By Melissa Myer
As many of you know, I opted out of the parenthood track. The politically-correct word for this is “childfree”. I have mixed feelings about this word, but it’s more accurate than “childless”, which suggests that something in my life is missing, lost. Me? I prefer “childless-by-choice”, “unchilded” or “non-parent”, if I have to give deference.
I don’t make a big deal out of this, normally. But when you’re one of the above, finding someone to share your life with is a bitch, my fortuitous childed friends. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Sometimes I envy single parents. Yeah, you read me right. Honestly? You will always have better luck in Loveland, because there are far more of you than there are of me.
To my mind, singles absolutely must find someone who’s on the same page when it comes to the decision to parent or not to parent. Along with good communication and dedication to work through the difficult bits, this is part of the basic foundation upon which all is built. When two people are in accord, everything else — sensibilities/temperaments, hobbies and interests, and other lifestyle preferences — should be negotiable points, in theory.
Not so much in practice.
Let me express an honest and perhaps incendiary opinion: my personal experience has been that intentionally childless men are difficult. Really difficult. Difficult to get close to. Compromise does not come easy. Often, there is none, just one person making unilateral decisions that behoove the me, not the we. My first childless-by-choice fiancé uprooted us from Austin to the mega-polluted metropolis of L.A., which I hated on sight. There were zero opportunities for me. He didn’t move there for a job, either. He wanted to surf. Yes, really. That ended it for me.
Were the other childless-by-choice men I’ve been involved with generally more selfish? Less flexible? Did they typically set impossible standards? Absolutely yes. After a long string of disappointments, one starts to notice certain patterns. This is an exacting group, and they want exactly what they want. Lacking a traditional mindset, childless-by-choice men not only don’t see the point of children, but marriage. And not just marriage, but long-term/lifelong commitment and relationship security. And not just commitment and security, but tolerance of any perceived inconvenience, difference, or flaw.
When you know you’ll eventually be handed walking papers, it’s impossible to feel safe in this type of relationship (if you can even call it that). There is no camaraderie. No partnership. No trust. And there’s no being yourself either. Make the mistake of loving one of these men, and you lose a part of your identity, exhausting yourself trying to do everything “right” only to fail on a technicality. I have so much to give; I still have everything, in fact. I know it’s not just about me. But there are times when I believe I am done with relationships for good.
Some of my more self-aware, childed guy friends, married and single fathers alike, have explained why I have yet to meet a simple kind of man. Men are not naturally nurturing, they tell me. They are innately selfish compared to women. Having a child changes them on a fundamental level. They master the difficult arts of flexibility, compromise, and giving of themselves tirelessly. And, most importantly, they learn sacrifice. It’s not just about them anymore.
Sometimes I drop into childless by choice groups online; some of the singles are kvetching about the SOS (same old shit): “I want this and this and this, and I won’t compromise!” Their criteria are so specific and sometimes frankly ridiculous, it’s obvious they won’t be happy unless their reflection steps out of the mirror and kisses them on the lips. Good luck with that, is all I can say. Operating with a serious deal-breaker for the majority of the single demographic (lack of desire to parent), the wiser amongst us know we’ll be lucky to get 50 percent of our wish list. If I cannot compromise, use judicious tolerance, and have something meaningful to offer, I will be alone.
My advice to the single nonparent set — or any single person, regardless of childed status— is to keep in mind that it’s not just about you. If you want love — genuine love and not temporary limerence — stop assessing how someone fits into your life. Think about how you fit into theirs, and pick those battles carefully. The expectations you have of a mate? Anyone you meet will have his or her own unique expectations, too. If you will not meet the most important ones, under any circumstance, out of laziness, selfishness or fear, give it up. Opt out. You will never be happy, because to receive, you must continue to give.
Today, I encourage you, single friends of all colors and stripes, to shelve your me. Conduct a self-inventory and make a list of what you have to offer someone that’s both meaningful and enduring.
Tell me. What do you have to give?