Brianna: “Since I missed out on so much as a child, I made the choice that I would live for my own happiness at a very young age”

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Hello, I'm Brianna from Melbourne, Australia. I come from a very dysfunctional family. All of my six cousins and my younger brother have had children with partners they weren't fully committed to, and at a very young age (below 25). Some tried to work it out, some didn't. They all have very low incomes, or are living off welfare.

My mother and father divorced when I was eight. My father was never much of a father, even after the divorce, and my mother is still mentally ill from her past and continues to fool medical professionals to this day.

She suffered PPD after many miscarriages and a stillborn. She paid a lot of money to have myself and my brother through fertility treatment, as my father was infertile.

I didn't have a great childhood. My mother tried her best, but we went without on a regular basis. She was very constrictive and controlling. I didn't fit in at school, as I was the poor one, and everyone knew it. I had to work lunchtimes at the school canteen to get a feed. At 16, I had to pay for half of my school camp fees from my part time job and pay registration on a car that I couldn't drive unsupervised, because my mother couldn't afford it.

Since I missed out on so much as a child, I made the choice that I would live for my own happiness at a very young age. I got educated, got out of the rural area I grew up in that had no career opportunities, kept out of trouble and worked hard.

My life at 24 is finally starting to get on track. I have a lovely fiance with Aspergers who shares my feelings on children, I have a great job in a government department and I can comfortably afford a lifestyle with a few extra perks like dinners out and nice holidays.

My fears of becoming a mother mainly stem from my upbringing, and the financial responsibility behind that, but my other reasons include: Fearing I would replicate my mother's actions with my children, not wanting to destroy my body, not wanting additional responsibility (enjoying my freedom), enjoying working and having my own funds, not wanting sleepless nights, being knee deep in poop, pee, vomit, and generally not liking children anyway.

Society is slowly but surely moving away from the notion that a women's worth is only in her children, and it's about time. Self care is not selfish.–Brianna

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Renee: “I wonder if my mother-in-law secretly wonders what's wrong with me”

I'm 39, and I'm still resolutely staying with my IUD, and do not want a baby.

I'm married, and my mother-in-law is Cuban. My husband is the only bio-child of the family, so there used to be some pressure in the past to have kids. My mother-in-law would say, "When you have kids..." when I was engaged to David 5 years ago. I had to tell her several times over the years that I was pretty sure I didn't want kids, and her son was fine with that.

I wonder sometimes if she (and my other relatives) secretly wonder what's wrong with me, but they are polite enough the drop the topic now, and apply the pressure for more babies to my sister-in-law. 

I like my life; I like freedom, having the money to travel, and having time to read, play piano, and go for runs and take care of myself. I like being an aunt, but feel no desire to have my own child. I'm much more at peace with this, which is a hard-earned victory after roughly 7 years of feeling embarrassed and defensive about my vision for my life. –Renee

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Sarah: "I feel like having kids would ruin everything"

I was always a child to be playing with dolls and prams and nappies etc. I never thought I'd get married and have kids, though.

I've always been careful but there was a time not long ago I was very un-careful. I fell pregnant and after some thinking, decided to get an abortion. As soon as I came round I never regretted it.
I felt childfree before that but since I have been more determined with it. I am 25 and though I know I'm young, I know I don't want kids.

I also know I won't be taken seriously. 

I have only just decided on the career I want to pursue, which is nursing and I want to travel to a few places. I also know that I enjoy my free time, being introverted, I love sleep, and I love time with my partner.

I feel like having kids would ruin everything.

I have felt broody a few times, but it's fantasy. When I look at the reality of having kids it really helps me away from the broodiness.

I'm confident that in ten years, no matter where I am in my life, whether I'm a nurse, whether I'm married to my current partner or someone else, I will still be adamantly childfree.

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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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Hannah: "We're incredibly in love & incredibly happy the way our lives are, so why change it?"

Deciding not to have children, for me, was an easier decision than most of my friends & family want to believe. Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a mom, but at 31, my attitude drastically changed & I'm lucky that I'm with someone who feels the same way as I do.

Our views on procreation can make life lonely as we're at that special age where our friends & families lives are consumed with first having children & then raising them. Conversations centre on their hectic lives as parents or questions of "when are you having children," & the subsequent shocked induced "why not?" 

Our decision to not have children is simply based on the fact that we're incredibly in love & incredibly happy the way our lives are, so why change it? We both work regular jobs & enjoy spending time together but also alone. A normal day for us is work, dinner, walk the dog, an hour or so of personal time & an hour or so of time together & repeat. We hope to be able to retire a little earlier & explore the world we live in. Simple. We often ask ourselves, "Where would children fit into our life"?

The question is; why should choosing not to have children deem one as being selfish?

I don't think selfish is a bad word, but an empowering one. One that says take control of your life & do what makes you happy. Everyone's version of happiness is different, for some it's having children for other's it's not & those decisions, of what makes you happy, shouldn't be questioned or chastised.

I'm proud of the life I've built & the choices I've made to get there, & if that makes me a selfish person than so be it. I'll happily wear that hat as I drink my glass (heck my bottle if I want to) of wine, read a good book next to my partner as they read theirs & make plans for a wonderful future together without children but hopefully full of happiness & love. –Hannah Stevens in Alberta, Canada

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JB: "I am a proud guardian of five pet birds, and they give me an outlet for my nurturing side"

I am 48 years old and have known I never wanted children since Elementary School. I recently got married and enjoy my childfree marriage very much. As I look back upon my life, I know I made the correct decision because I would have been trapped in poverty and single motherhood had I decided to have a child; something I never want for myself or the child. I still receive comments from my family, despite my age and disability, that I should have children now that I am happily married. I just laugh and tell them that I would not make a good mother. They argue with me about that, but then I ask them, "How could I make a good mother to a child I never wanted?" I am a proud guardian of five pet birds, and they give me an outlet for my nurturing side. –JB

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A: Why are people offended when I say I'm more interested in furthering my career and travelling the world than having children?

I'm a 26-year-old Photographer's Assistant and one day at work I was talking to some of my co-workers. I work for a woman, and the majority of the people that we hire are a) female and b) have no desire to have children. We sat around one day at lunch discussing why we don't want to have children/don't have children (our ages range from mid 20's to late 50's), and someone made a really interesting point: "Why are people so comfortable with asking if we regret not having children? Should I ask if they regret having children?" 

This popped into my head again while I was at my partner's family get-together. His sister, who had two children at a very young age, his mother, and his aunt (with four children from a young age) were grilling us on when we would have children. They all were surprised when we told them we weren't planning on it and explained that the field of work I'm in doesn't allow much time to dedicate to making a family. I was floored when his aunt explained that we could begin having children when I feel like I have gone as far as I can go with my job.

Why is it expected that I'll give up on my career and then have children? Why was his aunt so offended when I told her I was more interested in making money, furthering my career, and travelling the world? Does it make me a bad person that I don't want kids? –A

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AAH: "The stigma attached to mental illness is as misunderstood as the choice to remain childfree."

 My story has a few different components. 

The first part starts with the fact that I didnʻt like kids even when I was a kid. I never understood why they were so mean to each other, hated school, or misbehaved at home. Instead of playing with dolls and planning my future wedding, I spent my time learning literally every single breed of dog and memorizing the entire endangered species list. I have always had more compassion and empathy for animals than for babies or children. This is often a source of tension at times when I choose to play with my friend's dog rather than hold their infant. 

The second part of my story is that my aunt is also child-free, and happens to be my role model. Growing up, I was so envious of all the trips she took, and she seemed so happy, so I always figured it was okay if I didnʻt want children either. She is now retired, has no regrets, and is living the most incredibly fulfilling life. We are very similar physically and in many other ways, which makes me wonder if the childfree choice has a genetic component. 

Another part of my story is that my husband can't have kids because of an illness when he was younger. That was actually one of the reasons I started dating him! We are perfectly happy with our life, and have nearly twenty nieces and nephews to hang out with when we get the rare urge to spend time with children. One of the misconceptions surrounding the childfree choice is that we dislike children. That is not the case at all, as there is a big difference between *liking* children and *wanting* them. 

The last part of my story is more difficult to discuss, as the stigma attached to mental illness is as misunderstood as the choice to remain childfree. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder since I was young, and this is the primary reason I remain childfree. I am forty years old and am just now coming to grips with this "disease" and how it has affected every aspect of my life, both positively and negatively. I never know how I am going to feel when I wake up, and I often have weeks at a time where it takes every ounce of energy I have to get out of bed in the morning. I cannot imagine having to care for a child during the really bad days. Sometimes I feel like the *least* selfish thing I have done with my life is *not* have a child so they won't have to deal with the mood swings, substance abuse, need for medication and therapy, and all the other baggage that goes along with mental illness. 

Most of my friends are parents now, and can literally not post, think, or talk about anything outside of their family unit, how this is all they ever wanted out of life. I cannot relate at all, and am not very empathetic when they complain about how tired they are. It is lonely and frustrating sometimes, as I am forty years old and my lifestyle hasn't changed much since my twenties, so I have very little in common with people my age. 

I am continually perplexed when people call us selfish for not wanting children, and tired of those sad looks I get that imply I am missing out on something. Yes, I get plenty of uninterrupted sleep at night and can take vacations without much notice or planning...but that just makes me a better employee, wife, neighbor, and friend, with more time and energy to volunteer and make a difference on a larger community and global scale. I always felt destined for something greater than having kids. I recently completed my Master's Degree in Nursing Education, and I travel at any opportunity, which continually fuels my passion for cultural diversity and global health and makes me feel like a more tolerant, well-rounded individual. I don't feel like I am missing out on anything. –AAH

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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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