“You don’t want kids?”
“I just don’t want them. Never have. I like kids. Babies are cute. TEENY WEENY SHOES! How can you not love that? I’ve just never felt that urge that a lot of women have to become a mother. I guess my biological clock stopped (actually, it never started).”
[Cue nervous laughter, quickly thinks of another subject, any subject to talk about]
I already knew to how to answer this question because, as a childless-by-choice woman, I get needled A LOT about why I don’t want to have kids (so much so that I have a list of prepared talking points, see below). My mother, however, well-intentioned she may be, is among the worst offenders. “Don’t tell men you don’t want to have children. They won’t think you’re feminine enough.” (I resist urge to make obvious, dirty jokes about my lady business). I don’t want to pick on my mom though, she’s a good lady and I know most of the stuff she says is because she really wants to be a grandmother and I think she would be great one.
Sometimes people are simply condescending: “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll change your mind. All women want babies once they start to hit thirty.”
I’m 34, so why don’t I want children?
- I don’t want children now because I’ve never wanted children. An awesome career doing something writeresque and creative? YES, PLEASE. Travel around the world for a year? ABSOLUTELY. Find love of my life and get married? SIGN ME UP! When I’ve had dreams about my perfect fantasy life, at no point have children ever entered the picture.
- I am not in a financial position to have kids. I don’t make a lot of money and there’s no guarantee I’ll be making any more as I get older (especially considering the state of the economy lately), I’m constantly delaying (or trying to lower) my student loan payments, I’m still in debt from when I was unemployed and didn’t have health insurance, and I’ve only recently been working at a steady job. Not to mention, what little money I do have leftover, I like spending on myself, friends, and family. Not to mention having a child is expensive. It takes a special kind of person to raise a child, a person who is patient and willing to sacrifice, and most importantly, who won’t resent the child for making those necessary sacrifices. Growing up, money was a huge issue in our family and I can’t be certain I wouldn’t pass the same neuroses on to my child that was passed on to me.
- When I tell people this, I usually hear “But you’re such a nice person. You’re loyal and protective of friends and family.” Being a good parent is so much more complicated than being a “nice person.” It takes a strong, specific love to raise a child, and I think specifically about Jeffrey Dahmer’s Dad, who continued to express unwavering love for his son, even after he had confessed to murdering and eating young men in 1991. That is the kind of love a parent must possess. It’s awe-inspiring and a true testament to father’s love that he could still find it in his heart to love his son, even the darkest part of him (even if I do find his son beyond reprehensible). I’ve always been honest with myself about myself. I’m a good person, but I’m not that good of a person. If you can love this fully and unconditionally, please go forth and maketh a mountain of babies (assuming those babies don’t grow up to eat other people’s babies), because you are the type of person that should be a parent. You are made of stronger, better stuff than I.
- As someone with a family history of mental illness, I’d be afraid of passing these on to my children. Life is going to be difficult enough, so knowing I’d already be possibly adding the additional baggage of ADD, bipolarity, depression, anxiety, not to mention various substance abuse issues that have plagued various members of my family, seems irresponsible on my part, especially considering the other reasons listed above.
When people aren’t telling you why you are such a stone cold weirdo for not wanting kids, you get hear all the fun arguments for having kids. There are so many fun ones to chose from, but here are two of my favorite bad arguments:
The “who will take care of you when you’re old?” argument. Probably the same people who will take care of you if you had children anyway: the good folks at Shady Acres Death Depot. If you’re having kids to ensure geriatric care, than you, my friend, are quite the gambler. There’s no guarantee that something wouldn’t happen to your child to make them unable to care for you (and that’s assuming they are willing to do so).
“If you don’t want kids, you’re selfish” argument. 1) So my carefully thought out reasons as to why I don’t want to have kids, most importantly, because I don’t know that I would be able to love them in a way they need and deserve AND I’m uncertain if I’ll be able to provide for them financially is a selfish decision? It’s selfish to choose not bring someone into this world when you know you can’t provide proper conditions for them? Please, go on. Your house of mirrors logic amuses me! Also, let’s say for the sake of argument, I am selfish. That’s a fair argument, because most people are selfish, often without meaning to be so. We are squishy mortals after all. So picture Selfish Me: I cut people off in traffic, I eat that red velvet cupcake you were saving for yourself in the office fridge, my cellphone loudly plays Call Me Maybe while you are trying to enjoy your $12 movie, and I interrupt your story about how your Dad died slowly and painfully of cancer in front of you to tell people about a horrible blind date I went on last week. Do we really need hypothetical Jerkle McDouchenbag me populating our already fragile earth with babies? If my selfishness led me, High Queen of Selfish, to not have kids, isn’t that a good thing? Or in Bill Burr’s words, shouldn’t we “Stop making that fucking guy?”
All that having being said, kids can be a lot of fun. Being around them means you get to play with toys! They are hilariously honest and more resilient and intelligent than adults give them credit for, but having them is so much more than a full-time job. I like kids, but I like the feeling of handing them over to their parents and returning to my childfree life even more. What lies at the center of my decision is that there are so many wrong ideas about why people should have children floating around, I can’t really be sure that I’d be making that decision for the right reasons.
But here’s what I do know: You are doing your potential kids a disservice by having them simply because “that’s what people do.” You are doing your kids a disservice if you don’t work on yourself first, choosing instead to place the burden on them to do what you couldn’t. Finally, you are doing your kids a disservice if you do not realize that the love you will be called upon to have for your child will be a bigger and tougher kind of love than any kind that’s ever been asked of you before