Jacy – A Portrait of Childfree Compromise

Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP®

This portrait is one of 26 featured in the new book, “Portraits of Childfree Wealth” available for ordering now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and everywhere books are sold. 

28, Female, Single, Texas
Some College in Civil Engineering
Contract Administrator

Jacy is 28, single, and she grew up in a small town in the panhandle of Texas “where we have more cows than people.” She is fortunate to work for the state government, which offers excellent job security and a pension (which is very rare now). Fortunately, her job allows her to work from anywhere, and Jacy recently moved to support her aging grandparents. Of course, it isn’t ideal, but Jacy was willing to move and compromise to meet her family obligations.

Jacy has a wide variety of reasons for choosing to be Childfree. These include family, finances, and medical issues:

“With the background of my parents, I had kind of a rough upbringing. My parents did split up eventually, which was a good thing for everybody involved, but my mom suffers from mental illness pretty badly. So, I know that can run in the family. I have paid a lot of money for therapy for that reason. So, the biggest reason for me to be Childfree is to stop generational curses, for lack of a better word. I don’t want to screw kids up. Kids are a lifetime responsibility, and frankly, I don’t want that kind of responsibility. I don’t even own pets because I prefer to have the freedom to do what I want when I want and not have to worry about anybody but myself.

I always tell my parents, like I didn’t ask to be here. Y’all brought me here, and I wouldn’t want a child to feel that way. I also see the financial hardships of having a child. I had stepkids at one point in my life, and that drove home the expense side of things. They’re expensive. Daycare is expensive. School is expensive, and I work for the state. I’m not super wealthy or anything, and I don’t want to struggle. I know I can financially support myself. I’m comfortable with the money I’m making now and where I’m at. I would like to continue that. I love to travel, and kids make that hard. And lastly, I do have health issues that could be passed on to a child, as I have autoimmune issues and things like that. With my autoimmune stuff, they don’t know where it comes from. They think it might be genetic, but they’re not for sure. So far, I’m the only one in my family who has it, but it is possible to pass that along to a child. I couldn’t bear to do it because I know what I live with every day. And I wouldn’t want to put that on another person.”

Jacy mentioned that she had stepkids for a while. For this book, I have defined Childfree as “not having kids, and not planning on having kids.” I asked Jacy if kids were an option in the future:

“I’m open to the possibility of it. Well, I guess it would kind of have to start out with deceit [as her current relationship did], and I didn’t know about them. If I fell in love with the person and found out they had kids, I might think about it. I am dating someone now, and he does have a child, but that has posed problems already. I don’t know if that’s going to end up as a long‑term relationship or not. And if, if it doesn’t, I don’t think I would be open to dating someone with kids again.”

As someone who is Childfree and has been married for 12 years, I can’t get my head around Childfree dating. It is a challenge that I’m very happy I don’t have to face. Jacy’s dating situation intrigued me, to say the least. She has grown stronger in her stance to be Childfree over the years, yet she was dating someone with a kid. I asked her if the fact that he has a child is a dealbreaker for her:

“The way their custody and everything is set up, he doesn’t have his son all the time. So, when I see him, his son is not always there. I suppose if it were to move in together and get married and things like that, it might be different. So that’s definitely a conversation we’ve got to have.”

I’ve come to accept the concept of “compatible baggage” in a relationship. The bottom line is that we all have baggage that we bring into a relationship. The key to a healthy relationship is accepting someone else’s baggage and not trying to change them. We each have different things that we are willing to compromise on and accept. Is Jacy willing to compromise, and is having a kid “compatible baggage”?:

“At this point, no. I know that sounds hypocritical because the man I am seeing does have a child, but I became set in my decision after we started dating. We were kind of already deep in the trenches of a relationship. So, it’s difficult for me because I have strong feelings for him, and I love him. Don’t get me wrong; I love kids. It’s not that I’m a child-hater, and I love his son as well. It’s just very hard to envision a lifetime with the child. So, I guess this is kind of I’m jump‑starting questions I need to ask and conversations I need to have with myself and him.”

Jacy continued:

“I struggle with conflict. I’m not a big fan of it. I struggle with even facing it. So I guess I will kind of hem and haw around things until I get to the point where I can’t. And yeah, that is an issue looking forward here. But if I step back and say, I’m single and I’m looking for a partner, then, no, children are not compatible baggage.”

I feel for Jacy. She’s solidified her Childfree choice over the past year and a half. Part of the reason her choice solidified was dating someone with Children in combination with her medical issues:

“That [dating someone with kids] in part, and then also health issues this year have been really hard for me. So, I’m trying to get a grasp on a lifestyle that, like, a diet and exercise lifestyle that benefits my autoimmune issues. And then thinking about if I were to get pregnant with a child, that would increase the side effects of my autoimmune issues, which would put me in so much more pain for nine months, and then that spiraled into thinking about actual childbirth. I don’t want to go through that. It just sounds horrible and miserable. So, I guess all of that kind of stacked up together to solidify my decision to be Childfree.”

Jacy sees being single and Childfree as “a nightmare truly.” But, even with that “nightmare,” the benefits of being Childfree outweigh the challenges. She sees the biggest benefit as freedom:

“For me, it’s freedom. I mean, if I want to wake up at noon, I can wake up at noon. If I want to stay out until three o’clock in the morning, I can, and if I want not to cook a meal, if I want to eat chips or, you know, junk food, I don’t have to worry about feeding a child or ensuring that they’re getting to school or daycare or whatever obligations. So it is the freedom to be able to do what I want to when I want to, and not have to have someone depending on me, or have someone to worry about.”

I asked Jacy about her goals and dreams. Her job now pays well, is stable, and has a pension. That is hard to pass up in this job market. But, if she had her choice, she would go in a different direction:

“It would be completely different from the career path I chose. I love the beauty industry. I would love to own a salon, and that’s not a super lucrative business. I understand that. But if I were thinking about doing what I want to do, what I love to do, that’s what I would do. If I were going to do something that would grant me the life I would like to live, I would probably work in engineering. I am going to school for engineering to obtain a civil engineering degree. In that career path, I would open an engineering firm to do the work with partners that I deal with every day. I see what these people are being paid every day. And I know that that career path would allow me to live the life that I would like to live.”

Jacy explained that she had to sacrifice her dreams and put herself second to help her family:

“I’m the oldest of my family, and two years ago, I moved back up here in the panhandle and have sacrificed a lot of my time for my grandparents. And that’s another reason to be childfree is not to have to put that obligation on someone. Not that I feel like we are obligated to take care of our parents because, as I said, I didn’t choose to be here. They chose to have me, but that has put into perspective that it’s a big burden to put on somebody else. And I don’t live with them or anything like that. They live one block over from me. So, it’s kind of like for every little thing, my phone is ringing. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be here for them. I know they won’t be here forever, but at the same time, I’ve also lost a few years of my life. I’ve given my younger years to caring for them in a manner which they can’t care for themselves. And it also, like, takes a physical toll on my body because they still live in a house. So many things that my granddad used to be able to do, he can’t. So, all of the yard work and the house maintenance and things of that nature have fallen to me because the rest of my family wouldn’t step in. They wouldn’t help.”

What Jacy is experiencing is somewhat the norm. It is normal enough that I classify it as part of the Childfree Financial BINGO. It goes like this: “You don’t have kids so you can take care of…” It is sometimes money, sometimes time. I asked Jacy if it was expected of her:

“Was I expected to do it? No, I offered. I was driving up here on the weekends to help them with big projects. I came up and stayed the weekend and noticed that they were struggling more than they let on. So, at that point, I started coming up almost every weekend. And so, it just made sense for me to move back here. I think I was looking for a change from where I was living at the time, and I had the freedom to work anywhere in the state. So, I offered to move back to be there for them… I love them so much. Don’t get me wrong. And I’m grateful that I can be here for them, but at the same time, I miss my total and complete freedom. I could tell them no. Or I could say I’m busy, but who else do they have?”

It is not costing Jacy a lot of money, but her time and freedom are tied up in helping her grandparents. It is just another compromise she has had to make. I asked her what she would change if she could:

“I would like to have an impact eventually. I don’t exactly know what that is right now, but I feel like I’m called to do more than just what I’m doing right now. So, I definitely could change that. I could reach out to organizations, volunteer my time, volunteer my skills, you know, and help people in need. Because I feel like we have so many in this world who need so much, and I may not be able to help financially, but I know that I could help in other ways.”

I would argue that Jacy is already impacting her grandparents and her family. It may not feel the same as another impact, but it is essential. Jacy has had to make some compromises to help them, but it is worth it.

Being Childfree allows us to choose what we want to do with our life. We may not be living our ideal life now, but we have the freedom and flexibility to change. We have to choose what we are willing to compromise and why. Jacy is doing a stable job and providing for her future, which compromises her dreams. Jacy moved and is taking care of her grandparents, but the compromise (in location mostly) is worth it.

What about compromising and accepting compatible baggage in a relationship?

After the interview, Jacy reached out to me to share that she did some soul-searching and decided it is not worth compromising her choice to be Childfree for a relationship. She’s back on the dating market, but now at least, she knows what she is looking for, even if it is challenging.