“There comes some pressure in your mid-30s, and you think, ‘Am I going to have kids so I don’t miss out on something that other people really seem to love? Or is it that I really genuinely want to do this with my whole heart?’ I didn’t feel that my response was ‘yes’ to the latter. You have to really want to have kids, and neither of us did. So it’s just going to be me and Ellen and no babies — but we’re the best of friends and married life is blissful, it really is. I’ve never been happier than I am right now.” —Portia de Rossi
To have children or not to have children, a question (and pressure) that hit me like a mac truck when I turned 30. No one prepared me for the barrage of comments, assumptions, and attacks that awaited. I was also not prepared for my own painful ambivalence towards the issue.
This is not a post to defend my decision (and my partner’s decision) to not have children.We have no need to explain how we arrived at the decision to not have children. I also feel no need to say things like, “There are a lot of ways to mother things.” I love my pets, but they are not children. I can leave them unattended for hours with no worry. I love my writing and my work, but I am not mothering them in the same way one mother’s a child.
I fully understand that the pressure to have children is not limited to those of us with partners. In fact, I’ve witnessed people become frantic when faced with a single person in their late thirties that does not have children. The expression, “Time is running out,” seems to slide out of peoples’ mouths without much consideration.
For me, the intensity around this topic turned way up when I reached thirty. I was presented with some panicked responses and some concerned responses. For the most part, the responses were well-intended. There was a period of time where my partner and I took the approach, “If it happens, it happens.” That is really no way for me to make such an important life decision. The thought, “What if it happens” kept sneaking into my mind.
My own ambivalence pushed me back into therapy. I begged my therapist to help me sort through this ambivalence around having children. I felt crazy for not desperately wanting what I was supposed to want. I love my therapist for patiently helping me arrive confidently at my current location. In my relationship with my partner, this involved a lot of honest communication about what we wanted for our lives.
To the shock, awe, and disbelief of some, this does not leave me feeling empty, purposeless, and with regret. I love children. I work with children every day. I love my nieces and nephews. I love watching my friends have children. I love the giggles and the joys these families experience. Most importantly, I love my life with my partner with all my heart.
There seem to be some themes related to parenthood.
-When I hear the phrase, “They don’t understand, they’re not parents” I think two things. One, you are correct. Two, if you want me to understand what life is like for you, please try and explain what it is like for you. I may not understand how it feels, but I can only truly understand my experiences. This leaves a lot of life for me to learn about.
-Each person/couple decides for their own reasons why they want to have children or not. It is not appropriate to assume you understand why. It is also none of your business.
-Some people/couples try desperately for years to have children. Please do not assume all people without children do not want children.
-There are a lot of ways to be parents. If you or your partner gave birth to your child that is incredible. But not every family is created that way. There are adopted families, step-families, blended families, half-siblings, foster families and more than I can list here. There is no hierarchy in terms of,”the best way to be a family.”
My philosophy: Do you love each other? Great! You’re family!
– A couple is a family even without children.
-It is not selfish to not want children. It might be the healthiest decision for the person/couple for reasons you do not know and you do not get to know. And, have you ever met a parent that wishes they had never had children?
-People who do not have children might still know how to love someone unconditionally. Do they know the kind of love a mother knows? I don’t know and neither do you. I’ve known some amazingly loving mothers and I’ve known mothers that have done horrible things to their children. Again, let us avoid making assumptions about what love is or means to an individual.
-I belong to one of the first generations where individuals/couples get to openly decide whether or not to have children. I literally had someone say to me, “You think you have a choice?” I answered, “Absolutely.” I appreciate that this is generational.
-Having children may have been the best thing that ever happened to you. I absolutely believe you and I am happy for you. I also believe that my life can be incredible without that experience.
-Yes, we are missing out on the experience of having children. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have children. Life is full of choices that lead down different paths.
-Some posit that I would be a conservative or have a deeper sense of purpose/faith if I had children. It was my experience working with at-risk youth that solidified my socialistic democratic orientation. Being around children makes me so liberal it’s ridiculous. I want them to have all the money and the resources.
If you feel so inclined to remind me that I do not understand the life of a parent, I hope you are saying this because you want me to understand more about you and your life experiences and not because you want to make me feel badly about my life. I hope you are happy with your choices and I hope you wish the same for me.
“You don’t have to feel guilty or bad for loving your life exactly as it is. You are not weird, broken, or deficient as a woman for not having the desire to be a mother” – My Therapist in 2013