I don’t want children.
I think I was about seventeen the first time I uttered that sentence out loud. My partner at the time and I had discussed how many children we’d have someday, and what their names would be. Because that’s what you did when you were in a loving relationship, wasn’t it? Get married, buy a house, get a dog, then have children.
But at some point I realised that parenthood didn’t fit with the vision I had for myself of my future. I wanted to write books, I wanted to travel the world, I wanted to adopt animals and make a home with my partner. But could I see myself as a mother? Every time I thought about it, it just didn’t fit.
“I don’t think I want children,” I said to my partner. He shrugged – he hadn’t really cared one way or the other and had mostly assumed we’d have kids some day because he assumed I’d want them.
Think of the (hypothetical) children!
I think the next time I said it was when I was starting to tell people I was in a polyamorous relationship with my now-ex and his wife.
“How is that going to affect your children someday?” people asked me with a sniff of disapproval.
“I don’t want children, so it’s irrelevant,” I replied.
This statement was really far too much for a lot of people to cope with. I was told I’d change my mind, that I was too young to know, that it wasn’t fair to these completely hypothetical unborn not-even-conceived children for me to choose not to have them. That I should give up the life that made me happy to have kids I didn’t want. I was even told it was unfair to the hypothetical future husband people assumed I’d end up with one day.
Being upfront about it
I’ve always been very upfront about my complete lack of maternal instincts to partners when we start getting serious. I don’t want to spend years with someone only to find that our life goals are incompatible!
I’ve also always been very clear with anyone I have sex with, when the topic of birth control comes up, that an unintended pregnancy will end in a hasty abortion (and that this is not up for debate.)
“But how do you know? Won’t you regret it?”
How do I know this is what I want? I know because every time I allow myself to imagine being a parent, I am filled with an immediate and visceral feeling of “NOPE.”
Can I absolutely guarantee I won’t regret it someday? Of course not. But I think it’s tremendously unlikely, given how much I generally love my life as it is. Despite being constantly told that I’ll end up alone, I don’t see how that is possible when I have loving partners, a supportive family, and amazing friends. And honestly, is some vague fear of being alone in the future a good reason to bring a new life into this world? I don’t think it is.
If I pushed myself to become a parent out of some misguided sense of duty or caving to pressure, I think I’d regret that.
Late last year, my nesting partner Mr CK had a vasectomy. My risk of unintended pregnancy was pretty low already (all bow before the mighty Mirena!) but that decision just removed any doubt or possibility of birth-control failure. When it was done, all I felt was this overwhelming, searing relief. No lingering “what ifs?” or sadness for what might have been. Just, thank goddess, that’s one less thing to worry about.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I just think there’s something deeply wrong with women who don’t want children.” I can’t remember the precise context in which I heard this statement, now, but I still remember the sentiment. And it’s everywhere.
Maybe it’s not usually so explicit. But the implied-or-directly-asked question again and again and fucking again is always some variation on, “what’s wrong with you?”
Nothing is wrong with me. I’m not broken. This decision isn’t the result of some unresolved trauma. I’m not missing a piece of my heart. I’m not selfish, I’m not filled with hatred for parents or children, and I’m not incapable of love. I just… don’t want to be a mother.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, or with me.
I’m moderating comments on this one, hateful ones won’t get through. Anything you can say – that I’m a failure as a woman, that I’ll regret it, that I’ll die homeless and alone with seventeen cats – I’ve heard before and I’m done arguing with. Be nice!