This is something I need to write for myself and others like me. It’s the way I came about deciding not to have any children. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with hating children. Not even a little bit. I hope someone someday will read this and gain an understanding and an appreciation for people who make this choice for similar reasons. Note: For the shortening of this post, which will already be a novella, I’m leaving out reasons pertaining to the environment, overpopulation, and finances. No one wanted to hear about those anyway.
I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT BEING A MOM WHEN I WAS LITTLE
When I was growing up, I never fantasized about motherhood the way I saw other girls do. My head was filled with horses, dogs, books, video games, art, building clubhouses and exploring the woods. I was probably given baby dolls, but my preference was always animal toys. Plots of heroic adventure and deep friendships filled my mind and heart and I always chose them over the concept of motherhood. I don’t remember making my animal toys into family structures either. They were always friends and they traveled the world and had adventures. I still like pretty much all the same stuff that I liked when I was 10.
I also have never been especially feminine at any time in my life. For the longest time I felt bad about myself because of this. I was so much less flashy than my girly peers. I had a tendency to be in the woods or off to myself in my room. I didn’t have lots of friends as I wasn’t very outgoing. I didn’t dream of getting boobs as a pre-teen as so many young girls do. When my mother bought me my first training bras I cut them up with a knife and threw them away. It was my very first visible act of rebellion. I didn’t want to be a woman in the traditional sense and I certainly never dreamed of being a mother. And before you start making assumptions, as many people in my life have about me ever since I can remember, you should know that I’m not gay. In fact, my husband and I just celebrated our 14 year anniversary and I don’t have any plans of leaving him. He’s my forever. I said til death do us part, and I mean it as much now as I did all those years ago.
My home life was pretty turbulent from the beginning. My mother was a single mother from the time I was 6 years old. My older siblings were rather a handful and ended up getting into a lot of trouble between the two of them. My mother tells people her children “came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.” I was the lamb.
There simply wasn’t a lot of space or time for me to take up with a single mom who was constantly being forced to discipline my siblings, take care of her own siblings and parents, and work full time to support us. Don’t get me wrong, my mom made a life for me. She loved me and she tried to make good choices for all of us. There were simply too many elements out of her control that created an uphill battle for her life, her own tumultuous upbringing being one of them.
I’VE NEVER WANTED TO TAKE UP A LOT OF SPACE OR HAVE A BIG FAMILY
My entire life I have spent most of my time blending in to the background trying not to take up too much space. Not just because I was forced to. This has just always been my preference. I choose the path of least resistance. In fact, you could say that has been the motivating factor behind the majority of my choices in life. Which choice is the path of least resistance? Which choice causes the least amount of work for my loved ones? As the “good child” that came after two rather rough and tumble ones, this natural introvert preference became a survival mechanism that has worked out pretty well for me.
Some people don’t have dreams of standing out and being famous. Some even long for the opposite, a sort of invisibility and a life lived out of the limelight. I only ever dreamed of a small, inconspicuous, quiet life in a house of my own with a good and kind man, where no one yelled or fought, no one did drugs or went to jail, and no one got divorced. That was my big dream. I also thought some day I might like to pursue writing for its own sake because writing makes me happy and that maybe we’d have a few horses and a few dogs for company, and a few true bosom friendships along the way, but that was pretty much the extent of it. No fortune. No fame. No big family.
WE HAVE GOTTEN A TASTE OF HOW WE WOULD BE AS PARENTS
My little sister, a surprise to my father and his then girlfriend, was born when I was 14 and has spent the last 6 years living with my husband and me. I have parented her avidly during this time but the truth is, I have always viewed her as a prospective equal just needing a quiet, stable environment in which to finish out her childhood before becoming an adult.
There came a time in my sister’s life when the adults who were supposed to take care of her were faltering and struggling just to take care of themselves. Someone had to catch her. I watched it unfold over the course of a few years and waited with arms outstretched. I didn’t want to miss out on my sister’s life. I wanted her to have the best possible chance at having a happy life and a foundation from which she would have the knowledge and calmness of mind to make effective choices. She didn’t deserve to be another casually tossed aside victim of parental autopilot and systems failure.
I did not want her ending up a casualty of her parents’ wars, another piece of human brokenness cast among the debris of the world, set free to create more chaos through bad decisions. Perhaps none of us has been able to avoid that regardless of whether our parents stayed together or not, but if we make good decisions we can at least limit the harm we do to others and to our children. Everyone is incomplete in their own unique way and yet just the same as everyone else who has ever existed, that’s a big part of our humanity.
I HATE BEING REQUIRED TO DISCIPLINE AND CORRECT OTHERS
This brings me to kind of an important point that swayed my decision to have my own kid. I hate parenting and the plethora of requirements that entails. The disciplining and the constant need for correction overwhelms me. It’s grueling and thankless and it never really ends. It becomes an anxiety disorder. We have discussed everything at length many times because she is old enough for that now. I have told her how painful and difficult a time it was for me. Don’t get me wrong, there were good days and rewards and moments where my heart felt like it would burst and I wouldn’t take it back, but I had no idea how hard it was going to be to raise even a good and reasonably healthy teenager without a lot of behavioral issues to contend with. In short, to chalk it up to this universal notion that parenting is hard just doesn’t cut it. Not even close. It isn’t just hard, its all encompassing. It has consumed my time, my emotions and on some days my sanity.
I like being a big sister though. She is one of the most wonderful gifts I was ever given. Life was never the same after she came. I had someone to be an example to and it mattered to me. However, fostering an angst filled teenager who keeps her guard up and hardly ever lets you in will really take its toll on your emotions. She is getting married this summer to a really decent young man. I am so excited for us to be just sisters again. I don’t want to parent anyone anymore.
She keeps asking me if I will be sad when she moves out. All I can say is, I will miss little things here and there but on the whole I am looking forward to saying goodbye to my makeshift role as one of her parental authorities. I am ready to be equals again and now that she is about to start her own life as an adult out on her own, I’m hoping we can be better friends.
It’s much easier to be friends with someone when you don’t have to tell them to pick up their dirty clothes and bring all the dirty dishes out of their room into the kitchen and give them the stink eye when you see them drinking a venti Frappucino and you know they are supposed to be budgeting their money more wisely. When you parent someone, these things start to become all you see about them because the bad things require your attention and that isn’t a balanced view. I hated feeling like this. She is a very good person and she doesn’t deserve that.
CURRENT AND POTENTIAL HEALTH PROBLEMS ABOUND
I have other reasons for not wanting to have any children. It’s dangerous to my own health, and then my child will likely be born with ADD because I have it, not to mention the all-affecting hypothyroidism from my husband. Did I mention I have a chronically ill spouse? I try not to think of him as having any kind of label like that but then on the weekends and evenings after work where all he wants to do is sleep I have to remind myself that he has a pretty good reason and he isn’t just being lazy. To me he is more than his illness, but coping can be a challenge just for our own emotional well being.
While I fully believe he would be a better parent in many ways than I would be because of his ability to be consistent and his attention to detail, qualities I lack, I also believe his physical health wouldn’t do well with the challenge of child rearing. I would resent him for something he couldn’t help. Animosity would build over years and then before you know it we are getting divorced.
Not only this, he has been diagnosed with OCPD and depression. Look up OCPD. It is characterized by rigidity, a lack of flexibility, unreasonably high standards for himself and others. Plus, he isn’t big on the idea of having a child, but says “If you decide you want to, we will have one.” That isn’t highly motivating for me because for the longest time those were the only terms under which I would have considered having one, only if he really wanted one. So neither of us really wants one, but we would do it if the other one really wanted to. This is not a good foundation for having a child. Pair that with an overbearing OCPD father and a scatterbrained, ADD mess of a mother and our kid would have no kind of life worth living. Walking on eggshells while daily trying to help me find my keys that will ironically never fail to be in my pocket the entire time.
Then I also see and hear stories from my friends, all of whom have children, and it sounds down into me even further that kids are a lot of stress, expense and drudgery. That’s just if you have healthy ones. Multiply that by a factor of 10 if they are born with a life threatening disease. I’ve never been much of a gambler and it seems to me that with every new baby born, the instances of endocrine related diseases, autism spectrum disorders, and a myriad of other health problems in children is on the rise. I live with one person who will deal with his illness the rest of our lives together. I don’t want to create another one to be born into that same kind of life. We could roll the chromosomal dice and see what we get but again, I am no gambler, especially when it comes to not only the rest of MY life, but also my husband’s life and the life of the child we would be having.
A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN, A SHARP TONGUE AND A LOW TOLERANCE FOR DRUDGERY
Also, some personal confessions. I get snappy. Really snappy. My mom was snappy with me. It wounded me so much as a child. I wasn’t one of those kids you ever had to spank. A look was enough. God knows she had enough on her plate, I don’t blame her. But… having experienced it from the other side, I don’t ever want to be snappy with my kid. I am already snappy with my husband and my sister. I have been this way my whole life, having a child will not magically change this. It will just exacerbate it. That isn’t a maybe, that is a certainty.
I am not a patient person. I don’t like to be bothered when I am doing things because my attention span is either an inch long or a black hole, neither of which can tolerate much interruption. Having a child would not only not allow me to have many hobbies at all anymore, but even the few precious ones I had would be constantly interrupted by someone asking me to make them food or to do something else for them right now right now right now. Endless interruption piled on top of my already endless distraction. Endless menial drudgery. Some people can find a sort of zen like aspect to it and I applaud that ability having yet to achieve it in myself.
Parents who love being parents would say “Well that’s just part of being a parent and a human, it’s unavoidable.” Believe me. I know that. My best friends with kids are some of the most patient women I know. Maybe this quality developed more with having children. Regardless, every mother comes to a breaking point and starts getting snappy. Every person’s patience can run dry.
PANIC ATTACKS AND DEPRESSION
Also, I have panic attacks and depression that lingers for a week or more at a time. A child shouldn’t have to see that and I might not be able to control it. Then all of a sudden, the burden of my mental and emotional health falls on the shoulders of my kiddo. I have decided that this isn’t an acceptable burden for me to place on a child. My own mother’s depression and hard times weighed heavily on me and I couldn’t help her. The pain of seeing the ones you love struggle with something you can’t rescue them from can be debilitating. I don’t want that for anyone, let alone a child I would love more than anything else in the world.
I’M NOT SELFISH AND NEITHER ARE MOST OTHER MATURE “CHILDFREE” ADULTS
I hope the bits and pieces of my life experience that I have shared today can create some fellow feeling in this regard. I hope you don’t think I’m selfish, because people that choose not to have kids hear that a lot and it’s simply not correct in many cases. Yes, some childless people are just hedonistic, selfish and immature but some aren’t. I would imagine that if you are a very responsible parent, you can’t stomach the bad wrap you are being given by all the irresponsible parents out there. In this way, you and I are the same. There are two sides to every coin, a healthy and unhealthy side to every group.
Is it unrealistic not to feel utterly compelled and consumed by the need to replace yourself with at least one being with half your genetic material? I mean, that’s what we have reproductive organs for isn’t it? A lot of people can understand not being able to have children, after all there is a lack of choice in that situation, but many can’t fathom that someone would choose not to procreate when it is likely that they could have a healthy child sans intervention.
MY HORMONES OCCASIONALLY MAKE ME MUTINY AGAINST MY TRUE WISHES
While I am currently in my mid-thirties and thus experiencing horrible hormone driven uterus mutinies every 3 months or so, often triggered by baby clothing at the department store, the fact is that when my hormones level out again, I return to a state of indifference about having children. Sometimes, I become adamant about not having children less than a week after an all out sobfest, panic attack freak out about the ticking of my biological clock and how many eggs I have left. Thanks a heap, crazy hormones. Thanks for making me feel like I don’t even know myself.
IT WOULDN’T BE BETTER IF IT WERE MY OWN KID. I KNOW MYSELF.
I have chosen not to have kids, not because I hate them. I choose not to have them because I am not capable of being the kind of mother I would want for my child without losing myself and my peace of mind entirely. You can’t say I don’t have experience enough to make this decision, because I do. And you also can’t counter by saying it would be different if it were my own child because it would be different, only it would be much worse. I would be much more consumed and it would be from start to finish.
If you have done your research and you know you are willing to devote yourself entirely to a child, then you should be a parent because kids need people like you. If you just want a child as a lifestyle accessory or something to stave off existential boredom until you decide its not as cute anymore and then start going into parental autopilot with it, then please don’t have any. I understand that a little bit of this is unavoidable, but not all the time. You have to care. You have to pay close attention. You have to protect them without instilling too much fear of living their lives. That’s a very fine line.
THE WORLD NEEDS PEOPLE WHO ARE WILLING TO FOREGO HAVING CHILDREN
I am content being a support system for my friends with kiddos. Childless or Childfree people in their thirties often have very few friends who don’t have kiddos and can feel just as lonely as the rest who do. We all need to find time for each other and learn to co-exist and make room for everyone else’s path right beside our own. There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. We childless and childfree ones are a part of that village and we can play a part in that great amount of love and time that is spent in the forging of a new person. We can also provide support for their parents. It shouldn’t be viewed as an obligation, but as a joy and personal fulfillment to add to the lives of others while also having ample time to pursue our own passion and peace of mind.
APATHY AND INDIFFERENCE ARE NOT A GOOD FOUNDATION FOR PARENTHOOD
How would I describe myself in the fall out of the great parenthood debate? They say one in five women will not have children by the time she is in her mid-forties. I look to be that one for my five and am becoming increasingly calm about it. I will have plenty of things to keep me busy and fulfilled.
About having kids, I have to say I am a pendulum steadily swinging back and forth between mildly apathetic at best, utterly indifferent most of the time, and adamantly against on the bad days. That is not a good mindset for a parent. A child deserves at least one parent who always knew they wanted to be a parent and has a passion for that life or at the very least can find their passion in anything and commit to it. At least 20 years worth of passion, caring and selfless dedication to be precise. That simply isn’t in me and it never will be.
IN CLOSING, SOME WORDS FROM MY OWN MOTHER
I want to end with a response I got from my own mother in a moment of absolute objectivity, who when her early twenty something daughter asked her if she should have children, responded “No, they just ruin your life and break your heart.” Don’t hate her for that. She has always been a woman torn by her passions and her duty to her children and I appreciate her honesty in that moment. I needed to hear it. Even at the time she said it I didn’t wince, I understood. She loved us and she wouldn’t take any of us back, but there was a life she wanted beyond being a slave to raising us.
I am so much like her and I love her so much for the sacrifices she made for me. But as you can see, even the lambs can break their mothers’ hearts. It isn’t intentional, that’s just part of the process of trial and error it takes to become an effective human being. Every person born into this world deserves to have a parent who is willing to have their heart shattered to pieces on one day and then bursting with happiness the next because that is the internal fortitude that it takes, day in and day out, to be a good parent. You have to care to the point of obsession and madness. I’ve already had a small dose of this, and that was enough for me.