As a 32-year old woman, I feel blessed to have such strong female friends in my life; kind, loyal friends who share many of my own interests and values. In one respect, however, I am very different to all my friends. I am the only woman in my friendship group who doesn’t have or want children. As a little girl, I knew that motherhood wasn’t the path for me. Walking back from my local park with my Grandmother, I remember passing an expectant mother and categorically thinking that I didn’t want that virus (my young mind at that point figured that getting pregnant was like catching the common cold). To this day, I’ve never once changed my mind, not even in the slightest. I’ve never felt broody or that I’m missing out on something. As a young girl, I presumed that having children was an obligation for women, an expectation. Of course, I now know that motherhood is a choice and is by no means an obligation. In some respects, however, I stand alone with that thought and have been shocked to hear people’s opinions of my choice over the years. It has saddened and, in some cases, isolated me. This article is my way of reaching out to any woman who may too feel frustrated and even swayed by other people’s reactions.
Dont Be Ashamed of Your Choice to Not Want Children
For a whole multitude of personal reasons, more and more women are making the decision to not enter motherhood and to remain child-free. Yet, when compared to expectant mothers, it is women like me who are put under the spotlight and expected to explain and justify our reasons. Whilst at a friend’s house party, just a couple of years ago, I was taken aside by a distant friend of my partners who proceeded to tell me that she felt my decision to not have children was a mistake. ‘I think you’re making a big mistake. You don’t know what you’re missing out on. Why is it that you don’t what children?’ At the time, I was stood with a lady who too had chosen not to have children. She was deeply offended by those comments. I can’t say that I was personally offended, as I suspect that a lot of those comments were coming from someone who simply knows the joys that can come with parenthood. Saddened, however, would be a more accurate word; saddened by the fact that my choice (a choice that has been made very carefully, over many years, by me and my partner) was being questioned and scrutinised. Would I ever ask a pregnant lady if she thought she was making a mistake? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t dream of it.
The biggest misconception is that I don’t like children. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as I love children. With five nieces and nephews and many friends who have their own children, I love to get involved. Due to not having my own children, I’ve formed a very special bond with my Sister’s children, a bond that I arguably wouldn’t have if I had my own. Me and my Sister are very different in this respect. She dreamed of having a big family, unlike me who had a very different dream. I fully respect and support her decisions and I can see the happiness that family life brings to her. Another misconception is that I’ve had a bad experience in the past that has put me off motherhood. Again, this simply isn’t the case. I’m fully aware that being a parent is incredibly hard work, both physically and emotionally. I’m also aware that pregnancy and labour can have its complications. My Sister suffered terribly with severe morning sickness during all her pregnancies and underwent an emergency C-Section with my niece. This, however, does not factor into any of my reasons for not wanting children.
Your Reasons are Your Reasons
The fundamental reasons why I don’t want to have children are complex. It doesn’t just boil down to one reason. A lot of careful thought has been put into making that decision, so when put on the spot and asked to explain those reasons, I find it very hard to explain. I often oblige and give out a few of my reasons. I want to explore more avenues within my career. I want to travel the world with an element of spontaneity. I want some calmness within my life. Will it ever be accepted that some women simply just don’t want children? I can’t imagine asking an expectant mother to explain to me her reasons for wanting to become a parent. I feel extremely fortunate that my close friends and immediate family have always accepted and supported my decision. Most importantly, those people have never questioned my decision. Your reasons are your reasons and will probably differ from mine, but never feel ashamed of those reasons.
You are Not Selfish
I have to say, this is the one comment that really upset me. It was said to me many years ago by an ex colleague. He felt that I was being selfish for not wanting to have children. I recall feeling shocked and deeply disheartened by his comment. It stayed with me for a few days and I had to give myself a stern talking to before I realised that my decision is anything but selfish. You see, entering parenthood is a life-long commitment, a never-ending contract. You are entirely responsible for another human being. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Entering parenthood for any other reason other than the fact that you are desperate to become a parent, to me, is selfish. I am in no way desperate to become a parent. I have no desire whatsoever to enter parenthood, so I feel that I would be doing parenthood and a child a complete disservice if I did. If you too have made the same decision, I urge you not to feel like you are being selfish. I think it’s also important to point out that it is just a minority of people who have this rather weak opinion.
You Are No Less of a Woman
Luckily, I’ve never felt any less of a woman for not wanting to have children. Over the years, I’ve developed into a woman that I can be proud of. I’m proud of my achievements in my personal life and in my career. I’m proud of the role I’ve taken as an Auntie, a Daughter, a partner and a friend. That said, I know some women feel as if their womanhood is somehow compromised for not wanting to have children. I urge you not to feel this way. Having a child does not make you any more of a woman. It simply takes you on a journey into motherhood. The beauty of being a woman (or indeed a man) in 2018 is that we can be proud of being different, of being unique. The world would be such a boring place if we were all the same.