Catherine: "My mother had an opportunity to finally be herself, not someone's obedient wife, labouring mother, or dutiful daughter, just herself"

I am 49 and child free. This is probably due to circumstance, rather than choice. I say circumstance because I never persevered with any of the unhealthy relationships I had with men. I did go through a few years of wanting children but I took a clinical approach to my clucky emotions. I recognised that these feelings were merely biological instincts, common to all animal species. Although I had those feelings, it didn't mean I had to act on them. And so I waited for the feelings to pass and they did. Now I am grateful I never had children. In fact, I feel blessed to be child free.

I have always believed that having children by conscious choice is the ultimate in selfish behaviour and that insufficient thought is given to this important decision. I think it's strange that people think it is a self-less act, as if there is some foetus knocking on the front door begging to be let in and the mother, selflessly acquiesces with a long exhausted sigh and says "okay" and takes the parasite in and lets it feed off her for 9 months before she gives birth to it and is then trapped in motherhood legally for the next 18 years, usually for the term of her natural life.

Fortunately for me neither friends nor family have ever questioned my decision to not seek the experience of motherhood. To be honest, I have difficulty comprehending how some women become so fixated on motherhood, as if the very possession of a uterus means that one absolutely must procreate. As if, by becoming a biological mother, they have won a gold medal in the motherhood stakes. As if, by not using the uterus for its intended purpose, they are somehow a failure.

Being child free has given me freedom. The sort of freedom that my mother never had. Many years ago when I was living in the UK my mother came to visit me for 3 months. She said it was the most wonderful thing in the world to have such freedom. An opportunity to finally be herself, not someone's obedient wife, not someone's labouring mother, not someone's dutiful daughter, just herself; to eat dinner when she felt like it; sleep in until she felt like; and do whatever she pleased without restriction. 

I don't want my mother's life, bound and trapped in motherhood. I want freedom, choice, and an opportunity to be me. –Catherine Uí Néill, Melbourne, Australia

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

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

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

Kamalamani: "It never occurred to me that I wouldn't become a mother"

It never occurred to me that I wouldn't become a mother. "I'll have kids by the time I'm 30" I would say when asked. I was 27 when I realised – with a jolt – that I had a choice. I was shocked that I'd been so shaped by pro-natalism that I hadn't even realised I had a choice, despite being an independent woman. So I decided provisionally, just for a year, that I wouldn't have children. I wanted to see how it felt and consider other pathways. That was a disorienting and liberating process! I began researching the subject of elective or voluntary childlessness – I worked as an academic back then.

Turning 30 with no children felt fine; I had a rich working life and a deepening practice of engaged Buddhism. Two years later my best friend Vicky shared the happy news of her first pregnancy. That night my dreams made it very clear that I wouldn't be becoming a Mum - my decision finally made itself. The research morphed into my second book 'Other than Mother: Choosing Childlessness with Life in Mind,' published by Earth Books last year, aimed to support others in this decision-making process.

I feel very fortunate to hold spaces and meet those who are childless by circumstance, happenstance and loss, as well as the childfree by choice. I am finding ways of bridging between the childless and childfree – there's often a huge grey area between the two groups – given that we face the same pronatal forces and are unhelpfully stereotyped. I've lately been encouraging the reclaiming of our longings and legacies as we take our places and become more visible – I long for the day when we're no longer judged because of our choices or circumstances around procreation and we're freer to narrate our own stories. – Kamalamani Palmer

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