Can We Talk About NOT Having Kids?!
By BCriswell on April 06, 2011
No one really wants to talk about it; not having children. Society just isn’t built for the discussion of the absence of children, I suppose. Instead, society glorifies the family structure at every turn; the media, popular television, the tax system. It’s set up to entice citizens to have children, and it works pretty well. I was once among those who assumed that I was going to have children--that I wanted to have children. That was, until I got married.
I know--my timing was stellar, wasn’t it? Most things in my life have been carefully planned out. Getting married and then deciding if children were “for me” was not planned to come about in that order. My husband and I had even discussed children before we married because it is important to him. He wants a child. Either way, bad timing or not, I was barreling forward into the decision making process... maybe a day late, but certainly I was still entitled to my exploration.
When I realized that I wasn’t sure I wanted children, I began employing the ears of virtually anyone who would listen. Friends, family--no one was safe from my interrogation on the subject of childbearing. Opening up, however, clearly had some drawbacks, and the biggest of those was the judgment. It was glaring, especially at first. Women would be aghast that I would openly admit I didn’t think I wanted children and would fleetingly try to persuade me that I was being naive; that I really did want children.
At the onset, the judgement found me in a state of confusion. Maybe my friends were right, maybe I didn’t know my own mind. Maybe the biological clock was a societal farce built into the system so that women could convince men to procreate. But if that was the case, how in the world was my own husband hearing his so loudly?! When I would come to my senses, though, I felt that at the core of my being perhaps I wasn’t hardwired for maternity. I had heard of that. I was so in love with my life, why should I change things now?
The furious seas of reconciling this question were, for me, tumultuous. I wavered between trying to convince myself that I wanted children and trying to come to grips with the possibility that I may not ever want them. I wondered so often about what it meant for my marriage, ultimately.... would my husband ever leave me over this issue? It was a big one, and I knew that. Furthermore, we had always had this running joke that if I didn’t want children by the time I was 30, he was free to divorce me and find a “new wife.”
Approaching nearer to 30 every day, I felt that a harmless joke from nearly 6 years ago could actually land me in hot water. Then the judgement would creep up on me. Those people who said, “hey you have plenty of time to make this decision, don’t think about it now,” and those who said, “you will feel differently soon--” those voices were planted squarely in my psyche and were reverberating. I wanted to lie. I wanted to say to myself and everyone else, “haha, guys, how silly that all was. I DO want children, after all.” But I just couldn’t make myself say it.
As I grappled with the decision of whether or not to have children, I noticed that what I absorbing the opinions around me more than I should have been, and that wasn't the issue at all. What was eating at me, more than the decision itself, was actually not the judgment of society... but the judgment I was inflicting on myself for taking the time to finally think about one of the most important decisions in life: to breed or not to breed? I had to reach inside myself to really find the authentic path for me, and throw away the judgment others might want to impose--that I wanted to impose on myself. It occurred to me that whether I chose parenthood or not, someone would likely judge me for it. They would fancy me too young or too inexperienced, or some other unimportant label.
The truth is, people use their own life decisions as barricades against the differences that they face within others. This seems a common theme humans are adept at whether they are talking about having children, living a healthy lifestyle, or switching careers. We all feel a need to justify our lifestyles at one point or another, which is strange because we needn’t define our lives for others at all. We need only be satisfied with ourselves and live in a manner that makes us happy. So now, because I know that people just don’t want to talk about it, when they ask me if I have children, I simply say, “No. Not Yet.”