I’m at that age where many people are surprised that I do not already have children and that I don’t want any children in the future. Especially for women, not wanting children can invite a lot of criticism, judgment, and assumptions from others. Not all of them are ill-intentioned. For example, recently, when I told an older lady I am not married and do not have any children, she patted my hand and said, “That’s okay. You still have time” (assuming that I am discontent with my single and child-free status ).
So why wouldn’t someone want children? First, let’s examine some of the common reasons for wanting them. Some people want to be assured there will be someone to take care of them when they’re old. However, isn’t this an inherently selfish reason? Most adult children who take care of their elderly parents don’t do it because it’s easy and fun. They do it because of feelings of love, loyalty, and obligation. It requires a lot of time away from their own children, possibly a lot of money, a lot of reconfiguring things to fit the needs of the elderly parent, and a great amount of patience (especially in the case of dementia, Alzheimer’s, incontinence, physical incapacitation, etc).
Some people want to pass down their legacy to their children. Again, isn’t this an inherently selfish reason? It’s all about the parent. And what if the adult child makes decisions that do not please the parent, maybe even go against fundamental beliefs and paradigms about the world held by the parent? The legacy the child lives might not be the one the parent wanted to leave.
Others want their families to be able to enjoy grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Although this is a more noble reason, it still does not take precedence over the numerous reasons for not having children.
Some people see it as “normal” to have kids and do not want to appear “abnormal”. These are often people who are being urged to have kids by friends and families, told “what good parents they would make”, and don’t like to stand out from the crowd. People in this group might also be worried their lives won’t mean anything if they do not raise children. However, something’s value cannot be proven simply by the fact that it’s prevalent. The value of making more human beings cannot be proven simply by citing the fact that a lot of people do it. There is nothing inherently noble about having children, nothing shameful about not. It is my opinion that our lives have no inherent meaning and that they must be given meaning by each of us as individuals (perhaps more on this in a future post?).
I suspect most parents never really weighed all the pros and cons seriously before having kids, and many, I’m sure, weren’t even aware of all the cons. But what could possibly be the cons to having children? I have identified many cons to having kids, some of which apply to everyone, and some only to myself.
In no special order…
I don’t want children because mental illness runs in my family. There is mental illness in both my immediate and extended family. In fact, three members of my immediate family have attempted suicide. I have also suffered with mental illness, myself. I wouldn’t want to pass this down to my children or to give them a sub-par childhood because of my own issues.
I don’t want children because they make me nervous. I prefer adult conversations. Children are more unpredictable, have not yet developed filters, and have not yet learned the social norms that often govern our conversations and interactions with each other. There are many adults who not only can handle this, but thrive working with children. Generally-speaking, I am not one of them.
I don’t want children because I am not financially stable. I have worked menial jobs my entire life, despite having a higher-than-average education. I have come pretty close to living in my car. It takes a lot of money to raise children nowadays, and I would not want to make children to whom I cannot offer every advantage. In a past era, a person who was honest and a hard-worker would be financially set. Nowadays, it’s far harder to reach financial security, due to wages not staying up with inflation, jobs requiring higher education and more experience, the weakening of unions, everything being much more expensive, and more people vying for fewer jobs as the population has exploded and many jobs are now automated or obsolete…
just to name a few.
I don’t want children because I would be tied to the child’s father. I have known other women have children with men they thought they knew and could trust, only later to find out they were wrong. It’s hard for me to trust someone enough to make this important decision with them, especially considering people often change, and parenting is an 18+ year commitment. If I choose to have a baby with the wrong person, that doesn’t just affect my life. It affects my child’s, as well.
I don’t want children because of the heavy responsibility parenting is. I take parenting to be a very serious endeavor and not something to be chosen lightly. Parenting really isn’t about raising children — it’s about raising future adults. It is imperative to consistently use authoritative parenting techniques (as opposed to dismissive or authoritarian), which give children boundaries without stifling their natural curiosity and independent spirits. To form children into adults who are strong, yet kind; are sensitive, yet not thin-skinned; appreciate humor, yet show respect; put themselves and their families first, while caring and doing for those outside their own circles; are ambitious, yet at peace, ETC., is not an easy feat. And although it’s possible to engage in child-minding and child-rearing roles (working with children, helping to raise a niece or nephew, etc.) motherhood is permanent, and you can never “put the genie back in the bottle” once you’ve decided to bring a child into the world.
I don’t want children because I want to feel free to be spontaneous. Children need consistency and stability. For example, it would be irresponsible and selfish to pick up in the middle of a school year and move or to take an unplanned vacation without your child. Every decision I made would need to pass the “Is this the best thing for my child?” test.
I don’t want children because I have already had a lot of experience with child-rearing duties with my own siblings. For many years I had heavy child care responsibilities for my younger siblings that surpassed mere babysitting duties. Because of my parents splitting up and neither one’s mental health being great, a lot of the burden of my siblings’ wellbeing fell on me, and I acted as their primary parent. I feel that I have already experienced parenthood and am not ready for it again. In a way, I feel thankful that I am in the minority of people who were able to “try out” parenting before committing to it.
I don’t want children because the earth already has enough people. The world population has more than doubled just since the 1960’s. There are a finite amount of resources to go around, and already scientists are warning that things cannot continue at this rate or human beings (as well as all other species) will go extinct. Advances in fertility treatments, life expectancies increasing, and infant mortality rates decreasing have all contributed to the earth’s population explosion.
I’d like to make a special point of saying that a career is not one of the reasons I don’t want children. Many people jump to conclusions when they hear someone (especially a woman) say she doesn’t want children — the implication being these are the only two choices for women. However, there are many ways to live a life, and I’ve decided neither of these ways is fit for me.
It feels good to get my thoughts surrounding this topic organized and compiled in written form. Thank you for taking the time to read them. Is there anyone reading this who has also made the decision to remain child-free? Do you have other reasons than the ones I listed for doing so? I would love to hear your thoughts on this controversial and sensitive topic.