I don’t want to have children, but that doesn’t make me selfish
I shouldn’t have to justify my decision
It is expected that at some point, most people will grow up (literally and figuratively), get married, and have kids – especially, I hate to say, if you are a woman. But while this future is fulfilling for some people, it is not what I want.
The closest I’ve ever come to wanting children was when I was seven years old and couldn’t get enough of my Baby Annabell. But those maternal instincts dampened as quickly as my love of the doll when I moved onto the next playground fad. I started to enjoy writing, playing the cello, and team sports. As I worked my way through school, and college, and later university, there were all these opportunities, and I wanted to grab them with both hands.
I don’t know if and when I’ll want to move out of London, I don’t know if I’ll be able to buy a house; but I do know I shouldn’t get pregnant because society thinks I should, or to fill some putative chasm in my 50s, or just because “it’s what you do”. You don’t need me to tell you having children is a huge commitment – they are also expensive, time-consuming and restrictive.
Of course, if you’re certain children are for you, these things don’t even come into it. You just do it because you want to have a child, and when you do, you would do anything in the world for that child, to give your baby the best life it can have. But doing so is a huge sacrifice, and one which shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.
I’ve grown up surrounded and inspired by strong, independent and successful women. And they have always warned me that no one has everything. It’s true. It is unfair and it makes me angry – but for women, it must be one or the other.
I was on a work experience placement when I was 19, shadowing a woman who’d just returned from maternity leave. I was in the car with her when she picked up the phone to her friend, and recounted all the hassle her (male) boss was giving her about coming in late because of doctor’s appointments, and leaving early because she couldn’t get childcare, and all the other completely normal things you have to deal with when you have children. I’ve heard stories about women who’ve been shafted by an opportunistic junior, seizing an opportunity while the former was on maternity leave, and others who have resigned because the office isn’t sufficiently supportive. That’s just the nature of some jobs: long irregular hours, last-minute trips, early mornings and late nights. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but is it really fair?
I’m at the beginning of what I hope will be a long and successful career, and I know that if I’m really going to make it, I need to ask myself, seriously, if I want children. For me, the answer is easy: no, I don’t. And I’m tired of having to explain why.
Look at Kim Cattrall, Jennifer Aniston and Helen Mirren – all successful women who have chosen not to have children. I’m sure I’ll love my friends’ and family’s children like my own, and will enjoy watching them grow up, but I know it’s not for me. I get more satisfaction from forging ahead professionally, and I’m not convinced children would make me as happy as that does. Actually, they make me uncomfortable: I don’t have a natural maternal instinct. I enjoy my freedom, I enjoy earning my money and being able to spend it on what I want, and I enjoy devoting time to my career.
I’m fortunate: I work in an era when women are successful at work. But I’m also smart enough to know no one has it all, and this is a choice I’ve had to make.