Plenty of women don’t want kids. I’m one of them.
Last week, actor Seth Rogen admitted he no longer feels ‘uncomfortable’ saying he doesn’t want children. It got me thinking, why is it still taboo for women to admit the same?
Growing up, I always assumed I’d have children someday. This was not because it was something I particularly wanted. Getting married and having children just seemed inevitable.
It was only in my 20s that the question came up. Do I want kids?
Childfree is in fact a choice for many
I’d never really thought of it as a choice before. But as soon as I did, I knew I didn’t really have much enthusiasm for it.
I’ve got a vivid memory of childhood and I’m pretty certain I never played mummies and daddies. In primary school sex education, aged 10, I remember asking “how do you get pregnant by accident?”. I was horrified at the thought that pregnancy was something that could accidentally happen, like falling off your bike.
Things haven’t exactly changed as time’s gone on. I feel like a monster admitting this – but I have genuinely never felt a bolt of broodiness from holding a baby. It’s something I’ve never been able to confess out loud before.
In my 20s I didn’t feel confident enough to voice this. It’s always felt like an unpopular, unusual opinion to have. Female friends and colleagues around me all seemed to see babies in their future. Why didn’t I?
No one person has ever directly put pressure on me to be a mother. But society has.
Growing up, I saw no discussion or positive portrayals in the media of women choosing to be childfree, which made me feel alienated as a woman. ‘How I Met Your Mother’ was one of the few TV shows to explore this with the character of Robin Scherbatsky – but it came a little late for me.
Finding out I’m not alone
As I get older, I’m speaking up a little more and discovering there are others who feel the same.
With Britain’s birth rate falling due to the pandemic, it seems that more people really are stopping to consider whether they actually want to bring a child into the world.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve patronisingly been told “you’ll change your mind”. Phrases like “it’s the best thing you can do” are also commonly uttered by well-meaning people (not always women I might add).
Sometimes, it feels as though parenthood is a cult I’m constantly being recruited for. This only puts me off more. People try and convince me I’m missing out by choosing to be childfree – but what about all the things I might miss out on if I had a child?
Watching the clock
Despite my obvious lack of enthusiasm for motherhood from an early age, I still somehow assumed I eventually would give in to it. So, I continued to keep relatively quiet about my feelings. When asked, I’d often say “I’m not really sure, I think if I’m with someone who really wants them, I might.”
In my late 20s I started to sense my feelings were more than just indifference. Yet still, I wondered if people’s predictions of “wait until your biological clock kicks in” would come true.
I waited, believing something inside me would change and suddenly I’d yearn for a baby. I was sure turning 30 would do it. It hasn’t.
What’s harder to explain is that I actually want to want children. I have Googled ‘why don’t I want kids?’ more than once, that’s how abnormal I have felt at times.
I’m married to an amazing partner. I have no reason not to have children, other than a general feeling of not being up for it. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to make myself want to be a mother. At 35 years old, it doesn’t seem like my biological alarm clock is going to sound anytime soon.
Maybe my clock needs a new battery?
Dealing with judgement
The number of people choosing to be childfree may be growing, but the judgment from others doesn’t seem to be declining.
I’m still careful with talking about how I feel. Parents can be defensive, as though I’m judging their life choices. Others will ask personal questions or just not take me seriously.
I wish people didn’t look at me like I was from another planet when I tell them I don’t plan on starting a family – but unfortunately many do. When someone says they’re trying for a baby or looking forward to being a parent someday – we don’t ask them to explain their choices. So, why do I have to justify my feelings?
The media don’t make life easier. How many times over the years has Jennifer Aniston’s childfree status been brought up with the words “Poor Jen”? Why is it seemingly so hard for society to accept some women are perfectly happy not having kids?
Time to stop asking questions
I really hope we can finally see the end of people asking women when they plan on having kids. How is it that some people still think it’s acceptable to ask? It has to stop.
It’s hard enough to discuss the kids’ question as a couple, let alone address a comment from someone I barely know.
Is it about being scared of giving birth? There’s no question that the whole process terrifies me. Everything afterwards worries me more though.
People say ‘but what if you regret not having kids later in life?’ and I do wonder that. Is that really a reason to bring life into the world though? I could end up regretting the decision to have a child. Wouldn’t that be a far worse situation to be in?
There is also no upper age limit to adoption as well as fostering to consider too. So, if a child shaped hole does open up in my life, there are possibilities to explore.
You can love kids and be childfree
“I love children but…” is a phrase common for anyone who chooses to be childfree. You feel you have to preface any explanation of your lifestyle with this.
However, it is often true. I adore spending time with children, being silly and listening to the unique way they see the world. I look forward to being a fun, eccentric aunt. I even imagine myself being ‘the cool adult’ that the kids around me feel they can talk to about sex and periods as they get older.
I know that I’m very much up for the fun stuff, but not the tough times, the sleepless nights and the discipline. Some might judge me as selfish. I think I’m being incredibly realistic.
Making peace with my feelings
I’m making peace with my feelings and the fact that they probably won’t change. I’ve finally stopped listening when I hear “you’ll change your mind”.
There are more people speaking out about choosing to be childfree. It feels like less of a strange truth to admit. And, it’s great to see having children finally being talked about as a choice, rather than an assumption or expectation.
I hope anyone else in the same boat as me is able to speak honestly in future. Choosing to be childfree shouldn’t be something to feel ashamed of. I’ve promised myself I’ll be more confident expressing my true feelings.
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