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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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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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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Kate: "Even now, at the age of 57, older men have asked me, 'So was it you, or was your husband shooting blanks?' "

Even now, at the age of 57, older men have asked me, "So was it you, or was your husband shooting blanks?" As if they need an answer, so unable to accept my choice. As if it's their business.

Or, "I'm so sorry. What are you going to do when you get old?' Which sends me off into gales of laughter. As a care aide I've seen older folk with plenty of children who never come to visit them in their homes, or even after they have been put in said care home by their children.

Another one I love is being told how selfish I am. Hm. That one I will never understand. In a world of shrinking resources, poverty, dysfunctional families, how is choosing NOT to bring yet another human being into this world, selfish? Hm.

Years ago my husband and I were called DINK(s). Double income, no kids. Hm. Again the point is? Perhaps the kindest comment came from my hairdresser. A father of five children who once said, 'well if you don't have 'em, you don't miss 'em." I liked that approach. It was accepting and kind with no judgement put on me or questioned of choice.

I was never the kid who wanted to play with Barbie or have a baby that peed water when pressed. Call me silly, but it just didn't appeal. I had puppies and a pony and rabbits and other lovely mammals that showed me what motherhood looked like, but I preferred to do exactly what I wanted. I hit the road at 17 and haven't looked back, and I'm pretty sure I'll be just fine. –Kate

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Jess: "I had my tubes tied when I was in my mid-20's. I had a hysterectomy at age 36 which was the best thing I've ever done."

JessChildfree.jpg

There's never been a time in my life when I've wanted to have my own children. Since I was a teenager I knew I didn't want kids and I had my tubes tied when I was in my mid-20's. I had a hysterectomy at age 36 which was the best thing I've ever done.

When I was younger, people said I'd change my mind, but I never have and I've never regretted it for one minute. My life is so fulfilling with the volunteer work I do for different charities, through looking after my cats and hens who I consider my non-human children and travelling the world with my husband. Also, it's wonderful to be able to do things spontaneously without having to consider the needs of a child.

The odd time I've thought that perhaps if I was ever super rich I would adopt a child, but I don't feel that not having a child leaves an empty space in my life. For anyone to think that being child free is selfish I would ask them why do they have kids? Who does it benefit to bring children into the world? Children don't ask to be born and there are a lot of people who suffer greatly through life. I would never want to bring a child into a world that is already over populated with humans; a world that can be very harsh and cruel.

I do believe that some people have children through pressure from family or society or because they feel that 'it's just what you do.' For anyone thinking that they must have kids even though they really don't want to, I say don't do it! It will be the best thing you've never done! –Jess W

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Gretchen: "The only thing I want in my uterus is tumbleweed...and my IUD"

I like to say that the only thing I want in my uterus is tumbleweed...and my IUD. I'm forty-six, financially stable and in a long-term strong marriage, but there's no way I'd bear a child, and I've known that since my late twenties.

I share some reasons for not wanting to bear children with others. Like many, I'm terribly concerned about the environmental impact of children, especially in the Western world. We are severely overpopulated now, and I can't contribute to that in good faith. And because environmental impacts are changing the planet, I also fear the kind of world I would be handing over, the irreparable damage I would be leaving my child to grapple with. 

My quality of life is lovely and balanced now, too. I enjoy the work I do as a writer and activist. My work as an animal advocate is essential for me. I also thrive on quality time with my husband and friends. And I love the fact that we have the time, money, and flexibility to travel internationally, adopt numerous rescue animals, make significant donations to worthy causes, take in art and performance, relax deeply, and support others in need. 

But the most important reason I will not have kids is an unusual one, though I'm always puzzled that it's atypical. It is simply this: While many feel that the joys of life balance out the pain—at least at certain times of their lives—others simply do not. We wake up day after day after day and deal with what we are handed and what we create. For some, these factors make life itself deeply burdensome. Whatever the cause, the struggle can cause people to lash out at each other, to close off to themselves or others, to end their own lives, to feel profound loneliness, to suffer. 
Because there is no way to determine whether a child of my body would want to be here, I simply cannot make that enormous choice. It would be hubris for me to think I should dictate that he or she must BE, must spend 90 years grappling with life, because I said so. – Gretchen Primack

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Carolyn: "At 38, I have yet to 'change my mind.'"

At 38, I have yet to "change my mind." I've come up with plenty of reasons for not having kids, from mental health to physical health (I have a condition that can cause fertility issues, no idea if I'm fertile as I've never had it checked). The real reason however is simple: I don't want children. Never have, never will. 

I have no maternal drive, no interest in babies or small children and no desire to find out if it really is "different when it's your own child". I am constantly told I am wrong about this, as though other people know my mind better than I do. 

The only regret I have about not wanting children is an inability to really empathise with friends who do, but are struggling. If I'm "selfish" so be it. The population is hardly in decline. I think the world can easily get along without a mini me. – Carolyn

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