Image via International Museum of Women
The first time I told my mother I didn’t want to have children, she stared at me with a face that read: “What did I do wrong?”. Immediately, she followed up the shocking revelation with a “You don’t have to think about that now. Let’s see in ten years”. I was around sixteen at the time, which, in reality, is not a proper moment to be generating opinions about birth. Still, five years later, I haven’t changed my mind.
My case was never an isolated one. For years, I’ve talked to friends and strangers of my generation, both male and female, that have never felt the need to seek parenthood as a method of fulfillment. Still, the mere divulgement of such information leaves a stigma, a feeling of selfishness transmitted by the other half of the spectrum.
As the non-parental trend grows, society tries to compile all the possible reasons why people are not having kids. Most of the time they arrive at the conclusion that economic, political and social factors come into play when making such a choice.
Yes, the truth is that 2015 does not present itself as an ideal scenario to bring a child into this world. Millennials are facing some of the most challenging times in history with economic downfalls, high unemployment rates and college debt that make settling down as a family much more difficult than ever before. It is not enough to simply get an education to land a job, but instead, millennials have had to face the reality of putting a career-making lifestyle before marriage and kids.
On the other hand, there is a wide population of non-parental millennials that simply do not wish to have kids, regardless of the economy. “The concept of the innate biological desire to have a baby is a familiar one, repeated throughout books and television shows and emotional anecdotes about how friends and family members were suddenly gripped with a burning desire to get pregnant.”, wrote Sophie Gilbert on a recent piece for The Atlantic.
Teaching gender roles since infancy is much more dangerous than we think. Children, especially girls, are conditioned to the idea that, in order to be fulfilled in life, one must become a parent. A large portion of these kids eventually realize that playing house as infants did plant the parental seed in them. For others, like me, it is quite the opposite.
There is a certain stigma that comes with admitting to your family and friends that you are just not into having children. The reactions vary from “Oh, I used to say that before having mine” to “When you meet the right person, you’ll feel it”. But even as I dated a man whose sole desire was to build a family, kids never became an option for me. Instead, I was forced to ask the hard-hitting question: “If I never change my mind, would you leave me to have kids?” Needless to say, being a parent always eclipsed the offer of a life with me.
At this point, I should feel embarrassed, freaky and an outsider. But FOMO from motherhood has never occurred to me, as well as many other young women. There have been 4 recent additions to my family in the last two years, and even when they are as cute as they come, the bug has never bit me and I am okay with it.
“That attitude might indeed be selfish, but is it any more selfish than bringing ever more humans into an overpopulated world? Is it more selfish than having a baby simply because you want to, which is often the case? Has anyone in recent memory declared that they were procreating out of a selfless desire to perpetuate the human race, when the human race has never, ever, been less in need of perpetuation?”, adds Gilbert.
The dictionary defines “selfish” as “caring for oneself”. And when it comes to parenting, we need to accept that there is nothing wrong with wanting to take care of yourself for the rest of your life, that a couple can be happy by themselves without adding a third or fourth member, and that not being a parent does not equal being an outsider. There are far more benefits to living a life without kids than bringing unwanted children into the world.
Instead, many should start reevaluating the reasons they wish to have kids because “I am married” or “It’s the way it’s supposed to be” are not good enough. Parenthood should be a choice, not a rule.