Navigating not wanting children

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A person relaxing on their couch, contentedly staring out the window. pxhere

A list of comebacks for those who seem to think they can convince you otherwise

by reese estwick & holly worby, staff writer & op-ed editor

Having kids is so normal in our culture that when you tell someone you don’t want any they look at you like you grew a second head (ironic, as that’s exactly what you don’t want). They also, more likely than not, will insist that eventually you’ll want them – or your partner will – and will look at you with that condescending “you just don’t get it yet” gaze. As a blanket message to all those doubters, we’ve come up with handy responses to the many well-intended (but completely tone-deaf) comments you may encounter if you too do not want to reproduce.

When are you having kids?

Never.

How many kids do you want when you do have them?

Absolutely none.

So, you hate children?

I actually have a lot of respect for kids. I love their curiosity, the ways their little brains try to figure out the world, their infectious belly giggles, and how uninhibited their joy is – I still don’t want any of my own.

My sister always said she didn’t want kids either. She has three now and they’re her whole life; you’ll get there, too!

Did you even hear what you just said? They’re her whole life. If that is what someone wants out of life then yes, absolutely go for it, that’s an incredible amount of dedication and I’m happy that they’re able to go through life doing something that brings them so much joy. I would also like to go through life doing things that bring me joy, and having children is not one of those things.

If you don’t have kids, you won’t fulfill yourself as a woman.

I will fulfill myself with things that I want to do for me – not another human being. Society has trained women to think that being a mother is necessary to being a proper woman, and that if we don’t want kids, we are bad women – that we will always be incomplete, and that no man will want a wife who won’t carry his children. Well, what makes you think I would want to marry a man who doesn’t respect my own wishes for my body? To this, I say no thanks, I just don’t want them. I will wait for the day that that is an accepted answer, and until then, I will gladly keep being a “bad woman”.

How do you know for sure that it’s really something you’ll never do?

Because I’m someone who likes having control over their schedule, and having clean places to work in. The freedom to go on a week-long camping trip. Disposable income. Hobbies that make me feel satisfied and accomplished. The luxury of only cleaning the messes that I make in my home. A space where I don’t have to hear screaming, crying, or tantrums. Snacks in my house that I know I’ll actually get to eat because there’s no one around to steal them. Drinks with friends without having to pay for a babysitter, too. Free time, period.

You’re probably just scared of the birth part then, but most mothers I talk to say they’d do it all again, so it can’t be that bad!

First off, there’s a good chance that the mothers who respond like that actually wanted to be mothers, so I can understand why they’d feel their sacrifice was worth what they got out of it. I’m not scared of pain – I have 14 tattoos, sweetie. The truth of the matter is that I’m someone who doesn’t want to go through pain for an outcome that I don’t want anyway, which I see as a pretty sane stance.

You have to settle down and have a family eventually, you can’t just work forever.

As a young woman who plans to live a career-focused life, the idea of having kids was kind of taken from me. This is not to say that there aren’t badass women that are amazing mothers and amazing career women. I praise those wanting and able to do both, but I think those choosing to do one or the other should be praised as well. If I want a baby, I have to step away from my career for a full year, and then be able to take days off at the drop of a hat whenever the kid gets sick – that is not a realistic option in my field of interest. Society has made it nearly impossible for women to have the best of both worlds, and I refuse to commit career suicide for anyone or anything.

Kids are so fulfilling that you won’t even notice the sacrifices you’re making.

Amidst a schedule as insane as mine, I have learned that there is one way to survive a week from hell: a bottle of wine and a bath on Friday night. If I want a baby, I (traditionally) must be pregnant, and being pregnant means that my Friday night baths are wineless – no thanks. Why would I remove something I truly enjoy in a week and introduce a child – something I would not enjoy – that ensures my life is no longer mine for its remainder? I have been walking into and ruining my mom’s relaxation time for 20 years, and I do not want anyone doing that to me.

No one thinks they’re ready before they have a kid, it’s something you learn along the way. What, do you have commitment issues or something?

Counterquestion: why would I, in my mid-20s, want to sign-up for anything for the rest of my life? Especially something that will depend on me for the rest of my life. I signed up for Spotify once, then cancelled the subscription before the free trial was over. You don’t get a 7-day free trial with a baby, there is no satisfaction guaranteed; you sign up and once it’s in your arms, there is no going back. I can barely commit to the same novel for more than 100 pages and I’m expected to commit to guiding another human through this world? I can barely make the time to feed myself three times a day, and you want me caring for a tiny helpless human? I think not. Also, kids are smart. They’re smart enough to feel when they’re not wanted and that feeling carries with them through their entire life, so a simple way for me to prevent my children from ever feeling like that is to not have them.

Reese Estwick

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