Being a single young woman in my mid-twenties, the focus of my life has been furthering my career, my education and traveling with my dog. For me, the idea of kids is about as far from my mind as winning an Oscar in the next few months. However, for the past decade, I’ve been having the same dreadful conversation over and over. As soon as the words “Do you want kids?” leaves someone’s mouth, I feel myself begin to cringe and roll my eyes. The conversation with friends, family and strangers alike always carries the same tune. Really, there’s only one right answer to give if you want to walk away without a healthful dosage of hearing how you have no idea what you’re going to miss. And believe it or not, these conversations are incredibly hurtful.
Every time I have to tell someone I don’t want kids, it’s like stepping on egg shells. The decision is so incredibly personal that it is amazing to me that I have to field statements from total strangers like, “You look like the kind of woman who wants to settle down and just have a couple of kids!” What? Excuse me? There are so many things I want to say during this conversation, but it just seems so pointless to try to sort it all out in the moment in order to give someone the big picture.
In fact, this topic is personal enough that I prefer to remain anonymous while writing this blog. Although, as I try to explain the mentality that accompanies the decision not to have my own baby burrito, I’d like to share that I am writing from two perspectives. The first, is that I do not want kids of my own. The second, is that I recently found out that I will almost with certainty, be unable to have my own kids because of a hormonal disorder that has debilitating effects. The following is everything I wish to say to someone during a conversation about children, but can’t. I am writing from my own perspective, but have also incorporated ideas from others who are in the same boat.
So without further ado, here is Everything I Wish I Could Tell You when You Ask if I Want Kids
- My decision to not have children is an educated one and not one made in ignorance. This is perhaps the most difficult thing to relay to others who think I will “change my mind.” Having kids is such a HUGE decision and just like most of those who have children do not take it lightly, neither do those who decide not to have them. There are so many things to take into account; such as career goals, genetics, ability to have/carry a child, my own mental health and capabilities and what I want in life. In my own family, there are several developmental disorders that are genetic. While I am healthy, there is a chance I could potentially have a child with a severe disability. This is something very personal and has weighed heavily into my decision not to have kids.
- “It’s different when it’s your own child.” Of course it’s different when it’s your own child. Women who choose not to have children are not denying that they would love and care for their children dearly, but again, this statement is based on the idea that we will have some overwhelming desire to procreate and ignore all the reasons stated in point #1. Sometimes it isn’t about having the kids themselves, but about how much that woman can handle. Becoming a mother is a life-long commitment and something that most women who do not want children have taken into consideration. Being able to say “I am not up to this monumental commitment,” regardless of the reasoning, is not an easy admission and is not one that should be blown aside by others.
- My future looks bright ahead. When I picture my life, I see great things – and yes – even without children. I think about the things I want to learn, the places I want to go, the hobbies I’d like to explore and think about growing old and dying on a cruise ship that continually takes me around the world. I am happy with my life and have a wonderful outlook about where I see myself. I do not fear dying alone and don’t believe that having children should be a safety net for fear of future loneliness.
- “You’d make a great mom!” I’d probably make a great astronaut too, but that doesn’t mean I want to do that either. People may be talented at many things, but that doesn’t make it right for them. I’m sure that you can think of at least one of these examples that applies to your own life.
- “You will change your mind when you meet the right man.” This statement utterly blows me away with confusion. As a whole, our society has begun to recognize and push for more equality for women when it comes to reaching goals and determining our own path. The same society that was just applauding Frozen for having two heroines succeed without a man is the same society that makes this presuming statement that women who do not want children are simply waiting around for a man to change her mentality. This statement falls back on the idea that ignorance is the leading cause of my decision not to have children, rather than a well thought-out decision based on the information I have at hand and the understanding I have of myself. While this Disney-esque idea is cute, I am not waiting around for Superman to come rescue me by giving me his sperm.
- It’s hard. One of the most difficult things about not wanting children is the fact that it seems everyone else wants them, including potential partners. Of the four serious relationships I have had, three of them ended solely on the idea that my partner assumed that after being together for so long and “maturing” that I would want kids. The amount of heart break I have experienced over this topic is enormous. In one case, a guy I was serious with cheated on me in order to have a child with someone else. Now when I meet someone, one of the first questions I ask is “How do you feel about kids?”
- The question you are asking is in present tense. The question “Do you want kids?” is a present tense question, to which you will receive a present tense answer. A better question to ask is “Do you think you’ll want a family in the future?” This opens up the door to a lot more responses and some of the thinking that goes behind the decision to have or not have children. As a general rule, if you’re not willing to respect a woman’s response to your question, or already believe that she’s too naive to give an appropriate response, then just don’t ask. Remember, the decision to have a family is very personal. So if you’re not willing to have a conversation about it and listen to her responses, then forget it.
- Asking is okay. I personally never feel insulted or disrespected by the question “Do you want a family?” What upsets and disrespects me is the following commentary about how I “don’t know” what I’m missing out on and how I will “change my mind.” I don’t want people to walk on eggshells or create a situation where we need to make things unnecessarily politically correct. Feel free to ask if I’d like kids, but be ready to respect the answer I give.
- The inability to have children. The day I learned that I would likely be unable to have my own children, you’d think I’d have been ecstatic. Instead, I went to my car and cried. I can’t tell you why. Perhaps it was because of all the strife and fighting for a cause that now is likely obsolete anyway. Perhaps it was because I felt there was something wrong with me, or that it eliminated the ability for me to change my mind. I have no idea. Regardless, it hurt and made me feel very sad. Since this is a fairly new development for me, I still don’t know how to handle it and from the women I have spoken to, the question about whether or not I want a family in the future is about to become a lot more uncomfortable. What do I say now? That I don’t want them? That I can’t have them? Is there even a right response? I suppose time will tell. But one thing I do know, is that a majority of the women I have met with the same condition will often say they do not want children as a way to conceal the hurt from not being able to have them biologically. The refusal to accept their “choice” not to have kids is extremely painful to them.
- Please do not talk to me about adoption, surrogates or genetic testing. I am an educated woman and know that if I absolutely want children, that these options are available. However, I am content at this point in my life with not wanting children. There is nothing missing from my life and I don’t have a void that needs to be filled. I have a wonderful budding career, an active social life and am a dog mom to the most amazing fur baby on the planet. What else could a woman want? Talking about adopting a child and having a surrogate mother requires a whole new ball game of thought processes and complications. It’s a topic that should really only be discussed between a woman and her partner or if she initiates the conversation with you. Additionally, genetic testing isn’t always a moral choice for some women and for others, they know this choice exists but may not do it for other reasons, such as that not all genetic disorders can be identified, such as autism.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. I hope this blog post has given some additional insight into the mentality behind someone who does not want a traditional family. Being mindful of your responses to women who do not want children is not only going to make you appear to be more respectful than your average Joe, but will also help you develop a better founded relationship with those you meet who are glad to share in your family joy with you, but don’t wish it for themselves. You might be surprised that when you are willing to respect a woman’s response to the question, that she might be willing to tell you a lot more about it.