The magnitude of bringing a person into this world cannot be overstated. Sure, some might argue that it's our biological purpose to procreate, but we live in a time that when we have choices — not to mention overpopulation.
Raising children is one of the most difficult things in life, and as my mother once said, she couldn’t imagine getting through the shitshow of her kids hitting puberty had she not really, really wanted to be a parent.
It goes without saying, but parenthood just isn't everyone’s calling, and that’s okay. But unfortunately, while the choice is yours and people around you should respect your decision, you may find yourself having to have some tough conversations with a partner or family member about the subject. So because it's not an easy topic to broach, we've enlisted the thoughts and opinions of people who've been there to help you navigate the minefield it can be.
How to talk to your partner about not wanting kids
For the most part, we tend to go into relationships with some idea of where our partners stand on important things. But even if you're not dating with the intention of settling down, it’s worth knowing if your differing opinions on kids puts a cap on how far you can go in your relationship, even if it's a great one.
“Things were really good with my former partner,” Sasha, 25, tells me.
“People thought I was being so dramatic ending things with him, since we were only twenty at the time and it was a lot of 'who cares about kids you might not have for ten years?' But to me, it meant that we had an expiry date, and I didn’t see the point of wasting our time since I was never going to be content with a life with just him and me.
“It’s not that I’m about to ask everyone I match with on Hinge when they want kids,” she says. “But I would never go into a serious relationship with the expectation that someone would change their mind about something so major. That's just not fair to anyone.”
Nancy Sokarno, a psychologist at Lysn, says that the key is to be honest with yourself first. “Make sure that you truly know how you feel and try to eliminate any doubt,” she says. Feelings can change, but it's not really something to count on or ignore, i.e. don't expect that you'll just change your mind when the time comes around, or that your partner will. You also can't just brush it off if your feelings do change."
At the end of the day, when it comes to partners, the topic of kids should never be a one-and-done conversation. Even if you've both been adamant about your respective stances from the beginning, it's important to keep checking in on those choices to see if they may have evolved.
How to talk to your family about not wanting kids
Even if you know what you want, the conversation about wanting to be childfree can be tough. Feminism has come a long way, but there will always be people who will ask you to explain your decision. And while you do NOT owe anyone an explanation, your parents or family can sometimes be the exception.
With a large portion of parents hoping to become grandparents some day, it's easy to feel like you're disappointing them by making the choice to not pursue parenthood. Whatever your reasons, all we can say is that the future that you envision for yourself may not align with the one your family wants for you — and that is perfectly fine, and you're definitely not alone.
For Mariam, 34, the conversation with her family took some ugly turns.
“I always knew I didn’t want kids, or, to be more specific, I didn’t see a future where I had kids,” she says. But while she was okay with that, her mother wasn't as understanding. In fact, the pressure became so intense that she was pushed to take drastic measures. “It got to a point where I had to give her an ultimatum: if she wanted to continue having a relationship with me, she’d have to stop talking about me having kids,” she tells me.
“If it’s a definite no, then the best way to approach this topic is with honesty,” explains Sokarno. “Tell your family how you’re really feeling and try not to sugarcoat it for the sake of softening the blow.
“Also, avoid saying that you might change your mind if you absolutely know that you won’t. The last thing you want is for someone to misinterpret how you feel and then have different expectations of you in the future.”
Parenthood is a deeply personal choice, particularly if the expectation is on you to carry the child. No one should pressure you into a life-changing decision, and if you’re somewhat unsure of whether parenthood is the path for you, that’s a feeling worth exploring further.
While it's not uncommon for us to question such major life choices, it's good to keep checking in to determine if these doubts or urges are actually signs that you may not want what you did years, or even months ago. Give these conversations the weight they deserve, and always try to empathise with a person's decisions instead of asking them to justify them.