Childfree in Uncertain Times

In 2017 my husbands career lead us to move from our home to a 565sqft apartment. We would spend 2 long months renovating before making the move. Work in the morning, 45 minute drive, renovating afternoon and evening, 45 minutes back home. Wash, rinse, repeat. Once we finally moved in and unpacked I was hit hard with something I didn't fully understand at the time. We refer to it as my 'dark week'. I felt overwhelmed by everything, even just the thought of trying to decide on something to wear was too much to handle. Simple tasks felt like mountains to climb, I cried for no reason, couldn't bring myself to leave the house, or the bed some days. I had manifested physical symptoms like my skin feeling sunburnt, nausea, rash. Later I would learn this is called Adjustment Disorder, or Stress Response Syndrome. This is first time I ever experienced true mental health struggles and it was also first time I felt truly thankful we were childfree. During a week I could barely take care of myself, how would I have ever taken care of another person? Fast forward to 2020, the quarantine hit and none of us were expecting it. The parents who spent the last months and years preaching a life of joy and fulfillment to the childless and childfree were suddenly silenced, now faced with caring for their kids 24/7, navigating the ins and outs of online learning and some also having to work from home. Contrarily, the childfree/childless community thankful for their reduced responsibilities and quieter homes. Being without children finally proving to be a benefit in the eyes of the world. Globally we were experiencing an event that no one knew how to properly deal with, and in turn the rates of anxiety, depression and stress rose along with the COVID numbers. As we tried to manage working from home, proper pandemic behaviours, loneliness, and connection we also had to find the time and space for physical and mental self care. As someone who experienced stress response in the past, this second time I've been truly thankful to be childfree. Through the initial quarantine I was able to "selfishly" practice self care.I rested when I needed to, exercised when my mind would allow it and didn't expect

too much from myself, recognizing that this is a pandemic and uncharted waters for us all. I used grocery shopping as time to myself to decompress and did my best to not spend all day in track pants. Taking the time to figure out what I was able to control and letting go of what I wasn't kept me sane, something I don't think I would've had the space for in a busy house full of kids.

Although I believe my anxiety problems are a season of life and not a forever condition, I

know I am likely at higher risk for stress response behaviour and anxiety going forward. Through my eyes, that in itself is reason enough to not have children. I know how anxiety can effect parenting, both projecting anxiety onto the child and making irrational decisions due to my own worries. I would never want to raise a child in a home that I didn't feel was safe, engaging and positive. Many respond to these thoughts with "but you'd be such a good mother!". If I'm truly honest with myself, I don't know that I would be, and honestly that's okay. Parenting is a cycle of overcoming –– overcoming our own faults, overcoming new challenges, overcoming our ingrained behaviours and I don't know that I'm strong enough to constantly have to overcome. Recognizing our own limitations and considering how those would effect a child is a responsible consideration. Society still doesn't view mental health the same way we view physical health, yet if I said I had a genetic disease that my child had a 75% chance of inheriting people would applaud me for being so selfless and not putting a child at risk for that. Mental health, both your own and that of potential future children, isn't selfish but valid issue to reflect on when making the choice of parenting.

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. The goal of this day is to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts to support mental health. If you're struggling please don't hesitate to reach out to get support.