“You just haven’t found the right person!”
“Oh, that’ll change in a few years.”
“But what are you going to do…?”
These are all responses I have received when I tell people I don’t want children. And, yes, to save you the suspense: I am a cis woman. This article wouldn’t even be necessary if I were a man, since no one ever assumes that a man who chooses to be child-free is unable to live a happy life--yet because I have a vagina it’s my duty to push a kid out of it? Uh, no.
However, when I say so out loud, I become a target for all sorts of assumptions: assumptions about my personality, my sexual orientation, my identity, and even my worth as a person. These assumptions are made within seconds of my telling people I don’t want kids. And then come the responses--painstakingly crafted to determine whether people’s assumptions about me or not.
It’s easier for people to say “you just haven’t found the right person” rather than asking if I’m a lesbian. Asking “Why?” is still intrusive, but less intrusive than asking, “Why don’t you think you can raise a child?” Stating, “Oh, that’ll change in a few years,” is nicer than saying, “You don’t know what you want.” (Apparently they know what I want better than I do.) But my favorite is “What are you going to do?”--which I have found equates to “Are you happy?”
Whether asked outright or through thinly veiled euphemisms, each one is based on the general assumption that women need to have children in order to have a happy life. With that in mind, I am going to answer what you’re all really asking me by telling you 5 things I will do with my life besides having children.
1. Have an amazing career.
Maybe I’ll write a book. Maybe I’ll start my own non-profit organization. Maybe I’ll advocate for gender equality all over the world. I’m not sure, but I do know that I plan on having a fulfilling and life-changing career. I don’t just want it to change my life--I want it to change lives all over the world. My career will be my baby and I plan on nurturing the hell out of it.
And I’ll be working my dream job with women who do have children, because women who have children can have an amazing career as well. If I’m going to end the stereotype that women who don’t have children can’t be happy, then I’m also going to end the stereotype that women who do have children can’t also have an amazing career. No one has to give up anything if they don’t want to. We have a choice, which I know is a radical concept for some people to grasp.
2. Fall in love/have lots of sex.
My lack of a desire to have children does not mean I lack a desire to fall in love. And it certainly doesn’t mean I lack a desire to have a lot of sex. Maybe I’ll have one great love and find my true soulmate. Or maybe I’ll have multiple great loves and find multiple soulmates. Maybe I won’t end up spending the rest of my life with someone, or maybe I will, or maybe I’ll have several someones. One thing I know for sure, though, is that when I fall in love, it will be just as meaningful as the love between couples who have kids together. Having children is not the final test a couple has to pass to determine whether their love is legitimate or not. It is one way to validate your love for someone, but it is not the only way. I will have great love and great sex and none of it will result in children and that’s just how I want it to be.
3. Have an amazing family.
Having an amazing family doesn’t always require having kids. And even if I don’t end up having a partner in life, I know I will never be alone. I have my blood family, which includes my parents, my siblings, my stepdad and step-siblings, my aunts and uncles, my cousins and second cousins and so on and so forth. Then I have my friends, and we are a family all on our own. I have always loved making connections with people, and I can’t wait to meet all the people I will know throughout my lifetime. And of course I will have countless dogs and pets, which we all know are a big part of any family that includes them. My family may not consist of children, but it will consist of love, and that’s all that matters. (And yes, I know that was cheesy.)
4. Travel the world.
I plan on making it to all seven continents in my life, and if space travel is possible during my lifetime I’ll check out the final frontier as well. Many people tell me that I will be missing out on the greatest experience of life by not having children. It might be the greatest experience for some people, but that doesn’t make it the greatest experience for all humans across the board. My greatest experience might be when I see the Northern Lights while drinking champagne with my sisters, or when I am having amazing sex with one of my great loves off the coast of Greece, or when I am teaching young girls how to fight for their right to education in Cambodia, or when I go cave diving in Belize with my best friend, or when I help my mom reach her career goals. I plan on having all of these experiences and more--why are mine not considered as great or as life-fulfilling? I’d feel infinitely more fulfilled by achieving any of these goals than I would by having children, and since it’s my life, shouldn’t that be enough?
5. Be happy.
In this life, I may not be a mom, but I will be happy. One is not dependent on the other. I will have success and love and connections and experiences, and that is enough for me. We all want different things out of life, and it is not on us to judge or discriminate against someone whose desires are different from what we want for ourselves. So the next time you hear someone say they don’t want kids, just say, “I respect your choice.” Because you’ll know that they are doing what makes them happy.