I don’t Want Kids

I am a 26-year-old working woman and I do not want to have children — ever. In fact, I am planning to have my tubes tied on my next birthday. My husband would prefer to have kids, but he respects my decision. What upsets me is that my sisters and friends pressure me to get pregnant and tell me I’m missing out on life’s greatest experience. I feel as if they are judging me in a negative way.

It’s true that women who choose not to have children may be judged by others. They may even be labeled selfish, misguided, or abnormal, as if all women should inherently want to be mothers. Even though more women are finally saying “Enough!” to this kind of guilt-mongering, old attitudes persist: For instance, the term childless (as compared with child-free) reflects a negative or pitying attitude toward women who don’t reproduce.

Some women, however, may envy your child-free status. That has been the experience of my sister-in-law, Lisa, an English professor: Her sister, who has a 6-year-old daughter, tells Lisa that she envies her freedom to go to the beach with a book whenever she pleases.

That doesn’t mean that Lisa’s sister wishes she never had a child. She’s just acknowledging — in a way that many of your critics do not — that no life choice gives you 100 percent of what you want. Women without children do miss out on a major life adventure. But women who have children also miss out, since every decision we make brings us one experience while precluding others. You have to set your own priorities, just as Lisa has: “I like what I do too much to embrace a job like parenting,” she says. “Wait too long, and you may become a tad too rational to take on a back-breaking, 24-hour-a-day volunteer position.”

When people judge you for not having children, it has more to do with them than it does with you — so try to let their criticisms roll off your back. Although none of us is entirely immune to what others think, the challenge is to live our own lives (not others’) as well and fully as possible.

“I look at my life and ask myself whether I am satisfied with how I am living, whether I am living honestly, courageously, reasonably,” says Lisa. “I have to admit that sometimes, living my own life well seems challenge enough, let alone creating another life.”

Believing that all women should want to be mothers makes about as much sense as believing that all men should want to be engineers. That said, I hope you will think long and hard about your decision to have your tubes tied on your next birthday. What’s the rush? Life takes many surprising and unpredictable turns, and your desires and priorities are not fixed in stone. You may feel one way at age 26 and another at age 37 or 40.

You won’t enhance your freedom by undergoing a major medical procedure that will narrow your possibilities in the future if you happen to have a change of heart. Why not leave all of your options open so you can continue to create the life you want?

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