“You don’t always have to be who they want you to be, you know.” - Katarina Stratford, 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999
My big premise is that single women are right. That there’s nothing wrong with being single, that we don’t have to feel bad about ourselves until we end being single, and that society has had it all wrong all along. I don’t believe in societal pressure to partner. I believe in partnering at our own pace, and that pressure to be part of a couple is a figment of society’s imagination. Unless it’s ovaries pressuring you, then that’s some real shit.
I do not want children. To say this here feels a bit raw and revelatory. Every time someone contacts me and expresses gratitude for my point of view, part of me is elated, motivated, and pleasantly shocked. The other half of me feels like a liar. I like to think I’m just another single girl, but the truth is I believe I have it easier than single women who want children. I want a partner, I don’t need one. And if you want to have kids, there is of course a part of you that wants a partner, but there is also some component of need, and certainly some component of urgency.
I let go of any urgent feelings surrounding my singleness when I admitted to myself that I don’t want children.
I let go of any urgent feelings surrounding my singleness when I admitted to myself that I don’t want children. My partnership desires are now motivated by one concept only: I think it’d be nice. Not, I want to have a baby and biologically there’s only so long my body can physically accomplish that task. Isn’t being a woman just — pun intended — the tits? We have to concern ourselves with unequal pay, sexual harassment, and longingly looking at the desk chair in the oval office like it’s a brass ring, and our own bodies pressure us more than any nagging relative ever could. Oh, and we should smile more, right?
The first question, your first question, the dude sitting in the middle seat on this flight’s first question is always the same: Why? Why don’t you want kids? OMG you’d be such a good mother, why don’t you want kids? Are you somehow damaged? Can you physically not have kids? What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you want kids? What’s wrong with you? Because if I don’t want kids, something’s wrong, right? Women are “supposed to” want kids, right? That’s not a decorative air plant holder, lady — it’s a uterus. Use it.
My answer is simple: If you’d walk up to a pregnant woman or a mother, point at her belly or offspring and say, “why’d you do that?”, then I’ll tell you all about why I don’t want kids. But because our society assumes mothers are right, and child-free women are wrong, my reasoning is my business.
Because being single and not being completely devastated by that fact wasn’t enough to make me weird, I’ve got this, too. I wonder what the museum plaque next to my picture will say one day. “Was single, didn’t hate it. Chose to be childless. Was studied by anthropologists until her death in Paris in 2071, was survived by three cats and the kind grocery delivery man, Pierre. Left all her money to Girls Who Code.”
I fight presumed wrongness on so many sides sometimes I wonder why I even exist. That sentence came out darker than I intended but you get the point.
I fight presumed wrongness on so many sides sometimes I wonder why I even exist. That sentence came out darker than I intended but you get the point. I’m single and I shouldn’t be. I don’t want kids and I should want kids. I have a cat instead of a dog even though cats are infinitely easier to care for and double as heating pads when you have cramps.
I want so badly to be seen as right by society. Maybe publicly discussing this other wrong thing is my first step toward giving less of a shit about what society thinks in general. It’s taken a long time to shake off caring what society thinks about me, and I’m not surprised by that. Society’s been raising me since 1982.
There are probably about 50 reasons why I don’t want children. I don’t hate children, I adore them. Babies especially. I mean have you seen baby wrist rolls? The kind that look like they’re wearing a hair tie when they’re not? Scrumptious. I love real kids, too, the kind that read “big” books and awkwardly navigate life and have glasses because they’re too young for contacts and listen to Belle and Sebastian because their mom is cool. Kids are great and I love them. I even was one, once. But I don’t want my own, and my singleness feels so much more free and relaxed because of that truth. It generates a lot of guilt in me, not because I’m not giving anyone grandchildren, but because it’s my professional passion to write as a champion of single women and to write from a place of “us.” Sometimes I worry I don’t totally qualify.
I’m not on the clock. That makes being single easier. I know it for sure, because the day I made this decision, I literally felt a physical weight lift off of me, never to return. It completely changed my perspective, and there was suddenly one less (massive) thing to worry about. There’s a literal window of time that single women are operating within, and I didn’t just move those goalposts, I burned them the fuck down.
I think I’d like being single less if I had to hurry up and end it, or risk losing the ability to have something I want because of my own biology. Now this concept and motivation seem almost nonsensical. “Hey, person — partner with me, and be quick about it, because I want to make another person.” What?
Nothing inside of me is on a timeline. My IUD will expire in 2022 but other than that, I’m good. I don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars and inject anything into myself to freeze my eggs “just in case.” I don’t think about what kind of father a man will be when I go on a date with him. These are massive things that just aren’t a part of my single world, and the truth is that not wanting kids has saved me a lot of stress that my fellow singles are currently going through. That stress is real and valid and I can’t do anything to help. I just write about the realities of being single without having to deal with a bunch of them.
It would be really easy for me to let society win again and say that if I meet “the man of my dreams” and he wants kids, I’ll change my mind. Like maybe this childless stance of mine is putting off men and maybe that’s what people can point to as the “reason” I’m alone. In order to hang onto an opportunity to end being single, I’ll cave and bring an actual human life into the world. That seems reasonable. Surely I’d never resent him, my baby, or myself for irreversibly altering the course of my life in way I didn’t want and had the option to prevent. But here’s the thing: the man of my dreams doesn’t want kids, either.
I have chosen to remain child-free. If you’re a single woman reading this, my own anthropological efforts in studying us tells me you probably don’t feel the same way. So while I might think I’m creating something for all of us, in a way, I’m not. I date as if I have all the time in the world, because I do. There’s no urgency in it. And I’ll never forget that it’s easy to write from here, and probably really difficult to date from where you might be.
I think I reconcile this by reminding myself that single women deserve whatever they want — or don’t want. I believe in that, I champion that, and I champion us, all kinds of us. But I can’t deny that it would feel really validating, confidence-boosting, and simply welcoming if the response when I say I don’t want children wasn’t “omg why?” but instead “cool, should we get fries for the table?” I know it’s completely okay for a woman to be single, and completely okay for a woman to not want kids. And spouse or no spouse, dog or cat, babies or no babies, she’s right.