'I do not want children. And no, I am not sad. And no, I am not ashamed.'

Pity is often the default response from people when you tell people you do not want kids. But, as this writer is explains, sometimes it’s a decision that comes from a very happy place.

Besides the usual distractions from life — friends calling in tears because they’re heartbroken, flat tires, deaths in the family, leaks in the ceiling, work—I pretty much have the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want because I don’t have children. That’s not the only reason why I don’t want children—it’s just one perk.

And yes, I don’t want children. As far as I know, I can have children. But I’m not great with kids and the thought of raising them scares me—it’s more terrifying to me than an empty house in the woods or a clown doll sitting in a chair. You’re just so screwed if you find yourself in any of these situations! There’s no way out!

There’s no way out!

Most people assume that “doing whatever I want” includes partying all night and enjoying my hangover without a toddler sitting on my head. But I’m actually pretty mild. I got nervous one time after taking Benadryl three nights in a row to fall asleep. I fantasised about whether I would have to call my loved ones before checking in to Betty Ford or would someone from the rehab center go through my iPhone for me?

“I don’t want kids. Why is that such a big deal?”

I remember asking my mom when I was little if I could go live at this place in Boston called “The Home for Little Wanderers.” I didn’t realise that it was a facility for orphans. It sounded to me more like a place for free spirits who knew that even if they loved where they were one moment, that could change tomorrow.

One thing I know about myself is that everywhere I go is my new favourite place. And I’m not a cold, heartless vagabond either. If in my wandering I end up reading to children at a zoo in Madagascar—wonderful! I don’t hate kids. I just hate the idea of dragging a kid around with me as he or she is forced to adapt to my lifestyle. I also don’t want to have to carry animal crackers around in my purse.

The way most people feel about loving being a parent is exactly how I feel about not being a parent. I love it. And I can’t imagine my life any other way. I’m one of those people in an ever-growing movement called childfree by choice. I think it’s a clinical and defensive name for what sounds like an otherwise fun group of people.

Childfree by choice: A defensive name for an otherwise fun group of people.

I’m convinced that people who want kids and people who have kids have secret meetings where they come up with their talking points. There’s not one response to “I’m not having kids” that I haven’t heard and I’ve heard the same questions and comments approximately one bazillion times:


9 dumb things people say when you tell them you don’t want kids.

If you don’t have kids, who is going to take care of you when you’re old? (Servants?)

Men have to spread their seed. It’s in their DNA. (He can spread his seed all he wants. I have a magic pill that prevents it from growing.)

But it’s the most natural thing you can do as a woman. (So is getting my period every month.)

That’s selfish. You can’t be immature forever. (And spending your days watching Dora the Explorer with a kid is mature?)

You have to replace yourself on earth. What will you leave behind? (There are a few plastic bags that I never recycled . . .)

I took my therapist’s advice and started getting cagey with my answer. But once I started saying, “It’s not in my plans right now,” it was taken as, “Yes, I plan to have kids someday.” And then just to avoid arguments, I went through a phase of lying. “Yes. I want to have kids someday. I want to have kids right now. Anybody have a turkey baster? Let’s kick this party up a notch. I’m ovulating!” But I’m not going to lie anymore.

The bottom line is that the choices we make often make sense to us but can confuse others. Somebody is always going to be disappointed with your life choice, and my rule of thumb is that as long as I’m not the one who is disappointed, I can live with that.

Jen Kirkman.

I know some people think that not wanting kids means I’m cold, but I’m not totally without baby urges. I felt something when I saw my friend Grace’s baby all swaddled in a blanket on the couch. She looked like a yawning peanut. She was just a content little lump, drooling and going in and out of sleep. And I got that feeling deep down inside that almost brought tears to my eyes. I got an urge and I thought, Oh my God. I want to . . . be a baby.

The above is an excerpt from Jen Kirkman’s New York Times bestselling novel, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself (Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids). You can purchase the book online or at good book stories. 

You can also see Jen perform her comedy show, I’m Gonna Die Alone and I Feel Fine, at the Melbourne Comedy Festival from the 26th of March until the 19th of April (book online hereor as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival on April 22.