There’s something about people’s mouths going agape after I utter the words, “I don’t want to have children,” that puts me off.
It happened recently with a new acquaintance who, in getting to know me, asked whether I have any children. When I said no, this new acquaintance followed up with another question: “Do you want to have children?” When I replied with another “no,” she gasped as if I had told her I plan to vote for Donald Trump. I guess she didn’t consider the possibility of a direct and absolute no. I quickly lost all interest in the conversation thereafter.
In all fairness, she couldn’t have possibly known how tired I am of hearing such a response. The shock and awe I’ve witnessed over the years from family, friends and acquaintances alike is as baffling to me as a woman proclaiming she doesn’t want to procreate is to them. Worse yet is the obligatory follow-up question that arises when a single woman of child-bearing age states that she wants to remain childless: “Why?”
If that question is coming from my parents, that’s one thing, because it’s not at all unusual for parents to want grandchildren. But I don’t like answering that question (especially to people who aren’t my parents) for several reasons. Namely because the why is never good enough. “I don’t want to have kids,” is not a sufficient answer in their eyes. Neither is, “I’ve never seen myself as a mother,” or any other reason I list. My insistence on remaining without child often turns into a reassurance party. Accusations and assumptions are hurled my way – “You’re just scared,” “You’re only saying that because you haven’t met the right guy,” “You’ll make a great mother,” et cetera and so on. Thanks for the vote of confidence, but it’s not that deep. And I still don’t want to have kids.
Not taking people’s so-called advice about having kids into consideration often and inaccurately translates to an assumption that I don’t like children. Which, in the past, called for additional explanation on my behalf. Or so I thought. But I learned that I’m not responsible for any confusion or misunderstanding that might arise simply because I check no on the child box. I’m perfectly clear on what it is that I want. I don’t need to justify or explain my reasoning, and I certainly don’t need to put anyone at ease. I’m also not a rare species. Nor have I committed a crime or offended women or parents the world over. My choice to not have children is exactly that – a choice. Why must I be made to feel bad or different? Or like less of a woman?
Another thing I’m tired of hearing is that I’ll live to regret my decision. One of my aunts who never had children has said this to me on numerous occasions. It is her truth, and she assumes that it will one day be mine if I refrain from bearing a child. I really am sorry she feels that way and if years from now she turns out to be right about my decision, then so be it. But guilting me into wanting to procreate isn’t going to make me change my mind. Sure, I’m open to the possibility that things may one day change. I’ve seen it happen with other women before. In fact, one of my best friends was adamant about not having children and then one day, several years into her marriage, she changed her mind. But she couldn’t have predicted that would happen. The same can be said for me.
The final kicker of all this why-don’t-you-want-a-baby madness goes a little something like this: “Do you really think you’ll find a man who doesn’t want to have kids?” (or a man who doesn’t already have kids). This is like a dagger to the heart. That question basically suggests that if I want to have a lasting relationship, I have to suck it up and have a child to satisfy the man in my life. It suggests that romantic love cannot exist or bears no meaning without a child in the mix. It suggests that I am completely alone in my thinking and that I have to, therefore, remain alone. But I’m not falling for any of that. Having a child is kind of a big deal and doing so because it’s what one person in a relationship wants is a setup for failure in my book. So lose me with the half on a baby logic or any of the other scenarios in which I’m made to feel some kind of way because I don’t see a little me in my future. Please, and thank you? I’d really appreciate it.