I’m a 32-year-old woman, and I don’t want children.
At some point, I might be a 36-year-old woman who does want children. I also might not be. That is entirely my decision and my choice.
You’d be amazed how many times I’ve been told I’m wrong though. Here are some reasons why I don’t know what I want:
- I haven’t met the right man yet
- I’m lying to get attention
- I’ll understand when I’m older
- I’m too focussed on what I want now, but what I want will change (to ‘children’, I assume)
- My body clock will start yelling it’s head off any day now
- I’m trying to be different
- I’ll regret it when it’s too late
All of these things are not only insulting, but I’d imagine I only hear them because I’m a woman. If I was a 32-year-old man who said they didn’t want children, no-one would bat an eyelid, and yet, as a woman, I have all the more reason to have no interest in having children. If I want my own child, it’s me that has to put my body, my lifestyle, my career, my mental health and even my life at risk to do so. I have enough friends and family who have had children to know that carrying a child, giving birth to it and the recovery afterwards is absolutely horrific. Unless I am desperate to have a baby, there is no way I’m putting myself through that.
But that isn’t the main reason that I don’t want children. The main reason that I don’t want children, is that I don’t want them. Children turn your life upside down and inside out. For the rest of your life, and certainly for the first 15 years, your life revolves around them. And rightly so. But to be able to handle that, and to not resent your child for everything you have to give up to give them the best possible start (money, holidays, sleep, peace and quiet, hot cups of tea etc), you need to want them. People tell me I might regret not having children – but I would much, much rather that, than regret having children.
And in case that isn’t reason enough, I can go on.
We live in a terrible world. I love many things about it, but as far as the big picture goes, it’s pretty bad. The climate is changing with terrifying speed, the far right is building momentum across Europe, someone is probably going to (accidentally or on purpose) set off a nuclear bomb at some point soon, and even if none of that comes to pass, sexism, racism, homophobia and inequality are still rife, and robots are probably going to take over within the next generation and there’s no guarantee they’ll be benevolent. I don’t want to bring a baby into that world unless I genuinely feel that things are changing for the better.
I’ve struggled with mental health issues since I was a teenager. It’s only now, after more than a decade of experimenting with therapy, medication and self-help that I’m truly learning to manage it well and live a more optimistic, meaningful life, but it’s not easy. I’m terrified I’d pass those tendencies on to a child. I need to have my own head firmly in order before I could even begin to consider where a child would fit in, and to know how I could help them if they did end up the same.
The last big one is probably hugely unpopular, but everyone knows it’s kind of true: being a parent looks mind-numbingly boring. And I KNOW that apparently it’s all totally worth it for the good times (and I know first-hand that kids can be hilarious), but honestly, I need so much mental stimulation that I think if I had to spend half my time at soft play, ferrying a miserable over-tired 4-year-old between children’s parties (that I had to STAY at) and watching my beloved son spend half an hour trying to tie his shoelaces because he DOES NOT NEED HELP and who needs to be on time anyway, I’d just combust. I have endless admiration for the patience of parents; it’s not one of my stronger traits.
All of that said, I could easily overcome all of those, if it happened that I started wanting children. For all the difficulties and hardships that come with raising children, there is a bond between a child and its parents that’s like nothing else (I have a pretty strong bond with my cat, and I think it’s even bigger than that – so it’s quite something). Seeing my nieces growing up brings me more pride than I could ever have imagined, and the tiniest things they do make my heart feel ready to burst, so it must be the most incredible feeling if that’s your own child.
But understanding that isn’t enough to change my mind. If I change my mind, it’ll be from somewhere deep within, and it will be enough to dispel my doubts and fears. But that might never happen, and I’m ok with that; I just wish everyone else was too.