From the time I was about 8 years old, I’ve been pretty adamant about not having children. As a child, I even disliked baby toys. Especially those creepy dolls with the eyes that closed when you lie them down. :S Flash forward to present-day me. I still have absolutely no desire to pass on my genes. A few years ago, my friend was 28 and she was desperate to find a husband and pass on her genes while her eggs were “fresh.”
Yes, fresh. Her words, not mine.Countless other friends have gotten married around the ages of 27 or 28 and had children soon after. It’s not that I dislike children. Well, I kind of dislike babies. But I am good with children and perhaps more surprisingly, children seem to like me. However, I have no intention of ever becoming a mother.
So why not have children?
For me, it’s a multitude of reasons:
- I like who I am and I don’t want to change for the sake of a child. And for better or worse, motherhood changes you physically and emotionally. Suddenly, you’re not defined by your self, your accomplishments or your goals. You’re defined in terms of your relationship to your child. I never want to be a point where another adult greets me with, “Hi, you must be Jane’s mother.” No, I am who I am. To me, the potential of losing my sense of self and my identity is the primary reason I will never have a child.
- It’s damn expensive. A 2011 study by the Manitoba Department of Agriculture suggested that a child born in 2010 would cost $191,665. In the US, costs were similar at around $230,000. Not including inflation of course. I could retire on that much money.
For other people… who knows? Everyone has a personal story and I would not pretend to understand each one. However, I will share this tidbit:
A 2003 meta-study of 97 children-marital satisfaction studies (Campbell and Twenge 2003) found that each successive generation from the 1970’s onwards was increasingly unsatisfied with their lives after having children. Now, this is not a study of 97 families – this is a study of 97 studies, each of which looked at a number of families. The studies were conducted by different investigators, different institutions and done in different locales. Hence, “meta-study” – a study of studies. Yet together, they showed the same pattern – why?
The authors noted that as the modern world progresses, people tend to delay marriage and child rearing to later years. As a result, according to Twenge: “My hypothesis about why this is, in both cases, is the same. They become parents later in life. There’s a loss of freedom, and a loss of autonomy. It’s totally different from going from your parents’ house to immediately having a baby. Now you know what you’re giving up.”
So perhaps my reasons are not so different.
Is it selfish not to have children?
I absolutely hate it when people – friends, relatives, strangers – would suggest that it is selfish of someone to choose to not have children. Do we all do things only for the greater good? Do we donate every extra dime we have to charity, spend all our leisure time volunteering, and refuse to do anything for ourselves in order to be productive for society? No, of course not.
It is your life. And you only have one. If you choose to not have children, it is just that – a choice.
Sure, it is a little selfish. After all, my existence only serves to further the species, biologically speaking. However, since my mothering instincts are in next-to-none, I feel like removing my genes from the gene pool actually furthers human evolution a teensy tiny bit. Plus, I’m near sighted. :p
Will I regret not having children?
Yes. I do believe that people who don’t have children will one day feel at least a little bit of regret. But it is human nature to wonder about what could have been. There are a lot of things I wonder and feel regret about:
- Renting an apartment in first-year instead of sharing a dorm.
- Not starting to save aggressively until I was 22.
And so on and so forth. But it doesn’t mean that those regrets impact my happiness now. They are fleeting bits of regret that float in and out and disappear. So sure, you might regret not having children – but that doesn’t meant that you’re going to be unhappy. And on the flip side, if you do have children…you might end up regretting them.
Benefits of not having children
For me, there are a lot of benefits to not having children:
I’m going to save a lot of money – $191,665, apparently! These numbers are a bit high, but even conservative estimates are striking. For us, a child would cost us about $500 extra a month: $100 for food, $100 for clothes, grooming and household supplies, and $300 for the cost of having a den or extra bedroom to house him. I would also budget another $1000 or so a year for medical costs and other incidentals. Of course, a baby would cost more during the first few years due to diapers and other age-specific costs, but I’ll ignore that for the sake of brevity. That’s still $126,000 over 18 years, NOT indexed for inflation.
- Reduced stress. I don’t ever want to be the couple that fights about stupid issues about their children. Brian and I have enough stupid issues to fight about already! Stress reduces your lifespan and I am not certain that (for me) the benefits of having children would outweigh the stress of caring for them.
- Time. Perhaps the most important aspect for me is that by not having children, I will have the time to pursue the things that are important to me and time to just be me. Sure, they’re selfish and self-serving interests, but it’s my life.
To me, it seems that you should have a good reason or desire to become a mother, rather than the other way around. After all, isn’t not having children kind of the default while becoming a mother is the action that requires commitment? I’m not looking forward to getting older and having to defend my lack of child-birthing to others. Actually, it’s more like I’m not looking forward to giving people withering glares while Brian attempts to smooth things over with vague remarks. Is it strange to decide so early to not have children? Am I going to change my mind in 5 years?
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