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Monday, November 19, 2012

Motherhood Mondays: Would you ever decide to NOT have kids?

We talk a lot about babies, but what about making the choice not to have children? Would you consider that? Here, five readers reveal their fascinating reasons...

Even asking the question "Why don't you want kids?" makes a statement. "People are still expected to provide reasons not to have children, but no reasons are required to have them," wrote Christine Overall in the New York Times. "It's assumed that if individuals do not have children it is because they are infertile, too selfish or have just not yet gotten around to it. In any case, they owe their interlocutor an explanation. On the other hand, no one says to the proud parents of a newborn, Why did you choose to have that child? What are your reasons? The choice to procreate is not regarded as needing any thought or justification."

Funnily enough, my mom's husband—who, as a retired psychology professor, is unfailingly philosophical—turned to me one morning at breakfast when I was pregnant with Toby. "Why do you want to have a baby?" he asked me. "It's just like having a pet." After thinking about it, I laughed; he was kind of right. In the past, families may have needed kids to help work on the farm and that kind of thing, but for us there was no real reason to have a baby. I just wanted children in such a deep way that it felt separate from rational analysis.

But what if you don't feel that way? Many people don't—in fact, nearly one-in-five American women now ends her childbearing years without giving birth, up from one-in-ten in the 1970s, according to a 2010 Pew study. Of course some of those women may have wanted children and couldn't have them for whatever reason; but others simply chose not to.

Here, five wonderful readers spoke to me on the phone about why they've decided—definitively—not to have kids...

********

Jean, 31, Portland, married
“I’d be the biggest basketcase mother.”


I get stressed out easily. When I was little, I was the kid who freaked out when my brother went to high school because I thought he’d start doing drugs! I get really anxious about people I care about. When I got older, I realized that the fewer people I get really attached to, the less anxious I get. I’ve loved my husband since I was 14, and when we finally got married I felt like I'd won the lottery. He’s the first person I’ve been truly attached to other than my parents and brother, and that brought on a whole new level of anxiousness. I realized how much that would get amplified if I had kids. I’d be an emotional wreck. If my kids went to school and got teased, I wouldn’t be able to handle that. I think about the teenage years; oh my gosh, I would probably die. I want to spare myself that.

It’s about knowing yourself well enough to know what is best and what you can handle. Right now we have a cat, and it’s perfect. In couple years, when we slow down, we get a dog. And they won’t turn on me and tell me they hate me when they’re 12.

When my friends had kids, I felt that emotional hormonal rush like, “Oh, I need to have a baby.” But the logical part of my brain was like, “No, you shouldn’t.” Still, I feel that twinge. It’s really hard because you do have to be honest. I love kids. I do want them. But I’ve chosen to not have them. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I had to look at myself honestly and think, oh my gosh, I would be the biggest basketcase mom. You want to make the decision from your good-choice-making brain, not the I-need-to-be-a-mama side of your brain.

It’s weird because if you say you don’t want to have kids, everyone assumes you’re selfish or not nurturing or not compassionate. For me, that that’s not the case. I still have that strong desire to nurture something. I tell my husband, I still need something to take care of. I need to get some chickens.

********

Christina, 38, NYC, in a relationship
“I didn’t want to end up like my mom.”


I didn't have the happiest childhood with two parents who loved and respected each other, so the idea of having a husband and children was never one of my life goals. The women who fascinated me the most were the ones who never married and never had kids and got to travel everywhere and live life on their own terms. My mother said repeatedly that she ruined her life by getting married and having a child (thanks, Mom!).

As a single person, my mother worked for Pan Am and loved it. But then she got married and moved across the country. And my dad wasn’t exactly Husband Of The Year. So all of a sudden she’s stuck with an alcoholic philandering husband and a kid in the California suburbs. She would have been so much happier as a single career woman, versus a stay-at-home mom in the ’burbs.

If I’d grown up in a family where being married was the best thing that ever happened to them and having a child was the second best thing, I might feel differently. But I don’t know…I always knew I didn’t want to end up like my mom. The whole image of having a husband and a kid isn’t always rosy.

The women I looked up to were the ones who didn’t have to do the family thing. They were so well-traveled and glamorous. And they seemed happy even if other people looked down on them. People in my family would say, “Oh, there’s Aunt Connie, she’s the spinster.” But she seemed perfectly happy to me!

********

Alexandra, 30, NYC, married
“I want to have a grown-up life.”


Growing up, you figure that you’re going to have kids. But one day in my early twenties, it kind of dawned on me: Who says I have to? What if I didn’t? I never had that overwhelming desire to have kids, like lots of women seem to.

When I met my husband, we fell madly in love, and we both admitted early on that we didn’t want children. People say you’ll regret it at Thanksgiving when you’re 50 and you’re not surrounded by family, but to be honest, I’d rather be sitting at Thanksgiving with my husband.

I like the idea of grown-up activities. It’s not like I have a specific hobby, I just really like the grown-up life. If I’m not going to recitals, that’s ok with me. I want to be married, not married with a child.

Still, I’m one of those people who gaze at every single baby photo on Facebook. It’s not that I hate children; that’s just not the life that I want. When my first really good friend had her baby, I cried out of sheer joy for her. But it actually strengthened my feelings about not wanting to have children because I felt overwhelming pride for her but no jealousy.

I read all these stories, like Moms Unite! And I kind of want to be like, Women Unite! I feel like I’m part of a minority. Why can’t we all help each other and be nice to each other? You don’t always have to identify yourself with a group. You can just be a person.

********

Muriel, 26, Atlanta, in a relationship
“I have different priorities.”


Deciding not to have kids is tough to talk about. It’s like being a teenager and feeling self-conscious about your body. When you say, I don’t want kids, people look at you in a certain way. You think, oh my god, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe I should have just smiled and nodded. You feel that same awkward teenage feeling, like my legs are too long, I’m too tall, I have acne.

I was on the fence for a while. My mom wanted grandkids, so I went back and forth… procreation, human beings, evolution...I thought about all of that. But in the end, it wasn’t right for me.

For some people, parenthood is their calling. I respect that. Whereas for other people, it’s not in their personality. Some people are meant to be artists, some people are meant to work in finance, some people are meant to be parents. And some people aren’t. You don’t want someone who is bad with numbers dealing with your IRA.

People say, what do you mean you don’t want to have kids? This is the pinnacle of your existence! This is what we’re here for! And I’m like, I’m sorry, it isn’t. My friends are like, when are you getting married and having kids? That’s when you’re an adult. But I’m like, no, I’m a homeowner, I have a good job, I travel, I have a car…I’m a grown-up!

Remember that Atlantic article about having it all? She defined "having it all" as having a job, marriage and kids. But in the end we’re all different people. Our “all” is not the same for everyone. My “all” might be, I want to travel and visit the entire continent of Asia. For you, it might be you want to have three kids, one boy and two girls. For another person, it might mean working for the Peace Corps for the next 15 years. We’re all different people, we all have different dreams, so it’s kind of sad that we’re all placed under the same umbrella.

I don’t have that feeling that I want to have babies. I have other priorities in my life. I have friends where even though their kid just pooped all over them, they’re like, this is the greatest joy I’ve ever had. But I’m not that person.

I first told my mom on my birthday, because I figured then she couldn’t yell at me. She was taken aback and sad at first, but really supportive once she heard my reasons.

If you decide not to have kids, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. We all have free will; we should all be able to make our decisions regardless of other people’s beliefs. You have the right to do whatever you need to do to chase your dreams and love your life.

********

Cat, 30, Brooklyn, married
“I never had that maternal calling.”


My entire life, I knew that having kids wasn’t for me. I really think it comes down to human biology. Most people have an urge to create a copy of themselves. But I never felt that way.

It’s such a major life change. It’s not something that anyone should enter into flippantly. If you met a base jumper, they wouldn’t be like, come on, base jump! What do you have to lose? And having a kid, it’s at least 25 years of life, most of your money, potentially affects your body and relationship…for people who harass you about it, it doesn’t make sense.

When my brother had a kid, I was like, what will I do? I honestly don’t enjoy the company of children 90% of the time. But fortunately I had some really great aunts in my family, so I was like, I want to be a good aunt. Partially because my brother has really different political views, so I wanted to imprint mine on them as much as possible!

One day, my mom was like, are you sure? Are you really serious? I was like, Mom, I’ve thought about this a lot. Now she steps up and says, Catherine’s going to be the very best aunt.

When I met my husband, we talked about it early on. He feels the exact same way that I do. However, I’ve seen women who say no, no, no, but then they reach their thirties and they’re frantic to have a kid. So I told my husband that if my opinions ever started changing, we should have some talk-down speeches ready for me. And when my husband wanted to be a high-school teacher, I imagined him getting soft, so we made up some talk-down speeches for him, too, just in case! But we haven’t needed them.

More than anything, we’ve never felt a calling. There are three positions people should probably feel a calling for: any sort of religious leadership, teaching or childrearing. People shouldn’t do it because of expectations or because their parents did it. They’re such influential roles; no one should take those positions lightly.

********

Another reason to choose not to have children is financial. My friend Corrie took financial concerns into account when deciding whether or not to have a baby, and the New York Times just published an essay about opting out of parenthood with finances in mind.

What about you? Where do you fall on the scale? Were you born to be a mother? Do you definitely not want kids? Or somewhere in between? I'd love to hear your thoughts...and thank you to these wonderful women for bravely and honestly sharing their insights!

P.S. My friend Corrie's fascinating essay about trying to decide whether or not to have a baby.

(Top photo of Spencer Tracy with Katharine Hepburn, who never had kids)

521 comments:

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m.j.f. said...

all i know is if i ever hear a childless mother ever, ever complain about how messed up the world is, i wouldn't listen to another word she might have to say.

this post infuriates me. go on and be selfish and keep having sex and messing with mother nature, go on, keep doing it. keep living in LA LA land with your head in the clouds. i am ALL FOR not having children, but if you don't you shouldn't be able to have sex either. it's as if they get to enjoy life without having to feel how deep and powerful and hard and beautiful it all really is. there's no way a woman can know these things if she remains childless. she can experience life on a superficial level, but nothing, and i mean nothing compares to having a human baby come out your vagina. WIMPS!

and i am also for licensing parents. at least have a class to pass. something. do SOMETHING.

melissa said...

This is a really interesting subject matter. Personally, I have always felt called to be a mother and I've always wanted to be one. I have a 13 month old and both my husband and I couldn't wait to have another, so I'm pregnant with our second (and probably last) baby--due in May. While I love being a mother, I truly appreciate the notion that not everyone feels called to be one, for whatever reason. I think being honest about that is brave, even in these, slightly more progressive and less judgmental times. I have a couple of friends who don't seem excited about the prospect of being parents and I find myself hoping they don't just do it out of some kind of weird societal feeling that they should. There is certainly plenty of zest and purpose in life outside of having little ones. That being said, gosh I love being a mama.

Karyna @ Paper Squid said...

Thank you so much for this post AND the linked post to your friend article explaining how she is exactly 50/50 on her decision making: I too am like her. I wish I felt that I "had to" have a baby feeling, OR even felt the exact opposite: that there is no way I'm having one....but I don't. I am honestly exactly middle of the road. I really feel it from both angles at different times for different reasons.

These are such interesting and honest perspectives and it feels great to know one is not alone.

I think women, and everyone in general, needs to stop being so shitty and judgemental at people's personal decisions, assuming they know what is best for another. I too have felt the judgement when this topic comes up, though I brush it off. For example I have a friend who has one little girl, loves her to death, but she is done, (does not want anymore children), she is completely certain of this but she gets it all the time, "Oh my god, just one! An only child, how can you!" And then I know people who have 2 kids, who definitely want a third and it's the same (but different) "Oh my god, 3! How can you afford it, 3 kids is crazy"...and of course the same goes for those who want none or are uncertain.
It's actually really hilarious and annoying when you think about it.

:)

That's why it's important to live the way that is the best for oneself and partner, knowing your intentions and decisions are of the highest and greatest good, and to really learn to not care what other think whether their unsolicited (or solicited) opinions are well meaning or not.

As for me, I am still 50/50, but whatever happens, I know I will make it work and remember joy no matter what! :D

this is loveforever said...

I'm 35, been married for six year and most definitely do not want kids. My husband and I made the decision early on and he got a vasectomy a couple years after we got married. People thought we were too young to make that decision but sometimes you just know! I have a big family and I love kids but I never pictured my life with children. I want to travel, I want quiet, I like to work and I love my husband. I don't judge people who have kids and it's unfortunate that sometime people judge me for being childless, as if I am cold-hearted and horrible. I am definitely not that!
Thanks for this post. It's often hard to hear things like, "I never knew true love until I had kids", as if I'm missing something. But I know I'm not. I really love my life and I wouldn't change it for the world!

jenny said...

i am one of those people who said their whole life they didn't want to have kids. then i met my husband, and he wanted them even less than i did. it was perfect. for years, we have been the couple who hangs out with all our friends who have kids, but when their young kids start to melt down and cry and fight with each other - we make our swift getaway and go have a fancy adult cocktail somewhere. we love our freedom, especially our financial freedom, and being able to do our favorite thing: eat dinner at a nice restaurant and talk about everything over a glass of wine. i NEVER in my life looked at a baby and thought, "i want one of those." and people have always assumed that i don't know what i'm saying.. or that i'm scared of having a baby... or that i hate kids...or that i'll eventually come around. i have to admit, its scary to make the decision. because i understand i have chosen to not experience what my body was designed to do, and that women who have kids seem to share a deeper connection to one another than a woman who has kids to a woman who doesn't. i'll never know what that is, but i know i couldn't give up my life as it is now, and i simply have no desire or instinct to have children. thank you for this post. it's refreshing to hear i'm not the only one that feels the way i do.

Lomagirl said...

I have 3 children and I can imagine not having any. Yes, I love my kids and I'm glad I did it. But I think I also would have had a happy, fulfilling life without kids.
My stance is, if you don't want kids, for their sake, don't have them!
And yes, as an earlier poster said- the US should do a lot more to support mothers. Read Naomi Wolf's book "Misconceptions" for a take on that. Support of motherhood shouldn't be a misty eyed telling of sweetness and apple pie, but an on the ground, financial support.
Look at Canada!
Jo- look how you've got us all typing!

DRainsdon said...

Here's some requested feedback from the 40+ child-free contingent. It's probably going to be a bit long.

I'm in my mid-40s, no kids, never married, one dog, no cats. I had always thought I'd have one child but I don't think I ever dreamed of having a passel of children. When my sister and I played Barbie dolls, she used all the Sunshine Family doll children as her kids. Me, I was always on my way somewhere with the Corvette. Sometimes Ken was riding shotgun, sometimes it was just me.

In my real life I simply never met that one child's father. I did not choose to be a single parent. Nor, I suspect, would I be willing to go to heroic lengths to have a child late in life, were I to meet its father. These are the right choices for me. I take issue with the backhanded assumptions I've encountered (for example, I'm selfish, immature, would be a bad parent, something is wrong with me, etc.) and isn't it lucky I decided not to have kids? It's not always that simple. I would have been a great mother, had that been how things worked out for me. But it didn't and I'd like to think I have a purpose even without procreation. (As an aside, I'm not going to stop having sex, either, as one commenter suggested. That's just crazy talk!) Now the choices I make help me find a way to be a happy, productive, contented person. And a kickass aunt to a few precious, select children in my life.

I'd like to take the word spinster back and make it mean something positive. That's a work in progress. I've been lucky in that my mom knew starting when I was about 10 years old that I would leave home, have a career and travel. She understands me. My sister and brother have wonderful children. Our family quota is met. There was never any pressure from my family. An added bonus for me, my brother is significantly younger than me and I sometimes had full care of him when my parents divorced. I feel in some ways I raised my kid. Now that he's grown we have some funny family stories of me treating him like a boy. In the end, I'm lucky in my family and their support of me, no matter what choices I make.

pigeon pie said...

Great post... I'm one of the undecided who has actually had strangers yell at me when they find out I'm not sure if I want kids. They seem to get less angry with my husband for some reason when he says he isn't keen on kids?

Amanda said...

I really appreciate this post becuase I'm one of those women that doesn't want children. My biggest desire is to get married. I've never ever had that desire to have kids and the older I've gotten the more uncomfortable I've become around children. I do remember when I was a kid I had all five of my kids named. I think my obsession was creating personalities and giving them names, which I think is why I became a writer.

Jamie said...

Thanks for this. I find it hilarious that people think not having kids is "selfish". It's probably one of the most selfless things you can do to not bring a child into this world to fill your own desires.
Please name me one reason why HAVING a child isn't selfish?

Melissa G said...

Here's a thought... Some people have children for the wrong reasons. And some don't have children for reasons that are right for them.
For me, I chose to become a mama and I am glad for the opportunity. I have two beautiful little girls and I am learning so much from them. I may not understand it but I would never demand that other women make the same choices as me - free will and all that.

KT said...

The decision to not have children has been made for me. I have not found my mate and time is running out (has run out, most likely). It's the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and I think about it often throughout the day. I'm not overwhelmingly sad, but I feel somehow incomplete and unfulfilled. (Sorry for the downer post; I envy the women in this post who have fallen in love and made the choice themselves not to have children.)

Samantha said...

I have always wanted children, and I don't even know why. I just have a very strong and deep desire to be a mother. Plus, I love children, I am an elementary teacher and I can't wait to have my own. My husband and I have actually been trying to get pregnant for a year now with no luck and it is getting quite frustrating. Hopefully soon!
I don't think it is selfish at all for people to not want children, it is a HUGE commitment. I don't think you should do it unless you are ready and want to raise a family. We have too many people in the world anyway. :)

Courtney said...

What a great post!
I have wanted children most of my life and am very maternal, I've never found a job I've really loved I just work for money. I spose I always thought that my job was to be a mother. But in saying that these last couple of years I have been tossing up the thought of maybe not having children, I really bonded with Jean', 31, story. I also fear that I will be a basket case of a mother and that scares me deeply. I am getting married in April next year and have talked about falling pregnant next year. I fear soooo many things and also what it may do to my relationship with my partner, because i wouldn't want anything to ruin that. Plus teenagers scare the crap out of me! Time will tell I guess......

Julia said...

I had kids young, I got married when I was 22 right after college and we had our first two years later. The thing I"m realizing is that kids don't take over life forever. My kids can play board games together. Tonight my husband and I had dinner tonight together while the kids played starfall on my computer. I suppose my point is babies don't stay babies forever. I'm happy I chose to be a mom.

fleur_delicious said...

Yay, thanks for piping up, The Wild Fairy! It's always good to hear from someone who has made this decision that they didn't regret it later. I can't deny who I am, but I do think sometimes, will I regret this later in life?

I recall telling my kindergarten teacher (at age 4) that I would never have children. I always knew. I told my future husband after we had been together for two years that I wouldn't be having children and asked him to really consider if he would be able to commit to that (he warmed up to the idea pretty quickly). Don't get me wrong; I think we both love being a part of a wider community that supports all our child-rearing friends - but I don't have that instinct to procreate. I can't change who I am, deep down; I'm just so grateful to live in an era in which some women, at least, enjoy the right to choose for themselves.

Emily said...

I didn't write this, but I believe that this perspective is a little different and definitely worth your time!

http://www.conversiondiary.com/2010/10/my-answer-to-do-you-want-more-children.html

Holly said...

i feel pressured not at all by society to have kids. sometimes i feel bad because i think my mother would like a grandchild (i'm an only child), but she doesn't pressure.

Wens said...

I also love this post for opening up the conversation about to have or not have kids.
I have always been unsure, but the rest of my brothers and sisters have firmly decided not to have kids for environmental reasons. They and all their wifes/husbands believe there are too many people on this planet already and that it's selfish to have kids.
I partly agree with them, but I'm also intrigued by the journey.

Erin In England said...

My husband and I have decided not to have children, he's 30 and I'm 28. You would think that we have told some people that we have the plague or something when we say we aren't having kids! We both love kids, but just know they aren't for us. It's difficult to explain, but there just isn't a longing in my heart to have a child. Most people don't understand. Thank you for this article. It puts into words what I never could.

Emily said...

that's spencer tracy not cary grant...

fleur_delicious said...

AMEN, Mardle! I'm so with you on this. I'm in my 30s and starting to get really tired of the phrase "when you have kids." I hear this all the time - from doctors, from advisors, men, women, everyone. Yes, I am getting my PhD. Yes, my husband is an architect. Yes, we have been together for over a decade. Yes, we are settled and grounded and normal, happy people. Yes, we keep a lovely cozy home and are amazing cooks. Yes, we are good to our friends' kids. Yes, I enjoy sewing and embroidering baby clothes and painting portraits of our friends' kids.

But the simple fact of the matter is that I have never wanted children. I knew at least as early as age 4, when I remember flatly telling a teacher that I would never have children. I, too, often wonder if I am Nature's mutation, a genetic response to overpopulation? But I am what I am, and what I am is a woman who doesn't want kids.

And it would be nice if people would stop assuming that I'm going to, and stop acting like it's such a tragedy that I don't want them. At least I'm in academia, where there is definitely an anti-childbearing bias; the woman who doesn't want kids is embraced.

Wens said...

I also love this post for opening up the conversation about to have or not have kids.
I have always been unsure, but the rest of my brothers and sisters have firmly decided not to have kids for environmental reasons. They and all their wifes/husbands believe there are too many people on this planet already and that it's selfish to have kids.
I partly agree with them, but I'm also intrigued by the journey.

Holly said...

yes, i always figured if i changed my mind too late, i could look into adoption. in fact, i was really gung-ho about fostering when i was younger until i learned about the realities of it. i think you have to be super-amazing with kids in order to foster. that's not me.

Wens said...

I also love this post for making this issue more talked about. I'm in my 30's and have always been unsure.
My brothers and sisters and their wives and husbands all do not have children for what they say are environmental reasons. They say there are far too many people for the world to sustain and that it's selfish to have children.
I tend to agree with them, but I'm also intrigued by the journey.

Wens said...

Sorry for the repeat comment :(

Hannah said...

Wow - Nature also brings us fatal diseases that she uses to keep this unharnessed reproduction under control as the earth has a carrying capacity beyond which it cannot succesfully support life. I bet you have no problem using human interference to try to eliminate these diseases. When people begin to be responsible about reproduction and not just seeing it as "furthering the species" we can begin to create a balanced world that can naturally and sustainably provide for its inhabitants for generations.

andrea said...

There are 7 billion people on this planet, and I think that bringing even more people into this world might be considered selfish. I don't appreciate comments like this one :

"A society is a living thing, all healthy living things strive to survive and thrive. If we do not procreate, what is going to happen to our society? - it will over generations soon disappear. So I think it is natural that a society encourage women/couples to have children. It shows that we are part of a healthy and thriving society!"

from Erin and Cliff.

I am a woman who does not want children for a variety of reasons, one of which being that I think we have enough people to take care of as it is. If you feel such a strong urge to be a parent, then adopt a child who is already here, and needs a loving family, and don't push your procreation judgement on people who just don't want to be parents, under the guise of maintaining our species, it's 2012.

Amanda said...

My whole life, I thought I wanted to have kids. And recently, maybe for a year or so, I've been thinking that maybe I don't want to... I'm only 23, so there's still time to decide, but I've been thinking about it a lot. So glad you wrote this post, Joanna! Thank you!

reganburnscafiso said...

This is a very interesting post. I completely respect all these women's decisions to not have children and their reasons why. It's not for everyone, and no one should feel pressured to do something just because they're "supposed" to according to society or biology! I would, however, have liked to hear from a few older women who are past their childbearing years. I wonder if there's any second guessing once menopause begins and the ship is literally sailing away. I have had a few friends over the years who were completely sure they didn't want kids and ended up having one or two later.

Haley said...

I have four brothers and sisters, so I've always pictured myself having a big family. But I'm a musician, and I love what I do. I work incredibly hard, and I'm on a track to success. I want to accomplish things for myself before I have children. Maybe its selfish, but I've worked too hard and for too long to not try and achieve everything I've dreamed of my entire life. I've always felt that if I had children, I'd have to give up on trying to be a flutist (it's expensive and time consuming!), and I would then resent those children for being the reason I had to push my music to the curb--and if I'm going to bring children into the world, they deserve to be loved, not resented. Also, if I just ended up being a successful musician and not having children, I would NOT be heartbroken.

Rebekah said...

many reasons for having children are selfish too:
1. I want someone to take care of me when I'm older
2. I want to fulfill my calling of being a mother
3. I want to dress them in cute clothes
4. I want to be just like my friends who have babies
5. I want to pass along my good genes
6. I want to create a new life with my partner

Ribbons Undone said...

Thank you SO MUCH for posting this!

My husband and I are not sure if we ever want to have children. This has been especially hard for us recently. About a year ago we moved to a new town so that I could start graduate school. We joined a church that some of our friends had recommended, but almost immediately we felt out of place. Most of the members were young families and there was not really anyone for us to connect with. I remember at a church BBQ over the summer I was approached during the same evening by two different women who, when they found out that my husband and I had been married for over a year, were shocked that we were not thinking about having kids.

I am 25 years old! I honestly never even thought I would be married so young, let alone think about having kids!

I wanted to ask why they chose to have kids, but thought that would be rude.

Nonetheless, that experience has stuck with me and more of them seem to happen. It is not that we do not love kids, but we just do not feel that this is right for us - at least not right now.

I do not like having to feel that we have to explain our choices just because they are not the norm.

Again, thank you so much for posting about this. It is really encouraging to feel like we are not alone.

heather said...

Hi! I am heather and responded at 2:52 and have seen a lot of mentions about age and just wanted to let you know that I am 42.

beebs said...

Thank you for this post, Joanna- sometimes I feel left out of your motherhood monday posts :) I'm still on the fence about having children. Its nice to hear the reasoning from both sides. I'm 31 in an 8 year long relationship. I think my choice will be more clear once my partner becomes a doctor; we'd have more money and more time to raise children. Even though I'd be 35 (biologically old for childbearing), everyone is very supportive of our decision to wait & figure it out later.

heather said...

For those wondering about age in some of the later comments, I am updating to add that I am 42.

Lauren said...

It's probably been said already, but that's Spencer Tracy!

Anyway, I've always known I wanted to have children. It's not even something I had to think about and decide, it's just always been a given.
But I have thought about what it might be like to not have kids. A "grown up life" does sound exciting, and strangely, I always remember being most fascinated by women who never had children or husbands. I still am!

But I deeply, absolutely want to have children. But I can imagine the flip side being okay too? But I want a baby!

Lauren said...

It's probably been said already, but that's Spencer Tracy!

Anyway, I've always known I wanted to have children. It's not even something I had to think about and decide, it's just always been a given.
But I have thought about what it might be like to not have kids. A "grown up life" does sound exciting, and strangely, I always remember being most fascinated by women who never had children or husbands. I still am!

But I deeply, absolutely want to have children. But I can imagine the flip side being okay too? But I want a baby!

Stephanie Sabbe said...

I just don't think you know how it feels until you do it, which is kind of tricky I guess. I never expected to feel the way I do about motherhood. I like working and traveling and being alone, but when my little boy wraps his tiny fat arms around my neck and says mama...I wish everyone could feel how that feels for one second. It's just amazing.

mons said...

I´m 45, been married 21 years with my hubby, and we´re quite happy. We really never felt like having kids. My friends had, I´ve fed kids, kissed kids, babysat for many of them a hundred times, but never felt the need, the desire, or the urge to have a kid of my own. My husband less so. I mean I love kids, but I think it´s maybe a calling I just don´t have. A kid is not something you can´t just send back. And If you don´t FEEL REAL LOVE for him or her, and you only have lukewarm, confusing feelings, you can make him or her VERY unhappy and your life can be really sad.
I´ve been blessed with a GREAT marriage, we laugh a lot, we make each other happy, I would give my life for my husband in a heartbeat....but I never related that to having a kid with him.
Sometimes I would have liked to have the desire, the urge to have kids...but honestly...I never felt it.

I don´t like being judged for our choice, the same way I don´t judge people who are horrible parents, who spend little time with their kids, etc. The most irritant are women who look down on other women like they´re " less" women because they´ve never "experienced" motherhood. It can be harsh but I admire GREAT mothers and fathers, anyone can just babies. Loving them, taking care of them, nurturing them, it´s just something else.

When you don´t have kids you certainly lose a lot of things, but also you can have a different life, not a "lesser" life, just different.

Lashley said...

Only now as I'm approaching 30 am I realizing how set the expectation is that a woman will have kids. My family is southern and Christian so I think the pressure might even be stronger there. My cousin once uttered the phrase, "If my husband and I have kids..." and there was a minor uproar from the older women. IF???

I hope to have kiddos soon (in 5th grade, I was voted "Will Make the Best Mother" - the kid-bonding hasn't stopped in the last 20 years), but in some ways I want to rebel just against the expectation. I want babies more though :)

I do think that it was very brave of these women to share in the way that they did. Some of them share that their choice is influenced by pain in their own life, which can be so heavy. Even if their reasons seem more "practical" than psychological, a choice is a choice and we should all be on each others' side.

Dana said...

Such an interesting post! I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one on the fence about having children. My husband and I have been married 18 months, I'm still in grad school and he has a good job but travels a lot. Its just so hard, people ask me all the time when I'm going to have kids. To be honest, I'll be 27 when I'm done with school; after being in school for almost 10 years, I'm so excited to get a paycheck and be a DINK! I don't want kids for at least 4 years, but being in science I know the consequences of waiting too long to have kids.

Such a conundrum, but seeing these stories and reading the comments let me know my husband and I are not alone. I know that both of our families will be disappointed if we don't have kids, but I don't want to have kids just to make everyone happy. If we have kids, I want it to be because WE want them. Oh well, I guess time will tell!

Meredith said...

Sometimes I am so struck by how, at age 32, life still feels so scary and uncertain. I thought I would feel like I had a shred of an idea what I'm doing at this point, but I don't! (I have heard older, wiser people in my life tell me that feeling never goes away.) I have always been unsure about whether to have children, and I'm hoping I will get to a point where I mostly feel certain one way or the other, and even if I don't it's going to be alright. There are beautiful things about both choices.

Iris Rankin said...

Thank you so much for this post. I don't think I could have had a better childhood and my relationship with my parents, especially my mother, is fantastic. I know what great parenting looks like and I'm confident that I would be a great mother if I wanted to. Not to mention, our family happens to have very healthy genes. That said, besides a very short (very hormonal) time when I thought I would eventually want kids, I've always known that I won't, simply because I do have other priorities. I think kids can be cute, I adore my crazy nephew to the moon and back, and I am happily awaiting the eventuality when many of my friends have children. But at the end of the day, I enjoy my alone time, my time with my partner, and the freedoms that can be gained from not having children. Because my bond is so strong with my own mom, I do know that there is nothing like the connection between mother and child. I know "what I'm missing" by not wanting to have children but I also know what it affords me as well.

At least in our current media, the portrayal of motherhood is often very skewed - showing either the absolute joy and fulfillment of child-rearing or otherwise the blame of mothers who who have "failed." The difficulties of motherhood are often left unmentioned, from serious pregnancy complications to postpartum depression, from financial burden to emotional strife. There are countless rewards, but it seems as if too often the possible downsides are overlooked. If the instinct of childbirth truly is biological, as other posters have pointed out, then why is there a growing number of women opting out of becoming mothers? I think instead, motherhood should operate as an informed decision. Where we should start is with honest communication about all sides of becoming a parent, as Joanna does on this blog. As others said above, there are pros and cons to being a parent and deciding against it. I just hope that in time, we can shift our societal norms to accommodate women who would like to impact our world in different ways. I am still young, so I acknowledge the possibility for me to change my mind. But I honestly don't think I will. Frankly, it's insulting and condescending when assumed otherwise.

There are other ways to influence new generations too. I still think becoming a teacher could be in the cards for me, as is mentorship, and if I ever did change my mind, adoption. Because of my good genes, I would consider donating eggs for those who do want children of their own. But just because women don't want children that doesn't mean that there is something "wrong" with them or that they will change their minds because of their "naivete." Some women just don't happen to want children in their lives and that should be reason enough.

mons said...

I´m 45, been married 21 years with my hubby, and we´re quite happy. We really never felt like having kids. My friends had, I´ve fed kids, kissed kids, babysat for many of them a hundred times, but never felt the need, the desire, or the urge to have a kid of my own. My husband less so. I mean I love kids, but I think it´s maybe a calling I just don´t have. A kid is not something you can´t just send back. And If you don´t FEEL REAL LOVE for him or her, and you only have lukewarm, confusing feelings, you can make him or her VERY unhappy and your life can be really sad.
I´ve been blessed with a GREAT marriage, we laugh a lot, we make each other happy, I would give my life for my husband in a heartbeat....but I never related that to having a kid with him.
Sometimes I would have liked to have the desire, the urge to have kids...but honestly...I never felt it.

I don´t like being judged for our choice, the same way I don´t judge people who are horrible parents, who spend little time with their kids, etc. The most irritant are women who look down on other women like they´re " less" women because they´ve never "experienced" motherhood. It can be harsh but I admire GREAT mothers and fathers, anyone can just babies. Loving them, taking care of them, nurturing them, it´s just something else.

When you don´t have kids you certainly lose a lot of things, but also you can have a different life, not a "lesser" life, just different.

Mrs. D said...

Here's the thing: Maybe choosing not to have kids IS selfish, but choosing to have them is selfish also. Doing what YOU want could be defined as selfish....so either decision (if it's what you want) could therefore be regarded as selfish.

My husband and I have no desire to have kids. We don't hate children, in fact, we are both teachers and love having relationships with young people. The world needs wise neighbors and aunts/uncles, teachers. It takes a VILLAGE and some members of that village just may be childless. I've always thought it incredibly insensitive to even ask someone why they don't have children, primarily because you never know a couple's background. What if they are infertile? Think before you speak.

Sure, I'm 29 now and may desperately want children later and if so, we'll adopt. There are thousands of American children in desperate need of a home. Maybe it sounds "hokey" but perhaps I don't have a need to have a biological child because someday I will become a mom to someone else's.

Jen said...

There was recently a question posted to AskMetafilter about this ("Why can't I be the 'Dad'?") that got LOTS of replies!! For everyone on the fence, I would say the $5 membership fee is well worth it - there are lots of really interesting questions about having kids and about new babies being asked, and lots of great answers. In fact, the sheer diversity of replies is fascinating! The forum is moderated by librarians, so all the answers are well-spoken, well-thought out, helpful, and on-topic. I think maybe you can read for free (but commenting/asking is $5).

Jen said...

When I was 13 we took a train trip across the US to Texas to visit the homestead my grandfather grew up on. His oldest sister, my great aunt, came with us... she was 94 at the time! Everyone ages differently, yes... but most people are still pretty healthy when their kids are finishing high school. Lots of people just drag their kids with them, too!

laurasaurus said...

I have known with every fiber of my being for my entire life that I wanted to be a mother. A teacher once told me at the ripe old age of 15 that I had a maternal presence. It's just who I am and who I was meant to be. That said, I completely understand why some women opt out of childbearing. I give them a virtual pat on the back for making that unpopular decision and sticking to their guns. Some people LOVE dogs. I like looking at them and petting their floppy ears but at the end of the day, I don't want one of my own. It's kind of like that. I feel like, leave the dogs to the dog people. They love it and they're better at it than I could ever be... Also, (steps up onto feminist soap box) it's incredibly sexist to ask women to defend their decision to not have kids when you would never ask a man to defend his. It's like saying, "what do you mean you don't know how to make a pot roast? That's what women are here for!"

Danielle said...

I want, but can't have my own children. I have a condition that makes it impossible to not only GET pregnant but carry a pregnancy. I have known this for quite a while, which I think was a huge gift not having to figure it out at 35 or later, now I know what steps I need to take to have an adopted child of my own, and hopefully my future significant other will be open to that. As time has gone on, I feel the hurt less and less, to the point where having biological children doesn't even interest me anymore, because it's not an option. I am excited to adopt, and to give a child who wouldn't otherwise have a life or a family those things.

Nancy Cavillones said...

I kind of don't buy the financial argument against having kids. I mean, I understand it but if you really want kids, you make it work. You could be a millionaire today, and on the unemployment line tomorrow, regardless of whether you have kids. If you are on the fence about having kids, I can see how the financial argument might tip it one way or the other. On the whole, though, for a person who really wants to have children, the financial factor is irrelevant.
I have two children. I am a very social person, and I love to travel. I need a lot of alone time or kid-free time. I don't think having kids means you need to give up your independence and your right to be left alone. I took a week-long trip to Europe this year with some friends, and left my two children with my husband and my sister! It was the best thing I could've done for myself and I'm a much nicer/patient/less burnt-out mother to my children for it. :)

Kate said...

One of my very best friends has always been on the fence about having kids, and very recently, her sister went through a challenging pregnancy followed by the birth of a still born. It was heartbreaking. And my friend is now certain that she never wants children. Sometimes people have brokenness or heartbreak that causes them to not want kids- something that none of these ladies really touched on.

Angelica B. said...

I just turned 37 on Saturday. I've never had, nor do I ever want kids. This is something I've known since the time I was a young teenager. I remember a friend of mine telling me she dreamt of finding the perfect man and having a basketball team of boys. My response was, I want lots of cats and dogs. I've never had any kind of longing or craving to have kids. I don't even particularly like kids. I find most of them to be obnoxious and not the slightest bit cute, but in order to not be admonished by other women I have to put on the "what a cute baby!"act whenever someone brings their newborn to the office. I'm actually thinking I could care less and would really like to get back to work. That might sound mean or cruel, but its the truth. I'm just not into them and can't find one benefit in having them other than having someone to roll me into the old folks home when I'm old. And that is not good enough reason to have one, thus I remain childfree and happy.
I was really happy to read about other women who have opted to not have kids for so many different reasons. It makes me feel like less of an anomaly than I had thought I was.

K said...

I'm on the fence. I am in my mid-20's, in a long-term relationship. I've got some time, for sure, but I have a lot of fears surrounding the issue. I have no major urge to have kids and I'm afraid I will never get it--what if the time comes and I still haven't gotten that maternal instinct? And what if then, I feel forced to make a choice and it's the wrong one? I'm afraid that if I don't have kids, I will seriously regret it when it is too late. I'm afraid if I do have kids, I'll mess them up. What if they resent me? What if I resent them? What if I can't afford to give them everything my parents have given me? And, what if I do have kids, and everything is wonderful...how will I leave them and their children 50-60-maybe 70 years from now to inherit increasingly deteriorating planet and a crushing national debt, and other issues my generation and older generations have caused? (hopefully some of those things will have solutions by then, I try to be optimistic.)

Deep stuff. As much back and forth there is in my stance on the issue, I'm sort of glad for it. I feel that I'm really thinking about it and thinking about it hard. Giving both sides much more consideration than a lot of people do. I think that when the time comes, whatever decision I make, I will be glad to know that I've thought about it seriously for a long time.

Lizzy said...

I agree with you. Most of the women that have commented are still pretty young(under 30). I didn't think I wanted kiddos in my 20's and 30's. But,now that I'm closing in on 40, I'm having a change of heart.

Kristi Beth said...

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mother. I grew up in a very happy, loving home. My mother showed me that being a mother is the greatest thing a woman can do with her life. I was also taught at a young age that being a woman makes me special, so special that I have the ability to give life, and to nurture that life.
I am so happy that I am married to someone that wants children just as much as I do. We've been married for just over four months now, and I love the time that we get to spend together right now child free, but I can't imagine that continuing. We are both still students, so of course it would be a struggle to start our in the near future, but if it happened, we would be okay with that.
An interesting thought though, is that when I tell people that I want to have kids, and that I want at least three or four, possibly five or six, they look at me like I'm crazy. And when I add in the fact that my dream is to be a stay-at-home mom, the looks are even worse. Seriously. If I shouldn't judge someone for their choice not to have children, why should I be judged on my desire to have a large family?
I can't wait to have kids and just be the best mom I can be!

Jordan said...

I am absolutely maddened by the idea that people would call these women "selfish" for not wanting to have children. WHO is this selfish toward? WHO is suffering from this? Absolutely no one, save perhaps a potential grandmother/grandfather missing some joy in being a grandparent, but pleasing others might be the worst reason to have children imaginable (other than, perhaps, to save a marriage).

If anything, having children is selfish. Even though I fully plan on having children, propagating an unsustainable increase in the world's population is more selfish than choosing to not bear an even partially unwanted child.

Lauren said...

What on earth are you talking about? Our species doesn't need to be furthered. There will be enough accidental (and planned) pregnancies to ensure that it will go on. Ever heard of overpopulation and overcrowding? We don't need more people; we need fewer. Besides, we say eff you to nature all the time. The things we eat, the buildings we build, the pollution we create, the medicine we take. I'm guessing that you do it too.

Unknown said...

Since folks are asking for older women's opinions... I am 42, knew from a pretty young age I didn't want children, and still feel good in my decision not to have them. I don't dislike children, and actually think I would make a pretty darn good mom, but as others have said, I don't feel the desire deep down in my bones. Part of it it is maybe that I'm a "late bloomer" - it wasn't until I was 30 that I felt really knew who I was and was ready to start living my life - and it really has been amazing to become the person I wanted to be when I grew up! Somewhat selfish, maybe, but I could not have been a good mother while I was still figuring out how to be a good me.

The whole question really came home to me recently when my sister passed away leaving a small baby. I love that kid, I've put in some good time helping rear him, but ultimately chose not to adopt him. He is now happy & well with another family member and I remain his awesome auntie meg. If there had been no other choice, I would have raised him, but it would have been out of obligation--where the relationship I have with him now is out of pure love. This was a hard but right choice & I'm glad I was able to be honest with myself about it.

Joanna, thanks so much for including us non-mothers in this ongoing conversation. It's something I love about this blog - there is room for all of us here!

Katie said...

Great topic! I don't think it's selfish at all. I think it's just being honest with yourself and what you can handle and what you want from your life. Simple.

I'm a little surprised that people feel so pressured by others. Who are these people insisting you have kids??? I hope they are also offering to pay for AND take care of these children they so want others to have. If it was me, I would be really tempted to tell these jerks that I was infertile. That'll teach them! Or you can go the other way and take it as a compliment, since they are basically supporting your procreation. I think people are mostly curious/surprised/shocked, since everyone seems to be one way or the other since forever, it can be hard to understand the opposite feeling which is totally foreign to you.

I'm so curious, are people actually caving under this pressure and having kids anyway? Does the pressure really make you reconsider? Or is it just really damn annoying? I feel like I should be apologizing for the dense people out there that don't know that that is rude! :( I don't even like to ask people if they are going to have kids, seems too personal and assuming. I didn't know I was so alone!

Great job as always Joanna!

Smith And Ratliff said...

I can only hope you're joking.

kelseywilliams said...

I am impressed that these ladies (some very young!) were very intentional and thought-out in their decision. And it's not like they are waiting to make the decision - their minds are made up! It makes me feel weird because I never really thought much about the decision. I guess maybe that means I always knew I would want/have kids? But I guess I hardly felt like it was a choice. It was what I was supposed to do.

I have a daughter - she's 8 months old. I love her so much, but I also loved my life with just my husband. But knowing now what it's like to have a kid - I feel like I would have missed out if I didn't get to experience motherhood. It has made me a better person. My daughter is so much like me that I'm learning how hard it is to love someone who is stubborn - and hopefully that will change me to not be so hard to love :)

Merrette said...

I love that this topic has derived from such an emotionally driven conversation. I have a daughter, who was a perfect accident. Yet, she was an accident so I was thrown into motherhood ready or not. I love that women are taking their time and having open conversations with spouses/significant others about their honest feelings towards motherhood. It's time that we are upfront and unafraid to address our concerns and the possibility that what has been the "norm" for oh-so long doesn't have to be any longer. I am blessed that motherhood and I have found mutual ground but I am more than okay with having only one child.

Joanna, I would love if you would delve deeper into the idea of "how many children"... if you were an only child do you feel cheated?... what if you're one of five (like my husband), do you feel as though you were overlooked?...

I have found there is a stigma that surrounds mothers who only want one child just like those who want none. I'd like to see this conversation continue... it's always amazing to see what unfolds when toes start getting stepped on.

Merrette

Emikos Werid Unexplained thoughts said...

I am a combination of Muriel, brookyln and alexandria. I have other priorities. I also just dont want children I dont feel like I am going to be alone. It will be him and I . kids wouldnt make me happy I would be bored and I like to travel and do things. I am very maternal i just dont want my own. I am 26 and my mind is set. I know me i wouldnt be as thrilled as people i see with children. I dont think im selfish i am just doing what I feel is best for me. I just have a want a maternal calling as they say. I am not yearning nor missing out believe me ive raised enough kids to know what i want. People are like wow at 30 you will regret that im like no at 30 you will be wondering why I am not regretting it. Again i hope to find someone with the same views because I do not want someone who wants kids and thinks i will change my mind.

courtney said...

I actually wrote about not having kids when Ez (over at Creature Comforts) asked if I wanted to participate in the "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" series. http://courtneykhailstationery.com/things-im-afraid-to-tell-you/

Whether you choose to have children or not to have children, I think the thing we all need to remember is that it is indeed a choice (and we should respect the choices that each of us make.)

Eden said...

I think most people put a lot of thinking and planning into having a child!

Veralynn said...

That is appalling, and I'm a a bit worried that you're the one "furthering the species" with faulty logic like that...

drawmedy said...

I back tracked to Corrie's post and loved it because I'm in a very similar position (feeling 50/50). I thought I'd give a shout out to a recent book I came across ("The Baby Decision" by Merle Bombardieri) that women seem to describe as an agenda-free guide to making this decision. I'm actually going to a workshop with the author in a couple weeks and I'm interested to see how she approaches this question.

lamb said...

Jamie,

Something to ponder before you say something ridiculous to a woman who doesn't want children:

Those 'biological instincts' are an adaptive trait that meant people who loved to procreate fixed their preference or 'talent' for it in the gene pool. Granted, those who don't share that preference inevitably die out. Now that more women are educated and understand these biological phenomena, they can look beyond their hormone cycles and think practically and rationally as to whether making babies is their life calling.

And to your other remark, you know who's really selfish? Self-important thoughtless women who think they're doing the world a favour by cranking out babies. Mothers, wholly concerned with protecting their own, will step on anyone who gets in the way of their child's best interests. Though they may be entirely selfless when it comes to their own children, they are often the most selfish towards the rest of society.

Veralynn said...

This is laughable and you are embarrassing yourself each time you comment.

lamb said...

Jamie,

Something to ponder before you say something ridiculous to a woman who doesn't want children:

Those 'biological instincts' are an adaptive trait that meant people who loved to procreate fixed their preference or 'talent' for it in the gene pool. Granted, those who don't share that preference inevitably die out. Now that more women are educated and understand these biological phenomena, they can look beyond their hormone cycles and think practically and rationally as to whether making babies is their life calling.

And to your other remark, you know who's really selfish? Self-important thoughtless women who think they're doing the world a favour by cranking out babies. Mothers, wholly concerned with protecting their own, will step on anyone who gets in the way of their child's best interests. Though they may be entirely selfless when it comes to their children, they are often the most selfish towards the rest of society.

Eden said...

I don't know what not having kids has to do with "grown up". A lot of people with kids can still do the same things, although with not as much freedom. My parents trucked 5 kids all over Europe and we had a blast. I don't think having children has to be all sacrifice and no fun. Not having kids is a perfectly respectable decision. But I hate to see having kids as portrayed as loosing adult pleasures.

lamb said...

Jamie,

Something to ponder before you say something ridiculous to a women who doesn't want children:

Those 'biological instincts' are an adaptive trait that meant people who loved to procreate fixed their preference or 'talent' for it in the gene pool. Granted, those who don't share that preference inevitably die out. Now that more women are educated and understand these biological phenomena, they can look beyond their hormone cycles and think practically and rationally as to whether making babies is their life calling.

And to your other remark, you know who's really selfish? Self-important thoughtless women who think they're doing the world a favour by cranking out babies. Mothers, wholly concerned with protecting their own, will step on anyone who gets in the way of their child's best interests. Though they may be entirely selfless when it comes to their children, they are often the most selfish towards the rest of society.

Emma said...

I thought against posting this under my blog profile but then thought, I'm going to be open and honest. I'm in my late 30s, ex registered nurse, married with no children and none planned. This won’t be a popular comment unfortunately but you could say I’m a bit over this particular topic.

I'm always torn with this sort of article regarding childless women (it’s always women isn’t it) and why not and so forth. Mostly though I just feel patronised and looked down on – it’s always irritated me that parents are never questioned about why they chose to have children yet childless people are questioned and judged. Frankly I don't need criticism but I also don't need approval or pity from anybody or comments about how ‘brave’ I am. Imagine if somebody said that to some of you who do have children? You’d feel awful wouldn’t you? I know most of these comments aren’t meant to be hurtful and yet some are, just the same. You don’t know where people come from, their life experiences or what keeps them up at night.


I don't have children because I didn’t think it would be fair given that I grew up with a family history of breast cancer at a young age, a strong family history of alcoholism and depression and two parents who were so unhappy and unstable, I doubt they ever gave me a thought. They both died in middle age of drinking and smoking related causes. None of this is my fault, it’s just the hand I was dealt. This wasn’t an easy decision for me as I love kids but you know, most people don’t get everything they want in life and do the best they can.

To be perfectly honest, I don't see what the big deal is. It never used to be. Growing up, my parents and grandmother knew people who didn't have children and it was just accepted. Now, like everything else, people endlessly discuss it and analyse it to death on the internet (I hardly think people are saying these kinds of things face to face).

Looking at it rationally, most people have children and some people don't, for different reasons (doesn't really matter why). It all evens out in the end as things tend to do. The earth can't support every single person having children. We aren't animals in the jungle, we're human beings with all the complexities and ethical considerations which go with that.


Have kids, don't have them, just be happy, live and let live and care about the things which matter to you and the world we live in.

asplashofvanilla.com

frostine said...

42, no kids, feel great about it.

- shelle said...

Maria - I really like your train of thought. I don't understand the idea of not having kids as being selfish either. I have a 2 year old and really, really wanted him in my life, but I don't see my decision to become a mom as being very selfless. It was something that I SUPER wanted! Now, as a mom, taking care of him requires a lot of selflessness, but women can be selfless without having babies, and I think it has to be ok to be selfish when making big life-changing decisions! YOU are the one after all who will deal with the consequences of those decisions.
Thanks Joanna for this topic - It is so important to explore the reasons why we do and don't do things. I am thankful to have a philosopher for a husband (as obnoxious as it can be sometimes) who made us explore why we wanted to have a child before we did.

Justine said...

I love that you posted about this, especially as you are thinking about having your second child.

Ram said...

Marie- this was extremely well written. Bravo. Do what's best for you.

McKenzie said...

I don't think I could ever decide this (not to have kids), but then again, I am only 14 so who knows! But right now, I just feel like I very much want to be a mother, experience it, and sounds weird, but raise some of my own into this world. I, differently to Cat, have always pictured myself having kids, and definitely love the idea of it. I know as I am now that there are things I want to do differently, and things I will do the same as a parent. I want to have a chance to bring in my own ways of parenting and use what I know too. Despite this, I don't want to compromise my adult life because of it - though I will put my all into my children, I think that it is right that you continue to achieve the things you want to, and become the person you want to, whether you have children or not.

http://currentlylovingblog.blogspot.com/

amy said...

YES. I agree with this wholeheartedly.

Chrissy said...

I am not planning on having children, nor have I ever. I knew from a young age that I was not ever going to be the "mothering type" and I'm okay with it. I love babies and children. I am currently an elementary school teacher. It's fulfilling to interact with children and see them grow, but once I'm home, I appreciate living a life absent of children.
I'm in a committed relationship with a man who shares my same views--we both agreed that children are not in the future for us. We have plans to travel, enjoy each other, work hard and spend our money on each other and the activities we love doing, and it's been fantastic so far.
My sister always says she's planning on having 5 (gulp!)

Women who knock on other women for being childless by choice...I don't get it, it's like forcing your political views/religion/likes and dislikes on others. But if you feel so strongly about bringing children into the world, feel free to have another child on our behalf! :)

naomi agnelli said...

I'm very disturbed by some of the comments here. Women are not required to have children. Women are not required to have the "maternal instinct," it is not something that is just in biology. I personally do want a child, but I would never question a woman who did not. Stop pressuring people to populate an already overpopulated world. It's like pressuring a teenager to have sex. If you don't want to, don't. Nobody should shame you for that.

Phoebe said...

I don't like being around children. Babies scare me. That said, I still want kids of my own someday (I'm about 25). I will forever be the woman who doesn't coo around children or think babies are cute (only about 1% are actually cute). And when I have a child (or multiple) someday, I will still feel this way toward other's kids...I just know it.

Elizabeth said...

I was definitely born to be a mother. I love you my son and can't wait to have more children. I am happy to be at home with children but I also don't consider this a life long choice between career and home. Kids are not at home for very long before they are at school and then eventually out of the home. I think we lose sight of this and people can talk about children like a sentence or an either or option. Life continues after baby.
Personally, I've gone back to school after having my child and I also work part time. I would prefer to be at home full time in future but I am also looking down the line to the work I will do when my kids are in school.

Also, Spencer Tracy had two children with his wife. Katherine Hepburn was his mistress.

Karlie said...

I think that as humans, everything we do is because we are benefitted in some way. When we choose our friends it is because they benefit us through advice or humor. When we volunteer we do so because we enjoy the feeling of satisfaction we get from knowing the good we are giving to others. Realistically and logically, every act performed is done because we are somehow benefitted, as it should be. Everything you do in your life should be done from a place of thoughtfulness. Choosing to have children without first questioning if you would be a suitable mother, I would consider, a very selfish act. I personally don't know if I will or will not have children in my life, but anyone who chooses the latter, should not be downcast and/or deemed selfish. We all have the right to design our lives as we see best.

Found said...

This is such a fantastic point! I think women do judge each other, and harshly, and often quite openly, either with glares or words. We all just need to reach a state of acceptance....everyone leads their own lives and gets to make their own choices.

Found said...

Thanks so much for this, Jo! I love when your Motherhood Monday posts apply to non-mothers as well.

Some commenters said that they wanted kids to leave an impact on the world, to raise people with their viewpoints. I’d like to point out that not only do parents influence children, but also other family members, teachers, and every person a child looks up to (whether their parents want them to or not!). Also, reasons to have kids, like the one above, but also including “I just always wanted to be a parent” could be viewed as selfish. The need to pass on one’s genes instead of adopting or being a foster parent could be considered selfish. On the flipside, reasons to not have children, like “I just couldn’t support a child or provide him or her with the opportunities I would want to,” or “I am not patient with children and don’t think I would make a very good parent to a child” are very unselfish reasons. Regardless to whether the reason is in favor of having a child or against, if it is about the adult, it is selfish. Which isn’t to say that a child conceived for a selfish reason can’t be raised perfectly well, but it’s rude to say that all adults who decide specifically not to have children are selfish, when it is a trait shared by the entire human race. A selfish decision isn’t the wrong one, and a wrong decision can be made for selfless reasons.

For me, I have never wanted to be pregnant. I’m on the fence about having kids in general….I’m 24 though, with plenty of time to change my mind. I know I want to travel, and I want to continue doing the activities I enjoy. I want to surround myself with people I love. I want to have children in my life; I want to be an aunt. I’d like to teach. If I feel the call to motherhood, I think I would prefer to adopt or be a foster parent, not as much because of overpopulation, but because I would like to positively influence a child who hasn’t had positive influences. I don’t know if I’d want to bring a new kid into this world when I can do more good by helping one who already exists. Besides that, I like CHOOSING the people in my life, so the option to adopt, foster, or mentor a child appeals to me more than rolling the dice with genetics. If I decide to have a kid with my genes, it will be an incredibly selfish decision and it’s mine to make.

fromtheloftabove said...

i defintiely feel a lot of respect for those people who decide they don't want children - it's a really huge thing to go against what society perceives to be "normal". this is a great post for discussing this, and the fact that we shouldn't feel like we're any less of a human being if we decide not to have children. you just have to decide what's right for you - but i think if you don't want kids, really make sure you don't want them. hold a baby, or babysit your friend's kids, and really think about whether or not you want children.

Jocy said...

This is fascinating. For a while, I never felt a maternal calling. Then, one day, I met my partner (who also professed no need to have children) and it all changed. I don't exactly know how it happened. People usually nod their heads and say it is because I'm now in my 30s, but I don't think that's necessarily it. If I didn't have Ethan as my partner, the idea of kids would not be so attractive or realistic. The funny thing is that in my field of work, many people judge me when I tell them that I am engaged and we want to have kids.

Given that the majority of women in my field aren't married with kids, it's kind of the opposite sentiment that a lot of my single friends tell me. I sometimes see them check out and soon as I say it - like I'm not as serious about my work or that I'll be a trailing spouse.

It's totally annoying. People often start to say that I must feel the pressure, blah, blah.

Catherine Masi said...

Dear, Joanna.
Thank you so much for being willing to post about this. Selfishly, I've been hoping since you began your wonderful Motherhood series for you to offer another perspective for your women readers with either a mention of adopting or women/couples who choose not to raise children of their own. Your outlook and general take on life is, I find, consistently sweet, balanced, and loving and so I knew that if you chose to ultimately share about those two subject matters you'd do so respectfully. Thank you for sharing about this particular matter so tactfully.

I will keep this as brief as possible (promise!). And, full disclosure, I haven't yet read beyond the first few comments (though I'll likely go back and peek)because I think I've heard it all on this topic and it will just frustrate me if I see unpleasant retorts (I guess I just assumed there would be. Maybe I'm wrong?) But I would like to share my personal experience, if that's okay... Like many but certainly not all of us, I grew up sure I would want a lot of children (I'm the youngest of 6!)- I, specifically, wanted to adopt. I worked with children for several years (as a nanny and as a teacher)and have more often than not adored every one of them. But when I met my now husband, he mentioned early on that he would likely not want children. I knew this going into the relationship. And when I was thirty (during our first year of marriage) it dawned on me that we actually had a choice to NOT have "our own" bio OR adopted children (family and friend pressures led me to believe we would ultimately have to, to not feel ostracized.) This freedom to choose was such a liberating concept and one that opened my eyes to so many other ways I can feel fulfilled in life (though many people with children have argued this with me!). My husband and I are both artists with our own businesses and, although we each have a rock solid work ethic and run successful companies (small though they are!)- we are thankful that we have the ability to create and experience various levels of freedom that we wouldn't have been able to with children. These freedoms aren't about partying or traveling around the world (we rarely do either!)but more about experiencing life a bit differently. We enjoy our nieces and nephews and our friends' children and we welcome them into our lives, so we are not kid haters... really! It's just been a relief to have that choice to not have children of our own. And when I feel the pull and longing to have a child (which I inevitably do and will- though I have friends, very "maternal" or otherwise, who absolutely don't), I see the beautiful examples of lives well lived of "childless" friends who are older (I'm in my late 30's), elderly, and of well known artists and creators who have chosen a similar path and have gone on to mark their lives and the world in special ways (here are a few and,yes, including Katharine Hepburn! http://pinterest.com/oliviareading/childless-and-child-free-women/). It's reassuring and even exciting.

Anyhow, that wasn't brief, was it? But thank you nonetheless for allowing me a space to share (even if I'm the only one who reads this... it was cathartic!).
Be well, Joanna, and enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving with your beautiful family.

Found said...

I assume that if you have a problem with messing with mother nature, you also have a problem with women who have always wanted to be mothers using modern technology to help them become pregnant when they are struggling with fertility issues? And those women should never get to experience life except on a "superficial level?"

This world would be a better place if we all learned to accept the decisions of others, specifically decisions that DON'T AFFECT YOU! And who's to say that if you had to take a class to have kids that YOU would have passed the final exam? Choosing to have kids does not automatically make you a better person than those who do not have them. Someone can make the decision not to have kids, but to still have a ton of sex, and they can still be a caring, kind, thoughtful individual.

Emily said...

Of all the (many) posts I have read, this one stuck out to me most! So very, very true.

cerealjoe said...

Great post to get a discussion started!

Some of the comments here are just so awful towards people who don't want kids! I am one of those people and let me tell you I am sick and tired of people always judging me for not wanting kids. There is no need to call us names just because we decide that we have other priorities (and no, that does not make one selfish) and/or just don't feel like our life is incomplete without having children.

The worst are the parents who are just really patronising when I ask them that "why did you have kids?" question. The answer is almost always, "I don't know, but let me tell you, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me." Well, good for you... but you didn't answer my question and I how in the world do you know that there isn't something better you missed because of your children? Obviously, it's all really philosophical and many people just don't like having their choices questioned.

There was one article I read a few months ago that included interviews of mothers and some of the statements were heartbreaking. A few mothers said they didn't even know they had a choice when it came to having children, society made them feel like they had to have kids otherwise they just weren't proper women! Some actually dared to say that they regretted having had children and that if they had known (or understood) that they had a choice, then they would have chosen the child-free path. I think that says quite a bit about our society, doesn't it?


Found said...

Guess what. No one cares that you don't want them to have sex. Because it has nothing to do with you. How is someone having sex and not having kids "unfair" to you? If you chose to, you could do the exact same thing. Obviously, it's against your beliefs, so that's not a path you follow, and I wouldn't judge you for that.

Also, many married couples who have children use birth control after they have kids, when they don't want any more. Or, prior to have children, when they are planning their families responsibly. I'd much rather have people planning out their lives responsibly.

Emily said...

If it's for the right reasons, either choice is respectable.

Beth E. said...

With the exception of Jean (who sounds like she needs a shrink more than birth control) all of these stories are pretty much the same. They want to live their lives and aren't interested in kids. Okay but there are a lot of other reasons out there and lots of different scenarios. I would have found it more interesting if you had featured someone who had decided not to because they were honoring their partner's desire not to have them and how they decided that they were okay with it or someone who married someone who already had children or couldn't have children or someone who decided not to because of the possibility of passing on very poor genes.

Catherine Masi said...

Oh my god, that was long. I am SO sorry!

Lizzie said...

I truly feel caught in the middle of this debate. I am 26 and I adore children and I want them very badly, but I actually feel very selfish for wanting a child. Human beings are asked to control other animal urges for their own good (occasionally abstaining from sex, not eating every fat and sugar in sight, not killing your enemies, are some examples) but not procreation. We're over populated, we're killing the planet, we're killing each other, people are starving, people are dying of thirst. I can't think of the world on a global level and feel okay with further adding to the population. I have considered my options, and there are 2 - have only 1 child and reconcile that it is negative population growth and leave it at that, or adopt a couple children because they are here and need homes and good mommies, and I can be that for them. I am leaning toward adoption because I do want multiple children, but it is tough because my hormones keep telling me to make another version of myself and I'm not sure that adopting would calm that urge. My boyfriend wants kids but he gets that my guilt would eat away at me, and has said that he would adopt. I just could never imagine feeling selfish for not wanting a child, and I was a little surprised that no one in the post mentioned any real ethical or moral reasons for not procreating. Maybe if things drastically change I could have my own kids but for now I just couldn't live with it. I don't, however, judge other people for not feeling the same way I do. I assume they feel that they want kids as strongly as I feel guilt for wanting kids, so I do understand where they are coming from.

Unknown said...

I grew up with a brother who had problems with drugs and alcohol and was a total nightmare to live with. I saw firsthand how much heartbreak it caused for my loving parents who were pulling every card in their deck to help the situation, but fell short most of the time. Once you know that this kind of life is possible with a child who refuses help and continues to abuse and manipulate you, it's hard to not know that. I don't want to take that chance because there are no guarantees. My brother and I were raised by the same parents, two years apart, in the same community and in the same schools. We turned out very differently and although his relationship with me and my family is not nearly as bad as it once was, it will never be a close one.
The last ten years of teaching hasn't helped either (I honestly don't know how teachers with kids do it! Truly amazing...). But when I really get to the bottom of it, it turns out I just don't care that much about having kids. Whether that is based in my early years or my experiences with students (good and bad), I can't say. I just don't feel strongly about it and I figure when it comes to having kids, you need to feel pretty strongly that it is worth giving up your entire life - including all the possible risks that you have no control over. I know my mom and dad would say it was worth it, but I also know women with grown children that have admitted to me that they think their lives would have been just as good and just as fulfilling if they could go back and choose differently.
Thank you for the post. I do get some very surprised reactions and curious inquiries when this kind of thing comes up (including once on a first date... awkward...). It is considered rare and even bizarre that a woman of my age (34) still feels no strong desire for children. And, as far as I know, I'm perfectly sane and healthy.

Lindsey McLean said...

I enjoyed the first half of this post. Then I lost interest. These women are TOO YOUNG to say they will never have children. I'd much rather hear from 45/50 year olds who chose not to children and how they feel about it on the other side of their fertile years cruising into menopause.
I'd be willing to put money down that at least two of these women will end up having a baby! ;)

Janae @ Bring-Joy said...

Funny you ask! We actually have contemplated getting a pet many a time but when we do ask ourselves the questions: who will walk it, who will feed it, etc. we come up short. As long as I have a baby or toddler in my house I will not take the responsibility of having a dog (maybe a cat...) as well. Not up for that kind of extra work when my priorities lie elsewhere. And I do understand that that was his point--children are a huge commitment & the "hard questions" ought to be asked before such an endeavor is undertaken.

"Unfortunately, people don't give the decision to have kids that same sort of consideration." I respectfully, don't think this is true. It may be true for some people, but not all, therefore is a rather sweeping generalization to make. My husband & I have carefully considered & planned each one of our children. That said, even if one of them had been an "oops" baby, we still would have welcomed that child into our home.

To further clarify my position: I understand the FIL's point--having kids isn't something "to do"--there's a lot more involved. I think I was responding to a sentiment I see far more than I'd like (which I don't think the FIL was actually suggesting, his comment about pets reminded me of it), which is an indifference towards having children. Fine, if you don't want to have kids. But motherhood is not at the same level of being a pet owner, & to suggest such is, insulting to anyone who is a mother. The level of commitment, compassion, & sacrifice is much greater & the failure to recognize the amazing contribution that mothers give to communities/society is something I find troubling.

greta said...

My husband and I are not having children because he has a genetic neurological syndrome that our child would likely also have. Making this decision was the hardest in the world. Someday, we might adopt, but we are waiting a little longer so we really make the right decision.

Courtney said...

This is really interesting, because I just had a baby 3 months ago and at first thought, I don't need to read this post. But I am so glad that I did. To be honest, I was almost one of these people. I never felt a calling to have children, I am nervous about the people I love and sometimes very anxious and I didn't have the best example that having children was something fun all the time. I was on the fence about it for years and approaching 33 started to think it wasn't in the cards for us, but a little over a year ago my husband and I were surprised with news that we were expecting. Now I ask myself every day why did I doubt it, wait so long and what a disservice to myself would I have done had I decided not to have a child. I do 100% believe that women should do what they want and not be pressured but for me, it was extremely eye opening that something I didn't know what it would be like personally could be so incredible. Sometimes in life, you have to let fate take over. My daughter has mostly taught me so far that surprises in life still exist, even after 30, which is a beautiful thing.

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BluenoseGirl said...

I don't have any strong biological urge to have children (I'm 37) I keep checking how I feel when I see a baby to see if that clock is ticking yet.

I always thought I would be a mom growing up, I sort of chose my career based on this and was never really interested in climbing the career ladder. Then in my early 20's I wasn't well for a few years. I realized if I stayed unwell (which it looked like I would) I wouldn't be having children as it wouldn't be fair on them to have a mother who was unwell. The fact that that didn't bother me was a surprise at the time.

The thing is for me to be a mom means staying at home and being a full time mom until they start school, then working part time. Not trying to have and do it all which I think would leave me extremely frustrated. Unfortunately these days that is very difficult to do financially.

Now in my late 30's I think if it doesn't happen before I'm 41 that's my cut off, but it isn't a deadline. However should change my mind after 41 there are plenty of children out there who need a loving home. As many have said the world doesn't really need more people.

M said...

Think about it : if women were able to naturally conceive until they turn 60, would it still be an "issue" to decide not to have kids in your twenties-thirties?


Gina said...

I'm guessing that your reasoning is mixed with a religious background, but you're forgetting that even in the Bible, sex isn't only intended for pre-creation. There are even plenty of faithful women who want to have kids but are infertil.

Sex is also created as an expression of loving your partner, creating unity between the couple, as well as giving and receiving pleasure (that is the clitoris' only function, after all, and God put it there).

Brittany said...

I'm 17 and while I still have plenty of time for the rest of my life (hopefully), one thing I have known ever since I was 12 was that I wanted to adopt kids. I have no idea why, I just really want to adopt kids. I am quite a compassionate and nurturing person, and my genes aren't bad (at least, I don't believe so). However, a shocking development that happened a couple of years ago now, is I realized I ONLY wanted to adopt... no biological kids of my own. I have no idea why I feel this way but as of right now, I know that I want to have kids... just not my own.
This may change in the next 10-20 years...

Alex McKellar said...

great stories, but I wonder, the oldest person here is 38. Some of these women may well change their minds in their late 30's when the reality actually sets in. What about for women on the other side of the decision - in their 40's and can't change their mind even if they want to?
But I love that there are women out there who don't consider it mandatory to have kids, or that you need to have kids to know what unconditional love is....Ugh!

Alex McKellar said...

but will some of these women change their mind later?

Gina said...

I know what you mean! Nine out of ten times that I tell someone that I'm considering adoption instead of birthing my own kids, they say something like, "That's really difficult. Adopted kids have a hard time. Have your own so that they don't have identity issues. It costs too much."

Are people only having children as a form of entertainment or selfish fulfillment? Truly. Because I'm under the impression that all of parenting is a loving sacrifice, expensive, and a lot of the time it will be challenging.

Desiree said...

I agree with you. I would also love to hear more about this topic from older women 45+ and older. So many people say that you will regrett yourself later on if you decide not to have kids. Did these older women that decided not to have kids wake up one day with deep regrett? Do they still feel they made the right decision? I myself just turned 40 and I still can't decide quite where I stand. I have spent many sleepless nights thinking about this topic and trying to make the right decsion.

Unknown said...

HAH. I'm the complete opposite. Never wanted kids, but begged/cajoled my husband for YEARS to get a dog. Still don't want/have kids and am now 35 with an IUD in place so it won't happen accidentally.

megan said...

I completely agree with you Jo Jo. I am within the same age range as a lot of these posters and I wrestle with the question and I don't have a definite answer. That being said, I'd love to hear from some older women who have made this decision too!

I think it would be cool to hear other perspectives too... both on having and not having children - the dads, the same-sex couples, etc. I'd love to hear about women who tried, it didn't take and they decided not to go to any additional measures. I'd love to hear from adoptive parents too! Ah, sorry, I just rambled off about two months worth of motherhood posts. Anyways, I enjoyed the varying perspectives.

Lynn said...

I'd argue that the folks saying *uck you to nature are people like the Duggars, having as many kids as they possibly can. Let's extrapolate the earth's population if everyone did just that, and ask if the earth could support it? We're having issues with the population as it is.

And you mention that you're furthering the species with "lots of love", yet none of that is present in your comment. I think you might want to examine how all this love comes across as anger and intolerance.

Jen said...

I love how all of the women have clear reasons why they don't want to have children and they're secure enough in their decision to share their views. I've learnt that accepting yourself is what will make you happy in the long run and that's exactly what these women have done. Although, I would like to point out that just because you have children does not mean you can't travel and experience the things you want to without them. I've lived overseas most of my life and have been privilaged to experience quite a lot of the world for someone in their early 20's, and that's a life I'm determined that my children, should I have them, will experience as well. Yes my parents moved because of work, but they've given me the experience of living in different countries and understanding different cultures first hand, and I am incredibly greatful to them for that gift.

Jen said...

I love how all of the women have clear reasons why they don't want to have children and they're secure enough in their decision to share their views. I've learnt that accepting yourself is what will make you happy in the long run and that's exactly what these women have done. Although, I would like to point out that just because you have children does not mean you can't travel and experience the things you want to without them. I've lived overseas most of my life and have been privilaged to experience quite a lot of the world for someone in their early 20's, and that's a life I'm determined that my children, should I have them, will experience as well. Yes my parents moved because of work, but they've given me the experience of living in different countries and understanding different cultures first hand, and I am incredibly greatful to them for that gift.

Jen said...

I love how all of the women have clear reasons why they don't want to have children and they're secure enough in their decision to share their views. I've learnt that accepting yourself is what will make you happy in the long run and that's exactly what these women have done. Although, I would like to point out that just because you have children does not mean you can't travel and experience the things you want to without them. I've lived overseas most of my life and have been privilaged to experience quite a lot of the world for someone in their early 20's, and that's a life I'm determined that my children, should I have them, will experience as well. Yes my parents moved because of work, but they've given me the experience of living in different countries and understanding different cultures first hand, and I am incredibly greatful to them for that gift.

Jen said...

So sorry Joanna, I didn't know my post had been sent because it wasn't coming up, please if you can delete the two repeats.

Nice Brew Interior Design said...

My husband and I are in our mid/late 30's and have been married for 8 years. We decided very early on we didn't want children. I can list all the usual reasons, many mentioned in this post, why I don't want children but the only one really is simply I don't want to.


clairepayn said...

Jean: Don't ever let the fear of failure stop you from developing yourself, if having a child is actually totally what you do want. We ALL fail at times. But we are ALL a work in progress until the day we die. I have failed so many times in my parenting so far. But its not how many times you fail. Its about how many times you get up after you fall. My heart goes out to you.

Lots of love.

clairepayn said...

Jean: Don't ever let the fear of failure stop you from developing yourself, if having a child is actually totally what you do want. We ALL fail at times. But we are ALL a work in progress until the day we die. I have failed so many times in my parenting so far. But its not how many times you fail. Its about how many times you get up after you fall. My heart goes out to you.

Lots of love x

Ana Simões said...

I love the post and all the different ways people see motherhood.
I'm 33, pregnant with my first child. I am a stepmom to a 9-year-old.
That was the dealbreaker for me. I never wanted kids, but somehow I fell for a guy that brought a family along with him. Our life became so familiar, it just made sense to have a child of our own and give a little brother or sister to the little boy and lift some of the expectations from his shoulders.
It took me years to make this decision. 7, to be exact. I never got a "calling". I still don't have it. I'm deadly curious about this little person which is about to step into my life and be raised by me, but I don't feel any "motherly instincts". It's all in the head, I think. I'll do the best job I can and I'll try to raise a stong, independent human being, just like I'm trying to do with my stepson. But I have no idea about what I'm doing and I'm sure, as much as I try to rationalise it, it will never make absolute sense.

NOURISH said...

It never occurred to me NOT to have kids. I hated babysitting, wasn't really into hanging out with kids and had never changed a diaper until I changed my own kids' diapers. But I LONGED for it at some point. Though it happened accidentally, terrified the heck out of me...it also came very naturally. Like i was a born breeder. Easy pregnancy. EAsy labour (under 2 hours each time). EAsy breastfeeding. Calm mother when I'm not calm about anything else.
I'm not jealous of my friends without kids. Sometimes I feel sorry for them because they hit 40+ and change their minds. But usually THEY are the ones in stable, loving relationships/marriages. I think having kids is hard on a relationship. Really, really hard. And if marriage is more important than child-rearing then that SHOULD be your focus.

CERMAC, LDA. said...

It would be nice to read about some reasons of women that do decide to have children and why as well. Myself since a very, very young age have wanted to have children. I only met my husband when I was 35 years old and one of the first things my husband asked me is if I wanted to have children (he already had 3 children from a previous marriage) and I said yes. He then said that he would love to have another child. When my son was born and the nurse put him on my chest I felt something so wonderful that even today when I think about it I feel all tingly inside. I was 37 years old turning 38 in a few months when my son was born and I thank the Lord very often for my husband and our son. The funny thing is that my son who is only 7 years old often says to me: "Mommy, I am going to keep this or that toy for my son, but if I have a girl then I will have to buy her other kinds of toys." Parenthood is not something easy, but we must focus on the joys (just like life is not easy, but if we focus on the good things then life does not seem to be so hard).
Fatima

L. Goodrich said...

I think that's it exactly - either you feel it or you don't. I don't want kids, so I can't relate to that feeling of wanting them desperately. But it seems to me that it's bigger than an "opinion," as so many women are calling it when others DON'T want to have kids. It's not my OPINION to not have kids. No more than you had an OPINION to WANT kids. It's deeper than that, isn't it? I think the woman who talked about a calling came closer to the truth. Some people have always known they were meant to have kids, have always embraced it. To me, it feels like, in the absence of that calling, it would be irresponsible to have one "just because," and hope that I would feel the same upon having a child as all the women who had known their whole lives that this was the right choice for them. Shouldn't a child know it came into the world wanted? I think there are lots of people who have grown up with bad or absent mothers (emotionally, physically) who will tell you that having a mother who's not really bonded to them does more harm than good.

So that's always been my rationale, not that I should need one: If I don't feel that deep down calling to have kids like other women do, I shouldn't do it. Every child deserves to be welcomed into a home enthusiastically. Every child deserves to be wanted. And if you know you don't want one, why would you do it anyway? Just like, if you know you DO want kids, would you feel right living your whole life without having them, or would you feel as though you'd made a huge mistake?

Rebecca Norris said...

Great post Joanna.

I found most interesting the last woman's plan's to have a 'talk-down' speech at hand!

Sometimes I think we're under such pressure to just-make-a-decision! It's hard for me to understand people choosing not to become parents, mainly because I've gone from being very anti-having a baby, to more recently becoming sure I want them and soon. So I find it hard that one person should impose a decision on herself and then force herself to keep it - we're all allowed to change our minds, right?

That said, I completely respect people who make that decision. I know I'm guilty of wondering why - it think people ask (not that it's not completely inappropriate to do so!) because it's such a foreign though to a lot of women and they want to understand it.

Love your interview style posts x

Quinn Montgomery said...

I plan to have children one day, but I fully support those who choose not to. And my gosh I love everything that Muriel said! People need to remember that not everyone's "all" or vision of what a "successful" life means is the same. It applies not only to children but so many aspects, and often women are the worst offenders at shaming/judging other women for their choices.
If they're not hurting themselves or anyone else, how about letting people do whatever they feel is best for THEM.

BMarie said...

I didn't have people ask 'Why' I wanted children, but each pregnancy, I would get asked 'if it was planned' and by everyone! Our first was very much so planned after 5 years of infertility, our second was not--- each way, I would receive the same question and each time a variety of reactions when I answered their question. Judgmental to you're crazy regardless if they were planned or not. I felt my over all thoughts on people and babies were negative-- wanting to damper this new life and squash your happiness a bit. People are so so strange.

Shelley said...

I was born to be a mom! I already act like one and I have since I was 3 years old haha :) I am extremely domestic and maternal.

My fiance thankfully is on the same page! :) I'm not sure if I can actually have children but when we get to that point in a few years we will see what options we have - I would love to adopt!

I also just feel so happy that in this day and age people can do what they want! and eventually people won't be harassed for whatever decision they make. I think it takes courage and maturity to know what is best for you no matter what that is. Go women!!!!

Jennifer O'Brien said...

This was a very hard, and much talked about decision for my husband and I. We based our decision on many issues, and did get some opinions from older women who had children. What we decided was that for one thing, I am also a very anxious person and was worried about that coming into play full throttle. We were concerned with my husbands age and energy levels (I am almost 40, he is 48) - he is exhausted all the time and we knew throwing a child in the mix would throw him over the edge. We also saw how stressful the whole thing was on all of our friends marriages. And then not to mention the finances and genetic health concerns. I love children and love my niece to death, but I just know for me, this is not the right thing. And I hate that some people call this decision selfish. It is, in fact, just the opposite. It is a decicion based on thought and foresight. No one should judge anyone when it comes to these topics.

Inez Janssen said...

Anni, thank you. And yes, I've read the comments too and am baffled by some of them. I guess in the more rural parts of Holland, it is also less common to not have children, but I feel we are a bit further along the way of accepting it and especially not judging it. I mean, it's not like we have to prevent the world from extinction at this point, and many people will probably feel completely fulfilled by friends, career, a love or any other life goal or dream that they aspire.

M-J Obsessions said...

Your reason not to have children is the best one I have heard so far!! Happy that you have found happiness!

Bex said...

I am finally delurking in order to say thank you for posting this!
I have an aunt and uncle in their 50s who are hugely loving, really enjoy (and have enjoyed since we were tiny) the company of my brother and I, and have no children. My aunt and I chatted about it quite recently, and she said that she and my uncle had decided a long time ago that they weren't going to have children themselves- but that it deeply hurt her when people in her office made comments like "You'll be next, Jo!" when new mums brought their babies into work.

She made the valid point that none of those people knew what had led her not to have children: she was open with me that it was a decision that they had taken together, but as she pointed out, it could quite easily have been because of a reproductive problem or something else equally personal. She also pointed out that just because she made the choice and still believes it to be the right one doesn't mean that she doesn't think about it.

I think what I'm trying to say is that the decision to have children or not have children is an immensely personal and private one. I guess I don't feel that I have the right to judge people or criticise people for deciding one way or the other; particularly because we have no access to the deep emotions that both support the decision, whatever it is, and are a consequence of it. Maybe we need to stop asking people 'why' or 'why not', and just offer support, help and encouragement regardless of their decision.

I'm sorry that was so long- I think I just feel really strongly about this!

Unknown said...

My point exactly. I don't think it's right to see only views of women in their 20's or 30's. They haven't felt yet what they are definately going to feel when they are 38, or 40, or 45.
I had the same thoughts when I was 20 or 30 due to my need for freedom and independence but now at 38 and having struggled with infertility is A LOT different....

Lindsay said...

I'm sure my parents thought that it would be fun to start traveling once their daughters were out of the house, but now that my little sister is off to college, they are flat broke and also have adopted my older sister's son because she was incapable of raising him. There are so many variables, so isn't it better to do what you want now instead of hoping for "some day"? Having this nephew who needs extra help is also affecting my decision to have kids, which is currently at "maybe someday" for many reasons. I'm currently 27 and very happily married for 2.5 years.

Kendriana said...

People don't ask questions like "Why did you decide to have that child" because it's natural, having offspring is a part of being human, being a mammal. Generally, you don't have to force pregnancy, but if you don't want to have children you have to change something about yourself to make that happen.

sumslay said...

Hahaha, good! I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that. I've always said that if I were a man, I definitely *would* want kids! Seems like a decent gig then.

mary timmons said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post. My long time boyfriend and I do not want children for a variety of reasons. Actually our reasons are not even the same. I wish more people understood how hurting it can be to be judged based on this decision. I think it's actually incredibly brave and commendable to choose not to parent. It takes a honest and self aware person to say, "I can't afford a child" or "I cannot devote enough time to a child" or "Yeah, I'm selfish and my child would be neglected in one or more ways".

spark said...

I'm the mother of a toddler. I love her with all my heart but I completely understand when people don't want to have children. I don't understand when people are judgmental towards women when they are not maternal or say don't want to have children. Haven't we been fighting towards establishing our right to not be judged on our reproductive capabilities?

marlene said...

My husband and I are both surgical residents - we work 80+ hours a week and our free time is precious, so right now, we aren't ready to have children. I suppose it IS selfish, but we both spend most of our lives taking care of and giving to people in the hospital, I think it would be unfair to add a child into the mix at this point. In the same vein, because our free time together is so limited, it's a real luxury to sneak off for dinner, go out for a cocktail or take off for the weekend (rare!) whenever we want, without having to play a juggling game or feeling guilty. I do think that eventually we will try to have children, but we want to live life more before we do this -- travel around the world together for 6 months after residency -- and then move to Europe. One thing is VERY clear to me though: on a daily basis I'm continually witness to people who SHOULD NOT HAVE CHILDREN. I clean up their scrapes, repair their lacerations, listen to their rude and immature dialogues. The sad truth is, the people who shouldn't be having children in this world are procreating at a rate that far exceeds the people out there who have something to offer a child. For this reason alone, happy and secure adults should consider bringing a child into this world. We need some balance!

Lindsay said...

This is so great to hear. It's nice knowing there are other women who love kids but don't want to have their own. I'm 33 and single and I have a day job and also do improv and photography. I'm really happy with my life and was never someone who really wanted kids or saw myself as a mother. I'm sure it has something to do with being an only child and my mom suffering from mental illness and my dad marrying and divorcing several times. But mostly, I just like my life and I'm used to being on my own. Kids just don't fit into the picture. I'm happy just bragging about my friends' kids and my cousins' kids :)

Erin said...

I'm good with being an honorary aunt to my best friend's children and when my siblings have kids. My husband and I are in agreement. We love our life the way it is. I do not have the 'urge' to have kids and my feelings against having them have only gotten stronger as I get older.

kate said...

Just adding my two bits...I used to be in the "never having kids" camp. In fact, my husband tells people he married me knowing there was a 75% chance we'd never have kids. But, we made a lot of big decisions in our lives (working for ourselves, living abroad, etc.) and realized that having kids didn't mean that we would lose our "grown up" life. Our daughter has been to museums, restaurants and all of our favorite spots. Instead of seeing a child as someone that would change everything about our lives, we decided that we were ready to have a kid when we felt confident a kid would fit nicely into our fold. If that makes any sense. Am I more tired? Get a little less private time? Sure. But, I haven't lost who I am.

elizabeth said...

The recurring theme I see in every single scenario here is "I". Go ahead and tell yourself "it's not about selfishness" but that is not true. Being a mother teaches the most valuable lesson of learning to care for someone else so completely that you focus less on yourself and - get this! - it brings immeasurable happiness! I feel sad when people choose to deny themselves one of life's greatest blessings.

Krystal said...

this was so interesting to read! I just had a baby in October, but it was under interesting circumstances. He was a surprise - and before I found out about being pregnant I always said that I wasn't sure I wanted kids. I just didn't feel that maternal call to take care of an infant/baby, etc. but i did always think it would be fun to have like...an 8 year old and up. Also, the simple act of being pregnant really freaked me out (and did the whole time i was pregnant, i hated it). There is so much to be nervous and scared about. So I kept putting it off and putting it off...and then I had a surprise :) He is pretty amazing though but I still feel a little trapped. It doesn't take away from how much I love and adore him (which surprised me to be able to have that much love for someone)....but, he really wasn't in my plans (we are in our 3rd year of living in europe and wanted to do a lot of traveling - i hope we still do!) so there are still some conflicting feelings. but at the end of the day, i can't wait to kiss his pudgy cheeks goodnight :) i wonder if i ever would have come around to having kids!

Christie said...

This is a funny issue for me because I *was* one of the people who adamantly did not want kids. When i was 18, I decided that I never wanted kids. My mother was a single mom when she had me at 18, three months after her high school graduation. I saw her struggle. I saw her date and have her heart-broken. I just saw a lot of sadness in her life that wouldn't have happened had she not had me. And I know she loved me, but I also know part of her realized that her dreams were foreclosed by having a child. I did not want my dreams foreclosed. So I decided I would never have a kid. I got a tattoo--a beautiful, intricately designed tatoo--right around my belly-button. I figured that that would remind me of why I never wanted kids.

When I met my husband, he also had no desire for kids. He came from a wonderful "white-bread with mayo" kind of family. Seriously, the perfect family. But he didn't want kids. I dreamed for us a life full of "grown-up" things. And it was. We were two lawyers with two salaries. We went to great meals and saw jazz late at night. We went to the ballet and to (traveling) broadway musicals. It was a great life.

But then I turned 30. I don't know. Something changed. I thought--what if I get old and regret not having kids. So my husband and I decided to just not use protection and see what happens--let nature takes it's course. Four months later I was pregnant. He was not excited at all. It took him months to come around. But we had our son in early 2011 and I can tell you that neither of us regrets this decision. Both of us will tell you that it is the best decision we ever made--this from two people who didn't even really like kids very much. We love our son. He is the light in our life. We never knew--I never knew--how deeply I could love something. I love him with every cell in my body. He just makes every day brighter. It hasn't been easy. And it has been expensive. But I don't care. We are now talking about having number 2. That will make things even harder and more expensive. I quit my job (and am starting my own business), so money is super tight. We don't go out to dinner. We don't see jazz concerts. We don't do much of anything anymore. But we are one of the happiest families ever. Parents always tried to explain it to me, but I never got it. I just thought they were the kind of people who always wanted kids. But I get it now.

melreader said...

Right. When you are sick and need medical intervention and maybe antibiotics, or chemotherapy, do you say, "f@#k that", let's just let nature run its course? Do you not spay or neuter your pets or support the spaying and neutering of pets either because it is not the "natural next step progression"? If you are opposed to contraceptives and birth control, then I hope you are consistent and also oppose in vitro fertilization, which is truly unnatural.

melreader said...

@andrea - I totally agree.

jodi said...

Okay, I'll add another voice to this discussion. I'm 42 years old and have chosen not to have children. While I could get in on the debate I see throughout these responses as to what's more selfish - a life with or without kids - or defending/explaining the reasons I made the choices I did, what I' like to contribute is in regard to the repercussions of my decision as I have grown older.

Simply put, I do not regret my choice to not have children. Living a life that might be viewed as outside the "norm" has been absolutely fine for me. I have not had to endure any great burden of judgement or guilt-trips, I don't spend really any time justifying my choices, and I have not experienced any moments where I wondered "what if" or felt any sadness. I am truly content living this life as I chose it to be.

So, if I were to offer up any sort of perspective for other women younger than myself, it would be that if you are sure of yourself and your decisions, then there is no reason the judgement others might attempt to put on you will matter. No one can say what is right for another, that's just egocentric.

What I will say is that (depending on where you live) you will need to be ready for a more independent life that might find you a bit more solitary. I like it myself, but know that you won't be relating to other women about kid-related things, you won't be arranging play-dates or connecting with your peers at all the kids birthday parties. This will put you out on the fringe in some ways, but again, if you feel sure of yourself and your decisions, it won't be a problem.

Lastly I'll add that my relationship with my mate is incredible. While I'm sure parenting is an experience that deepens a couples bond, not parenting is its own adventure.

Trust your guts, ladies. Your life is yours to live, however you choose.

L and P said...

It's totally, totally, totally okay to be uncertain about wanting children. One of the most destructive myths about motherhood (especially in N. America) is that it's a pure all-or-nothing situation. You either give yourself, all of yourself--mind, body, and soul--over to motherhood, or you're not a good mother, aren't 'cut out for it,' etc. We are complex and strange creatures, capable of simultaneously holding 2 contradictory beliefs, contradictory feelings, contradictory impulses.

I was pretty certain I never wanted children through most of my twenties. My guy and I met young, and spent our twenties as partners in crime, doing whatever we wanted, for the most part. Changing careers, making large 'cross-the-globe moves, traveling, neglecting our families. After 10 years of this, we looked at each other and had a mutual moment of Hmmm, that was great. But we're sort of tired of being this selfish, aren't we? We found ourselves talking a lot about how we have this extra love to give, we have energy and a bit of money and all kinds of desire to keep challenging ourselves. And before we knew it, we found ourselves saying We want to have a baby. It grew naturally out of us feeling like we'd worn ourselves out on living the twenty-something dream.

Of course we'll still travel when we can, because it's a part of our lives, a part of our family. And of course we'll still have the passions we were lucky enough to be able to develop in all those childless years. But I'm okay with these things being less front-and-center in my life. I don't miss being able to be so selfish all the time. I have extra love to give, and a creature who needs that love, and my love for my husband grows and changes and stretches as I see him take on new challenges that change his ability to love. If someone had told me 5 or so years ago that this is how I'd feel now, I'd be highly skeptical. And that's another reason why it's so very okay to be unsure about having children, why it doesn't mean you're lacking some essential part of female biology: We can't possibly know our future selves. We surprise ourselves.

annbenjamin said...

Completely agree! The 'you'll change your mind' refrain is really starting to get repetitive. I've been married for almost 10 years and with Hubs for 11 years, I think by now we would've changed our minds. Like you, our immediate family seems to be understanding (even if 'you guys would make such wonderful parents'). I wouldn't trade in our lives for anything. There is so much more I want to do and kids would just get in the way.

Jessica said...

Wow! This was a great discussion! I used to be on the "don't want to have kids" side of the fence wholeheartedly. I live and work with horses and most of the women my age or older, are either single or married without ANY kids!!! For my group of friends, our horses are the financial and emotional replacement for having children. As I have grown up a little, I have changed my mind about kids. I am excited and extremely scared to have children but when the time is right I am going to be the best mom I can be. But just because I choose children doesn't mean I don't still see the opposite side. Either way IS a choice and it is one that we are all entitled to. Thanks for this Joanna!

the delicate place said...

no one can predict their future, it's true..you might be young and spry or...brittle with old age. i just wouldn't count on tomorrow ...i like to live each day like it's my last :)

Christina said...

I totally respect these women and their decision not to have children. It is still difficult for me to understand, and actually makes me feel kind of sad. My father came from a difficult childhood, with a crap father, and he was the best dad to me and my siblings. I can't imagine my future with children. I would give anything, my entire life, for my baby. I want the love and connection of family, which is a value I feel our society is losing.

Dani said...

This is how I felt, excited but also unsure and definitely not gushing. And after baby was born I was scared out of my mind about caring for him 24/7. He was a few weeks old at Thanksgiving last year and my sister-in-law kept asking, "Don't you just wonder what you did before you had him?!" and I would murmur a response because in reality I could easily remember sleeping all night, watching an entire movie uninterrupted, leisurely drinking coffee and reading the NYT for 2 hours, etc. Expect an adjustment period, you won't just immediately be enamored with the new lifestyle!

BUT... My baby just turned one and I can't imagine not knowing him, so overall I know I did the right thing. And when he's older we can travel and eat exotic foods (things other posters said they would miss) together. Hopefully with a sibling or two :)

Katie Helen said...

Can't we all just get along?

I sense that women who do not want children feel very defensive about their choice (likely because they've felt judged). And there's certainly a good case to be made that perhaps the women who DO want children are selfish, or don't have any good reason to want children. On the flip side, women who want children read these accounts and just don't get it. They feel pity for the lonely purposeless life that being childless might lead to.

Personally, I've been back and forth. In my early 20s I had this epiphany where I realized I don't have to have kids. I could have a boat! I could travel and live a glamorous, exciting life and have all kinds of experiences that a mom in the suburbs will never have. How wonderful it would be to have a disposable income and freedom! I looked at married women with kids approaching their 40s and I felt sad for them. I thought their lives seemed really small, and I didn't think they seemed that happy or fulfilled. And no, I don't want to be pooped on. I don't think that's cute, no matter how much love is in my heart.

But as I'm getting older, I can't deny that my heart is telling me I should be a mother. Not society, but my soul, my true self in the quiet of solitude has told me I want a child of my own. I want to experience what mothers describe to me, and I don't think I will feel full without that. Selfish as that may be, it's how I feel. When my best friend sends me videos of her children telling me they love me, my insides ache and I feel a swell of joy in being in the presence of such innocence.

Whichever side you're on, we don't want to have to justify to someone else our reasons. Even if we can't understand each other, can we just respect that we all have different experiences that lead us to make the decisions we think are best for us. I have friends who's political beliefs are different, who's sexual preferences are different, who's cultural traditions seem odd to me. But I respect the differences and I embrace people who are good.

H said...

What an eye-opening post! I definitely want to be a traveler, career-woman but still maybe want kids, too. I have faith that what is supposed to happen will happen naturally someday. (: (And again, Toby is such a beautiful boy!)

Emily said...

mjf - I respect your opinion, but what I do in my bedroom is my business. I'm not giving up sex. It's just too good. And I'm not interested in kids at this moment. So there's that.

Also, sometimes even if you want a baby, you can't afford a baby. But you can afford protected sex.

Kirsten said...

Everyone is commenting about how society pressures woman to have children but I feel that at this point our society is pressuring woman to not have children. There is this glorification of having a career, traveling and being a couple which is supposedly compromised with having children. As was stated in the article, we have gone from 1 in 10 woman not having children to 1 in 5. This shows the obvious push against having children. I think that the easy option is to focus on all the bad things about being a mother or, give yourself "talk down speeches". Everything about being a mother isn't glorious but I think you don't understand the joy a child can bring to your life until you experience raising children of your own. I respect these woman's positions and their right to choose but it makes me sad to think they might be missing out on something amazing (although they would disagree) because society influences them to focus on the bad things about having children.

Lauren Ashley said...

It's such a personal choice, I have always wanted children so badly I feel it in my bones - I can imagine it would be difficult to NOT feel that way in a society where parenthood is still the rule not the exception. I think it's brave to admit not wanting children, plus if you really don't want to be a parent, I think it's much better in the long run to admit it and not have kids.

jobonga said...

While there is some great sharing of perspectives going on here, I'm surprised that so many comments diminish the choice to abstain from raising children. Some are questioning the justifications of these five for choosing a child-free life (missing the point entirely!) and there are several requests to hear from older women who regret choices not to have kids - what will that show? Their perspectives and their lives are their own and would not invalidate the choice not to procreate, just as hearing from a woman who regrets her choice to have kids shouldn't color your choice to have kids.

I am guessing many of these commenters who can't trust the decisions of young women resented hearing people making patronizing statements to them while pregnant, 'just you wait your life will fall apart', making the assumption that you are entering motherhood completely blind - that they can see your future in a way you can't. It's maddening, right? So why pretend that you know the course of these child-free women's lives better than they do? It's such a disservice to women of all ages to not fully accept what is bound to be a very personal and thoughtful choice - to breed or not to breed.

It seems to me that unconsciously or not, these commenters are looking for validation of the harmful childless stereotypes - that immature women in their 20s will change their minds, and older women will feel alone and unfulfilled. Come on! We should be celebrating our freedom to choose and fully support each others' choices and autonomy!

jobonga said...

While there is some great sharing of perspectives going on here, I'm surprised that so many comments diminish the choice to abstain from raising children. Some are questioning the justifications of these five for choosing a child-free life (missing the point entirely!) and there are several requests to hear from older women who regret choices not to have kids - what will that show? Their perspectives and their lives are their own and would not invalidate the choice not to procreate, just as hearing from a woman who regrets her choice to have kids shouldn't color your choice to have kids.

I am guessing many of these commenters who can't trust the decisions of young women resented hearing people making patronizing statements to them while pregnant, 'just you wait your life will fall apart', making the assumption that you are entering motherhood completely blind - that they can see your future in a way you can't. It's maddening, right? So why pretend that you know the course of these child-free women's lives better than they do? It's such a disservice to women of all ages to not fully accept what is bound to be a very personal and thoughtful choice - to breed or not to breed.

It seems to me that unconsciously or not, these commenters are looking for validation of the harmful childless stereotypes - that immature women in their 20s will change their minds, and older women will feel alone and unfulfilled. Come on! We should be celebrating our freedom to choose and fully support each others' choices and autonomy!

Katie Johnson said...

Great post! Personally, I do not want kids. Granted I always thought I'd be a Mom, but as I've gotten older and am more clear on who I am, I realize Motherhood isn't my calling. Don't get me wrong I love kids and plan to be the best aunt that ever lived, I just think motherhood would be disastrous for me.

claire said...

Hi I'm a 40 something who made the decision not to have children, in fact I don't think it was a decision I consciously made, it's just not something I've ever wanted, I have seen many of my friends have children, and love them very much but my own feelings have never changed. I always new I wasn't cut out to be a housewife or a mother. I am an artist and for me children are just not compatible with my life's work. That maybe selfish to some people, but I think it would be more selfish to have had children that I didn't really want. Some woment just don't have the maternal instinct. I totally respect all the woment that do want children, as obviously we need them to survive, but we aren't all the same.
clairebrewster.co.uk

HereIAm said...

I emjoyed this article. I am glad that more people are understanding that some people make a very thought out decision to NOT have children. I am in my 40's, very happily married and do not have- and never had a desire for- children. I luckily married a man who felt the same way. Babysitting as a young teen left me feeling stressed out, exhausted, or bored. I always just couldn't wait to become an adult and be able to do adult things when I was younger. And now that I am an adult, I like spending my free time doing adult things with other adults. Minding children truly holds no interest for me. And though I do feel I am a bit self-centered, I also do try to give back to my community by doing volunteer work and I am currently working on my BSN with the hopes of working in hospice care. So, I do genuinely care about the welfare of others and the state of society. I just- in a nutshell- have no interest in raising children. Period. :)

Emily said...

WOW - do you also hate on the women who CAN'T have a baby? Why must people have one? So I'm 33 and single. What if I don't meet someone in time to have a baby - have I also failed?

I also volunteer for charity, and I'm pretty sure I'm working to make the world a better place in that way.

I'm so sorry you are so angry. You seem to have some religious issues mixed up with some other issues. I hope your children didn't make you this angry.

All I know is that I'll take a lovely childless woman any day over YOU.

Thriving Wives said...

GREAT post! While I definitely have the "mom" gene and can't wait to be a mother, one of my best friends does not and knows it's just not for her. I 100% respect that attitude, and encourage more people to not feel pressured to have kids. Procreating should NOT be the default, we should wholeheartedly want each and every child and be prepared to care for them properly throughout their lives. As someone else said, we don't need more people on this planet... it's crowded enough.

Strive to Thrive,
Nic
www.Thriving-Wives.com

linda said...

Hi Joanna! I'm very much on the fence about whether or not to have children and I feel the reasons not to have children weigh on me more heavily because it's what I'm more familiar with... I know what life is like without children! I would love a post from yourself and other mothers (especially those mothers who once made the decision not to have children) on reasons why to choose to HAVE children! :)

Anaik Weid said...

I'm 27, in a relationship, divorced, and still haven't figured out wether I want children or not. I definitely am not one of those women that absolutely love children and are clearly ment for motherhood. On the other hand, it's the kind of love you do want to experience at some point. It's all so instinctive, natural, that feels different from everything we are used to. At the end of the day, I think most people are just scared to be alone. At theory, husbands can leave, you retire from your job, but you'll always have your family - unless something terrible happens, but still.
For me, I agree with the woman who said it's all about knowing yourself and making your own choice. Didn't get there yet.

gabsbrown said...

I am 34 and I still have no idea whether I want children or not. Maybe I'll just roll a dice and see where it takes me...

Ruth said...

I am married and 30, and I feel a great kinship with the women you interviewed. I have never felt the urge to have children, even a little bit. I know exactly what the last woman meant about not feeling called to have children. Speaking to my friends who have kids--the thoughtful ones at least--this was something they knew they wanted. They built their lives around knowing that they would be having children. I have never felt that sense of inevitability that many mothers do, so why should I disrupt my happy, productive life to fit other people's expectations?

Annie said...

How about the fact that there are thousands and thousands of children already on this too-crowded planet in need of a good home?

It is incredibly selfish to have biological children.

Mam'zelle said...

Great article. I do want children but I couldn't really put a finger on why. I didn't grow up adoring dolls or daydreaming about motherhood. A lot of it scares me. But I guess I just have very many happy memories of my own childhood and I would like to live through it again (not in a creepy vicarious way). And maybe pass on a bit of what I've learned along the way.

studious said...

I'm in my early twenties and have NO desire for children. The idea of having kids literally makes me feel suffocated, and on top of that my future partner has a 50% chance of being a carrier for a failure disease, so we don't want to pass it along to a child. Amazingly, I even haven't graduated college yet and I'm having to justify why I don't want children ad nauseum!

studious said...

are you serious? "furthering the species" my ass. plenty of other people will fuck and have kids. I used to work at a children's home (pc for orphanage) and let me tell you, there are plenty of people "furthering the species" out there by having offspring. I would rather "further the species" by trying to help the kids that get left behind in the process. ALSO, I really enjoy sex. I also like not birthing things. The two are not mutually exclusive because SCIENCE.

Lauren Doxey said...

I really, really, really want to be a mother. I am only 22 and I am already soooo baby hungry. I have three nephews and a niece and another on the way and everyday I look at them and think, oh how badly I want one. Right now. It's strange I am so young and feel this way, but I have always felt much older than I really was. I am already successfully into my career and have done everything I have really, really wanted to do. I've lived in London, LA, graduated college, worked in Hollywood, done pretty much everything I have always wanted to do! I can't wait to have a child.
It's funny because up until I was about 19, I was repulsed by the thought of having kids. But then something just switched and maternal instinct kicked in.

Lauren Doxey said...

Up until I was 19, I was repulsed by the idea of having children. But then at about my sophomore year of college, it was like my maternal switch flipped on. I have three nephews and a niece and another on the way and every time I look at them, my heart aches to have one of my own. There is nothing I want more than to be a mother.

0 said...

I'm 26 years old, in a very fulfilling, healthy relationship with my boyfriend. I live in a very...fertile? (is that the word?) state, Utah. Growing up, I was an attentive sister to my little brother. I didn't come from a bad family, really loving actually. I just feel now that I am growing up, the whole all my friends are getting married, having kids thing is catching up. I feel at the point in my life, I'm not ready for kids, nor do I have that desire. I love kids, I like holding them, and seeing their different expressions...but am also happy to give them back. :) Right now I am on the fence, but maybe time will tell...

Bethany said...

I totally agree -- the selfish course for couples to take is to bring children into the world with no way to adequately support them -- both financially and emotionally. I'm from an area where many young couples embark on parenthood because it's the "next step." I think some people are destined to be parents -- it's in their blood from the beginning -- but many do not think it through. It's not always the next step and while many may be happy having kids at a younger age I can't help but wonder if they'll ever regret not traveling, not spending more time together, etc...

I also agree with a previous commenter who pointed out that while our society pushes motherhood on women, it does not provide adequate support for them afterwards. Aside from what having a baby does to your body, my biggest fear is paying for healthcare, childcare, college....the expenses are endless and all I hear from friends with kids are nightmare stories about how difficult it is to find good childcare, pay for everything, and then go back to work. Our country is not a supportive one when it comes to parenting resources.

melreader said...

Right. So when you are sick and in need of medical intervention, like antibiotics or chemotherapy, do you see that as also "saying f@#k you to nature"? Do you believe in progress? Do you also not believe in spaying and neutering pets? Have you heard of overpopulation? Hopefully you have consistent views on what "is natural" and if so, then you should also oppose in vitro fertilization.

melreader said...

This is a pretty unenlightened comment, m.j.f. Do you not believe in spaying and neutering your pets? Hopefully you are at least consistent in your views and also oppose in vitro fertilization.

naomi agnelli said...

Stop trolling. Stop promoting the quiver movement. It's not your choice if people procreate, it's theirs.

D said...

Honestly, if you are in your 40s and don't have kids you can be very happy. I am at 43. But just a word of warning - there are going to be people who think there is something wrong with you.

Elle Ramirez said...

I completely agree with you Melanie, I personally would love to have kids one day, actually I think I even respect people more who have taken a clear stance on the issue. It shows that they have really thought through what kind of parent they would possibly be or what they want out of life carefully. Unlike many others who don't give having children a second glance.

weaser said...

Great response, Marie! Not everyone feels a biological need to reproduce and implying that someone is selfish for not wanting to have kids just doesn't make sense to me. Of course, I'm one of those 'one in five' women that does not want to have kids. To each their own.

suzy said...

Each to their own....There is definite pressure from society to have children, to look a certain way, to behave a certain way....the list goes on. Its up to the individual to do just that, act as an individual and not just go with what theeir told the 'perfect' life is. Be your own person and make the best the decision for 'yourself'...and your partners of course. It has to be a discussion before you enter into a relationship because it can end badly. Its a decision you have to agree on from the beginning. I have one child and one child it will be...i felt a stigma against this for uuummmm one second then brushed it off and started focusing on 'our' lives as a strong, healthy, happy family of 3. No one but you determines your destiny :)

Sarah Malcom Photography said...

SO RUDE to say this is EVERY woman's biological instincts! No it is not. I have never felt the urge, the clock, the instincts kicking in...are you telling me I'm not "normal"? I am also not selfish and I happen to love children. Maybe before you have children you should work on being less judgemental and simple-minded, Jamie. I think you were perfectly clear.

summersweater said...

I just want to say that I want to be friends with Alexandra. Same views, and I love how she ended her opinion.

-K
NYC

Louise said...

Thank you so much for exploring this topic. I have never wanted to have children, and people are often shocked--dare I say, appalled--when they hear that I don't want to fulfill what they consider to be my biological imperative by procreating. My reasons are sound. To some, they may come across as selfish, and yes, many of them are, but that seems like all the more reason to avoid raising another human being. I know I would resent a child for robbing me of the ability to live my life solely for me, and that isn't fair to either of us. I have a host of health problems (mental and physical) that have no business being passed down to a future generation, and that may actually be exacerbated by the act of giving birth. The most conclusive evidence that I am lacking the "maternal gene" is how physically sickened I am by the thought of pregnancy and childbirth (not in others necessarily, but for myself). I've been in a situation in which my body became a prison, and it was the worst thing I have ever been through; I know that becoming pregnant would make me feel the same way.

All of that being said, however, I think I would make an amazing stepmother. I've had plenty examples in my life of stepparents creating a happy, healthy environment for their stepchildren and vastly improving their lives.

E. and Baby P. said...

as my childless philosophical brother said to me once, "what's the point in life if you don't have kids." yes, life without kids is easier. and it's great if you know you don't want any. however, life is messy, complicated, rich, diverse. i really feel you can't fully understand and experience the depth and breadth of life if you don't have kids.

Recherche documentaire said...

First, sorry for my english, but i'm french !
I'm very happy reading those testimonies, i feel less alone. Sometimes, when i see my nephew, my niece who are cute and assome, i'm questionning myself. But nether my fiance nether myself can realy imagine have children.
Sometimes, i'm thinking i'm too selfish for it, but it's more because i never felt this way. I never think about me like a mother. The only thing that can makes me change my mind it's the fear of regrets, when i'm getting older.
Thank for this post anyway !

D said...

Don't feel sad for us. We don't want "the kind of love" you seem to think is unique to having a child.

Talki said...

<3 Marie Adamo

Claire said...

http://now.msn.com/sex-makes-people-happiest-per-new-study

AB Design said...

I have been engaged for about a year and we are getting married next summer, I am 21 and he is 20, and people are already asking about kids! Personally, I am thinking no as for right now. You never know, I might change my mind 10 years down the road or so, but still... I have my reasons for not wanting them. Kids are expensive for one. Plus, I feel that I wouldn't make a good mother. I am a career person and goal/task oriented. I am good with kids and ooo and awww over pictures of babies, but at the same time, I don't want to wake up in the middle of the night to feed/get peed on. That's just not me. End of story.

Laura said...

So many insights in this post! A lot of them really resonated with me. I was a lot like Jean (entry No. 1) in this post: I worry. About. Everything. So I thought that I'd have a terrible pregnancy and be a terrible mom. But as I got older and my cousins and friends started having kids, I found myself really wanting them, and my then-fiancé (now husband) expressed an interest in having them, too, so I had to square those two opposing sides of myself. My husband and I talked a lot about it, and two ideas came up that really took away my anxieties. The first one was that you have to take parenting one day at a time -- it's good to look ahead, of course! -- but you can't worry about parenting a teenager while you're still changing the diapers of a newborn. The second was that, in parenting, you can often find a strength you didn't know you had. My husband, amazing partner that he is, saw that in me. And although at first I thought he was just being charitable, over time I came to think that maybe, just maybe, he was right. We now have an eight-month-old daughter, and with every passing day she makes us so thrilled that we made the decision to become parents. As sentimental as it sounds, being a mom has taught me so much (already!) about facing your worries, solving problems creatively, and finding joy in little moments every day. I've come to see that you really have to know yourself well to make the decision whether or not to become a parent -- and sometimes, depending on where you're at in your life, that even means challenging assumptions about yourself!

Sunflower said...

When I was in high school someone said to me "Having children is selfish, give me ONE reason to have children that isn't selfish." And I thought about it and all the reasons to have children and the all started with "Because I want to"...procreate, have MY mirror image, getting unconditional love, instill my values in the next generation etc..Please tell me how any of this unselfish or feel free to give me a reason that you think is unselfish.
Taking care of your own child is not selfless, it's an obligation, it's an obligation that you chose because it serves some kind of purpose if your life even if that purpose to satisfy other so you will fit in to society. There is nothing selfless about that.
The truth of the matter is, selflessness does not exist. Anything that you do, you do because it give you something. Even Mother Theresa wasn't selfless, she cared for the sick because she wanted to do what was in her heart and it was (as they say in the charitable community) "rewarding". Anything that rewards you in any way cannot be considered selfless.
That is not to diminish the amazing work that she did in any way shape or form, she was a Saint if ever there was one. But she wasn't selfless.
I choose not to have children because when I volunteered in a children's home I saw so many wonderful children who were in desperate need of love and I thought to myself "Why do I need to create someone to love/love me when these people already exist? I can give and receive love just the same." And I choose not to have my own children. If that makes me selfish, the So Be It.

D said...

Yeah? Well all the reasons I hear for people wanting to have kids are "I want I want I want". So that's also selfish. Own that.

el {what you fancy} said...

You know what? I'm jealous. Jealous of those who strongly know one way or another. I'm 31, just married and deliriously happy, but swing violently between wanting children and cooing over the cute stuff my friends' kids (not sure if I'm crazy about the babies) do, to being so content without and not wanting to change that... I LOVE being alone, quiet time, sleeping and being selfish. All of which will go right out the window when kids arrive! I'm so undecided, but my husband couldn't imagine not having children, so would I do it just to make him happy and hope that it ultimately makes me happy?? It's a tricky one. I wish I knew for sure either way.

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