I’ve been known to change my mind. In fact, I’ve been known to swear blind that I will never ever ever do something, only to find I become the poster-girl for it years later. Like the time I made a bet with my friend that I’d never stop watching VHS just because fancy new DVDs were available; or the time I made fun of one of my friends for using Facebook, questioning the need for it when we had texting and email; and the time I told anyone who would listen that I would never in a million years live in London. Safe to say, I changed my mind on all those things.
So when I say I don’t want children, I can understand why people’s first response is to tell me I’ll change my mind. And they may well be right, I might. But I might not. And whilst I like to think that society has come a long way, there’s still the assumption that if you’re a woman who doesn’t want children then there must be something wrong with you. You’re selfish, you’re a career woman, you hate children and have a heart of stone.
After years of having and hearing the same questions and answers, I feel like the time has come to put my thoughts on paper and publicly have “the children chat”. So come on, let’s address some of these points.
Firstly, yes, I’ll still be your friend
One of the worst things you can do to one of your best friends is suggest that she’ll stop being your friend when you have a baby. It’s heartbreaking. The ladies in my life are independent, hilarious, intelligent, strong women that I absolutely adore, and the thought of them giving birth to a tiny human is nothing short of incredible. I worry for them, I’m excited for them. Just because I’m glad it’s not me doesn’t mean I wish it wasn’t them. I can’t wait to meet the mini-mes in my friendship groups, so the very suggestion that I won’t want to be their friend anymore is not only completely silly – it’s completely sad.
No, it’s not because I’m a “career woman”
Firstly, the term “career woman” is ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with finding something you’re passionate about and being lucky enough to get a job that allows you to immerse yourself in said passion for 40 hours a week. It’s okay to love your job, in fact, it’s preferable, so if you love your job and you’re doing well, then good for you. You’re winning.
But whether or not I love my job has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I want children. At best, it’s convenient. I don’t love work so much that I can’t possibly let a child ruin it, and I certainly didn’t weigh up my options and choose work over parenthood. One is not dependent on the other and don’t get me started on the term “career woman” in the first place.
Nor is it because I want to travel
I have never really understood this response. I mean, yeah, I guess I might have more holidays than you’re average family with 2 children, but at no point in this decision making process have I ever thought, “Well, I’d like kids but I think I’d rather spend my money on holidays.” It may happen to be a nice by-product of the choice, but it’s certainly not the reason for it.
That said, if it was the reason (or one of the reasons), would that make me selfish?
The most common response to saying you don’t want children is the inference – or direct accusation – that you’re making a selfish decision. I have never understood why choosing not to have children is selfish, but choosing to become a parent isn’t. I’m pretty sure that no-one chooses to have kids to save the planet, or pass on their incredible genes, or please their parents. You have kids because you want to, it’s not a selfless decision for the sake of the greater good. So sure, maybe my decision is selfish… but so is yours. And that’s okay. We’re allowed to be selfish. We’re allowed to make choices that we think will make us happy, that will give us the life we’ve dreamed of, and if that dream is to raise children then that’s great, but let’s not pretend it’s a selfless act.
For some, it’s not small talk
I don’t think there’s anything I won’t talk about. I’m naturally an over-sharer. Talking helps me process my thoughts and it allows me to question myself through conversation with others, so if you want to talk to me about this then please go right ahead. Grab a brew, pick up the phone and ask all the questions you want.
But not everyone is like me. Some people don’t feel the need to discuss their life choices, or justify them to their friends and family. Some people don’t want to talk about it, some people can’t bring themselves to talk about it. For some, the child-free life is not the one they dreamed of, and the constant questioning and talk of ‘biological clocks’ is devastating.
I find it odd when people say, “But what if you regret it?” Can you imagine if I said that to someone when they told me they were pregnant? It would be outrageous.
Sure, I might regret it. I might decide at 38 that I want nothing more – that’s the age my psychic told me I’d have a child so I haven’t completely ruled it out because, y’know, she’s psychic. But I firmly believe that whatever I feel later in life, I will be happy in the knowledge that my partner and I made a decision that worked for us, that felt right for us at the time, that fit with our life plans, our ideals and our dreams. And surely that’s all any of us can do.
I don’t hate children
Ah, my favourite. At no point have I ever said I hate children. In general, I love children. Children are hilarious and cute and wander around this world with an innocence and amazement that I adore.
They’re also really really loud and exhausting and demanding and I just don’t think I could cope with that in my life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I like the thought of adult-only aeroplanes, I like child-free restaurants and it frustrates me that my local pub has more children than adults in it on a Sunday lunch time. I feel like I’ve walked in to a creche that serves booze which, frankly, is a weird concept. But that doesn’t mean I think all children should be exterminated. In fact, in most cases I want to squidge them and hold them and have hilarious conversations with them, and then just when we’re completely exhausted… I want to give them back.
No, I don’t think it’s weird
Someone told me the only people they know without kids are weird. Well I can wholeheartedly say that all the people I know without kids are absolutely not weird. The people I know are loving and caring and thoughtful, and many of them have children in their life that they adore so just because they’re not biological mothers doesn’t mean they’re not motherly. If or when you suggest to those people that they’re “missing the point of life” (which, amazingly, is another comment I’ve received) then I think they’d be pretty upset.
For me personally, the point of life is to be happy, to have a circle of friends and family who I love and trust, who make me laugh and make me feel safe. I want to be that friend for those around me, to help them when I can and to ease any pain they may experience. As to where children fit in to that, for me, they just don’t. But that doesn’t mean my life has no meaning.
I don’t know why
To say my attitude towards having children is “indifferent” seems harsh. It makes it sound like it’s a throwaway decision I’ve made without giving it a lot of thought, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that having kids is kind of a big deal, so if I’m going to squeeze someone out of my vagina and change my entire life forever I figure I should probably want to. I should feel excited, desperate, and physically and emotionally pulled towards motherhood. One of my friends recently described her broodiness as feeling like her womb ached. My womb doesn’t ache, my heart doesn’t ache, I just don’t feel it.
I think my health is part of my consideration; there are days when I can barely look after myself, never mind a little person. However, if I wanted children then I wouldn’t let my health stop me. I’d cope with it in the same way I cope with everything else and there are thousands of incredible people handling their own health conditions at the same time as raising children and doing it brilliantly.
Early in to my relationship with my partner, we discussed children and were relieved to find we both felt the same way. Every few months we check in with each other to see if anything’s changed and, eight years later, it hasn’t. We still feel the same way; we just don’t fancy it.
Still, who knows, things may change. A friend of mine once said “we reserve the right to change our minds” and like I said, it’s happened before.