Let me explain (again). I have never wanted children. There may have been an odd moment here and there after a friend has had a child where I’ve considered it and questioned whether I am making the right decision. It always comes back to me deciding it’s not for me. In my late 20’s, the topic of children only came up occasionally in conversation. I suspect that this was because most of the people I knew didn’t have children yet. It never really bothered me. I hit 30 and that all changed. Apparently, I should be hearing my eggs scream every month as another meets its bloody end. I should hear the constant tick of a clock to remind me those eggs ain’t going to stay fresh forever. I wasn’t in a serious relationship when I turned 30 and I think this made me an easy target for people to ask more frequently a) If I want to get married and b) If I want children. It seemed to stress other people out more than it did myself. I found myself fielding these questions with increased irritation and indignance due to some of the outrageously patronising things that were said to me. Here are a few examples:
‘Who’s going to look after you when you’re old?’- Having kids does not mean you have a carer for life. Loneliness is an increasing problem in the elderly community I guarantee you that this problem is not exclusive to those who didn’t have kids. People’s kids can move away. They may not speak to their kids for whatever reason. People can be selfish and have no regard for their parent’s well- being. This argument is null and void. So to answer that question, myself, my friends and my husband. And we’re going to shuffle of the mortal coil like the old dears in the Notebook.
‘Having a child is the greatest thing you’ll ever do’- Yes. For some people. Not everyone. In this society, our success appears to be measured by having an education, a good job, your own home, a spouse and kids. Anyone not meeting these goals seem to be pitied or looked down on. People need to realise that everyone’s goals and ideas of happiness vary wildly. My goals are to complete my degree, get a job I enjoy and allows me to be more financially stable and marry the man I love most in the world. I want to visit Japan, cage dive with sharks and adopt a lot of dogs. My husband and I eventually move to a cabin in the woods, away from people, Trump and the Tories. I have no doubt those with kids look at these goals and think they are shallow and self- indulgent. Really though, what business is it of theirs? If I have a happy and fulfilled life without kids, then why is this a bad thing? You do you, and I’ll do me. And my husband.
‘You’ll change your mind when you meet the right man’- The perfect man for me would not want children, would have a lush beard, love dogs, feed me when I’m hangry and be a gentleman in the streets and a fucking demon between the sheets. People would give me that patronising little smile, thinking that when he came along, my ovaries would go on fire. I’d throw out my contraception and mount him like a noble steed and put a bun right in that oven. I’d see how silly I’d been. After all, who would want to be with a woman who doesn’t want to carry on the bloodline. Well, the perfect beardy man did come along. My ovaries remain unlit. The contraception is still carefully in place. If we do all the things we talk about doing, our life will be happy, fulfilled and child free. Everyone’s man is the right man for them!
As soon as the ring went on my finger, my womb and his balls were a conversation point for friends, family and colleagues. ‘Have you set a date?’ was quickly followed by ‘when are you having kids?’ My fiancé is a lovely, laid back fella. I’m a stress head and he lets me rant until I run out of steam and then gives me his go to advice: ‘Just ignore them’. Then he feeds me and shows me pictures of dogs until I’m happy again. However, he too has noticed the increased frequency of the kid question and it’s taken its toll on him. The implication that we are misguided or naive or selfish has gotten under his skin. For anyone reading this who thinks we are, I ask you to question why you think this of total strangers and also why it’s bugging you so much. We don’t hate kids. We don’t pity parents. We’re not judging people for having kids. We’re not deciding to be child free because we love a lie in and holidays. We just don’t want any of our own. There’s no agenda, or underlying hatred of little humans. We simply don’t want kids.
This seems to baffle people. Even those without kids but who want them in the future. I returned to university at 30 and my degree is health based. I am surrounded by people from all walks of life, in all kinds of relationships and who live in all kinds of households. Yet it was here that I faced the most judgement. A friend congratulated me on the engagement and this sparked another friend to ask when we’re having kids. When I replied never there was a laugh until they all realised I was serious. I was then met with disbelief. I found myself yet again having to explain my reason why. I cannot tell you how fucking bored I am of saying the same things over and over again. I can’t properly describe how vulnerable I feel when I am explaining my private, reproductive choices to people so they can fathom why someone would make a different lifestyle choice from them. It makes me feel embarrassed, then ashamed and finally angry. Angry at people for thinking they have the right to ask these personal questions. Angry that they think they deserve an explanation. Angry at myself for letting them make me feel this way.
I know there are bigger problems in life than people being a bit nosey. In the grand scheme of things, it’s only a question and I’ll continue with my day and they’ll continue with theirs. I know this. Yet the double standard bothers me. I don’t ask people why they chose to have kids. I don’t tell them they’ll regret it later in life. I don’t tell people who want kids that they’ll change their minds. So why is this acceptable to say to those who are choosing the child free life?
Present at the conversation in uni, a woman I don’t know very well was sitting with us. She said she felt the same as me until she accidentally got pregnant. Her doctor prescribed her antibiotics and said they wouldn’t interfere with her pill. 10 positive pregnancy tests later sure proved him wrong. My response to this was to ask her (half) jokingly if she sued the doctor. She looked slightly affronted but laughed it off. And therein lies the difference between me and her. I would have wanted the doctor struck off. He gave crap advice which resulted in a baby that she hadn’t planned. On the other hand, she went back to this same doctor to have her pregnancy confirmed.
Imagine the uproar that I would have caused if I asked her why she kept it. I’m not going to lie, if it was me in that position I would have been seeking one hasty abortion, please and thank you. But I didn’t ask her because IT’S NOT MY FUCKING BUSINESS! It’s not any of my business why people choose to have babies. It’s not business why people choose to have more than one even though they’re cash strapped or have had a horrific experience with the first one. Even if I felt the need to know why, I’m not allowed to ask. There’s a very real taboo about saying anything negative towards parents or their children. If you don’t want a kid though? Expect to be treated as if you’ve just drowned a kitten in front of people’s eyes and now they must understand this horrifying behaviour.
I need to reiterate here that I do not hate children and I do not feel superior to parents because I have a bit more freedom and disposable income in my life. I’m not smug or judgemental about parenthood. I’m pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. You want kids? Great, have all the sex and good luck making a baby! You have kids? Great, I hope they’re healthy and happy and I hope you are too. You don’t want kids? Great, let’s go throw piles of that disposable income at each other and daydrink somewhere toddlers aren’t allowed. I’M KIDDING! You don’t want kids? Great I hope you’re happy and healthy too.
I do actually respect people with kids. That shit is hard. Even the healthiest of pregnancies is a hard time, never mind if there’s complications. The responsibility of keeping a person alive is pretty daunting. Juggling finances to afford kids is a major task, especially in this day and age. Mum’s are judged pretty hard. People always have an opinion about your pregnancy and how you raise your kids. It’s a fucking minefield. I’ve read a few insane comments saying women who have C- sections aren’t ‘real mothers’. Um, well she grew that kid in her own womb so yeah I’d say that qualifies her to have motherhood status. I have seen women shamed for choosing not to breastfeed. The horror that someone doesn’t want a kid hanging off their tit while they do their shopping. Plus, can we get it through our heads that some women really want to breastfeed but can’t? You shaming them for pulling out a bottle of formula ain’t going to help that milk come in Susan so get off your high horse.
The thing I find worrying about people interrogating you about your womb is that they don’t know your full story. The don’t consider there could be a very real and heart breaking reason why people don’t have and don’t plan on having kids. I’ve read a few blogs where women are struggling to conceive or flat out cannot conceive and the easiest thing to say to Nosey Nellies is that they don’t want kids. As someone who is not reproductively challenged, to my knowledge anyway, I can say it’s frustrating enough explaining your reason for not having kids. I couldn’t imagine having to explain to people that I can’t and dealing with the ‘sympathy’ and barrage of alternative medicines and methods that have worked for ‘a friend of a friends’ personal trainer’ and all that shit.
I would just like people to have a think about why they think it’s ok to ask people such personal question. Why they think us child free folks are selfish or shallow or misguided. To have some consideration before interrogating people about their choices as they don’t know what the hell is going on in that person’s life. The main thing I want people to ask themselves is why it bothers them so much that some people don’t want kids. The world is a pretty shitty place and there are a lot worse things going on than someone not using their womb. And finally, always remember, IT’S NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.