First of all, let me say for the record, Mom, that this post is not my assertion that I am never having kids. However, I’ve been married five years now and am fast approaching thirty (my membership on this blog is hanging by a thread) so I know a few things about being a TINK.
For the uninitiated, Two Incomes; No Kids.
It’s honestly a pretty sweet gig, regardless of how long it lasts. Playing video games late into the night with consequences only to your own circadian rhythms. Grocery shopping that’s almost leisurely and does not involve bitter fights over what snacks are and are not priceworthy. Freedom to travel without spending a fortune. Freedom to save your money without having to guess what college is going to cost in the next decade. Using your sick days at work when you’re sick, and sometimes when you’re not, because there are plenty to go around and you’re not responsible for the feverishly uncomfortable child who’s not allowed to go to daycare for 24-hours.
There are downsides, of course, as there are with all things in this complicated world. As much as you don’t want to admit it, there might be times when you honestly wonder what your life is worth if you don’t have someone to pass it on to. Those aren’t popular feelings to have—we’re strong, independent Millennials who don’t need no kids—but especially when your vocation involves a lot of interaction with the next generation, it can feel pretty silly to be excited for a Netflix show you’re going to watch by yourself while eating breakfast on the couch on a lazy Saturday morning that doesn’t include soccer practice or cartoons. “No kids” increasingly feels like “no relevance,” especially now that Gen Z has taken our place in the headlines and picket lines.
The outside world loves to play with these two-faces of TINK. Restaurants, airlines, and health insurance companies will constantly remind you how blessed you are to only have yourself to worry about. But you will get a lot of the awkward “So… kids?” questions at family events. If your family’s like mine, most of those inquiries will be about as intrusive as the “And how’s work going?” question that comes right after. And when you leave the chaos stirred up by your nieces and nephews and go to sleep in your own bed without a thought that you’ll get anything but a full night’s sleep, you’ll remember that your family isn’t being accusatory so much as curious about your life.
Television shows will magnify this uncomfortable exchange to heighten the drama, and you will periodically commiserate with your other TINK friends, which will, briefly, make your issues feel bigger than they actually are. In those moments, and in the moments when your insecurities and ticking biological clock drag you down even deeper into yourself, you will probably get defensive at the next “Don’t you want kids?” or “Have you considered staying home with your children?” or “How are the schools near this new house?” You will forget that what you’ve got is wonderful, and that this is just another opportunity to express your gratitude for the life you have, while also being lovingly curious about others’.
In your insecure moment, you’ll probably say something that should be directed at the marketing departments of Hallmark and Gap, who spend a lot of money starving your confidence. But they’re not there in the moment. So you’ll say it to someone whose own confidence is currently being sapped by Nestlé and Proctor & Gamble, and the weird war that these companies enlist us to fight will break out right there in a living room that is strewn with adorable kids’ toys you wished you had a reason to own, and tedious kids’ movies you are happy not to have to watch several times in one afternoon.
In that living room that’s not as clean as your own, but also not as beige, you will feel like you’re creating a stockpile for future TINK vent sessions, and the outside world will have given you the two faces it made and maintains for itself. You’ll feel righteous indignation when people consider you to be less valuable because you haven’t gone forth to multiply, and you’ll feel smug pleasure as you belligerently don’t baby-proof your kitchen. You’ll feel attacked when someone suggests that what you have now might not satisfy you for eternity, even though you’ve always known that to be generally true for everyone. You might put a “My Kids have Paws” bumper sticker on your car so people will just stop asking, and you will probably almost immediately regret it, but stubbornly leave it there anyway.
Being TINKs, like being a parent, is a pretty great life. It comes with ups and downs, and it doesn’t look like paradise from every perspective. It can feel lonely, silly, boring, or selfish. And, indeed, it can even be all those things. Not everyone wants to be TINKs, and they have very good reasons for that. Don’t second-guess yourself, and don’t second-guess anyone else. Evaluate, reevaluate, and do what is best in your situation for your life and your relationships, and shore up that confidence that Corporate America would rather you didn’t have, so that when someone you love asks you an innocuous question, like, “Do you think you’ll ever have kids?” you can tell them the truth, whatever that is, and not feel the need to brace yourself for some barrage of rudeness that might not even be coming.
Mary Margaret is a 2013 English, history, and secondary education grad who went rogue and became a Social Worker in Pennsylvania’s Child Welfare system. Specifically, she works as a caseworker in the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network finding families for children and educating the masses about foster care, adoption, and permanency planning. She made it over the grad-school hurdle with gold stars and warm fuzzies and is on to the next big adventure: the unknown of adulthood. Her major writing dream right now is to finish her science fiction novel that explores the concurrent futures of child welfare and artificial intelligence.