Ah, the joys of motherhood. Who hasn't heard a group of women bonding over just that, exchanging teething tips and horror stories about their teenagers? For them, and for many people, having children of your own is a right of passage in which every woman is expected to participate. What's more, it's a sisterhood you can feel pressured just to want to join.
But what if you're on the outside of that group of mothers having a moment, firmly saying to the world, "I don't want kids?" Not being in the Mom zone can feel isolating; a lot of people straight up won't understand your choice or your reasons. And you can easily feel as if your decision always needs to be justified, rather than just accepted. But you're not alone. A lot of women are making the same decision and aren't afraid to talk about it.
Reasons why people don't want kids.
The reasons not to have kids are as wide and diverse as the people who make this decision. These are just a few of the common reasons that factor into their choice.
• Kids cost a lot of money.
As if making, birthing and raising a healthy and successful human being isn't enough to deal with, there's also the matter of finances. Kids cost money even before they're born. That's a major consideration, especially if you've chosen a career path that, while fulfilling, might not exactly be lucrative enough to support a baby. It's easy to feel like you have to choose between your career and kids. (Hint: you can totally pick your career.)
• Kids demand a lot of time and energy.
Motherhood is synonymous with dedication because it's a job. And deciding you don't want to give up that much of your life in service to another human being doesn't make you selfish. Deciding "I don't want kids" just means you don't want that job.
• Having kids doesn't sound fulfilling.
The simple fact is, not everyone feels their old biological clock ticking away. Men and women alike can have that urge to reproduce, to start and grow their own family, but the opposite is also true. Some people simply don't have that drive to become a parent.
• Kids don't appeal to everyone.
Motherhood is a career and, seriously, an art form. But it's also a mindset, and at the root of it is a basic love for all things kids. And that's a love some people just don't have. There's a lot of handling smells and body fluids inherent in motherhood, something that's definitely not for everyone.
• Kids come with a certain lifestyle.
You can't exactly jet-set with a diaper bag in tow. You can try, of course, but it's not going to be the same as if you were flying solo. If you've always dreamed of landing the dream job that will let you travel the world, but you've never dreamed of having a baby, why feel pressured not to go for your own personal gold?
• Kids + career = a whole lot of work.
Yes, you can have it all, as they still say, but at what cost? Ask any working mother, and she'll tell you, it's no picnic. You'll have to compromise both at home and at work, and if motherhood wasn't something you very much wanted in the first place, you could easily come to resent everything about it.
• It's not even on their radar.
For some people, having kids is something they've never even really considered. They're the ones who easily say, I don't want kids, I've already got everything I feel I need in life.
• Health concerns.
Certain conditions make conception or birth difficult. Women who want to be mothers can choose alternatives, but for women who don't, having a condition can make their decision that much easier to reach.
Some women already have enough on their plate taking care of a family member or loved one. They've already dedicated themselves to seeing to the health and welfare of an aging parent, for example.
How to respond when asked why you don't want kids
Men get a bit of slack when they take this stance. But a woman who says, "I don't want kids" is often seen as just being . . . wrong. Wrong as in unnatural. Being prepared with a few of the responses below, when dealing with inevitable questions and opinions, can help you gently affirm your stance with those who may be well-meaning and keep your cool with those who might seem a little more unreasonable.
1. I don't want kids. It's just not for me.
Any question about your reproductive choices can feel invasive. Shut down the boundary probing with this simple statement. Remember, though, that fertility is a sensitive subject for a lot of people. While it's easy to feel defensive or angry, recognizing that someone has a different set of values might help you deal with the situation in a simple and less emotionally-charged fashion.
2. You're right. Maybe I will change my mind someday.
Listen: yielding the field doesn't hurt you in any way. In fact, it can be the quickest way out of an old and tired conversation. After all, you really don't need to justify your personal life choices to anyone but yourself.
3. I'm pretty career-oriented.
It's not a cop-out to use work as part of your explanation. Finding the right career can add a real sense of purpose and fulfillment to your life. If what you do gives you this kind of satisfaction, say so.
4. I'm already very fulfilled in my life.
Single, married or somewhere in between, the relationships you already have, plus your career and personal interests, can all combine to make you one pretty happy lady. Go ahead and say so.
5. My lifestyle doesn't suit having kids.
The fact is, you've decided to live your life in a certain manner because it just makes sense to you. If you're in a heavy-pressure situation (i.e. Thanksgiving), then adding a quick "right now" to any of your "I don't want kids" explanations can help. It's okay to take the easy way out when Aunt Pat starts getting nosy.
6. It's not something I feel I need to do.
The drive to have and care for babies just isn't as high on the list of priorities for some people as it is for others. Not everyone wants to be a parent. It really is as simple as that.
On the fence about having kids?
For women, the issue of parenthood is definitely complicated. Deciding where you stand on having kids isn't something you'll come to overnight. Here are a few factors that will weigh in while you make the decision that's right for you.
• Time frame.
Giving birth to a healthy child becomes more difficult as women age. So, unlike men, we have a finite period in which to not only decide to have children but also to find a partner and actually conceive as well. That's a lot to deal with.
• Social pressure.
It can seem like absolutely everyone has, and feels entitled to have, an opinion about your womb. You'll probably start hearing it from family first, but after a while, it could start coming in from all sides. And that can get to you.
• Peer pressure.
First, it's the wedding invites. Then, what seems like two seconds later, the baby shower invites start coming in as well. All those girls you knew in middle school are suddenly hardcore adulting. It's easy to start feeling like you have to do the same.
• Changing your mind.
In the end, the decision is yours, and only yours, to make. But just because you declare at 28, "I don't want kids, ever," doesn't mean you won't change your mind five years later. And that's okay, too.
• Being part of child's life.
You can consider becoming a foster parent, joining a mentor program or even just tutoring in a subject you love. You can have a positive impact on a child without that child being yours.
• Feeling judged.
Reproductive rights extend to the decision to not conceive. You deserve to be able to make the decision that's right for you, your body and your life, without fear of judgment. Sadly, it's going to happen anyway.
Not on the fence?
Even if you've decided having kids isn't for you, it can be difficult not to internalize certain social stigmas about childless women. Being clear on your reasons for making this decision can help you counter negative self-talk whenever it rears its ugly head. Here are just a few common social misconceptions that can trip you up.
• You're selfish.
Choosing a life free of kids does not mean your life will be free of obligation, sacrifice or hard work.
• There's something wrong with you.
So many people believe women are biologically hard-wired to want babies. But that's like still thinking all men are genetically superior to women or that boys shouldn't play with dolls and girls can't do math.
• You're missing out.
You might not be able to argue with this one since you do miss the motherhood "experience." But if you've decided not to have kids, then you've seen enough of that experience to know, in your heart, it isn't for you anyway. You shouldn't regret not getting on a roller coaster if you know it'll just make you puke.
Chances are, someone asking if you're going to have kids already has an opinion about the subject. And some of their responses when you say, "Actually, I don't want kids" can be really off-putting. Here are a few common reactions and thoughts to help you respond calmly.
• But you'd be such a good mommy!
You might also have the potential to be a fabulous juggler. That doesn't mean you want to join the circus. Just because you might be good at something doesn't mean you have to do it or want to.
• Why, do you hate kids?
Because not wanting kids automatically means you hate and are disgusted by all things kid-related, right? Wrong. You can love kids, and coo over every baby you see, while also still not feeling the need to have any of your own.
• You'll regret it
Maybe you will. Probably you won't. You're an adult, one who's come to an informed and thought-out decision about her life. And if you do later have some would've/could've/should've thoughts? That's your own business, not theirs.
• You just need to find the right partner
This one is especially prickly, because it feels so close to the old "You just need a good man in your life" stigma against women who choose bachelorette-hood. Yes, it is indeed wonderful to find a partner in your life, that person who is both friend and mate. But you know what? He/she/they might not want kids, either.
The question of motherhood is a sticky wicket. Some women feel a strong pull to have a baby of their own, while others feel quite the opposite. If you've decided, "I don't want kids," you have to prepare yourself to deal with other people's attitudes and opinions. The decision to be childless can be seen as "wrong," and that's hard to deal with sometimes. But in the end? This is your decision. Make the one that's right for you.