Nearly two months ago I got married to a wonderful man. We are incredibly happy. We are planning our future together. Life looks exciting for us.
With all those points made, I would like to say that I do not want children. No, I do not have a mental problem. My mother did not fail to hug me as a child. I am not going to change my mind. If I hold a baby I will not immediately want one. It isn’t that I am “just not there yet”. I do not want kids. That is my decision and I am not the first person to make such a choice in life. People have evolved to do many things that defy our primal purpose, while our digestive systems and organs are made to survive on sparse amounts of food and carry us away from predators on our very own legs, these are natural capabilities that no longer serve us as they used to. In some cases they cause us harm. We have surpassed a need for each individual in our culture to procreate, lest the human race dies out. It is needless for all of us to procreate, just as it is needless in our culture for us to survive as gatherers in the wild (which would kill most of us come winter out here in Canada). I don’t fully understand this wanting, this needing, by others for me to live for procreation. I am treated as though I am not aware of my own innate nature, as though I am going against all biology, as though others should have final say in my choices because, if left to my own devices, my choices will damn all of creation.
But what business is it of yours if I do not want children? I am told it is a selfish choice that I would want to do other things than have children. That I will never know joy unless I have a child of my own. I would rather build a career for myself and travel, call it indulgent if you must, but that is enough in life for me to be happy. I have to wonder if there isn’t just a touch of sexism in all of this. Since my nuptials I have been asked by at least 20% of the people I know or meet and end up discussing my marriage with what my family plan is. Though this sometimes happens in the presence of my husband, these questions are never directed at him. Children seem to be a woman’s responsibility. Although I have been accused of various ailments due to my desire to focus on other things than children, these things are typically male roles and I don’t hear anyone say that my husband is selfish or mal-adjusted. They don’t assume he should care for children in order to allow me to build a career and see the world. He is not even asked about his family plan, as though that is step two of marriage. Of course his wife will bare his children (my husband has confirmed this, as his colleagues ask me about it, but just assume in his case), he can continue on without much thought of it. It is all on my shoulders. That is not fair. Children are very much a decision that needs to be made by a couple and should there after be an equal responsibility of the couple (that does not mean both parents should rear their children 50/50, but it should mean that the couple makes an agreement where each parent’s choices are benefiting the children equally – one stays at home while the other works, both work but their schedules allow for constant childcare, kids are put into some sort of care or a nanny is hired so that both parents can work but spend time as a family. There should be no automatic assumptions when it comes to bringing a new life into the world. It should not be assumed that if a couple is in love they get married, and if they get married they must solidify their bond by rearing offspring, otherwise they aren’t really in love or they don’t love themselves or some other god awful flaw. The truth is that the world has changed. It is not some mapped out, do-it-because-this-is-what freedom-is whether you like it or not, 50’s era world. People have changed. They are taking on new roles and exploring what makes them feel fulfilled and how they can best offer themselves to the world. For some people this might look like some idyllic scene from an old movie where man and woman fall in love, man and woman get married, woman happily stays at home raising children while man works to support them. This is fine. If this makes you happy go nuts. Hell, if you want to have kids and bake fresh pies and do tasks traditionally seen as the role of the woman and be a perfect model housewife, I am happy for you. I don’t feel that mothers bring any less to the table than I do. It doesn’t bother me one bit that we have different aspirations in life. I just wish others would stop pushing their aspirations on me.
There are a lot of children in the world that are without parents or that have parents that are neglectful. Does it really make sense for every couple to have children, just because they can or because you think it is a woman’s only purpose? I am sure some of those children are in this world because a couple thought that is what they were supposed to do but came to realize they were not parent material. Why don’t people start butting into married couples lives that have children to ask them if they love their children? They could walk up and say “Have you ever become so angry you hit your child?” Why don’t family members ask parents if they think their children could do better? People see questions like this as off limits even though these intrusive questions could save children from abuse, not that most parents are by any means abusive. Just sayin’, if we want to be intrusive, why don’t we do so in a proactive way?
For me this whole “child issue” is further complicated by the fact that I have chosen to work with children. Last year I took on a volunteer internship to Belize that saw me developing a nutrition curriculum and teaching it to children from ages 4-16. And I enjoyed it. Boy, did I enjoy it! It felt great for me to leave a curriculum behind that could be used by teachers and the health system there to teach children and adults alike why it is important to take care of your health and how to go about it. And kids say funny things. And they frustrate you to no end at times. And I liked that part of it too. I found it thrilling to help shape young minds and instil information that might change the way they live their lives for the better. I also used to volunteer with my local food bank in a program that served breakfast to elementary students, now I run the program as a paid employee. And I love that too. I am currently in search of a second job and my greatest prospect is a position working on an art program for children. Yet still, I don’t want to have children of my own. This whole thing seems to perplex people. If I don’t hate children, why don’t I want to have them? Although I am not a parent, I can tell you, with full confidence, that looking after children for a few hours is very very different than having children of your own. Even looking after 20-40 children for a few hours is very different than parenting one child. This confusion seems very strange to me. You would think that any mother could see that there is a clear difference between looking after and raising children, but it would seem that any sort of willing interaction with a child just makes people think you live for children. Let me compare it to hot-dogs. Do you like hot-dogs? (If you don’t like hot-dogs you have some sort of mental problem by the way – according to this logic, not according to me) If you like hot-dogs then you must love hot-dogs. And if you love hot-dogs it must be your ultimate aspiration to work at a hot-dog factory. Can you see how this is logic is a wee bit silly? But it gets pushed on women by a surprising amount of people. People I would nearly consider strangers have pushed this logic on me, friends, co-workers, family members… The people that have a rightful say in this matter seem to be limitless. It can be so frustrating.
Can we please all respect each others boundaries as human beings? Getting married does not give anyone privy to personal information. It does not give them the right to act as guidance counsellors either, determining what mental deficiency you have and how to correct it so that you will make procreation your life’s mission, just like they did! Congratulating someone on their new marriage does not give you an automatic right to begin asking private questions. No one asks me if the sex has tailed off yet or if we slept together the night of our wedding or if we were too exhausted. So why would they think it is okay to ask if we are going to jump on the next baby making train that stops in our station?
You might wonder how this question over steps boundaries. What about couples that are trying unsuccessfully? This can be a huge strain on a marriage and it can be tough for either partner to deal with. Just as the loss of a baby can be. It is very unlikely that you know this couples history and, even if you do, it can be offensive or hurtful to ask what a couple’s “baby plan” is. Bringing a child into this world is a very personal decision and if you do feel so bold as to ask whether this is in the cards for a new couple, in the very least, restrain yourself if they tell you that it is not in their hand. It is not your life. It is not your business. If you care so much about the world population why don’t you take it upon yourself to have an extra baby or two on behalf of the couple? You can name your children after the childless couple (that wouldn’t be awkward at all)!