Women are always enduring the unwarranted, unsolicited opinions of others on how they should live their lives. Women who don't want children, for example, often face discrimination, questioned whether they're really certain and judged for not following the status quo. Then society too often assumes that, perhaps a woman doesn't want children because, of course, it's 2020, and she's focusing on her career.
"It wasn’t until this year, at the age of 26, that I started to seriously consider the idea of just... doing nothing," writes Vice contributor Marianne Eloise. Since I was very young I’ve known I didn’t want kids, but in their place, I pursued an MA and a career. Those seemed like my only choices, but at a certain point, I started to just like my life as it was — doing enough work to earn enough money, and then hanging out with the people I love and occasionally going on vacations. I like my life, and for the first time, I don’t necessarily want to strive for any larger goal."
Contrary to popular belief, it's OK to not want children or a career. And that's exactly the point Eloise makes in her viral piece.
"Work can be the thing we do in order to enjoy our free time — it doesn’t have to be a lifelong career, and we don’t always need to be pushing to be the boss," she goes on. "Forget having it 'all'—why aren’t women allowed to just have 'some,' and be happy with it?"
We reached out to other women, like Eloise, who aren't presently pursuing a family or a career. Here's why they don't want to have society's idea of success.
1. There are enough children who need parents.
"To be honest, I've never actually saw myself as a bio mom; I would say the reason I don't want to have children is that there are enough children who exist who need mentors and advocates and even parents," says Rasheda Kamaria Williams. "I love mentoring youth. I love advocating for them, but I do not want to have my own."
2. There's more to life than parenting and working.
"I am a woman who never wanted children and who is perfectly content doing exactly what I am doing now, which is learning more about myself and my maternal lineage and writing about it," says Karen C.L. Anderson, author of Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide for Separation, Liberation & Inspiration
. "I care about this because a good number of women have kids or have hyper-focused careers (or both) because that's what our culture dictates, not because it's what they truly want. Humans aren't taught, either implicitly or explicitly, to follow their true natures and desires because we've learned to cut off our bodily wisdom (emotions, nervous system, the 'feminine') in favor of intellect and brain wisdom (the 'masculine'). In many ways, this dynamic has served humanity and, in many ways, it's been a disservice. I am not here to judge it, to say it shouldn't have happened this way, or to call it right/wrong/good/bad. I am focused on what's next and what's possible for humans."
3. Mothering just isn't for everyone.
"To be honest nothing about the concept of having a child ever appealed to me — from carrying a child to birthing a child and then paying for one," says Collette McLafferty, 46. "I like kids on an individual level when they belong to someone else but, generally, if I see a group of kids walking down the street, I cross the street! I never felt the biological clock. A couple of years ago, I had a dream that I met my unborn son and apologized to him for not having him. (To be clear, I have never been pregnant.) I also feel that children deserve the best of the best when it comes to parenting. They deserve a parent who will put them first and make the sacrifice, and they deserve a parent whose dream is to be a mother. That person isn’t me; I would rather be the cool aunt."
4. Traveling without constrictions is freeing.
"I don't have a high-power career or a job that wouldn't allow me to 'take a break' to have a child — quite the opposite," says Claire Summers, founder of Claire's Itchy Feet
. "I work for myself and have for the past decade. I'm a digital nomad, so I work wherever I can get Wi-Fi. Having a child wouldn't be an issue for my career, but it's just not something I want to do. It's a lifestyle choice. I love to travel and be free to just pick-up and move the country whenever the mood takes me. I like not having the responsibilities that children would bring me. Instead, my life is full of adventures and the unknown. I would not be able to do half of the things I've done in my life if I had children. For one, I'd need to work a lot more and travel a lot less. I want to live a life without compromise; that may seem selfish, but having children just isn't for me."
5. Flexibility to do whatever whenever feels good.
"I don't want children or some 'successful' career; I'm perfectly content doing exactly what I'm doing, which is making enough money bartending a few days a week and working at my local gym teaching yoga classes on some weekends so that I can afford to travel around, read a lot, take spontaneous snowboarding trips, go to festivals when they're happening and do whatever else I feel like doing when I feel like doing it," says Rosaline, 24. "Maybe someday I will change my mind, but I honestly don't think I will. I love my life and my freedom because I don't have kids or a super strict job or aspirations of an office job or something society thinks is more 'adult' and responsible. I enjoy my alternative lifestyle, and I plan on keeping it up."
6. No one and nothing stands in the way.
"I've known since a young age that children wouldn't be a factor in my future," says Ellie Maybe
, 35. "Perhaps I lack a gene that makes people (women in particular) crave reproduction, but it's never so much as sparked curiosity in me. I change career paths at least once every few years, and I prefer to change cities, too. I'm happy I can live in cheaper neighborhoods and smaller apartments to save money for entertainment and indulgence. I'm happy that I can make a drastic life change and the only person I need to consult is my likeminded spouse. I'm happy that I can be inspired to start a business one day or a band the next, and no one stands in my way but myself. Perhaps what I appreciate most about being childfree is that I'm not limited to one life path."
7. Some people just don't want either.
"For me, it's never been about kids OR something else; it's just always been NOT kids," says Sydney Williams, 34. "Some people don't have a desire to jump out of an airplane, but I've done that nearly 700 times. Some people don't ever want to set foot in the backcountry, but I hiked more than 600 miles this year. Some people know they want to be a parent, that they want to have a family and all that. Like other people don't want to jump out of planes, I don't have any desire to be a mother or have children. And that decision has never been about my career. In fact, I actively decided against my career, too, because it almost killed me. When I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2017, I realized all of my career bragging points were teaching people how to numb and be sick, and I was a byproduct of the work I was doing. It became my mission to take my skills and turn them around to make the world a better place."
Now she says her life is about prioritizing herself, her health and her marriage.
"My husband and I sold everything we owned last year, quit our jobs, and bought a 1998 Chevy van so we could go around the U.S. inspiring people to get off the couch and onto the trail," she goes on. "We just got back to San Diego from an eight-month speaking and hiking tour. I wrote a book about how hiking saved my life while we were on the road this year."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.