Livin’ la Vida Childless

I can't believe I forgot to have children

I can’t believe I forgot to have children!

“You’ll regret it,” she said. “At the end of your life, you won’t have produced anything of worth.” These ugly words poured out of a coworker of mine a few years ago when I told her I didn’t want children. I could only conclude that, as a woman, the only thing “of worth” I could possibly offer society was the fruit of my uterus — a tiny crying human to perpetuate the species. Would she have said the same to a man? I sincerely doubt it. After all, men are expected to contribute great things to the world… such as tall penis-shaped buildings, multi-billion dollar businesses, best-selling novels, grand operas, and groundbreaking new social media platforms.

A more common thing that happens when you tell people you don’t want kids is that they ask — WHY? It kind of seems topsy-turvy to me. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Everybody who decides to have a child should be asked that question. It would be automatic when you make your first appointment with the obstetrician: Please enumerate the reasons why you’ve now decided to procreate. After all, these are the people who are going to be in charge of fragile little ones needing constant care and love; I’d hope they’d have some pretty solid reasons for choosing this path. But of course, wanting and having children is viewed as the norm and so only the non-normative decision not to have a baby provokes questioning and curiosity.

Burlesque perfomer Dita Von Teese in a martini glass; it's just like my life!

Burlesque perfomer Dita Von Teese in a martini glass; it’s just like my life!

My favourite accusation aimed at the childless by choice is that we are selfish. Oh-ho! Yes, I’ve chosen a life of eating chocolate bonbons in the jacuzzi, endless spa weekends, and sailing on rich men’s yachts over taking care of a brood of young’uns. In truth, there are many ways in which we are all selfish and many ways in which we contribute to making the world a better place. I know fantastic older women who are childless and volunteer almost all of their spare time to community organisations. And I know parents who seem to have had children out of pure narcissism; their offspring’s only purpose appears to be as the living, breathing evidence of their parents’ accomplishments and good taste. So let’s stay away from sweeping generalizations.

On my end, it’s not that I can point to just one reason for not wanting to be a mom. But I do think I’ve become a bit of an expert on my own [selfish?] needs, and these definitely involve taking care of my mental and spiritual health by getting enough sleep, being at peace, and avoiding too much disorder and stimulation. I also think that I may even be able to create something in the world that will live on, just perhaps not literally.

Some women enjoy telling anyone who will listen about how much they love being a mother and that having kids is the best decision they’ve ever made. Well yes, I think that’s how you’re supposed to feel when you’ve created a human being whose survival and well-being depends on you entirely. You’d better love that little creature like crazy! Unfortunately, there’s often an unspoken message that goes along with that comment, something along the lines of your life is meaningless without children and you’re too blind to even know how unfulfilled you really are.

Do men face the same pressures around parenthood as women?

Do men face the same pressures around parenthood as women?

Thankfully, I also know mothers who are brutally honest about how anxious it makes them that they love someone so much and that it could all disappear tomorrow due to some random accident. And then there’s that period, usually at the toddler stage, when women become very vocal about wanting to escape their life and have, like, 2 entire days of peace and quiet in which to take long baths, read a novel, and relax. Thank you to those bravely honest ladies!

Please don’t get me wrong — I respect mommies. My own happens to be a lovely, vivacious woman that I would want to know even if she hadn’t given birth to me. And I also realise that, once you actually do have children, that’s when the real societal judgement begins. Are you a stay-at-home yummy mummy who practices attachment parenting? Are you using cloth diapers? Have you planned your newborn’s entire academic career yet? And why haven’t you lost the baby weight as quickly as Heidi Klum has?

So happy Mother’s Day to all mums! And here’s hoping that everyone gets to chose their choices without judgement.

Comments

  1. I wish I could like this post more than once!!! I have chosen a lifestyle like you, Brenda and I am at peace with my decision. My kid fix happens when my nephews and niece come over. Too many times I get the sad look in people’s eyes that they feel sorry for me just because I have chosen NOT to have children. It kind of makes me angry and annoyed because it is like they think I have not thought carefully about it. Then they ask me: “Well, does your husband think?” and I say if he wanted kids we would have split up a long time ago. He didn’t marry me to have children; he married me for me! More and more, however, I have been meeting women my age who have decided the same thing as I and I feel happy that I am not a freak of nature. I actually feel more sorry for women who do not have a real choice to pick being a mommy or not and have children because they think they NEED to. Thanks for writing this post, Brenda! 🙂

    • There are many of us, Melissa. I remember being in Cuba when I was in my 20s and meeting a lovely older white couple from South Africa. They looked perfectly colonial in their summer linen, plus she was blonde and had a name like Mitsy, or Bitsy. Anyways, she told me she had just been in London visiting her nieces and that she and her husband had decided long ago not to have children and to travel instead. Like it was the most normal thing in the world, she said this. I thought she was brilliant!

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