parent opinion

'I've never wanted to have kids. People always expect me to tell them why.'

At no point in my 30 years of life have I ever wanted kids.

In fact, the opposite has always been true. I remember being a teenager, talking about adulthood with my friends. Some of them couldn't wait to be mothers. Others weren't sure yet. Some imagined it happening 10 years in the future, because 10 years feels like a lifetime to a 16-year-old.

Just as sure as my best friend was that she wanted a big family, I knew I absolutely did not. We were equally resolute, and equally happy and supportive of each other's choice (because why wouldn't we be?)

But as I made my way through the rest of the teenage years and into my 20s, it quickly became apparent that those outside of my bubble had a problem, but only with my choice.

In the past, societal pressure meant that most women would be forced into traditional roles as housewives and/or mothers, with very few other viable choices. We have choices now. Women in Australia are educated, employed, and financially independent in a way our great grandparents could only dream of. We have access to contraception and healthcare that give us control over our own bodies and futures.

Even so, parenting, and motherhood especially, is still so deeply ingrained as not just the norm, but the ideal for women.

So, there is still an assumption that we will all become mums.

I could be talking to someone about anything: from travelling to love to being really, really tired (insomniac me says hi).

'When you have kids...', they will pivot. 'Oh, I don't want children,' I always respond, matter-of-factly.


I completely understand and support the increasingly understood social rule about not querying anyone about these choices, because you never really know what someone is going through. But we're not there yet. This still happens all the time.

Personally, I have no problem correcting people who assume, but even the assumption can make others feel uncomfortable. I am lucky in the sense that this isn't an emotional discussion for me. It's just a fact of my life, as mundane to me as the colour of my hair or that I am 5'3. 


For me, it only becomes annoying when people ask me to explain myself.

The most common response I get after the correction is, 'Oh, why not?'

It's true that children are expensive and the idea of spending all my money on them is unappealing. It's true that I worry about climate change and the general state of the world. It's true that the idea of having the rest of my identity usurped by 'mother' in the eyes of society at large makes my skin crawl.

But none of those are the reason I don't want children. 

I just don't want to. It's something I've been sure of for as long as I can remember, and asking me to explain it beyond that will have me spluttering and confused because I truly don't know how. 

The answers to 'why not?' vary greatly among people who are child-free by choice. At best, you're being nosey about someone else's life - and you're probably the tenth person to do so. At worst, you could be asking people to explain to you deep trauma or pain.

After the assumption that everyone wants children comes the assumption that those who don't have kids actually do want them deep down, but don't have them for reasons that range from climate anxiety to mental health issues to a family history of illness. Or that there are fertility issues hindering the dream.

A complete lack of desire or maternal instinct, resulting in the succinct but rarely understood answer of 'just not wanting them', is still very much taboo.


I've had people say I'm selfish, or the good old, 'You'll change your mind' or, 'Never say never'. The worst of all is the response, 'Yeah, but what's the real reason?'

It seems incomprehensible to those who push the conversation that our lives can have different scripts, and that someone may choose to follow one that they didn't. 

To lay it all out, because defensiveness is another common response: I don't hate children, and I don't begrudge anyone who wants or has them. I will celebrate and support your desire to be a parent, and I'd hope you'd celebrate and support my desire not to be. My choice does not impact or invalidate yours. 

I know that I don't need a well-rehearsed or 'acceptable' reason to explain my personal choices to others, but it does get irritating when you're having the same, very personal conversations time and time again.

It's also funny how one-sided it is. 

I, nor anyone else of sound mind, surely, would never respond 'why?' to someone who'd just told them they did want children.

That would, quite rightly, be considered rude as hell. 

I'm (im)patiently waiting for the inverse to be true too.

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer and co-host of The Spill. For more pop culture takes, recommendations and sarcasm, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Supplied.