No Kidding: What We Talk About When We Talk About Not Having Kids

I'm not going to have children. In fact, I can't. I had my tubes tied last year just to be sure of that. I've always known I didn't want to have children of my own, but in an extremely pro-natalist culture, being childfree is not as simple as it sounds. There are plenty of women just like me, though childfree women aren't a homogenous group in any sense of the word. And though studies show that childlessness is on the rise, not having kids is still often seen as going against cultural, religious, and even biological imperatives.

Over the next eight weeks, I'll be reprising my Bitch blogger role (see last year's ecofeminist series, The Biotic Woman) to discuss what it means to be an intentionally childfree woman in Western culture. Why are some famous women (Oprah) relatively unscathed by the media when it comes to childbearing, while other famous women (Jennifer Aniston) can't shake pregnancy speculation? Why are families with a dozen children featured on television when parents of only children or non-parents are arguably just as interesting? Why is it so tough for childless women to access permanent birth control? If you have something in particular you'd like to discuss or have me analyze, please let me know!

A couple of notes: I like children. If you don't, please respectfully reserve those thoughts for another time and place. Bashing kids is akin to kicking puppies in my book; it's unnecessary and outright cruel. Don't do it. Comments like "I hate children" will be moderated, as will anything more inflammatory.

I'm also not interested in bashing parents or people who choose to have children. Childfree people get a bad rap—which I intend to discuss—and it's time some of us pushed back against that. Words like "breeders" will be moderated, as will anything more inflammatory. There are plenty of childfree blogs and message boards where people use rather frightening language to demean people who have kids as well as children as a social class. That's not what I'm about, and that's not what we're going to do here.

In other words, hate enormous prams that take up the whole sidewalk? Fair enough. Just don't hate on the occupant or the worn out parent pushing it, OK? Don't hate the game—hate the merchandise.

I'm here to talk about social pressure to procreate, media attention on multi-child families, tabloid obsession with childless women and pregnancy, and voluntarily female sterilization. I hope you'll join me.

Some reading to get you started:

All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting by Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine

Why I Don't Want A Baby by Polly Vernon, Marie Claire

Comments

124 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I'm looking forward to this.

I'm looking forward to this. I'm getting married in 4 months and already facing issues about kids. While I'm not a huge kid person, I do enjoy them and look forward to having a few children someday. However, I only want them AFTER I'm done with graduate school (so, in another 10 years or so), and I want to adopt them rather than biologically have them myself. This is already making waves with people/family, especially those who feel that a woman's career should NEVER come before children.

I feel exactly the same way

I feel exactly the same way you do, especially about the societal expection of not putting a career before children. I'm going to be in the same boat as you soon. I don't want to have children until I have successfully gained all that I can from my career. I want to work for a while and put my name out there. What is wrong with putting yourself first when you don't even have children yet?

It will be interesting to see

It will be interesting to see where this discussion goes. As a feminist woman raising four boys that I chose to have, I feel somewhat buffeted by the mixed messages from both media and feminism. I have been treated like some sort of brainless "breeder" hewing to traditional marital and family expectations by feminists who claim to respect that women have choices in reproduction. The media also tends to have this odd mixture of both contempt and glorification of women with large numbers of children. On the flip side, they also seem to have the same mixture of contempt and fascination with women who do not have children or choose not to. I don't like being pigeon-holed by feminism any more than by the media, and I know women who choose not to have children don't like being made to feel uncomfortable for their personal choices any more than I do.

I agree with much of your

I agree with much of your comment and am looking forward to the exploration of this subject as well.

"...feminists who claim to respect that women have choices in reproduction." Especially the way you put this. I understood that was the POINT of feminism in the first place -- to finally hew out a woman's right to choose WHATEVER she decides to choose -- whether it be childbearing or not, for example.

I'm looking forward to this

I'm looking forward to this too. I like your attitude toward the topic.

I, for one, am incredibly

I, for one, am incredibly excited to see this topic discussed. In particular, I am interested in the theory of social/cultural "ownership" of women's ability to procreate -- i.e., the belief that the public has some sort of vested interest in a woman's decisions regarding sex and procreation -- and how women who don't appear to acquiesce to this are regarded as threatening. I use the word "appear" because it's my experience that those who ascribe to a social ownership theory are mollified by a superficial show of similarity to their own choices.

I should also note that my own experiences are framed in the context of residing in the small-town south, where procreation is generally expected to follow a very specific pattern and there are degrees of "acceptable."

I have known since I was

I have known since I was young that I never wanted to have children and last year, at the age of 30, went through the essure sterilization procedure. I have only confided this to a few people b/c of the very negative responses I have received when I have done so. I am tired of hearing comments like "You'll want kids when you meet the right one" or "Just wait until your biological clock starts ticking". I am also tired of the 'winks' people give each other when I politely state my desire not to have children when asked when I'm going to have children (like it's anyone's business to begin with). When I went in for my consultation for my essure procedure, I was asked at least 20 times "How old are you?" and "Are you sure about this?". I am looking forward to this series!

I'm very excited about

I'm very excited about reading this series. Due to PCOS and extreme endometriosis, I've been asking for a hysterectomy for the past 7 years. People keep telling me, "You don't want that... what about having babies?"
I'd rather be able to enjoy my life, pain-free. Babies are not even a thought for me.

I feel your pain...

...literally. I have endometriosis and I, too, determined years and years ago that bearing and raising children wasn't for me. I'm now preparing for my second surgery in 5 months because my doctor insisted, over my strenuous objections, that he not remove my entire ovary the first time in order to "preserve my fertility." Argh!

That's terrible...

Mocha,
I would tell my doctor that s/he will remove the ovary or I will find another doctor who will! Seriously! He's not the one going through painful surgeries and spending the money on copays and deductibles - YOU are!

I'm so sorry you are going through this.

It's time to stand up to these know-it-all so called "professionals" and tell them WE make the decisions about our bodies - NOT THEM!

"You'll want kids when you

"You'll want kids when you meet the right one"

I was finally able to put a stop to these insulting comments with the response "I know that you do not mean to imply that I do not know my own mind and am easily swayed by the suggestions of a man, but if he is the "right one," he will not want children, either." It was quite liberating!!!

I hear ya!

My family and friends gave me that same line, "You'll change your mind when you meet the right guy!"

My response? "Well, if he wants kids, then he's not the right guy, is he?"

And then I got that annoying wink.

I'm married now, and my prerequisite to tying the knot? A vasectomy. (It was going to be the Essure procedure, but the way finances and insurance fell, a vasectomy won out.)

I also work in an elementary school where we currently have four pregnant teachers, so the constant, "Maybe you're next!" also gets quelled with, "Oh no,it's impossible-- my prerequisite to marriage was a vasectomy!" I laugh happily-- they look horrified.

But I don't get any more comments, nudges or irritatingly personal questions. :o)

And VERY, VERY much looking forward to this series. I went looking for a doc for permanent sterilization at 23 yrs old and shockingly, the doc was more accepting and understanding than the family members and friends I talked to about it. I was shocked at the almost violent and definitely hostile responses I got. Had no idea people could get so personally offended by a woman choosing not to have children.

Right on!

As a woman who is 7 months from earning her PhD, I am constantly bombarded by people (family and friends) who think it's a "shame" I haven't had children. I don't believe I am going to have any children, but I never rule anything out. However, at 31, I am far too ambivalent to say yes. The biggest thing that bothers me is perks people with children get. At least in my line of work (assistant professor at a university in NYC), having children affords my colleagues first pick of class times, unlimited time off for anything child related, and free child care when they bring their children to the office during working hours. What's more amazing is my male colleagues with children don't as for the same exceptions as my female colleagues with children. I don't intend for this post to "bash" anyone who has children; however, I feel like my choice not to have children places me on a lower rung in my career.

As a CFBC, I'd respectfully

As a CFBC, I'd respectfully disagree that working parents have it "easier". Our western working culture doesn't make it easy for women (I'd like to say parents, but there's still the unfair burden of raising children being mostly "mother's" work) to work/study and raise kids, and to hear of an institution that makes working parents a top priority is exciting to me, a feminist (even a child free one) who longs for equal rights in ALL things.

What you see as a perk for a working parent is an absolute neccessity for them. Child care is expensive. Having flexible time to simply live is a hard concept for some people to grasp because of our industrialized capitalist culture (the 8 hour working day is such an historical hangover, it's so irrelevant) - and yes its a concept that should belong to all workers for whatever reason, but do not begrudge working women their rights they've fought so long and hard for.

Sometimes as childfree we need to check our privilege for what we see as benefits (workplace creches, benefits, flexi time) for working parents. If it means so much that you want flexi time then negotiate for it. If you have such a great workplace/institution that is caring for the parents, then it stands to reason they should care for ALL their workers/people.

Seriously, it blows my mind you have an institution that cares for parents so well. That's so incredibly rare.

I agree that a workplace that

I agree that a workplace that cares for parents is an important and very rare thing. I have been in a number of institutions that afford the same consideration to mothers, who are bearing the full brunt of child rearing. I am happy that they are able to sustain their family by working while fulfilling their dreams of raising a family. I am very willing to accept that workplaces need to be flexible to the needs of working parents. And I sincerely apologize if I offended you or anyone else. I do not mean to suggest that working parents can't do the work of a working non-parent in any way. My mother was a working single mother, and she was often awarded as a top employee while being (in my opinion) a top mom. I have the utmost respect for career oriented parents.

That said, I am not talking about flex-time. In my line of work, there is no such thing. What I am talking about is a lack of penalty (or perhaps a greater understanding) for parents who need to attend to their children. We are all expected to do the same job, but parents are often absent from important meetings, events, and even their own class sessions. Their children, of course, come first in their lives. As a non-child-having person, I am expected to pick up the slack for my colleagues, to understand when work doesn't get done, and to be on my game.

The rationale when I've mentioned this situation to my boss has been: "you will appreciate this leniency when you have children."

If I don't intend to have children, I will constantly be helping out those who do. I understand it takes a village, but I didn't realize that being a part of a workplace meant you were a part of that village.

Of course you are part of

Of course you are part of that village. The idea that kids happen at home and work happens at work without any overlap is a hold-over from gendered division of labor where men went to work and women took care of the kids.. The fact that, as an employee of a work place, you are expected to make accommodations for parents is something that I see as a step forward in society. I would love love love it if it applied for your male co-workers as well, and consider that to be a true victory for women and feminists. Parenting is a 24/7 job, and there should not have to be someone stuck at home all the time to perform this task. Both parents should share that responsibility and that's only going to happen if the childless of the world can step up.

I work for a small company and I do not have children, but they are sometimes here, or people are missing to care for them. My coworkers are all male, so when that happens I make sure to pick up the slack cause kids should not be totally absent from the workplace.

Uh, what? These people chose

Uh, what? These people chose to have children. How is it their colleagues' responsibility to pick up the slack? Work and personal life do not mix.

Thank you! That was exactly

Thank you! That was exactly what I was thinking! It is a person's choice to have children or not have any. Why should anyone be in anyway responsible for someone else choices?

One way I've heard it

One way I've heard it described is that children are a very expensive, very time-consuming hobby. For some people, their passion in life is writing, others fishing, some people like to spend their free time gardening. And some people choose to spend their personal time creating a family. If you take an early afternoon off of work, whether it's for kids or for a quilting convention, you are not working. What if work schedules allowed for everyone to follow their dreams?

What?

"...cause kids should not be totally absent from the workplace."

It's a *workplace* not a day care center.
It is very hard to work when a child is right outside my office door, babbling excitedly and loudly, or when a coworker has a wailing infant in to "visit". A quiet child who is doodling in a coloring book or a sleeping baby? Not a problem - I still don't think it's entirely appropriate but sometimes it's a case where a coworker has to bring the kiddo for an hour to get some important stuff done really quickly and I get that.

Kids are bored as heck at workplaces and they can be prone to acting out due to that boredom. Then everyone else has to deal with the meltdown or the zooming, bored kid bouncing around to entertain his or herself, disrupting work flow and impacting productivity (and, in my case, sanity. Hah.) Kids and workplaces don't mesh well - at least in my experience.

Workplace accomodations for parents

Being childfree by choice and working in the Human Resources field, I feel conflicted by society's acceptance that we all need to pitch in or make accomodations if someone has a sick kid or their kid is in a play so they need to leave work early. That is fine, but how about the same for those that don't have kids? If my co-worker has to leave early because her kid has a softball game, that's all well and good, but if I want to leave early because I need to take my cat to the vet? Isn't that just as important to me and my work life balance?

You are right, parenting is a 24/7 job, but not a job that I signed up for, so I shouldn't have to be expected to be OK with a co-worker that always has to leave early or has to bring their kid into work because they don't have any other arrangments. And, no, I don't think the "childfree" (that's what is prefered over "childless", as this implies we are "less" than because we don't have kids) should have to "pick up the slack" because the people I work with have kids.

Not at all offended

Not at all offended aprilzosia :) I see what you mean about not having any reciprocal - if you pick up the slack for the working parent, there should be some system in place that they can fill in for you when you need to do something outside work.

"Uh, what? These people chose to have children. How is it their colleagues' responsibility to pick up the slack? Work and personal life do not mix."

Anon, you missed what Kellykend very succinctly said about western work culture: "The idea that kids happen at home and work happens at work without any overlap is a hold-over from gendered division of labor where men went to work and women took care of the kids."

It seems like work culture needs to be destructured, with better support services for everyone. Imagine if every large work place had a creche (for parents) AND a quiet room to pop off and have a nap (for non-parents who like to work different hours). Imagine if there was a great cafe that served meals for adults AND kids. Of course not feasible for the small business, but they could compensate with flexi-time and remote/satellite working.

It sounds like an expensive and lengthy process to change work culture, but imagine the benefits - a happier, more productive work force who aren't worrying about earning enough to pay for child care, AND those with different benefits from parents feeling enriched too.

Sounds very commune like, eh?

Hippie dreams are nice and

Hippie dreams are nice and all, but they are not reality. The reality is that people without kids often get screwed over by parents taking time off to attend to family duties. Sure, at work nurseries and nap rooms would be great - but they're not going to happen any time soon. In the meantime, you have one group of workers who do not carry their weight and another group expected to pick up the slack for them.

Nonsense

Where do you work? I want to work there...b/c it sounds like parents are able to take off and leave early to care for their children with impunity.

You make it sound like there is no price to pay (other than you being overworked) for a parent that is called away from work to care for a child. The prevalent reality is if an employee has to take off or leave early due to parental obligations, that employee has to use leave time (which he/she has earned) or lose wages. In addition, in many cases, employees are still responsible for their work should they, god forbid, have to take a day off or leave early for their dreaded children. The work does not disappear, it gets done at another time.

Academia

The first comment came from someone in a PhD program. Faculty and graduate students are supposed to be teaching, attending committee meetings, holding office hours, etc.; they generally have very flexible schedules otherwise (they aren't working 9-5), and they don't have to take leave for time missed. I've seen plenty of parents abuse this by consistently ending their classes early to do daycare pickups, demanding that they get first pick of times in every scheduling process (whether for meetings or for the classes they're slated to teach), regularly bringing disruptive children into the classroom and repeatedly stopping class to interact with them, and requiring others to cover classes or office hours for them without offering to cover for the other person in return. Of course not everyone does this, but it's interesting to see how people sometimes abuse what's already a much more flexible schedule than people working in industry, or even in administrative positions in universities, could ever hope to get.

My experience at work was the

My experience at work was the complete opposite. At meetings I've had my work colleagues say things in front of my boss and everyone else like "are you sure you'll be able to work these hours because of your son"? I do mostly contract work and have totally seen a drop in assignments given to me since having kids, people just assume I can't do the work. We pay thousands of dollars in childcare every year just so I can do some work.
Actually I have a good friend who teaches handicap children and was given unlimited time off to take care of her ill parents. Now that her mother died and she's back at work, she is finding her work colleagues jealous about her family leave and how the district accommodated her in her time of need. Most companies have family leave plans that will allow you time off to take care of other family members other then children, and as your folk's age you might need to take advantage of that!

*sigh of relief*

Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Those who have chosen to reproduce do so knowing full well the access to benefits and resources. I do not deny that it is difficult and that the benefits shared by parents in other countries shame our nation which is, supposedly, committed to the concept of "family." However, as someone that has chosen to not reproduce, I do get frustrated that co-workers that are not sick are allowed to use their sick time when a child as sick and that I get no comparable "pass." As a frighteningly healthy individual, I would like to take day here and there to volunteer, read or do research - do something that contributes as much to the quality of life within my community as raising a child. I am frustrated that I am the one at work that covers for co-worker's maternity leave and FMLA with no additional recognition or compensation. When working in a 24/7 work environment, those with children got top priorities on weekends and holidays because their "families"were more socially defined than mine. We have one Saturday a year where one person in our division has to work. I traditionally do it so to get an extra day off, but I was unable to one year as I was in school. I was told by a co-worker that she could not work Saturdays because she has children (and a partner fully able to watch the children for one day). As a person who has chosen to not reproduce, I would like the opportunity to access the equivalent of FMLA in the form of a sabbatical to travel and volunteer to participate in international work - which, again, is just as important and significant as raising a child.

THRILLED to see this issue discussed!

Right, countless benefits

Right, countless benefits like an unaccomidating society, having every choice judged and questioned, people telling you to "leave the kids at home", lack of parental leave... Yup, should have thought of that before zie got pregnant!

And how dare parents sacrifice their sick days to care for a child? Everyone knows that caring for a sick child is all roses and joy, and parents never get sick themselves, so they have no reason to use them otherwise. It's like they get free time off with absolutely no repercussions or responsibilities! I mean, it's not like disabled parents exist who have to weigh their own health against the health of their child when taking time off. And everyone always has enough money for a private nanny if their kids are sick and they can't get off work! Clearly, a workplace that caters to families is horrible and must be stopped!!

/snark.

FMLA is not a sabbatical

FMLA is leave designated to care for a baby, sick child, sick family member, etc., it is not a leave designed to enrich one's soul or pursue personal projects (though coworkers may often perceive it that way.) It is a leave period that is designed to protect an employee's job while caring for another family member and protected leave period is a mere 12 weeks. Many US employers do not pay for this leave.

I feel the reason this leave is provided is because in the case of caring for a newborn, caring for a sick or dying family member, etc. - an employee should not have to work. It is not physically possible to function as a full-time caretaker and then be a productive employee.

And why the heck would you begrudge a co-worker the ability to use sick leave (that was earned) to care for a sick child, as if caring for a sick child is any easier than being sick yourself. It is no vacation.

FMLA

I too am very glad to see this here. My co-worker is on FMLA and takes off once a week. We only work a 4 day week so that means she is basically working a 3 day week with 4 days off every week. Since we are salaried, there is no substitute staff for her when she calls in sick, and since our job is actually a team- I end up doing the majority of the reports, meetings and follow-up myself. There has to be some recourse for those who aren't on FMLA. I'm exhausted and at this pace am going to need to be on FMLA too . Enough already, and yes I am childfree so I get the "double-whammy".

Gender pay-gap

Those perks still come at a cost.

One of the main contributors to the imbalance in wages between women and men is caused by the amount of time taken off work for maternity leave and any further time off taken from paid employment to raise the child(ren). When the mother does go back to work, she will often go back into a similar job at the same wage level (reflecting that she hasn't worked up the pay grades and received the incremental cost-of-living increase), or at a lower wage to reflect the skill atrophy she may have experienced while out of her chosen profession.
We'll see the same trend in men once the imbalance in maternity/paternity leave is addressed (hopefully concurrently with the further narrowing of the gender pay gap)

ummmm....

The whole point of this was not to bash, and yet, that's just what you're doing.

In response: there are numerous studies out there that demonstrate that mothers on the tenure track are not privileged, but pay a price for their decision to have kids. You can go and look it up, if you like. You might learn something.

There are many women in academia that are very frustrated that they can't have the children they want because they think it will be too much of a detriment to their career. Many pregnant women in academia that are told 'oh, that was a mistake' (seriously) and 'wow. Too bad for your career, eh?' or 'Really. I didn't know you were a breeder'.

The decision to have children is fraught. The decision not to have children is fraught. The lack of decision making power - for those facing hostile workplaces and/or for those experiencing infertility - is also fraught. It's good to have a discussion about the relatioships between women, the state and 'reproductive obligations'. But we can't have that discussion if it's going to get negative before it's even started.

Childfree Blog

This is a great idea for a blog! I look forward to reading it.

If you talk about sterilization, you could also mention Essure. It's a less invasive (non-surgical) alternative to tubal ligation. I had it 2 years ago, at age 36 with no kids.

Childfree Woman

I've known I that I don't want children since I was a child myself. Something about the "get a job, get married, have a couple kids, retire, and die" just hasn't ever appealed to me. Although I do realize that my simplistic equation of parenthood with mediocrity and routine is not necessarily the case in all situations -- many parents have very exciting and fulfilling lives I'm sure -- I have always wanted something different from that. Something less ordinary, something more exciting, some less run of the mill, something different and unique.

What I used to find frustrating (and still do, to be honest) is how people just assumed I was "being silly." I always got the line, "Oh, once you'll grow up, you'll change your mind, just you wait." I can't express in words how annoying that condescending attitude is. As if someone else knows better than myself what I want in my life. Furthermore, I think it's ridiculous that people equate not wanting a child with "hating children." "You don't want children? Wow, I thought everyone liked kids," is the usual response. No, just because I don't want children of my own doesn't mean I have a grudge against kids.

I wish people could understand that the days of the dominance of then ultra-domestic, heteronormative nuclear family are fading away. The social order is changing; the cultural scene is chaning... and for the better, in my opinion. The world simply can't support an ever increasing population. Women should be seen as "complete" only when they marry and produce offspring. Marriage doesn't signal adulthood. Let's get over our Victorian hangover, already.

"Marriage doesn't signal

"Marriage doesn't signal adulthood."

Thanks for that sentence! There's this subliminal message some people tend to exude, like "as a married couple with 2 perfect children we're so much more grown-up than you" (implying "...with your mess of a life"). It drives me up the wall because of the nonreflective assumption that living a life that doesn't answer society's expectation about a "normal adult life" has something to do with not being mature. And vice versa, of course.

As for the original topic: I don't know yet on which side of the fence (a fence that shouldn't be there at all, of course) I'll end up... Depends on how much courage and confidence I'll have or find in the next few years.

Interesting topic

Here's my 2 cents: I chose to have children for one reason only. I'm from Afghanistan and as the 30 year war rages on, bombs, suicide, depression and other traumas take more and more of my people and leave others scarred and tired. When I felt a hankering to take care of another, I decided to give birth to one simply to make one more Afghan. And hopefully, to provide a less fucked up life to this one Afghani girl child. Passing down my genetic make-up, my persian roots was super important to me. It was not a rational decision. I could have adopted and passed down my culture, language and persian-ness to a child. it was purely an emotional decision based on the fact that i did not feel like my kind was surviving well enough and needed to add to its numbers!
that being said, I do feel a huge amount of pressure to have more children, both culturally as an Afghani woman and as an American. I've been told that having only one child is selfish of me, and that I'm doing my daughter psychological harm by not providing her with biological siblings. Psychological harm for Gods Sake!

As a happy child-free woman I

As a happy child-free woman I am really looking forwards reading your series!
I like children, and I am a loving baby sitter for my friends' kids (a job I thoroughly enjoy), but have always know that motherhood is not the thing for me.
Can't wait!

I'm excited for these posts!

As a childfree young woman who intends to stay that way and gets tired of hearing, "Oh, you'll change your mind, you silly girl. Don't you know every woman wants kids whether she realizes it or not?!" I'm anticipating your articles greatly! As a pro-choice abortion-rights activist, I also get tired of hearing, "You support abortion rights and don't want to be pregnant/give birth yourself, so you must hate babies and kids." False! Hate is a harsh term. Kids are great, I just don't want to have any, and don't think any woman should be forced to carry, birth, and raise them if her heart and mind (and circumstances) isn't ready or able.

"Pro-natalist" is a great term for the attitude towards motherhood in (at least my experiences with) US culture. Yet with all the sociocultural pressure to be a Professional Mother First and Foremost, there are shockingly few resources for mothers in terms of childcare, maternity and parental leave, support for primary education, and other institutional/legal resources. So there's all this lipservice to the highest duty of holy motherhood (fatherhood is conveniently much less examined...hmm...) yet precious little actual assistance for achieving it. Cognitive dissonance. :P

I have to say, I understand

I have to say, I understand your not wanting to have this turn into a parent- or child-bashing session, but I think that not liking kids is a perfectly acceptable reason not to have them, and a reason that deserves as much respect as any other. Like you said, childfree women are varied and unique, as are the lines of thinking behind their decisions. One of the prejudices childfree women face is the assumption that we all dislike kids. However, another prejudice is the assumption that not wanting kids around you and not enjoying their company is akin to being some sort of sociopath. Obviously it's not OK to wish them harm, but that's a far cry from simply not enjoying their company, and often the two are conflated unfairly.

I completely agree! This is

I completely agree! This is definitely on my list of reasons not to have children and I think it is just as valid as any other reason.

I disagree--I think "just not

I disagree--I think "just not liking kids" is ageist. Children are, first and foremost, people. They vary enormously in their personalities, behaviors, social skills, etc. It is no more okay to blanket-dislike kids as it is to blanket-dislike any other large and diverse group of people (including women, the differently abled, etc). "Not liking kids" is not the same as disliking specific behaviors that many kids engage in.

That said, why do you need to have a reason to not want to have kids? If you don't, you don't.

Don't like Kids? Don't Have 'em

Maybe "not liking kids" is ageist, but honestly do you want someone who doesn't like kids to have kids? I do think this should be explored in the column either way.

Unfortunately, many people

Unfortunately, many people think that it's everyone's obligation to like and interact with children. Children vary enormously in many traits, but all share the need for a caregiver and instruction in social mores. While I don't think that people should treat children badly because they are children, I also don't believe that they are obligated to like and seek out children's company.

"I think "just not liking

"I think "just not liking kids" is ageist"

I disagree. I find that statement tantamount to saying "not liking shopaholism is sexist". I have no problem against children per se - I'm certain I'd have loved baby Mozart, who was composing symphonies at the age of 5 - but most (key word "most") things children do are insufferable. To the same extent that I am an ardent feminist and I find shopaholism vapid to no end, I find screaming, crying, squealing, general uncleanlieness, the suckling drain of finances, the absolute vampirism of my time and energy, the syphoning of my sleep, the vapidity of children's movies and television shows and so on to be a living nightmare. Like I say, that isn't ALL children, but trying for baby Mozart is a losing craps shoot most of the time.

I'm so glad you brought this

I'm so glad you brought this up! I am of a like mind, and find myself having to pretend a lot in order to escape society's unfair judgment. Try remaining seated at your desk when a coworker brings in a new baby, and you'll receive comments like "come on! It's a BABY! Do you hate babies?" No rational person would assume that I wished harm to animals when I simply state "I'm not a dog person." Try saying "I'm not a kid person" and people instantly inflate that to mean I wish children harm, that I'm judging them for having children, and that I am somehow heartless.

Society expects women to coo at babies, and I think it's valuable to discuss that limited definition of nurturing.

Heartless

"Try saying "I'm not a kid person" and people instantly inflate that to mean I wish children harm, that I'm judging them for having children, and that I am somehow heartless."

Though I don't want children, I do like them. I love my niece and nephew and my friends' kids. I used to work at a daycare. I adored babysitting. However, none of that seems to matter once someone finds out I don't want kids of my own. I've been told to my face that I'm heartless, lacking in basic humanity, and that it's probably better that I didn't have kids then anyway (with the implication that I'd abuse or neglect them). You know, because simply not wanting to have my own children automatically means I'm a monster, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Due to societal pressure,

Due to societal pressure, etc., I think a lot of women who don't actually like kids end up having them because they're "supposed to want them" or "will regret it if they don't have them now" - and I think that's bad for women AND children.

I'm so looking forward to

I'm so looking forward to reading this series. I always find it interesting that while me and my other child-free female friends state we don't want children - men that don't want children are never treated in the same vein. When my friend K wanted to have the essure procedure done, she was given the run-around for weeks. Told she was going to change her mind, she was too young (gasp only in her mid-twenties), and that she was sure to change her mind once she had the procedure done. However when my boyfriend L went to make sure he would be child-free - doc gave him no problem. No questions on his age (same age as my friend when he had it done), no admonishing that he was going to change his mind - just gave him the procedure that he wanted and sent him on his way. Ridiculous.

I am so glad someone

I am so glad someone mentioned this. A dude goes in for a vasectomy and he is feted. No questions asked, no condescension, no 'you'll me the right one some day.' But society doesn't "own" men like it does women. Argggh.

Not always

My friend wants a vasectomy but can't get one, because apparently he's "too young" and "might want kids some day". Never mind that it is a reversible procedure, apparently he can't make his own health choices -_-;

I'm surprised

Really? I'm surprised the doctor did that. When my ex-husband went for his vasectomy he was 49 and I was 39. They were quite serious about making sure he was done having kids. As they should be. People do change their mind frequently about these things and the final decision should be taken seriously. It's a problem if they REFUSE to do a procedure, but these health workers have usually seen a wide spectrum of reactions to infertility over a number of years and know the pain of those who change their minds.

I felt absolutely no urge or interest in babies till I was 28. I was NEVER the girl or woman who talked about how much she wanted kids, etc. But I suddenly did, and I love love motherhood immensely. Hated pregnancy, but that's another story. Now that I am divorced and 43, I am sure I don't want more and my Paragard seems to be working beautifully.

The important thing is that everyone has access to the reproductive (or non-reproductive :-) care they need and that the doctor ensures all patients are well informed in order to make their own decisions.

Can't wait

I married young and had my only child at 20 and, following my divorce, chose at the age of 24 to make that permanent by way of tubal ligation. Over the years, now 40, I have gotten quite a bit of grief for that (especially after I remarried) and have found it interesting that people feel it is their duty and right to comment and judge the decision I made, which I have very openly said I have never regretted. It has definitely made me rethink my own attitudes towards child-bearing and the societal pressures women endure on all spectrum's of the parenting front. I have tried to pass this thoughtfulness onto my own daughter and have tried to be conscientious of the messages I send her about motherhood and the choices she has regarding her reproduction. However, the pressures are still alive and well. My much beloved, but very traditional, Aunt just about had a heart attack last year when she asked my daughter, then 19, how many kids she planned on having (!!!) and my daughter very vehemently responded "None".

I can't wait to follow this dialogue!

This sounds great!

Oh PLEASE discuss the giant baby assault vehicles that are always in my way when I walk down narrow city sidewalks. And perhaps the fathers who ask me how to set them up while I'm walking down the street. Because clearly as a woman in my mid-twenties, I should know how to set up a stroller BY NOW.

Or perhaps we could discuss

Or perhaps we could discuss why sidewalks are so inaccessible, causing bipeds to become so incredibly hostile toward wheeled devices in shared space. Any sidewalk that can't accommodate a pram and a pedestrian sure isn't going to be able to accommodate two scooters or wheelchairs trying to pass each other.

OH MY HOW WILL I EVER WALK

OH MY HOW WILL I EVER WALK AROUND SOMETHING!

Damn those people dependent on wheels to access the world!

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

I get where the first

I get where the first commenter in this thread is coming from. It's not so much that there's a baby stroller on the sidewalk as it is that the person pushing it is usually going right down the middle, taking up all the room. Common courtesy would suggest that the person push the stroller as far to the right as possible to allow sidewalk traffic to pass, but most people ignore this. Stepping out into the street to get around such a person puts my life in danger.

Exactly. To me it always

Exactly. To me it always smacks of "I've reproduced, I've earned more scout badges than you, I get priorities as a parent, if it means you're inconvenienced so be it."

Which is probably just my annoyance talking!

Reading too much into it?

To me this seems to be reading too much into the assumptions of people with strollers. I can't speak for all of us, but will say that I've certainly never thought of my stroller as a badge of honor or something giving me the right to the sidewalk, but instead mostly just something pretty unwieldy that I'm trying hard not to run off the sidewalk or worse into someone else. To me it isn't that different than if you were carrying a heavy box or bags of groceries. I wouldn't think you were carrying a badge of honor smacking of "oh I can afford more groceries than everyone else," but instead try to give you space so you don't drop your bags and probably open a door for you or whatever you needed because clearly you were weighed down or in a more inconvenient position at the moment.

Seems the assumption is the problem not the stroller.

Interested

I, too, will be interested to see how this series goes. I belong to a group that's never really part of the dialogue: the terminally ambivalent. Basically, I could never get enthusiastic enough about having children to have them, and eventually health issues and other factors in my life closed that door for me. Nowadays, I'm not unhappy in general about that, and I recognize the benefits I enjoy in my life because I didn't have children, but I also regret it terribly sometimes. I'm ambivalent about parents - I both resent and envy them in complicated ways. I don't want anyone's pity for not having had children, but I also resent being automatically pigeonholed into the notion that I am (or was) militant about my choice on the matter. In short, the whole thing is very complex for me, far beyond the two camps I usually see shouting "Parenting is great and everyone should do it" and "Choosing not to parent is responsible and we resent your sense of entitlement," or similar slogans.

Interesting topic

I myself am a 23-year-old woman who has no interest in ever having a child. I love children, but I'm just not interested in having my own. Many factors enter into this (mainly because I'm an environmentalist with many concerns about overpopulation). I've talked to my mother about whether or not our insurance will cover permanent birth control, but she doesn't think I should go through with it at such a young age, because she thinks I may change my mind. That could be one aspect of why it's hard for childless women to get permanent birth control; that whole idea of "what if they change their minds?"

Looking forward to this

Great post on a great topic...I'm also really looking forward to this discussion, particularly with the tone set as you have here.

I'm really looking forward to

I'm really looking forward to reading more of what you have to say. I don't ever plan on having, and no one ever takes me seriously when I tell them this. They all say I'll want children when I’m older. (I’m almost 17 right now) It makes me extremely angry that people don't think I know what I want to do with my own life.

I am very much looking

I am very much looking forward to this series, though I do wish we could have some sort of moratorium on comments from parents trying to rationalize to us why they had kids. It's great that people choose to have kids but this is not an appropriate place to make sure that you're seen as "not one of those parents." It would be completely inappropriate and not tolerated for people who are choosing to not have kids to go in a post about parenting and bray about their choice and why they made it, it should be no different here.

Great!

Anonymous, thanks for your comments! However, as the web editor here, I don't think a moratorium on people sharing their choices to have/not have kids is necessary (at least not at this time). As long as the comments stay on topic and comply with our comments policy (linked to in my profile below), then I think others might appreciate hearing the reasons why fellow feminists do/do not wish to be parents.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Baby Makers

I agree, this is a very interesting topic. I took a course in my graduate program called "Against Reproduction." On a visceral level, we dealt with biological reproduction, the heternormative and queery theory, which is an interesting lens to look through to understand the ideas of reproduction. Of course, the class spent much of the time talking about textual reproduction, but they parallel in a lot of ways. But, in all honesty, it made me think about what it means to actively decide not to have kids, and why, essentially, it shouldn't be as taboo as its perceived.

Great to see you here,

Great to see you here, Brittany! I am also a childfree woman, and I dislike being pressured to procreate. I look forward to your articles!

grieving for the pregnancy that won't be

Thanks for this amazing thread!

I'm 30 and have decided not to have children with some mixed feelings.

I'm so fascinated with the process of pregnancy, childbirth and nursing. I want to feel the endorphines and adrenaline fluctuate in my body and experience the rite of childbirth -- the blood and the pain and the relief. I want that physical, spiritual and emotional journey.

I don't want the 20 years that come after that of diapers, homework, toilet training, after school sports, college loans, and potentially becoming a single parent struggling to make ends meet, etc. This I'm completely sure of.

My whole lifestyle is a celebration of choosing not to have children, so I've intentionally been giving myself the opportunity to mourn this choice, too. Its a funny thing to feel my body desire just the pregnancy and know that my heart and mind are telling me, "hell no!" So I grieve this contradiction like grieving the loss of something dear to me. While I have more emotional and spiritual work to do here, I've had some great catharsis and emerging wisdom about myself and how to craft my future.

I think this is wonderful. I

I think this is wonderful. I also grieve, but I grieve the loss of my ability to be without children. I have them and there's no going back. It was my choice and I made it. I'm reminded here that there is always conflict when choices are made and I think you are amazing for recognizing your grief.

Thank you for starting this

Thank you for starting this discussion. As a person who is 37 years old, married for nearly 15 years, and a high school teacher for almost as long, I appreciate this. I too am tired of the incessant "Oh, you'll change your mind." Funny thing is, the only ones who respect my decision with any regularity is my students, particularly those who feel it's nobody's business why I do not have children! So looking forward to your posts!

I'm a teacher too, elementary

I'm a teacher too, elementary school no less, and child free. My favorite line is, "Oh, I like kids, I just never wanna take them home with me!"

Great Topic

I'm largely echoing the sentiments of other commenters, but I'm too interested in this topic not to voice my thoughts. Like others, I'm weary of the winking condescension I receive almost every time my preference about children comes up. I've had colleagues who barely know me repeatedly insist, "You never know...," when in fact I do know that I don't want to have children, and have known since as long as I can remember.

I recently had a medical procedure, one side effect of the which was a reduced capacity to get pregnant. The doctor was reluctant to perform the procedure because of this; Even though I wanted to go through with it to solve an unrelated medical problem, I had to wait months and months before she relented. No matter how many times I told her that I don't want to have children, the response was the same: "You never know..."

I'm a grown woman of 35. I know. I KNOW!

Great choice of topic! I'm

Great choice of topic! I'm 32 and don't see children in my future... by choice. I've been married for just over 4 years and in that time my husband and I seem to have found the perfect response for "when will you two start having children?". Apparently one has to lie and say non-commital things like "Someday. But not now." Apparently just simply stating the truth really freaks people out. But I don't even get why... I mean, who really cares? What difference does it make if we want kids or not?

We've been cornered by mutual friends on this topic, but that seems to be about the extent of the uncomfortable prying for my husband (or so he says). I get asked about it quite a bit - by co-workers, friends, siblings, extended family, random people I've just met, etc. It's ridiculous. And here I always thought that directly asking someone about their family planning situation was rude? About the only people who don't pry are our parents. Very odd. Can't wait to read the blog!

I think that there are people

I think that there are people who take it as a rejection of their choices if you don't make the same choice. Even complete strangers, who have nothing to do with your life whatsoever can get insulted when you politely state that you are not going to have kids/get married/go to church/whatever. I went through this with marriage. The even less savory thing was how some were mollified by blatant lies - even something like 'I have a husband but he's serving a life sentence' was preferable to 'I do not have a husband.' Again, the appearance of acquiescence.

I wonder

I agree with this. People seem to take it personally when you don't participate in something they consider important and it isn't personal at all. Sometimes I wonder if it is because they have second thoughts about their decision and they feel they need to convince you so that they don't feel as bad about their choices.

Privacy

I totally understand how you feel. I don't know why some people think it's their business to pry into others' personal choices, especially when it's directly tied to one's sex life.

I wonder how they would react if you started responding to these intrusive questions with your own question - "Why are you so interested in my sex life?"

Maybe that would shut them up! lol

On a serious note, I find this especially offensive since you just don't know a person's personal life. What if that person is dealing with infertility and possibly going through one failed (and possibly painful) treatment after another? Now these questions stop being annoying and become extremely uncomfortable and PAINFUL reminders...

People need to MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS.

Along with many others, I am

Along with many others, I am looking forward to your series. I'll be 24 next month, and I have no idea if I want kids. None whatsoever and frankly, I don't think about it very much. And that ambivalence is also sometimes met with incredulity, resentment or worry--it's like people think I should be thinking about procreating all the time, and don't seem to understand that I have more important things to think about (or that I have a long list of things I find more important at this point in my life than procreation). I, too, have gotten what I have come to call the "suddenly psychic" response. You know, the one where someone declares to know your future all of a sudden: "Oh, of course you'll want children!" "You'll feel differently in a few years." They are roughly the same responses I get whenever I get a new tattoo ("You'll regret that in a few years!"), and my reaction is usually to smile and say, "That's so cool that you can see the future!"

media & soical pressure

Well I have one child and out of my friends I was the first one to have a child at the age of 29. Our female friends range from early 20's to early 30's and I find when trying to meet other mom's or shopping I get a lot of phrases like "Is she your 1st?" implying that I would want another of course or "Is she your only one?" with a tone of that's too bad. So although I am not childless, my social group is and I can relate to this issue not only through them but from the social and media pressure I feel to have another.

Overpopulation?

I imagine that we agree on many fronts of the childless woman perspective. I've always thought that having children seemed a luxury in a world with so many problems like overpopulation, few quality homes for foster and adoptive children, lack of childcare resources for single and poor/working-class parents, etc.

I think the 'overpopulation'

I think the 'overpopulation' argument can get a bit hairy. There is a lot of sentiment in the west about who the 'right' people are to procreate and who the wrong ones are. Class,race, and nation are directly tied into the prevailing western concept of 'desirables' and 'undesirables.'

I think it's a slippery slope to start saying there are 'too many people' as the argument is directed often at specific marginalized groups of people.

I'm Caucasian, and I think

I'm Caucasian, and I think there are far too many white people.

I look forward to this. I'm

I look forward to this. I'm not 100% decided on the whole kid front (and probably really won't be until menopause, and even then there's always adoption), but I can relate. You should have seen the look on my mom's face when we were fighting about a boyfriend of mine, when she said "You can't honestly picture yourself having kids with him?" and I said "Who ever said that I want kids? Do I have to have kids?"

Of course, like any relic of the second-wave era she realized what she had said, and sputtered out a hasty "well of course not" but her mind ultimately remains unchanged about the topic of women having kids (They'll regret not having kids. Every woman Jill of them. Apparently)

Survey says...

So, after browsing through all of the comments, it seems like a common theme everyone is itching to discuss is the condescending behaviors/comments directed at all of us who have stated a desire to be childless. I'm really excited to see so many other people conversing about this topic-clearly a nerve has been hit here!

And after scrolling through

And after scrolling through all the comments I haven't seen this condescension as just a one-way smattering. I've seen plenty of things that I kind of felt seemed rather back-handed at those people who do have children (and many things that presume that all people who have children have had them willingly or "by choice", which is simplistic and naive). Such as a feeling that those who have children who don't care about the environment or overpopulation?

Brittany seems to be conveying the idea (a very good one) that this conversation will be a great way to explore this topic without pitting "sides" against each other, and I, for one, would like to see that happen for a change, because it is very seldom that we can talk about the lifestyles of parenting or being child-free without the gloves coming off. I really want to see this discussion and this series happen without it becoming a "parent" "child-free" throwdown. I think it could be a lot more productive that way. I think we all have so much to learn and respect from each other.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

As a 22 year old who wants a

As a 22 year old who wants a huge family I find my self continuously judged, mostly by mothers, strangely. 'Yeah, tell me that once you've had one' The response often negative with an underlying tone of competition, which I find really strange.
Girls of my generation are expected to want careers, as though this is the only means to a woman's equality and independence? I can't be a house wife and a mother and a feminist? That being said, I am career girl.

I am also not naive, I've spent the last two years working as a nanny (to get by) and realise that when you have children everyday is a military operation, even with help. I have an older sister who became pregnant at 21 and quite frankly everyday has been a struggle for her. The result however, has been a child who objectively speaking is truly one of the most extraordinary people you could meet.
Sometimes I think her purpose on this earth was to create this person...
I'm sure I will receive a battering for that comment, and so be it. I think we all have our purpose in this machine.

Hey, maybe my desire to have six children is me hedging my bets? If I fail, if my career hits the fan...my purpose will be one of them? Frued would be in his element!

Anyway...
I too have endometriosis and don't know if I am even able to have children, which is jarring. This aside, I often find myself dreaming of my big family, looking in to the eyes of something I made out of Love.

Each to their own, all with a reason perhaps never to be known.

Great subject.

My question is only this:

My question is only this: Why does that have to be her only purpose?

Why do we have to have a

Why do we have to have a purpose at all?

welcome back!

I'm so psyched for this. I loved your Salon piece and am really interested in exploring the childfree-by-choice world, which I know little about. Welcome back, b!

Thank you!!!

I'm so excited for this series and conversation. Now that I've been seeing the same guy for almost three years, people won't stop asking when we're getting married - not any time soon if we can help it - and when we want kids - never. I posed the idea of me getting my tubes tied if in 5 years' time I still didn't want to have kids and he said "That sounds reasonable" so I'm glad to know we're on the same page.

I first started thinking about permanent birth control (I was on the pill for six years and got an IUD about six months ago) after reading this post by Furry Girl where she writes about why she decided to "get fixed" (image NSFW) http://www.feminisnt.com/2010/the-battle-against-paternalism-an-ode-to-t...

Thanks

Brittany, thanks for this! I am 25, married for a year and a half, and thinking seriously about not having kids, or possibly adopting, but that's still a very distant possibility (in 10 years maybe...). As a kid, I didn't really think about having kids, except when playing with baby dolls. I guess I just assumed I would because everyone does. But now I keep thinking about how overpopulated the world is, and since I'm ambivalent about having kids anyway, why should I contribute to that? I'd rather adopt a child who really needs a good home. But I keep getting that, "You don't want to miss out on the opportunity of having biological children," even from my therapist. I'm like.... yeah, I do. It's unnecessarily painful, and I know that's selfish, but like I said, the world's overpopulated anyway. Plus, my husband and I can't afford it. So it would be irresponsible to have children. It's like, just because I CAN doesn't mean I should. But this is a new development for me, and I appreciate hearing a different perspective.

"and I know that's selfish."

I just wanted to respond to that one sentence you wrote, because it's one I hear a LOT thrown around when women choose not to have children. I've never really liked babies, and I've always said I don't want to have biological kids. My husband and I are very happy (though we've been married two years now, and we get lots of "do you have any news" questions and meaningful glances at my belly when we're with family), and we're both not sure we really want to have kids at all. We like our lives the way they are right now. Yes, it's naive to assume nothing will ever change, but since having kids is one of the few things we can control, right now we're very much on the side of not having biological children. I really like kids once they're a bit older, so we haven't ruled out adopting or fostering, but that's way down the line.

You listed your own reasons for not having children, and then said, "I know that's selfish," and buzzers went off for me. My mom tells me, over and over, that not having kids is selfish, that I should have kids to "prove" that my husband and I love each other and to be "selfless." This trope of women who have kids being selfless martyrs who literally lose their identities, contrasted with the "selfish" woman who dares to choose her body/career/marriage/etc. over motherhood, makes me insane. You are not selfish to state what you want and then choose it, any more than a woman who knows she wants kids is selfless for having them and choosing that. They're all just choices.

Right now the biggest fight we're having is with my mom: she desperately wanted to have kids, and tried for five years of inseminations to have me (her only child), and I'm reminded every time we talk that I was her miracle. I think she sees my desire to not have kids, or at least my ambiguity about it, as a judgment of her choice. I can't understand it, but then again my mom knew her whole life she wanted to be a mother, so perhaps it's hard for me to understand.

All this is to say that I'm really looking forward to this!

One Martyr Mother's Legacy

Please don't be a martyr and bring other innocent lives into the world without a way to ensure their safety or care.
It is NOT selfish to choose carefully about who you date, marry/partner with, and whether/how many kids. Please read the following story of my mother, if you have any doubt.

My parents were immigrants from India. My mother, from South India, was not allowed to have a choice. She was very accomplished, winning awards and a beauty pageant, but her parents--saying they were "concerned for her security"--refused to let her move away for college. Instead, before she turned 18, these parents arranged her marriage to a persistent suitor who arrived in their small city with a borrowed Mercedes and his smooth talking ways, a man 11 years older than her and on his way to the United States.

My martyr mother works full-time as a teacher, worked a 2nd (unpaid) shift caring for the home/kids (now grown), and works a 3rd shift (unpaid) enduring beatings and constantly witnessing & unsuccesfully mitigating the destruction caused by her abusive, miserly husband. There is some type of mental illness that runs through my father's family; They think that family is for doing four things to:
- neglect (withholding love)
- physical/verbal abuse
-sabotaging
-coercing money out of

My mother never tried to leave. She says I should be indebted to her. Because, if she tried to leave, I would have no mother, e.g. my dad would have killed her.

I believe she had each subsequent child because the childbirth process temporarily "cured" her depression.

We children have had a hard time. We are trauma survivors who have a lot of fear in us. However, my sister is similar to my father; She yells, throws tantrums, and coerces money out of me. Gradually, I'm intentionally losing touch with my family.

I associate strollers and babies with beatings. I'm also traumatized by how horribly my mother was treated in exchange for being perceived as a "lucky married woman" with a good number of kids. Knowing the family tendency for abuse, I've chosen not to reproduce despite pressure from relatives.

Really glad to see this will

Really glad to see this will be covered here! I'd love to see some of the discussion devoted to the emerging idea of a non-reproductive life (or however one phrases that--childfree?) as an inborn identity, similar to how we now understand sexuality. I'm hoping you have run across the most excellent allegory "Bolivia" by Havi Brooks...http://www.fluentself.com/blog/stuff/bolivia/

Children? Marriage?

The reasons why childless get a bad rap:
1. it isn't as common, popular of a decision

2. it goes against how you got here, your family may feel jilted. In some primal, medieval way it always kinda freaked me out to think that my individual, fabulous, wonderful, spectacular genes would not go forth. Especially when i look back at my family's heritage, it took so long for us to get here, even if here is or is not so wonderful. I am aware that this is somewhat neurotic.

3. having kids is a sacrifice of mind body and soul, and damn it you should suffer too. Society loves misery and conflict and kids are a serious source of this. Childlessness is usually a result of a smarter female society. More educated women don't do it.

I waited until my mid 30s to have my one son, the only progeny i will ever have. I never felt older as when being "treated" for my pregnancy. In a society where you may not finish your education until you are in your late 20s, the clock becomes a bomb when looking for a mate.

Serious question, if you decide against children, do you believe in getting married? As the biological urges for men suggest against monogamy, the biological urges for women suggest a desire to change mates every three years. Certainly we don't have to act on them, but people change and people don't often change together in the same way, or allow others to change as they need, which goes against a life long marriage. In their search for knowledge, smart women are more susceptible to change. If not for the baby, I would never get married.

P.S. Please don't abandon friends with kids, even though they can't give you as much attention as they once did.

Very much looking forward to this series!

I'm excited to see this misunderstood and maligned group explored in an objective and intelligent manner.

I am a childfree woman and living with my childfree boyfriend of nearly 7 years. I had the essure procedure done about 6 years ago and haven't regretted it one bit! It was so liberating to be free of the burden of fertility! It was a very long wait for me and I felt lucky to find a doctor willing to perform the procedure when I was a mere 32 years old.

I hope you will explore the issues around ownership of female bodies. I find it both interesting and appalling that the more educated (and probably more privileged) women tend to be the ones who choose to be childfree. Access to contraception, sterilization, abortion and gynecological/medical care seem to be difficult to obtain - even for the most educated, highest paid, and insured among us. Would more women choose to be childfree if they had access to sterilization or even contraception and abortion?

I hope you also explore the interpersonal relationships between men and women in a childfree context. It is my observation that men seem to be along for the ride - and willing to do whatever their girlfriend/wife wants to do in terms of procreating. How are childfree relationships different and how are they the same? While it seems childfree women get all the attention, I'd be interested in reading about what makes childfree men tick, and why most men don't seem to have strong feelings either way on the issue of having children.

I'm engaged to be married,

I'm engaged to be married, but we don't want children. That said, his mother doesn't see any reason for us to marry, while my mom can't wait. I wish they'd both back off. :P

I love kids; I adore my nieces and nephews and love spending time with them. I just don't want a child of my own, and just as I respect the wishes of others in living their lives (be it being a career-focused woman, a stay-at-home mother, something in between, or something else altogether), I wish more people would respect mine. Only I know what's best for me.

In regard to the people who worry they're being selfish by making a choice not to bear children, there's nothing "selfish" about not wanting children. There are many ways in which to nurture this world, and choosing not to do what's best for you so that you can offer your gifts to the fullest, whatever those gifts may be, is the only true selfish act I can think of.

Finally, I wish people who felt the need to remark on others' choices would remember that some people simply cannot have children, and these invasive questions are just hurtful!

Children? Marriage?

childless: those who wanted children but couldn't (for various reasons), so now they are resigned to the fact they won't be parents.
childfree: the decision not to have children, what most of us without children prefer to be called.

I am not sure where you are going with your post, so I'll answer your questions as a 'childfree" woman:

1. Just because it isn't a common decision doesn't mean it is a bad one. I wish more people would really think about having kids before doing so. I have spoken with many parents that have told me if they could do it again, they wouldn't have kids.
2. Umm, really, now I need to worry about my parents feeling jilted because I didn't provide them with a grandchild? is that a good reason to have a child?
3. Seriously, I get having kids is a sacrifice, but it is not one I am interested in doing, so why should I? Because some antiquited societial notion that everyone should have kids? No thanks.
4. What does not having kids and getting married have to do with one another? I have been married for 13 years and we both discussed very early in our realtionship the issue of having kids. I told him I didn't want any, and he said he didn't either. End of discussion. (and, what do you mean "if not for the baby, I would have never gotten married...really?)

I haven't abandoned my friends with kids, but I cannot say the same for them.....

Child free

I am very excited about this topic!! As a child free women first, a feminist second and finally an out lesbian, I am interested in how this discussion will address my feelings. I have know from a young age that while I Love kids (yes with a capital L) and get along with them very well - but I never want to give birth. The ideas is not for me but I think it is a beautiful process :) After I broke it to my dad that there were no grandchildren from me I grew into my feminism and my views on children were unchanged. However, complexity was added when I came out as a lesbian. My options became a challenge, and something that I could do to counter the ideas of what a modern day family looked like. Something that could become the pinnacle of my feminist ideas....but I still just do not want to have kids. The idea of adoption came about and I was much more comfortable with that idea. But still it would take all the stars to align for me to adopt as well. I have a fear of parenting I think.

As a lesbian I was intrigued by my disappointment when the idea of carrying a child included a challenge and the reality set in that it really may never happen. Was it society telling me have children? Was it the birth of my beautiful niece? Was it my last relationship which of course I thought would last forever? To this day I do not know but I hope that this discussion can shed some light on my feelings :)

Keep writing!

A lot of comments here seem

A lot of comments here seem to be coming from a heterosexual or at least woman-has-biological-baby-with-man perspective so I'm glad to hear from someone who identifies as a lesbian.

I identify as bisexual and personally have never desired children or the "married life". I actually am probably one of "those bitter childfree people" as I've got some resentment regarding the way my mother's life-options were curtailed by her marriage & children, am terrified of the idea of pregnancy, generally don't like children, have relatively strict environmentalist commitments, blah blah you've heard it before.

Being bi I have some choice as to whether I finally "settle down" with a man or a woman and so I thought for a while that sticking largely to with relationships with women would allow me to avoid the pressures of doing the whole get-married-have-kids thing, i.e. that it would give me an excuse for not living up to the ol' "family values" and would give me a community of people to associate with who weren't involved in that milleu. But of course there have always been queer people of all flavors who wanted marriage and kids, and now these ways of life are slowly being opened up for them and recognized legally and socially. While I am ethically committed to fighting for the legal rights of LGBTers to marry, adopt, have equal access to reproductive care, etc. and would love to see a society where kids aren't kicked out of school for having two moms, it tears me apart inside because this represents the intrusion of the very norms I was avoiding into a space I thought was safe from them.

It's interesting to me that your (Erin) thoughts come to not living up to the "challenge" of acquiring children, facing discrimination, and fighting societal norms as a lesbian mom and mine come to not "giving into" the same old pressures of the hetero world. While they seem sort of opposed to each other at first glance, I know I definitely have a fear of looking like one of the "bad queers" (whatever that means). I guess the "good queer" is the queer that has children despite the odds, goes to Pride with the baby stroller, etc.

These are only a sample of things that are bouncing around in my head: if I live in a state with same-sex marriage but choose not to take advantage of it what does that say about me? 25 years from now will it be hard to find a gay person who doesn't take the marriage & kids thing for granted as the "default" life-path? Is it somehow tacky or un-feminist to identify as childfree when so many of your queer brethren struggle very hard to acquire and keep custody of their children?

I'm looking forward to this series. Keep it up, Bitch!

childfree vs. I will do anything for a baby

I would like to see these upcoming posts address the cultural duality of an increasing number of childfree women (by choice) alongside the increasing fever for children in some women/men that seems to accompanies the use of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology). I find that mothers who use ART, either successfully or not, have a huge media presence. They have blogs dedicated to their struggle, articles in the NYTs, and many successful mothers then also have one of the most conspicuous advertisements for the use of IVF; twins or triplets whose mere existence banishes any thought that they may have been just an accident.

Childfree women just kinda go along with their lives without much celebration of the fact. Although, when my best friend finally goes though with essure, she did hint that we would have a night out.

I'm curious what the deal is here. Does the media celebrate women having children at any/all costs? Is childfree-ness just not a sexy story?

I feel the need to point out

I feel the need to point out that I see a huge difference between the huge media presence surrounding celebrity fertility (aka "baby bump watch" and who got IVF, etc.) and women struggling with infertility who have blogs. As a woman who sometimes blogs about my own struggles with infertility, I can assure you that it is not a "celebration". It is quite the opposite. Most women with blogs who are writing about the use of ART are there to get support for what is often a scary, heartbreaking and taboo subject. Anyone can go blog, including child-free women. And, I think the women who are trying to create more public awareness (through articles, publications, etc.) are doing so for just that: public awareness. Whether it is for better insurance coverage, better healh care awareness or to make people more comfortable with it.

I, too, am excited about this series. Even though I am woman trying to get pregnant, I can appreciate that all women are different, and not all women are like me. It bugs me, too, when people assume that we are going to have children, even though we are planning that! I just hate that assumption. It bothers me that all women are expected to want children, and it bothers me because we are struggling, and it is just one more knife to the chest when someone waggles their eyebrows.

I'm not sure if going child-free is less sexy, but I can tell you that it is also controversial/incredibly uncomfortable for someone to ask an woman with infertility about having children and receiving a response stating the struggles. Most folks in society don't know how to handle it. Or, they try to tell you what you want/need. Completely unacceptable in any situation.

I'm here to support the women who choose to live their lives child-free, and I hope women with infertility, or any other situation receive the same.

This sounds interesting

As someone who wants children (but doesn't have any) it will be interesting for me to learn about women who don't want children. While I have no particular problem with that decision, it's not something I can understand because I've always wanted to be a parent. So it should be eye-opening.

One problem I have with society in the way they treat childless women is that it also marginalizes women who can't have children regardless of how they may feel about the situation. It's insensitive to make snide comments about a woman's lack of offspring regardless of circumstance, but I feel like it's especially cruel to infertile women as it's something that's beyond their control.

Another thing (which may be slightly off topic) is society's contempt for women who only have one child. I'm an only child. My mother had six pregnancies, all but one of which she miscarried. I was the only one to make it. We both nearly died as she developed toxemia which led to my emergency c-section delivery six weeks ahead of schedule. She continued to have hormonal problems (and had two miscarriages) after I was born. Finally, when I was 4, she had a hysterectomy. I also have a cousin with similar problems. She miscarried her first pregnancy. She has a 3 year old son now, but she had a lot of complications with the pregnancy (early delivery, put on 100% bed rest, etc.) Understandably, she's decided she doesn't want to go through all that again and had a hysterectomy as well--a procedure she had a hard time getting because she's only 25. I can't tell you how much it enrages me when people suggest that women who only have one child are selfish! And even if both those women never had any problems with carrying a pregnancy to term: Who cares if they only have one kid? Who cares if she decides "Hey, one of these is enough" and decides to never have any more? Why the hell is that such a big deal?

I love that finally, the

I love that finally, the subject of not having children, is going public. When I talk about not wanting kids, people always tell me "I used to say the exact same thing when I was your age!!" Of course, these are the women in my family who have 2 or 3 kids and are stay-at-home mothers. I admire women for having children and for choosing to raise them and everything but it's now at all what i want. It's not that I hate children (although I find them very annoying) it's that I feel that I have been put on Earth for something else. I don't feel like I am meant to be a mother. It makes me happy to see that you are actually putting this subject in a public spehere. This is great! I am looking forward to reading more. Thanks!

How exciting!

As a woman approaching thirty, a lot of my friends are having children and I'm seriously on the fence. I've worked with children for several years and the biological urge has dwindled, not increased. As I get older, more and more people are pushing the idea of having children at me. And when I say, sometimes as a knee-jerk reaction, that I'm not having children, people get really upset. As if I have insulted them in some fashion. Especially my in-laws. Jesus.

I came across an article

I came across an article today that made me think of your blog and thought I'd pass it on. It (briefly) considers how pre-conception care does not consider women as much as their future imaginary children, even for those not planning to have kids.

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/02/03/pre-conception-care-good...

Happy for this blog

I am so happy to start reading this blog. I am 26 have been married for almost 5 years and don't want to have children. There are many reasons for that choice, I won't bore anyone with them. My husband and I have agreed on this choice since we were dating, but his opinions are changing. It's so hard to deal with this. Not only do I get comments from family, friends and even strangers, now he is changing his mind. I have a couple of cousins who have many children from different dads, don't work, are not educated, and make a living on welfare and child support, and no one blinks an eye. Yet I am an educated woman who has a career and is working on her MBA, and I am treated like a leper at family gatherings.

Childfree Geezer

This is great. I am going to bookmark this blog. Here is an old geezer's point of view. I never intended to make being childfree an issue. I always felt it was my choice. But as I went through life I found I had to defend my decision because others made it into an issue for me.

I will be 65 next week and I have heard it all when it comes to the arguments, cajoling, accusations, bewilderment and insults as a reaction to my decision to remain child-free. People have been rude and intrusive as if my choice not to have kids had some effect on them personally. I never meant to be a parent or child basher but sometimes it does come out because it's only human to lash out at what torments you or at the object of that torment.

But that was only a small part of my life. And the older I got, the more adept I became at defending my position and I learned to shut down the most adamant of those who challenged my position. People say it is selfish not to have kids but I think it is just the opposite. It is so much easier to go with the flow than swim against the current.

I am proud of the growing number of young women today who have made that decsion and are not afraid to defend it. Having children should be a choice; a well thought-out choice. The decision not to have them should be as equally applauded as the decison to have them. I think we are heading toward this goal.

Childfree Geezer

I love your comments!

I will be 44 next week, and always assumed that women had children at a certain point in their life, as you never heard anything but that. But, in my mid-20's, I met a woman that actually said "I don't want children", and that is when I realized that there was a choice, and that is where I was in my mind as well, I just never heard it verbalize before.

Being able to fall in love and marry a man who had the same feelings I had about this issue certainly have made things easier, but I agree that many of the comments I get about my decision are borderline rude and inttrusive, as if, as you say, by making the decision not to have children has personally affected their life somehow (a co-worker I actually admired quite a bit to me that if one if her kids told her they were not going to have children, that SHE would feel like she did something wrong as a parent. I was so blown away and hurt by that comment, I didn't know what to say).

I also agree that making the choice NOT to have children is one of the most un-selfish things you can do. You are being completely honest with yourself in acknowledging that this choice is not something you are cut out do to.

While I don't get on my soapbox about my feelings on this issue, I am not secretive at all about my choice should people ask. And, my co-workers know better about asking me to visit any new employee's babies (I work at a hospital), as they know this is not for me.

The reason so many ob-gyn

The reason so many ob-gyn doctors are reticent about giving young women sterilization procedures is because there is no money in it for them. Whereas having a baby, there is big money in it for the doctors. If you pay 3 grand for a tubal, or 2 grand for Essure/Adiana, that's pennies compared to paying $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 for having a baby in a hospital. Keep in mind this is the cost for a healthy birth (babies born with all kinds of health problems/disabilities/deformities cost considerably more. There are one too many women working hard to make these ob-gyn doctors very wealthy. And if a woman has 19 kids like Michelle Duggar, that's $190,000.00 out the window. I hope than answers your question.

I disagree. I think the

I disagree.

I think the reason so many doctors are reluctant to sterilize women who are young or have no children is because there is a high rate of people changing their mind (and the accompanying lawsuits). The typical "I changed my mind" story is a young mother with a young marriage and two kids decides with her husband they will stop at two. Well a few years down the line there's a divorce and a remarriage, and suddenly the woman wants a kid with the new guy. Doctors get sued for malpractice over this all the time.

Interestingly, the women who are sterilized before they have kids have a much lower rate of changing their mind.

I hear this all the time, but

I hear this all the time, but never see any proof. I think it is another myth about women- similar to the abortion as birth control one that has been proven false repeatedly.

Working in the legal profession I should have heard of one actual case by now, but I haven't.

It seems far more likely that the history of western medicine, which infantilizes women by not allowing them to have proper information or make decisions about their own bodies, is showing us that once again a doctor thinks that they know what is best for the patient, regardless of what the patient wants.

A medley of thoughts

Most of the women in my family have intentionally started having children in their teens, as a young woman about to turn 21 my family has been on my case about making some babies for a couple years now, or at least being open to the idea of it happening soon.

At the same time, a lot of serious stuff runs in my family that I don't want to genetically pass on. I don't currently want a baby, but if I ever did adoption makes the most sense to me because there are already children out there, I don't need to make my own.

I volunteer with youth and have an enormous family that only get more enormous (one of my cousins is shooting for 12 babies), I'm not worried about not having that interaction in my life.

so what's the point?

I'm glad this topic is being discussed, but I'm wondering what in the world the childfree are allowed to talk about on here if we're not allowed to talk about disliking kids? If we're not allowed to call out some parents on their sense of entitlement (hence the term "breeders")? Seriously, strollers taking up the sidewalk is the least of our concerns. It sounds like we're supposed to praise parents and children on a "childfree" blog. Who exactly is this blog for?

Why do the moomies get to say

Why do the moomies get to say anything they want but the childfree have to completely censor themselves?

Surgery for 'women's problems."

I am just aghast that women still have problems getting surgery for serious problems with heavy bleeding, fibroids and other problems discussed here. I had fibroids back in 1972 and had them removed after about a year of "let's see how they do", andwhen they finally caused hemorrhaging, my doctor went ahead with the surgery then, no questions, no comments. What is wrong with our medical system that won't treat women who have monthly pain off the charts resulting in having to stay in bed for days, etc., and all sorts of other troubles with fibroids, even in the early 40's. What can be done to remedy this situation.? I have two or three friends who are suffering terribly, and I almost feel guilty I was treated so well and so quickly in the 1970s. Why is there this reluctance to "sterilize" women who beg for this treatment in order to have a normal life? Hope you can address this. Thanks for your wonderful idea for a site.

Population Taboos? No Kidding!

Hi All

I thought readers of this blog, and this post in particular, might be interested in this article I wrote for the 2011 Global Population Speak Out (running for all of February).

I've referenced this blog/post in the article.

http://postgrowth.org/population-taboos-no-kidding/

Cheers
Sharon

childfree

I've written about this, too - in newspaper articles (http://tsetsiarchives.blogspot.com/2009/01/theyre-not-kidding-childless-...), for online women's websites (http://www.womensenews.org/story/our-daily-lives/071015/married-without-...), and in my to-be-re-released book "How to (Not) Have Children," which doesn't analyze the choice to not have children, but celebrates it.

I'd like to see less analysis of the childfree and more matter-of-fact writing about it. That is, of course, unless an equal amount of research is devoted to finding out what prompts people to WANT children. Childfree are often thought to have any range of psychological problems, from abandonment issues to "broken-home" issues to issues with selfishness...but what of the people who want children when they're 16 because they crave unconditional love? Or those who want children because they had a hard life and they want to give their children what they never had?

We may as well accept people have just as many reasons for not wanting children as they have for wanting them, and neither is more or less fascinating (or worthy of analysis) than the other.

I stumbled across this

I stumbled across this discussion and found it fascinating. As a guy, I am largely spared the woe when l reveal to my nearest and dearest I want to be childfree. They take it to be a rather odd but not outrageous proposition. My sex insulates me from the horrible stories of accusation and disappointment seen on this blog. This is unfair.

However, apart from the sexist element, I don’t think that the reaction of people in general to the thought of being childfree is so extreme. Having children, for many people, is one of the more rewarding and pleasurable experiences in their life. This is attributable to many reasons (not half of which I would pretend to know or understand), some of them linked to biology – that unyielding pedagogue. This makes having children, for many, an ‘important thing’. Challenge anyone who believes strongly in something and they will often get upset or defensive. Shunning their passion is paramount to shunning them.

Moreover, having children is almost universally practiced (which is not to say universally enjoyed), this overwhelming majority makes it difficult for the voices of dissent (us) to be heard. Many people will question your decision because, in their lives, they didn’t even see or hear of the existence of a choice.

We need to promote the childfree, to stop feeling guilty or odd, we need to make our decision and move forward. As more people step up and lend their voice to the childfree movement – we are already seeing more and more childfree leaders and public figures – acceptance will grow. For now, be proud of your childfree status, accept that the barbs and pity launched at you by incomprehending parents are no more than relics and superstitions, and know that your choice is neither selfish nor selfless nor anything else, it is just your choice.

My husband and I won't be

My husband and I won't be having children. Of course I made it very clear to him during our dating period that I didn't want kids. When he popped the question we had a serious discussion about the topic as I wanted to make sure he knew no babies we're coming out of this body. We're going on three years now and the questions have pretty much stopped, most people actually seem to see our side of not wanting children. To those that have & want them they are a blessing to me and him they would be a burden. We don't hate kids, I love being an aunt and he an uncle, we just like when they go home. I've seen many friends & family struggle financial, emotionally and physically with their kids. My mom & step-dad worked their butts off for me and my three sisters to have a home food and clothing, while putting their needs on hold. I appreciate all they did for me and am VERY greatful they did but I've no desire to do the same. My husband is my number one priority and I his. Though my dad will never say it I know he's a little bummed that he won't be a grandfather but he respects my husband and I decision. People who don't like kids aren't bad people, they just beat their drum to a different tune.

more blog posts?

Did this blog ever get off the ground? I can't find any posts after the first one.

Yep!

"No Kidding" was a 24-post series! You can find the rest of the posts here: http://bitchmagazine.org/profile/b

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Watch out for Social Pressure

I always knew I didn't want kids. The older I have grown, the more I have been subtly pressured by family members, colleagues and medical professionals. At 27, after being on the pill for 10 years, I attempted to schedule a sterilization procedure, only to feel ridiculed by the doctor like I was some kind of evil person. As I approached my 30th birthday, family members continually asked us when we are having kids, even though I have made it very clear in the past, that we aren't. Problem is, being direct and/or rude about the issue just makes me look like even more of a bitch. I am a very kind, loving, compassionate person and deserve respect for decisions regarding my own life and body.

It's not just family and

It's not just family and peers that make you feel guilty for this decision either. I cannot tell you the amount of doctors that will not even visit the possibility of getting your tubes tied until you have at least one child (I am in a quite provincial area, but that;s no excuse). When I went in to get a tattoo on my stomach the artist lectured me for an hour about how it was an unwise choice for a person my age (almost 26) to consider a tattoo in that area without having kids, because it will ruin the work.... They still weren't convinced of my decision. ....-_-

A Wish for Common Ground

I am a 40 year old woman who has chosen a child-free life. I don't see this as my defining characteristic. It's just a choice I made. I do enjoy spending time with children. I find them joyful and fascinating. I enjoy eating chocolate, too, but I am not going to buy a chocolate factory. That said, I sort of wish there was more mutual respect between those who have children and those who choose not to. It always seems to be an us vs them sort of issue when, the truth is, both parties need to exist. If everyone stopped reproducing, the human race would die out and if everyone started reproducing, we would most certainly be in a lot of trouble! I was not born with this "urge" to have children (or biological clock, as it's been called). I see it as nature balancing the human race.

I don't feel as though I am missing out in any way. I live with my boyfriend, in a house we own, with a nice little back yard and two affectionate cats. I am self-employed and my work keeps me insanely busy. I also help care for my mother who is ill.

I have no doubt that having children brings great joy to people. And I celebrate that! I hope that my choice can be celebrated, too, as they have brought me to a place of happiness in my own life.

You're a poser. Admit it.

I bet you're infertile, which is why you keep referring to yourself as "childless". You are not truly childfree. The sooner you can admit you pine for the mommy crowd, and resent the childfree, the better. Btw, here's an insightful blog for you breeder wannabees. http://happilychildfree.com/rants/?p=689 Congrats, you're famous!