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.