KS: " India has a very strong patriarchal culture and I consider myself honestly lucky to have liberal parents"

I am a heterosexual, 30-year-old, cis-gendered female from NJ, USA. I've been thinking seriously about not wanting to have children for the past several years. It seems like something for which I don't have any overwhelming affinity. No very good reason I would want kids, and plenty of reasons (genetics, money, the commitment and responsibility, the annoyance...) that I don't. It just doesn't seem like something that I would want to add to my life. I don't feel feel much of a maternal instinct (unless maybe when it comes to kittens and puppies?). I've heard others say this is normal, and the instinct kicks in once you've actually had a child... but again, it's just not something that I feel particularly interested in developing. 

I think I intellectually understand why others would want children, but it still always shocks me when I hear about someone's pregnancy announcement (as in, "ahh why??").

I have been dating a cis-gendered man for about 3.5 years now and we've talked about not having children. He says he's okay with that lifestyle, but I'm not sure if I believe him. I think he believes it, but I worry that he'll change his mind within a few years. In any case, he has never pushed back about my personal opinions about being child-averse.

My social circle is fairly small and very liberal (not that political ideologies are necessarily correlated with child-having), and I don't think there would be any male or female friend or co-worker that would question or judge my decision. 

I was born in the US, but my parents immigrated here from India in their late 20s. India has a very strong patriarchal culture and also veryyyy much attributes value to a female for getting married (early 20s) and having children. I consider myself honestly lucky to have liberal parents (relative to other Indian immigrants). They have never pressured me to get married or have children and think it's up to me to decide what life choices would make me happy, as long as I am being a generally moral person. This has really freed me from a lot of guilt and pressure that I imagine other ladies may feel coming from their Indian families. It gives me one less factor to have to worry about as I think about this decision for myself. 

I still do feel kind of like a selfish lady. Even though I know I shouldn't. –KS

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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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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

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Nyx: "I don't desire to pass along my hearing disability to a child that didn't ask for it"

I've never really had that great desire to have children, and my maternal instinct is almost nonexistent. But more than that, I don't desire to pass along my hearing disability to a child that didn't ask for it. I remember how cruel children were to me growing up for being different and I do not wish it on any child, not to mention the sheer expense of hearing aids as they are not fully covered by most insurance plans on top of the expense of having children. (For comparison, the type of hearing aids that work are about $5000.00 for a pair). – Nyx

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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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Verna: "Growing up it always looked like fun to be our father - and not fun to be our mother"

Growing up it always looked like fun to be our father - and not fun to be our mother. My relationship with my mother was difficult from the beginning. She was a rage-a-holic and I was her main focus . My point of sanity was in not having children. I never wanted to replicate in any way, shape or form the dynamics my mother and I shared. My mother was a doctor and very much of and in the world. I got married quite young - age 22 - and it was my mother who encouraged me not to marry so young, and not to have children unless it was something I felt I deeply needed and wanted to do.

It was not. 

When I married I now realize that neither one of us talked about having or not having children. It was not a discussion. Then eventually it became clear that we were not moving in that direction. Brad was a sculptor and there was never enough time for his work.

My life was predicated on being childless – the work I did, the career I had – none of that would have been possible with children.

I am an Aunt and it is a role that is extremely important to me.

For my nieces and nephews, they and their parents are the inner circle. They may feel like my inner circle however I am not in theirs. – Verna

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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

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