From a very young age, I’ve known that I didn’t want to have children. I declared it high and low to anyone who would listen to me, even as a child, when people seemed to think it was cute and they just laughed and moved on with whatever they were doing. As I grew older, my intentions seemed to unsettle people more, and it came from being a subject of laughter to one of ‘you’ll feel differently when you’re older’ and eventually it came around to ‘you’ll change your mind.’
When I choose to get sterilised at 27, a surprisingly large number of people told me I’d regret it because I’d want kids later. (And, as we know, there is only one way for a vagina-operator to have children, so now kids are right out.) I disagreed vehemently; obviously, because I went ahead with the procedure, and I still think it was one of my best life choices ever, something I tell my surgeon every time I see him.
Why do people insist on telling me that I’m going to change my mind about children? How does my decision not to have children invalidate their decision to have them? It pisses me off when parents patronisingly tell me that I won’t really be an adult until I have children, and that having kids will be an important part of my life, and I’ll change my mind as soon as I have kids of my own, or some variant of one of the previous. And it pisses me off when people who are planning to have children hastily assure me that I’ll be planning for some of my own too someday, that I’m just going through a phase.
I think we can safely say at this point that this is not a phase. I don’t want kids. There are a lot of reasons for that, some of which are private, some of which I don’t really feel like discussing with people who want to argue with me about an intensely personal and very important choice. After all, this isn’t just a decision that affects my life and autonomy, but it’s also a choice that would affect the life of any children I brought into my life (by any means). I’m having to make a decision for at least two people (me and a child) and likely more (another biological parent, possibly multiple biological parents, possibly other coparents, possibly other children). That means I need to make that decision with care and respect.
People tell me that choosing not to have children is a selfish act and that eventually I’ll ‘change my mind’ and accept the joy of having children. I don’t think that having children is selfish, but I do think that it requires wanting something badly enough to make choices for (and hopefully with) a lot of people, which is not exactly selfless. And I have nothing but respect for people who choose to parent, because it is a challenging job that comes with its own load of problems both personal and social, especially for women, but I’m really tired of being instructed that I must have children, often in very heteronormative conversations.
There are a lot of things that honestly just puzzle me when it comes to people telling other people what to do when the actions of other people have a negligible effect on your own life. I can’t understand why some people are really upset by same-sex and same-gender marriage, for example, when it doesn’t really have any bearing on their lives. I don’t get why people care if I like raisins or not when it doesn’t really matter when it comes to the contents of their plates. And I don’t get how my decision not to have children is anyone’s business but my own; it’s not for me and I know it’s not for me. Shouldn’t I get credit for being self aware enough to recognise that?
Would all of these people pressuring me to have a child like me to have one and then be a terrible parent? Is that what they want? I’d like to think that if a situation ever arose where I did become a parent (as for example if one of my g-dchildren came into my custody), I would do the best I could and try very hard to give that child a safe, loving, secure home with access to as many opportunities as I could provide, but I have no illusions about my parenting skills, or what I want from life. I like traveling, I like independence, I am still struggling to gain control over my finances, I have trouble taking care of myself sometimes, let alone another human being, I appreciate that cats can be left alone for many hours at a time without injuring themselves, developing psychological trauma, or requiring attention. Children aren’t really compatible with the life I am living and the life I want to live.
When people tell me that I’ll ‘change my mind’ about children, what I hear is that they’re not respecting my choices, and my ability to have autonomy over one of the most important decisions a person can make. And when I hear that, I think that this person thinks I’m not a full human being, that I don’t deserve to be respected and to have my decisions honoured. The fact that people think I’m less of a person—I have literally been told that I will never know what it’s like to be an adult if I don’t have children—because of a personal decision is gobsmacking, and infuriating.
Stop telling people they’ll change their minds about wanting to have children. Maybe some people who don’t want kids right now will change their minds later, and that’s totally within their rights as people who are capable of making decisions for themselves. But that’s not the case for all of us, and trying to pressure people into having children is a really hateful, awful thing to do.