The first two posts in this series address dealing with the expectations of repro-normative society. Perhaps belatedly, this post helps child-free adults cope with the repro-normative parts of their own psyche, imbedded by cultural programming. How do we imagine a life in a society that limits our image of success to a narrow image of a house, spouse, car, and kids? Such an image foregrounds material gain, in the house and car, provides for companionship in the limited focus on spouses, and squishes three important human desires into the notion of reproducing children. After a conversation about this post, I adopt the other dactyl’s framing of these strands in human desire as growth, continuance, and doing good. Growth points toward our need to learn and change, continuance represents the longing to leave something lasting to the world, and doing good reflects a moral aspiration in most adult humans. Churches have long provided an answer to these three desires with chances for spiritual or intellectual growth, often the promise of an afterlife, and a moral dimension either through avoiding certain activities or participating in others. Raising children has been framed in these ways as well, especially as continuance. Yet, many other activities, practices, and ways of living provide fulfillment for those very human inclinations.
To begin imagining your child-free life, first, think about what you do now. Most of us have full lives with maintaining career or job, hobbies, a home, friends, partners when applicable, and other responsibilities. I include apartments and other living spaces as homes – you still must clean, plan meals, and do laundry regardless of the size, number of inhabitants, or arrangement of your home. In western culture, career itself can define a life because of our emphasis on material gain, and because some careers satisfy the three desires outright. Yet, I reject the suggestion that career aspirations should push out other concerns for child-free people. Instead, many types of physical training, spiritual practice, creative endeavors, and community service feed the metaphysical side and satisfy the need to give back and to produce something that endures. As career concerns ebb and flow, more energy may go toward such creative or community work.
For some, who focus on growth concerns, travel becomes the perfect way to cultivate positive movement, instead of settling into too-familiar routines. Of course, travel may not be an option for everyone, but it need not be as expensive or difficult as we believe, and, at least for me, seeing different landscapes, meeting new people, and adapting to unfamiliar cultural norms, provides infinite opportunity for growth, renewal, and engagement. Certain travels involve philanthropic or volunteer prospects as well, pointing toward both continuance and doing good.
While we are provided with a ready script of college, job, marriage, children – this script does not fit all of us. Some people – single, coupled, otherwise partnered – believe they can offer more to the world by remaining child-free and continuing the work they already do and building upon that work as their skill-levels, maturity, available resources, and wisdom burgeon.