Marina: "The most dangerous men are the ones who pretend to be OK with my decision but think I'll change my mind with enough time or love"

My story is in direct contrast to the overarching themes in this project, but I'm adding it for another perspective. 

I was fortunate enough to have an extremely supportive family and community, so I have encountered neither pressure nor moral outrage. Up until my mid-20's, I dreamed of having a baby and raising a clever, funny little feminist. But I have health issues and was worried about pregnancy. I considered adoption, but it seemed like an expensive and overwhelming process. That's when I realized that I was more interested in 'having a child' than 'being a parent'. Once the distinction was clear in my mind, I just knew it wasn't going to happen. Luckily, my family was very education- and career-driven and encouraged me to pursue my Ph.D. and an ambitious career. 

I joked about "birthing" my dissertation- an expensive and laborious process. Now with my student debt, I couldn't afford a child anyway, but I'm increasingly happy and certain about my choice. I'm fortunate that in Los Angeles, I have a circle of childfree friends in their 30s and 40s, without whom I would probably feel very lonely. Other people may think I'm selfish, but I've had a handful of honest parents tell me that they love their children deeply, but envy my lifestyle. 

The easiest part is my family–no pressure. My father's large family continues to multiply, but my mother's big family took a turn during her generation. With her generation, it became more important to provide a justification for why they DID want children and were ready for them. Half of her siblings had 1 or 2 children; the other half had none. I don't hear anything from my father's more traditional family. Maybe I get a get a pass because we moved out of the small town into very different lives and feel kind of foreign. Or maybe they judge me with the same standards, but are too polite to tell me about it.

The hardest part is finding a partner. I'm divorced and in my mid-30s. I'd like to get married again, and there are plenty of single men in my city who don't have kids, but many of them want to eventually. I make sure to drop it into the conversation by the 3rd date so I don't waste anyone's time. Thus, I go on a lot of 3rd dates. The most dangerous men are the ones who pretend to be OK with my decision but think I'll change my mind with enough time or love. I've ended two of those relationships already-- one of them I almost married, and one I actually did. –Marina

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.

Marie: "Even from a young age, I equated motherhood with a loss of independence."

I've always known that motherhood wasn't for me. I never played with dolls as a child. For me, make believe meant dressing up in my mother's high heels and father's suitcase and proclaiming that I was going "off to work." Even from a young age, I equated motherhood with a loss of independence. As I got older, I wasn't shy about disclosing that I didn't want children, but that information was generally met with some form of, "you'll change your mind," "you just haven't met the right person yet," or "but who will take care of you when you're older?" Luckily, those arguments never came from my parents, who were older when I was born, and seemed to understand that I didn't have the maternal instinct.

Eventually, around my late 30's, the arguments mostly stopped (though they were sometimes replaced with pitying looks, as though I'd squandered my childbearing years and was now paying the price). I'm now in my early 40's and have become even more outspoken, particularly when it comes to championing girls and young women who say they don't want kids. My niece is 13 and has been saying she's not having kids for the past few years, much to my sister's dismay. I've recently seen more chiildfree older women publicly stating unequivocally that they don't regret their decisions, which makes me feel really good. –Marie Fisher

Do you have a story about navigating the choice not to have children? Share it here.