Not every woman wants babies.
Perhaps even more importantly, not every woman who wants to have children, should.
Lots of reasons why not.
By the time I was about four, I knew that I didn’t want to be a mom. There was never any question. I didn’t know until much later, but my good reason for why not was because I wasn’t suited. I just knew. Psychologically, I didn’t have the capacity for raising children. It wasn’t my path.
“You’re Selfish for Not Having Children”
After coming up through an alcoholic family, I left home at 16 and put myself through high school. Then I joined the Army after a stint at Disney World, opening day and all. After the Army I headed to New York City, flamed out spectacularly and moved to Denver, where I could see the sky, the mountains and breathe.
All during my twenties people kept asking me when I was planning to get married. I like men, but marriage wasn’t on the radar. It didn’t interest me. That didn’t seem to convince the friends, the buddies, the opiners. I had a uterus, I owed the world a couple of kids. It was a constant reminder that my body belonged to the larger community of mankind, and by god if I was female, I had to produce. I was a vessel for the State and it was my patriotic duty to punch out units, as George Carlin used to say.
Based on what, precisely? What set of rules dictates that just because I’m an equipment carrier, I have to use it?
I’m Better with Animals, Thanks
From infancy, I’ve been surrounded by animals. Big, huge, small, energetic, sleepy, farty, those you ride, those you eat, those you pet, those you chase and play ball with. For whatever reason, like many, I have a far deeper connection with critters than I do with kids. Handing me an infant in a blanket is damned dangerous- he’d better be wearing a helmet. I don’t do infants. It’s not in me. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It simply means I’d rather be in the middle of a corral setting up a grooming chain with a big group of horses and getting pony snot on my face than changing diapers. I can handle horse shit. Baby diarrhea is for people far braver than I am.
You hand me a baby animal, I am in pig heaven. Including pigs. Snakes. Rodents. I don’t care. You put me in a barn, I may not come out for six hours. I go overseas where I can touch, play with and massage creatures fifty times my size. Animals know who you are instantly. They are pure and expressive and grateful when they allow you to touch them, and find their favorite place.
People say that I don’t know what I’m missing. Yah, I do. What would have been selfish would have been giving birth to a child or two I would have resented, and perhaps possibly even mistreated. I didn’t have the psychological fortitude for motherhood and I knew it young. Thank god, for I could have done the same damage that I was subjected to as a kid. That buck stops with me.
People tell me the same thing about alcohol, especially when it come to wine. I don’t know what I’m missing. Yah, I do. Alcohol cost me two family members. I have an addictive personality. I know precisely what might happen if I ever open that Pandora’s Box. I can’t bear the smell of booze, nor of people who’ve been drinking. I know perfectly well “what I’m missing” and I want no part of it. People adore projecting their preferences, likes and dislikes on others, without recognizing those people’s rights to NOT like or want what’s being offered.
To wit, for my entire life, young mothers have shoved their infants at me with the assumption that I’d be happy to bounce their screaming child. Are you kidding me? Why do you assume that just because I’m female, I like babies? Take me to a pet adoption center, and then watch me drool and coo and baby talk to a rescued puppy, a badly abused dog, a lonely ferret, a pet boa constrictor. THAT’S where I’ll pick up and cuddle. Those animals can poop or pee all over me. I’m down for that.
The Freedoms Afforded by Going Child-Free
Being single most of my adult life has allowed me the unbelievable freedom to love a great many more people in a great many more ways. It has allowed me to channel the love I might have indulged in a nuclear family to a much wider world. The mothering instinct is very real, but in some of us it’s expressed very differently.
Childless Mothers Also “Give Birth”
Those of us who choose childlessness aren’t missing out on anything. That’s another lecture I got. “What about when you’re old?” I got pressed on that untold hundreds of times. The clear implication is that the sole role for an older woman is grandmothering. We don’t screw any more (speak for yourself, please) so all we’re good for is babysitting and spoiling the grandkids.
I have a childhood friend for whom her entire existence is taken up with her grands. She always wanted to be a mom, she is fulfilled by being a mom, and she is even more deeply fulfilled, at my same age of 65, in her role as grandmother. To this I say hurrah. Grammas are great. I didn’t know mine; both died before I was 13. I have no role models. No assumed path to being an old lady. Therefore I got to carve that out for myself.
Well, I am old now. My life is so full, so vibrant, and so active that I hardly have time for a breath. I do international adventure travel, have work I love, do extreme sports all over the world, am working on a few new books- which are my offspring. Those of us who don’t have kids create other kinds of children, which are our legacy to the world. We feel strong impulses to produce and deliver valuable works, which take many forms. Some of us dance, others write, others build companies. Being a mother in and of itself doesn’t make us who we are or somehow validate our being born female. Being a mother isn’t what’s fulfilling for us non-baby people. Being a fully-realized person in our own right is what we want. This isn’t to say or imply that motherhood doesn’t allow us to self-realize, as kids are great teachers. What it does say, however, is that those of us who eschew motherhood find our fulfillment and our need to express love, compassion and our ability to nurture in a variety of different ways. Career calls us. Exploration call us.
As we age, many kidless women end up being surrogate aunties to friends’ children. Long ago I learned the value of older women who had something to teach, or a close family friend whose life was a beacon to follow. My best friend has two grandkids. I see them once or twice a year, and the older boy has finally realized that yes, I really do love snakes and spiders and scorpions and turtles and things that bite. I bring back fascinating items for these two boys from my travels, in part because I want them to be curious about the world. Also, because I remember a family friend from Africa who did the same for me in my youth. That man sowed the first seeds of peripatetic impulses when I was barely five years old. The weird-but-fascinating auntie can add a lot to a kid’s development, forming friendships that provide a whole other influence and valuable source of learning. This I can handle. This somewhat mollifies those who felt that I should have had kids.
So Can I Have a Full Life Without Kids?
Um, yah, you can. For a stunning list of just who went without and went on to be pretty amazing, see https://www.populationmatters.org/documents/prominent_women.pdf. Those are just the famous gals- and then there’s the rest of us. People the religious right fears mightily, the independent single woman who does not need kids or a man to be fulfilled. Who can enjoy the variety offered by the male sex (or in the case of my Thai masseuse, the female sex). Who can find ways to add value to the world without producing another consumer or three or four, at a time when population growth is causing horrendous pressure on our ultimate Mama, Mother Nature.
A full life is variously defined, and that’s the beauty of self-determination. So many women have kids who shouldn’t have- in terms of their ability to commit their lives to the needs of their kids. Motherhood is an all-in decision. If you’re not willing, then for crying out loud, don’t have kids. There are so very many other options for how to spend a remarkable life. Motherhood is just one. Many opt for motherhood AND a remarkable life, and often come under criticism for making that choice, that is just as valid a life path as any. The point is choice. We pay for our choices- whether or not to marry, whether or not to bear children (or adopt, as it were), whether or not to fulfill our promise this life.
Your Holidays Will Suck
Huh? When I have been invited for holidays with friends, especially on Thanksgiving, you will find me buried in the basement with the boys, arguing about whether the runner’s knee hit the ground before the ball came out. I can’t cook worth a crap, but I’m happy to set the table and then settle in for the game. I can’t countenance discussions about afterbirth, baby shit, screaming fits and pinkeye. Kindly, that ain’t me. Keep in mind that the friends who have had me over for Thanksgiving have far more traditional families, and this is hardly likely to the be the case among my younger friends whose knowledge of football is easily as good as mine. I don’t belong in the kitchen with the women in these families. I belong with the boys. Always have, always will. I have extremely close girlfriends, and with one exception we’re all childless. The rest of us are tomboys, athletes, and very very happy to have no kids. None of us is sorry, and we range in age from our late 30s to me at 65. Not a regret in the group.
I spend every Christmas with a huge extended family in Spokane. There are kids in all direction, some in their forties and some barely past four. I’m good for one weekend a year immersed in that kind of fracas. That’s plenty enough. When I travel the world I spend time with families of every kind imaginable. I get unimaginable joy from this kind of experience. I don’t need any of my own; the entire world is my family.
When you are in the Third World, being childless is considered a great tragedy. Women are constantly asking me about how many kids I have, and tsk tsk when I say none. However, when I explain that each time I get on a jet I am off to meet more of my family, people grin ear to ear. They understand completely.
You’re Going to Be SO Lonely in Your Old Age
Tell that to my 49-yearold BFF who is moving into my house this weekend, wouldja? We’ve been together on and off for eleven years, and we finally figured out that we are happier together than not. I am HARDLY lonely. Like me he’s an athlete, and like me he never particularly wanted kids. He eschewed women who pressured him to become a dad. He doesn’t feel like he’s missing out either. His greatest love is reserved for his darling bulldog Sophie, who loves me nearly as much as she loves her daddy. Love me, love my dog. Precisely. This is one girlfriend who absolutely, positively knows how that works. Same for me.
On top of this every time I step on an airplane to hurl myself at the feet of Life, I come home with more family. The young family on Lake Titicaca, Peru. The friends in Iceland, Argentina, Africa. Many of whom have kids and grandkids who, as it suits them, choose to spend time with me or not.
Only Boring Old Men
As Dame Helen Mirren, who is also childless, told the UK Daily Telegraph, “Women never gave me a hard time. Only boring old men. And whenever they went ‘What? No children? Well you’d better get with it, old girl,’ I’d say, F — off!”
Society needs to stop asking us “what’s wrong with you?” and pose a different set of questions What is it about a childless, happy, fulfilled, successful woman of any age that frightens, offends, and irritates you so damned much?
What is it about our bodies, which are capable of producing life OR NOT, makes you feel like you can dictate what we do with them?
My body, my boundaries, my choices, MY life. How interesting I find it that so many people who openly envy me my lifestyle are often the same who shame me about not having kids?
There’s a great deal of room for all of us to live richly, wonderfully, with or without children. And, without criticism for the choice to have none at all.