parent opinion

"Am I selfish? Vain?" I don't want kids because I don't want to sacrifice my sleep.

When I was 17, I had a conversation with my brother while we hung out in my room. I told him I didn’t want kids.

"What? Why not?" he asked. He sounded disappointed. Not in a rude way that people might ask me now that I’m 37, but more in an "it would be cool to be an uncle" type of way.

At that time, I felt suffocated in my house with my strict parents sucking the fun out of my life. The thought of freedom and university and career thrilled me. I saw how my mum gave up her artwork to be with us, and I just didn’t want to sacrifice anything for my passions.

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Of course, at the time, I didn’t know that there might be other options for parenting. Plenty of women have a full career and raise children, and I fully support that lifestyle.

But I still don’t want kids.

Though, I did for a little bit. While I was married, I gave in to my husband’s desire to have children. Like I did with most things in our relationship, I convinced myself that I wanted kids because if I did, our marriage would be secure. But I was scared, as most mums are. Would I be ready? Would I be a good mum? What if they become a drug addict? What if what if what if...

But I was most concerned about sleep. Would I ever sleep again?

I’ve heard loads of parents talk about how tired they are, especially those first few years with kids. And of course they are! Raising a new person is not easy. Even "good" babies teethe and don’t sleep well all the time (and probably so much more I don’t know about).

I know pregnancy can change sleep patterns and the amount of sleep you need. But I’m just not willing to take that risk.

Writing and reading are my passions. But if I had to choose between writing and reading or going to sleep, you’ll find me under my covers anytime between 10pm and 6.30am on weekdays. But you’ll actually find me in bed by 9.45pm.

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Am I selfish? Vain?

Maybe I am. Of course, there are other reasons I don’t want kids. I have never felt that desire, and I have always been so focused on my higher purpose in life that I didn’t think I could handle both. That doesn't mean it can’t be handled, but I know myself and my limits. I have a full life of family, friends, and career — this includes my full-time job as a librarian and writing on the side. These keep me plenty of busy but allow me to have an ample amount of sleep.

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If I had a child, would I get over not getting sleep and love the kid anyway? Sure! But I don’t want to have to make this choice. As Jessica Lanyadoo said in her podcast:

"There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. There’s only choices and consequences."

This quote wasn’t about getting enough sleep or having kids, it was a general way to look at what we "should" or "shouldn’t" be doing. These "should" words are merely judgments against ourselves. We have no moral obligation to reproduce or not reproduce. Climate change or not, people are going to make their choices based upon their personal decisions. And they should.

The importance of sleep has been well-documented in research. In Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, details the importance of sleep for memory, decision making, learning, emotions, and our immune system.

But I honestly don’t need research to understand what happens when I don’t get sleep because when this happens, I turn into a monster. I can’t think straight. I don’t want to be social. I get headaches. My work suffers. And I’m not driven to do the things I love. I’m not okay with those consequences. Not even for a day.

I choose myself.

I’m a huge proponent of making choices that resonate with who we are at the deepest level, especially the inner children within us that need our love and support the most.

There are so many reasons people do or do not want kids. Ultimately, we need to dig down and understand ourselves, our trauma, and our identity so that we can make the best choices for ourselves.

I choose sleep over kids because I choose myself. I’ll hold on to that selfishness because if I don’t, who else will?

Feature Image: Getty.

This post was originally published on Medium and has been republished with full permission. The feature image used is a stock image.

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