When I was little, I had this idea that I would have children one day. It wasn’t really out of any real desire to have them—I just sort of assumed that everyone grew up, got married, and had children. There was never a burning desire to be a mother, nor really even a desire to be pregnant. In fact, the whole idea grossed me out. The morning sickness, the weight gain, the idea of having a little being inside of me; it all gave me the creeps. Why would I want a little alien growing inside of me and sucking my life force?
As I got older, I was exposed to more children. My sister was born when I was just about to turn nine, and I got to deal with all the lovely things that went with that age gap: changing diapers, cleaning spit up, bathing her and listening to her cry when she was falling asleep. I loved my sister to death, but I was quickly tired of dealing with the “baby” problems, and was glad that it wasn’t solely my responsibility.
At age twelve, my first job was babysitting. I used to watch three boys between the ages of two and five, who were rambunctious, active children. We would go outside and play, watch movies, and play video games, as well as build Legos and read books. I would go home exhausted, and glad that I could give them back to their parents at the end of the day.
That babysitting gig led to watching more kids, and eventually segued into volunteering with my mother at the after-school program she worked at. While I still loved kids—goofing off has always been my forte—the “problem” children scared me. I was already super strict on the children, imposing more rules than almost any of the other staff. I didn’t think that I could handle dealing with the children who had behavior issues, or the ones who didn’t listen very well.
I still deal with children frequently. I taught swim lessons up until last summer, so I was constantly around children. I have endless patience, and I can earn the trust of almost any child, no matter how scared they may be. I am most definitely a nurturer, and squashing my instinct to mother people is a challenge on a daily basis. I can strike up a conversation in public with almost any child and have them at ease and chatting along back with me.
And yet, I still don’t want kids.
Don’t get me wrong; I love children, and I like playing with them. However, all the hard portions scare me to death. I am honestly happy with the level of interaction I currently get with children, and I personally don’t feel that the benefits of having kids of my own outweigh the struggles. I am not saying that nobody should have children, of course. In fact, there are some people who are incredibly suited to have children, and I am glad they have the strength and ability to raise them. It’s just something that I don’t think I’m interested in.
I typically don’t bring this up in conversation. It’s not as if the topic of having children should come up too often at the age of 21—although I will say that in my region many people start having children very young—but it seems like other people want to bring it up frequently. They talk about my having children one day, how cute my future children will be—and I always want to interject and tell them I truly have no interest.
I can see myself growing old and getting married. . . just not having children. I guess even as a child, I always figured that I would adopt instead of giving birth, and even now, I can see myself adopting (although I think it’s more likely that I’ll be adopting a little furball instead of a tiny human). Try telling this to anyone, though, and your opinion is instantly considered invalid.
It’s always well-meaning. I’ve never had anyone condemn me for my thoughts on being child-free, but when I do declare my intentions, it’s met with a condescending smile. The phrase I’m constantly told is “you might change your mind.” And it’s true. I might. But I also might not. I may decide that the strong feelings I have against having children are truly the way I feel, and that I really do not want kids of my own. It becomes tiresome to even talk about this with people, as they always seem to want to act like they know better than I do.
Yes, I’m young. Yes, it’s a huge decision. But there are many things that I want to do with my life, and having children is not one of them. I never feel bad about my decision, despite the legions of people who seem to believe that I will. Only time will tell if I truly will stay committed to my decision to remain child-free, but in the meantime, I only wish people would quit trying to invalidate my feelings.
Why do people not question those who want to have children? Having children is generally the norm, but still: why do we not question young people about their decision to have children as much as we question young people who choose not to? Why, instead of being understanding and supportive of our decisions, do people feel the need to act as though they know better? I understand age lends wisdom, but at the same time, giving me the time to figure out what I want for myself instead of lecturing me on what I should want instead works so much better. Overall, it comes down to respecting my opinion. I would rather my opinion be respected, and ultimately be wrong, then be lectured or condescended to—which is a universal desire regardless of if you want children or not.
Madison Bronson is a recent college graduate living in South Carolina. She has recently secured a job in social media marketing, although her passion has always been writing. She currently spends her time chasing after her neurotic dog, sewing random costumes and outfits, and eating her weight in cookies. You can find her on Facebook, although she mostly creeps on everyone else’s posts instead of posting her own.