kids

'The truth I struggle to say out loud: My husband and I won't be having children.'

Being a mid-thirties woman with a husband, a functioning uterus and a spare bedroom in my house means that I am routinely subjected to interrogation about when I’m going to have a baby.

For the better part of my adult life I’ve responded to that question with a well-rehearsed ‘Oh, we just haven’t gotten around to it yet’ whilst nervously twisting my wedding ring and steeling myself for the inevitable clock-is-ticking diatribe.

The truth, and what I struggle to say out loud, is that we don’t want kids. Never have.

I utter excuses about our absence of offspring not because of a wavering resolution about it, but because I simply do not have the energy to endure the condescending lectures, smug judgement and pitiful decries of  ‘Aren’t you scared you’ll regret it?’ or ‘You’ll never know what REAL love is!’

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We came to the decision together.

For the record, it’s not a decision that we arrived at lightly. It takes a colossal amount of courage, personal insight and maturity to excavate and examine yourself as a person, to confront your capabilities and limitations, and to honour your instinct in making a choice like this.

You wouldn’t pester us about our breeding status if we revealed that we’d experienced a succession of miscarriages or that one or both of us were infertile.

In fact, you’d probably apologise for asking such an intrusive question and then promptly drop the subject. There’d be no glaring down your nose and moaning Having children really is the most fulfilling thing you’ll do in your lives.”

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For us, it has been a joint decision. However, as the female counterpart in the judgement about procreation, rather than be accepted or even respected for embarking on a journey of deep contemplation and self-exploration, I am instead demonised and swiftly branded as cold and vacuous for not wanting to experience motherhood. In the eyes of many, I’m an anomalous abomination of womankind. If it were the year 1692 I’d probably be burned at the stake in the middle of a colonial village.

I’m not sure why it bothers people so much that I have no desire to have a small human pass through my vagina and subsequently be responsible for their physical, emotional, financial, spiritual and psychological wellbeing for decades to come, while simultaneously keeping my own life under effective management and being a decent wife, friend, daughter, employee and member of society.

Surely, I am the only one qualified to make a ruling about my capability to fulfil, thrive or even survive a role with such a hefty job description?

It would seem I am well supported by the sisterhood when it comes to making choices about my body in regard to terminating or proceeding with a pregnancy once a foetus is in question, but it’s a whole other head shaking, brow furrowing matter when it comes to rallying support for being child-free by choice.

To be clear, my husband and I don’t dislike kids and we are not incompetent babysitters. If you leave us alone with your toddlers, we’re not going to barricade them in a room full of sharp knives and lighters and take bets on how long it takes for one to give the other a life-threatening injury.

Quite the opposite. We’ll blow raspberries on their fat bellies and revel in their tiny rumbles of laughter, pick playdough out of our rug and watch Frozen for the 633rd time with almost zero resentment. We are not immune to the heart flutter and stomach heave that can only be invoked by chubby legs and tiny noses or experiencing vicarious joy by way of a child discovering the simple wonders of the world around them.

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We find empowerment, sanctuary, contentedness, even relief in our decision to not have children of our own. Instead, we are liberated to offer the best of ourselves to the children around us when we are able, when we feel patient, attentive and energised to nurture, play and teach. We can assume the role of care-giver and magic-maker when it suits us, or when our friends and family need us as respite resources.

This is where we find the meaning, purpose, satisfaction and joy that some would accuse us of missing out on.

I can assure you that we do know what real love is. We are fulfilled. We are comfortable with our decision. If our spare bedroom and the halting of our genetic lineage makes you uncomfortable, then you’ve got some self-analysis of your own to embark upon.

Most significantly, as a woman, I am not a monster with de-commissioned ovaries and an undersized heart that you may first assume me to be if I happen to find the courage to tell you “We’ve decided that we don’t want children.”

I am a thoughtful, informed, insightful, astute, sensible, warm and giving person who made a very responsible decision to turn down the most demanding job in the world, and to not have banana mashed all through the backseat of my car.

And that’s OK.

Isn’t it?

Melissa is a program developer and coordinator in an early intervention mental health service for adolescents, and a small business owner. She lives with her music producer husband of over 15 years and their 14-year-old feline, Catbastard. She has written programs and publications for state and federal government health services and as an antidote to the gravity of her day job, pens satirical prose in reflection of her own life experiences. 

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