I’m 45 years old, married, and don’t have any children. And I won’t have any. I’m not “childfree,” but my wife is.
My wife is a founding member of the web series Childfree Girls, and she’s been active in the childfree community for years. I, on the other hand, have been told I’m a “fence-sitter.”
The distinction between the two terms is probably significant. I suppose a couple with a strictly childfree party and a fence sitter party would only run into problems if the one on the fence fell to the wrong side.
Growing up, I always assumed I’d have kids. Everyone had kids when they grew up and got married. I never knew a single childless couple. As teenagers, my best friend and I would talk about our kids playing together, one day. It just seemed like the normal thing to (eventually) do.
I got older, and eventually I married my first wife. We knew we wanted kids at some point. We also knew she had a medical condition that might make it difficult for her to do so.
A few years in, we started “trying.” Trying wasn’t fun. It was a task. A mission to be accomplished. But as a naturally goal-oriented person, I didn’t really mind it. I wanted to be “successful,” because we had set a goal and, by golly, we were going to achieve it.
After a while with no results, we decided I should get tested, too. Just in case. Turned out I had an issue, as well, and combined with her issue, a natural conception probably wasn’t achievable. We talked all the next steps – IVF, surrogacy, adoption – and made some loose plans to maybe look into all of those options.
But as we did, I realized I wasn’t really affected by the news that we couldn’t have children. I wasn’t sad or mad or… anything. If she got pregnant that day, great! If she never did, oh well!
It’s hard even for me to believe someone could be that ambivalent about having children, but starting then, and solidified later through the next 20 years, it turns out I am. (Although, these days I’m way more on the “rather not” side than the “who cares?” side).
As I mentioned, my current and forever wife is steadfastly childfree. (Also, to be clear, my ex and I did not split up due to the children issue). I’d known that prior to us getting married, and I’d had to consider exactly how on the fence I was before we got married. She’d had previous marriages, as well, and she’d told me stories about how her then-husband had known about her lack of baby-making desires in the beginning, but that he’d assumed she would change her mind.
I didn’t want to be that guy for her again.
I asked myself a simple question: Do I choose an unborn life I’ve never met over the woman I love, whom I already know, and who is presently actually here on earth? Choosing her means knowing in advance I will never, ever, have children. Not choosing her means I’m choosing a vague possibility of maybe having a child – one day – with somebody.
That very simple question really helped me make sense of the whole situation, and I easily and readily came to an equally easy answer: I choose the woman I love in the here and now.
I haven’t had a change of heart in the 15 years we’ve been married. While I’m sure I’d love my child if I had one – I’d probably be one of those people who say, “You don’t know how much you want a child until you have one” – I really, really love my wife and the life we share together.
I guess after all this time maybe I’m not a “fence-sitter,” anymore. I think deciding to marry someone adamantly child free changes that.
*Ed. note: The fence sitter appears with his childfree wife in CFG’s pregnancy test commercial: