So, when are you going to start having children? Chances are, if you’re a woman over the age of 18, or if you’ve been married for more than 30 seconds, you’ve been asked this question. Probably by your mum, or a friend, or even a well-meaning (albeit nosey) co-worker. The simple circumstance of having been born with a uterus seems to make everyone think that they have a right to know what you want—or don’t want—going on in there.
There are some of us who answer the above question with some variation of “never.” Cue the pearl-clutching, the shocked gasps, the exclamations of “oh you’ll change your mind!” If you’re really #blessed, you’ll be called selfish or self-absorbed. Women who are childfree by choice are shamed into thinking that their decision isn’t acceptable, or that it makes them a bad person, but I’m here to tell you that being childfree is a perfectly valid and fulfilling path to take, if you so choose. A study completed by the Office of National Statistics in 2013 states that 1 in 5 women is childless by age 45 (and that number is poised to increase).
Of course not all of those women are childfree because they want to be, but regardless, it’s time to create new social norms and stop telling women that being a mother is the absolute pinnacle of womanhood.
Deciding to Remain Childfree
I’ve never really been the most traditionally ‘maternal’ person. I grew up in a small village in conservative, rural Missouri, in a family of five children. A flautist from the age of five, I was fiercely independent and never someone who could easily be told what to do or how to think. I moved away for university, started travelling abroad, met my British husband, immigrated to the UK, and have been trying to carve out a career for myself in classical music—so needless to say, having children has never really meshed with my lifestyle. Of course there was a time growing up when I never really questioned if I’d have children, but rather, how many and when.
I was raised in a culture of assumed motherhood—women grew up, maybe they went to university or maybe they didn’t, but they always married young and almost immediately had children. But the second I sat and properly thought about whether or not children fit into the equation of what I actually wanted out of my life, I realised that becoming a mother definitely wasn’t for me.
Children are quite loud, it takes an hour to leave the house with them, they’re a bit boring,
Below, I’ve outlined some of the reasons why I decided not to have children (it gets a bit political and I know politics is a sensitive topic, but my political beliefs are an enormous part of who I am, and naturally play a large part in my decision not to reproduce).
I don’t like children
Now, my niece and nephews are lovely, sweet children, and I adore them. I also adore being able to leave them with their parents and go home to my cat and my quiet house. I don’t particularly have the patience or desire to sit and play the same games and read the same stories over and over and over again. I like talking about classical music and politics and not about cartoons or how many wheels a train has. Children are quite loud, it takes an hour to leave the house with them, they’re a bit boring, and their hands are always inexplicably sticky. I really just prefer the company of (non-sticky) adults.
Pregnancy and childbirth are horrifying
So let me get this straight: nine months of nausea, back aches, interrupted sleep, swollen ankles, and weight gain (and possibly gestational diabetes or preeclampsia or placenta previa), and you’re rewarded with a screaming, 8-pound infant literally tearing its way head and shoulders first out of your vagina? Nothing in the world sounds less appealing to me. My body is mine and mine alone, and I have no desire to be a vehicle for what essentially amounts to a parasite, only to then have to feed it and clothe it and worry over it forever.
Building my career is important to me
Women still face regular discrimination in the workplace—sexual harassment, the gender pay gap, unconscious bias that men are more suited to leadership roles than women—and often, pregnancy and childbirth increase that discrimination. Even putting aside the fact that careers are typically derailed by becoming a mother, being a classical musician is very time consuming and isn’t really conducive to having children. I don’t want to have a baby and then resent it for being the reason I had to give up my career. It isn’t fair to bring a child into the world and not give it all the love and attention it deserves. Since I’m not willing to give up my career or put my life on hold, I just don’t think limitless love and attention is something that I could offer.
The current political situation terrifies me
I’m a proud, lifelong, bleeding-heart liberal. Since around June 2016, I often have days when I wake up and think “I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t want to be born into a world like this, and I don’t want to be on this planet anymore.” There are overarching themes of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, isolationism, misogyny, and enormous economic disparity permeating seemingly every aspect of society, and the current trend of electing politicians who don’t want to help anyone but the very richest people doesn’t look like it’s going to subside any time soon. In the country of my birth, over 33,000 people per year are fatally shot, there is currently a travel ban covering six majority-Muslim countries, and if you are diagnosed with cancer (or get into a car accident, or have a lifelong medical condition), you will likely either go bankrupt or die. Here in the U.K., affordable housing is nonexistent for a large portion of the population, people in work are having to access food banks in order to survive, and our precious NHS is on the verge of privatisation. I cannot fathom bringing a child into this world.
Climate change and catastrophic global warming are imminent
The children and grandchildren of people in my generation will acutely feel the effects of global warming. Flooding and rising sea levels will cause coastal erosion and push populations inland, crops will continue to fail because of unseasonable heat and sustained droughts, and freshwater supplies will dwindle. We could take action to slow the effects of climate change right now, but not nearly enough is being done. In my mind, it isn’t fair to have a child and then leave it with a failing planet. I also refuse to contribute to overpopulation and place even more pressure on our already-strained resources.
I love my life as it is
When I picture my life in ten years, it goes something like this: my husband and I, our cat, maybe a dog (a golden retriever or a springer spaniel), living in our dream house in Scotland—a beautiful, symmetrical Georgian country house made of blonde sandstone. We’ll have a bit of land, enough to grow some vegetables and maybe a few Christmas trees, and I’ll hopefully be playing in an orchestra.
My life with him and our little cat is everything I could have hoped for—why would I introduce something as life-changing as a baby, when I don’t feel like there’s anything missing?
Children just never show up in my long-term plan. My husband and I have a great life. We have the freedom to take holidays without having to plan child-friendly activities, we can go on spontaneous day trips visiting National Trust properties, or we can decide to go out for dinner and leave the house just ten minutes later. Also, I never thought I would get married, but I found my soulmate when I met my husband. I’m honestly not interested in dividing my attention between him and a child. My life with him and our little cat is everything I could have hoped for—why would I introduce something as life-changing as a baby, when I don’t feel like there’s anything missing?
Supporting Every Woman’s Choice
When I conducted a casual poll of the A Life Loved Facebook group, most of the women who are childfree by choice agreed with my list of reasons, to varying degrees, as to why they didn’t want to have children. There were also a few others: struggling with mental health issues and not wanting that struggle to affect a child; being on the fence about having children, but knowing that it’s better to regret not having a child than to regret a child who has already been born; fear that they’d be a “bad” mother; difficult family situations. No one justification is more valid than another.
Women who choose to be childfree are so often described as “selfish,” “cold,” and “uncaring” You don’t have to be a mum to be kind, sensitive, empathetic, and caring. Childfree women are all of those things. We care about the planet, about our relationships, about our friends’ children. You don’t have to be a mum to be selfless. Childfree women have decided to ignore the biological urge to procreate, and often for reasons beyond just “I don’t want to,” so to call us selfish is absurd.
Typically, when a woman becomes pregnant or has a child, there’s a sense of acceptance and support from society as a whole. She’s usually not asked to justify her decision or told she’s making the wrong choice. Most of us would never dream of telling a woman not to have a child, so why is it okay to tell her she should? As long as you’re making the decision that’s right for you, nothing else matters—it’s about time society caught up to the fact that some women want to become mothers, some women don’t, and that there’s no wrong answer to age-old question of “So, when are you going to start having children?”