When I was a teenager my mum and dad made it clear that they had no interest in being grandparents. Whether to mitigate any teenage pregnancy in me or my siblings or just to relieve any pressure that we might have felt to provide this service I’m not sure, but I took it as the latter and have always felt grateful that there wasn’t an overbearing parent in my life harping on about my biological clock and whether I had a partner or not.
It wasn’t until my last serious relationship in my early 20s that I said out loud that I didn’t want children, and after we split up it took me a while to unpack whether I felt this because he didn’t want kids or because I didn’t either. In this process of laying out the facts I grew more and more comfortable that at 26, I didn’t want kids.
I envisioned my future life in a polar way to how I was brought up. As children our lives and our parents’ were full of sacrifices, scarcity and substitutions. In my future I wanted to live in a house with character, somewhere different than the sleepy village I grew up in. I wanted to holiday whenever I like, have quality, exotic food. I wanted time to indulge in self-development, hobbies and my creativity. Having kids wouldn’t have made any of this easy within my means of time or money.
Not growing up rich has a huge impact in how you perceive the world. It shapes what you hold dear, it measures how much you want to achieve, you become practical, resourceful and thrifty. I am self-reliant to a fault. I don’t want to have to depend on others if I can avoid it, now I am in my 30s I am opening up to having a partner for companionship, sex and closeness. I want to share my life with someone who feels the same, but what I have in mind is not your typical family unit.
Having a family is all about sacrifice, it is in many cases a noble endeavour and I understand that many people do feel like it is their calling in life. I get that DNA’s only function is to replicate itself, but I feel as a conscious living being I am aware that my species will continue replicating whether I partake in that or not. Adding in factors like climate change, overpopulation, scarcity of resources and my mental health were just conversation points when my decision inevitably got questioned while being asked about children in my life.
Those factors aren’t the reason I don’t want children, the reason is that when I look at a baby I have never had an urge to have one as well. When I’ve held newborns in my family or of my friends there is no deep yearning to reproduce, not even a trickle. I have never looked at my partners and thought of them playing with our doppelgängers in the garden of our imaginary home in any seriousness. I like playing with kids, kids that are 3-7 are my favourites. I like their imagination and silliness, their attempts at being grown-ups, I am not a psychopath. If a kid passes you a toy phone, you answer it.
But that is a small part of rearing a child, and when I am playing with someone’s kid their parents are, more often than not, taking a well deserved break somewhere, sighing loudly and grasping for adult life. I stopped wearing a bra because it felt so good to take it off; if it is that much of a relief to remove it why do I wear it in the first place I pondered. Sometimes I wear one on a whim. Children cannot be worn once every few months just to make one feel more confident.
There are factors which I think make this conversation a tougher fight for me than for other groups of people – I am a women, I have no known fertility issues and I am predominantly heterosexual with typically female attributes. I find it hard to believe the topic of wishing to be childfree would be as controversial if I was a homosexual man, a masculine presenting lesbian or if I were unable to bear children.
The feeling, that because of who I am outwardly I must reproduce, never leaves me in these conversations. It makes me dig in to my beliefs firmly and I get an overbearing, claustrophobic sensation that I’m being told there is a higher purpose to my life that I am wilfully avoiding and it will cost me. Like I am some princess rebelling against her duties. Princess Jasmine comes to mind “Another suitor for the princess…”.
I know that the single biggest solution to an overpopulated planet is the education of girls. I grew up in a country where sexual education was solely focused on staying unfertilised. It is no small task to overcome the feelings of panic and shame that come from unprotected sex. There is a distinct disconnect between an ovulatory cycle and sex and in many parts of the world an overwhelming belief that sex without reproduction is pointless and women without fertilisation are useless.
In reality it is a 400 trillion to one chance that the zygote that you came from was even made. Life is a precious thing, it’s a miracle our planet is in a Goldilocks sweet spot, in this placid galaxy and each living thing is a symbiotic cog on Earth.
It cannot be ignored that humans have upset the delicate balance of our habitat and with that I have a will to not add to that burden. If there is no such thing as free will then my unconscious-being knows better than my logical mind that I am not here to reproduce, or it would release copious amounts of oxytocin into my blood stream every time I see a little chubby baby leg.
I think that in this century, in civilised society, when children aren’t needed for manual labour and infant or maternal mortality rates aren’t as high we need to give more room for people to consider why they want to reproduce, it takes courage to see the reality of raising children.
Educating young women and removing societal pressure, religious guilt and overarching shame will, I think, inevitably lead to fewer children being born. I’d hope that this impacts low and working class women who, like my mother, had 3 kids because it was the thing to do, has struggled to make ends meet her whole life and has little to zero time to explore who she is as a person. I refrain from discussing fathers because on the whole, they aren’t required to give up their lives to rear children.
I believe in an equal society, governed for the people not for profits and I am certain that having fewer requests for resources will play a huge role in moving towards that. I want to make it clear that I do not hate children or have a nihilistic world-view (most days!) but that I am sure that you don’t have to look hard to find families who struggle beyond the usual gripes of modern life, parents who regret their decision of having kids and either abandon them or worse, stay within the family unit and negatively impact those children.
I believe in the ripple effect of emotion and behaviour. It isn’t a far off story of unsupported mothers or fathers and mental health issues being passed on through imitation or genetics. It is here and now and now is when the village to raise a child is not available for many parents.
When recently asked if I think my future will be lonely I stumbled a little. Lonely has such a negative tone. Alone yes, but lonely? No. I think loneliness is just a state of mind.