Have you ever noticed that when you hit early adulthood, the assumption of children isn’t a question of if, but when? If you haven’t dealt with that dilemma, then you are one lucky chap. The question of children always hounded me, whether it was in more direct statements of ‘well, when you have children, you’ll know how they are’, to more indirect hints like, ‘wow, you’re so good with your baby niece/nephew!’ or, ‘you know how to handle babies well’.
Looking at the world today, it’s easy to see why women don’t want to have children. Climate change is quickly making many parts of the world uninhabitable. The wage gap is ever-present, making it difficult for single women to earn enough money to support children.
Studies have shown that climate change and deforestation can contribute to more pandemics in the future. It’s more difficult than ever to raise a child in such a chaotic, confusing world. These disasters are not isolated incidents. They are the result of a culmination of choices made, and it will take decades of change to stop them. I’m afraid for my own future, for my own health; how could I bring a helpless child into this?
It’s also unfair to assume that people who don’t have children are being selfish.
Child-free people have more time to contribute to their communities. They also have more resources for charitable and volunteer efforts. Child-free couples help contribute as teachers, counselors, and mentors. Being child-free doesn’t mean we don’t care about the future. Rather, the goal is to ensure a collective future, a cohesive group to rely on.
To couples that choose to be parents, I applaud you. Raising a child is difficult, and children are vital to the future. Some couples enjoy having children for the unique challenges that they pose. I know I find being with children fascinating because of how intelligent, quick, and sponge-like they are – particularly in the early years. Children are difficult to raise, but it’s also satisfying to see children learn how the world works. It can be particularly rewarding to see children understand particular lessons, or figure out how things are.
To the women that choose to not have children, I applaud you as well.
Being forced into having children results in dissatisfaction and unhappiness for the parents and children alike. Parenthood is often seen as the norm, and being shamed into having children can be detrimental to your and your child’s mental health.
The part that scares me the most about raising children is how quickly they learn, and how fragile they are. I remember insults or barbed comments from adults when I was a child, yet they might have forgotten it the next day. I remember arguments with my parents decades later. I’ve internalized some comments that my mother may have made off-hand; for me, they cut deep. I’m afraid of losing my patience with a child and unwittingly scarring them. I’m afraid of taking a misstep and having them hate me for it. I know I’ve harbored ill-will towards my parents growing up. I realize now that they were doing their best, and I don’t have half the patience and care that they did.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to step up. I may not suffer, but my child will, and I can’t have that on my conscience. At the end of the day, I may not be able to provide for my child, and I can’t bear that thought. I’d much rather regret not having children, than regret having them.
A child-free lifestyle isn’t a selfish one. Having children alone doesn’t prove a woman’s worth. The idea that a woman’s worth is innately linked to motherhood is toxic and dangerous. As a result, it removes the idea of women dedicating their time to the community without being mothers. I’m glad I can exercise my choice in having children or not, and knowing that there are other women like me who are ready to change the world to provide for future generations, even if they’re not mothers.
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