ESSAY: I Don’t Want Children and That’s Okay

ESSAY: I Don’t Want Children and That’s Okay

Story | Penny Rae Hawkins

Graphics | Emilia Batchelor

“Don’t have a baby if you’re just thinking about it. Have a baby if not having one keeps you up at night.”

My best friend’s mother said this to her co-worker the other day, and I completely agree. To dedicate your life to raising a child takes a level of selflessness not many are fit for. You have to reorganize your entire life and future. At its core, parenthood is the most giving thing you can do.

It’s for this reason and more I do not see myself becoming a parent.  

I was nineteen when I realized I didn’t want children, and this stance hasn’t changed as I approach 24. This doesn’t mean I have a problem with parenthood or children. In fact, I love children and am excited to see the people in my life who want to become parents have kids. When I say I don’t want children, there’s no deeper meaning. Yet, this seems to be one of the most controversial statements I can make. 

Whenever I mention my lack of desire for parenthood, I’m most often met with a combination of disbelief and skepticism, especially from family. This skepticism often comes in the form of the following statements:

“But, you’d be a great mother!”

” You’ll change your mind.”

“There’s no greater joy in life than motherhood.”

“You’ll understand when you have your own kids.” 

I’m going to attack each of these questions one by one, starting with the smug assertion that I’ll change my mind.

I’ve changed my mind on plenty of things, from learning Korean and my opinion of the movie Clueless to ideas like marriage and going to college. I don’t want to completely disregard the thought I could change my mind, but I don’t see myself changing my mind on this one. The closest I’ll come to that is to foster children one day, but that isn’t going to be for a very long time. But, my family thinks I’m going to wake up one day and want to become pregnant with my own child. However, there’s a fatal flaw in that line of thinking: I find pregnancy and giving birth horrifying. 

Becoming pregnant and giving birth is a very natural thing. At least two of my friends are planning to try for their own children within the next two years, and I’m blissfully ecstatic for them. But, for me, the idea of naturally conceiving my own child is…well, inconceivable. I’ve tried, but I cannot wrap my head around it without getting physically nauseous. Perhaps this is a product of my body dysmorphia, but maybe not. Maybe it’s just my body’s physiological response to my deep-seated desire to stay childless, but maybe not. In either case, the fact that this is my immediate response is probably telling. 

Like many others my age, I have set goals and plans for my future. My life pretty much revolves around my career and the parts that don’t revolve around traveling to explore and experience different cultures. To have something slow that down for me would lead to remorse and resentment. More importantly, that being my mindset is truly indicative that I really shouldn’t have children.

And I think that’s okay. 

I’m not going to be a parent, but I don’t have to be to live a fulfilling life. I sleep well at night knowing I’ll never be a parent because I simply don’t want to be. If I do change my mind, I’ll foster older kids and teenagers when I’m older and more settled. But, if I don’t, I don’t think that reflects negatively on me. In fact, I think it reflects well on my sense of self-awareness that I’ve analyzed my goals, desires, strengths, weaknesses and realized changing diapers isn’t right for me.

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