5 Reasons Why I Say I Don’t Want Kids

Babies are everywhere these days. The ubiquitous mini-humans are all over my Facebook feed; the mall is full of strollers; my friends talk about their conception windows. Here in Colombia, baby season (roughly 9 months past Carnaval) is upon us.

What is it about being a young female that people look at you and think, “she looks like she’d love to wear maternity jeans!”? The pressure multiplies when you hit your mid-twenties, regardless of your marital status, your economic fortitude or, you know, personal opinions.

Suddenly, the all-consuming question is, “When are you going to have kids?” 

It’s a common icebreaker, considered within the appropriate range of small talk. And in some cases, it can be. But it shouldn’t be an assuming, leading question that frames the concept in a “not if but when” format.

This has got me thinking. Why do we think it’s okay to ask women this question? No one asks my male friends when they’re planning to procreate.  They get asked about their careers and their cars.  Especially here in Colombia, where women struggle against the prevalent machismo culture and teen pregnancies, I feel that it’s important to present an alternative view to the assumption that “women are for making babies and keeping house.”

I used to laugh it off, but lately I am more likely to challenge the idea. It usually starts a conversation where I can voice these opinions and try to broaden perspective on the issue. So sometimes I say “I never want kids” just to rebel against the assumptions.

“I don’t want kids,” I’ll say.

“Never ever?” they ask incredulously.

“I have other priorities,” I declare.

Now, let me clear. I don’t actually know whether I want to have children. Maybe so, maybe not. That’s for a private decision in the distant future. And furthermore, I am not advocating against having children, or criticizing well-meaning, curious small-talkers. Nor do I want to detract from the absolutely beautiful concepts of motherhood and building families. This isn’t an argument for or against having children, or wanting children, or even liking children. It’s simply an argument against the subliminal underlying assumptions of this question.

So I am going to challenge the basic presumption of “When are you going to have kids?” until we start asking the questions that matter. And on that note, here are five reasons that we should stop asking that question.

1.Being a mother is not my raison d’etre

Despite the fact that we live in the 21st century, society’s treatment of motherhood continues to be archaic (see also: outrage at breastfeeding in public; anti-abortion laws).  This extends to society’s ideal of what womanhood is about. Let me start by saying that womanhood and motherhood are NOT THE SAME THING. Not being a mother doesn’t make me any less of a woman.The assumption that a woman’s highest purpose in life is to procreate is, simply put, sexist. It suggests that her value is not measured by her intelligence, her creativity, her strength, her compassion and her unique human spirit.

When a woman becomes a mother, something I’m told is life-changing and intrinsically beautiful, she adds a new, intimate relationship to her existing plethora of experiences. She grows as a person and develops new perspectives and wisdom, but she doesn’t become valuable for her new role in society. She is already valuable.

2. I want to be remembered for my work, not for my offspring.

From what I can tell, having children has biological and evolutionary importance. Historically, biological offspring are a way to carry on one’s legacy in the gene pool. The more children, the more allies; the more DNA you spread, the more likely you can dominate and ensure survival. Luckily for me, I’m not a cavewoman. Hear that? My survival isn’t determined by physical tribe-on-tribe battle. My legacy gets to be something else. Like whatever I want. So there.

I don’t want to detract from the obvious benefits of a genetic legacy. It must be beautiful to see your own DNA duplicated in a mini me. Children can carry on your family name and values. However, I’d prefer to define my legacy by things that I’ve done. In particular, I want my words and experiences to be my legacy, and whether that’s by writing them down or by telling them to offspring is up to me.

3. I don’t want to define my success based on other people’s standards.

My  goal in life is not: “get married, buy a house, have kids.” I see that our society still defines success as having a family (especially for women.) You haven’t reached success until you fit that standard. It is disgusting to see the amount of pressure that society uses to teach women that their purpose in life is to have children, whether it is through subliminal gender messages in the media and toy store or well-meaning but insulting comments that seem to say, “I know better than you what you should do with your life.”

4. Having kids isn’t on my priority list.

People used to say, “oh, but just give it a few years! You’ll come around!” Yet here I am at 25 years old, and I still don’t see them in my 5- or 10-year plan. The truth is that while I love kids, I can’t imagine them in the foreseeable future. I see many other priorities.

One of my priorities is to further my education. I am heading for my master’s next year, then I’ll probably pursue a Ph.D. sometime after. I love to learn and analyze and teach, something that won’t likely change.

Another goal is to work in a field that continuously challenges me and brings me close to people and places where important things are happening. I love to be close to the action, and I love to be part of the difference being made.

I have so many other dreams and visions and goals and for now, children would just be an obstacle to accomplishing what I feel I’m setting out to do. No one should have kids unless they are ready for them. They’re not on a to-do list.

5. I don’t feel any need to say “yes” to satisfy societal pressure.

I am sick of people asking when I’m going to have kids. Why don’t they ask if? I understand that it’s a common thing to do, but it’s not fair to assume that just because everybody else is doing something that I should, too. Don’t teach me to think for myself, then tell me to follow the crowd. You’re being inconsistent, society.

This recent article in the Huffington Post, about talking to little girls, shows the powerfully deceptive ways that gender roles are perpetrated.  The author made me think about how we phrase our assumptions in the form of a question. When we ask the question a certain way, we’re suggesting that the answer fit the same format. So if you say, “When do you want kids?” I can’t answer with a “yes” or “no” or “maybe.” It has to be a time frame. And that’s not fair.

Ask me another! 

I am speaking up for my fellow women who, whether or not they have or want children, are worthy of their dreams and goals. I am writing for everyone who has felt pressured to fit into a societal box or to fulfill “a biological paramount.” I am standing up my right to say, “if” or “never” or “ask me a better question.”

Let’s try to empower women for their abilities instead of reinforcing their stereotypes.  Here is what to ask next time:

Q: When are you going to have kids? 

Q: What are you passionate about? What are your dreams?

Many young women are doing exciting things and have unique perspectives to share about their passions, their interests, their dreams. Take that as a conversation starter and see what you can learn!

So, the next time someone asks me, “When are you going to have kids?” I have my answer ready: “I don’t know if I’m going to have kids, and that’s okay. Ask me about my dreams!”

2 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why I Say I Don’t Want Kids”

  1. “Being a mother is not my raison d’etre. ”

    It is not. But the world is not black or white. Why do you think people assume you are just there to procreate or to be a successful career woman? Can’t you just be both? Also, you seem to fight stereotypes in Colombia by using other stereotypes about the “machismo culture”. I think latinos are more family oriented and a more humane culture. Anglosaxon — or so called “american” — culture is more inhumane, with its focus on work work work, productivity productivity productivity, and cold professional relationships (Oh please, don’t ask me anything that can hurt any sensibility!!! (please feel the sarcasm). You see? I can also use stereotypes about a culture.

    “I want to be remembered for my work, not for my offspring.” Poor you, period. You can read studies done with people that are about to die. Their regrets? None of what you think. They don’t regret haven’t been better at their work, or achieved better goals and more satisfying careers, etc… No. Their regret not having spent more time with their families, their dying or demented parents. Not having been there for their families reunions, or having spend so much time in the office as to loose a human level connection with family and friends.

    Also, they things you say about offspring and genes… Do you see the state of affairs now in the European Western countries? The birthrate is so low that countries like Germany and Spain are headed toward economic collapse unless they import millions of people (Studies find, for example, that Germany will hit 2 workers per retiree by 2050 or so). And if you cite wages as the culprit, think of the effect of millions of new workers (women) entering the system. Supply and demand there will tell you how the price of labor should always go down. But hey, I am not against women in the workplace.

    “I don’t want to define my success based on other people’s standards.” Fair enough. Just be careful to believe the progressive mantra too much. Define success as what makes you happy. That’s all.

    “Having kids isn’t on my priority list.” Fair enough. However, I don’t agree with this: “I have so many other dreams and visions and goals and for now, children would just be an obstacle to accomplishing what I feel I’m setting out to do. No one should have kids unless they are ready for them.” If you think children are an obstacle for women success, then you are the one who does not live in the 21st century and who has an archaic view of maternity. You have accepted the corporate mantra in the US that women should play by male rules and hence if they want to succeed they need to become males. A real 21st century solution is one that allows women to pursue their professional dreams while, at the same time, allows them to pursue also their maternities. Think of maternity leave, subsidized child-care, free education, partner help at home. Etc.

    If you don’t want to have kids, that is fine, but you should review your arguments and assumptions and look deeper into yourself. The cheap progressive ideology spread on US television shows and movies is false and corrupt.

    1. Hello E,

      Thank you for reading!

      I definitely agree with your assessment of “end-of-life regrets,” that human connection is important. I don’t see where I mentioned that I wanted to lose connection with my family and friends, though.

      Regarding birth rates in the European Western countries…well, I’m not sure what point you meant to make. That immigration is bad? That I should have children to repopulate Europe?

      And finally, thank you for your concern about my priority list! Let me clarify a bit, though, because you seem to have confused “an obstacle to accomplishing what I feel that I’m setting out to do” with “an obstacle to women’s empowerment.” I am so glad you see the expanding opportunities for 21st century women to “pursue their professional dreams…and also their maternities.”

      But that brings me back to my original point, the theme of the entire article: why assume that I want a maternity experience, how ever wonderful the benefits, and why attempt to tell me how my success should be manifested?

      Thank you again for reading. I appreciate that you have the time to read and comment. I’m flattered by your investment of time and effort.

      Oh, and on your comment on Lat Am, it sounds like you must have long-term experience living within the Latin American culture, too! I’m curious, where did you live and work in Latin America?

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