I got the following email from Connie in response to my post asking you what you wanted me to write about:
It feels like many of the decisions you have made came about as a result of both your values and preparing yourselves and your home for children. How might your decisions have changed if you hadn’t been planning to have children? I find that some priorities, like eating good quality foods and staying healthy are easy for me to implement now, but others are more difficult, in part because I am not planning to have children. I don’t have as much of a reason to settle down in one place, grow a garden, etc. I definitely want to do those things, but they get pushed to the backburner so much more easily when there are new adventures in new places to be had. I am preparing to move to CA, and there have been several discussions about whether to rent, buy, or buy a larger plot (terribly expensive) to accomplish some of those personal goals.
My instinctive reaction is to say that everything in our life would be different if we didn’t have children, since they’re such a huge part of our life. But when I thought about it a bit more, I realized that isn’t the case at all. It is difficult to imagine my life without children, but I can remember our life before our children arrived, and we have kept much of it the same.
My husband and I moved into our first apartment together nearly seven years before our first child was born. We knew that we wanted children eventually, but we had a lot of stuff we wanted to do first. We traveled at least once a year to relatively far-flung places. We bought a house. We started a business that would allow us to work from home. Having our own business and working from home has been hugely beneficial in terms of parenting, but it’s something that we would have done regardless of our plans to have children. It allows us a lot of flexibility and freedom, and we took advantage of that for several years before we had children.
Our current house with its huge backyard is excellent for children (what kid wouldn’t love a half acre to run around in?), but we were attracted to the backyard primarily for gardening purposes rather than as a play area for our children. My husband and I are both devoted to healthy eating, and we both love growing our own food. Although it’s hard to imagine my life without children now that I have them, I think that my husband and I would have been drawn towards a home with a sizable yard even if we hadn’t had children (or planned to have them). We might have looked for a smaller house if it had been just the two of us, but I think that we would have ended up buying (rather than renting) and seeking out a place with a big yard where we could have our fruit trees and garden beds. In addition, we both love dogs and will probably always have one. Having a house with a yard is a big plus for the dog too – it’s a place where she can run around sans leash and chase a frisbee to her heart’s content.
Although our life does revolve around our children much of the time now (it sort of has to, given that they’re still so little), we’ve managed to fit our children into the lifestyle that we already enjoyed before they were born. We don’t like rigid schedules (so we’ve avoided many of the over-scheduling problems that plague many parents of little children), we like being outdoors, we like being at home, we love gardening, we like finding free entertainment and enjoying the little things in life… those are all things that we have kept the same.
There’s no one-size-fits-all path in life. Whether you’re planning to have children or not, you should seek out a path that makes you happy. If that’s renting apartments for short stints so that you can travel the world, so be it. If it’s settling down in a fixer-upper house with a yard and a garden and projects to last the next 30 years, so be it. Or anywhere in between. If you are planning to have children, you can focus on following your own desires and wishes and avoiding the “you should be doing xyz” traps that are perpetuated by advertising designed to separate your from your money. You can raise happy, well-adjusted children in all sorts of unconventional settings, and you don’t need a ton of money, stuff, or a white picket fence to do so. If you’re planning to not have children, you do have some more flexibility in terms of doing whatever you want, since nobody will be depending on you for food, shelter, and years of guidance. Either way, focusing on your own goals will work much better than trying to keep up with what everybody else is doing, or what advertising tells you that you should be doing.
Connie, thanks for the question, and best of luck with your move to California!