To have or to not have kids? That is the question. These days, more and more women are making this choice, so Stuck On You sat down with a few of them to find out why.
The following interview about the conscious decision to not have kids is based on real conversations with real people. It is designed to complement our previous article about maintaining connections with friends who have made the decision to not have kids.
For the purposes of protecting their privacy, the women have been renamed in either a Golden Girls or Kardashian style (which were chosen entirely at random and not at all indicative of the author’s most recent TV viewing habits).
The language has also been cleaned up—the filthy mares.
ME: So, ladies, I’ve brought you all here today to have a little discussion. You see, I’ve been tasked to investigate the reasons why more and more women are choosing to not have kids.
MAVIS: Sorry, Crew Captain, no time to chat. I’m actually trekking in the Andes right now.
DOROTHY: I’m in the middle of a five-hour spa session, after which I’ll go buy a slinky new dress that my hot Tinder lover will rip straight off me before engaging in a lengthy lovemaking session.
BETTY: And I’m cooking up a batch of quinoa and elderberry cookies for legless orphaned piglets.
ME: Oh … right. Rub in your fantastic meaningful lives why don’t you.
MAVIS: Kidding, Cap, we are doing totally normal things, just like you. You need to stop glamourising our lives! I’m not in the Andes. I’m in my trackies watching Love Island and squeezing out ingrown hairs.
BETTY: And I’ve got a work deadline to think about. Though I really ought to bake those cookies for the orphans…
DOROTHY: Well, I really am seeing Rodrigo tonigh—
MAVIS (crossly): Oh, shut up.
ME: Ladies, ladies, pipe down! Let’s get back to the reason I have you all here. I want to know why you’ve decided to not have kids.
MAVIS: Can I get this off my chest first? It piffles me off that I need to constantly justify why I don’t want children. It’s like people want to force me to admit that I’m selfish, or a career witch, or secretly barren. Terrible word by the way, barren. In my case, all those things may be true. But why do I have to say it out loud to a complete stranger?
DOROTHY: So, Mavis—and you can’t get mad at me for asking because I’m one of you—what exactly are your reasons for choosing to not have kids? Apart from being a selfish baby-eating career witch?
MAVIS: Hey! Who said anything about eating babies? Anyway, I simply don’t like children. Full stop. They’re noisy, they’re messy and they’re expensive. Why anyone would purposely make one is beyond me.
BETTY: I don’t think I ever told you girls, but Alf and I could’ve had a child. About ten years ago, we decided to stop using contraception. It was more out of laziness and cheapness, but there was also this unspoken thing between us of “If it happens, it happens.” I can’t speak for Alf, but for me, it was honestly fifty-fifty. Like we could’ve tossed a coin and I’d be equally happy with either outcome—baby or no baby. As it turns out, here we are ten years later and no baby.
ME: So, what about now? Would you be happy if you fell pregnant tomorrow?
BETTY: Oh good golly, no! Could you imagine? I’m so set in my ways now. The idea of a baby disrupting the life Alf and I have built together, my job, our lovely new furniture … I don’t know … I guess each year that passed without a baby, I got more and more used to the idea of the choice to not have kids to the point that I now actively don’t want any. Ever.
MAVIS: Whereas I’ve always known I was happy to not have kids. I’ve hated kids my whole life, even when I was a kid. I don’t want to so much as talk to them until they reach a vaguely interesting age. Like thirty-five.
ME: So, back to you, Bets. Are you and Alf still, erm … riding bareback? Because you’re still young enough to conceive naturally, you know? What if you have an accident?
BETTY: Well, yes, good point. But … I mean ten years of unprotected sex and both of us being north of forty… surely if it hasn’t happened by now…
MAVIS: You really should be careful. Get that dirty hornbag Dorothy to hook you up with the goods. Oi, Dot, give her some of your condoms!
BETTY: And you know what else is weird?
ME: You mean, apart from the fact that Dorothy just gave you some of her condoms?
BETTY: Yes, apart from that. I think Alf has been hinting that he’s interested in having a child…
ME: Actually, no, that’s not weird at all! I’ve noticed that pattern lately in heaps of couples I know, where the woman is reluctant but it’s the man who’s the one pushing to have kids.
MAVIS: Oh, please. Of course he is. Women’s lib has not fixed everything. The fact is, it won’t be HIS career that’s interrupted or HIS life put on hold, or him who has to be the one who pushes the thing out of his—
ME: I’ll stop you right there.
KHLEMENTINE: Speaking of that—and this wasn’t the biggest factor for me in my decision to not have kids—but a part of me was relieved that I wouldn’t get the saggy boobs or caesarean scars. Not to mention the loss of bladder control. And isn’t having sex after childbirth like throwing a sausage down a highway?
OTHERS: (Look at CREW CAPTAIN questioningly)
ME: Well … I mean … come on. It doesn’t happen that way for everyone. And it’s totally worth it anyway … *cough*
MAVIS: You don’t sound convinced.
KHLEMENTINE: I’m not totally shallow, but the idea that my body would no longer be mine was weird.
Anyway, the proper reason I don’t have kids is simply a complete lack of maternal instinct. I’ve never had it and likely never will. Like, when I was little and got a new doll for Christmas, there was no excitement and I never bothered playing with it. Even my little brother managed to pay it enough attention to draw it a penis and cut off its head. And it’s not like I was rejecting gender stereotypes or anything like that either. I still loved getting pretty dresses or nice tea sets.
DOROTHY: I was a bit the same. I didn’t hate getting dolls, I was just indifferent to them. If I did play with them, I wouldn’t treat them like my babies or anything. They would be expected to get their own food and entertain themselves.
ME: I get you. I wish my kids did that too.
DOROTHY: I love my nieces and nephews, but I also love giving them back at the end of the day.
MAVIS: I barely know mine. I think they’re scared of me. Not that it stops my sisters from insisting I spend time with the little horrors because poor lonely Aunty Mavis must be wanting to fix the empty childless hole in her life. Either that or they see me as a free babysitter because, clearly, I have nothing better to do. Yech!
KHHALEESI: Back to your point, Betty, Khaz and I are in a similar boat except that, being a lesbian couple, getting pregnant by accident isn’t a risk for us. We need to want a baby in order to have one. The only problem is, like you guys, neither of us wants one that badly anymore.
And sometimes I curse how much reproductive technology has advanced over the years. When I came out to my mum decades ago, she just resigned herself to the fact that she wouldn’t be getting any grandkids from me.
But now? It’s all, have you heard about this, will you think about doing that, blah blah blah. Every nice male we know who’s around my age is a potential sperm donor—our family friend, that dorky guy from her church who collects used straws and still lives with his mother. One time, she accidentally suggested my cousin.
ME: To inseminate Khaz?
KHHALEESI: Nope, to inseminate ME! Mum‘s so desperate for a biological grandchild that she wants the egg to be mine. She must’ve lost sight of the tiny, insignificant fact that Tony is my cousin. Or maybe she doesn’t care.
ME: Well if you exchanged baby-making stuff with your cousin, that would make a very biological grandchild.
KHHALEESI: It’s not just Mum. Loads of other people are like that too. Being gay used to be the get-out-of-jail-free card when it came to having to justify your reproductive plans. Now I get the same annoying questions at family weddings that any straight childless woman would get.
MAVIS: Well there’s equality for ya.
KHAREN: Menopause put an end to all that for me. It’s quite liberating to be the sad old spinster of whom everyone is too embarrassed to ask questions.
MAVIS: But you’re married—so why are you a spinster?
KHAREN: In my culture, marriage is not enough. Women who do not have kids are seen as incomplete. I don’t think most of my older relatives believe that I genuinely didn’t try to have children. They think it’s a cover for having been barren.
MAVIS: That word again…
KHAREN: Culture aside, it was unacceptable for any woman of my generation to not want a child. It was as if somehow you weren’t a real woman.
BETTY: That still happens today…
ME: Dot, you’ve been a bit quiet. Did you have any other reasons for not wanting a child, apart from not being particularly maternal?
MAVIS: Not that she has to justify it.
DOROTHY: It’s okay, Mav. The biggest reason for me was the fear that I’d pass on certain genetic conditions to my children. As you know, I have lots of physical and mental health issues that would make it hard for me to focus on another human being. And what if the poor tyke also inherited those things from me? That’d be a double whammy.
There’s definitely a strong family history of certain things and I do worry a bit about my nieces and nephews. Did you know that my mother had post-natal psychosis when I was born? This was back in the days before it was a thing. Dad loves to remind us of the fact that she nearly suffocated me with a pillow one time. They’ve been divorced for years by the way. Anyway, poor Mum. She couldn’t help it, but she has to live with that guilt forever.
MAVIS: I’m adopted, so my medical history is murky. So kinda similar to your point, Dot. Yet another reason I chose to not have kids is that they might end up like me—and I’m a lot of work.
ME: I second that!
MAVIS: If I absolutely absolutely had to, I’d adopt.
KHAREN: That’s a wonderful idea. The world is overpopulated as it is.
KHLEMENTINE: And bringing a child into a world where Donald Trump is a leader is a frightening thought…
BETTY: He won’t be around forever!
KHHALEESI: Long enough for Khaz’s and my last eggs to wither away and die.
BETTY: Egg freezing?
KHHALEESI: Nahhh … and it’s not just him. There’s the environment, global warming, overpopulation.
ME: Stop! You’re making me feel guilty!
KHLEMENTINE: But big global issues aside, even in the micro world of parenting, the expectations have changed. I see it with my friends who have kids. You’re expected to entertain your kids all the time, send them to violin classes, archery practice, never bottle-feed them, use sustainable cloth nappies only, etc. etc. It’s madness! Not like in our day where our parents would send us outside to play all day until it was time for dinner. If that kind of parenting was still acceptable, I could maybe handle the idea. I’ve come to the realisation that I’m an introvert and need a lot of time away from people in order to function. The thought of having kids around me all day. *shudders*
MAVIS: Yeah, I hate people. Why make more?
KHAREN: I actually was open to having kids, but ONLY with my perfect man. The children would have represented the love my husband and I had for each other.
KHAREN: But I never wanted a child just for the sake of having a child, and certainly not on my own or in a lacklustre relationship. And as it happens, my first marriage was a disaster and then I met my lovely Barry when I was 52.
ME: I think I was the opposite. I always wanted the kids more than the husband. In fact, the husband could’ve been anyone. Or no one.
BETTY: I’m sure you love your kids, Crew Captain, but I must admit, you made parenting look so difficult in the early days and that may have put me off.
ME: What? Are you saying my constant moaning was the reason there are 2.1 fewer children in the world today?
BETTY: No no, I was exaggerating, darling. But modern mothers aren’t really selling the idea to us.
ME: I guess we’re more honest about parenting these days. Which is mostly a good thing.
BETTY: You know what else? Parenting never seems to end. Just because children eventually grow out of the little-kid stage, it doesn’t mean that mothers stop having to mother. I’m forty-two and my mother had to spend three hours calming me down over the phone when I had that big work issue last week.
ME: True, it never ends … mine are well out of nappies but they’ve become hard work in different ways. And speaking of, I can hear my kids fighting so I’d better go deal with them. *sighs*
MAVIS: I can hear them too. I’ve never felt more affirmed by my life choice to not have kids.
ME: Thanks so much for the chat, gals.
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