Why I’m Reluctant to Write About Not Wanting Kids

baby all stars
Photo by Roy Costello
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

The other day a writer pal of mine tweeted about her fear of writing on controversial topics. I quickly jumped in (Writeous Babe to the rescue!) and reminded her that the best of essays are those that take an unpopular stance on an issue. Then she replied that she was mostly reluctant for fear that her opinion would change. I told her that was OK. I don’t believe writers should ever pretend to have it all figured out. We don’t have all the answers and we should admit that. “Writing is about asking questions,” I tweeted. And after she marked my tweet as a favorite I felt special, like I had said something important and sage. 

Then I realized I was a hypocrite. 

Lately the thing that’s been on my mind most is a controversial, unpopular choice of mine that I’ve been leery to write about. 

I don’t want children. 

In January of 2008 I was diagnosed with a condition that would most likely make pregnancy, delivery, and life after childbirth extremely difficult for me. When people close to me, people aware of this issue, ask me why my husband and I aren’t trying to have kids I use this condition as an excuse. But it’s just that — an excuse. I don’t want children, and it has nothing to do with my health. 

I had a wide variety of responses ready for the moment when someone asks why I’m not trying to get knocked up: We’re not quite ready. We need to put away more money in savings. We want to buy a house first. Excuse. Excuse. Excuse. 

A few months ago — ironically on Mother’s Day — I made the decision to drop the excuses. And when random lady at the supermarket asked why my husband and I don’t have kids, I boldly replied, “I don’t want children.” That has been my response to anyone who has asked since then. And for some reason I’m asked this question about once a week, usually by someone who can’t even correctly pronounce my name and, therefore, has no business asking me something so personal. But I digress. 

I’ve wanted to write about the hilarious array of reactions I get to my declaration that I don’t want children, but in order to do that I would have to write about the fact that I, you know, don’t want children. And that I didn’t want to do. 

Sure, I’ve written about this matter in a lighthearted manner in the past like when I wrote a column for the weekly I used to work for about remaining childless for reasons such as I didn’t want my perky boobs to sag after becoming lactation stations. And like this piece I wrote for The Hairpin.

But I’ve never dealt with this topic seriously in my writing. Why? For the same reason my friend wouldn’t tackle her tough topics — I’m afraid I’ll change my mind. At this point in my life I’m pretty sure I will not. When I was in my 20s everyone said as soon as I turned 30 I’d go baby crazy. But when that monumental birthday rolled around last year I began to feel more certain than ever that I did not want to be a mom. Still, there is a chance I could change my mind. 

No, I’m not worried about proving right all the people who said I would, in fact, change my mind. Those are the same people who think I don’t want kids because I wasn’t hugged enough as a child. (Growing up my brother and I never went to bed without my parents first giving us a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you.”) And those are the same people who say ridiculous things like, “Motherhood is a woman’s purpose and duty.”  Ergo, I don’t care what they think.

What I’m worried about is changing my mind, having a kid, and then one day Writeous Baby reads this post and starts yelling, “Mommy! You didn’t want me?! You don’t love me!” That is my fear. But I guess it’s too late now. The declaration that I want to remain child-free has been made and posted in cyberspace. 

And in case it’s 2030 and you’re reading this, Writeous Baby, please know that if you’re in this world it’s because I not only wanted you, but decided I couldn’t live without you. 

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project


  1. Great post! Y’all decide what’s right for you! Believe it or not, a lot of those same negative reactions happen when I say I’m done after having one kid. Like I’m supposed to repopulate the world all by myself. To hell with them, I say. Because I HAVE written about wanting only one, it has kept me fast in my decision – I don’t want #2 to be thinking she/he was unwanted just because I’ve told it from the mountaintops that I am D-O-N-E done. But your ending is exactly how I feel. If she/he appears, it’s because I changed my mind. And it is OK to do that!!!

    • Thanks for reading, Laura, and thanks so much for your comment. A lot of my friends with one child have shared similar stories. We just can’t win. First people nag you about having children, then you have one and they nag you about having another. And if you have three or more people criticize you for having too many. I wish everyone would just shut the eff up and mind their own business.

  2. I love this post, I think that’s great that you tell people the truth instead of excuses, no shame in that and who cares what they say. I don’t believe it’s a woman’s duty to have children, it’s a choice whether you decide to have them or not. I have two kids and I knew that I always wanted two and I stopped after two. I remember when I was being wheeled back in the operating room to have my tubes tied and the doc said you know you can change your mind right now if you want, you don’t have to do this. I said Um I know I don’t have to do this I WANT to do this, my mind will never change I wanted two kids, I got them, I’m done. Inside my head I thought my nerves, patience & wallet can’t afford anymore lol. I was thinking long term i.e. senior year, prom, car, college that kind of stuff.

  3. Javacia, I totally understand. I have NEVER wanted children and I feel completely fine and fulfilled. Some people are shocked when I tell them, but it’s okay. I think writing about it is a fantastic! Perhaps other like minded women will share their true feelings also. 🙂 PS I’m 39.. still no change in how I feel about a family!

    • Nicole, thank you so much for your comment. One of the main reasons I wrote this is so that other women who don’t want to be mothers won’t feel so alone and also so that women writers would be inspired to take more risks in their writing. I especially thank you for your last statement because, of course, after publishing this people keep saying things like, “Well wait until you turn 35…”

  4. Jai,

    I love this post! I love it because of your honesty and of course, because of your awesome writing as well! As you well know, I definitely want children. However, I respect the decision of those who do not want children. Children are not for everyone. Just like living in certain places are not for everyone…and how entrepreneurship is not for everyone. I believe that people have the right to make a decision and stick to it and that other folks need to mind their own business. Other people always think that they know what is best for someone else when that just isn’t true. What works for the goose does not always work for the gander.

    Stick to your guns lady and should you change your mind, that is fine as well. One of the things that I really love about life is that we have options! Do what works for you and keep it moving. Let people get over themselves or not…whatever they do, you do you and don’t even worry about them. And you don’t have to have children…you will be more than welcome to play with mine once they enter the world. 🙂

  5. This is a great post, and way to go for putting it out there. I gave birth to my daughter when I was 18. She was born with multiple birth defects and other challenges, and passed away the same year. I never wanted another child. I wholeheartedly believe SHE was the child God wanted me to have, and parenting her memory for 22 years so far – that is the parent I am supposed to be. I, like you, have “girlie issues” and have had about a dozen surgeries in the last 20 years. That has always been my excuse when people ask if/when I’m going to have more children. Ten years ago I had a hysterectomy, and well, the excuse doesn’t get better than that. People (who have no business doing so) still ask me if my husband and I will be having children. My stepsons are 21 and 26, and I always half-joke that I’m holding out for grandchildren. Maybe, after your inspirational message, I’ll start answering with the truth and just say “no.”

    • Mariesa, thank you so much for being so open and sharing your story. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with such a loss.

      I’m not sure that my health problems would be classified as “girlie issues.” I have a disease that attacks my organs and connective tissues. So even people who are aware of it say things like, “Well, if you can have a baby you should go on and do it. You’ll be fine” as if it doesn’t matter that this disease causes me to be in pain nearly every day of my life and that it will most likely get worse should I have a child.

      If you do decide to start telling people “No!” when they ask if you plan to have kids, I’d be interested to know how they respond. Thanks again for reading and for your comment.

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