Getting married signals that you're ready to take on future — for better or for worse — with the love of your life. For most, these plans for the future include the decision to bear children and grow a loving family. But in this modern age, where people are encouraged to exercise their agency to live out their life as they deem fit, more and more individuals and couples choose to lead a childfree life.
With our family-centric culture here in Asia, that's one tough decision to make. Many still define a family as we traditionally would; it'd consist of a mother, father, and their children and it wouldn't be complete without one missing in the equation. So married couples opting to go without kids can be one tough pill to swallow, especially for conservative relatives, friends, and even acquaintances who nose their way into our lives. So what makes some choose the "unconventional" path despite society's pressures. Three couples share why they decided that a childfree life is best for them.
Pearlin Siow, 43, never really envisioned a life with children. Though she likes playing with them, she says "having them was just not something I wanted — like how I don’t want to eat liver or bungee jump."
With such free-spirited personalities and busy lifestyles, Pearlin, and her husband, 50-year-old DJ Heng Chiang Hong, just can't imagine how child-rearing would fit in their time. Now at the height of her successful career as a writer and founder of Boss Of Me, a book publishing agency in Singapore, Pearlin's every day is also quite jam-packed. "I travel a lot and keep myself busy with social activities while he pursues his passion for sports and music," she adds. Given that, the decision not to have kids at all came as a natural, unanimous decision for the two.
Considering the future
However, for others, this life choice doesn't come as naturally. Sometimes, this comes after careful deliberation of various events in life. 27-year-old sales representative Miggie De Guzman was being practical when he decided he wanted a child-free life. Tuition fees, bills, and other costs of living are increasing year by year in such an alarming rate. Witnessing just how much his parents paid for his and his brother's college tuition, he says, "I do not believe there is a good chance I can pay whatever the top high school and top college tuition fees will be 15 years from now." If he eventually decides not to send them to the same prestigious schools, he feels like it would be unfair to his kids not to experience the same privilege he enjoyed. "It would kinda look like I failed and I don't really want to deal with that possible tension," he confesses.
Though Mark was hesitant about it, Isabel took the time to talk things out with him. "Really letting him understand the things we have to give up and those we have to stretch was not hard because my husband loves and respects me. He married me for me, not for the imaginary family most Filipinos see in a wedding," she explains, emphasising that the proper understanding and planning for two was how they blissfully moved forward together as husband and wife for three years now.
Living with stability and love
A lot misconceive childfree life as a lonely life but seeing these three, we can say that it's quite the opposite. Isabel is cherishing the time she spends with her husband of three years. Marriage, to her, is "about two people wanting to spend the rest of their lives together," so there's nothing wrong with wanting to give your full time and attention to each other.
Pearlin and her husband, on the other hand, have their three furkids with them along with their passions and interests to keep them busy and happy. The future won't be an issue as well. She reveals, "I am taking all the money I am saving from not having kids and investing it into a fund for our golden years."
Like them, Pat and Miggie, though a relatively young couple, finds life equally as happy as they're surrounded with "lots of cousins, a big set of friends, supportive parents, and cute baby dogs," so loneliness is definitely not an issue. And Miggie points out, the "loneliness" factor is easily outweighed by financial security, overall freedom, and well-being.
If you just want to have kids because you don't want to be lonely or because you want someone to take care of you when you're older, "think twice," Pat urges.
Pat and Miggie with one of their furbabies, Lulu
Though they choose to have no children, they still respect those who decide to. "Hats off to all mums and dads for sure!" Pearlin exclaims as she can't imagine how it's like to be responsible for another life while managing her own career. "It is definitely not easy bringing up children and our school system here is also very unforgiving, so kudos to them for juggling everything."
Pat echoes this sentiment, saying, "There’s a lot of sacrifice parents do for their kids and I see that a lot. I love my parents and Miggie’s mom for that. I salute every single parent who is 100 per cent giving their life to their kids." Similarly, Miggie "respects them for sacrificing so much, as long as it's not the kids who are sacrificing their chance at a normal life."
And although they don't want kids of their own, Isabel and Mark say, "It doesn't mean that we hate kids!" They still love spending time with their friends' and relatives' children. "We do understand that different people have a different opinion in life so we do respect that," Isabel notes.
Dealing with pressure
Despite them being respectful of others' decisions, these married couples who chose the unconventional path of a childfree life are still subject to societal pressures telling them to do otherwise. Even after carefully explaining their perspectives, Miggie says that in his experience, conservative folks, especially those from the older generations "like to pretend to know better and say, 'your mind will still change.'" Meanwhile, people his age were more accepting of his decision once he explained his opinion. He wonders, "Maybe they mean well and just want me to experience fatherhood." Still, he admits that as a man, he doesn't have it as bad as his wife, Pat.
Being a woman, Pat gets the brunt of these judgmental comments. "You're not a real woman," "motherhood will complete you," "you guys need children to be happy," and more, are just some of the bad comments she'd heard when people learn of her decision to go childfree. "Someone even told me, 'Just try having one,' — and I'm like, OMG, a child is not a joke," she says.
Isabel agrees: "Some people say a lot of things they don't know and they have no business talking about." There's pressure on her husband to have kids since he's the eldest in his family and someone had once told her that she was such a narcissist for not giving her husband a child just because of the changes it will do to her body. But she just shrugged them off, remaining adamant. "This is my body and this is our family. We decide what to do with it."
Receiving such comments is disheartening, but thankfully, more seem to be opening up about the idea. Though her friends and family teased Pearlin and Hong about letting their good genes go to waste, she shares: "Thankfully, they don’t pressure or give us any flak for choosing to be child-free." Hopefully, a day will come where everyone can finally accept that couples and women can and have the right to choose what to do with their lives and bodies.