I hesitate to share this story because I am worried that it will cause people to dislike me or feel that I have these feelings still, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. But I’m also trying to share more of myself on this blog, and writing about this part of my life might help people to understand who I am today. So. *deep breath*
I used to be childfree. The definition of “childfree” is “a person who does not want children by choice”. In itself, it’s not that big of a deal. A lot of nannies are childfree, but still love kids. In my early 20s, I was one of these nannies. I was sure I did not want kids, but I still loved being with them and around them. I just got my fill of them and enjoyed coming home to a quiet house with no worries. I still enjoy that today, but my thoughts and feelings have changed towards children. I do want them someday. I definitely want to share my life with my own children.
So, what changed?
I talk about it as going through “trial by fire” – I had to go completely to the other side of the spectrum to come back. At the time I was 23, I was working for a family that was more than difficult. The children were cute, but hard to deal with. One child had undiagnosed speech and social issues that made it hard to deal with her, and the other was going through an attitudinal phase that made many days with her a living hell. However, this was dealable. I didn’t start to hate children because of them – and I have never hated children because of a bad experience with one. That’s unfair and definitely uncool. No, the problem was the mother.
I’ve spoken about this before – the mama drama that I’ve experienced with people I nanny for. It’s definitely part of the job, but this woman was over the top. Whatever she had going on in her personal life, which I won’t mention here though I was privy to details, definitely was contributing to her crazy, but she took it out on me. Constantly.
Nothing I did was right. Nothing I did pleased her. Every time I had a complaint or a suggestion about how to handle the children, I was blown off and told I could be replaced if I couldn’t handle the job. Every time a child was sick, she made me come to look after them anyway. If I had to take a sick day, I was sneered at and berated, and she would call constantly, to see if I was really home and really sick. When I had to take a week off to get my gall bladder out, she called every day to make sure I was really recovering and not just taking a vacation. Eventually, my mother forbade me to answer the phone because I wasn’t resting, constantly lying in wait for her next phone call, constantly anxious.
And because I was 23, I didn’t have the wherewithal at the time to realize that I had a choice. I could leave. I was convinced that if I tried to leave, I would get a bad reference from her. She threatened constantly to call up the university job board people and tell them not to allow me to take any more nanny jobs if I quit. And in the end, she fired me over a small detail – I separated her fighting children into two different bedrooms (they shared a room) and let them fall asleep in different beds. For this, I was called “abusive” and she let me know that despite everything I did to please her, I would not be getting a reference, and she would tell everyone she knew not to hire me as a sitter or a nanny.
After that experience, I found that I was turned off of nannying and babysitting. But not only that, I decided, in my hurt mind, that I hated children. I went on forums to complain about them. I sneered at crying children in malls. I made fun of things like attachment parenting and other methods that I felt were below me. I became a really awful, really bitter person.
I know that some people are like that always. They will never like kids. And it’s a valid choice. But for me, to go from loving kids and wanting to work with them to hating them, it was a real problem. I started hating myself. I hated everyone. And I realized that this was not a life I wanted. I didn’t really hate kids. I didn’t really not want to be around them. And I started coming back.
It started slowly. A good friend of mine had a baby, and I realized how much I loved newborns, not to mention how much I realized I could help her with the new baby. I decided I’d try babysitting again. And I realized that not only do I love children, I wanted to be with them as much as possible. I even maybe wanted to have them someday.
I’ll stop here by saying that this is not everyone’s experience. Childfreedom is a valid choice. Childfreedom doesn’t mean that you hate children always. It also means that you just don’t want to have children. And many people do not change their minds like I did. And that’s okay, too.
I’m glad I changed my mind. I’m glad I let children back into my life, and I’m glad that I’m willing to entertain the option of having children again. I didn’t like the person I became when I was childfree, and I am glad that most of my friends didn’t know me then. I’m sorry that the people that did know me had to deal with me that way.
Life, for me, is much better with kids in it.