Becca: "I have started to become quite vocal, standing up for my choice, fighting for it to be accepted as normal"

I've always known I don't want to have kids. The very idea just feels so incredibly unnatural and alien to me, and for the longest time I thought there was something wrong with me, because society teaches us that we're supposed to have kids, that it's the only way for us to achieve true happiness and fulfillment, that we don't know the meaning of true love until we have child that is our own flesh and blood, that we're not complete as women or worth as much if we don't reproduce. But I have found great comfort both online and in my life from like-minded people and now, at 36 soon-to-be 37, I am confident and reassured that I have made the right choice for me and my life.

I've had very few moments of doubt. When they occur it's much more of a fear of missing out rather than actually wanting to procreate, but that feeling has thankfully never lasted more than a couple of hours.

Like so many others, my choice to remain childfree has been questioned and disrespected. I've been told that'll I'll change my mind, that I'll regret it later when my life is all empty and I have no one to take care of me when I'm old. After I got married the questions and accusations got even worse. I've been told I'm robbing my husband of the enjoyments of fatherhood and that I'm immature and selfish. I find the concept of women being selfish for not longing for and succumbing to motherhood ludicrous. Surely, becoming a parent just because it is YOUR wish to do so, completely disregarding the risks of hereditary diseases, the environmental impact or the state of the world your child is brought into and having to navigate and so on, is more selfish? 

With every question and every accusation, I find that I'm getting more and more provoked and I have started to become quite vocal and standing up for my choice, fighting for it to be accepted as a normal and valid choice to make. This has landed me in a couple of heated word-exchanges. My husband on the other hand rolls his eyes at me and has more than once asked "why can't you just tell people we're unable to conceive and be done with it?". But to me it's a matter of principle, and although he is fully supportive of me not wanting to not have kids, I wish he'd back me up in my fight a bit more. - Becca, frontend/mobile developer and graphic designer, Oslo, Norway

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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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Julie: "Often I sit in a foreign country on our travels, lovely husband by my side, wine in hand, and I thank me for being smart"

JulieChildfree

61 y.o. Gold Coast ex-entertainer. Vintage fashion tragic & Francophile. Married happily in January '18, for 40 years. Much to the horror of some , anger of some, and envy of some, I and I alone chose not to have children. Or did I? At no time in my life did it enter my head to give birth. Maternal instinct was tested when a lovely friend asked me to be her birthing partner. "I know you will never be a mum, I would like you to have this experience." Quoting A Chorus Line "Nothing. I felt nothing!" Beautiful baby, an exciting cesarean op to see. Nothing! We lost friends...they were told we weren't suitable to be around...not a good influence. With others, they said we had nothing in common anymore or nothing to offer...not being parents and all.

Any regrets? Mmmm...let me see...Adult children who won't leave home. 
Daughters who didn't listen and have produced numerous offspring in a single mother situation. Drug/Alcohol abuse that has become the "should be retired" parents' problem to deal with...etc.

Regrets...never.

Even the pitying glance when mentioning that you didn't procreate makes me smile. Often I sit in a foreign country on our travels, lovely husband by my side, wine in hand, I thank me for being smart. "You would be such a great mother"...in some one else's dream.

Mother of none. –Julie

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Gwen: "I mistakenly got pregnant, and just KNEW I was not made to be a mommy, so I opted for an open adoption with two wonderful moms"

For years and years, when I mentioned that I have no desire for children, and that babies and I have a mutual distaste for each other in the form of screaming, friends, strangers, family, coworkers, and even bosses would tell me about how "that will change when you have one of your own." I mistakenly got pregnant, and just KNEW I was not made to be a mommy, so I opted for an open adoption with two wonderful moms. They were even present for the birth, and as soon as the girl was born, she went cooing to both of them, instant bonding. Then the doctors decided to bring her to me to see how things would go.... both of us started to scream. They immediately took her back to the adopted moms. So, no, it wasn't any different when it was "my own"!

As an addendum, we are all still in touch, and treat each other like adopted extended family. I send her birthday and holiday gifts, and they do come to visit (and invite me to visit them). I was even in touch with them earlier today! As she has been growing up past baby-hood, we have bonded as a sort of Aunt/Niece relationship, and are both very comfortable like that. And she is very happy with her wonderful mothers. I am grateful every day to have found them. –Gwen

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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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Cynthia: "I am just wired this way. I have no dark confessions, no intellectual reasoning, and make absolutely no apologies"

It started after college. I was dating a man who wanted to know what our future was. He wanted a future with me, but I knew he wanted children, and I didn't. We were young, so it didn't matter at the time, but I knew the topic would resurface again, and it did. He said he never met a woman who didn't want children and he couldn't really understand my choice. I was atypical, I knew it and now he did too. We went our separate ways.

When I did decide to get married, my husband and I were both clear and on the same page when it came to procreating... we didn't want to. Well, it was clear for us, but for family, friends and strangers... not so much.

As many women can probably attest to, when you are in your 20s and 30s, people – and by people I mean everyone – feel free to broach the topic. My response became rote, "I will never say never, but not right now." It seemed to satisfy most of the inquiries, and was much simpler than what I really wanted to say, which was more along the lines of, "I am not having children, I don't want to have children. Stop asking me, it's none of your fucking business." But, I didn't dare. God forbid I made anyone uncomfortable. But that was then, and this is now.

The reality is that I have no definitive answer as to why I chose to be kidfree. I am just wired this way. I have no dark confessions, no intellectual reasoning, and make absolutely no apologies.

Although it hasn't always been easy, I am proud of my decision, and of the fact that I never allowed myself to feel guilt or shame for choosing to not have children, despite societal pressure. Going down a different path, no matter where you are headed, is always a bit bumpy. – Cynthia Hornig, co-founder, Women You Should Know

A version of this story previously ran on Women You Should Know and is republished here with express permission from its author.

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Red Cent: "When I was 18, I made a list of various things I was interested in doing. Kids just didn't make that list."

RedCentChildfree

When I was 18, I made a list of various things I was interested in doing. Today it would be called a bucket list. Kids just didn't make that list. I mean, having them just never crossed my mind while writing it. I've never been against becoming a parent, it's just never been something I felt compelled to pursue. –Red Cent

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Gracie: "Even if I was healthy I still would not want children. I have never had the desire"

I'm 25 with many health issues, including a somewhat rare genetic disorder, hypogamagolemia which makes my immune system basically nonexistent. I used to be paramedic then became a nurse but I had to leave the medical field because of this issue. There is no cure, I find it morally wrong for me to have a child and pass this on. My lifespan is estimated to be shorter because of this disorder. I'm constantly ill.

Furthermore I just have never liked children, they make me uncomfortable and even when I was a kid I knew I never wanted to be a mother. I also have PTSD which I am still trying to handle and am on multiple medications for it, all these medications are known for causing birth defects. If I ever got pregnant I would have to get off my medications which I honestly do not believe I could last 9 months without it. I also have a syncope disorder, when I am ill I lose consciousness even more frequently, this would make for a high risk pregnancy.

Even if I was healthy I still would not want children, I have never had the desire to have them and would rather pursue career goals instead. I have absolute no patience with children and know that I would be a terrible mother. – Gracie

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