Taboo Topics: Choosing to be Childfree

Hi. I am a 25-year-old woman who has no desire to have children now or in the future. I am going to be childless or, to use the term I learned in college and rather prefer, childfree. Shocking! Or is it? In this day and age in the 21st century, is it really all that shocking for young women not to have or want kids?

I only count this as a taboo topic because it is, from what I perceive, still a relevant social expectation that women get married and have children. Oh, you can have a job now, but your real job is to raise a family—that’s what’s at the core of a woman’s worth. It’s what the Bible says after all, that women will be “preserved” through childbearing!

Well now. As both a Christian and a modern woman, I have to say I think this edict is positively medieval and, even more to the point, pardon me, bullshit.

Giving birth to a baby doesn’t make you worthy of being seen as a saint any more than being a sperm donor makes a man worthy of being seen as one either. Having children doesn’t automatically make you a good or bad person, doesn’t make you better than someone else, just like watching horror movies doesn’t make someone a bad person and going to church doesn’t make someone a good person. But then again, the Bible’s got plenty of bullshit in it. There are A LOT of things in there that I don’t believe were inspired by a loving, fair God but more by cowardly, power-hungry, fallible men, and this is one of them, but I digress.

I don’t have a grip on what this expectation is like for young men; I presume they’re asked about when they’re going to settle down and have kids just as much as we young ladies are. The only difference is, that in the past, they didn’t have to to have a fair quality of life. Women come from a background of economic oppression (unable to vote, to own or inherit property, to attend school, to work certain jobs) and sometimes even emotional repression and had to get with a man just to survive, until what, like the 1970s? Wasn’t that the height of women’s lib?

We’ve got a long way to go still—hell, look who got elected as our president—for women and other minority groups to be treated as equals to men and the majority, but we’ve come pretty dang far in 50 years. Scores of women are getting an education. Most women have jobs and dare I say careers. Girls are no longer being programmed by Disney to think they have to wait on Prince Charming to swoop in and save them. They can make a happily ever after happen on their own. Relationships are now a choice. Sex is a choice. Having children (in most cases) is a choice. We don’t have to if we don’t want to because we now have the economic and emotional means (by claiming our independence and inherent resilience) to take care of ourselves.

So why do people still care? Why do people want to control aspects of others’ lives that they have no business trying to be a part of? One of the great mysteries of humanity. I think it has to do with pinpointing what’s different and talking about it. Wondering about it. Feeling superior to it. Feeling sorry for it. Being puzzled by it. Whatever it is, it’s because of some satisfaction someone gets from marking another person as different and therefore separate. People just love putting others into categories—makes it easier to judge them. It’s like an alarm goes off in his or her brain: “Whee-ooh! Whee-ooh! Something different than my own values/beliefs/conceits! Whee-ooh! Whee-ooh! Must react! Must select judgment! Anger? Envy? Confusion? Pity? Disapproval? Select judgment!”

In my experience God likes variety, so people are diverse. We’re not meant to fit one certain category under one certain label. But some people just can’t let it go. Someone even called me an “evolutionary failure” because I’m going against what people were meant to do, which is procreate. Look, I don’t give a damn what evolutionary biology says I’m supposed to; I’m more than a body.

Here, these are my personal reasons I don’t want children:

  • Because I am mentally ill. I have OCD and anxiety and have struggled with profound depression for almost 15 years, and I know some parts of these illnesses are genetic. I do not want to pass this kind of pain and dysfunction on to an innocent child, nor would I want my children burdened with my baggage or to be burdened myself with theirs.
  • Because I’m not in a relationship. There is no man in my life with whom I would consider entering a lifetime commitment that includes children and I would not want to raise a child by myself. My mother was a single parent and I was raised as an only child—I have seen how hard the single parent must work and know the suffering of the child who feels she is neglected because of it. I’m not saying it’s not doable, of course it is, but I have assessed myself as not strong enough to be able to handle both a career and motherhood.
  • Because I identify as asexual. Yes, we asexuals exist. We even have a website (AVEN)! An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction and, therefore, has an extremely low libido or sex drive. For example, when I look at handsome men (or even beautiful women), they please me aesthetically, as in I like to look at them to appreciate their beauty, but never do I feel the desire to copulate with them. To make a baby, you have to have sex. Frankly I don’t want to have sex. Ever. Even the thought of it frightens me and repulses me. I will be content as a clam to die a virgin, and even more content that I didn’t have to experience the pain of my cervix stretching five times its natural width to squeeze out a gooey, screaming little person into the world. Yeah, no thanks.
  • Because of the world we live in. Speaking of the world, I’ve found I’m not too fond of it anymore. Lately, thoughts of suicide have become a cozy alternative to realizing I probably have another 50 years on this frosty, merciless, miserable rock we call Earth (yes, I’m in therapy). My outlook on life has become so pessimistic that the thought of bringing a child into this world actually awakens a ghost-like guilt in my chest. I think I would feel bad for having a child. I would feel like I’d never be able to protect him or her. He or she could get shot at school or at the movie theater or the mall. Fall victim to cyberbullying or date rape. Get killed in one of the wars that always seem to be raging. I’ve heard mothers say the exact opposite, that they want their children here to experience the good in life. Well, from my standpoint the means don’t justify the ends.
  • Because of overpopulation. We have over seven billion people on the planet. Plenty of other people are having children. I don’t need to add to the overcrowding we’re sure to experience in the decades to come.
  • Because I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. To give a short explanation, PCOS means your hormones are messed up, bestowing upon you the lovely gifts of irregular periods (I haven’t had one since August 2016), excess body hair and weight and a bunch of cysts on the outsides of your ovaries. Because it is a hormonal disorder, it is difficult for women with PCOS to conceive. Knowing it’d be extra hard for me to get pregnant just reinforces my desire not to have kids. I’m not going to spend my money on fertility treatments. I’m saving that shit for me!
  • Because I am a selfish, impatient person. I don’t believe I have the maternal spark—I’m compassionate and affectionate but not nurturing. I’m not keen on focusing what little energy my mental illnesses afford me on someone else, and a child should be a parent’s number one priority. Because of the type of person I am and because I have a long-term goal of being a writer, for which I would absolutely sacrifice time spent on trying to have a family, I honestly don’t feel like it’d be fair of me to have a child. Wouldn’t be fair to her or him. So the most unselfish thing a selfish person like me could do is not have any children in the first place.

There are plenty more reasons not to want children. There are also plenty of reasons to want them and many downfalls to not having them, I acknowledge that. I will grow old alone. There will be no phone calls, no visits from grandchildren. No one to help me shower or go to the bathroom when I’m old and decrepit. There will only be silence, the unspoken voices of what and who could have been. I will never know the feeling of what it’s like to be pregnant, never know the intimacies of the miracle of life growing inside me. And, for all my bluster, when I’m feeling particularly depressed and worthless, I do feel like less of a woman for not wanting kids/being virtually unable to bear them. I know it’s not true. I know I can contribute to society without giving the world another person to house, but not being a mom in a world and a generation where it feels like everybody else is makes me feel inferior to them.

So then we just have to look at the positives for not having children: I’ll save myself around $250,000 (I learned on Dr. Phil that that’s about what it takes to raise a kid from birth to age 18); I don’t have to have force myself to have sex (woo hoo!); I don’t have to worry about gaining even more weight and trying to get back in shape after delivery; I get to be in control of my schedule—I can sleep when I want and don’t have to change diapers or go to boring school talent shows; I’ll save myself the worry and grief and pain that inevitably comes with raising a teenager (pssht, I’ve got enough grief, I don’t need anyone else’s). I’ll be free, in other words, to pursue my own interests, responsible for me and only me.

And that kind of freedom is the life for me.

What about you? Do you want to be childfree to? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments below.

-BP

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2 thoughts on “Taboo Topics: Choosing to be Childfree

  1. I think you are right that it is a taboo topic, in a Christianity that’s obsessed with biblical womanhood and pressures it’s daughters to marry as soon as they’re out of school and to have children as quickly as possible, choosing not to is revolutionary. It bothers me to know that some movements in Christianity, such as Quiverfull tell women that their main purpose is to bear as many children as humanly possible and teach every daughter that she has no choice but to marry and bear children just as her mother before her and that her own dreams are nothing and she must pursue her future husband’s dreams. The way I see it, when some lady ends up having over a dozen or so kids, then God’s probably okay with a number of other ladies not having any kids at all.
    Now me, I wouldn’t mind having a kid or two; I’m in great health and I know that the medical problems that tend to run in my family tree can be mitigated by diet and exercise. If I had a son, I’d teach him not to buy into the Christian narrative that he’s more special than women. If I had a daughter, I’d teach her that she is more than just an incubator and comes from a lot of independent women who broke society’s rule long before society realized those rules were unfair and oppressive.
    But as a single Christian, I’ve watched the Church struggle in dealing with me. Since single women outnumber single men in Christianity, there are going to be some women who will have to look elsewhere for a relationship. In one of my churches, I was the only single individual. In others, there were a number of singles, but no organized group for them to meet each other. So I felt shamed for growing a year older each year and still being single and still not having any kids because all my teachers said that that the Bible says that God says that we have got to have kids. But then I realized that some of the major characters in early church history were never mentioned as having had married or kids as a big part of their own stories. I came to realize that complementarian theology had destroyed the narrative of the scriptures and that egalitarian theology seemed to put the pieces back together more accurately.

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  2. Wow, what a great comment, Jamie. Thank you for sharing your views and personal experience. We should never be made to feel ashamed of being single or not having kids hanging off our hips, and I’m sorry you experienced that. You certainly seem to be in control of what you want for yourself, whether or not that includes children, and if it does, I only hope that it comes from your desire to be a parent and not the pressure of a partner or society or the religion you follow. Having the rightful freedom to choose and having that freedom respected is what should be important in this day and age.

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