I’m fairly sure that at the age of 2 my mother knew that she wanted to be a mom. And the world just smiled. No one stopped to say, “You don’t even have your life figured out yet. Maybe take a few years to think about it. There’s no rush. I mean, you just learned how to pee in a toilet.”
Me on the other hand? It took me several years of inner turmoil to decide that I was going to live childfree. Once I had, it seemed that the universe collapsed in on itself, and pandemonium broke. Here are some of the comments I got:
“That’s silly. Everyone wants kids.“
“It’s only a matter of time before your [overpowering, all-knowing, feminine] hormones overwhelm you entirely. You have no choice.”
“Seriously? You are clearly a demonfromhell who is denying her natural path, and I’m pretty sure your future existence will hinge on you consuming my baby’s soul.”
Okay, so that latter didn’t happen exactly like that, but it may as well have.
You know what the truth is? I’ve always been creeped out by baby girls who carry around baby dolls that call them “Mama.” That is the shit of my nightmares. There have also been plenty of instances while babysitting toddlers when I have genuinely loathed them with the hatred one usually reserves for Hitler or Bill O’Reilly (fun fact: they are the same person). I’ll admit that sometimes heavily pregnant women totally freak me out.
Does any of this make me a bad person? Does any of this mean I’m an irresponsible, hateful woman headed for a life of emptiness and despair?
The sad answer is that for a long time, I thought it did.
But then I took a breath. I did my reading. I learned that there could be psychological benefits to not having children. I learned that there were other people like me out there. I learned that there were anecdotes and forums written by and for people like me. I became reassured. I learned that living without reproduction wasn’t just a legitimate lifestyle, it could be done by people who were happy, successful, and have meaningful relationships. People who had wonderful childhoods and had children in their lives, but “didn’t necessarily want to own any”.
As it turns out, I’m not alone.
According to Pew Research, 2010 saw the lowest birth rate ever in US history. 1 out of every 4 women in their early 40s chose not to have a child, which is double what it was in 1976. When asked why, women said that it was often due to their careers, lifestyles, or that “they just didn’t want to.”
Here’s what I learned: There is no default decision anymore.
It turns out that doing an analysis of the pros and cons of the huge commitment of creating a human life doesn’t make you irresponsible or immature. It makes you the opposite of selfish. It makes you brave in your truth. It makes you strong in your convictions. It made me me.
Let me state: If you want kids, have kids. That’s great. I support all women’s decisions, simply because I identify it exactly as that: a decision. A choice. Freedom.
But in the same way that it would be odd to ask a mother with children “why [she] chose to have children”, we need to realize that it is also odd to ask childless women “why [they] chose to be childless”. Let’s stop acting like it’s weird. Let’s support each other. If you wan’t to have 3 million little minions running around, guess what? I support you. If you want to have a gaggle of Pomeranians instead, that’s cool, too.
There won’t be any tiny humanoids coming out of my lady parts if I have any say in it. I promise, my decision won’t detract anyone from their own devotion to their little ones. I promise I won’t die broken and alone. And I promise that I’ll use the additional $19,000 in annual disposable income I’ll save to take a rad trip every year, and that I’ll always remember to send you a postcard, if you remember to send me pics of your babies (yes, I still think they’re cute).
photo by Diane Arbus