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As a childfree person, would you ever take on the responsibility of raising someone else’s child if you were asked?

By Victoria Fryer 

Those of us who have chosen to be childfree are pretty secure in our decisions, and we’ve made those decisions for numerous and complicated reasons—reasons we don’t have to justify or explain to anyone, and reasons that we find pretty compelling.

But what happens when a member of your family or a close friend becomes suddenly unable to care for their child?

In an essay at xoJane by Lisa Steadman, she talks about this exact situation. While she and her husband had decided to remain DINKs (double income no kids) by choice, that all changed when her sister-in-law went to jail and her niece was placed into foster care.

“[T]he thought of our then-13-month-old niece living with strangers in an overcrowded and underserved system – while my sister-in-law and her baby daddy sorted out their legal issues from jail was unacceptable,” writes Steadman.

She goes on to talk about the particular challenges of the situation. While birth parents have nine months to prepare for this major life change, adoptive parents and temporary guardians often have just days to adjust to a life-changing decision.

And there were negotiations and adjustments to their lifestyle as well, as you would expect. Lives became busier, relationships were sometimes strained, and there was a lot of fatigue involved. But Steadman talks about gradually coming to love her role as “mother.”

Though she admits that “the advantages of being a DINK far outweigh the advantages of being a parent,” she also talks of the “extraordinary highs” (but also the “low lows”) that come from childrearing. Which reminds me of an article I read several years ago comparing the happiness of parents versus nonparents positing that while the highs of parenting are probably higher than the highs of living childfree, for many the steady satisfaction and relative lack of “lows” of childfreedom compensate.

Still, Steadman presumably knew going into the job that it would only be temporary. I wonder if her outlook would have been different if the responsibility had become permanent. Today, she says that she has “experienced both lifestyles,” but I question whether or not a temporary experience with childrearing is really the same as taking on a permanent responsibility.

Still, I’m curious if the childfree folks out there would be willing to adopt or become the guardian of a child if a family need arose. While it’s unlikely that this will ever happen to me, I feel like I probably would, in a minute—with many, many reservations, of course. And I certainly hope, mostly because no one hopes for a tragedy in the family, that we never have to make such a big decision!

Comments

  1. raniergurl_04 says

    This is me. Childless by choice. Made that decision when I was around 16 and never looked back. Never even wavered. Holding best friends babies, you’d think I’d feel a hint of some deep mother gene. Nope. Not even a little. To be honest. It starts to feel quite lonely as you head into your 30’s and have no Childless friends.
    I married my husband last year. He has full custody and fully provides for his two sons 11 and 13 . I NEVER wanted kids. His children were part of the deal. I couldn’t have him without them. I knew I would struggle. I have no nurture nature. To be honest, it hasn’t been easy. And I feel bad. They have a dead beat mom and now their dad married a non-kid person. I vowed to fake it and treat them how they deserve to be treated. I only ever wanted to be a mentor. Not a parent, but a mentor. So I ended up being able to serve as some sort of pillar in their lives in a capacity that is more my style. I’d like to show them a strong female personality who takes care of them and follows through on promises.

    Some days I do get so very frustrated. I’d like for once to go out with adults or hold a gathering that doesn’t revolve around kid activities. I know i married a father as well as my husband. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle. I went from carefree and childless to two kids with busy activity schedules. It still doesn’t come naturally. I love my husband. But every day I kind of relive my agreement in marrying a father. Our time is not our own. And the only time in our relationship we got to spend only with each other that was lengthy was our honeymoon. Think long and hard. It’s possible. And you can be someone to a child. Which is rewarding. But for me, every day I must make a conscious decision to be what they need, not what I want.

  2. Hi Raniergurl,
    Thanks for your contribution. Your story reminds me of that of the author Marcia Drut-Davis. She too never wanted children and ended up marrying a man with children. She recounts her story in her book ‘Confessions of a childfree Woman’.

    I suppose your story shows what we are willing to sacrifice for love. You wouldn’t make such a compromise, if it wasn’t for your love for your husband and that is commendable. Life generally never turns out exactly as planned and we often find ourselves having to make adjustments as we go along. Can you imagine your life without your husband? If he answer is no, then you have to find a way of making peace with your situation. Yes you never wanted children, however, the Universe had other ideas, for reasons that only it knows.

    My own journey has shown to me that we often underestimate our strengths. Ultimately, what we all want is to live in peace and be happy and you have within yourself the power to make that happen.

    • raniergurl_04 says

      Thank you for your reply. And I will be looking into the book you mentioned. The title hits home.

      I cannot imagin my life without my husband. He is amazing. And I don’t use that word lightly. I did not get married until I was almost 30. Having been through many bad/disfunctional relationships.
      So I really have a good base at which to judge good qualities, which my husband has many. We both decided we did not want to be part of the large statistic of a failed blended family. I love my husband so I want to be his life partner in a way that is helpful to him. When we were dating, watching him spread so thin getting kids here and there, being their “rock”, was another reason I fell for him. He is so selfless.

      Life certainly never turns out how you planned. There are blessings disguised in that. I’ve surprised myself in how I’ve managed this new life. And I’ve been blessed in the fact that they actually like me and they’re at an age I can reason with them. I flat out told my husband that if he had had toddlers, I could not have married him. Not because I didn’t love him, but because I could not be what toddlers need and have a good attitude about it. No one needs resentment in a new marriage.

      Thank you so, for replying and for your truthful response:)

  3. As they say, love overcomes all obstacles and the love that you have for your husband will see you through. No one’s path is ever free from challenges. It is how we deal with them that matters. When I look back at my life now, I can see that I have been shaped by all the experiences I have been through, whether good or bad. I have become a far stronger person because of them. That you have a good relationship with your stepsons is as you have rightly said, a blessing. And may it continues.

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