Don’t get me wrong, kids are great. People who have kids are also great. Less great, though, are parents who tell me I need to have kids because they assume that having kids is the right thing to do for all women. Because it just isn’t.
I’m only 19, and I know things could change, but I’ve thought a lot about it, and I don’t think I want kids. I get told, often by older people who are parents, that even if I don’t want them now, I will want to have children someday, and it will be the best thing ever. You might think this isn’t really a problem, but the assumption (only put on women, by the way) that the best way to make my life meaningful is for me to have children is inaccurate and potentially harmful.
I’m sure that you’ve heard all the reasons I’m about to give for not wanting kids, but I’m going to explain anyway to try to show that I think my life can be meaningful and full without children.
First of all, I have almost no maternal instincts. When I see children on the street, I think they’re cute, but spending any amount of time with kids is not fun for me. It usually just makes me really stressed out and worried that I will accidentally hurt or upset them. Some people seem to have natural instincts about how to talk to kids, or know what they’ll like or dislike, but I’m just not one of those people. And honestly, I don’t feel bad about that.
The kind of life I have always wanted isn’t conducive to children who would take up a lot of my time and energy. I love to read and write (who would have guessed?) and it’s my dream to get a PhD and become a professor and maybe write some books on the side. To do this, I need time, and lots of it, to dedicate to academic work. I know there are people who do this while also raising children, but this sounds more than a little exhausting. I’m not sure that I want to potentially compromise my career to do it. I think there’s a stigma attached to saying that I care more about a career than about becoming a mother, but I think this would be a more fulfilling life for me. If that thought makes you uncomfortable, think about whether you would still be uncomfortable if a young man were saying it.
And lastly, not only would a life of scholarship and teaching be rewarding, I think it might actually be necessary for me to be functioning and happy. I have pretty serious issues with depression and anxiety, which I’ve found are best combatted with rigorous intellectual work. My brain is always working on overdrive, and I spend all day thinking and worrying about a lot of different things at once. My thoughts can sometimes be torturous. Spending hours every day reading, thinking and writing about literature and philosophy are the only things that keep my brain occupied and help me to function. I’m not saying that intellectual work becomes impossible once you have kids, or that raising children isn’t intellectual, but working with people (even tiny young people) is a different, more stressful kind of work and not the kind that I think I could handle every day for twenty years.
Now that I’ve told you this, do you think I should and will want to have a baby one day? If your answer is still yes, you might want to think about why that is. Is it because you think I would be a good a mom? Or because you think that all women should have kids, regardless of what I’ve said? I could be wrong about everything I’ve said, and maybe if I had a child it would be amazing. But do you want me to risk it? What if I did have a child and I were a terrible mother? I’m not convinced that just anyone could be a good parent, and I think that children can tell when their parents resent them because they’ve sacrificed parts of a life they really wanted.
You might think that, sure, teaching people about Virginia Woolf and writing novels on a beach somewhere would be fun, but my life will never be as meaningful as it would be if I were to have kids. But I’m not so sure. I think a person’s actions and words can make as much of a difference and carry as much meaning as the living legacy that a child brings. I also think that I could have wonderful relationships with a partner and friends and love deeply, even if I don’t have a child.
If you’re thinking at this point, she’ll change her mind in ten years, you could be right. I may meet the right person and decide I want to have a child. But if I do, it will be a carefully thought-out decision to commit to raising a child, not a necessity or the result of my female biology.