I don’t want to have children. I’ve known since forever. You can ask anyone.
This is not because I had a horrible childhood, because I didn’t. This does not mean that I don’t love my husband, because I do. This doesn’t in any way undermine the respect I have for the many truly awesome people I’ve met all throughout my life who have a gift for being parents and have shared that gift by raising radical kids who become (or I’m sure will become) amazing people.
This also doesn’t mean that I hate children as a group, and I hope it goes without saying that I would never inflict harm upon any of them, and I would probably go out of my way to save them if the situation called for it. Actually, I do go out of my way on a pretty regular basis to do all kinds of stuff for them because I’m a children’s librarian now, and let’s be totally clear – I love my job, and I completely adore these kids. But enjoying the company of kids and the role that I can play in their lives and wanting to be a mother are two connected but not synonymous things.
For what it’s worth, I think it’s absurd that at 26, I could end up with an unplanned pregnancy and have almost universal support for it, or I can decide at this same age to not have a baby and the overwhelming response from practically everyone is that a) I’ll change my mind and b) it’s their business to tell me so, as if they’ve ever spent a second inside my head. It’s my most frequently experienced and most adamantly despised form of sexism because it assumes that as a woman, I am simply a ticking time-bomb, waiting to blow up into a baby-making factory, regardless of what sort of actual person I really am and what sort of goals I have. It states that at 26, I don’t know enough about myself to make an informed decision about my future but I do have enough viable eggs left to create a whole new person, so let’s just roll with that. Before I was married, it was because I hadn’t met the right guy yet. Now that I’m married, most people hinge their guesses about my childless status upon whether my husband wants them or not. Newsflash: it’s a joint decision, but ultimately more mine than his because my body would be the vessel for the kid.
Honestly, having spent my whole life inside my head, I can tell you that it is far, far more likely that if I did have a baby, I would probably change my mind about that decision about a hundred times a day at least but guess what – there’s no socially-acceptable way of getting off that train once it’s really started rolling. However, deciding not to have a baby allows me the luxury of changing my mind whenever I want, basically, because there’s this thing called Adoption, and considering how happy I am to have saved the little fluffy lives of my fur babies through the same process, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that I would be equally pleased with that scenario. That said, however, there are still plenty of reasons out there why children are not for me, whatever method of delivery they arrive by.
Pregnancy – Absolutely nothing about this process appeals to me at all whatsoever. Oh, there’s an semi-alien being floating around inside me and making me have to pee even more often than I already do and causing more frequent and more horrible mood swings than I already have and draining me of nutrients and sucking calcium out of my bones? And “eating for two” actually means only a couple of glasses of low-fat milk and a handful of sunflower seeds or a tuna sandwich? Shenanigans! And you can try to dress it up with pleasant sounding words, but that “glow” is mostly sweat because your body and your hormones are out of control. None for me, thanks.
Childbirth – As much as the thought of being pregnant does not appeal to me, childbirth scares the shit out of me. Literally, because why on earth would I want to splay my legs for hours and excrete all kinds of bodily fluids and solids in front of loved ones and strangers alike just so I can either a) be in incredibly intense pain while my vagina tears apart or b) be in a drug-induced daze while my vagina tears apart? And then I get rewarded with a screaming purple potato of my very own to take home and who will never sleep through the night again for several months or years. WHERE DO I SIGN UP.
Infancy – As alluded to above, I don’t find newborns cute. Sorry I’m not sorry. Until they’re about 6 months to a year old (oh, sorry, 12 months, because everything has to be measured in months, right?), I really don’t dig them. They’re sometimes a weird color, their hair patterns are unpredictable, they excrete gross things at awkward times, they have no knee caps, there’s a soft spot IN that head that they can’t hold up themselves, they are literally the most selfish beings that are pooping/peeing machines that eat, sleep, and cry and basically nothing else. Shrieks and cries go straight through me; it doesn’t stir any maternal instincts, it just makes my uterus shrivel and my head hurt. And then even after they get out of the initial alien potato looking stage and move into the realm of cute, they’re still not really good at most things besides being cute and being loud, and you know what’s really good at being really cute but not loud and also doesn’t cost thousands upon thousands of dollars? Cats. Dogs. Friends. The Internet.
Babyhood and Childhood – Okay so yes, there are cool things going on developmentally with kids during this time – they’re learning, they’re growing, they can wear adorable shoes, and they’re becoming tiny little people, but let’s not underestimate the extent to which I tend to dislike most people (regardless of their tininess). Also once they’re walking and talking, there’s so much more potential for chaos.
I am, both at my core and on the surface, a total control freak – and kids present way, way too many opportunities for things to go wicked wrong. Let’s say I get lucky and manage to produce a child with no health problems (and I would be very lucky indeed) – the world is a traumatic death trap and you can’t be there with your kid every second of every day (nor would I want to be). This, therefore, requires a certain amount (ie: a LOT) of trust in others and learning to trust in just letting things play out as they’re meant to, and I hate that. Statistically, really no one escapes unscathed, so basically it’s just a waiting game until something happens. There’s creeps waiting around every corner, there’s drunk drivers plowing onto sidewalks, there are bullies at school, there are miserable teachers and overenthusiastic coaches, there are diseases coming back from near eradication (thanks, Anti-Vacs!), and there’s nothing you can do to guarantee that it won’t get to your kid. Except not have one.
Also, I can witness and play a part in the development of so many awesome, awesome kids just fine as their librarian or as an auntie but then pass them right back over when they start to scream or need something gross taken care of and feel no guilt over shirking my parental responsibility because I have none. That sounds like a tremendously better deal to me.
Teenager Years – Let’s also pretend for a minute that I have a healthy kid and they get through their childhood with minimal emotional scarring – here come the teenage years, ready and raring to go and chock-full of shit! Except now the problems your kid is facing are your legal and ethical responsibility to fix but generally not going to be ones that you necessarily made them face because so much of their time is going to be spent away from you and trying to do their “own” thing. Oh, also, there’s a good chance that they’ll think you’re stupid and actively rebel against you and hate your guts but still need money and rides to go waste time on relationships that are awful and trends that are stupid. Hooray! That sounds so fun!
Freedom to invest your finances and time into other pursuits – This is probably the most broadly applicable and therefore often cited reason in other peoples’ arguments against procreation, but it bears repeating with specifics for my life, I think.
The time argument is this, for me: I already don’t feel that I have enough time to devote to the things I genuinely want to do (which, granted, is mostly do Pinterest-inspired crafts and pet the cats and binge on Netflix and pumpkin pie…when seasonally appropriate). I work full-time and live an hour away from my job, and there’s always something that has to be done before or after work (appointments, phone calls, meetings, grocery shopping, housework), so adding a kid into the mix of all this sounds like a disaster waiting to feel neglected. On Tuesdays, I get home at 10pm and then have to be back at work at 9:30 the next day – where is a kid going to factor into that turnaround time? They’re not. I also work weekends days and nights, for that matter. So the option is to quit my job(s) or scale back my hours considerably and in either case probably grow to resent the kid on some unhealthy and unwarranted level, or keep on going full-time and play only a tiny role in their lives, and then what’s the point in even having them if you can barely spend time with them and they end up being raised by a varied array of others (familial and/or paid)?
The money argument is also really straightforward for me. As of last year, the average cost per kid in the US is approximately $241,080. With that money, I could do any number of things for myself, loved ones, and strangers in need, and still have leftover for fun, frivolous stuff.
You can give birth to and mother other things besides children – this is a paraphrased quote from an interview with Jennifer Aniston (the mother of all non-mothers) and I love it because it’s so true. I am still just starting out in my career and frankly my life as well, and I feel I’ve already figuratively given birth to so many little miracles that I find incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. They are all big projects and little victories and I’m pleased and proud of all of them, just as I’m disappointed in other areas of my life as well, but none of them (good or bad) will leave a permanent mark upon the earth because that’s not my style. If motherhood is made up of caring about other people and other things more than yourself, then I’ve mothered more people and animals and things that I can count.
I guess I have some “selfish” reasons for not wanting to have children, but most of my actual reasons are overwhelmingly selfless. Ultimately, I care more about the future of this unborn, unwanted child and more for the future of the earth (which is full of people I probably wouldn’t like most of if I met) than I do about catering to my own animalistic, biological urges. Which, ironically, would probably make me a pretty decent mother.
It’s not selfish to not want to have children. It’s selfish to not want to be a parent and have them anyway. It’s selfish to create a life when you won’t even be around for most of it. It’s selfish (and stupid) to create a whole person just to keep up with what other people think you should be doing. It’s selfish to burden someone else with the pursuit of your own sense of fulfillment.
Unapologetically, I’m more than enough on my own. If I do ever “change my mind” somewhere down the line, it’s 3000% not your business and I have a variety of ways to act upon that change. Most likely, it would be by way of adopting a child who needs a home more than my unfertilized eggs do, especially since my uterus is already cozy enough for them and they move out every month anyway and that’s more than enough drama for me.