My husband and I have been married three years. We are in our early thirties and mid-twenties respectively. We both have stable, decent jobs. We don’t party much, and we don’t lead an extravagant life. For these reasons, we seem to be getting the same question from the lips of every adult: “When are you having kids?”
The shock on some people’s faces when they get the response of “Oh, maybe never” brings its own diabolical joy, but inciting pearl-clutchery is not the reason we’re child-free. (That’s what the tattoos are for).
The reason we don’t have progeny is simple: we just don’t want them. Anyone can, off the top of their head, give a handful of advantages to not having sprog (saving money being chief among them) but I’m not here to cite that tired old manifesto.
And anyone with kids can dreamily attest to how they just make life better, regardless of the disadvantages.
But there seems to be some odd cognitive dissonance here. The conversation usually goes as follows (abridged):
A: When kids?
B: Kids never.
A: Shock! Dismay! WHY?!
B: Money. Time. Stress. Etc.
A: … Agree.
They always agree with our motivations. Well, almost always. The only vehemently pro-kids person we encountered was a bank consultant. After telling her they are expensive, she said, I shit you not, “God will provide.” The husband and I bit our tongues. Then, she pulled out the “Your parents want grandchildren” card. We countered with “Our parents respect our choices. Also, they’re not going to be the ones losing sleep or paying school fees. So really they don’t get a say.” Mutual ideologies unsuccessfully foisted, we went on our way.
What frustrates me most about being child-free is that it’s treated like some weird exception. We don’t get the question “are you planning to breed?” we get the question of when. Because, of course, any married middle class couple is going to have kids. The husband has gotten all manner of accusations from his colleagues, about how it’s his fault I don’t want kids.
But the fertility rate is declining for a reason: you don’t have to have kids. They are not a measure of success. They probably won’t take care of you when you’re old. They’re not necessary for cheap labour. And, in any case, a disturbingly large amount of pregnancies are unplanned. And I wonder, of the planned pregnancies, how many occur because that’s
just what people do?
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against unplanned pregnancies (I was one) and I’m certainly not calling people with children mindless drones. But what percentage of people who have kids truly, deeply, genuinely wanted them initially?
There is the argument that child-free folk are selfish. Well, yes, sort of. But it’s not like it’s an obligation to have kids and those without kids are shirking their duty, or not pulling their resource-consumption weight. If you choose to have a child, yes, you have to be selfless. But how is realising I’m too selfish, then not having a kid as a result, a bad thing?
Truth is, I did once want kids, as did my husband. I was in university, we were both young and we’d discuss the future of our perfect nuclear family. We were too young then, of course.
Now we’re old enough, but we’re still too young
But we humans are social creatures (some of us) and we need companionship. I get intelligent conversation and emotional fulfilment from my husband. And I get cuteness and cuddles from my cat.
Until babies learn to work around my lifestyle, I’ll stay gloriously child-free.