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"It's more work than I’m willing to put in." 4 women on the moment they knew they didn't want kids.

If my house was full of vomit, urine and faeces that didn’t belong to me, and I was haunted day and night by the sound of constant crying, I would speak to an exorcist. Unless I had just brought home my newborn baby, in which case this scenario would be completely normal.

There are lots of things about being pregnant, and indeed being a parent, that sound extremely unappealing or downright terrifying. Yet, we’re weirded out when someone tells us that they don’t want to have children? We seem especially preoccupied with women that don’t want to have children and that’s because, for thousands of years, spawning crotch fruit was all women were meant to do.

During a time when pregnancy photo shoots and gender reveal videos are all the rage, I spoke to a variety of young women who already know that they won’t be having children.

  • Claire is a 26-year-old actor and theatre-maker.
  • Emmie is 19. She’s a student and blogger who lives with multiple rare diseases and educates others about them (you can follow her here).
  • Renee* is a 25-year-old allied health professional.
  • Kate is 26, and about to become a teacher.
    don't want a baby
    "There are lots of things about being pregnant, and indeed being a parent, that sound extremely unappealing or downright terrifying." Image: Getty.

When did you decide that you didn’t want to have children?

Emmie: “I decided this August when I was discharged from hospital. I know I’m only 19 but I know what my life is like with EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes). I’m not ashamed of having EDS or raising awareness but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

Claire: “I don’t know if there was ever a moment where I fully decided it wasn’t for me, I think it gradually became a stronger feeling. However, I do remember telling my mother at around age three that my children (if I ever had them) would sleep in her room and she would have to raise them, so I guess the non-committal aspect of children was still there. Because of my career, I’ve also realised that practicality of children, and dedicating your whole life to someone, is more work than I’m willing to put in.”

Kate: “When I was about 17, because of all the food you can’t eat for nine months and the fun you can’t have. You also have to be stupidly financially stable to bring a child into this world.”

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What are you sick of hearing?

Emmie: “I’m fed up with people saying, 'There’s only a 50 per cent chance your condition will be passed on, so why don’t you take the chance?' Because my condition is excruciatingly painful, it's genetic, there’s no treatment and I have a very severe case of EDS. There’s a high possibility if my child was in that 50 per cent, they would suffer a lot, and I’d never want anyone to go through what I have.”

Claire: “'You’ll change your mind' or some variation of 'I didn’t want them at your age either.' I told my mother once that it wouldn’t matter if I did accidentally become pregnant because I wouldn’t keep it. She said 'Well, you say that now…but you just wouldn’t know' – as if the surging hormones would somehow shatter my position and make me want to completely destabilise my life.”

Kate: “The only criticism I’ve received concerning my viewpoint on babies is from my own mum who just said, 'I was like you and I don’t love other people’s babies, but I can’t describe the feeling that you have for your own baby' and a dude from the North Shore who said, 'But you’re a woman? Don’t you want to carry on your family?' No, privileged white dude. I really don’t. I’m too busy trying to get kids involved with literature and enjoying myself.”

As I speak to more women I find that accusations of selfishness, in response to their decision, are common. My best friend is about 70 per cent sure that she doesn’t want to have kids. "My family say that it’s selfish of me not to want children," she told me. "I’m open to the idea of [having children] one day, but I don’t like the fact that if I ultimately decide not to, then I’m in the wrong."

It’s not always other people calling these women selfish either. Sometimes, the accusation comes from within. “Sometimes I feel selfish wanting to put myself first and forsake a family for career and passion,” Claire told me. “But that might just be because I’ve been raised in a very big family where making enough money to support family has been everything."

With the Earth struggling to support 7.5 billion people as it is, I don’t see how deciding not to add to that tally is selfish. If anything, I think it’s environmentally friendly! As Kate put it, “The world is a f**ked up overpopulated place anyway. Why would I want to bring a child into it?”

How would you like people to respond to your decision? 

Emmie: “I’d like people to not make judgements on my decisions when they don’t live with or understand my condition, the way it affects both my body and my mind. At the end of the day, it’s MY decision.”

Claire: “I would like people to respond by first asking themselves if what they are about to say would be the same thing they would say to a man if the same conversation was brought up. I can never fault someone asking why if they hold those strong family values, but just having a respect for hearing that decision would be nice instead of putting those assumptions on me.”

Check out our video on the things people who don't want kids always hear below. Post continues after video.

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What should people stop assuming about women who don’t want to be mothers?

Claire: “I would like people to not assume I should do it just because I have a womb. I would like people (myself included) to not consider it a selfish thing to not want children. I guess we just need to shake up the structural norm of how we see fulfilment in life, and understand that having children is not for everyone.”

Kate: “That I’m not completing my role as a woman by not having a child. Wake up losers. However, being a mum is also a feminist narrative that we don’t hear a lot about anymore, and I absolutely commend mums every day because that’s a hard role.

"We also need to stop assuming that, if a woman has made this decision, that she must hate kids."

Renee*: “I work with young children and adolescents with disabilities in the home, school and community. I absolutely love working with kids and their families every day – they are fun, challenging and there is truly never a dull moment. I love working with the super little kids and babies, but I have absolutely no problems handing them back after a cuddle.

"I am completely comfortable saying that I do not feel the need or desire to ever have children of my own. I do not feel pressure to conform to society’s expectations where a young woman must get married and then have children. It may help that I am in a non-traditional relationship where my partner does not expect this of me and vice-versa. Am I clucky? Nope. Ever want kids of my own? Nope. Ever want to be pregnant and give birth? Hell nope… But will I be the best, most kick-ass aunty in the world? Hell yeah!”

I want to have children. But I also want to be a good ally to women, and to anyone else, who doesn’t. The best thing you can do to support others is to not suggest that they’ll change their mind. After all, who likes being spoken down to?

*Name has been changed.

This article was originally published on A Girl in Progress and was republished here with full permission.

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