Image by Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro
Word on the street is that women of child-bearing age are opting out of having children more than any generation before them. (See this, this, this, this, and this if you don’t believe me.) I reached out to five women, most of whom are nearing the end of their child-bearing years and who range from pretty sure to absolutely certain they don’t want kids, about their choice to remain childfree – whether they always knew they didn’t want kids, whether they feel any negative repercussion about their choice, what they love most about not having kids (spoiler alert: traveling unencumbered is a pretty universal love), and what advice they might have for anyone trying to decide whether or not they want to have children, especially if they are leaning toward the “no thanks” side of the equation.
Having Kids Never Felt Right
“I always liked kids, but having my own never felt right. My now-husband was always “ambivalent/no” and when we both turned 40, we had many, MANY discussions around “are we sure we don’t want to do this?” and “it’s now or never.” But all of those discussions seemed like us trying to convince ourselves we should, which felt purely intellectual as opposed to instinctual. Ultimately, when the world is such a fucked up place, it felt good to choose the option of not adding to our own stress. And then my sister-in-law distilled it so perfectly. They have two kids and are the greatest parents, but one afternoon over tea she said to me in that weary yet full-of-love way only a true mother can: “Being a parent is the greatest thing. But you have to really WANT it.” And I knew in that moment that I didn’t really want it. The idea was lovely, but the reality was not for me.
The greatest benefits are obvious: free time to pursue my own interests, disposable income, ability to travel in the off-season (and avoid Disney vacations for life!), energy to go all in when we are with the nieces and nephews and then we get to hand them back and sleep free and easy, and we will RETIRE EARLY!
I haven’t experienced any downsides. Our life doesn’t feel empty and I sure as hell don’t feel like I am missing out on anything.” — Katherine, 44, married 8 years
Not Absolutely Sure
“I’m squarely in the “likely decided” category. Growing up, it felt like a no-brainer to have kids, but that’s not the case anymore. I’m a queer woman and engaged to a transgender man, so there wouldn’t be a pregnancy conceived without intervention and that gives me a sense of autonomy over my body and control over whether I have [an unplanned pregnancy].
I think that once I came out [as queer], I wasn’t afraid to step off the path most traveled, and I opened myself up to re-examining other traditional pillars of adult life. Do I want to have kids because I genuinely want to have kids? Or does it just seem like What’s Done? Where do I want to rank my career among my priorities? How do I want to spend the time I have in this life, especially when I don’t know how much time that is? I’ve read several books on the topic that have been helpful in clarifying my thoughts, most recently Motherhood by Sheila Heti. Another one, which focuses on the idea of outside pressure on such an important decision, is Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids.
Ultimately my decision has come down to: It seems like a bad idea to enter into parenthood unless I’m absolutely sure I want it. And I’m not.” — Reilly, 28, in a long-term partnership
A Full Life Without Kids
“Growing up and well into my 20s, I imagined my life with kids. I wanted one or two, but no more than two. Boy or girl? Didn’t matter. I had names for my unborn child(ren). I wanted to game the system and procreate with a blue-eyed man. We’d have family dinners and Saturdays filled with parks and books. I know I would have been a good, or at least an ok, mom. I’m a nurturer by nature.
Sometime in my early 30s, that vision changed from definitely wanting kids to not so sure. Maybe if I met and married someone who really wanted them? But even then, I was leaning toward no. I didn’t want to put my body through what it takes to be a mom, and I so greatly valued sleep. Also, where I grew up, marriage and kids were something you did, but I finally realized I had other options.
At 35, I met my husband. He didn’t want children. Decision made. We will and do travel. We spoil my nieces and nephews. We visit friends and go to shows and did I mention travel? Our life is full. I did feel some pressure from my mom. She thinks we’ll regret not having children. I don’t think we will. We both like the freedom to do what we want. — Katie, 39, Married
Never Played With Dolls
“I feel like I was born this way, not so much that it was a choice – although I am so grateful to live under circumstances in which I could make the physical choice not to have children. I was never interested in baby dolls and would get upset to receive them as gifts. I babysat, but I did it to earn money, not because I was interested in children.
I think kids are cute, but I feel no pull whatsoever to even spend time with them (unless as a favor to someone), let alone raise them. There is literally nothing appealing about it in any way. I kept thinking maybe that would somehow change, but it never did, and now I’m in a happy, strong second marriage with a guy who feels the same way.
There are no negative repercussions for me to not having kids. I enjoy all the “me-time” and couple-time I have – many hours a week. I struggle a bit with “what’s my purpose in life,” but I think everyone does, kids or no. I don’t feel like there’s some hole where something’s missing. I’m not worried about who’s going to take care of me when I’m older – that’s what retirement savings and nurses are for. I don’t feel selfish or “less than” or stigmatized, or discriminated against. The most that will happen is a new nail tech will ask if I have kids and act surprised when I say no. No one in my family or friend group gives me any pressure or judgment about it, though a few co-workers did try to sell me on kids after I got married again. But who cares what they think?
The advice I give to others is: Unless you really feel you *want* kids, do not get pregnant. Use a reliable form of birth control, always, and do NOT take chances. Only have kids because you really want them and you have the mental, emotional, and material resources to give them what they need in life. Don’t risk an unplanned pregnancy because you want to leave the door open, thinking that you may regret not having kids and may have a big gaping hole in your life. You most likely won’t. Focus on yourself, and on your relationship if you have one. Kids are not for everyone, and there are so many other ways to contribute to the world than by raising children.” — Kate, 43, married.
“I will be 40 years old next month and am happily child-free by choice. I remember that when I was a child in kindergarten, my friends wanted to play “house” with baby dolls. I was more interested in drawing and coloring- I preferred stuffed animals over dolls.
I divorced in 2017. When I started dating again, it was important to me to date someone who either had grown children or didn’t want children. For over a year I’ve been happily dating a man who does not have or want children either. I always tell him that since we didn’t get to meet until halfway through our lives, at least we get to date and travel relatively unencumbered. I do not regret not having a child and I am happy to live in a society where I am able to freely make this choice. If I ever regret my decision, I know there are many ways I can fill that gap, including by fostering children.
If a woman is leaning towards not having children, I would stress not to let her family, partner, or societal norms force her into something she doesn’t want to do. Many successful women are child-free by choice and have contributed greatly to the welfare of kids—from Ellen DeGeneres to Oprah Winfrey to Mother Theresa! Follow your heart and do what is right for you.” — Samantha, 39, divorced and dating
Related: Getting Personal: “Children Aren’t for Me” and “How Do I Know If I Absolutely Want Kids?”
I’m looking for more women to join the DW Women Discuss panel. If you would like to contribute to future Women Discuss posts, please shoot me an email at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com with “Women Discuss” in the subject line. If you want to share your age, marital status, where you live, and whether you have kids, that would also be great. And if you’d just like to share ideas for topics you want to read more about, feel free to pass those along, too. Thank you!!
csp March 28, 2019, 8:37 am
So, I have been obsessed with the idea of “peak human” meaning there is a point that the population will hit a high and then will stabilize and decline. Originally they thought it was going to happen around 2150 or 2200. Now it looks like it will happen in 2050. Basically, as soon as women are given control of their bodies, the birth rate plummets. Most women, pregnancy just happened and now it is a choice. They funny part of all these predictions being so far off was that most of the analytics were done by men. And this is happening all over the world. Here is one article but this will totally change our world because right now, economies are based on growth but will have to change shortly after the decline. So insetting https://www.cnbc.com/id/101018722
csp March 28, 2019, 8:38 am
CCL March 28, 2019, 8:53 am
I’ve been terrified of having kids since I was a kid after my mom told me not to swallow orange seeds or I’d get pregnant. I realize now she was joking but imagine how freaking scared I was after accidentally swallowing a fruit seed! Overall though, I have never felt that pull either or a yearning that many feel. Maybe it was because I was so scared of it as a little girl. I am 43 now and while my bf and I ‘lightly’ tried for 3 years and nothing happened I assumed that was just all well and good as I figured if it were meant to be it would be. I’ve never been upset about not having kids either. I love my bf’s 9yr old son and for me that is enough. My bf has a niece and nephew that I adore so I am fine. Explain that to the older generation though and they don’t understand my feelings at all so I just have to remind them this is my body and this is personal and none of their business. 🙂
Vathena March 28, 2019, 8:59 am
I have a child, but I definitely identify with so much of what’s written here! The not being definitely sure, not really enjoying spending time with (other people’s) kids, playing with stuffed animals instead of dolls – all of that sounds like my experience too. Ultimately we just came down to, we’d rather have one than none, so made the decision to “pull the goalie”. I got pregnant right away, but I’m still pretty sure I wouldn’t have pursued medical intervention if it didn’t happen naturally. After my daughter was born, I realized what all the fuss was about. Becoming a parent is such a profound experience, and yet such a universal one; it really gave me a deeper sense of my connection to history and humanity.
One thing that I somewhat regret about our decision to have a child (though I would in no way go back and decide otherwise) is that it made me so vulnerable to the possibility of catastrophic pain. I never used to worry about things in the way I do now. The “heart outside of your body” is such a cliche, but is true. Becoming a parent changed the sorts of books I could read or shows I could watch – anything involving harm to children is right out. I have lost a lot of sleep over the state of the world we’re creating, family separations at the border, the refugee crisis – and I can’t understand how so many people who are ALSO parents can feel so little empathy. I worry very much about climate change, and whether my daughter will one day be attempting to survive in an uninhabitable world. She is 5, and loves animals, and I can’t stand the idea of her finding out that one day all of the polar bears will be gone. And of course I worry very much about falls, cars, and guns. Sending her to school on the anniversary of Sandy Hook almost gave me a panic attack last year. These are all things I know I wouldn’t feel so viscerally had we decided to remain child-free.
Vathena March 28, 2019, 9:08 am
Oh, and – a patriarchal society is always going to pass judgment on the state of women’s bodies. You get side-eye and nosy questions for having no kids, for having only one kid, for having two kids of the same sex, for having three or more kids. Anecdotally, it seems that mothers with one XX and one XY (a complete set!) have the magic protection from prying questions, but I could be wrong there too. I’m pretty good at giving zero fucks, but I really feel for those who may not be as settled with their situation.
Skyblossom March 28, 2019, 9:29 am
I have an XY and also an XX. People have felt free to ask if our daughter was an accident, since she is nine years younger and I’ve been asked by several people if my kids have the same father. There seems to be an assumption that if kids are 9 years apart in age you’ve been divorced and remarried or you messed up with birth control. The amazing thing to me is that people feel it is perfectly appropriate to ask questions like that.
ktfran March 28, 2019, 9:31 am
Lol. Seriously? People are crazy.
Vathena March 28, 2019, 9:39 am
Oh geez. Yeah, I forgot if they’re not spaced properly (2-3 years apart) then apparently people feel free to comment on that too… another thing that is a pretty common experience for women is miscarriage, so you would think someday people might learn to keep their traps shut. Of course, a patriarchal society also doesn’t value or validate a woman’s experience or pain, so there ya go.
csp March 28, 2019, 10:53 am
Birdbox gave me anxiety dreams for weeks. I kept waking up saying we would never make it, my son doesn’t behave that well.
Vathena March 28, 2019, 11:03 am
Yeah, I knew that Birdbox was going to be a hard pass for me. Same with A Quiet Place. Definitely never watching The Babadook.
anonymousse March 28, 2019, 12:49 pm
I feel the same regarding the universal community of having a child, and the risk of catastrophic pain.
MP March 28, 2019, 9:35 am
I hear about that happening too. My siblings and I are pretty spread out in age (brother #1 was born 6 years after me and brother #2 was born another 4 years later) and my mom got all sorts of intrusive questions (were they unplanned, why did you waste time in between etc which make no sense). But then again, my aunt who had children who are a year apart got judgy questions too like ‘why didn’t you give yourself time to recover that’ so bad for your family’. Mothers can’t win, plain and simple!
Skyblossom March 28, 2019, 9:57 am
If it isn’t about the number or the spacing or the gender people will find something else to question. They will think you spend too much or too little or buy the wrong things for Christmas. We don’t purchase clothes as gifts unless they are requested. I have always felt that it is our job as parents to feed and clothe our children so I don’t make clothing a gift. Most people I know buy clothing as gifts and I think that’s fine. I wouldn’t dream of telling them that it’s their responsibility to purchase clothing so it isn’t a gift. They will think your child is deprived if you choose to never go to Disney. We’ve never gone and the kids are glad about that. People will question whether you bought the right house in the right location. They will question your house rules. They will question your boundaries. They will tell you to announce a family video night and use it to force your kids to watch a movie they don’t want to watch, which I think would destroy positive family time. They will think you spend too much or too little time with your kids. They will question your childcare arrangements. They will question your kid’s activities. Right now we are getting a lot of negative comments about our daughter because she will probably attend college outside the US. It’s really comments meant to warn us that she might not come back home. I don’t expect her to come back home. If she has the career she wants she won’t be living around us. That’s fine. I would be a horrible mother if I tried to pin her down to our location.
People feel entitled to comment on every aspect of your life. I assume they do that whether you have kids or not. There is probably just more to comment on if you have kids.
SpaceySteph March 28, 2019, 10:34 am
Hah I almost never buy my child clothes. People keep giving them to us and we get a fair amount of hand-me-downs from friends and relatives with older kids. Which is fine by me, because baby clothes are so expensive considering they will wear it twice and then either grow out of it or stain it horribly.
Rangerchic March 28, 2019, 11:25 am
I have two girls, and my oldest (23) didn’t go to college. I always felt like I had to justify why she didn’t go to college. I always get asked what school does she go to…irritating. So the judgement doesn’t even stop when they are adults!
SpaceySteph March 28, 2019, 9:47 am
I don’t regret having a child, but we just went on our first vacation without our kid since she was born and it was glorious. We packed super light (one backpack each) and didn’t have to lug a car seat through the airport. We got drinks on the plane, we stayed out late, we didn’t worry about nap time.
Folks aren’t wrong about unencumbered travel, is what I’m sayin.
scorpio March 28, 2019, 9:47 am
What a great discussion topic! I am 38 now, dating a man with 3 kids who is done having kids and taken the steps to ensure there are no accidents. I always thought I would have kids, and to be honest if I had been in the right relationship in my early 30s I probably would have. But after living a childless life for 38 years I think it would be too disruptive now, I love to travel, sleep, go to lot’s of events in town and in the surrounding areas and generally am kind of selfish with my time.
I like kids though, and always wanted a future with a large family, going on some family vacations and doing cool kids activities. Dating someone with kids seems to be a great solution to that for me. He has the kids frequently, has an amazing co-parenting relationship with their mom, we even do things with the kids, her and her partner sometimes. We can book a trip for a week and not have to worry “who will watch the kids” and she can do the same (we are actually going away next week and she is going away in May). We don’t live together and while I see the kids frequently I am not spending the night or spending more than full day with them, so maybe my opinions will change when that happens haha. But for right now it seems to be working really well for me.
The only part I struggle with is my parents, they would make amazing grandparents and I know when they meet my boyfriends kids they will take an active role, but I know it bothers them not having grandchildren when all her friends do (literally all of their friends have at least two). My sister is also childless and I am pretty sure she will stay that way. I have a lot of guilt about that.
Kate March 28, 2019, 9:59 am
My parents would be amazing grandparents too, but they are cool with taking an active role with nieces and nephews, tutoring kids in middle school through a local program, and volunteering in the children’s room at church.
scorpio March 28, 2019, 10:12 am
I think I need to actually sit down with my Mom and basically say that to her. That I know life didn’t turn out how she thought it would, but she needs to find another way to have an active role in kids lives. I know she isn’t actively trying to make me feel guilty, and I am not sure she even realizes she is doing it, but it weighs on me and makes me second guess my choice sometimes.
ktfran March 28, 2019, 10:54 am
My husband is an only child. His parents won’t be “offical” grandparents because we’re not having kids. They love my nieces and nephews though.
This weekend is one of my niece’s birthday’s in our home town. It’s five hours away. My in-laws are traveling there for the birthday party. My niece and my MIL have a great relationship. It’s fun!
I’ll also add that when I’m retired, there’s a good chance I’ll volunteer at a hospital to hold babies. I think that’s a thing? I love holding babies. I know, I’m weird.
There are so many ways you can be a “grandparent” without being a “grandparent”.
MP March 28, 2019, 10:15 am
I’m 29 and newly married so my mother and other relatives are very rudely (and borderline threateningly) clamoring for me to get pregnant yesterday. I know though that the second I have one kid, they’ll be asking for another one. Then another one. And once the kids aren’t a “cute” age anymore (so over 12+) they’ll be asking my kids for great grandchildren while judging me for not having children a decade ago so they could have multiple biological great grandchildren to keep them occupied!
But god forbid if we choose NOT to have children they’ll get even more threatening and pressure me and bully me. They’ve been pressuring to have a child with anyone at any cost the second I turned 18 and it’s really sucking the joy out of any potential family planning since they for some reason think 29 is the last chance for me to reproduce….. Me and husband are undecided and want to be married for a few years regardless (rant over).
Danielle March 28, 2019, 10:45 am
I’m sitting at work and I just overheard an older woman ask a younger woman “do you have any children?” When the younger woman responded no, the next question was “Why not?” Her tone was accusatory and incredulous.
F*ck that noise. It drives me bonkers that child-free women are required to justify their decision while women who want or have children are never expected to do so. Both choices are valid, but simply “not wanting to” is reason enough. I don’t need to justify my existence as a child-free woman of child-bearing age, I am more than a baby incubator.
Thank you, rant over
MP March 28, 2019, 11:30 am
Also I’m wondering what kind of response this awful woman is looking for??
Is she hoping for a sad “I don’t have children because the fertility treatments aren’t working no matter what I try despite my desperate desire to be a mother” or a “lol I hate kids” or “you know, we just enjoy having our two dogs and months long retreats in the jungle and are content with life as is”?? I don’t know what she gets out of asking in such an accusatory manner. Is she trying to make her own existence feel more worthwhile by thinking ‘hahah at least I’m a mother and you’re not’. Women on women meanness is so gross.
Danielle March 28, 2019, 12:17 pm
_s_ March 28, 2019, 11:02 am
I kept meaning to join the panel, specifically for this question, but I guess I missed the boat! Anyway, I thought Kate summed it up pretty well: “I feel like I was born this way, not so much that it was a choice – although I am so grateful to live under circumstances in which I could make the physical choice not to have children.” Bottom line, I just never had the slightest desire to birth and raise a child. So I didn’t. Everything else is just a bonus. Like, being able to sleep in, not have to worry about living in a good school district, never having to go to interminable boring kids’ sports games, having more disposable income, not contributing to overpopulation, not having to know what the hell Caillou is, all those sorts of things are great, but they’re not why I didn’t have kids – I didn’t have kids because I didn’t want them. And I think bringing an unwanted child into the world is a pretty shitty thing to do to the child.
LisforLeslie March 28, 2019, 11:32 am
47, never married, no kids. My sister is significantly younger. I knew early what kids required from you and I don’t have it. I love other people’s children. It’s like renting a car or a movie. When you’re done, you just give it back.
Sure, sometimes there’s a little regret but never enough to get pregnant. And when I feel a tinge of sadness that I’ll never have a kid, I just look at my bank account. No more sadness.
Vathena March 29, 2019, 11:24 am
“I just look at my bank account. No more sadness.” < this made me LOL so much, thank you for that! sometimes I wonder wtf we were doing with all our gobs of cash before we had a kid…
Rangerchic March 28, 2019, 11:35 am
I always thought having kids was just a part of life. Then my best friend decided to not have any kids. I did ask her (since she was my best friend and all) why she didn’t want children…I couldn’t understand her decision. Then she told me it was because of the way she grew up (which wasn’t bad per say…her mom married/divorced several times so I think she felt unstable). And I dropped it. Because it is her choice. Occasionally she would bring it up again and we’d talk about it (she went through a few times of unsureness). Other than that, I never brought it up.
My youngest daughter, however, has always wanted children (I think since the day she was born!). She is a nurturer by nature (she is studying to be a nurse). And loved playing with dolls and babysitting. She’ll make a fantastic mother especially since this is something she really, really wants.
FannyBrice March 28, 2019, 11:38 am
I also never felt the urge to have children of my own. I like kids fine, but that smelling the baby’s head thing? IDK it smells kind of weird to me. When my friends started feeling the urge, I intellectually understood their feelings – from the gradual realization to the “it was like someone flipped on a light switch” feelings, but I just…never felt it. I do wonder if maybe there’s a biological/hormonal reason for that, like my chemical make up is profoundly different than that of my friend who has 3 kids and wants more?
I am 46 now, married almost 12 years, and as each year passes we are happier and more satisfied with our decision. Like others, we travel all the time, are retiring early, and are really laidback, happy people. All our friends with kids are both fascinated by and a teensy bit jealous of our freedom.
Kate March 28, 2019, 11:49 am
I like smelling a dog’s face!
TheLadyE March 31, 2019, 7:11 pm
Me too! I think puppies are to me what babies are to other people, haha.
Just Max March 28, 2019, 4:27 pm
I’m 41 and have no kids. I don’t recall ever wanting kids. Anyhow, I love not having kids. I travel a lot. Sleep a lot. Spend hours with my Kindle. I also have a busy work schedule. I’ve always enjoyed having a random response to people that ask why I don’t have kids; “are you going to pay for them?”, “who’s going to raise them after I have them?”, “Nah, I like to sleep too much to be bothered.” I pick and choose depending on who’s asking.; sometimes a “no, thank you” is all I’d say about that. My family and friends know so they don’t ask me about kids; only new acquaintances or (nosey) strangers would ask once in a while.
Recently though, I was excluded from an activity for one of my young cousins because “that’s not your thing so we didn’t invite you.” This is from a family that is almost like a second set of parents to me. It made me sad because I care about these people. Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean that I’m not supportive and want to be a part of their lives. So, yeah. That sucked. I might bring it up to the relative one of these days.
annie March 28, 2019, 7:10 pm
I am 32, almost 33, newly single. No kids. I have mild PCOS so I may not be able to have kids. Never tried but was careless AF with BC in my 20s and was never pregnant… I wonder if knowing that I might be infertile makes me want them. I love my friend’s kids but boy, those friends are BROKE and tired all the time (I live in a very expensive city). And I am already broke and tired all the time. I don’t know if I want that! I really just don’t know.
Sarah March 28, 2019, 10:34 pm
If not for this inexplicable desire for kids (my biological clock???) I never would have had a kid I think. I don’t think I like them (I do love mine, of course) and they are a lot of work.
Sarah March 28, 2019, 10:34 pm
If not for this inexplicable desire for kids (my biological clock???) I never would have had a kid I think. I don’t think I like them (I do love mine, of course) and they are a lot of work.
Ange March 28, 2019, 11:43 pm
I can’t say there was ever a point I thought I’d have kids either, the whole idea seemed so alien to me. Like, who would want that and why? Obviously I know people have their own feelings about it in the other direction but they seem a little bit less inclined to believe mine are just as valid. Thankfully my family is 100% on board and between the 3 siblings there’s only one bio kid. I know my MIL is pretty sad as her other sons don’t have kids either and we’re all rushing through our 30s but I have extreme faith my BIL will accidentally knock up a 20 year old waitress at some point.
Lucidity March 29, 2019, 10:54 am
Wow, this post hit me in a lot of different ways.
I’m currently pregnant, but I was never one of those people that knew they wanted kids from a young age.
I never liked kids, even when I was a kid. But there was so much societal expectation and pressure, spoken and unspoken, to marry and have children that I just assumed that would be my path. I kept waiting to feel the biological urge, but it never came.
When my husband and I started trying to conceive, I was of two minds. On the one hand, I was excited to be a parent and thought raising a child would be the most meaningful thing we’d ever do, but on the other hand, I didn’t think I’d be devastated if I couldn’t conceive naturally and knew that I wouldn’t pursue fertility treatments. I felt I could have lived a happy and fulfilling life as a childless person.
Now that I’m pregnant, I have a lot of conflicting emotions. Excitement, terror, apprehension, worry about making the wrong parenting choices and guilt over the fact that reproduction was so easy for me when women who have had life-long dreams of motherhood struggle with infertility.
I also feel some self-loathing. A lot of the discussion around this topic pushes the idea that if you aren’t 100% sure you want kids, don’t have them, and if you do, you’re a terrible person / going to be a bad parent / ruining your life, which is hard to hear. It makes me feel like I don’t deserve to be a mother because I didn’t want it badly enough. Needless to say, I’m in therapy, so hoping to make my peace with all of this.
Vathena March 29, 2019, 11:20 am
Lucidity, I could have written this almost word for word when I was pregnant. It will be okay! There ARE times that it’s so hard that you probably will think you chose wrong. Sometimes I wonder if that aspect is harder for parents who did have to claw their way through fertility treatments or the adoption process, and then contend with the crucible of parenthood. I think your feelings are pretty normal. The fact that you are worried about how you’ll be as a parent is a good sign that you’ll be a wonderful parent. It’s GREAT that you’re in therapy so you can sort through this stuff and, hopefully, deal with any postpartum issues proactively too. Also, congratulations 🙂
Dear Wendy March 29, 2019, 11:45 am
Yep, same here! All of that. Sometimes I feel regret about the decisions I’ve made. More often, I think I’d have bigger regret had I made different decisions. Parenthood is really really hard, and in the early years, it is absolutely relentless. It can be easy to second guess yourself and wonder what life would have been like had you made different decisions. The good news is that whatever choice you make about having kids vs. not having kids, there is so much joy to be found either way!
Rick March 29, 2019, 11:22 pm
I think society accepts an unmarried woman that doesn’t have or want kids but if it was a man, he’s seen as being a freak or odd.
Kate March 29, 2019, 11:33 am
I didn’t mean to make anyone feel bad. I think you made an informed decision to have kids. I’m more talking about people around 40 who are like, shit, idk, maybe I’m going to regret not having kids, so I’ll kind of just not really use birth control and we’ll see what happens. That’s irresponsible. I also heard a horror story in my 20s from an older colleague who did that, and it was quite the cautionary tale.
ktfran March 29, 2019, 12:45 pm
I definitely don’t think you’re a terrible person or are going to be a bad parent! My only hope is that people who decide to have children, however that decision came about, decide to be in it and make their child feel loved.
And please don’t ever feel like you don’t deserve it. You’re not responsible for another’s biology. If anyone ever makes you feel that way, he or she is a jerk.
Good luck and congratulations!
rick March 30, 2019, 1:37 am
The good news is that whatever choice you make about having kids vs. not having kids, there is so much joy to be found either way!
Wendy, can you elaborate on the joy to found in not having kids?
Dear Wendy March 30, 2019, 5:34 am
I think the kid-free women who contributed to this post already did a pretty good job with that.
Kate March 30, 2019, 5:36 am
Rick, I can elaborate on that. You can sleep as much as you want. Go and do whatever you want. Save your money for a comfortable retirement. Day drink. Volunteer. Read a good book on your couch instead of driving everyone to ballet. Take a hot bath with no interruption. Have a flat stomach. Be spontaneous. Take classes. Focus on the adult relationships in your life, to get your needs met and meet others’ needs.
anonymousse March 29, 2019, 12:52 pm
I think every parent feels that way sometimes. Sometimes more than sometimes. It is a lot of work, sacrifice and not always gratifying. There is also the expense, the travel limitations, the insane amount of diapers to change. It’s a lot. Luckily, the diapers stop after awhile. It gets easier, the goalposts change. I would never say I 100% wanted kids- but I’m really glad we did. I can’t really imagine what it would be like without them. The good far outweighs the bad and the doubts for me.
I think the comments about people not explicitly wanting kids comes up a lot because on this site specifically (but also in real life) so many people are just carelessly popping out kids with no consideration, planning or real desire to have kids. Sometimes it’s a box to tick on the accomplish list. Sometimes people have a kid to save a relationship. And then they don’t take care of them, or put them first, or put them in dangerous situations. That’s who I hope those comments refer to.
For myself, having a couple parent friends who will listen and share the stress and crazy parenting shit with is really important. I have one friend specifically who just gets me and we can let it all out, laugh, cry, drink wine and still love our kids fiercely.
Lucidity March 29, 2019, 7:50 pm
Thank you for the kind words, everyone. I want clarify that nobody specific on here made me feel bad! I’ve been feeling all of these things since I found out I was pregnant. I just wanted to share the strange experience of undertanding where the contributors and commenters on this post are coming from because I feel like if things were just slightly different for me, I could easily be one of them.
For the record, I have shouted “what are you doing having kids!?” at letters on this website many times!
Lianne March 30, 2019, 7:44 am
This is so normal!! At least I think so. I’d also add, hormones. They truly make you cuckoo and feel all sorts of conflicting emotions within minutes and sometimes seconds.
I love my kids (2, a boy -almost 3 and a girl about to turn 1) and Wendy said it. It’s hard and relentless. But when I watch my kids playing or being so sweet or observing how quickly they learn and grow and do new things, my heart has never felt more full. So I know, even when I have moments of thinking “how is this my life!?” its definitely the right path for me. The doubt and fear are normal.
Allison March 29, 2019, 11:56 pm
In addition to the many great reasons that have been posted already (and apologies if I missed another person mentioning it), I need a LOT of alone time. I LOVE being alone. Definitely an introvert here 🙂 I also dislike noise, having to be out doing things all the time, and need lots of sleep. So, basically, I would be a terrible mom. I agree with others that you should only have a kid if you really want one! I like babies too, just don’t want one of my own 🙂
Hazel March 30, 2019, 5:48 am
when I was younger I longed to have children but by the time I was in a position where it would be possible I’d come to the sad conclusion that there were just too many humans and as I thought I could also be happy without, and my partner felt likewise, we decided not to have any. We have had plenty of fun times helping other people with their kids, and don’t really feel we missed out, but the judgement from some quarters is a pest, (I really don’t see what is so very selfish about our decision) and I have felt very excluded at times at gatherings where all the women only want to talk about their children, and once or twice have been utterly blanked when it comes out that I don’t have any. No biggie, though.
Kate March 30, 2019, 5:56 am
I’m getting the tiniest taste now of what it might be like to have a child, with an older dog who just got diagnosed with diabetes and needs insulin injections at 6am and 6pm and has been drinking gallons of water and peeing in the dining room. It’s getting better, but his glucose isn’t stable yet and he still needs to get up 2-4x a night to pee. My husband gets up and does it, but both our sleep is interrupted, and we can’t sleep in. Also, we’re going on vacation next week and the place he usually stays doesn’t do injections. My mom has been ill so my parents can’t help. A home sitter isn’t going to work right now because it’s not fair to ask someone to deal with the nighttime peeing. And we’ve spent $1400 so far on the diabetes thing alone, and thousands more on his rheumatoid arthritis.
Anyway, I signed up for this when i got a puppy 12 years ago and it’s fine and it won’t be forever, but it just reinforces that the work involved with kids isn’t for us.
Lucidity March 31, 2019, 3:03 pm
That sucks, Kate. I’ve had two diabetic pets myself, but I was lucky in that they were both cats, who, unlike dogs, can go into remission. I didn’t have to give injections for long in both cases, but they sure dictated my schedule while I was giving them.
I petsit and have worked as a home sitter, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask someone to deal with your situation if you’re explicit about it up front and offer to pay extra. Ask the staff at your vet clinic if they petsit – they’ve probably got lots of experience with similar situations. Right now, a couple staff members at my clinic are taking turns caring for a dog that was paralyzed after a stroke. She’s slowly regaining some mobility but her care is very demanding (and can be pretty messy). Or, you could look for a vet clinic that also offers boarding, since it’s likely they’ll be more familiar with giving injections than a regular boarding facility.
Kate March 31, 2019, 3:11 pm
Yup, I guess there is a woman at our vet clinic who sits. But she hasn’t called me back. His dog walker (who’s a post doc fellow at MIT and got out of science to walk dogs) can actually do it too, but her fee is crazy. However, she recommended a place that looks absolutely wonderful, can do injections, and is reasonably priced, it’s just an hour and 15 away, in NH. They saved my trip, because they can take him this week!
For anyone in NH, it’s All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester.
Lucidity March 31, 2019, 3:19 pm
Hazel March 31, 2019, 6:01 pm
so glad to hear that kate and admire your caring loyalty to your dog X
Kate March 31, 2019, 6:10 pm
Thanks Hazel! He’s still livin his life.
Kate March 31, 2019, 6:12 pm
And last night only had to go out once!
TheLadyE March 31, 2019, 7:26 pm
I am 36 and never married with no children, and I honestly don’t feel pulled to have biological children. There are a lot of reasons for me personally: I have some health problems that, while not genetic and wouldn’t be passed down, would make the physically taxing part of having children at best unbearable and at worst impossible for me. I need a lot of rest. I slept almost all day today because I’ve been super busy at work and with my hobbies and dating lately. I’m also abjectly terrified of the physical part of being pregnant. I think a lot has to do with the fact that I live with an invisible disability every day and the idea of something that makes “normal” healthy women so sick and is so difficult for them is terrifying to me.
I have a handful of years to decide, but the older I get the more I lean toward the side of not wanting them. Right now, I’m enmeshed in an amazing hobby/friend circle in my city (comedy) and when I ask coworkers to come out to see my shows, none of them who have kids can ever do it. I watch friends from high school on Facebook living entirely through their children. I also have a little middle-aged dog who will need increasing amounts of care and it’s not fair to her (she’s a huge priority to me; she’s given me her whole life). She’s super healthy now but I want to be able to devote time and resources to her care as she gets older, not throw a baby/toddler into the mix right when she’s getting elderly. For all intents and purposes, she is my child.
I also see friends having babies with their spouses or partners when their relationships are not nearly as strong as they should be. One friend is battling for custody in court and the drama is…horrible. One friend will try to get pregnant as soon as their spouse is released from prison after more than half a decade of being inside and huge amounts of damage to their relationship. All of that makes me say…no. I want a strong partnership and foundation. If we decide to foster/adopt children in our middle age, I’d be up for that, but yeah, I don’t want to birth babies.
For right now, I’m targeting men to date who are fine not having their own biological children or who actively don’t want children. Surprisingly I’ve had a fair amount of options lately, which is refreshing.
lovelygirl April 1, 2019, 7:34 pm
I’m 36 and I check in periodically with my husband to make sure our child-free life is still right for us. We always come to the same quick conclusion that we are extremely happy where we are in life and no desire to add to it. Now we have my sister and 3 year old nephew living with us so we get a taste of child rearing. This is the best of both worlds where we are not the parents and yet participate in his life on a daily basis. We are lucky to have this opportunity and it is truly amazing being the cool aunt and uncle everyday. My heart and house are full of love with the family I already have. I never really wanted my own children, but I’ve always known my status of aunt would be my best role in life.