I’ve had this post sitting in drafts for ages but never felt comfortable hitting publish. Today’s topic is an incredibly personal one but something I think it’s important to talk about and normalize.
My friend Jenn inspired me: she was talking about this in her stories. It always jumps out at me when another influencer talks about this – it’s rare. She mentioned having a post about this in her drafts for three years and I DM’d her and was like, “OMG SAME!!!!!” We decided we’d both post today. Solidarity? I highly encourage you to check out her essay: she (a married person) has a different perspective so I really enjoyed reading her thoughts.
Her essay actually made me feel a little guilty and sad – as a single person, I deal with all sorts of criticism but I think it’s even harder when you’re married. People feel sorry for the “sad single girl” who “can’t find a man and settled down…” but when it’s a couple, intentionally choosing not to have a baby, it can inspire anger and people can be truly awful. Her piece (particularly the pregnancy speculation and rude comments) made me really upset.
I would also recommend listening to Kate’s Childless Millennial podcast episode which is the other thing giving me courage to post this!
I don’t want kids.
My PANK (Professional Aunt, No Kids – I learned about it from Erica Cerulo but the term was actually coined by Melanie Notkin) lifestyle and DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) aspirations aren’t exactly a secret, but this is something I haven’t written about in depth, probably because (as important as I think it is to talk about), writing a post like this has a permanence to it and also has a lot of risks: offending someone, inviting others in to my life to give advice I’m not asking for, scaring potential dates who google me away, I could go on.
What if I change my mind and do somehow wind up having a child and then this post exists somewhere on the Internet!? While I don’t see that happening, you never know: people do change their minds.
I also want to make sure you all know that this is not by any means a critique of anyone else’s life decisions. I love my mom friends! Being a parent is awesome. I like kids! Half of my favorite instagram follows involve children. Some of my mom friends apologize to me about all the kid pics and I reassure them: I AM HERE for your cute kid pics. Lastly: I know so many people who have struggled with infertility. I can’t imagine what that feels like and if that is you, please know: I am sending you the biggest hug ever.
I am writing this post more to normalize my own feelings as I know that many people feel the same as I do, but nobody really talks about. Any time I touch on it (even lightly) on Instagram, it leads to really thoughtful and interesting exchanges in the DMs.
So let’s talk about it!
If you don’t want kids you are not a heartless, child-hating troll.
I’m not a cold, heartless troll. (Unless I’m really hungry, but even then I still have a heart.) I swear. My niece and nephews are the lights of my life. I love my friends’ kids. You can be warm and kind and loving, you can be a great babysitter, you can truly love kids but also not want your own.
Maybe I’d feel differently if I were an only child and didn’t have my niece and nephews. Or if I only had one sister, and I were the only chance at my niece or nephew having a cousin. I’m not really sure. This is something I think about a lot. But at the end of the day I choose to focus on living the life that I want, a life I love… and being the best aunt I possibly can be. If I am living the life that makes me happiest, I am a better person and better equipped to be a good friend/sister/daughter/partner/auntie.
People often ask me when I knew I didn’t want to have kids.
I think I always knew.
As a child, I never cared about baby dolls. As a twenty something, I never fantasized about a dream wedding or baby names. I always said, “oh when I have kids… etc etc” as it seemed like an inevitability, but the actual prospect of having kids felt so far away that it was never scary. The one guy I dated for a long time wanted an army of kids; I remember being really overwhelmed by that idea but thinking, “oh, that’s so far away, we’ll worry about that later.”
I think I always just sort of figured a biological clock would turn on and I’d be walking down the street and see a cute mom pushing a cute baby in a cute stroller and feel some primal yearning. It never happened. I’ve grilled my girlfriends who do have kids. They each described an incredible longing that I admire and think sounds amazing but have never personally experienced.
So, suddenly here I am, a year away from 40. No biological clock, no primal yearning. I still don’t want kids, and my conviction on this has only gotten stronger. It’s taken me a really long time to get here and say that with confidence, and to be honest I only feel so OKAY saying it out loud with conviction because of the DM’s I’ve gotten from so many of you and people like Erica (she came on our podcast a while back and talked about it) and Jenn who have made feel not just okay, but actually confident and hopeful and really good about living my life the way that I want to.
You can LOVE kids and not want them for yourself.
I said this above and I will say it again: my niece and nephews are the true lights of my life. I can’t tell you how much I love them. My heart hurts when I think about them and the best part of last week was choosing Zoe’s birthday gift (I got her a beautiful stroller for her dolls, several rainbow balls (she’s going through a big ball phase), three outfits and a gold crown with pom poms. Overboard? Maybe a little. She only turns two once!
Not wanting children doesn’t make you selfish or a bad person.
Although being open and honest about this has led to a lot of great conversations I have also been called so many awful things in the DMs when I talk about not wanting children.
Cold. Child hating. My favorite line is “But you were a child once!” (What does that even mean??? Um yeah – that’s how biology works? Just because I was a child doesn’t mean I need to be a mother!) My least favorite thing EVER is when strangers tell me I just haven’t been in love enough to want to make a baby with someone. I have been madly in love, it just didn’t work out. And what a rude thing to say to a stranger on the Internet!
Not wanting kids doesn’t make you selfish, it’s also okay to want to be selfish.
I love my life. So much. I really value my sleep and my alone time and quiet. I value my career. And I love my friends and my social life… and yes, being able to sleep in on weekends if I want to. Maybe if I were a man and didn’t have to deal with the physical parts of growing and birthing a human (or all the societal pressure moms get), I would feel differently, who knows!
I personally think it would be even more selfish to bring a child into the world just because you feel like you have to do it, or worse because you want someone to take care of you when you’re old. A couple years ago I broke up with someone I was dating and his desire for kids was a big part of it, and I remember him arguing me that I was just scared, and me arguing back and him looking really defeated and finally saying “well who will take care of you when you get old!?” And I was like DUDE THAT IS NOT A REASON TO HAVE KIDS!!!!!
Dating when you don’t want kids is hard – really hard.
I think because I am a kind and warm person men automatically assume I want kids. I am a magnet to men who want a big family, men who will be great dads. They are always drawn to how close I am with my parents and my sisters. When I feel ready to date again I think I am going to need to put something about not wanting kids in my bio. I’m still optimistic and know my person is out there, but it’s definitely made things a lot more difficult. Especially at this age when we know what we want… we’re pretty fully formed and less likely to waver on these things.
All I want in the world is to live close to my sisters and their kids… and find a partner who wants to live the DINK lifestyle. I wouldn’t mind dating a divorced dad. I just don’t personally aspire to motherhood.
“But you’d be such a great mom!”
I get this one a lot. It’s very nice of people to say. But it doesn’t sway me. (Real talk, though: should you need to be swayed on such a massive life decision? Why do we try to enforce our beliefs on others? I’m not out here telling people with kids that they’re making a mistake!)
At the end of the day, there are a lot of reasons to do something. But I firmly believe that just because you’d be good at something, just because everyone else is doing it, just because there’s societal pressure and it’s something you think you have to do… those things aren’t good enough reasons for me. I am very happy marching to the beat of my own drum. I love my life. Pandemics aside, every year gets better and I’m really happy with the life I’ve built for myself. I hope I am able to find a partner who wants the same things I want, but if I don’t I also know I will be just fine. There are worse things to be than alone, and when you have amazing family and friends you’re never actually alone.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this. DM’s may take me a bit to get to but please comment below. Or, let’s discuss in the private Facebook group.
photography by Allie Provost.