[TW for misogyny, gender essentialism]
It is true. I don’t.
I don’t really think of this as some shocking, depraved or in any way unusual aspect of my character. It’s become increasingly apparent to me, though, that this is how other people think of it. So apparent that I felt the need to write about it.
I have known I don’t want children since the very first time I learned that my reproductive organs made it possible for me to have a child. I think I was about ten years old. I had a very basic reason back then: what I knew about the mechanics of giving birth to a child suggested that it hurt, a lot, and I didn’t want that. Since then I have, of course, developed a greater understanding of the matter, and revisited this decision many times. And you know what? I still don’t want kids. I don’t want to give birth to, adopt, or raise any children, ever. Naturally I have plans for my future, and lots of them. Kids aren’t anywhere in there.
I’m not really going to explain my reasons for not wanting children, because while they’re not irrelevant, they’re not as important as the simple fact that I don’t want children and explaining would feel a bit too much like justification to me at this point. I don’t need any justification for this.
There are people who think I do, though. I’m not sure how many, but it’s pretty much everyone I mention it to. And whatever reason I give, even the ones I completely make up so that the responses don’t feel so much like personal attacks, are dismissed as not being good enough. I get called “selfish” a lot, I get called “unnatural” somewhat less, and I get stared at a lot like I’m an alien life form.
It’s been said much better elsewhere, but basically: Having a child you don’t want and subjecting that child to being raised by a mother who doesn’t want them seems a lot more “selfish” than remaining childless, and even more selfish is deriding someone for not making a choice that you think they should make. This is an old, old argument, and is probably on a misogyny-related bingo sheet or two.
It’s not “unnatural” to refrain from doing something just because you happen to have the appropriate anatomy to do that thing. In fact, there are people who choose not to move their bodies very much, for their own reasons. There are people who choose not to have sex, even though they have genitals, also for their own reasons. Et cetera. Lots of people choose not to do lots of things that their various body parts were “made to do”. Most of them are not frowned upon (some of them are, which is a topic for another post).
I suspect that what “unnatural” really refers to is my apparent lack of a maternal instinct. I’m pretty sure that the people who use this word believe that women are born with a big neon sign in the largest part of their brains that says “MAKE BABIES,” and that a woman who doesn’t have this feature is broken. I don’t put any stock in gender essentialism, having seen it disproven about a gazillion times, so this is an argument that I feel fairly comfortable not taking seriously.
Alien Life Form
You know what? Sometimes I wish I was. An alien life form that does not have ovaries, a uterus or fallopian tubes and therefore *can’t* have kids. *Can’t* have kids is something people can understand, although they can be very insensitive about that as well. But yes, I would gladly give away my ability to have children to someone who can’t have kids and really wants to, and just be infertile. If I ever get myself into some kind of “trading spaces” situation involving a genie and a cursed lamp, I know what I’ll wish for.
You’ll Change Your Mind
Even worse are the people who insist that I really *do* want kids, I just don’t know it yet. Because I am just that incapable of knowing how I feel. I certainly don’t know how I feel better than you do. That would just be silly.
I am not the kind of person to pull that crap on, however, because thanks to years and years of intense therapy, I actually *do* know how I feel, all the fucking time. Every second of every day. It’s pretty awesome. It follows, therefore, that if I ever change my mind, I will know it right away. Hasn’t happened yet. And I’ve been hearing things like this for years. And if I do change my mind, why would I tell you about it? You clearly have no ability or inclination to regard me as a capable decision-maker.
You’re too Young
This happens a lot too. It often accompanies “you’ll change your mind.” But my age actually has nothing to do with it. Yes, I am young – probably younger than anyone who comes across this blog would ever guess – but as I type this, some thirty-five year old woman somewhere is being denied a tubal ligation by her doctor because she’s “too young.” In the eyes of a society that thinks all women should want children, I will still be too young when I’m forty. No matter how old a woman who doesn’t want children is, she’s always “too young” to know how she really feels, because how she really feels makes people too uncomfortable for them to address it honestly. Much easier to dismiss it.
And conversely, no matter how *young* a woman who *does* want children is, she’s *never* too young. No one ever says “you’re too young to know you want to be a mother.” Because women are expected to want to be mothers. It is viewed as something every woman will decide to do at some point in her life, and those young girls who make the decision earlier than others are just getting a head start. If I had a change of heart one day and decided to tell all these people – the same people who tell me I’m “too young” now – how much I wanted kids someday, they would just fucking congratulate me.
You’ll Regret It
Lots of people also really want me to know that I will be very sorry if I live the full life that I plan to live and don’t have kids at the end of it. Because biology. Well, maybe I will. I probably won’t. And if I do, so what? I’ve already done a whole bunch of things that I regret, and there are even more things that I regret *not* doing, and I am still pretty much fine with the way things turned out. Not having kids might be something I regret eventually, but in no way will that render my life completely meaningless. I’ll regret it the same way I’ll regret that I never went to Paris (also something I know I’ll never do). Not that big a deal.
Besides, if you were really honest, you would admit that because of the pressure our society puts on women to procreate, the number of women who regret *having* children probably far surpasses the number of women who regret *not* having children. I would rather regret the latter, personally.
The Moral of The Story
People who want to judge your choices will judge your choices no matter what. Even when you do exactly what they said you should have done. They will never believe that you are serious, because they wish that you weren’t serious, and any attempts you make to explain just how serious you are will convince them that you are just trying to prove them wrong because you can’t admit that they’re right. (I am sure that if and when I make it to the age of sixty and still don’t have a kid, there will still be people who believe that I really did want a kid and was just desperate to “show them.”)
Trying to please these people is a waste of time, and they don’t actually deserve it.
Being one of these people is an even bigger waste of time. If you are one of these people: please, confront whatever fears, assumptions or bigotries you have that are making you act this way and then just stop it. You have nothing to gain.