Please Stop Asking Me Why I’m Not Having Children
I love my child-free life. So why do I feel the need to constantly justify it?
Apple-picking has been my favourite fall activity since I was little, when my parents would drive my brother and me to a small town outside of Toronto for our annual pilgrimage. I loved these memories so much so that, a few weeks ago, I convinced my girlfriend to put on a plaid flannel shirt and take us to the same apple farm I ran around in as a kid.
It was exactly as I remembered — the tractor ride to the orchard, the pumpkin patch, the one rusty old slide. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how many children there’d be. The place was overflowing with young families taking photos with squashes and gourds, and lugging bags of apples that weighed more than a four-year-old. It was a chaos — a joyous kind of chaos — but I wasn't ready for it. “Babe,” I said, turning to my girlfriend as I watched a little boy chuck rotten apples. “I’m so glad we’re never having kids.”
She nodded, not needing to say any more. She’s perhaps the one person in my life who’s never asked me to justify why I want to remain childless. The one person who doesn’t make me invent a satisfactory rationale for wanting nothing more than to keep the life I have: sleeping in until noon on Sundays in the one-bedroom apartment we can actually afford, and never having to compromise on prioritizing a career I love.
Remaining childfree was an easy choice for me, but my decision is often written off as selfish, childish, or premature (I'm only 30). Because of all the good reasons out there not to have kids, one remains taboo: I just don’t want them. And I’m not alone. Even though millennial men and women are putting off having kids or not having them at all — in Canada, fertility rates are down across the country for women under 30, with New Brunswick being the only exception — we’re still pressured to present very compelling answers to why we’re choosing to remain child-free.
I wholly support anyone who wants to be a parent, I’ve just never felt the ovarian ache my friends gush about when encountered with the chubby thighs of tiny fingers of a baby. I’ve never dreamt of the glow of pregnancy, Christmases with my little ones, or first days of school. It’s not that I hate kids. On Halloween, for example, I’ve sat on the cold stoop of my apartment building just so I can coo at all the tiny witches and mummies, quizzing them on their costumes and slipping the sweetest ones a few extra treats. Still, I think, “Cute, but nah.”
I do, however, covet a life full of mimosas and eggs benny (I’m not big on avocado toast) and humblebragging about my travels on Instagram. I’m even an aspirational dog-park visitor. I don’t have a dog, but there’s an off-leash park near my office that’s just delightful to watch. When I think of the future my girlfriend and I have planned, nothing feels like it’s missing.
But that's not good enough for most people. Not for my mom, whose favourite refrain is “you never know.” Not for anyone I’ve ever met at a baby shower. Not even for doctors who’ve warned me my whacky hormones mean I’d have trouble conceiving.
Remaining childfree was an easy choice for me, but my decision is often written off as selfish, childish, or premature.
And sure, there are some very good arguments for not reproducing. A 2018 survey from accounting firm BDO found that one in five Canadian millennials are delaying having children because they don’t think they can afford it. It’s a valid concern considering that as we’ve grown up, wages have barely moved while housing prices and the cost of a post-secondary degree have exploded. Which is why concerns about student debt are also an acceptable answer.
More recently, there’s also been great anxiety around not having kids out of concern for climate change. Name a publication and they’ve probably produced a think piece questioning whether or not it’s ethical to procreate only to have your children inherit a partly-scorched, partly-drowned Earth. In fact there’s a whole movement of teens — who, by the way, are far wiser than we give them credit for — who’ve pledged to not have any children unless major strides are made in combatting climate change.
But that I’m supposed to have an answer just shows that women are still expected to default to having kids unless they have a convincing-enough reason. Even lesbians, like me, don’t get a pass. When I came out to my parents, their outlook for the kind of traditional family life I could have didn’t change. This is, in a way, a blessing and a sign of changing times. It also demonstrates my privilege as a white, queer woman in Toronto — I could afford to have kids and raise them in relative safety. That’s nice, it really is, but I could do without all the expectations.
And that’s what this really comes down to — the expectations we place on women. Why do we still so relentlessly demand women justify our life decisions, big and small? It feels like we are always apologizing and explaining our feelings and our actions. Notice that no one ever seems to ask the same of men. My reason for not wanting kids is just as good, just as acceptable, just as none-of-your-business as any of the above.
It took time for me to believe that, helped along greatly by my girlfriend. Together we’re creating our own definition of what family and adulthood mean. It doesn’t make me selfish, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to grow up, and it doesn’t matter if anyone thinks I’m a waste of a womb. No one is entitled to an explanation beyond “no thanks.”
And if you need me, I’ll be at the dog park, dreaming about a future on my own terms.