“Do you have any kids?” The question was barked at me one summer a few years ago. I was at a busy city intersection when I was trying to rush from one job to another and was blocked by a woman ostensibly handing out fast food coupons. It was a pretty insensitive and a loaded thing to ask a stranger. The streetlight couldn’t change fast enough.
“Well, I feel sorry for you,” she finally literally sneered at me.
From mothers vocalizing regret about having children, to articles scolding women and warning them that their life will be empty and lonely if they don’t embrace parenthood, there is a lot of focus on motherhood and those who opt out.
This past Mother’s Day a meme circulated with a message I found very touching, unexpected, and meaningful. Under cartoon bouquets of flowers there were captions describing different aspects of motherhood, and one bouquet was dedicated to women who have chosen not to be mothers.
I have never wanted children. Like at all. Not ever with absolute certainty. In my 30s I questioned this for the first time. It was the sudden loud and very real biological clock that started ticking when I met my niece Grace that caused the questioning to start.
I watched awed as she examined her tiny little feet and hands. I felt fulfilled and needed in a way I’ve never felt before when I gently patted her little back, helping her to burp.
I was suddenly putting myself through agony trying to get my life ready, trying to figure out if parenthood was something I truly wanted.
I was happy babysitting my niece. I’m happy being an aunt to my other nieces and nephews. Grace was born at a difficult time in my life and being happy about her birth didn’t have to translate into me being a mother.
People are well-meaning. They ask me to picture how sad my life will be in the future without children to visit me when I’m old. They remind me it’s a life altering experience, and that I’m missing out on so much, that I can’t even imagine what I’m giving up. They remind me gently that it’s not too late.
There is still time for me, technically, but the window is rapidly closing.
I don’t want to have to second guess a decision that I and my partner finally made together. If we ever change our minds in the future, there’s always adoption, or foster parenting.
Privately or publicly it seems women are expected to justify their decisions for not having children.
Am I doomed to be an incomplete person? Am I selfish? Am I letting down the human race in some way?
I don’t think so.
Some people just know they want children. Maybe they’ve always known, but can’t explain why, and no one must expect them to. So likewise, no one must expect women who don’t want children to explain themselves either.