Tubes Tied and Selfish
For a progressive culture, the decision to not have children is still surprisingly taboo.
By August Wright, College of Charleston
At 12, I decided I never wanted kids.
I had never had a boyfriend or even so much as hugged a boy, and I had no reason to even think about having kids. But I was and I had decided. For the past 12 years and at every gathering I go to—whether if it’s with family, friends, or other couples—the subject of kids always comes up and here’s what I’ve been told:
“You’ll change your mind. You think you won’t, but you will.”
“Oh, it’s so different when you have your own. You’ll see.”
“Well, I thought I didn’t like kids either… Until I had my own.”
“You’re too young to decide that now, anyway.”
“You don’t know what it is you want.”
“You just haven’t met the right guy. Once you find him, you’ll want to have his kids.”
“Have you decided to have kids yet?”
“I see how you are with your cat. That’s exactly how you’ll be with your kid one day!”
Most of these comments come from people who genuinely care about me, but, for whatever reason, they’re insistent that I’ll one day wake up and suddenly have this bizarre thing called “maternal instinct.” Whatever that is. While I fully anticipate spending the rest of my life telling my mother and my boyfriend’s mother that, no, sorry, kids aren’t happening, I wasn’t anticipating spending that same length of time telling every person that I encounter, no, sorry, kids aren’t happening.
I’m going to try and put all the jokes aside, and speak candidly for a moment. I don’t like kids. In the same way that people dislike cockroaches, bitter tastes and unwanted advances from their married neighbors, I don’t like children. I don’t understand them and I don’t know how to connect with them, and I’m not interested in learning how to do either.
I don’t believe that life is incomplete without children, nor do I believe that my life would somehow become better if I had a child. In fact, most of my nightmares revolve around alien abduction, the Soviets and discovering I’m pregnant. I don’t think it’s coincidence that, occasionally, the dreams overlap and the aliens become children, morphed and greatly disfigured, battling against pregnant, Soviet soldiers.
Okay, I may be exaggerating just a little bit. But the point remains: kids aren’t in my future.
One of the main issues my boyfriend and I face when we talk about not wanting kids is very severe judgment, especially from parents. I think people are more inclined to forgive men for not wanting or for disliking children, but women don’t have this luxury. When my boyfriend says, “I don’t want kids,” the people around him nod sympathetically. When I say it, people begin to argue with me, and the base of their argument is almost always, “You don’t know what you want.” As a couple, neither of us ever receives the sympathetic, understanding nod.
I believe more women struggle with this issue than what they let on. Girls grow up being prepped to become mothers and wives. I don’t know how many college-aged women I’ve met who are so desperate to get married, and to hurry up and graduate so they can begin starting a family. Aside from the crippling loan debt, I can’t think of any other reason why someone would sensibly and voluntarily leave school early, much less to begin a family.
My own judgment toward these girls is just as wrong as anyone else’s judgment of my desire not to have kids. The fact that I’m judging them, they’re judging me and we’re all judging each other for our private choices reflects a larger problem within society. What sort of society doesn’t support both the childless career women and the mothers and the career mothers? Moreover, what does this mutual judgment say about us as women?
After about three dates with my current boyfriend, I turned to him and said, “I’m not having kids and I never will.”
I didn’t tell him this because I was ready to go off and marry him, or because I thought we’d be together forever. I told him this because I didn’t want to waste (yes, waste) my time with someone who wasn’t going to want the same things as me. It’s impossible to be with someone who has vastly different life goals than your own, and it’s wrong to try and convince someone to want the same things as you (meaning, if you don’t want kids, you shouldn’t try to convince your partner that they don’t want kids either, and vice versa.).
In the three—nearly four—years we’ve been together, we’ve talked about our future and what we want to do. Most of our goals revolve around remote jobs that’ll allow us to travel, to live wherever we want and to do whatever we want. My boyfriend’s dream is to one day retire in a seaside village in Japan. Mine is to visit the Valley of Death in Yakutia, Russia, and to live in Siberia—a decidedly bad place for kids unless you’re using them as bait for Siberian monsters.
When I think about kids, I think about my freshmen year of college, which was nearly seven years ago. I had a best friend who suffered from terrible ovarian cysts. She was often hospitalized because of the pain, and some of the cysts were so large, you could see them pressed against her lower abdomen. My friend, who deeply wanted kids, discovered that she would have great difficulty becoming pregnant and would eventually require a total hysterectomy. Her response to this information was to drop out of school to try and have a baby with the boy who’s now her husband. They were successful. My point in recounting that story is to show that there are a lot of different paths in life. My friend chose to leave school and have a baby. I chose to stay, and commit myself to myself and my boyfriend. I want my life to be about just us and that choice, like my friend’s, isn’t wrong or bad or even worthy of judgment. It just is.