Category Archives: Childfree Living

Focus on the Endgame – How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids

How to have a meaningful life without kids – Part 5/5 – Keep Your Focus on the Endgame.

Focus on the Endgame - Having a Meaningful Life without Kids

Or, Don’t get too sidetracked by the mini-quests.

Do you ever play a video game, and get so wrapped up in a side quest that you lose sight of your main goal? You hunt around for gold (rupees, or what-have-you) to get this next thing, which will let you get to this thing, which will allow you to complete this mini-quest, which will allow you to get the other thing, which you can take back to the wizard to get the thing you need to continue on your main quest.

Obviously in a game, as soon as you finally finish all that, you can get back to the main goal. But in real life, some people either completely forget about the main quest, or they never knew about it in the first place. So when they finally finish the mini-quest, they’re left… with nothing. Just some useless sword that doesn’t seem to be good for anything.

Well, I finished the quest. Now what?
Well, I finished the quest. Now what?

This is the disillusionment that falls over people who were focused on real life’s mini-quests. The mothers who had children because they thought it would make them happy, the success-driven business men and women who were brought up believing that once there was enough money they could relax, and the single, childfree people who pursued pure, momentary gratification believing that self-indulgence was the goal in life.

Dissatisfaction and disappointment don’t come from choosing a certain career or lifestyle. They come from putting one’s faith and hope for happiness in said choices. For example…

"I'm just not feeling the spark anymore, Mr. Bank."
“Where did all our passion go, Mr. Bank?”

The problem with making financial security your goal isn’t that money is bad. It’s that money is just a means to an end. When you focus on the means and lose sight of the end, your goals will shift. When you finally do attain them, you won’t be where you wanted. Money can buy physical security and comfort, and those are very important in this life. But your focus has to be on your overall well being, not just your physical well being.

The problem with making children your goal is that children are actual people. They are their own individual selves, not tools for your comfort. Being a parent and watching your children grow can be an immense source of comfort, but if your goal in having children is to be happy, you will be disappointed.

To lead a meaningful life, your underlying focus and goal in all things must be to improve yourself. And when I say “improve,” that’s not to imply that you’re in a bad place. It just means you’re in your starting place at the beginning of the game. Think of every new thing you learn or accomplish as leveling up. The classes you take, volunteer work you do, and so forth are all power ups you pick up along the way.

New skill added - Level Up complete!
New skill added – Level Up complete!

Do you want to have children? Good. Enjoy infinite experience points. Do you want to travel the world? Go ahead. You’ll find plenty of ways to increase your awareness and add to your supply of knowledge. We’re taught to believe that focusing on ourselves is bad, selfish, or downright hedonistic, but it’s not. Just like in a single player game, you are the only person you can control, so your well-being must be your focus. That only becomes selfish when you drag other people into your life and then sacrifice their well-being for yours (and that includes having kids you don’t want).

So go out, travel, make money, indulge, and have fun. But don’t let these things become your goal or source of happiness, or you’ll likely find yourself alone at the end of it all.

And when one mini-quest is complete, move on to the next one. Don’t look back and tell yourself, “If I’d only made a different choice back at the last castle, I’d be happy!” The game isn’t over – you’ve just decided to stop in the middle and mourn a decision that, ultimately, wouldn’t affect the outcome in any significant way. If you get to 45 or 50 and think that you’d be happier if you’d have children, you’re wrong. Pinning your hope on someone else is never the answer. If you’d had kids, you’d just be unhappy in a different way.

Focus on the Endgame - Having a Meaningful Life without Kids

Simply enjoy that fact that you are your goal; you are your quest. Because in the end, the only person you’ll really have, right up until your last breath, is your own amazing self.

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Help the Vulnerable – A Meaningful Life without Kids

How to have a meaningful life without kids – Part 4/5 – Help the vulnerable

How to Have a Fulfilling Life without Kids - Help the Vulnerable
“Bless the beasts and the children…”

So far in this series, we’ve looked at some specific ways you can create a meaningful life without raising children. In this article, however, I’m going to look at something more general.

When you set out to create your own business, find the right volunteer opportunity, or start on your career, it’s your motivations more than your precise actions, that will lead to a fulfilling or unfulfilling life. Now, I could take this moment to talk about how money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’d rather cut to the chase and simply say that finding meaning in life means finding meaning in something outside of yourself.

To be honest, I think this is why a lot of people have kids. How often have you heard something like, “When I had my daughter, it all came together. I realized there was so much more to life than just my life”? Or, “You don’t understand love until you start living for someone else”?

This idea of finding meaning by helping others is ancient. We evolved as highly social beings, in groups where helping one another was necessary for survival. However, it quickly moved beyond what was necessary. For instance, some of the earliest remains of our human ancestors show that they cared for the injured, elderly, and otherwise disabled. Some cases show injuries that would have taken months to heal, yet the other tribe members cared for this non-contributing member no matter how long it took them to recover.

 Fulfilling Life without Kids - Help the Vulnerable

Later on, Aristotle philosophized that real friendship was found in loving, rather than being loved. He remarks that a mother loves her child without seeking love in return. This is the essence of having meaning in one’s life. To love, to give, and to help for the sake of those things. And though the ideal of a mother’s love is a strong example, you don’t need to have children to devote your life to the service of others.

In this series, we’ve already gone over volunteering and sharing knowledge. In this article, I’m going to talk about something more general: simply helping the vulnerable.

Who are “the vulnerable?”

 Fulfilling Life without Kids - Help the Vulnerable

Our world is filled with people who susceptible to injury, who’ve undergone financial or emotional hardship, and who are otherwise at a higher risk for misfortune. People (human and non-human) who have little to no control over their lives are also vulnerable, as their well-being depends on the will of another. Such people are often children, animals, and people who are institutionalized (in prison, mental health facilities, or senior citizen homes).

How do I help them?

When offering aid, it’s important to do so without coming across as patronizing. Offering assistance to another should always be done out of a spirit of humility and the realization that if only a few things in your life had been different, you could be the one in need of help.

That being said, there are tons of ways to offer your service to those who need it.

Volunteer Your Time:

 Fulfilling Life without Kids - Help the VulnerableAnimals

Making the safety and well-being of animals is one of the best ways to create a meaningful life.

Animal Charity Evaluators is a great resource that examines the effectiveness of various types of charities and volunteer efforts designed to help animals.

Help the Vulnerable - The American SpinsterChildren

Great Nonprofits is a website that provides information on various charities and volunteer opportunities. Visit their page for at-risk youth to learn about opportunities in your area: http://greatnonprofits.org/categories/view/children-and-youth

Help The Vulnerable - The American SpinsterElderly

Create the Good has an excellent guide on volunteering to help the eldery here: http://createthegood.org/campaign/volunteeringwithseniors

Get You Business Involved:

Whether you work for a large company or have your own small business, you can get involved on a corporate level. Charity Navigator has written an article with some great advice about giving through your workplace: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/content.view/cpid/159

If there’s a particular cause you’d like your workplace to consider, most charity and nonprofit websites will have information for corporations you can print out or email to your employer.

Want to find real, lasting meaning in your life without creating new humans? Become a servant to the ones who already exist.

How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids
How to Have a Meaningful Life Without Kids – An American Spinster Blog Series

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Learn & Teach – A Meaningful Life without Kids

How to have a meaningful life without kids – Part 3/5 – Learn and Teach

How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids - Part 3/5

One of the most fulfilling ways to live is to continue your education every day of your life, and pass what you know onto others. Education is what helps us grow as human beings, to continue our spiritual, mental, and emotional evolution. So if you’re wondering what the key to living a meaningful life is, this is it.

Learning
Part of being a single and/or childfree person is being able to develop yourself to your own fullest potential. Often parents set aside their own education to focus their energy on helping their children get the most out of theirs, but as a childfree person there’s no reason to stop learning. Many colleges (including prestigious universities like Harvard) offer full online courses for free. You can do that in your spare time with no financial commitment.

How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids - Education
Community Colleges are great places to learn a new skill or continue your education.

You can also use a continuing education to improve your career. A number of the colleges and universities I mentioned above offer the option of receiving a certificate upon completion of the course (usually for a small mailing fee). Or you can simply take classes at your accredited community college. Even if a course isn’t directly related to your field, proof of a continuing education looks fantastic on your resume.

How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids - Learn and Teach
Learn a new skill just because you can.

But learning doesn’t have to be academic. If there’s a new skill you’ve been wanting to add to your arsenal, go out and learn it. It doesn’t even need to be practical. Are you an adult who’s always wanted to learn ballet? Go find a class. The important thing is to keep your mind (and body) learning new things.

Teaching
Teaching others not only helps you solidify what you know, it’s also a rewarding experience. By sharing your knowledge with others (either by writing an eBook, a tutorial, or in a more formal situation), you can help enrich someone else’s life and, in a small way, contribute to the education level of humanity. Helping to guide someone from ignorance to enlightenment is one of the most fulfilling ways to live your life.

How To
If you have the time and the financial ability, take a class at the community college every semester. If not, take advantage of the hundreds of legit, free online courses from major universities.

Have a Meaningful Life without Kids - Learn and Teach
Take free online courses from accredited universities in your own time.

http://betteryourselfonline.com/free-online-courses/ This is an amazing resource listing over 1100 completely free online courses.

http://www.udemy.com Udemy is a great way to learn new skills, but it’s also a way to share them with others. Create your own course to share what you know with students from all across the world.

If you’re looking for something less formal, try creating a youtube tutorial about something you know.

Looking for something more formal and long-term? Look up local places teaching what you’re skilled in and find out what their requirements are to become an instructor. Many disciplines require some type of mandatory training or knowledge test, but don’t let this intimidate you. Get the certification you need and become an official teacher of what you love.

How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids
Part 3/5 – Learn and Teach

Next up is Part 4/5 – Help the Vulnerable

Volunteer – A Meaningful Life Without Kids

How to have a meaningful life without kids – Part 2/5 – Volunteer

The American Spinster - VolunteerIf volunteering doesn’t sound like your thing, remember that there’s more to it than soup kitchens and dog walking (both of which are incredibly helpful, by the way). My high school experiences with volunteering were slightly – for lack of a better word – disappointing. We’d all carpool over to someplace, do a minimal amount of work (such as sealing a stack of envelopes), and then go back to school. It seemed like a highly inefficient process to me, and led me to believe that volunteering was just a way for people to feel like they were doing good without getting much accomplished.

However, when I began taking college classes, I had a completely different experience. The lab portion of a GenEd biology course took place at the local park/wildlife preserve. Our goal was to create a set of retention ponds. This was in Florida in an area experiencing rapid expansion that had a noticeable impact on local wildlife. The ponds were more to provide a new, safe ecosystem for animals than to prevent flooding. It sounded fairly dull… but it was anything but.

The American Spinster - Volunteer
Yep, this was my life for 9 weeks.

The ponds had already been dug and water had accumulated. The class of 20 or so students went out on a weekly basis and took water samples, donned rubber coveralls to wade into the pond and plant duckwead, and even taught a group of middle school students about our work there. I was tanned, sore, tired, and smelled like pond water at the end of each day. And it was amazing. Afterward, every time I drove past the park, I felt a sense of pride, because I’d actually done legit work to create those ponds.

I realize now that as a high schooler, my volunteer experiences were meant to introduce me to the idea of volunteering in a way that didn’t require my parents to sign a liability waiver. As an adult, I can now do work that has a real, positive impact on those around me.

Getting Started

So what can you do? You can certainly find local groups with which to volunteer. But as a free agent, your options are limitless. Organize something yourself. Create the Good has a library of resources about starting your own volunteering efforts. You can clean a river or for something less intense and more long-term, start a community garden.

The American Spinster - Volunteer
Volunteering can simply be doing something you already love.

Singer, songwriter, and activist Zoe Boekbinder (incidentally a single, childfree woman) started the Prison Music Project. The project connects prisoners to music, helping lower recidivism and improve conditions. One woman started this project. You could do just as much.

Zoe Boekbinder's Prison Music Project
Give something you love a life of its own.

The American Spinster - VolunteerIf you’d like to leave the house but not have to fill out any forms or commit to being anywhere at a certain time, you can improve your community by simply picking up litter. Get a pair of gloves, a trash bag, and go. Your community will probably never thank you for it, but you’re doing this for personal fulfillment, not praise.

Or, try this resource for computer-based ways to volunteer: helpfromhome.org.

There are so many ways to turn what you love into something that contributes to the community. This is how you have a meaningful life.

How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids
Part 2/5 – Volunteer

Next up in the series: Part 3/5 – Learn and Teach.

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How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids

How to Have a Meaningful Life without Kids

Part 1/5: Why you don’t need kids to be fulfilled.

The Myth: “Your life just doesn’t have meaning until you have kids.”

One of the many warnings matronly women like to give childfree women and couples is that their lives will be shallow without children. Sure, you can do whatever you want now, but all the glitz of travel and caviar will wear off one day, and then you’ll be alone. Alone with no real meaning in your life, because you spent your youth focusing on yourself (and/or your spouse) instead of something greater.

How to have a meaningful life without kids.
I’ll just sit here by myself wishing I’d had children.

This has a sobering ring to it, but it’s hardly a criticism exclusive to (or necessarily of) single women. I’m sure we can all think of people who had children and still find themselves alone in their old age when their children have gone on to have children of their own.

The idea that only children can give a woman’s a deeper, long-lasting life meaning also implies that most childfree women are just too self-absorbed to have any greater meaning in life than their own gratification. That’s to say nothing of the fact that children don’t exist just to provide meaning to an adult’s life. They’re individuals in their own right, who shouldn’t be treated as a means to an end (the end being the fulfilling life and happy retirement).

The Reality:

Women are realizing more and more that the idea that was broadcast to the Victorian woman and which persisted until the late 20th century is wrong. The idea that the only way for a woman to feel fulfilled and receive lasting love was to have a child.

Not only are there other ways to obtain love and fulfillment, but the belief that children = happiness has led to generations of unfulfilled and dissatisfied mothers feeling like they got a raw deal. Their children grow up and – of all the nerve – have lives of their own. At the end of her life, she’s left alone, and shifts her desire for love to the hope of grandchildren.

Yes, maybe I’m painting an overly dark picture. After all, most people move onto other things in their later years, like volunteer work. Once they get over the sadness of an empty nest, many women find a job, or if they have a career already, move into community service after they retire. A woman who raises children can still find fulfillment after her children have grown up and moved away.

Which of course begs the question, is doing good in the world just a poor substitute for the love of a child, or does it just take most people that long to realize that they can get true, lasting happiness in other ways?

How to have a meaningful life without kids
I’ll just sit here waiting for my bus to carry me to my next adventure.

Children are not the only means to a meaningful life. There are many ways for childfree women to contribute to society, improve the world in which we live, and find genuine satisfaction.

This week and next, I’m going to look at several ways to lead a fulfilling life without having kids. Coming up next: Part 2/5 – Volunteering Like You Mean It.

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Nope, Still Not There

No, I still don’t want kids, and I’m not going to have them.

What? You don't want kids?
What? You don’t want kids?

If you’re a childfree woman, you’ve almost certainly been told that you need to have children. That you’ll regret it if you don’t. That you secretly want children deep, deep down inside.

If you’re beginning to feel like it might not be so bad to give in to the pressure and have a kid, consider the following.

In an interview on NPR, author Ann Patchett shares what it feels like when friends, family, and strangers tell her she wants a baby, but just doesn’t know it yet.

It would be like if somebody said, “Your car keys are in the drawer.”

And you go and you open the drawer, and not only are your car keys not in the drawer, there’s nothing in the drawer. The drawer is empty.

keysAnd you come back and you say, “The keys aren’t in the drawer.”

And they say, “No, go back and look again. They are in the drawer.”

And you go back and you open the drawer and it is empty. And that’s how I always felt. Like people were always saying to me, “Go back and look again. Examine the inner contents of your heart, you will find it.”

And I never did.

Even if a childfree woman can convince someone that this is true, they’ll probably say that, even though you don’t want children, you’ll regret not having them. For me personally, there’s never been anything in my life that I didn’t want, and later regretted not going out and getting anyway. There have been things I wanted, but talked myself out of. There have been things I wanted but was unable to have. But never has there been some Thing that, having no desire for it, I later wish I’d gotten.

Finally there’s the idea that having a baby is just something a woman should do. I very fervently disagree. No one should have a baby unless they deeply want one. Having a child you don’t really want (but plan to love and care for as though you did) is like switching the career you like for one that you don’t enjoy, because so many people are telling you that you’ll like it once you have it, and you’ll regret it if you don’t switch now. Imagine the following exchange:

This was a mistake.
This was a mistake.

“But I don’t want to be a marine biologists. I don’t really have a passion for sea life at all. I’m really pretty indifferent to it.”

“Listen, your window of opportunity is closing. If you don’t quit your job, go back to school, and start this new career now, you’ll regret it later. And besides, you’ll love marine life once it’s in your care.”

You would think the second person is crazy, and that the first person is even crazier if she takes this advice. Devoting the next 18+ years of your physical and emotional life to something you don’t actually desire, but worry you may regret not having later on, is (I’m sorry) very foolish.

To use Ann Patchett’s analogy, the keys aren’t going to suddenly materialize in the drawer just because someone else expects them to. Even if you are persuaded to believe that they’re actually there, and open the drawer (for the hundredth time), this time fully expecting them to be there, they still won’t be there.

Creating a new human being and raising it isn’t like buying a blouse that you’re not sure about. You can’t just send it to the thrift store a year later when you realize you never wanted it (but the discount made you feel like it’d be a mistake not to get it).

In fact, it’s not even like buying a house. “It’s an investment!” people tell you. “You’ll save so much money in the long run, you should buy one now.” If you buy a house when you don’t want one (or really can’t afford one), the very worst scenario is that it goes into foreclosure and you file for bankruptcy.

bankruptAnd if that sounds like a pretty bad worst case scenario, pause for a moment and consider what you’ll feel like  when you realize you’ve spent two-hundred and forty-five thousand dollars on something that, though it’s nice, you never really wanted.

The financial and emotional costs are worthwhile if it’s for something you genuinely, deeply desire. But if it’s for something that someone else tells you you might regret later? That there is just a bad decision, any way you look at it.

When it comes to creating a new human, “How bad could it be?” is not a smart approach. If you don’t want children, for the sake of yourself and your unborn, hypothetical offspring, don’t be bullied into it.

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The Financial Book List for Spinsters

As I’ve been preparing this financial how-to series, I’ve been coming across a number of books about women and finances. And you know what I’ve noticed? Not surprisingly, there aren’t too many guides for single, childfree women. Despite that fact that we’re a rapidly increasing demographic, many publishers don’t seem eager to jump in and fill the void.

Financial Book List For SpinstersPerhaps they, like a lot of married-with-children adults, seem to think we naturally have tons of cash lying around, so financial advice isn’t a vital topic. While it’s true the childfree woman doesn’t have the expenses of singles or couples with children, living solo is itself a huge expense, and navigating the murky waters of retirement is a difficult task for anyone. Spinsters need to manage their money just like anyone else.

However, I did find a few helpful guides aimed at the spinster demographic, or at least in that general direction. So today, in lieu of the normal, in-depth book review, I’ve compiled a list of helpful books for the independent woman.

On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor
If you’re wondering how modern this book can be when it refers to women as girls… I’d just say that titles need to grab attention to sell books. This book offers practical advice aimed at single women. I like it because it’s straightforward and honest, backed up by studies and statistics.

Single Women And Finances: A Woman’s Secret Diary To Saving, Budgeting, and Retirement by J. J. Jones
Unlike a lot of “For Women” financial books that are filled with over-simplified, generic advice, this is actually aimed at single women. It examines the financial pros and cons of singlehood and relates the advice in the book directly to those issues.

The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement by Jane Cullinane
Retirement may seem far away to some, but for most spinsters, the time to start planning for it was yesterday. This book is written very specifically for the single audience, including statistics on single women and how they (tend to) spend and save. It’s a comprehensive look at the multi-faceted relationships between money, lifestyle, psychology, and culture.

Suddenly Single: Money Skills for Divorcees and Widows by Kerry Hannon
This book teaches financial management for women who have recently become single through the lose of a spouse. It approaches the topic with the assumption that many divorced women and widows were not solely in charge of the finances, and offers advice on taking the reins when they’re abruptly dropped into your hands.

Childfree at 30

Now that I’ve reached the big 3-0, maybe people will begin to see me as a childless woman, rather than a woman who simply hasn’t realized she wants kids yet.

I don’t dislike kids. I get along with most kids very well. I’ve simply decided not to raise them. But this decision has perplexed some people.

The American Spinster: Childfree
Don’t pretend you don’t want this.

For a while, they could come up with excuses for me. At 25, I was ‘still young,’ in a new relationship, and simply hadn’t settled down enough to realize my inner, procreative desires. At 28, I was at the age where I should have come to terms with my biological urges, but somehow still hadn’t. How could a uterus-bearer not be trying to get pregnant?

It’s as though children are iPads, and if you don’t want something that trendy and fun, you’re off your rocker.

But even if children were iPads, an iPad just doesn’t fit into everyone’s life. Believe it or not, some people have different desires than other people. To those women who just can’t understand how someone with a womb could possibly not have, at the core of her very soul, a burning desire to make a baby, I say this: just because you feel a certain way does not mean that all women feel that way. We don’t share a hive mind. The whole thing seems very similar to me as a straight man saying, “I just can’t understand how a dude would want to sleep with another dude. I could never, ever want that.” Well, of course. But isn’t that’s how many a gay man would feel about sleeping with a woman?

Just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean everyone else does.

The American Spinster: Childfree

And the fact that not everyone wants what you want doesn’t make you wrong. It makes you an individual. And that’s okay. Did you have children just to prove me wrong? No, of course not. Likewise, I did not abstain from child-rearing to prove you wrong.

I did it because I’m a free woman living in 2016, and I had the choice.