A Married Woman’s Choice Not to Have Children

I am a healthy, happily married 36 year-old woman who, while not terribly flush, is financially stable. I have a loving, supportive family, get along beautifully with my in-laws, and absolutely adore my nieces and nephews. I have a sound mind, a creative streak a mile wide, and a raucous sense of humor. And I always know what I want. So let me tell you what I want. I want to not procreate. Did you hear that? The room just went silent. People stopped chewing mid bite and turned to stare, forks just hanging there, suspended in midair.

Do I exaggerate? Of course, but less so than you’d think. I am constantly amazed at the reaction I get from people when the topic of having children comes up and I inform them that I do not plan to do so. I have been argued with, reasoned with, cajoled. I have seen shocked faces with uncomfortable looks barely and badly masked as the topic is quickly changed. I have been told countless times that I will change my mind, a remark that is so often followed with a “I only hope it’s not too late when you do” sort of quip, and sadly, it is sometimes clear to me that the quipper almost hopes that it will be. It would serve me right, after all, for fooling around with the laws of nature like that.

I have to say, I am at a loss to understand why my personal choice in this matter would mean so much to people uninvolved in the decision or the fallout from it. My husband has the right to weigh in on the point as much as he wants, of course. We are fortunate that we are of like mind in this issue, as a union between two people who have differing plans about children can be an incredibly painful one. I also extend debating privileges to my immediate family and to his, although only out of respect for their need to have their say and not as a determining factor. Beyond that, I don’t understand why so many people get so hot under the collar about our choice.

I love children, absolutely adore them. In fact, I spend most of my time with them. I am the administrative clinical coordinator of a clinic in a pediatric hospital. I am fortunate that the type of clinic I run is one to which our patients return week after week for treatments, and I get the opportunity to develop fairly warm relationships with them and their families. My job is extremely rewarding and I enjoy it tremendously. My sister has just announced that she is pregnant and I am over the moon with excitement at being an aunt again. My husband has several nieces and nephews, and when I joined the family, I became the favorite aunt. There, I’ve stated my case. I am not a child-hating monster.

So, if you, like me, were not born with the mother chip preinstalled, and you’re tired of being encouraged by others to feel that your choice is regrettable, there are some things you can remember that might help. Not all of the common arguments in favor of procreation are rational, and there are some responses that can be made to them if you’re so inclined.

It’s an interesting dynamic. Most women find the decision to have children to be an easy and perfectly natural choice to make. Most make it fairly early and in most cases with no or little equivocation. I respect them and their objectives. However, we are all unique beings. How nice it would be if all our choices were embraced.

In this world we live in, with aggressive overpopulation and dwindling natural resources, the last thing the planet needs is more people. While I would never pit an emotional argument with a philosophical one, it is certainly is a valid response to those who would not show you the same courtesy. I can’t imagine why all the folks out there who want two or more children are not grateful that there is a small percentage of us helping to water down the population expansion.

And then there is the issue of gender bias. I cannot tell you how striking the difference between the responses I get to the “to bare or not to bare” question is to those fielded by my husband. When someone grills my husband about our plans for starting a family and he informs them that he does not intend to do so, he gets a far more abbreviated response, if any, than I do. While, like most women, most men do want to start a family, the choice not to do so is not met with the same shocked concern. For a man to eschew child rearing is, at most, a curiosity. I am finding that for a woman, it is considered to be a shortcoming that encroaches on blaspheme.

These may seem like political arguments for defending personal choices, and depending on your style, they may be completely unnecessary. Ultimately, the choice is personal. As much as you may feel compelled to defend your decision, can you imagine ever persuading, belittling, cajoling, or, for that matter, even weighing in on someone’s decision that they will have kids? It’s the old story of stepping out of the social norm, and having to answer for it.

So, thinking twice about having children? You may not be quite the freak that you are sometimes made to think that you are. Just remember, all that energy that you are saving by not pushing yourself into a lifestyle that is not for you will be much better spent devoted to your family, friends, profession, and in all dealings of you daily life. Go out and enjoy someone else’s kids. Enjoy yourself without the pressure.

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