As a 27-year old woman who recently got engaged to her live-in partner, I get asked more than ever about whether or not I want to have children (or, more often, when I want to have children). I do not want to have children. I have never wanted to have children, and I doubt that I ever will want to have children. The reasons for this are plentiful, and come from both my gut instinct and a lot of logic and research. I truly believe that having children would not be a good choice for me. The majority of women I know question this; I get the most flack from women around my own age or slightly older who do want children and can’t understand why I don’t. They say “the urge will hit me eventually” or–when I say I’m not a big fan of kids–“when they’re yours you’ll love them.” Who knows, maybe they’re right. But I’m still never having kids of my own. This is an open letter to all the people who can’t understand why an intelligent, loving, functional woman would not have the overwhelming urge to make and raise babies.
1) It’s not just about my job, though I love what I do
I am not a workaholic. I do like my job. I work a 9-5 at a non-profit in Manhattan. I work with awesome people, and I think we do good work. That said, it is definitely a 9-5. I leave the minute the clock changes (unless something very urgent needs finished), and I leave my work at work. Although I do aspire to higher-level positions some day, I do not see my job as my life. Many people seem to think that the only reason a woman wouldn’t want babies is because it would interfere with her career. This is false, and just one of many good reasons.
2) Having kids is EXPENSIVE.
As I stated above, I work at a non-profit, and I intend to continue doing so for probably most (if not all) of my life. It matters more to me to do something I care about than to make money…which is good, because it is likely that I will never make very much. I make enough to live comfortably (around $40,000 a year), but I have very little left over at the end of the month. I live in an inexpensive neighborhood in Brooklyn, I bargain shop, and I rarely splurge. I put as much into savings as I can. I should mention that I am also well over $100,000 in debt from the combination of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Although I don’t regret my choices regarding my education, I will nonetheless be paying these loans off for at minimum the next 10 years.
It costs $200,000 to raise a child, if you don’t plan on paying for their college. This includes over $10,000 in the first year. Which, for those who don’t feel like doing the math, is over 25% of my salary pre-tax. My partner recently began a graduate program of his own and, like me, he is going into a field that is not exactly known for exorbitant salaries. He will most likely spend the next two years racking up a debt close to my own and interning for free. Once he is out, due to the current state of the economy, he will be lucky to get an entry-level job making around the same amount that I make now. We simply do not have the money to raise a child, and we aren’t likely to anytime soon.
3) There are plenty of unwanted children in the world already.
Ok, let’s say that a few years from now, my partner and I have managed to save some money, and are in a situation where have a kid wouldn’t be completely irresponsible, financially. We’ve been promoted a couple of times, our income has increased, we’re doing well. Let’s say that baby itch does finally hit me (and I decide that I want to buy the $200,000 ointment to treat the itch). Even if this were the case, I have absolutely no incentive to have a child of my own. In the US alone, it is estimated that 14,000 babies were put up for adoption in 2003. In 2010, over 400,000 children were in foster care. If the maternal instinct overwhelms me, I’ll adopt, or I’ll become a foster parent. The urge to propagate your own genetic material just does not make sense to me, and I feel no need to do so.
4) I like my life.
I have a secret to tell you: I am perfectly happy without children. I go to work. I get out, and head to the gym with my fiance. We go home, we make and eat dinner together, we relax for a couple hours and we go to bed. Sometimes we play video games for awhile. Sometimes we go out with friends. On the weekends we go to museums or on long walks. Lots of nights we split a bottle of wine. My life is relaxing and uncomplicated. When we go out to dinner or out of town, we don’t have to worry about getting a babysitter, or whether the kids will behave on a 7-hour bus ride or in a restaurant that doesn’t serve chicken nuggets. We don’t have to lock the door when we have sex, so that the kids don’t walk in and become traumatized for life. Life is simple, and I like that. I am not un-domestic. I love my fiance, and plan to have a long and happy life with him. I love to bake, sew, knit, and decorate our apartment. Planning our future makes me downright giddy. It just doesn’t involve children. When I think of my dream vacation, it involves sandy beaches and tropical drinks, not Disneyland. I think that’s ok.
5) I had a fantastic childhood.
I grew up with three sisters, and we had an amazing childhood. My mom was a stay-at-home parent; we had tea parties and hand-made doll clothes and fairy houses in the backyard. We had abundant art supplies and books, and we attended music and dance lessons. We had a blast. I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood. The reason I had that was because my mom was willing to make her children her life. She drove us all over the place (the poor woman must have spent 20 hours a week in a minivan), she sewed, she baked, she cleaned, she made sure we didn’t injure ourselves climbing all over things. She was amazing. I respect her choice so much. I also know that I could never make it. See, if I were to have children, I would want them to have the same kind of upbringing that I’m so glad to have had, and I just don’t think that I could give them that. I do love my work, and I don’t want to give it up. I have a feeling that giving up everything I worked so hard for, for so long, would leave me at the very least a little bit bitter. Kids are sensitive. They would notice. If you can’t bring up a child without them knowing that you resent them for taking away the life you wanted to have…you shouldn’t have them.
I will probably never have children. Some people shouldn’t, and I’m one of them. I am happy and fulfilled just the way I am. I have a wonderful partner and an amazing family. I have a great job and a handful of really good friends. I am content. Not wanting babies does not make me less of a woman. It makes me realistic about myself, my goals, my priorities, and, in some ways, the world. Maybe, if I’m lucky, some day I will live in a world where I don’t have to feel so defensive saying so.