On Being Childfree: Hayley’s Story

Welcome everyone! It’s week two of the “On Being Childfree” blog series and I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for all the support and time you showed to the launch of this series last week. This week I’m delighted to welcome our first guest story, Hayley. Hayley and I met ‘in real life’ last summer at an instameetup and I’m so honoured she has taken time to share her story. Please do read, leave a comment and share as much as you can, I’m really willing this to grow and grow so that we can help as many people as possible who may be going through something similar. If you would like to see where it all began, click here. Thank you so much for your support, if you would like to share your own story please email me on booandmaddie22@gmail.com

Credit: @instannnnagram

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We Are: Hayley & Foz, 36 & 37

Home Is: Brighton

We Do: I’m a solicitor and Foz is a nurse

Find Me: Instagram @homeiswherethepackis

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“Our pack doesn’t include children but that’s alright with me”

Have you ever seen the film Trainwreck? There’s a brilliant baby shower scene where a mother looks at Amy Schumer’s character and says without any hint of humour, “My life did not begin until I had kids. Your life has not begun.” Erm, well I’m sorry parents, I beg to differ. I’m Hayley, I’m child free and my life has most definitely begun!

When I met my partner, Foz, at a friend’s wedding I was 29 and reaching ‘that age’ where everyone around me was getting married and starting to think seriously about having a family. Within 2 minutes of meeting him I asked why he was single and he confessed, “because I don’t want kids and that puts most women off.” I was immediately interested.

You see, contrary to popular belief, not all women need to have a baby to feel complete. For whatever reason I’m missing the maternal gene, that desire to devote my life to raising a child and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a-ok. To me, motherhood looks like the hardest job in the world and one that I’m only too happy to let others complete. From the outside looking in it seems to involve a lot of complaining, sleepless nights and thankless tasks that go largely unappreciated. All with the expectation that your child will like you when they grow up and continue to live nearby. Yes Dads are becoming more hands on, but it is still the Mum in most cases who pick up the mental load and stay home with the baby. I just don’t see it as a life that I would enjoy.

A lot of people would call me selfish, but I disagree. Our over-populated planet doesn’t need my offspring to ensure the continuation of the human race; it is already buckling under the strain of too many consumers leaving a trail of plastic waste in their midst. And no, I don’t worry about who’s going to look after me in old age (why is that always the first question?!) I’m quietly confident that robot carers will be around by then but, if not, I should have cash left in the pot for a top notch nurse given that I won’t be funding my child’s gazillion pound university degree in social media studies and helping them onto the property ladder, only to find myself ushered into an understaffed nursing home being visited infrequently!

Perhaps as a parent you’re feeling sorry for me reading this. Please don’t. Everyone wants different things out of life and the responsibility of being a Mum is simply not what I crave. Caring for my two dogs brings me huge amounts of joy and I don’t need to have a baby to experience ‘real’ love. I value sleep, the freedom to travel for less during term time and being able to talk to my partner uninterrupted. It’s incredibly insulting when Foz gets told, “she says that now mate, but just you wait,” like I’m some kind of hormonal idiot that doesn’t know her own mind and will eventually succumb to the ticking of her biological clock. I’m 36 and most of my friends are on baby number 2. Have I felt happy for them? Absolutely. Do I experience pangs of jealousy and regret when they show me clips of their child playing in the bath. I do not. I have a fulfilling career as a solicitor, I get to travel the world and I’m perfectly content with my life as it is. We both have high pressured jobs (Foz is a nurse), but at weekends our time is our own to do as we please. In our down time we enjoy lazy brunches, walks on the beach with our dogs and adult-only holidays learning to scuba dive. What could be better?

Hayley scuba diving in Mexico
Scuba diving in Mexico

Women who choose not to have children are often painted out to be career obsessed dragon ladies with hearts of stone, but why should I be made to feel guilty for having had success in my job? I was the first person in my family to go to university and worked damn hard to get where I am. I was raped at 16 and lost my Dad to cancer at 19. My studies suffered and I had a blip in my academic record that was extremely difficult to overcome and explain when it came to finding a law firm to train me. But I didn’t give up. I got my foot in the door as a paralegal and managed to convince that firm to start a trainee solicitor program. I’m now chief legal counsel for a multi-national company. I give back where I can and I’ve trained for and run 4 marathons to raise money for charity in Dad’s memory. I’m a tough cookie and I see no reason to apologise for who I am or how I’ve chosen to live my life.

I think the person who struggled most to accept my decision was my Mum. She wanted to be a grandparent so desperately and there was a time when we didn’t think it would happen for my sister (thanks to IVF she now has two beautiful children, but that’s not my story to tell). When my sister’s kids outgrow things Mum will playfully ask, “should I sell this or should I put it up in the loft just in case?” I know she means it as a joke and that she’s proud of me, but the reality is that no amount of fancy spa weekends will ever match up to the gift of grandchildren that my sister has given her. I wonder how many people have been on the fence but decided to have kids for the love and attention they will receive as a parent or to make their Mum and Dad proud? The pressure from society to become a parent is huge and can be difficult to ignore.

It doesn’t bother me when people ask when I’m going to have kids. It’s a natural question and I always happily reply that we don’t plan on having any. I’m comfortable with my choice and there is no awkwardness on my part (although I myself try not to ask that question as I understand only too well that some people are child free by circumstance not choice). There are, however, a few things that do bother me.

Hayley Brighton Marathon
Foz giving Hayley jelly babies 20 miles into the Brighton Marathon

Number 1: I wouldn’t dream of asking someone why they’ve chosen to have kids, so why is it acceptable to grill me on why I don’t want to have them? I secretly think that it’s those who regret their decision to enter the world of parenthood who feel the greatest need to persuade me that having children was the best decision they ever made. Good for you mate, but no thank you. Off you pop to soft play!

Hayley Story cuddles with a friend's baby
Cuddles with a friend’s baby

Number 2: I’m not a child hating monster. I have a niece and nephew who I love to the moon and back (I cried tears of joy when my sister told me she was pregnant!) and I follow some incredible women on social media who also happen to be mums. True, a sweaty leisure centre full of screaming 2 year olds isn’t my bag, but we can still be friends if you have children, I promise! I’ll be the one there with the wine when you need some time off from being Mum. When people see Foz playing with my sister’s children they often say, “oh he’s so good with kids, why don’t you want to have them?” But that’s just it. It’s not that we don’t enjoy squeezing friends’ babies, kicking a ball around in the park with my nephew or reading a bedtime story to my niece. We just like being able to hand them back!

Number 3: Just because I haven’t had kids doesn’t mean that I am worth less than a parent. This comes in many forms. Whether it’s being asked to go completely out of my way to pick someone up because, “we’re busy with the kids and don’t have time,” or automatically expecting my partner to work the Christmas shift because he doesn’t have children (we do still have families you know), non-parents are often given the lowest priority. Only recently my partner asked if he could take a slightly longer lunch break to walk our dogs as the dog walker couldn’t fit them in. His colleague made a big deal about it even though he had covered for her on several occasions because she had needed to stay home to look after her child. Where’s the fairness in that?

Number 4: No matter how comfortable you are with your decision, being child free can be very isolating at times. This is the one that has taken me by the biggest surprise and caused me the most upset. Motherhood is a club and I’ve long since realised that having a dog will not gain you entry. In fact, it will actually make you a bit of a pariah as most mothers don’t take too kindly to having their baby licked (thanks a lot, Gin!) I’ve lost dear friends to the baby bubble and seen my social life evaporate overnight. Catch-ups are generally arranged during the day when I’m at work and we don’t tend to make plans together at weekends because they want to hang out with other parents so their children can play together; perfectly understandable but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m left on the fringes. This is an issue mainly reserved for child free women I find. My partner has his Sunday cycling group with a bunch of Dad’s and there is zero mention of children when they’re out for a ride or enjoying a pint or two after. In fact, he doesn’t even know their children’s names! Women on the other hand will spend a night out with the girls talking non-stop about potty training/breast feeding/nursery places and I’ve spent entire evenings being unable to join in with the conversation. I’m not saying it’s their fault, far from it; we’re just on different pages at the moment and I don’t have the shared experience to be able to join in. I’ve had to adapt and seek other friendships, which on a positive note has opened up new interests and hobbies for me. But it pains me to think that women who are childfree by circumstance experience this too. Because if it’s bad for me, how bad must it be for them? That is why conversations like this are so important.

Hayley & Foz at a friend’s wedding

I do sometimes worry about growing old alone if something were to happen to Foz. He is my world and it really is just us. But then, wouldn’t the same apply whether we had children or not? I can’t imagine I would miss him any less and I would also have the added pressure of being a single parent. When my Dad passed away it wasn’t us that supported Mum; she supported us. And I do have family who would be there for me. Maybe if that did ever happen I would simply hole up in the countryside with an army of German Shepherd dogs for company? The reality is that no one can know what the future holds or where our lives will take us. My Mum certainly didn’t plan on being widowed at 45, but she found the courage and strength to start over again. All I do know with any certainty is that I don’t want to have an insurance baby ‘just in case’. And that I wanted to voice my own truth on this topic, however unpopular, in this piece.

Thank you so so much to Hayley for being our first guest poster and sharing her very honest thoughts and views in this piece. As I’ve stressed from the very beginning, this is a warm, empathic platform for people to share their stories, hopes, dreams, fears. Please do read Hayley’s story, leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.

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17 Comments

  1. Sarah Thorp
    March 15, 2019 / 7:04 am

    Well, I expected this opening story would be about failed infertility treatment…sorry for lazy assumption. Amazing story and written ever so well. Thank you for sharing. Really interesting to read and so many points touched me (even though or because?) I have children. I am adopted. I have four sets of Aunts/Uncles childfree by choice (aged 70-85 some now deceased) which was quite unusual for their generation.

  2. Lydia
    March 15, 2019 / 8:02 am

    Oh my goodness the comments you have received are ones I’ve received so many times!!! Only last weekend one of my husband’s friends said, “she says this now but you’ll see” – I was stood right there!! It felt so good to respond with “I think you’ll find I have that responsibility and I’m saying no”. Hayley has such a fulfilling and busy life and it’s wonderful to read her honest opinions and experiences. X

  3. Natalie Hunt
    March 15, 2019 / 8:17 am

    Wonderful read. Thank you Hayley for sharing. I too am a childless 37 year old out of choice. So much of what you have posted resonates with me. I too am a lawyer, not career obsessed but driven none the less. My retriever is my baby whom I adore. I have two step children whom I adore and one of whom has lived with me and my husband since age 11 and is now 22 and at University. I have a wonderfully fulfilling life and I love children, I just don’t want my own. Hope others reading this no longer feel isolated due to their childless choice.

  4. Julie
    March 15, 2019 / 8:25 am

    Absolutely bang on and agree with all of that! Enough people in the world, appreciating that kids are fulfilling for others, the disappearance of the social circle, everything. Adore my nieces and nephews and wished we lived closer.
    My mum once said that she didn’t see kids in my future and I thought it was very presumptuous of her, but now, 20 years later, she could well be right! It means I’ve been lucky and not had the “when am I getting grandkids” question.

  5. Rebecca
    March 15, 2019 / 8:30 am

    Thank you for sharing. Congratulations for being so successful in your career and your life. Your choice is yours to make. I can really relate to people who already have children and possibly a little resentful trying to convince you it’s been the best decision they’ve ever made. You also have the best kitchen. Thanks (renovations of a souse bird -insta)

  6. Yvy
    March 15, 2019 / 9:41 am

    Nice reading your story Hayley some parts were quite relatable..while some sounded a bit cold and angry.
    Wishing you and Foz a happy married life

  7. Vic
    March 15, 2019 / 12:09 pm

    Oh my God you’re so right on number 4.
    We don’t have kids due to circumstances, but I like to think we might but I just don’t know if it’s a possibility tbh.
    Anyway. Socially it does leave us a bit isolated. And like you say for men its not an issue. My partner doesn’t find it but I recently came home from a Christmas night out and cried. I just found it so tough I couldn’t relate to any of the things my Friends were discussing and it was like they didn’t care.
    And I’m like you, have nephews whom I’m hands on with etc but I just felt so adrift from my peers.
    I know they do but they just don’t consider it.

  8. March 15, 2019 / 12:32 pm

    I absolutely love this! As the mum of two amazing kids who wouldn’t be without them, everything Hayley says about her reasons completely resonate with me. These are all the things I know my life would be richer for – in a different way – if I didn’t have children. I don’t resent it, but I totally understand why someone would choose it. It’s not selfish at all (why do people always feel the need to judge? ), it’s just a different life. Our lives are our own, and no one else’s to plan as best suits us. Brilliant start to this series

  9. Sammie
    March 15, 2019 / 5:54 pm

    Hayley, this is everything!! You hit the nail square on the head with everything you’ve said! And, may I add, it’s bad enough the friend purge happens when you get married but the fact that it happens all over again once it gets out that you don’t want children is utterly heartbreaking.

    Lins, thank you so much for starting this conversation!! So much love!!!

    • Lins
      Author
      March 15, 2019 / 8:56 pm

      Thank you Sammie, I’m so glad this resonates and you’re find it helpful X

  10. Helen
    March 15, 2019 / 11:00 pm

    Oh my goodness. This is me! Thank you so much for putting this out there, I have never read anything like this article and it is just so helpful to know that other people are go through something similar. X

  11. Claire
    March 16, 2019 / 12:01 am

    Just want to say, that’s me too! I’m so fed up of people saying I’ve “missed the boat” because of my age and not having children and people giving me the pity look. I’m so happy that I can do what I want when I want, sit on the couch all day watching crap tv etc.
    So thank you for this post, might print it out and hand it out to the next person who asks “Oh you dont have children” with that pitying look on their faces … ha!!

  12. Chloe
    March 16, 2019 / 9:11 am

    Well done Hayley ! I’m waiting not so patiently to read every story Lins brings to us , it’s so good to hear these stories, feels like you just never hear from child free women like this it’s amazing! I’m nearly 35 and childfree by choice far , still debating what we do next I guess.. but so many points rang true. My husband goes out regularly with his best friends NCT dads! They have another mini break booked this year .. but my girls holidays are no more, I had my hen do at my home last year because I didn’t want a big fuss , and I love my home, but also because I wanted friends to be able to come who had babies. You have to work life round them , but it doesn’t always work the same back. I only have a few friends who don’t have children left and some of those are trying now. If we don’t have kids I know I could start to feel more isolated.. BUT it’s really nice knowing there is a community of people building that I can get advice from, so thank you so so much , and enjoy your wonderful child free life Hayley , all those amazing holidays 🙂 🙂 xxx

  13. Ilovedogs
    March 16, 2019 / 9:36 am

    I have three children. I used to be a teacher. I absolutely love children. My best friend has none. She’s never wanted them. Since we met at 16, she’s always told me that and we are now 45! I have never questioned that she might change her mind. I knew she wouldn’t and she didn’t. I understand her reasons for not wanting them and I respect them. She says she’s not a ‘children’ person and I can see that she’s not too.

    The only point I don’t understand is part of one of your sentences in point 1. That you secretly believe it’s the parents who ‘regret’ having children that try to convince you most that you want to have them.

    I have yet to meet a parent who regretted having their children. Yes, we moan about it because it’s hard work but that should never be interpreted as regret. Two totally different things. Regret and children are two words that don’t go together.

    People without children see the complaining, the inconvenience, the restraints on careers, freedom and finances and assume there must be an element of regret. It is nigh on impossible to regret bringing in to your life, the greatest love ever experienced by many. That love is so strong it actually totally negates the negatives you speak of. These negatives become absolutely insignificant in the face of this all encompassing love. Indeed, that is the best bit about parenting. Many things you once believed were important in life, change after you have children; often become irrelevant. It’s the opposite of restrictive; it’s actually very liberating.

    Anyway, each to their own. I have never questioned anyone as to why they don’t have children because my best friend taught me that some women don’t want babies – end of!!

    • Jen
      March 17, 2019 / 10:00 pm

      I agree with many points raised by ILoveDogs, the line ‘From the outside looking in it seems to involve a lot of complaining, sleepless nights and thankless tasks that go largely unappreciated. All with the expectation that your child will like you when they grow up and continue to live nearby.’ seems very cold and simplistic and I don’t have that expectation. I feel that everyone complains about aspects of their life whether that’s children, partners, career, relatives – a lot of which relate to feeling under appreciated or over burdened or both.

      I have 2 children, I am complete because I have a fulfilling life which includes beautiful children I love with every part of me, not solely because of them. I agree that what completes you will be different for everyone and that’s what makes us all different and I am completely respectful of that.

      I do think this really gives a different view in terms of the social impact that I had not fully considered. I felt isolated as a working mum, left out of many activities due to work but this must be so much harder for people without children. Thank you for such a thought provoking blog!

  14. March 16, 2019 / 11:44 pm

    Wonderful post! I relate to a lot of what you wrote even though I wasn’t able to have kids. I love hearing from the childfree by choice community because it is such a comforting break from the pity I hear from so many who believe that life doesn’t start until your a mom. Thanks for sharing your story! Also, the jellie babies/marathon pic is killing me! So funny!

  15. Tara
    April 16, 2019 / 12:58 pm

    I follow Hayley @homeiswherethepackis because of the awesome interiors and I totally related to the career success and blog style. I am an international HRD in a FTSE corporation and I too love interiors. I’m also a very happy and fulfilled full time working mother.

    I must admit that I was curious about the ‘childfree by choice’ line because I used to feel this way, I used to feel the anger and assumption at being hormonally pre determined to be ‘motherly’. I still hate when it’s assumed I don’t want to travel with work, or work full time or spend a weekend away with friends.

    However as a parent this read didn’t seem like an interesting and compelling viewpoint. It was full of the same assumptions and stereotypes that childfree women say they face! To Say that we moan all day and it’s only to hope our offspring might like us at the end of it is insultingly simplistic and naive. It’s just annoying and turned me right off. My daughter is so much more than that; I won’t hear the most magical experience of my life reduced to an ignorant sentence as this.

    My daughter blew my world apart, my heart can barely contain the love. The personal growth I have and am experiencing, the surprise at how easy it is actually have shown me that the world and parenting is not what I thought it was. I still am incredibly fulfilled at work and in my social life. I still go for brunches and to the gym and she often comes too!

    I wanted to read a piece that explained the choice and some elements were interesting but it also perpetuates myths that parents are tired and insular and that childfree people are selfish and angry. Not impressed.

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