Monday, 12 October 2015

Childfree in New Zealand Update from 2013 to now

 Way back in 2013, I wrote this blog post about being Childfree in New Zealand - and it went crazy, was reblogged by a few others and featured on Lance and Amy's website We're (not) having a baby.com

Today I decided to repost it, and add some notes about how life's changed since then...

Childfree Decision

My name is Lisa Taylor. I am now 25 years old. When I was was younger, okay 16 I was dating a guy who had a heart condition. It was so rare he was one of only 2 people in the world who had it. He was also the longest surviving person to have it. In 2006 he died suddenly from his condition.  During that time I had just turned 18 and was thinking about motherhood and what the future would bring for me. While I was mourning for his loss I did wish (so badly) that I was pregnant with his child. Alas it was not meant to be and I remain nullipara to this day.

Later that year I met my second boyfriend, who wanted me to be a mother. During this time I developed severe depression due to my first boyfriend’s sudden death. My doctor put me on suicide watch for a while. After 2 years of living with him and putting up with constant illness and pregnancy alarms I decided I needed to further my own education. I found a university in the capital city, four and a half hours drive away.  I saved up enough money to cover my rent and bond. One day I told him I was leaving for school.

Our long distance relationship lasted a mere 3 months after I left him and my home town. I broke up with him over another pregnancy scare. I decided I wanted to further my life and do the things I wanted.

Today, fast forward 4 years: I am living the childfree life with a childfree boyfriend who loves me for me. He was a fence sitter when I met him, but now he’s as “anti-kids” as I am! Ha! What am I saying? I’m a teacher now, teaching 11-16 year old kids ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). We both realised that we do like kids, just when they’re a certain age. I find it really hard to talk to or play with kids who are under 10 years old. I just feel so awkward, and it shows! Not to say I didn’t babysit and things like that growing up but, it just feels so weird now.

Being Childfree in New Zealand
Being childfree in New Zealand is a ‘new’ concept for a lot of people. Many people – my family included – are very accepting once they get over the initial shock.  I do get bingos like “You’re so good with kids!”. I actually get the worst responses from medical professionals, because they are generally taught that it’s “normal” to have the life script plan; grow up, meet someone, get married (actually that ones a tricky one in itself, a lot of single parents here!), and have x number of kids.
I’ve been told I’m living my life ‘wrong’ from a doctor. Another doctor told me I’m too young to request getting a Tubal Ligation done… I’m now 25 so I am going to request it when I next see my GP (General Practitioner). I am lucky though, I have plenty of friends here who are either childfree or childless. The one’s I define as childless are those who don’t have children *yet* but do want them.
When I lived back home, in a small town, it’s the normal thing to do to go get pregnant and have two or more kids, with different fathers! Luckily I don’t see that here so much. But it does happen.

Daniel’s Childfree Story

Kiwi Disambiguation
Kiwi Disambiguation
Note: Daniel’s story is in the 3rd person as Lisa elicited it from Daniel.
Daniel is a male from New Zealand. He is 26 years old. He is an elder brother to one sibling. His brother is 6 years younger, and luckily for Daniel their mum did all the “baby chores”. Daniel did have to do some babysitting for his brother.
In high school, Daniel knew he had three life path options. His first was the usual, find a partner and have children (or not). His second path was to become a scientific genius in some hardcore career; he would have no time for romance, because he’d be working so many hours in some kind of lab! Daniel’s third path was the one he avoided but it did seem like an only option at one stage: to be forever alone.
Daniel always knew he had the choice of having kids, or not. There was no decision to sway one way over the other. He said if he was going to have kids, he would have kids. The same for not having kids; if it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. Although without kids he has more freedom and definitely hates the idea of “child chores” especially baby chores. Being childfree means never having to change nappies, or feed a screaming child. Financial reasons never came into the decision of being childfree. Although having a child would mean the financial burden of paying for a nanny who would be looking after said kid for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
Daniel’s future plans? Freedom, freedom, and more freedom. He doesn’t have exact plans for the future. But he suggested that if he wanted to travel, he could. He would travel the world, staying in 5 star luxury adult-only resorts.

Q&A

Lisa: Who do you get on better with – kids or adults? Why? 
Daniel: Probably adults. Because adults can hold more rational conversations.
Lisa: What are your views on reproductive choice in New Zealand? Is it easy to access contraceptives? Is long-term contraception, i.e. vasectomy, easy to obtain?
Daniel: It’s pretty easy to get condoms in New Zealand; You can get them from the supermarket, chemist/pharmacy or your doctor or you can get them on prescription from your doctor. $5 (NZD) is 6 months worth of the pill, or 144 condoms (12 packets). Long-term contraception? I’m not sure. I don’t want to get a vasectomy yet. I know you [Lisa] want to get a tubal ligation. Your body, your choice. It’s quite hard to get it for a woman though, they make them jump through so many hoops. I hear it’s easier for a guy to get it [vasectomy] done.
Lisa: Is it easier to be childfree if you’re male or female? Why?
Daniel: I think it’s easier as a guy. I wouldn’t know what it is like as a female anyway. I guess societal pressure is higher on a female. There’s no pressure on me as a male to be married and have children. Or be a stay at home mother. Unlike for you [Lisa], you’re asked at the doctor’s how many children you have…there’s so much pressure on you from society. I guess us guys don’t get this pressure on us.
Lisa: If you had a child right now with Lisa, how would your life be different? How would your relationship be different? Why? 
Daniel: First of all there would be more financial worry, we would have to feed, clothe, and school the kid. There would be the costs of doctors and dentists. We would also have the real possibility of Lisa’s mental health getting worse. Her and her mum have a history of depression, so it would be very likely that Lisa would get post-natal depression. This would add to the financial strain, as she would need medical help for it.
I would have to be acting in a more responsible way! [Lisa comment: Dan is actually a really responsible guy. He’s being modest!] I also might have to learn how to drive a car – so I could help out with the “school run”. [Lisa comment: Dan doesn’t drive, Lisa does all the driving, and they don’t own a car – they live in the city and don’t need one.] We also potentially couldn’t live where we do, as we live in an apartment. It’s small – 2 bedrooms and has no real outdoors area (does a balcony count?). Lisa suggested we would probably need to buy somewhere in the suburbs, so we would have a backyard and all that crap. That being said, we are currently about 5 blocks walk from a local primary school. In the next suburb over is a local high school. And across the street is a university campus! So in terms of schooling, it’s not a bad location!
Lisa: In New Zealand there’s a huge focus on family being the number 1 thing. Do you think we should be talking about the childfree choice in sex education classes in high schools? Should churches embrace it as an option? Why?
Daniel: Churches aim at family groups so they can increase their membership numbers – if you convince one, you get a group of them. Right? childfree people only have one or two people, tops.  I think Sex Ed. classes should talk about being childfree as a choice. It would invoke debate and may open the minds of young people in school. They might also encourage them to think outside the ‘natalist’ box.
So how have our lives changed since 2013??? 
Today life is a little different...

I'm now 27, Dan is 29. We are still together and we celebrated our 4 year anniversary together earlier this year. We are still living together in the same apartment we had just moved into at the writing of the original blog post.

For me at least the doctor's bingoes haven't really changed much - I am still having trouble getting long term contraception that won't be easily reversed. I have been pushing to get long term contraception for well over ten years now... It is crazy. (Oh how easy it is for men here!) I did get a copper IUD put in last year, which is working well for the moment at least. Some people haven't been so impressed with how vocal I am about sexual and reproductive health - so my blog posts about my IUD being put in etc wasn't taken well by some! I've also had contact with Family Planning New Zealand about a blog style review of various methods I've used over the years, however seeing as I've only used 3 things in my life - I have this awkward "am I even qualified to speak about this" feeling going on. We will see what comes out of it anyway because it may not ever get off the ground as an idea here.

I have gotten myself a good set of doctors now who are very helpful and accepting of us not having children, so that is a big bonus. Of course there is still a general consensus of child rearing being the norm. However more couples are childfree now which may be partially to do with the fact that society is more open about and accepting of fertility and such issues as well. Statistics New Zealand figures also show that not having children is on the rise.

I'm still teaching ESOL - but not with the language school kids any more.
I now teach adults, doing lessons one on one.

I have also returned to university where I've just applied for my final year of study - all going well I will be graduating in a little over 18 months time.

Personally I've removed myself from a lot of the Childfree groups on Facebook, for a couple of reasons - one being there was a lot of negativity in there and that is not me. I'm all about agreeing to disagree with people, rather than fighting to lose friendships. I'd much rather be civil and disagree on things but still keep talking with people. Family and friends aren't worth losing over a small disagreement.

Some things I've learned on my journey thus far:
1. You have no guarantees when you're old that your children will be there for you. Kids grow into adults with their own lives, jobs and worries. They can forget about their family sometimes.

2. Modern day medical expectations on women (at least) still revolve around families, baby making is the aim for doctors when you see them for any kind of reproductive issue. Mine happens to be relatively simple with super irregular bleeding patterns - everything I've looked into for treating it has an end game goal of pregnancy. No thanks!

3. There's a rising number of Childfree people in the world. But somehow they're always seen as being these negative characteristics. It makes me sad.
I am not selfish, up myself, immature, irrational, unable to take care of myself/ my family...
I chose not to procreate for my own reasons. They're personal and I shouldn't need to justify myself to you. (As a parent you're not questioned over why you're having a child, so why would you question me in this manner?)

4. Women will hate on other women, just because.
Whether it be that they don't agree on their religion, their childrearing choices, or lack of children being had... or not wearing make-up ... women need to stop hating on each other.
It sucks.
Please stop.
You're an adult, as such you're not in high school now!
(That last one's mean to the high schoolers who don't hate on each other. - As such I apologise.)