn’t! We are merely 800 yards away from the moment when dad comes home and breaks up the three-girl spirit that is getting a bit heavy by now.

I wish I could tell you I am feeling placid and strong as I sit in my green lawn chair and the sunlight leaves my vision. Instead I am pondering the latest Time magazine cover and tagline. On this cover, a couple lays on a beach, blissful as can be. And the tagline reads: The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.”

Photo illustration by Randal Ford for TIME

Yes, it is the role of the media to stir things up. Perhaps Time is tired of the stay-at-home-mom vs. working mom debate, and the latest deliciousness of the “Lean In” discussions. Yes, yes, it is time to pit the childfree against the child-full.

No, I am not reading the article. Maybe this is like the annoying young woman in college who came to every discussion circle. She always talked the longest and the loudest and then laughingly said, “Oh, I haven’t read the book.”

Yes, now I am that person.

One of my best friends is one of the most awesome people on this good green Earth and she is also childfree by choice. She is currently in Costa Rica with her husband.

No, they are not pictured on the Time cover. They could be, though.

My friend and I have discussed this topic at length, having kids versus not having kids. Once someone asked me how I can have a best friend without kids because her life is so different than mine. Presto! I thought. She is the one person with room in her life to always pick up the phone when I call. She always has energy to hear about my kids. And she is perfectly happy to have entire conversations that don’t revolve around children. I need her.

The planet needs childfree people. Why are we spending time hassling the childfree?

And why are we flaunting the childfree life in the check-out aisle to all those harried parents with kids hanging off their bodies? We all made our choices. We are all different. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Well, sometimes it is greener (or sandier). The picture my good friend posted of the beach in Costa Rica? Of course it sounds nice in comparison to my youngest daughter getting angry at me because she has to do tutoring practice every day. It sounds downright glorious in comparison to navigating the emotional terrain mapped out by my 11-year-old.

But here I am, in the backyard, hiding. I’m practicing my own form of Buddhism. You are here right now, what is the best reply to your own universe? Rant a bit about the Time cover. Hide from your kids so everyone has a more peaceful evening (the kids should be glad, when they aren’t getting along, that it does take them awhile to find me).

And, to ponder the idea of reincarnation: If we have past lives and future lives, how do lives with kids and lives without kids pan out? I often think about this: Is the childfree life the reward life for the life with seven kids? Or is the child-rich life the reward for the childfree life?

Maybe Time magazine has the answer for that conundrum. But don’t worry. I won’t be reading the article. It’s much more fun to answer this question myself.

nancy-altonWriter, editor, and writing coach Nancy Schatz Alton is finishing the last draft of a memoir. She is co-author of two holistic health care guides: The Healthy Back Book and The Healthy Knees Book. When not navigating parenthood, she uses her brain power to write, edit, and fact-check articles for websites and magazines. She lives in Ballard with her husband and two elementary-age daughters. Find her blog at Within the Words.

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