Choosing a Different Life: Making The Choice to NOT have Children
I live in a society and culture that loves children. Women commonly have children very early in their lives, by choice. It is not uncommon for a woman in her mid-twenties to have several children and be planning to have more in the coming years. Despite whether or not it is anyone’s business, a woman age 23+ that is married will be asked, sometimes frequently, when she is going to have children. This topic is a common debate, that I won’t get into, but I hope that it helps paint the picture of pressure that comes from society (especially in certain demographics and geographical areas) to have children. Women also express how it is their greatest desire and deepest satisfaction in life to be a mother. They love this role almost more than any other role in their life.
We also live in a time where speaking out about infertility is becoming increasingly more common. Infertility is probably one of the greatest challenges that women desiring to be mothers are facing today. It is heartbreaking and affects many women and their loved ones. It is NOT something to feel ashamed of and keep quiet about.
But one group of women that aren’t speaking out much yet are the ones that make a choice not to have children. I am one of them. Our society (especially in my geographic area) seems to have a negative opinion towards women and couples who choose not to have children. Comments like “I can’t imagine my life without children” or “I didn’t know love until I had kids”, etc. imply that a woman choosing not to have children is going to have a lackluster life or not understand love properly and these implications are simply not true. When you choose not to include your childless friends and family in activities because they don’t have children, you are directly implying with your actions that they are less important and undeserving of being invited. When you spend more of your time talking about someone else and their children with your childless friends or family, you are proving my point; that you think the two people you are talking to are less important because you have nothing to talk to them about that involves them.
Much like infertility, things are said to those who make a conscious choice not to have children that have a greater impact than one would think - especially things that may not be said verbally, but with actions. The interesting thing is that in some ways, they have the same impact on both a woman struggling with getting pregnant, and a woman who chooses not to have children. When asked if I have children and the response is a simple “No”, you can instantly feel a shift in the energy of the person asking - like they aren’t sure how to respond. The next question is almost always a question of if or when. For a woman facing infertility, this just drives home the one thing that is always on her mind and that she is emotionally struggling with the most. For a woman choosing not to have children, this question paints the picture that her life is not complete without them or that she is somehow less important for not having children. Both are a very negative impact. I realize that in most cases that is not the intention of the person asking. Here’s a secret - when you ask someone to tell you about them, they’ll always start with what they value most. If they are a mother, it’s likely that motherhood is near the top of their list, so they’ll start by telling you something like “Well, I’m a mom - I have 4 children…” and that is your okay to continue talking about their children. If they aren’t a mother, they’ll probably tell you about their career. An open ended phrase like “Tell me about yourself…” during conversation, will avoid just about every negative feeling described above.
As a woman making a conscious choice not to have children, I feel it important to note that my choice doesn’t mean that I think any less of your children, or children in general. It also doesn’t mean that I have less of a desire to support the children of the world, including yours. It doesn’t mean I feel any less sympathy towards you if you are struggling with infertility because while I don’t know what your heartbreak actually feels like; I know what heartbreak feels like in general and I know it’s very real to you. It just means that my priorities are different than yours in life. I choose to treat my career as an entrepreneur as my baby and support, grow, and nurture it. I choose to spend my life growing and nurturing a relationship with my spouse, family, and friends.
I choose a different path, but it isn’t any less, just different. And it’s equally as beautiful, love-filled, and exciting as any other path in life. It will have its own set of ups and downs - just as motherhood does for you. Motherhood is not all butterflies and roses - everyone knows this. I am not less important, less loved, or less loving than a woman my age with children.
As with so many other things in life, the most important thing to understand is that, we are all on a different journey in life. This is not a one-size-fits-all decision - nor is any other life decision. The way to truly love others is to see the beauty in their choices and be respectful.