I went to a first birthday party today.* It was everything you’d expect from such an auspicious occasion. The birthday boys were the centre of attention: finding the wrapping paper far more interesting than the presents. There were kids everywhere. And there were the parents keeping a wary and indulgent eye on their children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren).
And then there was me, with no children of my own.
And this just confirmed one thing that I have been quite certain of for a few years now: Thank heavens I don’t have any.
There have been many posts by other women who get lynched for declaring that they don’t want children. Like you’re failing your gender and your species by not having your sole purpose in life be the creation of offspring. Yes, there are some who dearly want kids and are not able to fall pregnant: my heart breaks for them. I have sat and comforted a fair few of these poor souls in my time, and the injustice of it all upsets me. But there are also those of us who are just not maternal.
Like weddings (and that’s another whole blog post/soapbox rant), I have never grown up wanting children. I have never been clucky. I am happy to play Aunt Shelley and give the child back to their parents when the nappy needs changing/is hungry/ is tired/fuelled by the sugar I have plied it with. I will treat the little person like the absolute treasure it is, but I have no inclination to have one of my own. I’m not selfless enough, and if I find other people’s kids little bundles of chaos and anarchy the moment they are able to walk/run/talk/think, I would not want to inflict any spawn of mine onto the world. I couldn’t do it. I can’t ever see myself being able to do it.
I seem to have reached an age where the talk of children (and weddings) come up in almost every second conversation. I hope people are going to stop talking weddings with me given my very scathing opinions of frothy white dresses and stupid amounts of money spent on a ridiculously short amount of time (for what?! one-upmanship?), and I have managed to avoid the “are you going to have children?” question almost as often as I’d like.
I’m putting my answer here about having kids so that I can just refer people to this post: I can’t ever see myself having kids.
But I’m about to confuse the whole issue. (Nobody has ever accused women of being logical. I know I’m not).
One should only think about having children for the right reason: That you and your other half love each other so much that you want a little mini-mix of the two of you running around so that you may love, and be loved, and know that your love lives on in your children. Your child needs to know that it was wanted, yearned for, and adored – from the moment its existence was acknowledged, all the way through the tantrums, the fights, the accidents, and the tears, until you die.
I have been incredibly lucky to have been brought up knowing that I was wanted, yearned for and loved from the very beginning. I have an excellent relationship with my parents. I have wanted for nothing, I have been encouraged to do amazing things, I’ve been supported through all sorts of ups and downs, and I’ve been allowed to be whomever I want to be. As has my brother. And my god, we have achieved some unbelievable things between the two of us.
So, if I have had all of this, and the stars align – why wouldn’t I have children?
Quite simply, the desire to hear the pitter-patter of little feet is not there. The clock does not seem to be ticking – loudly or otherwise. I cannot look at a baby and wish it was mine (I think of 9 months of pregnancy, then labour, then 18 years of torment before they leave and only talk to you when they want something – see what I mean?). And I would never be able to do the same sort of stellar job my mother did. Not with the lifestyle I want to lead, and the adventures I still want to have.
There is a part of me that will always be a little sad that I feel this – I am female after all, and mother hen is my default switch – but I still don’t think that by saying what I’m saying, I am a disgrace to my gender. I’m pragmatic. If I do by some twist of fate ever find myself expecting, then the child will be loved, and cared for, and encouraged to live and dream and be. But it’s just not something that I intend to do.
I can love and be loved without needing a child to prove it. And I can be part of whatever village I am able to be in to help raise and support my friends with sprogs of their own. I can teach and I can enjoy this miracle of life without causing any damage to the continuation of the human race myself. And that is fine with me.
*(More on my presents to them when they’ve finished blocking – I hate set-in sleeves)