Now Or Never·First Person

I created a gift registry to celebrate my future as a child-free woman

Jackie Dives is proud of her decision to not have children. So she decided to celebrate her life choice by creating a gift registry for herself.

Why are only some life choices such as marriage celebrated?

Vancouver photographer Jackie Dives has chosen to live a child-free life. (Shari + Mike)

This is a First Person column by artist and photographer Jackie Dives who has chosen to not have children. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

When people get married or have a baby, they can set up a gift registry for themselves.

It's a way for people to help them celebrate and to help them move into the next phase of their life. But what if marriage and kids aren't something you want for yourself?

I know I don't want to have children. As I enter my late 30s, I've become more confident sharing my goals and desires, which don't align with what women have traditionally done in the past. But I'm starting to think about why only some lifestyles are celebrated. Similar to those who choose marriage or pregnancy, I want to shout from the rooftops about my choices because I'm proud and excited about them. So, to celebrate the road less travelled, I set up a gift registry for myself. 

'Are you sure?'

When my partner of five years left so that he could have children — something I've always known I don't want — it really did feel like I was choosing myself. 

But that decision wasn't celebrated. People asked, "are you sure?" 

Some women told me how brave they thought I was, and even said they weren't sure they would have been able to walk away from the relationship out of fear of the unknown of being child free. 

Jackie Dives photographs herself with her cat. (Jackie Dives)

Of course, many women have not had children in the past, but this decision has rarely been seen as something to celebrate loudly or to praise and encourage. It has been thought of as something that couldn't possibly have been chosen, but must have been the result of unfortunate circumstances. 

When my partner and I separated over our differences about having kids, I was left with no idea of what my future could look like. This has been a weird and challenging phase of life — a struggle to figure out how to move forward. 

I knew I didn't want a life of parenting, but there is little representation in media of women who don't want to have kids. 

I grew up in an unstable household full of emotional and physical violence and I think that has made me less confident choosing the road less travelled.

Making art to help me move forward

Making art about my experience is how I make sense of the world. 

This child-free gift registry is going to be part of a larger body of work that I am creating to help me move forward — to celebrate who I am, where I am going, and the choices I've made.

The registry contains items I can use while travelling alone, books by women who have chosen to not have children, art supplies, and a few household items like an air fryer and milk frother. 

Some of the items on Jackie Dives' gift registry. (Jackie Dives)

I'm photographing the registry items along with the personalized notes that people have sent me.

I have been astounded by the response so far. I have received gifts and notes from some of the closest people in my life and also from complete strangers. The gifts are fun and amazing, of course, but the notes that come with them are the real gifts. 

From one childfree lady to another, one photographer to another, one childhood trauma survivor to another; enjoy your childfree life and the adventures you take and the art you make. Can't wait to see the results! From Dee

I'm encouraged that I'm not the only one who thinks it's important to loudly and publicly celebrate women for more than getting married and having babies.

Jackie Dives is an artist in Vancouver who created a "road less traveled" gift registry as part of an ongoing art project. Do you have a compelling personal story that can bring understanding or help others? We want to hear from you. Here's more info on how to pitch to us.