EnvironmentFeminism

I May Never Want Kids

I grew up in a pretty stereotypical small town. If I hadn’t moved I’d probably already be pregnant (I really am the last girl of my graduating class to be looking at pregnancy). In small towns that’s what people do – you have a family and most other things in life are secondary. So I had always assumed I’d have children. Maybe birth one and adopt another. But now that I’m in my mid-twenties and have *the* dude… we needed to start planning the next 5 – 10 years of our life together. While doing this it hit me – I don’t want kids.

 
This is sort of like a “coming out” post. I’ve only talked to a couple of my very close friends about this, and my partner. My parents, siblings and most of my friends assume that I’ll have kids (actually I told my sister on the weekend and guess what she said… “You’re young, you might change your mind”…more on that later). My mother is especially pushing for it…she wants to be called “Granmarie”…(her name is Ann Marie) and already has a grandkids box started with toys, clothes and blankets. But I think people too hastily decide to have children because it seems like the next natural progression in life. 
 
No, I don’t hate children. Quite the opposite, actually. I think babies are adorable and young kids are absolutely hilarious. I find it very easy to connect with kids and have really enjoyed jobs where I’ve worked with kids (except the year I had a cabin of 14 year old girls who didn’t want to do anything all week except fight and talk about boys). I just don’t want my own. I know that means I’m depriving my mother and myself of the hilarity of children – but my mom has 2 other kids that are sure to have a couple each and I’ll be a fantastic auntie.
 
When I came to the realization that I don’t actually want children my partner still did want kids, very much so. I’d like to share with you the things I talked with him about that ultimately made him decide he agreed with me. I’m not trying to convince anyone to not have kids – I just think women need to start being more considerate about the decision. Women need to stop feeling pressure to make babies – we live in the future, we don’t need to find identity and meaning through children. And people who want kids need to understand the reasons people like me don’t want kids… that it’s not some thoughtless decision that you can change by telling me how happy your kids make you. I also don’t think that I’m taking some sort of moral high ground by not having kids. Smart and wonderful people need to have kids so we can continue to have smart and wonderful people in the world, I just think there are enough of these people doing it that I don’t need to.
 
So… the reasons:
 
1. I really enjoy my life. My partner and I take frequent vacations. From May – October this year I’ll be out of the country. I couldn’t bring a baby on our trip to India or to all my academic conferences. I really enjoy traveling and attending these conferences. We make a point of traveling each winter – I see people trying to travel with kids and it just looks exhausting. We’ve also just purchased a pre-construction 2 bedroom condo in downtown Toronto that definitely won’t fit kids! It’s only like 805 sq. feet. Sure we have a second bedroom but I need somewhere to put my desk! And I spend a lot of time writing (blog posts, potential books and academic writing). All my free time, in fact, is consumed with writing. My partner likes reading lengthy Chinese books. We couldn’t do these things as often with kids running around. No more eating whenever and whatever we want, taking impromptu mini-dates on the weekends or having our friends over for night long and loud geeky board game sessions.
 
2. Is that selfish? Well…I am selfish but I also think it’s selfish to think we can continue to live the way we always have and that someone else will clean up after us. So, I sort of think it’s equally as selfish to want kids! You’re still just doing what you want to do – why has it automatically become that the person who DOESN’T want children is the one that is being selfish? You can still dedicate your life to great things without having children. And people who have children often (in my experience) use their kids as an excuse for being busy (and it may not always be an excuse – they may actually be busy… but kids make it easy to opt out of community service and volunteer work), buying pre-packaged crappy food, driving big cars and all those other things environmentalists give you the shameful look of death for doing. 
 
3. I simply do not want kids. For me, this was the reason I 100% decided it would be a bad idea to have kids. I realized that my desire for procreation was entirely brought upon me by society. It is, unfortunately, still normal for woman to feel like having kids shapes their identity and gives them meaning in life. It is the safe choice in life. If you, as a woman, don’t amount to anything (..please..*eye roll) than at least you have your kids. Well I’m not afraid to be that woman. I have enough confidence in myself that I will find meaning and will do great things without having the legacy of children. When people look at my life I want them to think “yeah, she really did a lot of really awesome and good things” not “yeah, she raised some fine kids” (not that those two things are mutually exclusive, but they are for me).
 
4. The benefits do not outweigh the negatives – when I’ve talked to my mom before she told me that the best years of her life were when all three of her kids were young and she got to raise them and do silly things. I’m not saying that she could have had a better time without kids – I’m saying that a different kind of life can be equally fulfilling. My partner and I have every intention of using our traveling time to volunteer – especially for places that have kids without families. These years of traveling and volunteering can be the best moments in our lives, and I’m sure they will be… and these other global kids need me more than my unborn child does, anyway. Also – I find the bullsh*t that kids throw at parents to be a HUGE negative… The lying, yelling, i-hate-you’s, stealing, bickering…etc etc etc. I know that’s a phase, and that they grow up to be nicer people but I’m not super keen on spending my prime years in life dealing with that.
 
5. I’m an environmental studies student. I believe that over population, global warming and consumption are very serious problems facing our world. While me simply not having one child won’t change the course of population trends, it does help. It helps by reducing the carbon foot print (an American child has 160 times the impact as a child from Bangladesh) and showing others that adults can live fulfilling lives without children. Being childfree needs to become less “odd” because there is too much crap going on in this world and we all need to start seriously thinking about what we can do to contribute to a solution. I try to do as much as possible and I consider not having a child to be one of those things… (next will have to be reducing my flying… which I do way too much of).
 
6. Diseases: This is a small worry for me, as I don’t really come with anything too horrific. We have a history of breast cancer in the family (but my partner says it may not even be as hereditary as I’ve always thought), liver disease (although this may have simply been my father) and weight problems. I’ve been overweight most of my life and it’s in my genes. I lose weight very slowly but gain it really fast… this is the same for almost everyone in my family. I’d hate to have a kid that struggles with their weight as much as I’ve struggled with mine… and I’m sure to face health consequences for it eventually. But I’m also worried about having a child with a learning disability or disabling disease. I know that I’d learn to be a good mother to that child and would give him/her everything s/he needed but I might be less happy….maybe. I worked with children who were disabled and had learning diasbilities at a camp I worked at for a long time – it can be really rewarding, but if I'm honest with myself I know that I likely couldn't handle it.
 
After hearing these reasons and thinking about it for a couple weeks my partner ultimately agreed with me that kids may not be for us. When I asked him if he wanted to add a comment about all this to this post he said “I really want kids, but I see that it’s cultural pressure that makes me think this way. Once I take away the cultural obsession with procreation I see that the negatives really outweigh the benefits.” But he still had some worries:
People pressuring us: “Oh, but you’d be such a good mom!” … My very good friend I talked to about this said this instantaneously. And my gut reaction was to say “Well…obviously not, if I don’t WANT the kid I’d probably be a pretty horrible mother.” I’m sure we’d raise a really interesting (and potentially smart) human being but that still doesn’t mean that I want to and if I’m not 100% committed I think it’s probably a bad idea.
 
I may regret my decision. This is very true, and I have a history of changing my mind. However I’d rather regret not having kids than having them. And even when I’m 45 adoption will still be an option for us… but I really don’t think that’ll happen. I think a dog would suffice at that point. 
 
Interestingly his primary concern seemed to be who will visit us when we’re old? Well, I’m Canadian. So I believe that my old age care will be pretty fabulous. And other old people have entire life stories waiting to be told, and I’d like to hear them. Also – if I develop a good relationship with my nieces and nephews, like I plan to do, I’m sure I could convince my brother and sister to make their kids come and say hi once in a while.
 
I am really happy for the people I know that are having kids. It means I get to babysit, but give the kids back at the end of the night. I’m glad they’ve taken on this monumental task of being responsible for the upbringing of an entire human being including all the psychological issues they’ll have if they don’t do something right… Really, I’m happy for parents and their families – so please, be happy for me too and don’t worry about me. I might even be happier this way. But please don’t look at me and say “oh you’ll change your mind”… how would a pregnant lady feel if we started saying that to her??? “Oh you’re pregnant? …Hmm, you might change your mind.” Women (and men) need to start respecting other women’s decisions about pregnancy….from having an abortion, having a baby or simply not having a baby. The default role of a woman should not be to be a mother.
 
I encourage all you young women to think hard about kids. Do you really want them? Is there some outside force telling you that you should have them? Is that want you want to spend your prime years devoted to? If it is, then that’s awesome – you’ll be one of those amazing and wonderful people that produce a really smart and active contributor to the global community. If it isn’t what you want then that’s awesome too – and I don’t want you to feel guilty or like you’re doing something socially unacceptable. Own your childfreedom and don’t let anyone get you down.
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katie

katie

Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish

23 Comments

  1. March 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm —

    I've really been debating these types of things lately. You seem to be much more decided on this point, but I'm still wondering if I want chillens or not. Or if I want to take my guy's name when we get married. (I think I will take his last name, but I might also change the rest of my name since I never ever go by my actual name.)
    A world where women aren't expected to make babies will be a nice one indeed. That would probably also be the world in which women are CEOs as often as men, have access to all the healthcare they need (including birth control), and are generally not still considered property.

  2. March 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm —

    While I am male, if I ever get a girlfriend, I also don't want any baby. I hope whoever I meet understands that. 

  3. March 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm —

    I'm in the same boat. Zero interest in kids. So far I've been lucky to only get seriously involved with people feeling the same way, but i always wonder.
     

  4. March 27, 2012 at 10:48 pm —

    I'm proud to say that I actually do intensely dislike young children. It's not a popular opinion, but it's the one I have. Babies are not cute for more than 5 minutes and they are loud and messy. Plus, until they are 3 or 4 years old, they all look the same. So if I had one I would probably lose her in a department store. I'd have to tag her or something. Maybe a face tatoo.  

  5. March 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm —

    I definitely want a kid.  Maybe more than one.  I'll see how it goes.  I'm only going to adopt.
    I don't understand how people can not like "kids". You were once a kid.  Does that mean you hated yourself?

    • March 29, 2012 at 4:00 pm —

      I didn't mean you the author of this post.  I meant the generic "you".

      • March 29, 2012 at 8:13 pm —

        Just because I once was one doesn't mean I want them in my life, ever. I'm glad other people like them, and they can have as many as they want. I, for one, find them irritating, generally speaking. And for the record, I'm quite sure I was irritating when I was a child, and my today self would have probably wanted to avoid my past self.

    • April 2, 2012 at 11:10 pm —

      I didn't like children when I was a child, and I still don't like them. How is that confusing?

  6. April 2, 2012 at 8:23 am —

    Not gunna lie, I love kids. Love them. I want all of the kids. But you're entirely right that women should stop feeling pressure from society and their family to have them, just because it's the done thing. A worthy issue, Katie!

  7. April 2, 2012 at 11:56 am —

    I vascilated a lot between wanting children and not wanting children in my teens and 20's.  I think the expectation was that I would have children.  My parents had 4.  My sister had her first and only child early.  But my brothers didn't seem to be jumping into the game.
    At 27 I decided I didn't want to have children with my ex-husband (then-husband) becasue he was child enough. I asked the doctor if it was possible to have my tubes tied instead of relying on birth control.  My gynocologist said that she wouldn't recommend me for the surgery and I was too young.  I didn't stay married to my first husband very long, so it wasn't an issue of having children with him, but having children one day. 
    I always wanted to adopt rather than have my own.  It felt better to me to give a child a home rather than make another child myself, even with all of the pressures of having a child of my own genes.  I never felt any drive to pass on my genes though.  And after my niece died young I was afraid my desire for my own little girl would be more about replacing her than honestly wanting to invest in a child of my own.
    At 40 I stll don't have children.  I've thought about it a lot over the years, but it's never been something I've been serious about.  My husband doesn't want children and I don't want to have children with someone who doesn't want to have children.
    Looking back I could see it as an accident that I never had children, but really I think I bucked against the pressure and assumption that I would be a mother that I received from family and society.  And I wanted to be my own person first before even making that consideration.  If I had ended up having a child, I'm sure I'd wish it no other way and I'd love her or him.  But I'm glad I didn't.  I love my life and I have a wonderfully cute cat that fulfills my need for affection as only doting pets can.
    It's okay either way, chosing to have children or not.  Just realize you have the choice.

  8. April 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm —

    I too, have my reasons. It was, and is, a well thought out, seriously considered decision.  

    Everyone told me I'd change my mind (I was looking to get the Essure procedure at 23), that I'd be a great mom, yadda yadda.  

    So when I met my husband, I made it clear there would be no wedding without a medically confirmed sterilization surgery for at least one of us. 

    Now I work in an elementary school. I love it, and I love my students. And I am so, so happy that I don't come home to any. :o)

    • April 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm —

      I think you said that in a very lovely, concise way:)

  9. April 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm —

    This is wonderful. I decided not to have kids when I was 18, and then got my tubes tied when I was 20. I still face a lot of negative backlash for it – you'll change your mind, why would you do that, you're so young, kids are the best thing ever, etc. These are all great reasons to not have kids, and I am happy to see someone else put them on paper.
    Thanks!

  10. April 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm —

    Absolutely. The most important thing about having kids is to make a conscious choice, be it for or against, rather than just doing it thoughtlessly. It is a sad thing that people are considered selfish for wanting to keep their lives child free, don't let anyone beat you up about it. There are far too many unwanted children in the world already.
    Well said. Thanks for sharing
    martine

  11. April 2, 2012 at 11:14 pm —

    I've known I didn't want children since I was 5. When I was 13 and learned about surgical sterilization, I resolved to get it as soon as I could. When I was 24, I went to Planned Parenthood, and they tied my tubes. They were nothing but nice and respectful to me, and I'll love them forever for that.
    I'm now 35 and I haven't changed my mind, not for a nanosecond. I put a lot of thought into it, and I've thought about it since the surgery, and I'm still as certain as I've ever been. No "biological clock" has started ticking, no pangs have stung, and nothing has infected me with baby rabies. Being older has had the bonus of reducing the number of "but what if you change your mind?" questions.

    • April 3, 2012 at 6:07 pm —

      I am really thankful to read from you and another poster that are past their twenties and child-free, assuring us that it becomes easier to deal with the annoying questions as time passes.  I'm sure we're all strong men and women, but when you make a choice that goes against what most of society expects or considers "normal" it can get damned exhausting. So thank you for posting your experiences:)

  12. April 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm —

    This was really fantastic.  I want to adopt, but I do not want bio kids.  In fact, I'm going to see a doc at the end of the month to see if she'll be willing to get me tied and fried so it will no longer be a worry for me.  I get the usual bullshit, "You  may change your mind!" "But you'd be such a good mom!" "But don't you want to pass down your genes?" and the more I hear those phrases the more I'm amazed at how little thought the people uttering those phrases put into my choice.  It's a knee-jerk reaction.  It's made me less liable to get angry with those people, because I understand that it's simply something they haven't had to think about because they haven't been face-to-face with someone who wants to be sprog-free or bio-sprog-free.

    Adoption is good enough for me, and I can do it when I'm good and ready.  My partner is cool with bio or adoption, so I'm the one that's going to be holding up the show until I feel I can handle it, but it's something we've discussed extensively over several years.  We know how the other feels, we're comfortable with our decision, and we make a pretty good team explaining it to people when they bring it up, and react with shock.

  13. April 4, 2012 at 1:42 am —

    I would like to thank you for this post. Not because I agree with you, but because I feel it provides a perfect encapsulation of the passive anti child bias I have seen from many in the online skeptic community. It is not child=bad, but more of a childree=OMG SO MUCH BETTER. As in, ” kids are fine. Yet your life can be soo much richer without them.” You stick to the letter of ‘not trying to convince anyone’, but in spirit, that’s exactly what you are doing.

    For me, as an athiest, the only way I can feel as if I have left a legacy is to have children. Yes, there is no garuntee they will live on after me, or have children of their own, etc. But it is the closest I think I can get to immortality.

    • April 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm —

       
      Please show me where I've said the average person's life can be richer without children and/or where I have passively said anything anti-child. I have stated that I want people to continue to have children… but only if they want to. I hardly see that as something anyone can argue against. And – while I linked to an article that talks about the positives of not having children it ends with the comment:

      "Parents still report feeling a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives than those who've never had kids. And there are other rewarding aspects of parenting that are impossible to quantify. For example, I never thought it possible to love someone as deeply as I love my son."

      ..which is exactly why I chose the article. There are incredibly rewarding aspects of being a parent that I will never be a part of. For me the positives of being childfree outweigh the negatives of being a mother. I'm sure that the women I grew up with in my small town wouldn't trade their children in for trips to India, China and Europe…just as I wouldn't trade in my trips for a child. Yet I would never, not for a second, say that my life is anymore rewarding or fulfilling than theirs based on this singular difference. Our lives are simply different, incomparable and we are each contributing to the world in our own way.
      I am not trying to convince anyone not to have children – I am trying to get young women to think hard about the decision instead of doing it simply because that's what women are supposed to do. I was very clear on this point – as I stated it at least twice. I am also asking that people stop telling me that I'll "change my mind", or other condescending remarks, when I say that I do not want to have children… 

    • April 6, 2012 at 12:26 am —

      Um, if this is what you got out of her post, you weren't actually reading it to read it.  You were reading it to pick it apart and put words in her mouth.  Because she wasn't anti-child nor trying to tell people they should't have kids if they want them.  For serious.

  14. April 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm —

    It is so hard to find women who are willing to admit this*****and mean it. I am 33, been married 10 years, am post graduate educated, have a great paying job, had a good chilhood, and am healthy. I only say these things because when people find out I don’t want children despite being in a happy marriage for this long, they automatically think I have some deficiency in the above mentioned situations. However, I do not. It is perfectly normal for some to just not want it. I see patients with their children at my practice site. It is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I cannot imagine waking up on the weekend just to work some more. To get up at dark to get them dressed for school, or to leave my job in the middle of the day to go pick them up if they are sick.

  15. April 23, 2012 at 3:27 pm —

    🙂 Pocket assumption time.  It seems that most liberal people do not want children.  My very conservative cousin has 6!  My wife and I must be moderate…we only have 2.
    Question for the author:  Had your partner been as strong in his conviction to have children as you are to not, would you have told him to hit the bricks?

    • April 24, 2012 at 12:00 am —

      If having a kid ended up being a non-negotiable for him then I'd agree to have a child with him. If he was insisting on 3 or 4 or 5 or…6! then we'd have a problem – but he's not the kind of person that would want any more than 1 or 2. We'd have found a compromise… like adopting.
      But I would definitely have a child with him before I'd considering losing him. (However – he's also the kind of guy that would never make me make that kind of choice.)

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