kids

'I'm entirely happy being a child-free woman. But my friend says she doesn't believe me.'

We don't all want the same things in life — what a weird, boring world it would be if that were the case. I’m a woman in my thirties, but I’m not married, and I don’t have children. I have never had the innate desire to be a mum. It’s never been in my life plan, and after a terrible 2020 with minimal socialisation, I’ve survived quarantine with just me myself, and my dog, and I’m still genuinely happy I don’t have children.

I hope I’m not coming off as a monster — that’s the constant fear I have when speaking openly about my desire to be a lifelong child-free woman. I always like to be brutally honest about my views on this matter because child-free women need to be normalised.

Yes, I’m sure your little ones are precious and fulfilling. I have no doubt that your kids may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. I think that’s beautiful. But personally, I don’t want children and I hope I never have kids.

Why do people feel the need to tell me it’s just a phase I’ll get over?

I know it may be uncomfortable for parents to read that people like me are sincerely ecstatic about not having kids in their home, and I get that. But everything in life is about perspective and we should be able to respect someone else’s decision to choose, even if it’s not what we’d choose for ourselves.

This year, many of us have been reaching out to people we probably wouldn’t have outside of the current worldly circumstances. 

I’ve chatted with friends who have kids and friends who don’t. Single friends and married friends. Friends who are having sex, and friends who aren’t having sex at all during the quarantine — everyone has a different story about how they’ve coped with the pandemic.

I’ve left my back door open every day the weather allows during the last few months. The fresh air from outside circulates in my apartment, giving me, my pup, and my many green plants, a reminder that we are alive. 

While I had my back door open last week, I heard a neighbour loudly lecture her child about his online homework. The boy started crying, and the mother raised her voice. I had to close my door to block out the yelling match that followed. I looked at my dog and thought, Man, am I lucky you don’t talk back to me.

Later that afternoon as I walked my dog, I heard the cries of a little girl from an apartment on the second floor. I heard the cartoons playing on the television at an earth-shattering volume, and still, I heard the frustration of a dad who was pleading with his little girl to stop crying. 

I look down at my pup as we walked away from the little girl’s cries, and I thought, I am so relieved I don’t have children right now.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia’s podcast with what women are talking about this week. Post continues below.

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I got home and saw that one of my old friends wanted to FaceTime. She and I hadn’t spoken in years, but through the loneliness of quarantine, we began talking again. 

She answered the call from her laptop, holding her newborn. I smiled. It made me happy to see her so happy. Having kids is something she’s always dreamed of.

After chatting for a few minutes, I confided in her how absolutely lonely I had been feeling. "I think I’m getting depressed from the lack of human contact I’ve had. We’re not meant to be isolated," I told her.

Her reaction was a look of sympathy and I realised, she was probably looking at me thinking, I’m so relieved I have my children right now.

I wasn’t expecting her to be rude towards my desire for companionship. And at first, she wasn't. She said:

"I’ve got to tell you; I just don’t know what I’d do without my baby right now. I’d be going insane, probably. This little piece of me, this baby, has totally completed me throughout the pandemic. Are you sure that having kids isn’t something you want to do one day?"

I smiled politely and shook my head. She continued.

"But you’re saying you’re lonely. If you had little ones running around, you’d feel better and less alone. I think after this year, you’ll change your mind."

I didn’t smile this time. I’ve always been very sensitive to people discrediting my preference for a child-free lifestyle, but I never would’ve expected it to come from her.

"I am lonely. But this is a weird year. I think everyone’s lonely. I have no plans to have kids. COVID hasn’t changed my mind."

She cocked her head to the side and said, "I don’t believe that. I think you do want kids and you’re scared."

I looked at her. Where was this coming from?

"Alright," I said, visibly upset. "I don’t want to get into an argument with you, but you should know that you’re being really rude right now. I’m not bashing your life choices, and you shouldn’t be bashing mine. But you are doing exactly that when you say that you don’t believe me. I’m going to go now," I said, fidgeting with the computer to end the call.

"I’m not being rude. I’m just confused. You’re complaining about loneliness but you’re choosing loneliness. I don’t think you’re being honest with yourself."

"Wow," I said. "I’m logging off."

I sat there at my desk in silence after I ended the call. We haven’t spoken since.

She said I was choosing to be alone as if it was something I wanted in life — to be all alone. She said it like anyone who doesn’t have kids is secretly alone and miserable. She said she didn’t believe that I didn’t want kids. That I was scared.

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I wondered how many other people have genuinely dismissed my preference to be child-free.

It truly was one of the most insulting conversations I’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve had many conversations like this one.

Many men and women alike have a hard time believing that a young, happy, healthy woman doesn’t want to a mother.

I’m not sure why it’s impossible for people to believe me when I say that children aren’t in my future. I’m happy without kids and no, I’m not using that as a defence mechanism or out of fear. I’m genuinely grateful to be a child-free woman.

More than that, I’m grateful that I’m a person who respects someone else’s lifestyle choices, and when they say what they feel, I believe them.

Some people may feel sorry for me because I don’t want children, and that's their prerogative. But to say to my face that "I’m not being honest with myself," is incredibly disrespectful.

I know I will never experience the rewarding feeling of raising children that I hear about so often, and I’m sure there are parts of parenting that I would probably enjoy, but overall, I’m happier being child-free, even after self-quarantine with no partner or kids.

The things we’re grateful for in life may be the reason someone else pities us. And the things we don’t want in life may be someone else’s whole reason for living. Perspective is everything and we shouldn’t judge others for choosing one way or another. But we should respect their choices.

Feature Image: Getty.

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