The default in our society is to have children. It is assumed that everyone will have children, should have children, and wants to have children.
I, however, am childless by choice. I have thought carefully about my options in life, and I have chosen to not have children. I do not want them. I will not have them. This decision is one I am very pleased about.
Interestingly, when I inform others about this, my life choice to not have children is often dismissed or patronized.
You’ll change your mind when you get older.
It’s different when it’s your own kids.
Who will look after you when you get older?
There’s nothing more fulfilling in life than having kids!
Do you not like children?
People who choose not to have children get these kinds of reactions all the time. As frustrating as it is, I can understand why so many people respond in this knee-jerk way. Because having children is society’s normal. It’s a no-brainer: why wouldn’t you want kids? Of course everyone wants kids!
Well, no. No, we don’t all necessarily want kids.
In our society, we are expected to have children. Many people grow up assuming they will one day have kids, because that’s just what you do in life.
But to me, it’s frightening to think of how often people may go through life without actually checking in with themselves and asking themselves if they do, in fact, want to have children.
Why is this not a thing?
Why is it more acceptable to question why one person doesn’t want to have children, than to question why another person does want to have children?
It is SO important that we walk through life paying attention to what we want and the direction we wish to take. We need to be true to ourselves about what we want out of life so we can make life choices that give us joy! And sometimes—perhaps more often than society would lead us to believe—those life choices includes one of not having children.
Being childless by choice is a feminist issue
In addition to this being a matter of personal life choice, this is also an extremely important feminist issue. For one thing, men do not receive the same scrutiny and sideways glances as women when they don’t have children or announce that they will never have children. For another, women choosing not to have children are challenging the patriarchal culture and norms of our society. When women are rebuked or criticized for this life choice, the people doing the criticizing are in effect working to corral women into a very specific and gendered role. It is a threat to the patriarchal system when women make a decision like this.
Women who choose not to have children are sometimes also looked down upon as not only being selfish (we’re not!), but also being rather heartless. This seems to be one of the reasons why, fascinatingly, many women who talk about being childless by choice also add in something along the lines of, “I don’t want children—I have my fur babies to keep me busy!” or “I might not want kids of my own, but I have a close relationship with my niece.”
These types of comments might be true, and they are totally valid—but they also hint at an underlying concern: that women in our society need to be seen as nurturers in some kind of way.
You wouldn’t see a man defending his position of choosing to be childless by pointing out that he loves animals or volunteers in a daycare, for example. Men are not required by our societal norms to prove that they have a nurturing side the way women are (even as I write this, it’s a struggle to not defend my childfree life!).
(Psst… one of the best ways we can work toward bridging the gap in our everyday lives? Stop and consider, when criticizing a woman about her life choice, whether we would ask this same question if she were a man, for example. Would it be an issue? Would we even be questioning why this person doesn’t have/want kids? Being aware of these kinds of gendered biases and catching ourselves in the moment can go a long way!)
Your life choice…
If you wanted kids a couple years ago but don’t want them anymore, that’s okay. If you absolutely want children in your life, that’s okay. If you aren’t entirely sure yet if you want to have children, but could see them being part of your future one day, that’s okay. And if you definitely don’t want children, that’s okay too.
This is YOUR life. You are not required to give your parents grandchildren. You can live a life without children and still be happy and fulfilled. Having kids just because that’s what we are *supposed* to do it probably isn’t the best reason to have them.
So: is this something you’ve thought about—really thought about?
Give yourself permission to live a life of your choosing! And let’s keep the conversation going about the immense importance of our right to choose.