Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What, no baby?

I haven’t ever wanted kids. Not even when I was younger, when everyone around me was either a child themselves or a parent and I assumed that all women had to have them. Because every tantrum, every complaint that ‘so and so got more than me’, every ‘I hate you mum’ that came out of my young mouth, made me even more certain that I never wanted to be a mother.

My plan until I entered year seven was to marry someone that loved kids, and make the husband and children all live in a different house to me. The husband could visit on weekends, and I would see the kids on their birthdays. But in year seven I met a very street-wise girl who informed that I didn’t actually have to have children. You can’t even imagine the relief. It was like all my dreams had been answered. In fact, I would go so far as to say they had been. What she didn’t tell me was how other people would react to a girl that didn’t want to procreate.

It was fine when I was younger. They would laugh, mess up my hair and say 'you’ll change your mind one day.' I didn’t mind that so much then because I was always changing my mind. Besides, when you’re young no one takes anything you say seriously, so it wasn’t a huge surprise.

But now that I’m an adult, own my own house, am married, and know exactly what it is that I want (and children are not one of them), that sentence drives me crazy. Friends and family, who all know how headstrong I am and take every other thing I say as gospel, and know that when I make a decision it is set in stone, just will not accept that I am not having children. As if every single woman is wired the same way and wants the exact same things. I say woman because my husband, who dislikes children as much as I do, doesn’t have to deal with this. No one questions his ability to make clear decisions for himself, simply because he doesn’t have ovaries.

What is just as bad, and sometimes worse, is when people do accept that I’m serious, because the judgements they make are overwhelming. While they don’t come out and say it in these words (apart from my grandmother) the general consensus is that I’m selfish. 'Oh…well I guess being a parent is a lot of work', or 'So I guess you just want to focus on your career?' are the sentences that people seem to be most fond of using.

Not having children because I don’t want them is just as selfish as having children because you do want them. I understand that having children requires a lot of sacrifices, but if having children is what you want then I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make you a martyr. It just means that you went through with a decision that you made, and I’m going through with mine.

And the idea that a woman has to pick between children or a career is the most insulting idea ever. I know many mothers with amazing careers, and I’m managing to be as un-career orientated as a person can be. That doesn’t show any signs of changing just because I’m remaining childless. It’s not an either/or.

I don’t want children because I just…don’t. There’s no rhyme and reason to it other than I don’t like them and have no interest in them. I may have misused the word decision- I didn’t consciously sit down and write out the pros and cons. I don’t fight maternal instincts every day simply because I want more time for myself, or a ‘career’. I just don’t have maternal instincts. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

All I want is for people to respect the fact that I don’t want children. To stop making judgements about it based on misconceptions that should have died out a long time ago. And to realise that just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean that I'm programmed to want a baby.

PS. The article title is taken from a book by Leslie Cannold, which is basically the antithesis is everything I have written.

pps. I'm so sorry I haven't commented back to people yet! I was in Melbourne for three days and now have an assignment/Joel's birthday/new dance class/coast trip coming up in the next few days...but once I'm back Monday I'll start being a better blogger again, promise :)


Deidre said...

two things. You came to Melbourne and didn't tell me!

secondly, I also do not want babies and I find it horrifying how people react when I say that. I always find it awful that my in laws are starting to put the pressure on for the babies - and we don't feel comfortable telling them we don't want kids because we know they won't react well. Not ideal.

a work in progress said...

I'm hurtling towards forty at a cracking pace, and I also do not wish to procreate...Of course I no longer get the 'you'll change your mind' speech, more the 'there's still time' speech or (worst of all - so so so rude and insensitive) the insinuation that as a woman I will somehow be 'incomplete' without becoming a mother.
Grrr. Drives me nuts.
I am waiting on delivery of this
so that I can back my argument even more strongly! ;)

Sabrina said...

You know what's funny? I never wanted children either. I made up my mind when I was 11. I just didn't like them. I thought they were troublesome, anti-romantic and... I don't know, in the way of all my dreams.

Now I'm 28 and surrounded by mothers and their children. And slowly the desire to be a mother has been creeping in on me. I'm not saying I want to be a mother right now, but some day, one day, I think I just might like it.

Kacey said...

Same thing here, honey! I don't know if it is different as a Southerner but it's like speaking against God to say you don't want kids when people start having them when they've barely graduated high school (sometimes they haven't even done that). I like being an aunt. I can tolerate the kids a while, do the fun things, and give em back to their parents.

SJ said...

Ah yes, the nagging baby question! have you been getting it since you got married? i've been getting it, even from friends which has surprised me. I want to have children but I'd like to do it without people watching me so to speak, it's none of anyone's business!
I've read that Leslie Cannold book and thought it was really interesting. Women constantly have to justify all their decisions, even when it's not actually a decision but just circumstances. To say being being a woman is frustrating at times is an understatment!

nancy said...

there's so much pressure on women. in a commited relationship? pressure to marry. married? pressure to procreate. and then there's all the pressure about how to feed, clothe, nurture your children...

the important part is taking all of the advice and opinions in your stride, and doing with them whatever the hell you want. it's your life.

Sara Louise said...

I honestly don't know why the whole world thinks they get to have an opinion on our uterus! Seriously. Everyone gets to weigh in on our opinions to have or not to have, or maybe to wait a few years. It's none of there business!!! Every single time my husband and I meet new people, they asked us when we are going to have children. Why do they care?
Whew! Thanks for that vent. And as for me, I completely respect your decision, because it's YOUR decision :)

Meher said...

Oh lord, how I hate kids. I mean they are cute and all, but they can be quite evil. And yes, a woman need not do something just because her body has been functioned for that.
What about women joining the convent and abstaining from sex?
The world is a weird concept.

Lizzyish said...

I don't want kids either. But I got to this opinion the opposite way you did. I always wanted kids growing up, and I suspect I would be a really good mother. But about 2 years ago it dawned on me that I have about 20 thousand things I want to do with my life: travel, write, live in lots of different places, be poor, be rich, and I don't want to have the responsibility of someone else who depends on me. I want my life to be mine. And sure, that's selfish, but it's not like my having children would benefit anyone else, so I don't know why people are so bothered!

Ashley said...

People really like the kid thing on other people. It's the same with marriage, and any other formula-esque sort of thing in life. As we get older, lots of people still believe in formulas...but then there's the smarter ones that realize they gotta make their own plans. Kudos to you.

lucy and sarah said...

Its very weird. I'm kind of afraid of them. You know, having to be a good role model and what not. Yet, I'll see one and have this sudden yearning. I want one. Then it passes. Freaks me out. I guess what bothers me is the idea that I might not be a good enough mother. Then the economy factor.

Lots of things to think about. I enjoyed this article.

ellie's desk said...

I'm not sure I'm typical either. I think of my cousin and her baby. She was pregnant by the time she graduated high school. We knew she'd be the perfect nurse, but she opted to stay home with him.

I'm really not sure I'd have her stamina for it. Although, that darn rascal is gosh darn adorable.

It is crazy when you start looking at a man and wonder what your kids could look like. Still, I would want one to look entirely like Lars and not me.

Yet, I'm not in any hurry.

Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

I don't know if I want children, and I've accepted that. I've decided that if I don't have any, that's okay. And I so admire the mothers I know. I think the relationships many of them have with their children are beautiful, but I'm not sure if I want to be one of them. Maybe someday I'll be in the spot and decide that I do want kids. Maybe I won't. But not wanting to have kids doesn't make you less of a woman. I totally admire you for knowing what you want (or in this case, don't).

Alison Gibson said...

I know I just left a ginormous comment on your most recent post but I just wanted to say something about this one too...

The selfish tag for not wanting to have kids makes no sense whatsoever. Most people have kids because they think it will make them happy, which is possibly the most selfish thing in the world to do considering how many horrible things could happen to your child. Not least of all, just life in general being a bit shit. Plus, there are so SO many people in the world right now. Far too many. I think that anyone who just 'happens' to have kids without really thinking about the consequences for them, the kids, and the world in general, is morally very lazy. That's not to say that there are no good reasons for having kids, but "I just want them" is not a reason, it's bollocks.

Too much ranting sorry. Good post though!

Lucent Imagery said...

Good on you for sharing your feelings about this. I'm nearly 31 and it seems that finally people have stopped asking when we're having kids. I think the decisions my husband and I have made are finally sinking in to the mind's of family friends etc. It is hard when everyone around you is going down that path but it is truly wonderful to know where you stand on a big issue and why. Sending you lots of supportive vibes!