Subscribe to Bitch—an award-winning, 80 page feminist magazine. Image Map

No Kidding: And If You Love Me, Let Me Go

For a long time now, I've been bothered by the idea that we have to choose to between what's best for other people and what makes them happy. This comes up all the time in our personal lives. Your friend is dating a deadbeat who she totally adores. Your niece suffering through a miserable internship that might open amazing professional doors later. When is something deemed good or bad for you? When do we decide that being happy is more important? Can the two ever coexist?

As long as I've been open about my desire to be forever childfree, people have expressed concern that I'll somehow miss out on a formative experience in life. This, I feel, is about other people's belief that I need to experience something, perhaps something that changed their lives; that I will somehow be a better person because I'll have been a parent, that choosing motherhood is the best option, even if it wouldn't make me happy, because I will learn so very much about myself and the world around me.

Happiness is fluid, of course, but I've never been willing to bet two decades or more on the idea that maybe, eventually, an experience will be "good" for me. I'm not afraid of missing out on something by not having children. If anything, I'm afraid of the flip side, of having so many things to do in life that I'd never be able to balance it all. I feel lucky to live in a time and place, supported by a like-minded partner, when making that decision is possible. I wish that freedom for everyone, the freedom to make choices about not just what might be good for each of us, good for society, or good for the planet, but choices based on what we truly believe will bring us long-term happiness.

Finishing up this blog series, I'm so appreciative of this space and the readers who offer thoughtful feedback and ask questions. Of course, there were a lot of things I didn't cover in this series. If you want to pick up where I left off, get in touch with the Bitch crew. Maybe it's because I'm a full-time freelance writer that people sometimes ask me, "But how did you get that job?" For me, the answer is pretty simple: I asked for it.

Thank you to the folks who have followed this series along the way, have sent notes and emails about your own experiences and frustrations. May a series like this one day be unnecessary.

Enjoy reading this article? Good news! Our quarterly magazine, Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, is packed with 80+ pages of feminist analysis, reviews, illustrations, and more. Subscribe today!

Subscribe to Bitch

Comments

15 comments have been made. Post a comment.

You are my hero.

You are my hero.

have kids cuz they change you for the better

while this idea may be true (as any difficult thing will change you for the better), there is an inherent selfishness w/in it. more than thinking what having a child means to the parent, we might think of what it means to the child. because there are a million ways we can put ourselves into hardship in order to gain wisdom that do not require a new life be generated.

From one childfree lady to another...

❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

That is all.

I thought by the title that

I thought by the title that this post was about letting a partner go because of differing ideas about children. I recently went through a major upset in my 3 year relationship because my partner finally admitted to not wanting children in the near future (5-7 years) after saying that he wanted kids 'soon' for the first 3 years of our relationship.

For both of us it was awful. We love each other so much but it really is a deal breaker. I don't believe he was lying to me for 3 years. It was more that he hadn't truly thought it through, until I pressed him. I thought about letting go of my ideas about children: having them when I'm young (i'm 28), having them when my sister's children are still young enough to be of similar age: not being menopausal when I would have teenagers. And I realized that I had A LOT of ideas about having children, and to let go of them to stay with a partner who may be ready in 5 years, maybe later, was not something I was ready to do.

I can see this being similar for someone who doesn't want children. To give up everything you've thought you wanted, a life you have visualized and worked towards. For those who are certain, the path ahead is crystal clear.

Thanks.

Thanks for your series, I have enjoyed it thoroughly.
R

I'm not selfish just because I don't want kids

Thank you for posting! I am so relieved to know that I'm not the only one who doesn't want kids and I thought I would just share my thoughts here:

If I was richer AND I didn't have a hip problem, maybe I will have kids. Otherwise, no kids for me. When I say this, I feel like people are thinking that I am pro-child abuse or that I'll "miss out".... But no, I most certainly do NOT condone child abuse, I do NOT hate children, I am not a sex addict who's obsessed with having a "fashionable body" (I really, really don't care how my body looks anyway...), and I do not think I need to live through kids in order to be happy. And when people talk about the joys of motherhood and wanting to be a mom, I can see that they clearly know nothing about the responsibilities... they're just talking about kids as if they were pets or accessories. But of course, if they want to be a mom, so be it, good for them -- I just don't want them trying to shove their motherhood beliefs down my throat because it's none of their business if I don't want kids. Besides, I personally and honestly believe that I won't be fit to be a mom.

And I know I'm only in my 20s, but I'm thinking of getting a tubal ligation to seal the deal; I'm not gonna have use for my ovaries anyway. Also, I know I could get a c-section (if I choose to be a mom) because of my hip problem, but I don't want to and I would prefer the natural birth. I know my body will be frozen numb so I won't feel a thing, but I will be awake and without anesthesia... and I don't like the idea of knowing that I am being cut open while I'm awake -- that'll traumatize me for sure since I already have a little phobia of needles and being cut/prodded by foreign objects while awake. At least I know I'll be getting anesthesia for a tubal ligation.

All in all, being a mom is a choice - not an obligation.

thank you

i've really appreciated this series. i decided i wanted kids in my very early twenties, but now that i'm in my thirties (so the clock is ticking) & i have health/disability issues to contend with, and so much living that i still want/need to get done *before* i feel ready to parent, i've been wondering if it's a realistic dream/goal for me, if it'll truly be a happy/good-fit experience considering the other challenges i have, if i won't just end up resentful & overwhelmed & with lower quality of life cuz of the clash between child-rearing & my disability needs. and i haven't found a lot of places where i could air out my doubts. most of my friends - who are mostly queer, so there is deliberateness & planning involved - really want kids. (and some have already gone through this deliberate process & are parenting.) and that used to be me - reading memoirs of lesbian pregnancies or anthologies on 'known donors' or attending information sessions. but now - i am looking at the circumstances realistically & i'm not sure. so seeing your series - which talked about this option so honestly, and helped me see what a life without kids might look like - has been really great. i've read every installment with eagerness. i still want children - but wanting doesn't always equal "it's a good idea for me" - and now i can see that if i decide *not* to have them, my life can be much more than regret & grief for a missed opportunity. thank you so much for the information & personal sharing on this topic. now i have more context for making a decision.

thanks for the series!

it's been a fascinating read!

yes.

I recall feeling a great anxiety about having kids throughout my early and mid-twenties. When I finally realized, late in my twenties, that there was no obligation to have kids I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. I don't know if it is "selfish" not to want kids (actually I'm not sure how that argument works), but I do know that it would be irresponsible for me to have them if deep in my heart I don't feel that I can devote enough time or energy to them. I have a good career, a happy home life, great (mostly child-free) friends.

Awesome

I really appreciate this. I'm taking a class on feminism and literature and the idea of having children or not came up. An elderly woman auditing the class said that society had gone wrong because we no longer lived on farms and grew up learning to love baby animals (chicks, puppies, etc.) as practice for becoming parents. Leaving the incoherence of that argument aside, I spoke up to say "I loved kittens as a child but I don't want to have children." The woman responded by (literally) yelling at me that I would end up an unhappy, lonely spinster! She was convinced that not having children was denying both a maternal instinct that all women have (something I firmly do NOT believe) and a fulfilling life experience. There are plenty of life experiences that are fulfilling for many people; that doesn't mean that everybody participates in them. So why is motherhood any different? Why does our culture insist on motherhood being presented as 'natural' and 'inevitable'? I really appreciate this blog series and its open discussion of the option of childlessness as just that: an option. College is a fulfilling experience for many people, yet many others opt out of it and live happy, fulfilling lives. Motherhood is the same, and it's nice to see someone publicly talking about it. Thanks!!

Yes.

If you define "love" as an expression of empathy, this means being open-minded to the extent that you are open-minded about others' closed-mindedness. It means understanding that truth is subjective, and respecting everyone's individual truths. True democracy is seemingly paradoxically done by upholding the individual first.

I really enjoyed these posts,

I really enjoyed these posts, Brittany. Thanks for the series!

Ashley McAllister, Outreach Coordinator
Did someone say Comments Policy?

Wait, you're going?!

I'm coming out of lurking to say how sad I am to see this series end - I thought it was permanent! I've really enjoyed all of these posts. For a woman in her early 30s who is just now starting to become angst-ridden over her decision not to have kids, and so few realms in which to discuss the choice to be child-free and the myriad of topics that go with it, your writings were a god-send. Lately, I feel like I need columns like this more than ever before. I hope the Bitch editors will find a way to keep this series going, either with you or someone equally eloquent and thoughtful. Thank you!

thank you!

I really enjoyed reading this series - thanks so much for writing it! I'm only sorry to see it go. Your blog posts (and the ensuing commentary ) brought up issues that I hadn't even considered before - most notably how difficult it has been for some women to get their doctors to provide them with sterilization devices/surgery, or that perhaps the public scorn for not having children may be limited in scope to race and class.

Hey Bitch mag, how about an in-depth article dealing some aspect of this topic? I don't think I'm the only one who would like to see this issue explored more.

Thanks so much for this

Thanks so much for this article. Magazines like this are a godsend.