broadsideblog

No kids? You really don’t want kids?

In aging, behavior, children, culture, domestic life, family, life, love, women on October 4, 2012 at 12:19 am
scream and shout

scream and shout (Photo credit: mdanys)

Really.

If there’s a default expectation for women, it’s Becoming A Mom.

Surely every one of us wants kids. Don’t we?

No, some of us do not.

I don’t have kids and never wanted to. Neither do either of my younger half-brothers. So, sadly — as those of us without kids often enjoy time spent with them — there are no children anywhere in our extended family, no nieces or nephews, no grandkids.

There’s a reason some women don’t want kids, but one we rarely discuss publicly.

Like me, some childfree women were parentified at an early age, pressed into premature service as the adult, the responsible one, the person who reluctantly but efficiently dealt with doctors and teachers and bankers and realtors and lawyers far too young — often because their parent(s) was/were mentally ill, and/or alcoholic or drug users and they had no other family to turn to.

This tends to make for lousy parenting, as your caregivers are often physically or emotionally absent or careless. Worse, they’re often exhaustingly selfish, needy, demanding, immature and insatiable.

Just like a baby.

Except that babies gurgle and coo and smell delicious and are charming as well as exhausting. They grow up and their needs change.

These sorts of parents rarely do. We often spend our childhoods and teen years and early adult years — the ones falsely glorified as a time of totally selfish independence and freedom — dreading the latest email or phone call signaling the next crisis. We may spend savings we barely have to repeatedly rush out and rescue our parent(s), as their own friends and even relatives burn out, give up and turn away.

So, by the time society expects us to start cooing lovingly over our own kids — as well as everyone else’s — you’re simply worn out. The whole idea of starting another job being someone’s caregiver and protector feels, as it is, overwhelming.

Nor do these sorts of parents want to baby-sit for you. Nor might you even trust them to do so, so the sort of automatic family support and love many people assume is normal and take for granted — and which makes parenthood look a lot more affordable and appealing — is never going to happen for us.

We rarely say this publicly because:

It’s not cool. If your Mom gets cancer or your Dad has a stroke, sure. People will be kind because they can relate. There are no pink ribbons for those of us carrying the weight of an alkie or a parent who’s in and out of mental hospitals.

These burdens are ugly and painful, and often only end when that parent dies or ends up in others’ professional care.

Non-mothers are often dismissed as selfish, cold, unloving bitches. Nice!

Non-mothers are pitied, their infertility assumed. It’s almost never seen as a deliberate choice.

Non-mothers are considered people who want nothing to do with children. Wrong!  Kids are fine, and often fun. I just don’t want the lifelong responsibility for one, or several.

Here’s an excerpt from Jessica Valenti’s new book about women fed up after having had kids:

In 2008, Nebraska decriminalized child abandonment. The move was part of a “safe haven” law designed to address increased rates of infanticide in the state. Like other safe haven laws, parents in Nebraska who felt unprepared to care for their babies could drop them off at a designated location without fear of arrest and prosecution. But legislators made a major logistical error: They failed to implement an age limitation for dropped-off children.

Within just weeks of the law passing, parents started dropping off their kids. But here’s the rub: None of them were infants. A couple of months in, 36 children had been left in state hospitals and police stations. Twenty-two of the children were over 13 years old. A 51-year-old grandmother dropped off a 12-year-old boy. One father dropped off his entire family — nine children from ages one to 17. Others drove from neighboring states to drop off their children once they heard that they could abandon them without repercussion.

The Nebraska state government, realizing the tremendous mistake it had made, held a special session of the legislature to rewrite the law in order to add an age limitation. Governor Dave Heineman said the change would “put the focus back on the original intent of these laws, which is saving newborn babies and exempting a parent from prosecution for child abandonment. It should also prevent those outside the state from bringing their children to Nebraska in an attempt to secure services.”

One father dropped off his entire family.

On November 21, 2008, the last day that the safe haven law was in effect for children of all ages, a mother from Yolo County, California, drove over 1,200 miles to the Kimball County Hospital in Nebraska where she left her 14-year-old son.

What happened in Nebraska raises the question: If there were no consequences, how many of us would give up our kids?

How do you feel about having kids?

Do you feel pressured to become a parent?

  1. I’m a little bit left of “I don’t know”, with absolute left being “hell no!”. For me, trying to definitively answer that question is like trying to imagine half a person – impossible. Yes, the child would be half me but who is the other half? Until that person enters my life, the idea of having a child is too abstract to consider. A friend of mine once said go me, just wait until you meet The One then you will want, will be dying to, make a baby with him. And I’m thinking, yeah but I am more likely to want to keep him all to myself! I’m selfish like that. But then again, what act is more selfish than that of having kids? If it’s not selfishness, then it is born (haha) out of a desire to complete the picture of ones life somehow, whether it be through fulfilling expectations, trying out a new challenge, ensuring one’s immortality, etc. – all desires which I am 100% guilty of. So I guess I’m prime candidate for future parenthood someday. Lord help the child!

  2. I wouldn’t mind a kid…in several years and only if I can just have one. I grew up in a many kid family, and although my parents were great, they were often busy as clergy, and my sister was the most mature of us (wouldn’t surprise me if she doesn’t want kids; she spent a lot of time with my 2 younger sisters), so sometimes she acted like a parent. So I’d like to be the sort of parent who can deal with a single kid, and after I’ve been mentally prepared for it.
    Also, it’s your own choice whether you want kids or not. This isn’t a society where women are second-class citizens, thank God, so your choices should be respected. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

    • I agree with you until your last sentence. Women in the US are seeing tremendous and relentless political pressure to restrict access to birth control and abortion — which, de facto, may well force some women who become pregnant and do not wish to carry to term no choice.

  3. I think that people on both sides of the equation have been forced to feel defensive about their choices. I am a parent, but it was an open question for me. Being a parent and having a child is more difficult than not, so if you don’t want to do it, it’s good to know that up front. I promised myself that I would never have children until I had a partner, financial stability and emotional maturity. Even with those factors in line, it has been a challenge. We all have to learn to be okay with our choices so that what everyone else decides to do for themselves is just fine and no business of ours.

  4. Great post. We don’t have kids and don’t want them. No, we’re not selfish, neither one of us ever felt the need to have children. Sure, kids are great, but not that great. The pressures are enormous which is why we live so far away from my in-laws. I think there is waaay too much pressure in this society on women to have kids whether we like them or not. that way of thinking is so dangerous and unnecessary.

  5. I am getting pressure to have children now and it leads to a lot of snark on my part. I’ve never particularly wanted children, but J. does eventually and it was a non-negotiable, so I agreed and I’m on board. But not yet. Neither of us want a large family and we don’t want them in the near future. He’s agreed with me that if we can’t have children, we don’t want to spend thousands of dollars and years trying to conceive. I have friends starting to go through that now and I don’t want it. He’s open to adoption, which I’d like to do if we have the opportunity, and most importantly, if kids don’t happen we are determined not to let it weaken our marriage. Again, I’ve seen some friends start to go through this and I don’t want to replicate it.

    So, we’re on the same page. The trouble is (mostly my) family, friends, faith community, and even a few perfect strangers seem highly invested in my life choices. It leads to unfortunate social interchanges.

    • I figured this was happening for you, esp. now that J. is finished with grad school.

      The current issue of Vogue has a powerful story by a woman who tried to do a domestic adoption that went very wrong; she also did five (!) rounds of IVF, which are $10K a pop. Brooke Shields did six of them before having her first child….very few people have that sort of spare change.

      One advantage of re-marrying at 54 is that no one could pressure us to have kids. My own mother and father have known for a long time, including my first marriage at 35, it was not going to happen. My first husband now has two kids with his second wife, so his attitude changed.

  6. I am so glad you wrote about this topic! I am having difficulty explaining to everyone around me that I don’t want to have kids. My mum doesn’t want to even listen to me. My friends say that I will want to have kids once I get married or fall in love, which to me sounds stupid. I want to have a good career, to be able to spend what I earn, to travel, and collect art. What’s wrong with living life for yourself? I don’t want to save every pence so that a child, who, once I have fed and educated them, will leave me. Children are ungrateful – thats just human nature. You give them love they ask for money, you give them money they complain about the lack of attention.

    • I’m not sure all kids are that ungrateful…but I completely agree with your vision of how you want to live your life. I have tried to gin up a deep sense of loss and regret, but I enjoy my life. We have good retirement savings (not easy in my field these days), travel and do not worry constantly about the costs (as many of our friends do) of how to pay for their kids’ college and/or grad school educations.

      I’ve also seen several friends grapple with some seriously difficult challenges, like an autistic child, and the toll it has taken on them and their marriage.

  7. Over the years I had figured out that some friends intentionally without children had a childhood that involved them being drafted as “third parents,” in their families, even functional and loving, but perhaps large families. As for the parents described later in the article dropping off their in Nebraska….well, they are a whole different matter. Nuff said.

    • It’s not something you want to whine about publicly, but kids want to be kids! If a parent has so many kids they can’t care for them all, what’s that about?

  8. Oh, and those intentionally childless friends are not all women.

  9. i’d rather someone drop off their whole family than do what some people have done, which is murder-suicide. luckily, i’ll never understand that. new jersey has a similar law, but i think it’s strictly about newborns and has rounded up about 60 babies in the last 5 years, or about 1 per month.

    • From my research into gun violence, it’s sadly common that the man kills his wife and kids and then himself, or does a death-by-cop. I wonder if someone is studying this. I would think so.

      • it’s happened a lot during this economic episode. father’s who are accustomed to a certain lifestyle but then can’t handle their demise. they can’t deal with the self-imposed embarrassment. i’ll always stand by the quote that there is no problem that is so bad that being dead is better.

      • There’s a lot in this comment…The self-imposed embarrassment is also cultural. Men often think they are meant to be the providers and many women agree; if you have kids, they’re expensive!

        I discussed this at the book festival when someone asked me if I felt lost when I was let go from the Daily News, because I had lost my professional identity. As if. I have multiple identities. Men may have fewer, for a variety of reasons…sounds like fodder for a whole new blog post.

      • go for it, miss.

  10. At one point in my life I thought I wanted children. That changed after I got married and found myself parenting my husband… the longer we were married the more I determined that 1) I didn’t want to bring an innocent life into that cluster and 2) I did not want to pass on his genetics.

    I think that I would have made a great mom. I had many years of practice and kids love me… maybe it is the clear expectations and “no whining zone” that I employ.

    The pressure started immediately after the wedding day. I used to get so tired of responding to questions that were no ones business that I used to make up witty and often shocking responses to the question. That most definitely shut people up.

    • I’m guessing you are not married to him now…

      I think I would have made a great mom, too, and that saddens me. When I met Jose, in my early 40s when getting pregnant would have been difficult to impossible, I realized he would have made a great Dad, which was the first and only time I considered it. But my mother is still, as I write this, a burden. The loyalty one feels to one’s parent(s) and that to your husband and that to your child….and yourself? It feels unresolvable at times.

  11. True story: I never experienced any kind of real stability in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood — Never. My family had lost the “fun” in “dysfunctional” many moons ago and much of my efforts have been spent trying to find security, identity, and a place for myself. With this, I had consciously decided because I *do* love people and kids, my world was not a fit place to breed. No kids for me.

    So, at the age of 23, I go to the first doctor to ask to get my tubes tied. Response: “Sorry. You’ll change your mind.”

    Second doctor: “Come back in about 5 years and we’ll consider.”

    Third doctor: “No, because having kids is your JOB.” (Seriously!)

    I’m now 42. I haven’t changed my mind and I’m still confident that my choice is for the highest good, even though some people look upon me with pity when I answer the “Do you have kids” question with, “Yes. He’s a perfect little jendaya conure.”

    Although I wish I wrote this post, I don’t think I would’ve done the sentiment as much justice with as much clarity and eloquence as you have. Reminding the reader of the Nebraska travesty was a brilliant “clue by four.” (I often wonder what would’ve happened if the Safe Haven statute without age limitation was implemented in New York or Los Angeles…?)

    Thank you so, so much! Great blog! Fabulous post! Thank you!

    • I had to Google that one….and know you have a bird. :-)

      I worked long and hard on this post as there’s a lot to say and a lot more I chose not to include.

      The “pity” makes me want to throw a chair, as though women have no true idea what we want and the only way for us to be happy is to be someone’s mother. All I have to do to be happy is go to Paris.

  12. I’m just 21 and I know I want kids someday. Not for a good 15 years or so, but I babysit and spend a lot of time with kids (I’m also the oldest) and I know I really want to be a mom. I have several friends at college who have said they can’t wait to see me as a mom – I just give off that vibe. And I don’t think it hurts that my mom and I are so close, I want to give some kids the same thing that she gave me. I guess the thing that makes me different from a lot of my friends is that I don’t know about doing it with a partner. Sure, I hope I find the right guy and get married someday, but I know that if I am single, really want a baby, and feel ready for it I’ll go for it. And, while I really would love to experience pregnancy someday, I’m totally down for adoption.

    But I do think it’s important that women be able to decide for themselves and I know a lot of women who are deciding not to. And I know that I want a good portion of my youth to be free, unconnected, globe-trotting. Great post!

    • I love your enthusiasm…and I know without a doubt that had I enjoyed a different experience of being mothered, I’d probably have chosen to have kids.

      Word of very serious caution about your 15-year plan. If you hope to give birth at 36, start at 33 or 34. If you hope to give birth at 38, you are already messing with severely reduced fertility. I once attended a conference on infertility treatment and it was incredibly stark to read the slides and listen to the doctors…No matter what all the women’s magazines say or how many celeb’s have babies in their 40s, biology is much less forgiving than pop culture suggests.

  13. A terrifying insight into our need to please everyone, to be everything, then crashing with a jerk and jolt into reality. Thank you for writing this.

    • The basic fact of being someone’s mother is that you will be doing it alone (even with your husband or partner) for a very, very long time with almost no help from anyone, let alone the government or your employer. We need to be a lot more honest about what the costs are, and they are not simply economic.

  14. Yes, I feel pressured to have children. People associate having a child with maturity around me. If you don’t have kids, it means you’re immature. I don’t agree with that.

  15. I want to have kids (my husband and I will probably start trying in a couple of years) BUT here’s the rub: I HATE babies. I have never, ever in my life seen or held a baby and thought “I want this.” In fact, it’s always been the exact opposite: I think “Who would ever want this!?” However, I’ve spent tons of time with toddlers and young kids and have always loved it.

    Also, I am incredibly vain. I worked for years to get over my body hang-ups and now I’m terrified that getting pregnant will just destroy all of that. And then I feel tremendous guilt about even feeling that way.

    My husband is definitely the more “parental-minded” out of the two of us. He will be the one taking leave/staying home to look after our kids (2 max BTW) and if people judge us/our choices, well, haters gonna hate. I’ll just keep loving my crappy babies and awesome, awesome children whether they agree or not.

    • I hear you. While some women LOVE being pregnant and breast-feeding, the whole idea felt really invasive to me. I really enjoy older kids (maybe 3 up, verbal, toilet-trained) but am super-sensitive to anyone screaming and crying, which babies and infants seem to do quite often. So I can see your points. The notion of allowing someone to completely dominate your work/life 24/7, which early parenthood, certainly for the nanny-free requires, just looked totally mad to me. Some people thrive on being that needed, I guess.

      Good luck with it!

  16. I never gave a lot of thought to having children. My own childhood was such a horror show that I thought I might not be capable of maternal love. Having a mother like mine who totally wrote me off at 14 left me feeling as if I might turn out to be crazy and unloving like her. When I got pregnant at 26, three months after being married while trying to finish my degree, I was freaked!

    I worried right up to the time my daughter was born and in the end, I had nothing to fear. I’ve loved everyday of being her mom and I’m grateful I had a chance to love my girl as I would have liked to have been loved. She has been an unexpected gift and the best part of my life.

    All that said, parenting is not for everyone and I don’t think my way is the only way. As the oldest of four girls with a 2, 10, and 13.5 year age difference between us, I know what it’s like to have adult responsibilities before you are ready although my dad and stepmom were good not to expect me to do much in the way of childcare with my youngest sister.

    I have had some of the same adult too early issues that you had so I understand that too.

    Good post! I appreciate both sides.

    • I might well have been a loving mom, but journalism also consumed me, then a crappy marriage and by the time I met Jose I was in my early 40s — with the same absent parents and the same journalism career. It did not look like an enjoyable choice.

      Given how rough your own childhood was, what a great pleasure and vindication to be such a happy mom!

  17. I adore my children, I wanted them, no one pressured me into having them. I love being a mom, the relationship I’ve built with each of them. That said, it’s hard work, for a loooooong time. My youngest has issues that = her ever growing up/leaving home questionable, at best. I don’t think anyone should allow themselves to be pressured into having children by anyone else, and yes, judgement seems to know no bounds, no matter your choices. Childless? Selfish. One child? Isn’t he/she lonely? What if something happens to him/her? Two children? Meh, most will be quiet about two. Three? Children shouldn’t outnumber the adults. Four? Wow, I didn’t know you were so religious…and on and on.

    There isn’t enough respect for different life choices, and there should be.

    • There is a lot of wasted energy judging one another instead of fighting for stuff every mother needs — paid maternity leave and subsidized childcare. Oh, and easy access to contraception and abortion.

  18. The decision to have a child, to enter into the world of parenting, is so subjective and personal – I am always amazed that people feel they have a right to comment or judge the choice made by another person. But they certainly do. Parenting is tremendously difficult – done right (and it’s impossible to ever get it just right – try living with that) it is a commitment of time, resources and emotions that simply never ends. I’m not saying it isn’t also rewarding in a breath taking and heartbreaking way. Too many people enter into the world of parenting unprepared. I respect anyone who really takes the time to think out his or her priorities, resources, values, and commitment before taking such a step.

  19. Whoa. That excerpt blows my mind! I have chosen not to have children for a similar version of the situations you shared. There is always an awkward pause after I answer the question: Do you and your husband have children? Thank you so much for writing and sharing this post!

  20. Thank you for sharing your story. I think it’s an important, but difficult subject to talk about. I have a good friend who is not married and has no children (and no plans to currently). She would like them if the right guy came along, but it doesn’t define her as a person she has a very busy and sociable life, lots of children in her life just none of her own. She is 36, like me so her time isn’t yet ‘up’ I suppose, though the ‘clock is ticking’. I have been with her on many occasions at weddings etc. and people have asked her if she is married and has children, and when she says no even asking why?!? She usually brushes it off with a witty response but it always astounds me the audacity of some people, and the assumptions people make, like if you are a certain age you should be getting married, or at least thinking about it, and if you are married you should definitely be thinking about having children within the first year (we waited 3 years which was too long for some!)

    I think it is a most responsible thing to do to decide not to have children if you don’t want to. There are far too many bad parents in the world – I as a teacher can attest to that. I’m pretty sure you would not have been one of those though – unfortunately it’s the irresponsible ones who often end up reproducing thoughtlessly as your sad story about abandoned children illustrates.

    • As I replied to another commenter earlier, 36 is actually late in the fertility game. By 40, it gets much much more difficult to become pregnant. No one wants to admit it, but it’s the facts of biology.

  21. I agree with previous comments. Having a child was the best gift I’ve ever been given. I find it so appalling that anyone could abandon their own child; the love I have for mine is so off-the-charts intense. Having said that, I have total respect for people who choose not to have children – that is such a responsible decision!! If you know that you would not have the resources (emotional or financial) to raise a child, don’t do it – that’s the best choice you could make. It’s just unfortunate that your reasons had to do with what you had to go through in your childhood. Nice post to get people talking about this.

  22. Very nicely done! I really enjoyed your take on that Caitlin – thank you! We became parents 6 years ago. I watched completely helpless as a wider (western?) society applied it’s pressure on the XO (my long suffering partner). How it had to be like this and you had to be a mum like that. I’m of course talking at the wrong end of this spectrum – but that pressure to be of a particular type of mum – required by our society – seems to be the other side of the coin you mention here. I have quite a few mates who I served with – who became mum’s because they succumbed to that pressure. To not do so wasn’t considered an option in their families and relationships at the time – but no-one asked them – they just squeezed them mercilessly, until they caved in. How’s the irony in a society that’s supposedly as advanced as we’d like to think we are – all understanding and aware of each other and our collective needs – that we are probably much further removed from this wider awareness of each other – than we were 50 plus years ago?! Now if a man decided he didn’t want to be a father… well now – that’s a whole other kettle of fish now, isn’t it? ;-)

    • So good to hear from you!

      It’s depressing as hell, after three waves of feminism, that women are still so pressured to be mothers and to be a certain kind. The “mommy wars” here in the U.S. are insane and I am glad to be far away from them.

      • I honestly can’t blame you… I tried to take a stand in amongst all that pressure and got hammered for being a bad dad! Fancy not wanting those things for my partner – fancy not wanting her to be the kind of mum this society stocks on a shopping mall shelf! I got accused of all kinds of things and it shocked the hell out of me how strongly other women voiced their opinion when I baulked at seeing the XO treated in that way!

        I also come from a family where girls become mum’s far too early in their lives – and mostly for all of the wrong reasons. the ‘men’ responsible very rarely acted like men. No responsibility in most cases and next to no ‘parental’ support in just about all of them. Why in hell would we see fit to ‘groom’ the women of my community in this kind of way? Or the wider women of all our societies for that matter.

        As you can probably tell – it’s a bit of a ‘bug bear’ fore me (Really? :-) ). I don’t know what you do about it across the world – but I’ll try to raise my boys to understand their responsibilities of being men in our family. It’s about all I can try to do… wish me luck! :-)

      • I find this sort of pressure truly appalling. We each get one life and few decisions will alter it as much as having a child, or several, let alone if you are not prepared financially or emotionally for all that work.

        I bet your sons will be awesome! :-)

  23. Nope. Never wanted kids, and I’ve never been pressured about it. I’ll throw another issue into the mix. I came out in the mid-80s, and there wasn’t much talk among LGBT people about shacking up together and having kids together. Most of my LGBT friends who had kids then had them from heterosexual relationships that preceded their self-awakening. Point being, we were all too busy trying to deal with the AIDS crisis and get through the Reagan years. Which is not at all to suggest that LGBT people didn’t want kids then. I’d argue that our relationships have been so denigrated for so long that it’s hard enough just trying to have a relationship with a partner, let alone find family and societal support for gay or lesbian couples wanting to have and raise children.

    I came of age expecting that I wouldn’t ever get the societal support that my heterosexual friends got in their relationships, and that my relationships would never be considered equal to theirs. Hawaii 1992 changed that for me a bit–and since the mid-90s, LGBT people have been forming relationships and making the conscious decision to have kids together more than I saw during my 20s (though yes, some bring children to a same-sex relationship from a previous straight relationship). They make that decision in spite of how difficult it still is to do so for LGBT people. They want to be parents, in ways that I’m sure straight people do. But things have changed, and there are LGBT people in their 20s now who EXPECT they will marry eventually and start families. They EXPECT this, something I never had the luxury to do, that still is not part of my worldview because for so many years before we started seeing the shifts regarding marriage equality, those of us in my generation had already been taught that we are “less than” heterosexual people and couples. No matter how strong we are emotionally, and no matter if we’re fortunate to have support from our families of origin, we were told every day in some form that we were “less than.” We’re still told that but yes, things have changed and they’re changing still.

    I think, thus, that because of the context in which I came of age, my expectations regarding the family I would form are very different than what straight people have. But what is so remarkable to me is that younger LGBT people talk now about getting married and starting families. Perhaps had I been born straight in a different era I’d feel differently about having kids. As it turned out, I instead have worked to try to do what I could to make things, I hope, easier for other people’s kids and grandkids, so if they’re LGBT, they will grow up thinking that some day, they’ll meet somebody who they’ll marry and maybe be a parent with, that it won’t ever enter their minds that they can’t do these things because they’re not straight.

    All that said, I don’t know what it’s like to feel pressured about kids. But I can empathize with feeling pressured. To all of you who have decided to have children, kudos to you and I hope you have happiness and fulfillment. To all of you who have decided NOT to have kids, well, kudos to you, too, and I hope that you have happiness and fulfillment, as well. :)

  24. Another thought provoking post, thanks!

    This topic has been on my brain a lot in the past few days as I return home from a year of travel to be faced with questions about me ‘finally settling down’ and all that that involves… i.e. kids. I think that, here in Australia, becoming a mother is a widely assumed and expected event in every woman’s life.

    My personal attempts to explain why kids just don’t factor into my life goals often end in being told that I will change my mind when my body clock kicks in, or that I will regret my decision. Despite trying to understand that POV, I often feel misunderstood and pressured. It would be nice to encounter more people who accept that I feel I can fill my life with love, happiness, family and purpose without needing to have a child.

    • There as here as likely everywhere. I agree that women’s choices need to be respected without kids, but it seems unlikely — even 40 years after third-wave feminism.

  25. This is a really interesting topic! I think it is a telling point that people who have chosen not to have children have often put a lot more thought into it than people who have children. Those of us who have kids have often just had them as a matter of course, whereas those who have chosen not to, have thought long and hard about it and normally have exceptionally valid reasons. I have never once been asked “why did you choose to have children” but my childless friends are very intrusively asked why they haven’t. I actually did put a lot of thought into whether to have children or not.

    Interestingly, after my first two children, I wanted a third. My first husband said “why?” and I couldn’t give him a reason other than “I don’t feel like my family is finished yet”. He was able to give me lots of logical reasons why we shouldn’t have a third child, and we didn’t. Interestingly, my second husband and I had a similar conversation and even though we had four children already between us, and even though there were no logical reasons for having another, we both really wanted one – an emotional decision rather than a logical one. Although people occasionally look a bit askance at us, no-one has questioned the decision. I’m sure if we hadn’t though, we would have been repeatedly asked “why didn’t you have a child together?”

    I’m with the other commenters – everyone’s situations are different and everyone should get to make their own decision and choice – and should not be expected to justify those.

  26. As usual, another top-quality post. I’m not a woman, but I feel like commenting anyway. Firstly, I think this observation – ‘non-mothers are often dismissed as selfish, cold, unloving bitches – is completely correct. Secondly, being a gay man, the opportunities to have kids are limited (although not for all gay people, obviously, and thankfully). Luckily I’m the least paternal person on earth, and even though I’ve reached middle-age I don’t regret not having kids. However, I am glad that my two older brothers have children, and it’s been lovely to watch my two nephews and niece grow up. I like what Family Matters NZ says: ‘everyone’s situations are different and everyone should get to make their own decision and choice, and should not be expected to justify those’. The less we force people to have kids (through social pressure), the better off the next generations will be – people should feel as though it’s their choice, which means those who are truly interested and capable will do the honours. Now I’m off to have a coffee and read a novel…for the entire afternoon…and much of the evening…in glorious peace!

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