In which I think about not wanting children

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I don’t want to have children. I’ve never really wanted to have children. Most of my life I’ve been told that this will change, that not wishing to procreate was a phase I would get past, and that, fundamentally, long-term resistance to bringing additional tiny people into the world would be a bit weird.

There were generally agreed to be two key triggers that would send me back onto the right-thinking path. Those were “when you hit your thirties” – this being the age at which the tick of a woman’s biological clock is expected to become overwhelming, and “when you’re friends have children.” Well, I’m 35 next week (eeeek – more on that next Monday) and I can’t move for small people in my social circle, but the urge still hasn’t kicked in.

I don’t dislike children. I have a six-year old nephew and an eight-week old niece and they’re both marvellous fun. Well the six-year old is marvellous fun. The eight-week old is still really at the sleep-feed-poo stage, but she’s super super cute and cuddlesome, and I still can’t imagine wanting one of my own.

What’s struck my lately, much more than in the past, is that this feeling actually is a bit weird. Most (not quite all, but a heavy majority) of my friends who weren’t that fussed about kids when they were younger, did grow out of that phase, and reach a point in life where babies seemed desirable. Either that or a lot of my friends are terrible with birth control and good at putting  positive spin on the outcome.

And it’s not just that the great miscellaneous blame-for-everything “society” that we live in pressures us to have babies. It’s much more basic than that. We basically exist to reproduce. Our fundamental biological driver is to pass on our genes. Not wanting to do that would suggest that I’ve somehow managed to break evolution.  Er…. oops.

Not that I’m going to override my lack of procreational urge. The planet has plenty of people. A few less probably wouldn’t do us any great harm, and might bring big environmental benefits.

So why am I telling you this? Well, partly because it’s Monday and my new found blogging commitment requires that I tel you something, but mainly because of something two different women said to me recently, when I told them I’d never wanted kids. Both said that I was the first person they’d ever heard admit that openly. Now, obviously it’s perfectly possible that I am entirely unique and therefore unquestionably special and important and deserving of a tiara, but, sad though I am not to get a tiara, I don’t think that can possibly be the case. So that’s why I’m telling the internet about my weird anti-biological resistance to perpetuating my genes. It’s because it can’t just be me, can it? Please feel welcome to offer reassurances that I’m not a total one-off or to suggest pretty tiara options in the comments. Do you want kids? Did you always want them? Is it different for boys? Do they make tiaras for boys? Other questions like that…

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21 thoughts on “In which I think about not wanting children

    Jane Lovering said:
    July 30, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I think you’re brave to admit it. There are plenty of women who feel the same way but have children to ‘conform’. Or, even worse, to give their parents grandchildren.
    I’ve never been maternal, never longed for children, but ended up having five. Spent five years as a single mum to five kids under 11 (and wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone), hated babies, hated toddlers, but now love my five mid-to-late-teens-and-twenties. I guess motherhood wouldn’t be so bad if we could just skip the ‘baby’ phase and jump straight to the ‘independent and conversational’ one!
    More power to you!

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      alisonmay responded:
      July 30, 2012 at 8:28 am

      Well having 5 to test the concept seems quite extreme! I’ve heard quite a few people say they preferred certain stages to others though. The newborn phase seems to be the one that really divides opinion between those parents who love it and have a real pang as the babies get more independent and those who are just hanging on until the baby can use words and explain what it needs.

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    John said:
    July 30, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Well I have relatives, who used to seem to like getting down on all-fours and playing games with my sister and me when we were younger, who are married and have skipped the whole kids thing. Some wanted career, some just weren’t interested in kids and others just liked their lives and were content so didn’t want kids changing everything.
    As for me – I was just starting to think maybe kids were an okay idea and then my girlfriend and I bought a cat. Phew – talk about hard work. These are the creatures that are supposed to be independent. No one ever called a baby independent so I’m thinking they must be a right pain in the butt…. not to mention all the other pains in backs, bladders and wallets that other kid infested friends seem to suffer. I think your no kids stance is very understandable!!!

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      alisonmay responded:
      July 30, 2012 at 8:29 am

      Yay! It’s nice not to be weird 😉

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    Kate Johnson said:
    July 30, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Cats? Hard work? Bowl of food, cat flap and on-tap worship, and they’re easy as anything. They’re also my idea of having something small and adorable you can cuddle and show off pictures of to disinterested strangers. I’ve hit my thirties and I’ve got a very adorable baby niece, both of which seem to be enough to convince my wider acquaintance that I’ll soon be going bibbledy for babies. Well, it’s not the case, which seems to confuse a lot of people.

    Of course, this may change when Richard Armitage turns up to sweep me off my feet. That’s some seriously good DNA to be passing on. Until then, Alison, I’m with you.

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    bellareview said:
    July 30, 2012 at 9:05 am

    You’re indeed not alone – I’m exactly the same. Never wanted children, pretty sure I never will, I love my friends’ kids and I’ve heard the same “you’ll change your mind” rubbish all my life. I usually answer by asking them the question why they DO want children. I think in this day and age, it is something to consider more carefully (I don’t say this to people having trouble conceiving, of course).
    I do have a new imagined pet-fear: what if I fall in love with a man who really wants kids, and I’m persuaded to do the pregnancy and birth giving thing despite the idea of it terrifying me, and I end up with post-natal depression? Just me here?

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      alisonmay responded:
      July 30, 2012 at 9:08 am

      Tricky one. I’m not sure I’d be able to do “serious relationship” with someone who really desperately did want kids. It’s too fundamental a difference, and whichever way you went it would be unfair on someone (possibly including the currently imaginary children). Of course, that’s easy peasy for me to say being married to someone who’s very much on the same page as me on this one.

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        bellareview said:
        July 30, 2012 at 9:17 am

        Oh well done there, good find 🙂 It is tricky, guess it keeps one on one’s toes!

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    Kinga said:
    July 30, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Hm. This is interesting. I think I have always wanted kids. It was one thing in my life I was sure I wanted. When I was 22 I was ready for them. If they had come then I would be a happy mother now. Now, that I am 30 I feel my wanting children turned into a more abstract idea. I do want them still, I think. But maybe not now. Actually I definitely do not want them now but I am almost sure I would want them later, and preferably a bit older as well, so I sort of need to start now.
    That, or I can adopt a 6 year old in a few years.

    I WISH I didn’t want to have children! It would make my life so much easier. I wouldnt feel that pressure that I need to find the right guy, someone I can have children with and kinda soon too because I am 30 already. And I could just date anyone without worrying whether they are ‘right’ in the long term or just ‘right now’.

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      bellareview said:
      July 30, 2012 at 9:28 am

      You’re right Kinga, it does make life easier in the end. Most of my girlfriends of that age are either struggling with this or are happily preggers/have babies. Strange times these, I wonder how/if it will change in a couple of generations time…

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        alisonmay responded:
        July 30, 2012 at 11:25 am

        I definitely agree that not wanting kids makes life easier (so long as you don’t have a much-loved partner who desperately does want them). I think it can take some of the pressure off relationships – you don’t have that biological clock thing in the same way. I think it can also make choices about career etc easier because you don’t have the complication of career breaks to the same extent and the responsibility of having to provide for a child. I’d probably struggle do the work I do at the moment which is all freelance if I had children – the hours are too random and income isn’t reliable enough, wheras if it’s just grown-ups deciding for themselves you can be a bit more irresponsible.

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    Louise said:
    July 30, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I also have 5 children! But I don’t regard myself as particularly maternal or “mumsie”. They wear me out, drive me to tears, anger, and sometimes I resent them, especially when I can’t find the time for my writing. But I love them, would do anything for them, and love the fact that I am privileged to care for them and be their mother. I enjoy them a lot more from about aged 5 onwards… by which time they can walk and talk and I can help them learn to read… and I love it when they start forming their own opinions and can hold proper conversations. Babies and toddlers are a total pain much of the time, not that fulfilling TBH, but it’s a short stage, and that thought keeps me sane.

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      alisonmay responded:
      July 30, 2012 at 11:28 am

      Gosh! All these people with 5 children! And here’s me thinking 1 sounds like a lot 😉 I love the way you describe feeling priveleged to be their mum – that sounds like exactly how you’d want it to feel.

      I know what you mean about watching them form their own opinions and personalities – I see that with my nephew more and more. Did you always want/plan to have children or is it something you’ve learnt to appreciate?

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        Louise said:
        July 30, 2012 at 11:39 am

        I was enjoying being in my care free twenties and then suddenly at 27 I decided it was time to have a child, so I did. Then another one when I was 30. Then a third (unplanned) when I was 37, then a divorce, meeting my now second husband, and two more children have followed, both in my 40s. DEFINITELY no more! Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions, and I never thought I’d end up with 5 children, 2 was going to be my limit 🙂

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    hollyannegetspoetic said:
    July 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I want babies but only if I can find the right man – so increasingly unlikely as age creeps on that I won’t have any. Which will be fine. But not as I would’ve liked.
    And I think I deserve a tiara for that cos it might stop me sulking a little…

    Like

      alisonmay responded:
      July 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

      I think tiaras for everyone! When I’m queen I shall make decree!

      Like

    Katie said:
    July 30, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I’m the same, I have never wanted children. People say I will eventually, but, having felt this way since my own childhood it seems very unlikely. I also find the “Oh you’ll change your mind” speech rather patronizing. A sort of thinly disguised “your view is childish, you’ll come around to mine when you grow up a little” chat. Worryingly. I was once referred to a “selfish” for this lack of maternal feeling, I found this strange as surely it is more selfish to have an unwanted child and not look after it, than to simply carry on child free?

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      alisonmay responded:
      July 30, 2012 at 7:11 pm

      I’ve been told it’s selfish too! I tend to respond, “Yeah…and?” x

      Like

    Kate Oakley said:
    August 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I have a very dear friend who can’t have children. That is really is a lot to learn to live with . She had no choice at all.Is it not all about choice ?

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    In which I have read some books | Alison May said:
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