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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny: "I decided after the second miscarriage in 2001 that I would be ok if I didn't have kids"

I'm 40 years old, I have had 6 pregnancies, all miscarriages. All of my pregnancies were accidents, and although I would have loved any one of those children if they had survived, there is a part of me that feels huge relief and happiness that I'm not a mother. I decided after the second miscarriage in 2001 that I would be ok if I didn't have kids, by the last miscarriage in 2009, I had made the decision that I didn't even want children. 

I have found over the last 10 years when discussing my inability and lack of desire to have kids, I am constantly reassured that it could still happen, and that I am still young, that I shouldn't give up hope, and that I will regret that decision one day. It doesn't matter how much I reiterate that I don't want or need them and that I'm more than ok with the decision. I even had that discussion today with a work colleague. It's like people just don't understand how a woman could possibly CHOOSE not to have kids. 

I am open about my miscarriages and my decision to not have kids, so it really frustrates me when people can't be open enough to accept my decision. 
My partner of 9 years is 10 years younger than me. We've had many discussions about having children, and after spending time with nephews, nieces and friends' kids, he is of the same opinion as me. We enjoy being able to do what we like, when we like, and with who we like. We enjoy each other's company, and living in our house with just us and the cat and fish. We like sleeping in. We like going out. It might be selfish, but we are also ok with that. –Jenny

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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