I’m a 34-year-old married woman and I don’t want kids. Not at all. Not even a tiny bit. I can’t even begin to tell you how long it took me to accept this.
This is the time in my life where I’m supposed to be in the middle of creating my family. 30-year-old married, childless women are like snow leopards. They are so rare that you aren’t sure they even exist. They are so outside the norm that people assume there must be something wrong with you. Why wouldn’t you have children if you’re married?
The truth is, I’ve never liked taking care of children. Growing up, I was told I was very good with them. I was calm, nurturing and caring. I babysat, taught Sunday School, watched friend’s children and even chose a career were I worked with children for a while. I was guided toward these activities by the adults in my life based on my gentle nature.
I never enjoyed any of these experiences. Sure, the children were cute but I always felt so relieved when I could turn them back over to their parents. It was so draining. It didn’t come naturally to me. Deep down, I could feel that being around children was not something I enjoyed.
As I got older, I ignored those feelings. I did that with most of my feelings back then. I tried to fit myself into the mold of what I was told I was good at, which was taking care of children. I felt all those feelings when I was around kids and yet, I didn’t give myself permission to not to have my own.
There was so much programming I was subscribing to about what a successful, fulfilled life looked like. Having children is portrayed as this magical, incredible, can’t miss experience that you are supposed to have as part of becoming an adult. I got caught up in it. It all appeared so easy and fun. Why would anyone not want to have children? Everybody you ask says it’s such a great experience.
While I was absorbing the pervasive culture of motherhood all around me, I was still internally conflicted. I couldn’t ignore the disconnect between how a life with children was portrayed in the media and on my Facebook feed and the everyday reality of the people I knew with children. They had some fun moments with their kids but mostly, it seemed like a lot of hard work — a fucking lot of work. I saw parents giving up their own dreams and desires and devoting themselves entirely to the lives of their children.
I didn’t judge this, but I could feel deep down it wasn’t what I wanted.
There was a little voice inside me that wanted a life of freedom. I didn’t want to have any burdens. I didn’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s life. I wanted a life for myself, free to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t want anything holding me back.
I didn’t want to listen to that voice. It felt so selfish. I thought it was part of my duty as a woman to have children. I thought it was my duty as a wife and daughter to create a family. I didn’t know anyone who actually did what they wanted to do. Everyone around me did things out of obligation. Why should I be any different?
What made it especially hard to accept my feelings about motherhood was that I was married. Before I got married, my then fiancé and I agreed that we would have kids. I didn’t think twice about it, nor did I listen to those feelings I had in my younger years while working with children. I was following the life script: school, career, marriage, house, kids. I had fulfilled all the other items on the checklist. The only thing left was the kids.
Then I got sick shortly after we were married. For years, I used my illness as an excuse for not getting pregnant. I was way too consumed with my own issues. There was no way I could have a baby the way I was feeling. My husband understood this. He said he still wanted kids but would wait until I was ready.
In the years that followed, I tried to convince myself that I could have children and be happy. I tried to figure out a way that I could make it work in order to make my husband happy. I tried to imagine a life where I could give my parents and in-laws the grandchildren they so desperately wanted.
First, I thought I could be a stay at home mom. That way it would be less stressful for me and I would still be able to have some time for myself and do my own thing. My own mother worked full time while raising two children. I always knew I didn’t have the energy for that life so this seemed like a good solution.
Then I thought that we could have children and travel the world at the same time. I envisioned us living in different countries, home schooling our kids and teaching them about life through travel. Even this idea didn’t feel right. I couldn’t ignore the hard truth about having children — there would always be someone other than myself to live for. My children would be my responsibility until they were old enough to take care of themselves. I wouldn’t be able to live as freely as I wanted to.
Later, I thought that we could foster children. I had come to terms with the fact that younger children were really draining for me and I didn’t enjoy them. My husband and I talked about fostering older children. If they weren’t a match for our family, we weren’t stuck with them forever. If we liked them, there was always the potential for adoption. This seemed like a good compromise at the time.
In the more recent years of my awakening experience, I even tried to convince myself that I was here to have children in a new, more conscious way. I imagined giving birth naturally, feeding my baby organic food and doing all the other crap you are supposed to do as a mother in the new age community. I thought I could be an example of a new kind of mother. It felt like a very noble idea, an assignment that “spirit” wanted me to do.
None one of those ideas got me excited. It still seemed like I was trying to fit myself into the motherhood box and it wasn’t working. It felt like a duty, not a passion.
I had to get honest with myself and my feelings. Children were a burden that I just didn’t want. I didn’t want to use my illness as an excuse anymore. I had to admit to myself that I didn’t want to have children and I had to tell my husband.
This was hard. I felt like I was letting him down. It brought up a lot of guilt. I was afraid he would resent me for making him give up his dream of being a father, or even worse, that he would leave me and have children with someone else. The thought of losing him to another woman who was willing to have his children made me so sad.
I pestered him relentlessly to be honest with himself about wanting children. I begged him to get real and listen to what his heart wanted and to not keep following the life script. Right now, he’s not sure what he wants. The pressure in his family to have children is strong. I trust that in time, he’ll choose what’s right for him.
For now he’s still with me, knowing full well that I don’t want children. He’s choosing our life together over kids. I don’t know if he’ll always be here or if he’ll leave to have children with someone else someday.
I’ve come to terms with that. There’s nothing else I can do except to let go and allow him to choose his own experiences. I’m now in such a place of self love that I can’t ignore my feelings anymore or sacrifice my desires and dreams for what someone else wants.
I want my life of freedom. I want to travel the world and jet across the ocean on a moments notice. I want to explore different cultures and meet new people. I want to dance under the stars on a tropical beach. I want to do what I want, when I want. I want to be responsible for me and only me. I want to fall in love with myself over and over again. Children don’t fit into that dream and I am finally ok with that.