Nope, Still Not There

No, I still don’t want kids, and I’m not going to have them.

What? You don't want kids?
What? You don’t want kids?

If you’re a childfree woman, you’ve almost certainly been told that you need to have children. That you’ll regret it if you don’t. That you secretly want children deep, deep down inside.

If you’re beginning to feel like it might not be so bad to give in to the pressure and have a kid, consider the following.

In an interview on NPR, author Ann Patchett shares what it feels like when friends, family, and strangers tell her she wants a baby, but just doesn’t know it yet.

It would be like if somebody said, “Your car keys are in the drawer.”

And you go and you open the drawer, and not only are your car keys not in the drawer, there’s nothing in the drawer. The drawer is empty.

keysAnd you come back and you say, “The keys aren’t in the drawer.”

And they say, “No, go back and look again. They are in the drawer.”

And you go back and you open the drawer and it is empty. And that’s how I always felt. Like people were always saying to me, “Go back and look again. Examine the inner contents of your heart, you will find it.”

And I never did.

Even if a childfree woman can convince someone that this is true, they’ll probably say that, even though you don’t want children, you’ll regret not having them. For me personally, there’s never been anything in my life that I didn’t want, and later regretted not going out and getting anyway. There have been things I wanted, but talked myself out of. There have been things I wanted but was unable to have. But never has there been some Thing that, having no desire for it, I later wish I’d gotten.

Finally there’s the idea that having a baby is just something a woman should do. I very fervently disagree. No one should have a baby unless they deeply want one. Having a child you don’t really want (but plan to love and care for as though you did) is like switching the career you like for one that you don’t enjoy, because so many people are telling you that you’ll like it once you have it, and you’ll regret it if you don’t switch now. Imagine the following exchange:

This was a mistake.
This was a mistake.

“But I don’t want to be a marine biologists. I don’t really have a passion for sea life at all. I’m really pretty indifferent to it.”

“Listen, your window of opportunity is closing. If you don’t quit your job, go back to school, and start this new career now, you’ll regret it later. And besides, you’ll love marine life once it’s in your care.”

You would think the second person is crazy, and that the first person is even crazier if she takes this advice. Devoting the next 18+ years of your physical and emotional life to something you don’t actually desire, but worry you may regret not having later on, is (I’m sorry) very foolish.

To use Ann Patchett’s analogy, the keys aren’t going to suddenly materialize in the drawer just because someone else expects them to. Even if you are persuaded to believe that they’re actually there, and open the drawer (for the hundredth time), this time fully expecting them to be there, they still won’t be there.

Creating a new human being and raising it isn’t like buying a blouse that you’re not sure about. You can’t just send it to the thrift store a year later when you realize you never wanted it (but the discount made you feel like it’d be a mistake not to get it).

In fact, it’s not even like buying a house. “It’s an investment!” people tell you. “You’ll save so much money in the long run, you should buy one now.” If you buy a house when you don’t want one (or really can’t afford one), the very worst scenario is that it goes into foreclosure and you file for bankruptcy.

bankruptAnd if that sounds like a pretty bad worst case scenario, pause for a moment and consider what you’ll feel like  when you realize you’ve spent two-hundred and forty-five thousand dollars on something that, though it’s nice, you never really wanted.

The financial and emotional costs are worthwhile if it’s for something you genuinely, deeply desire. But if it’s for something that someone else tells you you might regret later? That there is just a bad decision, any way you look at it.

When it comes to creating a new human, “How bad could it be?” is not a smart approach. If you don’t want children, for the sake of yourself and your unborn, hypothetical offspring, don’t be bullied into it.

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