Jenny: "I decided after the second miscarriage in 2001 that I would be ok if I didn't have kids"

I'm 40 years old, I have had 6 pregnancies, all miscarriages. All of my pregnancies were accidents, and although I would have loved any one of those children if they had survived, there is a part of me that feels huge relief and happiness that I'm not a mother. I decided after the second miscarriage in 2001 that I would be ok if I didn't have kids, by the last miscarriage in 2009, I had made the decision that I didn't even want children. 

I have found over the last 10 years when discussing my inability and lack of desire to have kids, I am constantly reassured that it could still happen, and that I am still young, that I shouldn't give up hope, and that I will regret that decision one day. It doesn't matter how much I reiterate that I don't want or need them and that I'm more than ok with the decision. I even had that discussion today with a work colleague. It's like people just don't understand how a woman could possibly CHOOSE not to have kids. 

I am open about my miscarriages and my decision to not have kids, so it really frustrates me when people can't be open enough to accept my decision. 
My partner of 9 years is 10 years younger than me. We've had many discussions about having children, and after spending time with nephews, nieces and friends' kids, he is of the same opinion as me. We enjoy being able to do what we like, when we like, and with who we like. We enjoy each other's company, and living in our house with just us and the cat and fish. We like sleeping in. We like going out. It might be selfish, but we are also ok with that. –Jenny

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Deborah: "My first and enduring role models for the child-free life were...nuns"


There's an irony in hearing Pope Francis pontificate about the absolute necessity of having children. I say that because my first and enduring role models for the child-free life were...nuns. I was lucky to be taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame until age 18. They were the most impressive scholars, finest teachers, and–dare I say–some of the happiest women I have met in life. 

True, there was another set of reasons for my decision. My grandmother had 12 kids and died at 46. She never had a moment to herself. My parents loved and enjoyed us, but working full time as janitors, living in a tiny apartment, made parenting appear overwhelming.

But huge numbers of women with overwhelmed, depressed–even abusive parents–choose to have children. That's why I say that what made up my mind was not saying "no" to motherhood, but being able to say "yes" to a life devoted to intellect, art, sisterhoodspirituality and community service. 

The nuns didn't recruit me; maybe they sensed I was boy-crazy. But their example held strong until I learned the word "Bohemian", thanks to another single woman–our music teacher. I learned one could accentuate one's free spirit, flaunt convention, flounce one's skirts, have adventures, and create a kind of non-family out of kindred spirits met along the way.

I've treated patients–including the very poor and homeless–for 40 years now, and have written 3 books translated into 6 languages, have acted in a community theater, traveled, and had more fun than I sometimes care to admit.

SO! un-holy fathers of Fox News, let's remember that even Charles Darwin acknowledged that the maternal instinct–strong as it is in nature–is NOT the strongest instinct of all. (The migratory is stronger, for example). 

Without "selfish" women like Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Amelia Earhart, Emily Dickinson, Judge Sotomayor, and all the saints and nuns, we would be spiritually malnourished as women. 

If I could start over, I would choose this life again. –Dr Deborah Anna Luepnitz

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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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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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KS: " India has a very strong patriarchal culture and I consider myself honestly lucky to have liberal parents"

I am a heterosexual, 30-year-old, cis-gendered female from NJ, USA. I've been thinking seriously about not wanting to have children for the past several years. It seems like something for which I don't have any overwhelming affinity. No very good reason I would want kids, and plenty of reasons (genetics, money, the commitment and responsibility, the annoyance...) that I don't. It just doesn't seem like something that I would want to add to my life. I don't feel feel much of a maternal instinct (unless maybe when it comes to kittens and puppies?). I've heard others say this is normal, and the instinct kicks in once you've actually had a child... but again, it's just not something that I feel particularly interested in developing. 

I think I intellectually understand why others would want children, but it still always shocks me when I hear about someone's pregnancy announcement (as in, "ahh why??").

I have been dating a cis-gendered man for about 3.5 years now and we've talked about not having children. He says he's okay with that lifestyle, but I'm not sure if I believe him. I think he believes it, but I worry that he'll change his mind within a few years. In any case, he has never pushed back about my personal opinions about being child-averse.

My social circle is fairly small and very liberal (not that political ideologies are necessarily correlated with child-having), and I don't think there would be any male or female friend or co-worker that would question or judge my decision. 

I was born in the US, but my parents immigrated here from India in their late 20s. India has a very strong patriarchal culture and also veryyyy much attributes value to a female for getting married (early 20s) and having children. I consider myself honestly lucky to have liberal parents (relative to other Indian immigrants). They have never pressured me to get married or have children and think it's up to me to decide what life choices would make me happy, as long as I am being a generally moral person. This has really freed me from a lot of guilt and pressure that I imagine other ladies may feel coming from their Indian families. It gives me one less factor to have to worry about as I think about this decision for myself. 

I still do feel kind of like a selfish lady. Even though I know I shouldn't. –KS

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