When I was eight, all my friends had Baby Born dolls. Getting fancy prams and cute, trendy, seasonal outfits gave you access to a whole new world of group pram strolls in the park, sleepovers and small garden parties, and I wanted in.
I asked for both a Baby Born and Baby Annabelle for Christmas, and by January, I was part of the pack. It didn’t get serious until one of the girls at a slumber party asked me what I wanted to call my daughter. When I told the girl my doll’s name, she corrected me and told me what I was going to name my real daughter.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I don’t want one.”
That night, the Baby Born gang made to sleep on the landing outside the bedroom. I was no longer welcome as part of the gang, and they never invited me to a sleepover again.
I’ve always known since I was a child that I had no interest in children or being a mother. I didn’t find younger children or babies of interest throughout my childhood, teens or, now, adulthood.
“You’ll Change Your Mind” — said no one to a pregnant woman, ever.
Of course, I’ve always been subjected to the famous “You’ll change your mind” narrative from everyone ever since I was a child myself. I’ve never heard a single adult tell a nine-year-old girl who wants children that she’ll “change her mind”, but us childfree-wannabes, we haven’t a chance of respect.
Child-free-wannabes are delusional, heartless, misguided and confused. We haven’t sorted our priorities yet or met the right person. We’re selfish, narcissistic, egocentric for denying this apparent moral imperative of our race.
My aunt insists I’ll regret it on my death-bed if I don’t have children to leave in the world, and one of my partner’s relatives scoffed and said I was a “waste of time” for my partner when she found out I had no intentions of giving them a child.
The only person who doesn’t care is my mother. She thinks I’m making the right decision. How ironic.
But can a person like me change their mind? Of course, they can, just as there are probably millions of parents out there who regret having children, but cannot say so for fear of being labelled a “bad parent” rather than an honest one.
The only thing I ask is that if I were to change my mind and want a child, please ensure I wait at least five years after making my decision to have one. Children deserve to be born into a family which has thought long and hard about having them, and a woman who has been anti-motherhood for over twenty years shouldn’t be allowed to have a baby on a whim within six months because of a rapid change of heart.
It’s a Major Turn-Off
One male friend, who I loved very much, became irate when he discovered I didn’t want children. He told me I was delusional and purposefully spiting and self-harming myself. He told me my desire to be child-free was entrenched in self-hatred and that, if I just went on some anti-depressants and “had a good shag”, I’d change my mind.
I believe his anger (and blatant sexism) was a mask for his disappointment.
I’ve found very few men want to date a woman who doesn’t want children. I assume the decision comes across as something of a kill-joy. As if my lack of child-rearing drive is indicative of a shrivelled up, inactive vagina.
Women who don’t want children aren’t attractive or alluring because we automatically give men the warning flag: if I’m not willing to mother your children, I’m certainly not going to mother you.
And I’m afraid here’s another unpopular note of the article:
I Don’t Have To Tell You Why I Don’t Want to Be a Mother.
There are thousands of valid reasons for a person not to want to have children, as there are thousands of reasons for someone to want to have them. But, yet again, only one side of this equation has to explain their decision to others.
There are far too many articles out there of (predominantly) women listing off all the reasons why they don’t want children, from mental health problems to eating disorders, troubled mother-daughter relationships and abuse.
All of these reasons are valid, but here’s the most valid reason of them all: I don’t want children.
End of discussion.
Not every person on this planet should be a parent.
Every year, child protection agencies in the US receive more than 3.6 million referrals involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children). The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations — losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.
According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 3 in 4 children — or 300 million children — aged 2–4 years regularly suffer physical punishment and/or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers.
Child abuse and neglect, from emotional to extreme physical abuse, isn’t just a family problem. That child is part of a greater society. That child then grows up to become part of a system greater than itself, affecting and influencing our culture, economy and society in general before potentially going on to raise another child following what it knows.
How children are raised isn’t a micro-issue. It affects all of us.
Children around the world are born into neglect, abuse and difficult circumstances by people who weren’t fit to be parents, but underwent such ventures due to the over-glorified expectation of parenthood and the pressures of conforming.
Many neglectful or unfit parents don’t go into parenthood anticipating being cruel and unkind to their children, but they can’t predict the change having a child will have on their lives, and such a tumultuous, challenging and stressful life experience isn’t for everyone.
But the problem is systematic.
Parents lack support. There is little available access to training and education in nurturing and non-violent parenting, which could be delivered by nurses, social workers, or trained lay workers through a series of home visits.
The laws in many countries lack the powers to reinforce punishments to protect children and even more maintain harmful gender and social norms around child-rearing which prevent social intervention and change.
What’s more, there is even less access to programmes which could prevent sexual abuse through building awareness and teaching skills to help children and adolescents understand consent, avoid and prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, and seek help and support when necessary.
We all Have The Commitment and Love For Different Areas of Life
Not everyone is cut out with the passion, drive, dedication, patience and love needed to be a parent. Does this mean they’re void of these characteristics? No. I’m not.
I have so much love, passion, drive, dedication and commitment to rescuing animals, my work, my friends, my books, my loved ones.
Some people have that passion, drive, dedication commitment to helping the elderly, the disabled, refugees, cancer patients, patients in psychiatric hospitals, or those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
There are so many ways we can demonstrate our love in life which isn’t through our rearing of children.
Child Rearing Isn’t The Only Way We Can Change The World.
I’m not someone who possibly has the dedication to be a nurse in a dementia ward, and a nurse in a dementia ward may not have the patience to rescue abused animals.
There are so many aspects and people in the world who need dedication and support, and energies invested in those areas rather than child-rearing shouldn’t be dismissed as wasted.
A person can live a fulfilled, meaningful and purposeful life which has benefitted those around them without having reared a child. Love is needed in so many places, from homeless or domestic violence shelters to refugee camps, hospitals, care homes and youth clubs.
Children need love and support, but they also need to see that life is greater than their reproduction abilities. It’s not a destiny everyone is blessed with, and it’s not a destiny everyone wants.
The glorification of reproduction and the shame surrounding those who don’t have children needs to end. Not only for the sake of those who are child-free by choice but for those who can’t have children.
There is more than one way to live life, and every route should be respected and celebrated, no matter how the route came to be.
While you may disagree with my decision not to have children, I think we can all agree on one thing: the world would be a better place if adults who didn’t want children, or feel like they would not be good parents, didn’t have any.