“Why don’t you want kids?”
If only I had a nickel for the amount of times I’ve been asked that in the last month. Maybe it’s my age (a ripe ol’ 27) or not having seen people in a year, but conversations have been migrating towards settling down and having children more and more lately. Some of my friends have already started a family or are eager to get going, and others, like me, are not planning on having children any time soon, if ever.
When I was younger, I knew I wanted to be a mother with a certainty I had about little else. In tenth grade, we were asked to write about what we aspired to be and I wrote about being a parent. I had a timeline in my head: get married at 25, kids at 26 and 28, potentially more after then. As I was growing up, my career goals changed from marine biologist to lawyer to whatever one does with a rhetoric degree, but the urge to be a mother stayed persistent. Until last year.
I packed up all my shit and moved to Ontario, starting a new path as a graduate student that can potentially last me into my thirties. The timeline I had projected for myself throughout my teens and early twenties became inconsequential. Not only because I am past some of the temporal milestones, but because I can no longer picture how marriage and a family fit into my lifestyle. Right now, I don’t have to compromise what I want for anything or anybody, whether that’s a partner or a child. I get to be selfish, with the freedom to do whatever I want when I want, with no one to answer to but myself.
Many of my friends are choosing to not have children for many of the same reasons as me. A 2021 study in Michigan found that 25% of participants chose to remain child-free. There was a minor pattern of resentment from those with children to those without, and the researchers theorised that it was potentially linked to jealousy over freedoms. There are other studies that show similar findings, though many of them centre around the concept of regret for people who choose to remain child-free.
Which brings us back to the original question, “Why don’t you want kids?” and the inevitable one that follows, “What if you change your mind and you regret it?”
I counter with questions of my own: Why do you want kids? What if you change your mind and you regret it?
Our society is so centered around asking people (mostly women) why they don’t want kids when it seems so much more important to me to ask people why they want kids instead. One of the situations is reversible and the other is not. If I choose not to have children, I have the flexibility to change my mind later on, either by taking action now or through other means in the future, but it’s a smidge tricky to get out of being a parent once you’re, y’know, already a parent. The consequences if I change my mind rest solely on me, whereas if a person with a child decides they made a mistake…well, those stories don’t really end well, do they?
Questions of regret shouldn’t be directed at people who choose to be child-free. Yes, there are “limited” child-bearing years, but there are ways around that. It is incredibly more damaging for people to have children and then regret it. Getting married and having children might be the norm, but we need to start asking why we want to do those things. Is it something we actually want or were we just raised to think so?
At the end of the day, my choice to remain child-free for the indefinite future impacts me alone. Even though I really like babies and children, I don’t want any of my own. My decision might change again in the future, but for now, dog-mom is the extent of my parenting goals. I plan to be the uber-cool aunt who rolls in on holidays with the best presents and lives her best life travelling the world, sans children.