Why I'm Reluctant to Write About Not Wanting Kids

Monday, July 23, 2012

baby all stars
Photo by Roy Costello
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons


The other day a writer pal of mine tweeted about her fear of writing on controversial topics. I quickly jumped in (Writeous Babe to the rescue!) and reminded her that the best of essays are those that take an unpopular stance on an issue. Then she replied that she was mostly reluctant for fear that her opinion would change. I told her that was OK. I don't believe writers should ever pretend to have it all figured out. We don't have all the answers and we should admit that. "Writing is about asking questions," I tweeted. And after she marked my tweet as a favorite I felt special, like I had said something important and sage. 

Then I realized I was a hypocrite. 

Lately the thing that's been on my mind most is a controversial, unpopular choice of mine that I've been leery to write about. 

I don't want children. 

In January of 2008 I was diagnosed with a condition that would most likely make pregnancy, delivery, and life after childbirth extremely difficult for me. When people close to me, people aware of this issue, ask me why my husband and I aren't trying to have kids I use this condition as an excuse. But it's just that -- an excuse. I don't want children, and it has nothing to do with my health. 

I had a wide variety of responses ready for the moment when someone asks why I'm not trying to get knocked up: We're not quite ready. We need to put away more money in savings. We want to buy a house first. Excuse. Excuse. Excuse. 

A few months ago -- ironically on Mother's Day -- I made the decision to drop the excuses. And when random lady at the supermarket asked why my husband and I don't have kids, I boldly replied, "I don't want children." That has been my response to anyone who has asked since then. And for some reason I'm asked this question about once a week, usually by someone who can't even correctly pronounce my name and, therefore, has no business asking me something so personal. But I digress. 

I've wanted to write about the hilarious array of reactions I get to my declaration that I don't want children, but in order to do that I would have to write about the fact that I, you know, don't want children. And that I didn't want to do. 

Sure, I've written about this matter in a lighthearted manner in the past like when I wrote a column for the weekly I used to work for about remaining childless for reasons such as I didn't want my perky boobs to sag after becoming lactation stations. And like this piece I wrote for The Hairpin.

But I've never dealt with this topic seriously in my writing. Why? For the same reason my friend wouldn't tackle her tough topics -- I'm afraid I'll change my mind. At this point in my life I'm pretty sure I will not. When I was in my 20s everyone said as soon as I turned 30 I'd go baby crazy. But when that monumental birthday rolled around last year I began to feel more certain than ever that I did not want to be a mom. Still, there is a chance I could change my mind. 

No, I'm not worried about proving right all the people who said I would, in fact, change my mind. Those are the same people who think I don't want kids because I wasn't hugged enough as a child. (Growing up my brother and I never went to bed without my parents first giving us a hug, a kiss, and an "I love you.") And those are the same people who say ridiculous things like, "Motherhood is a woman's purpose and duty."  Ergo, I don't care what they think.

What I’m worried about is changing my mind, having a kid, and then one day Writeous Baby reads this post and starts yelling, “Mommy! You didn’t want me?! You don’t love me!” That is my fear. But I guess it’s too late now. The declaration that I want to remain child-free has been made and posted in cyberspace. 

And in case it's 2030 and you're reading this, Writeous Baby, please know that if you're in this world it's because I not only wanted you, but decided I couldn't live without you. 

43 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Carol. I thought it was important to practice what I preach.

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  2. Beautiful!! It's eery how similar our cases are. I have often used my medical condition as an excuse when the truth is that I just flat out don't want to have kids. Perhaps I'll write about the topic some day. I'm more dreading all the comments about how I'm "missing out" =) Thanks for posting!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Ashley. One reason I wanted to write this was so other women who don't want kids won't feel so alone. I hope you do decide to write about this topic one day. And those "you're missing out" comments probably will come, but so what! With every choice we make we're gaining something and missing out on something else. It's about deciding what's best for us and making those choices with grace. We women who choose to be child-free, if that's really what we want, don't sit around all day, every day thinking about what we're missing out on, just as most mothers aren't sitting around all day, every day thinking about how great life would be if they hadn't had kids. Women should have the right to make their own choices for their lives and they need to live gracefully with the choices they make.

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  3. Good for you putting it out there, Javacia!

    There are many things that I've written about reluctantly and fearfully. And several were because I was afraid that I would change my mind.

    I've been writing about going shampoo-free (obviously not the same scale as what you are discussing, but the internetz, and people in general can be mean no matter what it is you change your mind on) and every week I'm having to come back to the weekly update and admit that it's not going perfectly and that I might give it up.

    I think just putting it out there for the dialogue to begin is a big step. I do that with political subjects. My mind has been totally turned around on many topics, and at least once a month people message/email/DM about why my politics have changed. I'm left wondering if that means they are thinking they can no longer be my friend, and scratching my head (maybe that is just from the shampoo-free thing, though ;) I appreciate their curiosity, as long as they withhold judgement.

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    1. I think it's totally unfair for readers to think writers should never change their minds. We're human aren't we? As you learn more you grow and change. Sometimes the knowledge we gain bolsters our opinions on certain topics. But sometimes the new knowledge completely changes our minds and that's OK as long as we're honest and don't try to pretend that our previous position never existed.

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    2. The key is feeling like you're in charge of your decision, because sometimes circumstances just make those life-changing decisions for you! I'm a lot older than you, and one of the few things I've learned in my life, is never say never...but gather support and love around you for your current stage in life, whatever that may be. (And I expect you have plenty of that!) More power to you, Javacia!

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  4. Thanks for writing this. Everyone looks at you as if you are crazy when you voice not wanting to have kids. I am over the "woman's purpose" reason. I don't agree being a female means my life should be interrupted in such a monumental way, when I'm not really interested. It would be nice if people stopped asking, but even more so, I'd like people to stop telling me I am going to change. I'm not covered in Mommy and while I may eventually have a child (if I am 100% ready), that doesn't mean I've changed, it means I got into the right mental attitude for it and I want my husband (whom I adore and who desperately wants a child) to be happy.

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    1. Yes, I hate when people flippantly say, "Oh you'll change your mind" as if this is a decision we haven't thought long and hard about. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.

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  5. Great article. Although I am a mother of two, I would never question a person's choice to be child free. Being a mother is a hard job and there are times when I honestly feel like "what was I thinking?"(OAN that could be a tough topic that I tackle one day when I get my nerves up to pursue writing more seriously). I look forward to your posts and am really impressed by your ability to be open with a bit of humor. I respect the honesty in your writing. Just wanted to write and let you know that you inspire me. Writing has always been my first love and stumbling upon your site has really renewed my interest. Keep up the good work. I look forward to working with you someday.

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    1. Gaynelle, your comment makes me so happy. One of the primary purposes of this blog is to inspire women to write and to be bold in their writing. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know I'm not working in vain.

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  6. Bravo for being true to how you feel and for writing so honestly about it. And that note to any future Writeous Baby? Love it.

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    1. Thanks, Amber. I hope this post encourages other women writers to tackle the tough stuff in their writing.

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  7. Replies
    1. Thanks, Margaret and thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  8. Great post, Javacia!! Having children is SO much more work than I ever imagined it to be. Despite the fact that I wanted kids like crazy and it took me two years to get pregnant the first time, after I had my first, I doubted my sanity and questioned why I had done this to myself. And that's after really wanting one!! Of course I love it now, but IT IS WORK. All that to say, I always tell everyone - don't have them unless you know that you know that you know that you want one. Because it is life-changing, and not always in the positive ways!

    I'm proud of you for writing this, and for being willing to be honest with overly nosy strangers. I can't wait to read the responses you're getting - I can only imagine!!

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    1. Oh yeah! I'm looking forward to writing the post about people's reactions. I'm having trouble finding a way to describe that look people get on their faces, though. It's like I just said, I had puppy brains for breakfast this morning.

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  9. Being a parent is serious. Everybody doesn't realize that "HELLO!!! You're responsible for someone else"...responsible for their (kids') actions, views, morality, behavior---the list goes on! As a parent, that's a HUGE deal to me. I pray over my kids like crazy because...I'm responsible for them! There are so many things to consider before reproducing. It's a challenge--for some a desirable one, for others an undesirable one.

    As a parent I can respect someone w/o children admitting that parenthood isn't something they want vs becoming a parent and treating a kid like she/he is unwanted. But if you ever do change your mind, it's definitely more rewarding than you can ever imagine!! ;)

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    Replies
    1. People always say it's selfish to not want children, but I think it's selfish to have a child just because that's what you're "supposed" to do, especially if you can't take care of the child or don't really want to be a parent.

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  10. I have aunts that have chosen to remain childless. I believe that is is every woman's right to choose whether or not she has a child. I applaud the fact that you know that this is your choice and there is nothing wrong with that. Anyone who thinks so, needs to be told it is one of their business. I hope you have a happy fulfilled life without out them, and if you are like my aunts, I am sure you will, they have.

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    1. Cynthia, thanks for sharing your story about your aunts. I really appreciate that. I always tell people that instead of being a mom I'm looking forward to being a really cool aunt.

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  11. APPLAUSE! Thank you for sharing something so personal and vulnerable. I find it encouraging as a writer since I too struggle with putting things out there that may not be the popular opinion or something I may rethink one day. I really loved the just-in-case note to Writeous Baby at the end!!

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    1. Thanks so much, C. Love. I was really hoping this post would push other writers to be bold and take risks. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

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  12. Life offers many choices, and most (in some cases, all!) of them are valid. Good for you for sharing your decisions, and for having the humility to recognize that sometimes, we change our minds. That's valid, too!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Carla Jean, and for that comment.

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  13. Great read! As a mother to one, I am often caught off guard by nosy people asking why I don't have more. I respect your decision, and in reality your decision is your business. This is an awesome blog, by the way!

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  14. Definitely okay to change your mind, and priceless to leave a note for Writeous Baby to read in 2030! My fear in writing controversial subject matter is that I'll lose friends, respect, admiration, etc. I'm preparing to lose all of the above as I write this memoir. People usually respect a strong stance on just about anything--as long as it comes from values based on factual information--but it's different when people perceive you as one thing and you reveal yourself to be something different.

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    1. I'm really looking forward to reading this memoir.

      I have found that when people perceive me to be one way and then realize that I'm actually different if they can't handle that then it's best for the both of us that we not be friends anyway. Trying to be a certain way in order to hold on to people never works out in the long run. I'm speaking from experience (and urging myself to follow my own advice) as I type this.

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  15. Wow! What a great post! I love your writing and the subject... I struggle with this on my blog as well. My blog is a personal, quirky mix of fashion and faith, and I know that writing about my faith will alienate the people who have only come for the fashion. It's always a struggle, but I find that I increasingly want to write about what is important and relevant to me, even if it's not popular. Thanks for writing about this!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading. Your struggle is a tough one. I even struggle with that on this blog. It's supposed to be about writing but I'm a feminist through and through so I want to write about those issues as well. Maybe you can find a way to write about faith in a way related to fashion and in each faith-related post focus on making it affirming rather than preachy so that it will have more of a universal appeal.

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  16. Beautifully written.

    I was like you. I was sure that I didn't want children because well, I didn't and yet, I wasn't really doing much to make sure I wasn't going to have children anytime soon.

    But, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I have two lovely children and I want one more..possibly two more. Yea, I shock myself everything I think about it.

    As you mentioned, there is a possibility that you may change your mind and there is that possibility that you won't. Either way, it's your prerogative.

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    1. Thanks, Carla. And thank for stopping by my blog! PS -- I am doing plenty to make sure I don't have children. A pill a day keeps the babies away. LOL.

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  17. A little late to the party, but l had to jump in... new fan here via twitter. I love this post. I knew since l was a kid that l did not want to have any kids..zip..nada.. I remember whenever my mother bought dolls, my immediate older sis was the one playing with them, doing the hair etc.. while l could be found sitting on the slide, eating mangos, and reading the latest novels passed down from my sisters. It's especially tough being African, most of my family thought l was cursed..lol! I didn't even want to get married. I just wanted to travel and be a writer. I just had my 48th birthday. l am married, so l did change my mind about that!!! I still get it from well meaning strangers. When they say "I feel sorry for you", l just tell them, on the contrary, l feel sorry for you!. I see everyone struggling, especially with the recession and l thank God everyday l didn't swallow the candy. No screaming kids to deal with etc. My hubby and l take off for trips to see the world when we feel like it, and l am the aunt that spoils all the nephews and nieces. Even if l felt the urge, l would adopt over having a biological one, there are just too many kids out there who needs help. My big fear is starting a blog and running out of things to say.. I have recently finished writing my first novel called "Dale in the City" and I am so excited! which l have on kindle. It is gay fiction, and l had the fear of putting it on my fb wall because l know all my religious fanatic friends and family would react caustically, but your post has just given me the courage! Keep it up..

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story and I am so glad this post gave you the courage to promote your work. Go for it!

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  18. GIRL. Live yo' Writeous life and don't sweat it! Nobody, (I repeat) NOBODY has the authority to judge you based on whether or not you choose to have children. (Especially YOU! Stop judging YOU.)

    I'm a proud mother of two and I'll be completely transparent - it ain't easy, and it ain't for everyone. And in this day and age, I would assume that it's easier to take that ("No, not I") stand without condemnation from society. Is it not the case? Do you feel pressured? And why on earth is that so? In our teens they all ask us what where we'll go to college and what we'll major in. Then in our twenties, they want to know when we'll marry. Then as soon as we marry they want to know when we'll bear children. Then they want to know if it came naturally or if the child was conceived through medical intervention. Then they want to know what we'll name the child. Then they want to know when we're going to have another child. It never ends...

    I'm interested to know - what's the percentage of male vs. female who pose the "are you having kids" question to you? I bet it's majority women. I hate to say it, but we are so hard on each other (and on ourselves). We are obsessed with making ourselves feel better by worrying about what everyone else is doing and thinking and saying and blogging and wearing and so on...

    Don't. Even. Sweat. It. Live your life and all you've dreamed of!! There are plenty of kids already filling up the earth's carrying capacity... We could use a few brave couples who decide to balance the rest of us out :)

    And, hey - you can *always* come and hang out with my boys if you feel a hankering for "little people time". I'm willing to bet they will only solidify your position on the matter. (LOL)

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    1. "GIRL. Live yo' Writeous life" -- is going on my next vision board.

      I do feel pressured to have children because whenever I mention to someone that I don't want kids they ate like I just said I slaughter puppies for fun.

      And, yes, about 99% of the questions come from women. You're right we women are so hard on one another which makes me sad because most of my life's work is centered on the idea of sisterhood.

      But I am slowly becoming more comfortable with discussing the issue with people.

      Thanks for your awesome comment.

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  19. I am so with you, Javacia. I haven't ever really wanted to have kids. Every now and then, I think, "gee, it'd be fun to have a kid to read to," "it'd be fun to have a kid to take around the world," "if I had a kid, I'd put them in xyz school, teach them xyz, etc., what an awesome kid he/she would be." I even have favorite children's names. (Still!) But I don't think any of those are the right reasons to have a child, and any time I have those "wish I had a kid" thoughts, they don't last long.

    Since my dad died last year and I have inherited the family farm, I've thought "I have no one to pass the farm to when I die." And sometimes, "I have no kids to look after me when I'm old." Those thoughts fill me with a little more regret, but I still don't think they're the right reasons to have or adopt a child.

    I never really talk about it, especially after someone once told me I was selfish for not wanting children. But I've never thought I'd be a good mom, to be honest. I don't think I have the patience. I wouldn't feel right taking on the responsibility of having a child if I weren't totally into it. (Thanks, LK, for saying it's not for everybody...) And now, I do have a medical reason that means I cannot have children.

    I do love being an aunt... Very much!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Shaun.

      When my brother asks me about having kids I always say, "I'm going to be a fabulous aunt." I really do think that's what I was meant to be -- the cool aunt.

      Oddly, I never have those thoughts you mentioned, which is probably more proof that I shouldn't have children. But let me say that I HATE when people say women who don't want children are selfish, as if raising a child is the only positive contribution a woman can make to the world. Most women who I know who don't have kids use all their free time giving back to their community in various ways. You are a perfect example of that! I know I couldn't do what I do with See Jane Write or church if I had a child.

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  20. The thing that strikes me the most about this post is how many people actually think your business is theirs! I am always amazed at how many people will ask incredibly personal questions to a near stranger. Even family members have no right to question your choices.

    Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I would never DREAM of asking someone about such a personal matter. My mother's mantra was "mind your own business," and I guess it's mine too.

    Thank you for such a thought-provoking post!

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  21. I love this! As a non-mom in her 30s, that question makes me sick, esp because I'm not even married. Usually i respond with something like, "i'm waiting on the husband 1st...or do you prefer I do it illegitimately?" That usually catches people as off-guard as I'm caught by them delving in my personal business. I haven't determined that i don't want children, but I'm very clear that i don't want them in a situation that would cause either of us to be in struggle. So, for now...i'm chillin. Kudos to you for owning your decision and not being afraid to change your mind.

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