I always knew kids weren’t for me. Not that I hate kids – a popular misconception about those of us that don’t reproduce – but I lack the urge to produce or raise any, my house is not childproofed and I will not cross the threshold of a Chuck E. Cheese. Yet I was lucky enough to find a man, a soldier, who loved me more than the concept of a nuclear family.
As I entered my military spouse life I wondered if not having children would be perceived as odd…but at the age of 25, I never thought it would be a virtual crime.
“Although it may seem like every military spouse has kids, it’s not true. They’re just a little more difficult to find,” said Katie Parlin, a military spouse of 9 years who parents a cat, Roger. “You’re more likely to find childless military spouses at non-military functions.”
We childless military spouses can be an elusive bunch and unmotivated to attend typical military gatherings where the third question after our name and when we arrived at said base/post is how many kids we have.
Case in point, although I felt the FRG wasn’t for me, the first time I attended a meeting, I was subsequently bombarded with more questions about my ovaries than a decade of gynecologist appointments had yielded.
When asked if I have kids, my default response is a simple no. I believe that being clear and direct might dissuade those that are asking why no one is living in my uterus. However, for some inquisitive (eh-em, annoying and intrusive) individuals, no is not enough of an explanation.
The script follows a similar pattern each time: starting with “not yet, huh?” and I firmly reply “not ever.” Next is “well, you’ll change your mind” and I defer again. The final plot twist has only occurred a few times as I’ve crossed into the mid-30s age bracket, but involves the interrogator audaciously telling me that I will regret not having kids. The curtain falls as this stranger and I look at each other, realize there is sadly not a middle ground on this issue and we walk off stage.
Believe it or not, one of the most egregious instances took place at a military treatment facility. I was there because of a persistent flu-like bug and my husband had driven me because I was so light-headed. As we sat with the nurse doing the initial intake, she asked if we had children.
I replied no.
She asked if we were going to have any and in my feverish state I simply answered no again, rather than confront her nosiness.
She paused for a minute and then turned to my husband and asked him if he was OK with that, implying that if he was not, he should leave right then, my fever be damned? After staring at her incredulously for a few minutes he replied that he was, of course, OK with that and then, catching on to our joint death stares, she proceeded with the appointment.
To be fair, these interactions have also happened to me during a pedicure, checking out at the grocery store and at a myriad of other civilian locations…but there is something about the military culture that, pardon the pun, creates a breeding ground for reproductive scrutiny.
Of course that’s only highlighting the negatives; so with a Pharrell Williams-esque vibe, a decade of insight and a legitimate smile on my face, I want to tell you, you’re not alone if you choose not to procreate. Even in the military.
It is a choice and it is a valid one, despite what anyone might say to you. It neither makes you a better person or a worse one. It just makes you different from the perceived normal.
Another military friend recently told me about a group she belongs to called Child Free at Bragg that was formed in order to connect military spouses without offspring. It offers a way for these women to discuss bridging the divide between the childless and the mom faction without judgment. How great is that? I mean, there are hundreds of MOPs groups at every installation, but a social group for military spouses who aren’t mothers…it’s flat-out overdue.
At the end of the day, I like me. My husband and I have a great time together. We have dogs that we sort of (read: totally) treat as four-legged kids. We both work, we cook often and eat a little indulgently, we go the gym, we drink too much wine, we fight, we laugh and we like our life. While I cannot debate the merits of different formulas for infants nor do I have a stance on Common Core, I can engage in conversations about tons of other topics, not just what was said on Fashion Police. So, in short, we’re normal and, dare I say, a great couple to befriend.
I also don’t think I am alone; the couples I know without kids are as equally awesome as the larger military families that I’ve encountered. We are content and being content is about not only liking who you are, but also being secure in the decisions you’ve made.
Furthermore, I have many friends, and, luckily for me, family, who just don’t care about my decision to not be a mom. I’m still the same sarcastic, loyal, funny and loud girl/woman I’ve always been.
The best example of this is my 90-year-old Nana who always tells me “not everyone has kids and that’s OK” and encourages me to travel more – granted, her love is not surprising, but vocalizing that support is pretty damn progressive of her.
So maybe we can all follow her lead because if you don’t have kids and aren’t planning on it, you’re still fabulous – and with a viable passport, ready to board the next last-minute flight.