Whenever I talk to my mom about this, she always tells me the same story: “Kel, when you were a little kid and someone handed you a baby, you had this look on your face like, ‘What am I supposed to do with it?’ Babies were just never your thing. You loved reading, you loved being alone and making up stories, but you never wanted kids of your own someday.”
Not much has changed, honestly. I’ll be 26 in about one month, and I still don’t want kids. I never have. Many of my friends and coworkers are having babies or have young children already and I love playing with them, but it’s more because I’m joyful that my friends are so happy. It’s amazing to me that these babies are a part of themselves – I love their children because I love my friends. I see the light in their eyes upon looking at their children, the human beings they made. I completely understand the awe – conception is an incredibly beautiful thing. I’ve just never wanted it for myself.
I was at the park yesterday after work and it was very active – many families had gathered for a large barbecue, many of them with young children. I watched them play and interact with each other, saw them fall down and clumsily get back up. I watched their parents scoop them up and give them kisses on their chubby pink cheeks. I was acutely aware in those moments that I felt absolutely nothing. Not a twinge in my heart, not an “aching in my uterus” as a lot of my baby-wanting friends often say – I felt nothing. Though, minutes later a puppy ran by and I almost died from cute overload, so there’s your proof I’m not a heartless monster! No, something else is going on here.
The simple truth is that there are some women in this world who do not want to be mothers. An uglier truth is that we live in a society where admitting that is considered shameful. When you admit that you have no intentions to mother a child someday, people automatically assume many things about you; you’re selfish, you’re career-obsessed, you had a bad childhood, your mother wasn’t a good mother… it sounds ridiculous, but I’ve heard every last one of these assumptions come out of peoples’ mouths when I tell them how I feel about the topic.
The two most common things I hear, however, are these:
“You’ll change your mind someday”
“Oh that’s a shame, I think you’d be a great mother!”
Reading those just now, even though I’ve heard them millions of times each, I had to stop typing and take a deep breath. If you take away anything from this essay, please let it be this: Never say either of those things to a woman telling you she doesn’t want kids. JUST DON’T DO IT.
Let’s start with, “You’ll change your mind someday.” Maybe it’s true – people change their minds all the time. Hell, as sure as I am, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that I might change my mind someday. That does not negate the fact that right now, I am telling you that I do not want children. Don’t assume you know better than the person speaking, that you have some secret insight into the workings of her mind just because she’s a woman and that’s how all women operate. If a woman tells you she does not want babies, perhaps try asking her what other life goals she has, rather than projecting your desires onto her. You may learn something interesting!
And finally, the absolute worst in my opinion, “Oh that’s a shame, I think you’d make a great mother!” Despite the fact that this is supposed to be a compliment, I personally feel this is one of the most sexist things you can say to a woman who is expressing her feelings about not wanting children. What the speaker is likely trying to say is that you are a good friend and that you take care of others well. What the woman is hearing, however, is that despite her expressing the opinion that she’d like to do other things with her life, all you can think to say is that she’s missing an opportunity to mother a child because all women who can conceive should be mothers. Let me tell you something – I am the only one who gets to make the judgment of whether I’d be a good mother. It’s as simple as that. And another thing, no one asked you!
As I hope anyone who knows me would understand, I am certainly not against motherhood in general. My siblings have 7 children between them, and I adore them each to bits. Some people, from very young ages, can’t wait to have families of their own. I think that’s wonderful! I am at the age where many of my friends discuss babies and families frequently, and it does not bother me one bit. I love seeing people make their dream lives come true. It’s just that my dream life looks a little different, and I think that’s perfectly okay.
I have dreams of someday helping eating disordered people escape the hell that I lived in for 10 years – maybe open a low cost rehabilitation center where anyone is welcome, despite their insurance situation. I have dreams of publishing books on eating disorder recovery, body positivity, and self love. I have dreams of running my own company someday, and inspiring others to follow their professional passions. I have dreams of seeing the world and learning about as many cultures and ways of life that I can. I have dreams of bettering myself as a person and becoming the best friend I can be, the best partner I can be, and the best person I can be. I have dreams of a very fulfilling life.
People with children can do all of the above and more – I just prefer to do it alone. I truly hope that someday, when women say they don’t want to be mothers, people will ask with sincere interest, “What are your dreams and passions?” Next time you find yourself in that situation, try it out. I guarantee the conversation will go better.