20 April 2011, 10:49
“I don’t want children!
I noticed on your post today that you mentioned that you never want kids. I’m the same way and the problem is, I’ve been married for 6 years now and I get pressured ALL the time from friends and family to start “popping out babies” and it’s so frustrating! I’m not sure if you get the same thing, but I’m 26 years old and to always get nagged about this issue as if my ovaries are on the brink of shriveling up like little raisins is SO annoying.
I love my husband, love my animals, love my job and my friends and my life! It’s gotten to the point where I’m being told by my parents that my “biological clock is ticking” and my mother in law dropping hints left and right about how “cute” our children would be.
How would you suggest that I could tell them nicely to drop the issue?
I’m going to kick this piece off by saying that I am not criticising people who choose to have children. That is awesome, & I hope you have a beautiful, healthy family which brings you lots of joy! But this piece is for people on the other side of the fence. Everyone loves a pregnant woman, but if you say you never wanna go there, they think there is something wrong with you! That’s what I’m going to be addressing today.
GIRL. Let me just say I empathise — more than you know! I feel like people are constantly bugging me about children & I’m not even married! Give me a break!
Just a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine said to me — this is a direct quote, I am not making any of this up — “Oh, you’re 27 now, BUT YOU’LL BE 33 SOON & YOUR UTERUS WILL BE POUNDING LIKE A TOM-TOM !”
I gave him the most withering look I could muster! It is immensely frustrating when people act like they are an authority on YOU. They are not!
I am child-free & I plan to be for the rest of my life. I am not anti-children, I just feel that it is not the best place for me to put my energy. My father reaffirmed this for me a few years ago!
“Don’t have children, Gala,” he said. “There are other things you could do with your life.”
I agree with him. Sometimes when I recount this story, people look at me like I must be some kind of unloved orphan! Nothing could be further from the truth — I am the ultimate doted-on child! — & I love my father even more for his ability to be objective about having children.
For some people, it is just not the be-all & end-all! I am one of them. There are simply other things I want to do with my life.
I am really excited for my friends to have kids. Almost every girl I know has been dreaming of babies since the dawn of time! I know they will make rad mothers, & I am psyched to meet their children, be a weirdo auntie & come bearing gifts. I am totally down for the cause! Sometimes I see my boyfriend playing with our friend’s kids & think that he would make the Best Daddy Ever. But it is just not for me, & I am lucky that it’s not high on his agenda either.
I accept that this may change with time! I HIGHLY doubt it but hey! Never say never. Maybe I will have 3 kids by the time I am 35. The decision not to have children has never bothered or vexed me. I am perfectly satisfied. The only really irritating part of the whole experience is when people ask you about it, & upon hearing your answer, act like they know you better than you know yourself. Especially when you’ve only just met.
“Oh, you,” they say, looking down their nose EVER-so-slightly. “You think you know it all now… HO HO HO! But life is going to wallop you! Just you wait! You’ll be barefoot & pregnant before you know it!”
Not if I can help it, buddy!
It is totally okay — in fact, perfectly wonderful — not to have children.
I wanted to throw that in there, just in case you haven’t been told lately! Everyone’s life is different, everyone’s purpose is different, & sometimes having kids just isn’t right for you. That is A-OKAY!
The issue you’re having is twofold. Firstly, society expects women to have children. It is, to some people, our entire reason for existing. Not to make art, earn a billion bucks, fall in love, or become an adventurer — just to make babies. To them, if you don’t give birth, you are slighting womankind, up-ending the world & trashing the paradigm. It is the final insult!
Secondly, this is an issue of respect. I understand that other women especially are curious when one of the clan gets hitched. Surely, a vicious case of morning sickness & the pitter-pattering of little feet are just around the corner?! It’s normal for people to ask, but once you say you’re not interested, that should absolutely, categorically be the end of the issue!
Even I am guilty of asking my friends if children are next on the agenda, but if they say no, I reply with something like, “GREAT! That means we can continue going to Vegas together even when we look like old lizard/handbag hybrids! & just THINK of the disposable income! I foresee an overwhelmingly magnificent shoe closet in your not-so-distant future!”
There should definitely not be any, “Oh but! You’ll change your mind! & think how CUTE they’d be! Come on! It’s your womanly duty! You’ll die unfulfilled & alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!“ or any other such rot. Because really… That would make even the most stable woman a tad punchy.
What to do?
As tempting as it may be to start wearing a t-shirt which says BOO CHILDREN & hope this answers any & all questions, mostly this will just cause people to think you are a sociopath, & invitations to parties will become few & far between.
What you need is a realistic plan of attack. You shouldn’t need a speech to defend your personal choices, but clearly, you are dealing with uncivilised animals who require one. So I think you need to come up with a little sermon on the issue. Something quick, like an elevator pitch, but about your reproductive system, & not about your billion dollar idea. You can practice it in the mirror, then trot it out when well-meaning strangers start enquiring about your birth canal et al!
The real key is in being prepared. That way, you can just rattle it off without much thought, grief, or need for violence.
What you say is up to you. Be honest, be funny, put it any way you like. All that matters is that you say something decisive enough to encourage the other person to drop the issue.
I thought you might like some ideas to get you started, so I asked my friends who were not planning on having children what they said when the questions inevitably came up in conversation. Their responses were, predictably, brilliant. Here are a selection, which may inspire you (or just make you laugh!).
My friend Julia likes to say, “Why don’t you try living in NYC for a day with kids, carrying a stroller up & down the subway stairs?!“
Another friend, Orson, retorts, “I’m too much of a selfish asshole to dedicate 18+ years of my life to anything.”
Anna says, “I tell them that my PCOS has actually made me think about the lengths I’m willing to go to and because of that I know I don’t.” Her sister simply replies, “How’s YOUR sex life?”
Ruby Delicious does it with humour, claiming that “Do you WANT to know a woman who drowns her children?” usually shuts people up quickly! (I bet!!!) Or, “You’ve met my beloved. Could YOU cope with more than one of him?“
I got an email from Erin, who is 35 & who used to do my nails in Melbourne! Holler! Her response was an acerbic biggie! Here’s an excerpt.
...Also, if they already have kids, they want to feel like the made the right choice. They have to feel that way, or they’d eat their young. This is a very important thing to remember when all your friends have kids and you don’t. They are really fucking jealous of your free time, your long lie-ins, your overseas trips, and your non-poo-covered furniture. Tread lightly. Always tell them how lucky they are to have their little shit-machines. Downplay your fabulous life. “When we were skiing in Whistler I kept seeing all the little kids on skis and it was so cute!” Make them feel like they’re not trapped in suburban hell. And this is where the best response to THE QUESTION comes in. It is guaranteed to make everyone happy (probably not Italian grandmothers, but they’re never happy). When faced with THE QUESTION, you should reply, “I feel that if you want to have kids, you should want it more than you want anything else in the world, and if you don’t want it that badly, you shouldn’t have them at all. And yes, there is a part of me that is intrigued with the idea of having a baby, I just don’t want it enough.” Which is exactly how I (and my boyfriend) feel.
Natalie is sweet about it. “I smile and tell people I’ve heard that my whole life but I’m set in my ways of being the “crazy aunt” to all my friends kids!”
I love Vivian’s response. “When it comes to making babies, I love practicing and leave the real work to the professionals.” Perfect!!!
Amy said, very sanely, “Don’t want to, nor do I have a speech, I feel no need to justify my choice. Those close to me understand & thats what counts.”
Lady Dior replied, saying, “I’ve never wanted kids nor understood why people find it so hard to believe. “Maybe you’ll change your mind about being a condescending arse?”“
Tamera is wry: “But if I get pregnant, I’ll have to stop drinking.“
I received an email which said, “I’ve been following you for quite some time & your tweet regarding not having children really struck a nerve with me. I’m a 27-year-old beautiful only child who is very successful in my job… & in the closet. It’s so hard to have that same speech with my parents that ‘no mom, I’m not going to have children.’ It breaks her heart every time & it’s really hard since I don’t feel comfortable telling her why. I realize you probably get a ton of responses about why people don’t want to have children but I assumed not many would respond in this way. Don’t forget about us lezzies that aren’t ready for children :)”
As you can see, when I asked my childfree-by-choice friends on Twitter how they reacted when people questioned their life choices, my feed was FLOODED with answers. You are certainly not alone in not wanting children, or in feeling like you have to defend your lifestyle to other people. This sucks, but at least you’re not the only one.
This might give you hope, too: there were plenty of child-free women replying who are now 60 & always knew they never wanted children! (See?! Not everyone “changes their mind”!)
Carrie: I don’t even have time to eat this cookie.
Charlotte: How is it?
Carrie: It’s so good I forgot to have children.
The fact remains that one day you may have children.
Maybe it won’t even be anything to do with your biological clock — circumstances may dictate that you end up caring for a friend’s child, adopting from another country or meeting & falling in love with someone who already has a little one.
You can never say never, & I think it’s important to keep an open mind about everything in life! When it comes to big issues like this, I like to “check in” with myself once a year or so, just to see where I’m at. Thus far, my needle points unwaveringly to “childfree” on the Big Ol’ Baby Spectrum, but who knows? Maybe one day I’ll wake up, bursting with the urge to reproduce. It happens to the most unsuspecting of us!
The point is that no matter what happens, no one has the right to make you feel shitty about your choices, WHATEVER that choice may be. Ultimately, whether you have a baby or not, go to college or not, get married or not, live in a small town or a large one, get cosmetic surgery or just let nature run its course, IT IS YOUR LIFE !
You’re the only person living it, so the MOST IMPORTANT thing is that YOU are happy! There’s nothing worse than constructing your life to live up to someone else’s ideals, being miserable, & then discovering that whoever you were doing it for doesn’t even care! You have to do you, loudly, shamelessly & boldly, every day.
It does not matter what other people think. Let them concern themselves with their own nonsense & drama. I promise you that they will definitely be able to generate enough bullshit to keep themselves occupied for an entire lifetime! You don’t need to add fuel to the fire. I also promise that as soon as they’ve asked you about having children, they’ve forgotten about it immediately, & are now concerned with what to have for dinner or how to scam another sick day from work. Don’t let their thoughtless comment ruin your week, because it certainly hasn’t ruined theirs!
You are a smart woman & you love your life! That is an accomplishment in & of itself, & you should be proud. If all else fails, just channel Bobby Brown. I don’t need permission, make my own decisions, that’s my prerogative! Don’t let the bastards grind you down & keep on livin’!
Extra Credit: The Cab Driver Who Convinced Me To Have Kids. Childfreedom: Musings on the Childfree Lifestyle and our Child-Centric Society. Childfree Or Die Hard: Snappy Comebacks To Inappropriate Questions from Persephone Magazine. Thirteen Times, or childlessness & bipolar camp. The Kid Question. Feminist buttons! Having Kids Makes You Happy. Mothers Spilling Their Guts (“If you take the time to read through the comments you will see that a lot of women didn’t even want kids, but caved to the pressure put on them by others”). Don’t Worry, Be Happy (terrifying).