Monday, 2 February 2015

Childless by Divine Protection! By Kim Menier

Hi everyone!

Anu asked me if I would consider writing on this blog about my own experience as a childless

person. I’m no expert, but I hope that my story might be helpful to some of you who might be thinking

about the possibility of a childless future. While I call myself “childless by choice”, I should be honest

and tell you that I am childless by circumstance/ divine protection and thankful, after-the-fact, that

things worked out this way.

I grew up in a middle class home in the US, primarily raised by a single mother who had never

completed her college degree. I was raised a Catholic and attended Catholic schools but have never

really had an affinity for organized religion. My parents had a bitter divorce, and my mother was

overwhelmed by and unprepared for the task of raising children by herself. I assumed many of the

duties of taking care of my younger siblings (I am the oldest of four) when I was 11 because I wanted to

help, and I somehow knew that my mother was not up to the task. We were tight on money, and I spent

many hours listening to my mother’s problems and often dire concerns about our future. While I didn’t

dislike the role, I wanted to be like other kids my age, and that I wanted a different life when the time

came to go out on my own. No childhood is perfect, but mine seemed to be several standard deviations

from perfect, at least in my mind.

By the time I was in high school, I knew that my “way out” was through education, and I put my energy

towards getting into a good college. I was fortunate; I was offered admittance to a prestigious university

in a different state along with a full academic scholarship, and I accepted. Before I left for school, my

mother and I had a conversation about the future. She told me that I didn’t have to have children. She

also told me that if she had the opportunity to do things over again, she wouldn’t have kids. This was not

meant to be cruel, but rather as a “truth”. In retrospect, I think she realized that she was not properly

prepared for parenthood, and that she had not done a very good job at it. My father was largely absent

from my childhood, but he apparently felt the same way. While visiting him on one occasion, he let slip

that our visit had interfered with his plans for the weekend, but it wasn’t the first time. He went on to

say that I personally had dashed his plans of attending medical school when my mother became

pregnant unexpectedly. The arrival of my siblings had sealed his fate.

After graduation from college, I started into my career, eventually went to graduate school, and for the

most part, did not think about marriage or family. My focus was first on survival. I had no idea if I could

make it on my own, let alone think about caring for children. I also didn’t seem to have that loudly

ticking “biological clock” that my friends talked about, and when I dated, I didn’t think about whether

the guy was good “father material” or not as they did. I was completely absorbed in my career, making

something of myself, being in control of my destiny, and frankly, in enjoying myself for the first time in

my life.

When I was 29, I married a guy that I considered my equal. By then I had established myself as a working

anthropologist with a good understanding of consumer insights and a good reputation. I had moved to

New York and was working as an account planner at a major advertising agency. My husband was a

rising star at a major music label, and things looked bright. We had talked about having children when

we were dating, but it was never a major topic of discussion. We both liked kids, but it was clearly

something we would do “later”. After we married, he began to ease up in his work schedule to the point

that I worried it would affect his employment. It did, and he lost his job. He looked for another job, but

quickly became discouraged. Since I was working, there was no pressure to start working again.  In an

attempt to motivate him, I arranged to take a job in Los Angeles in hopes that the change in scenery

would help him find another job in his industry. Over the next seven years, he was unable to find stable

employment and became more and more dependent upon me. During that time, I had two miscarriages,

both of which I was sad for, but also secretly relieved about due to “timing”. The marriage began to

unravel, and we discussed our options. We decided that, if we were going to stay married and have kids,

we needed a fresh start.

I took a job north of New York City, thinking that my husband being “home” again would inspire him to

get back to work, and that living outside a big city would be a good family atmosphere. A few months

after returning to New York, we experienced the 9/11 attacks. A month later, I found out completely by

accident that my husband was having an affair with a woman in Los Angeles. Oddly, it was a relief.

Because the economy had largely come to a standstill in the weeks following 9/11, I had a good deal of

time to think about things. Ruminating over my criteria for having a child, I realized that I met the most

important criteria for parenthood: I was emotionally stable and financially capable of taking care of

children. I didn’t have the solid relationship I wanted, but I didn’t need it. I was relieved that I did not

have children with this man because I no longer wanted him in my life. But even more importantly, I

realized that had I really wanted kids, the aforementioned criteria wouldn’t have mattered. I would have

found a “work around”.   I was in my mid-thirties, the time women begin to believe they are in the home

stretch of their childbearing years, and I felt no remorse or anxiety about being childless. For me,

parenthood was not the greatest of all life experiences, but rather “checking the box”. Circumstances

had not been working against me; somehow, the universe was looking out for me. I felt relief.

Some people believe that being childless is a selfish act. Furthermore, some individuals believe that our

only true responsibility in life is to bear children. I even had a scientist tell me that, as a woman, I was no

longer biologically relevant after 40 because my ability to bear children is, for the most part, gone. I


I love kids. I also love it when they go home! Being a parent, in my opinion, is a full-time job - if you want

a crack at success. Raising children is the most important undertaking that an individual will experience,

because the result cannot be written off as a bad debt, a failed marketing effort, business bankruptcy or

otherwise. It’s serious shit. I had experience raising kids when I was a kid. Maybe that’s why

motherhood did not call out loudly to me. What did call out loudly and strongly was to make a success

of myself in a different way - through my career.

Today, I run a successful software company that would not have been possible if I was trying to juggle

family and career. Admittedly, I’m not a very successful multitasker! In this role, I provide the means by

which a number of people support their families, many of whom do have children. I offer and support

working conditions that are conducive to families: flexible work hours, job sharing, telecommuting,

extended parental leave, etc. I have the time and resources to support political and philanthropic efforts

that support kids, and I do. My latest effort is to bring a resource to disadvantaged high school

sophomores, juniors and seniors that will help them identify the best college majors, schools and

careers for them based on their interests and experiences. I am a senior fellow at the honors residential

college at a major university. My company provides paid internships for pre-college age kids who are

thinking about a career in software development. You get the picture.

Sometimes people ask me what will happen to me when I get old with no children to take care of me.

It’s a fair question. Sometimes I look at my nieces and nephews, when they’re being good, and wonder

what my life would have been like if I had had children. And then I think about the people I know who

have children that they don’t speak to, or don’t have time for them or only begrudgingly engage out of

duty. If I play my cards right, I hope to have people in my life at that time were there because they want

to be there. Anything can happen; so far, so good.