Brianna: “Since I missed out on so much as a child, I made the choice that I would live for my own happiness at a very young age”

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Hello, I'm Brianna from Melbourne, Australia. I come from a very dysfunctional family. All of my six cousins and my younger brother have had children with partners they weren't fully committed to, and at a very young age (below 25). Some tried to work it out, some didn't. They all have very low incomes, or are living off welfare.

My mother and father divorced when I was eight. My father was never much of a father, even after the divorce, and my mother is still mentally ill from her past and continues to fool medical professionals to this day.

She suffered PPD after many miscarriages and a stillborn. She paid a lot of money to have myself and my brother through fertility treatment, as my father was infertile.

I didn't have a great childhood. My mother tried her best, but we went without on a regular basis. She was very constrictive and controlling. I didn't fit in at school, as I was the poor one, and everyone knew it. I had to work lunchtimes at the school canteen to get a feed. At 16, I had to pay for half of my school camp fees from my part time job and pay registration on a car that I couldn't drive unsupervised, because my mother couldn't afford it.

Since I missed out on so much as a child, I made the choice that I would live for my own happiness at a very young age. I got educated, got out of the rural area I grew up in that had no career opportunities, kept out of trouble and worked hard.

My life at 24 is finally starting to get on track. I have a lovely fiance with Aspergers who shares my feelings on children, I have a great job in a government department and I can comfortably afford a lifestyle with a few extra perks like dinners out and nice holidays.

My fears of becoming a mother mainly stem from my upbringing, and the financial responsibility behind that, but my other reasons include: Fearing I would replicate my mother's actions with my children, not wanting to destroy my body, not wanting additional responsibility (enjoying my freedom), enjoying working and having my own funds, not wanting sleepless nights, being knee deep in poop, pee, vomit, and generally not liking children anyway.

Society is slowly but surely moving away from the notion that a women's worth is only in her children, and it's about time. Self care is not selfish.–Brianna

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Renee: “I wonder if my mother-in-law secretly wonders what's wrong with me”

I'm 39, and I'm still resolutely staying with my IUD, and do not want a baby.

I'm married, and my mother-in-law is Cuban. My husband is the only bio-child of the family, so there used to be some pressure in the past to have kids. My mother-in-law would say, "When you have kids..." when I was engaged to David 5 years ago. I had to tell her several times over the years that I was pretty sure I didn't want kids, and her son was fine with that.

I wonder sometimes if she (and my other relatives) secretly wonder what's wrong with me, but they are polite enough the drop the topic now, and apply the pressure for more babies to my sister-in-law. 

I like my life; I like freedom, having the money to travel, and having time to read, play piano, and go for runs and take care of myself. I like being an aunt, but feel no desire to have my own child. I'm much more at peace with this, which is a hard-earned victory after roughly 7 years of feeling embarrassed and defensive about my vision for my life. –Renee

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Sophia: "One partner I had been dating for over three years deliberately tried to get me pregnant"

I always knew I didn't want to have children. I never played with dolls, mostly stuffed animals, and I was never their mother, they were all my friends. Now that I am in my forties I have found that my closest friends are child-free professional women or gay men. 

I've never felt that I could truly express why I don't want children for fear of offending friends and family. My mother thought I would change my mind, eventually. "Who will take care of you when you're old?" is what my parents say. Clearly, they have that in mind for me. I will give up my life as a professional college educated woman and go take care of my elderly parents back in a small town in Mexico when the time comes. I am dreading that day.

I've finally found a partner who sincerely doesn't want kids, no secret agenda, pressure etc. In the past I've had to end long term relationships because they really didn't take me seriously. One partner I had been dating for over three years deliberately tried to get me pregnant. He just didn't pull out, sorry to be crass. He said something like "Oh come on would having a kid with me be so bad?" I was really pissed and made him go with me to pay for the Morning After pill. We walked to go get it, and when told him to go in and buy it, he responded with, "This is my neighborhood people know me." I said "You're 33 yrs old are you kidding me!"  Things were never the same and we broke up quickly after.

Years later I feel like it was an ego thing. Why would I not want to have his child? Lucky me. This is probably how most children are born: with an oops and some fantasy of how wonderful it could all be. Like Elizabeth Stanton famously said after meeting a man boasting eight children, "I have met few men worth repeating eight times."  –Sophia, 43, first generation Mexican-American, Los Angeles.

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Megan: "Given the issues we face as a species, having children because you want them doesn't seem like a good enough reason to have them"

During a job interview, I was asked what I believe that no one else believes. I said, "Given the issues we face as a species, having children because you want them doesn't seem like a good enough reason to have them."

That's what seems selfish to me. We can't ask people whether they want to exist or not–how is choosing for them based on one's own preferences not selfish? Given that the suicide rate is climbing so high that it's actually lowering the life expectancy of middle-class white people in America, the question of whether or not a person wants to exist seems as imperative to ask as it is impossible to ask. To be fair, I made the choose not to have children based on my own preferences: I don't like children, the sound of babies crying gives me panic attacks, I don't believe I'd be a good mother (in large part because I don't want to be one). 

It seems the opposite of selfish to admit that. Kids are excellent perceivers; they can pick up on whether they are wanted and loved or not. I know what it's like to perceive (or believe) you're not wanted. I grew up in a very emotionally isolating family, probably because my parents didn't have the emotional things kids need. So now I, in turn, do not have what kids needs to become healthy adults. It would be selfish of me to have kids anyway, knowing that I don't have what it takes to be a mother.

Such an admission is not a failure. I'm not sad or sorry about not being capable of being a mother. I've known since I was six that I didn't want children. The patronizing comments of adults–"you'll change your mind when you're older" or "you'll want them when you meet the right person"–turned out to be wrong. I'm 31, happily married and couldn't be more sure that my decision not to procreate was the right one. My husband and I are enough for each other.

(By the way, I didn't get the job.) –Megan

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Sam M: "Although being a stepmum wasn't really on my radar, it has been brilliant and such an education"

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I grew up in a Mormon family in Australia in the 70s and 80s. So having kids (lots of them and starting young), was a big feature. On my 16th birthday my mum sat me down and said "it was time I thought about getting married and having children." Every part of me recoiled in horror at the thought of it. But it was a useful conversation, because it crystallised what I'd kind of known already for years - having kids was not for me. 

I was all but openly ostracised by the church members for my non-conformance, which helped bring about a merciful end to religion being a part of my life.

When my boyfriend proposed at the age of 23, I was very honest and gave him multiple opportunities to back out. But he insisted it was fine. Fast forward ten years and it wasn't really fine for him any more, and he is now a happily married father with someone else. I'm glad he got that chance, I would hate to have taken it away from him.

My career has always been in leadership roles, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to use my nurturing, caring and developing skills on many generations of 'children' who have gone on to become amazing, successful humans in their own right.

I have also found a wonderful man who has 3 kids from his first marriage. Although being a stepmum wasn't really on my radar, it has been brilliant and such an education. 

Now at 45, I love all the children in my family and friendship group, and I am super proud of all my 'work babies.' I wouldn't change a thing.

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Mary: "I chose not to be a parent because I don't want to scar a child. I struggle with my scars today as a 30-year-old woman"

I can remember vividly what it was like to be a child. Discovering my weaknesses, figuring out what I was good at doing. Mostly what it was like to grow up in a volatile environment. My mom was bipolar and my dad was mostly at work. It felt like he preferred to be at work. When he was home he drank a lot.

I can remember not wanting to be "the mom" when we played house. I wanted to be a sister or daughter. My model of a woman was my mother and as far as I was concerned I didn't want to be a woman. I wanted to stay a girl. I didn't want a husband because I didn't want a man to yell at me and call me names all the time. Being an adult seemed like the most awful thing in the world.

I take offense when people say that having children is knowing love. I already know love and empathy, more than I can handle. I look at my nieces and nephews and can understand their disappointments and their sadness. I don't understand when my sisters do the same things to their kids that my parents did to us. Things that hurt and scarred us.

I chose not to be a parent because I don't want to scar a child. I want to mentor and build up children. I feel like parents overlook and brush off their children's needs and fears. I struggle with my scars today as a 30 year old woman. I can't fathom a scared child somewhere feeling worthless and unloved. –Mary

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Lenore: "I got through the years of friends having children and thought all that was behind me only to find it's starting again with a wave of grandkids"

Is it selfish not to want to have kids? Sometimes, it's selfish to have them. Leaving aside the planetary concern about there just plain being too many of us, what about the personal tragedies when children are brought into extreme poverty, violence or ill-health?

Maybe I am not in the best position to write about this as I knew from very early on that I had no choice about whether or not to have children. There were mental health issues in the family that no one could tell me would not be perpetuated if I did take the plunge and let nature take its course. My reason for not having kids is definitely not part of a laugh-riot conversation, and it doesn't go down well over cocktails, so generally I don't talk about it. But that doesn't stop others from surmising. The supposed truth about why I did not have kids has run the gamut from 'You're too involved with your career' to 'I'm sorry you didn't find the right guy'. 

But I have to say, the thing that upsets me the most about not having kids is the number of mostly female friends who, even though they know the truth about why I did not have kids, are insensitive enough to give me books about the rewards of having children, recommend poems about the joys of pregnancy, or simply tear me up inside by going on and on about how wonderful life is because of their kids.

I got through the years of friends having children and thought all that was behind me only to find it's starting again with a wave of grandkids. Be still my sticky heart covered in the candy-coated fingerprints of other people's grandkids. Despite the toffee treacle, I try not to be selfish about it and bring others down. –Lenore

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The Selfish World Traveler: "A common refrain in my Jewishly observant high school was not whether one would have kids, but rather *how many* kids you wanted."

Growing up in a family of five children, I always assumed that one day I would have kids. 

A common refrain in my Jewishly observant high school class (all girls) was not whether one would be married and have kids, but rather *how many* kids you wanted. I always settled on four kids (because five was clearly too many) never pausing to consider whether I really wanted kids or not. 

My high school classmates and friends started getting married and reproducing soon after high school. I, being a good friend, was always privy to the inner workings of giving birth and taking care of infants. Changing diapers? Check. Hearing horror stories about birth? Check. Observing how unfair it seemed that men went off to work and had life outside the family home, while women were at home with piles of laundry and screaming kids? Shockingly still in the 21st century? Check, check, and check. 

Then there was my own family background. My parents were stuck in an unhappy marriage (still are), and us kids bore the brunt of it. So there was yelling and screaming, abusive punishments, instances of running away from home, and many, many unpleasant memories. 

Family and children was never something I associated with happiness. 

Many years later, I got married to a wonderful man, and friends and complete strangers immediately started asking when we would be having kids. I hated getting that question. It immediately got my hackles up, every single time, and a whole bunch of people were told to back off, not yet and it's none of their business. I knew I definitely did not want kids immediately, yet still assumed I would, eventually. Just not yet. 

A couple of years later, when I was about to turn 30, I was *sure* that my biological clock would start ticking and I would start wanting kids. The same happened when I turned 34 (the age my mom was when she got pregnant with me) and 35 (the last chance before I started to get geriatric, in child-bearing terms).

My biological clock remained as silent as the tomb, and that's been the case until this day.

I don't know if it's my unhappy childhood and family life (my therapist certainly thinks it is), or if it's being aware of how difficult parents have it, or the fact that both I and my spouse value our freedom and our selfish, peaceful life. We travel the world, enjoy each others' company, have hours of quiet time alone in the evenings, and we have a cat. I often joke that it's much easier to leave a cat at home and take off, whereas leaving a child alone is frowned upon. 

I'm now 37, and still as convinced as ever that I don't now or ever will want kids. My selfish lifestyle is pretty good. –The Selfish World Traveler

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Maureen: "I promised I would never have a child of my own even though I loved babies and the children in my extended family"

When I was 21 years old, I asked my to doctor sterilize me. He was a new doctor. One I was sent to by a Catholic hospital because it's against their policy. I thought I was going to have to fight. But surprisingly he said yes with out hesitation.

When I was 12 years old my hip dislocated while I was laying on my couch. The pain was unimaginable. My mom is a nurse. She didn't know why it happened but she understood it did and rushed me to the hospital. But by the time we got there I was fine. How odd? We came to find out from my estranged father that I had been born with a genetic disorder that was now rearing its ugly head.

My childhood was turned upside down. I was taken out of gymnastics class. I was crushed. I loved gymnastics and I was great! Party because of the flexibility caused by the disorder. At that moment I promised I would never have a child of my own even though I loved babies and all the younger children in my big extended family. I went on with my life mostly uninterrupted. Except for a dislocation here and there. As I grew up I watched my sister and cousins with the same disease reproduce and give their child a 1 in 2 chance to have the disorder.

Anytime I mentioned my desire to NEVER have my own children I was met with hostility or disgust or dismissed because of my young age. I never stopped liking children and I never changed my mind. When I was younger I thought I would have a baby if I didn't have Ehlers-Danlos but as I got older the thought drifted further and further in my mind. I decided I really didn't want children.

When I was 19 I started to have really bad back and hip pain. My dislocations were a few times a week. By the time I was 21 they where multiple times a day and the pain was chronic and pretty much EVERYWHERE! All of my joints and all of my back. Over the next 2 years I was put on a cocktail of pills. I'm 23 and currently have 6 prescriptions and take 14 pills a day every day. I was in a committed relationship when I was 21 and I was on birth control but had seen too many unplanned pregnancies in my family. Some while on birth control. In my big family I was the 2nd 21-year-old ever to not have had a baby. I decided it was time to get my tubes tied. To my surprise my doctor said yes without hesitation. A month later it was done.

For the first time in my adult life I went off birth control. Even people with the same disorder struggled for years to find a doctor like I did. Some more worse off then me. My family finally accepted that fact that I wasn't having children. But then I turned around and realized it wasn't just them. It was the entire world. I naïvely thought we were past this as a society. I watched as the glass ceiling moved further and further away. Every time I was told how sad it was that I would never have children. How my life would never be complete without them. How my fiancé was going to leave me eventually. How I was selfish. How I'm not allowed to be close to my pets because they are not little humans.

I looked towards others that shared my opinion of not having children. And found a whole other kind of hate. Those who hate children and the parents who decide to have them. I left the group and found somewhere I belonged. A Facebook group call Childfree Hate Free. I hope one day we can all have a childfree hate free discussion. Because hating is not the answer. We just want some common decency on the choices we make about our own body. –Maureen

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JB: "I am a proud guardian of five pet birds, and they give me an outlet for my nurturing side"

I am 48 years old and have known I never wanted children since Elementary School. I recently got married and enjoy my childfree marriage very much. As I look back upon my life, I know I made the correct decision because I would have been trapped in poverty and single motherhood had I decided to have a child; something I never want for myself or the child. I still receive comments from my family, despite my age and disability, that I should have children now that I am happily married. I just laugh and tell them that I would not make a good mother. They argue with me about that, but then I ask them, "How could I make a good mother to a child I never wanted?" I am a proud guardian of five pet birds, and they give me an outlet for my nurturing side. –JB

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Jo: "My grandmother's misery have been a strong warning of the risks of having children because society wants you to."

My grandmother did not want children at all. She was a brilliant administrator, fundraiser, and business woman who did amazing things for the hospital she worked at, and was a wonderful mentor to many of the women there. But because of the times, she was also forced to have children, and they suffered for it. My mother and her brother had very unhappy childhoods, and it was always clear that their mother would rather do anything else but be their parent. 

My mother was a wonderful mother, but she wanted children so badly she would have to excuse herself to weep uncontrollably in the bathrooms at work when a coworker announced a pregnancy and she still had none. She used to ogle the babies in strollers at the zoo, and ignore the animals. 

I have never particularly been interested in having children. My mother's desires to be a mother have been a strong guiding light in how to identify and pursue a passion. My grandmother's misery and the damage she inflicted on her children have been a strong warning of the risks of having children because society wants you to. 

There are plenty of people in the world. I am happy mentoring the next generations, teaching, and being the safe auntie my friends' kids can come to with questions too embarrassing to ask mom. –Jo

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JJ: "I think my mother was not so much pissed off I wasn't giving her grandchildren, but that I refused to have the burdens and lifestyle she had."

I'm 61, live in the Poconos, PA, divorced, retired Purchasing Agent for big international electronics companies. I live with four dogs on a mountainside filled with books and art supplies which gives me lot's of time to meditate and reflect on things. This project got me thinking about things I haven't thought about in years. 

I think my mother (and many other mothers) are not so much pissed off that we who remain childless by choice are not "giving them grandchildren," but that we refuse to have the burdens and lifestyle that they had. They want to see us suffer just as they suffered so they will feel vindicated in their bitching about how hard it was to raise us. My mother used to wish twins on my sister and I as a form of punishment for "what we did to her." Misery loves company.

My mother actually told me when I was a teen that she never wanted children, that she only had them because "her husband and parents expected it of her." I don't have to tell you that what a bitter, selfish, crappy, self-involved mother she was, do I? Funny thing is my sister had two kids, and neither my sister, husband, kids, or the way they way they raised the kids were ever good enough for my mother and father anyway!

My mother felt she never had a choice or a voice in the matter. I think that it wasn't until the 60's and the pill, that women even considered that they could postpone or not have kids. I don't think it crossed my parents minds not to have kids, or that having kids they obviously didn't want would screw up the kids. 

I was so afraid I would be like them and hurt my children the way they hurt me I had decided not to have kids by the time I was sixteen. Not because I was selfish, but because I was afraid I'd do to a child what was done to me and my sister. Selfish was later, in my twenties and thirties when I decided that having a job and a place to live were more important than having kids I couldn't support, physically or emotionally.

The thing I find really strange is that by law, you have to take classes and pass a written and practical test to drive a car, and if you fail you can't drive...but millions of clueless people have babies every year with no idea how to raise healthy, happy children. You have to be 21 to drink because you aren't adult enough to have a beer, but it's ok to have a baby you didn't want or plan on? 

I will have crosses burning on the lawn in no time, but I blame religious zealotry and hatred for a lot of the reproductive malice and injustice of the world, not just in America. Your religion WANTS you to have babies, whether or not you can afford them, are capable of loving, raising, feeding, housing or clothing them. We need to have more of our faith/nationality!! We need to hold the hoards of non-believers at bay by increasing our numbers!

Italy and Russia are bribing citizens now to have babies. Portugal penalizes people who have no children with higher taxes. I read an article that said, "virtually every industrialized country has financial incentives to encourage procreation—tax deductions, family support programs, bonuses for children, etc. And yet fertility rates have been declining in virtually every industrialized country." That scares the pants off religious and political leaders. When women, especially in third world countries, start saying no to kids, they start saying I want to go to school, I want a job, I want choices, I am not a piece of property. That really puts a wrench in the works. 

So you see, we who are childless by choice are a small number of independent thinkers that threaten civilization to the core. If our "mental illness," our "selfish behaviors, our saying NO spreads, it could topple the world. –JJ

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Verna: "Growing up it always looked like fun to be our father - and not fun to be our mother"

Growing up it always looked like fun to be our father - and not fun to be our mother. My relationship with my mother was difficult from the beginning. She was a rage-a-holic and I was her main focus . My point of sanity was in not having children. I never wanted to replicate in any way, shape or form the dynamics my mother and I shared. My mother was a doctor and very much of and in the world. I got married quite young - age 22 - and it was my mother who encouraged me not to marry so young, and not to have children unless it was something I felt I deeply needed and wanted to do.

It was not. 

When I married I now realize that neither one of us talked about having or not having children. It was not a discussion. Then eventually it became clear that we were not moving in that direction. Brad was a sculptor and there was never enough time for his work.

My life was predicated on being childless – the work I did, the career I had – none of that would have been possible with children.

I am an Aunt and it is a role that is extremely important to me.

For my nieces and nephews, they and their parents are the inner circle. They may feel like my inner circle however I am not in theirs. – Verna

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