It’s time to stop judging non-mothers

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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.

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No regrets

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.

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25 thoughts on “It’s time to stop judging non-mothers

  1. Yay! Beautifully written and well-judged post, I love it. I do have kids and still find it the most outrageously insensitive thing ever if I hear someone being asked, “why don’t you want / didn’t you want to have children.” Imagine the response if someone asked me the reverse; why I *did* want kids?!

    1. Totally agree. Also, they might be trying to have kids and not being successful. It’s such a rude question ask unless you are genuinely friends with someone. For some reason, questions like ‘do you want kids’ seem to have become small talk! Also, I havent had this, but know someone who has “was he planned?”!?!? People are pretty insensitive.

      I think this is a wonderful post. Not everyone wants kids, and there are a million reasons why. It’s sad that there are people who might not want them and feel pressured into having them. They’re pretty all consuming once they arrive!

  2. I had decided not to have kids partially because of my health problems and partially because of wanting more freedom, particularly to travel (hehe), but I ended up changing my mind and now I have a 4 month old. Once a human exists, you love them and anyway it would be untoward to say you wish you didn’t have your kid, but she’s exhausting and does limit me in the sense that I only have so much energy and when I’m spending most of it on her, I don’t have time for other things. It’s totally valid not to want to make that trade off. I often “joke” that I lover her during the day, but at night I wonder why having a kid was such a great idea.

    1. Ha! I don’t think you’re the only one to make that joke! 🙂 It’s exhausting but I know everyone who does it wouldn’t swap it for the world. And by the way, I can barely look after myself some days so *amazing* work on looking after a 4 month old. It’s beyond impressive! I guess I would just like to see the judgement fade for those of us who choose not to have kids. We’ll get there…. x

    1. Oh thank you lovely! And yep, I think mine was about 2 years in the making as well. I think I just hit breaking point recently after a couple of disappointing conversations with close friends – not that I got mad but just thought, “how am I *still* having to justify this choice?!” I look forward to reading yours soon. 🙂

  3. I totally get it…and I have four I adore. They are smart, beautiful, and wonderful….and caring for them for the last thirty years has nearly killed me…literally. It’s the hardest work in the world, no matter how much you love them, and it stresses you beyond anything you could ever imagine. I would never encourage anyone to do it…not even my own kids…unless they feel called to do it. It’s THAT overwhelming sometimes. I feel tired, and as if my youth passed by osmosis out of me and into them. I look at them with such pride and gratitude, but in all honesty feel that I could have been equally happy child free. And that doesn’t mean for a second I could imagine my life without them. It just means I could’ve and would’ve been happy either way. It is far too important a decision to make if you are not absolutely certain its what you want.

    1. I absolutely love this kind of honesty Lisa, and I think the world needs more of it. And I think it’s so important that people recognise that admitting it’s exhausting and overwhelming doesn’t mean you don’t like your kids! Parenting is a hard hard job and I’m sure those four are very very happy to have you as a mum. Thanks for commenting. x

  4. This is beautifully written. I am like you, I have no plans or desire to have children but I haven’t totally ruled it out because you never know. However, there are folk who outright say they don’t want them and I don’t find that weird at all and don’t question it.

    Society’s attitude towards having children is a weird one. To me, it is a very personal decision and I couldn’t ever imagine prying or commenting the way some people do. People can be really rude. What gets me most is that I’ve known someone who had to put up with all these comments, yet she said she didn’t want kids yet because she was hiding her difficulty starting a family. It was so hurtful to her. It can definitely be a sensitive subject and people would do well to mind their own business

    1. Oh crikey, that’s so awful. And you’re absolutely right, it’s a societal issue that needs to change. I almost feel there’s an attitude of, “Course you can work, sure you can have the vote, but wait… you’re still going to raise the kids, right?” Thank you for sharing, really appreciate it!

  5. I love this post so much. I’ve never felt that urge, and at 31, I still don’t have that urge. My best friend was exactly the same up until a couple of years ago when she suddenly started getting the “womb ache” and now even she keeps questioning me! There’s just no explaining it to most people (though over-population is a good reason to give if you want to start a REALLY heated debate).

    Don’t get me wrong, if I found out I was pregnant I’d be over the moon, but if it never happens, my life is full of other joys that keep me very satisfied. My current family and family of friends is more than enough for me.

    1. Overpopulation has been my go-to in more than a couple of debates. I recently started reading “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids” in the hope it would give me some more new arguments to add to my list! 😉

  6. Great post. I was indifferent and changed my mind so I can see plenty of reasons why people might choose not to have children (and plenty of reasons why they might); either way, I don’t think it’s any of my business.

    As for the “selfish” accusation, about the worst thing you can do for this planet is bring another person onto it but many of us (myself included) are more concerned with our own desire to be parents than our impact on the Earth. Most decisions are selfish at their very root; I don’t get why selfishly choosing not to have children is worse than selfishly choosing to do so.

  7. At 53 and childfree (also had a hysterectomy at 40, so all the menstruation horror out of the way) I have never regretted it, ever!
    Even though most of my childed friends are now becoming grandparents, and seem to enjoy it more than being a direct parent, it still has no resonance with me.
    I am and always have been totally happy with my choice to stay childfree. I’ve made financial and legal provision for my old age, healthcare and demise, so I can carry on enjoying my life for as long as it lasts with no regrets.
    Just because I have a mouth, it doesn’t make me an opera singer. Just because I had a womb, it didn’t make me an incubator. MY life, MY choice. End of!

  8. I’m 64, and though I lost my husband some years ago, I AM the little old lady tucked up in blankets in the evening, content. Have NO regrets about choosing to be childfree. Great article. Just wanted to let others know my thoughts since I am one of those “elders” who was once told I’d regret not having kids. Nope, still don’t. Plus, I have the advantage of being financially secure and in a position to hire any help I need as I age.

  9. That last line, though. That’s what childfree people are told so often, and you are posting a direct affirmation of that particular rude comment.

    1. That’s a really interesting point, and I see where you’re coming from. What I mean by that last line is that every single decision is unique, we don’t all fit in to one category. Maybe you *know* you don’t want children, I don’t know that. And therefore, I am recognising that I may change my mind. It doesn’t mean I think you might change your mind, and it certainly doesn’t mean that other people should get to tell me I might. I don’t see my post as an affirmation of anything, it’s just me voicing my thoughts on my choice, and in my case I’m conscious that I might change my mind.

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