parent opinion

'Choosing to have kids is final. Choosing not to is a decision I make every day.'

"Do you guys want children?" they casually ask, their heads slightly tilted to the side.

This isn’t your old bigoted aunt you thankfully only see at Christmas. These are your friends, your family, your colleagues. 

They mean well and don’t want to be nosy, they’re just curious.

Watch: Things people who don't want kids always hear. Post continues below.


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When you are of prime childbearing age, your ovaries have been diligently releasing an egg each month for 20 years, you have a long-term partner who has good enough arms to push a pram and you're earning six figures, people often wonder (out loud) why the hell you haven’t gotten to it yet.

"Nah," you shrug.

Maybe this will be enough, maybe we will all move on to something else swiftly. More often than not however, you’re up for some explaining. 

When you are not bluntly asked, "Oh, why not?" with raised eyebrows, the awkward silence that follows makes you feel obligated to explain.

Elaborate, please. Is it the freedom, the work, the money, the responsibility? Is it that you don’t like them? There must be a clear answer.

If you had said "Yes", you would have been asked a few follow-up questions, often filled with anticipatory glee for your future babies. 

When? How many? Boys or girls? How far apart? One question you would never hear is, "Why?"

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. Post continues below. I'm child free by choice. Why do so many people have a problem with it?

In this overpopulated, polluted, terrorism and pandemic-stricken world we live in, it seems like a very valid question to ask, yet there is a silent universal agreement that having kids is what is expected, even in our Western cultures where individualism has become predominant. 

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If you choose not to have children, there must be something wrong with you. Have you perhaps had a rough childhood? Give me something. 

For those who want to have children and decide to have them, it is a decision that only needs to be made once. 

The second you become a parent, you have accepted this amazing new role that will stick with you for the rest of your life. 

You’ve joined a large club of fellow parents, you now belong to a whole community of schools, playdates and parent groups. 

You have an entire human being who depends on you for everything, who idolises you and who you love unconditionally, who is bound to you forever, and gave you a new, possibly higher identity. 

Even when it’s hard, even when you wish your life were easier, there is a sense of security and comfort in knowing that the irreversible yet very popular decision has long been made. 

It is what it is and hang in there, because you've done well.

Choosing not to have children, however, is a decision you make daily.

You continuously reiterate and validate your choices to yourself and others, and some days, your reasoning doesn't seem as clear as it did the day before.

Just like parents who sometimes wonder what their life would be like without their kids, you, a child free 30-something, may wonder how it would be if you had them. 

The difference is that in the first instance, a life without children is no longer an option, whereas in the latter scenario, it might just be possible to change your destiny. 

This never-ending decision-making to remain child-free when your biological clock is ticking incessantly and new pink-faced babies pop up on Instagram every day can be challenging.

Sometimes, the peer pressure is impairing your own beliefs and convictions, and you feel that maybe there is something wrong with you. Maybe you are missing out on the most incredible experience in your life.

It’s only human to doubt yourself from time to time, to question your life choices. 

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Everyone does, even those who look like they’ve got all their shit together. 

You don’t need to be 100 per cent behind your choice all day, every day. 

It’s okay for you to wonder if you’re making the right decision, to sometimes be sad about the things you will miss out on, to be afraid nobody will be around to take care of you when you’re old, to ask yourself what you are leaving behind in this world. 

When in doubt, remember there are sacrifices made in both scenarios. 

Look at your life and think of what you are not missing out on, the things you can afford to do, the plans you can make last minute, the large projects you can dedicate all your free time to, the freedom of choosing what to do with your time and money, the sleep-ins, the late nights out, the quality clothes nobody will stain with vomit (except maybe yourself but that’s on you). 

You love your life just the way it is, and after all, isn’t that the ultimate life goal?

Practical benefits aside, the debate should also include the emotional weight that child-free people choose not to pick up. 

Loving and being responsible for another human being is a terrifying aspect of parenthood. 

The greater the love (and arguably, the love for your child is at the top of the love chain), the greater the worry. 

Am I doing a good job? Am I teaching them the right values? Are they safe? Will they become good and happy adults? 

The judgement and doubt you’d impose on yourself for the rest of your life, and that others would impose on you (yes, they will) is a heavy load to carry.

The somewhat recent phenomenon of choosing to be child-free has shaken traditional values to the core, creating a wide moat between the child full and the child free, both calling each other selfish. 

In reality, whether you choose to have children or not, you are missing out on another life, a life you will never know. What matters in the end, is what makes you love your life today.

Sophie is a Belgian-Australian epicurean who loves books, swimming, travels and overpriced banquets. She can't whistle, snap her fingers or roll her tongue, but she's good at eating fermented grapes and braiding her own hair.

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