As women, one of the biggest pressures to have children often comes from your parents or family. I have friends and co-workers who have shared stories with me of not really wanting kids or sitting on the fence about kids, yet, still deciding to have them because it was what their family expected. They felt they should do it, because their partner or parents wanted them to have children.
Sometimes, the expectations are clear. It’s the relative at a BBQ asking you when you’re planning to have kids. It’s your mother moaning about when you’re going to make her a grandmother. It’s a sibling asking if their child will soon have some cousins to play with.
And if, like me, you cringe, silently scream and pleasantly say that you’re not having kids, then comes the smug, knowing, ‘You’ll regret it if you don’t,’ or ‘You’ll change your mind later.’
The Choice to Stay Childfree
All childfree women have heard the phrase ‘You’ll regret it when you’re older’ hundreds of times. Although there isn’t much research on this topic, a Norwegian Study of 5,500 people between the ages of forty and eighty found no evidence that childless adults have reduced wellbeing compared to people with children. Meanwhile, US studies show that childlessness does not increase loneliness and depression. So, why would we regret our choice?
And now that I’m at an age that starts with a four, I’m no closer to changing my mind. Why should I? I know myself and I know who I am. I knew from a fairly young age that I didn’t want children and have never deviated from that decision. My GPS is firmly set on its destination – to remain childfree.
The Expectation to Have Children
Nikki Ingram says both of her parents are okay with her decision not to have children. However, other family members are not so understanding. ‘My step-mother used to pressure me often! All she ever wanted was to be a grandmother. Her own children (she has four) all lived overseas, whereas I lived here in Australia. So, before they started having children, she was at me quite often to even just “get knocked up.” She would say it tongue-in-cheek, but I know she would have been stoked if I did. Thankfully, all of her own children have now had kids, so she has her much-wanted grandchildren and leaves me alone.
Forty-six-year-old Kelda Rheinberger of Sydney felt the pressure in her first marriage, when the question seemed to be when was she planning to have kids, not if she was. ‘I felt the pressure for not conforming to the traditional getting married and having children. It makes you feel that you are somehow not normal and people judge you as if there is something wrong with you or your marriage for not having children.’
Having said this, other times, the expectations of our friends and family are expressed in ways that are very subtle. Your parents and other relatives might ask overtly about when you’re planning to have kids, but the expectation exerts itself in other ways.
In my case, when I asked my mum what she honestly thought when I told her I didn’t want children, she said, ‘It was your life and your choice. It was not up to me to say what you should or shouldn’t do. We were never disappointed that you didn’t want children. We accepted your decision as it was your life to live as you wanted to.’
What Matters Most
While it isn’t intentional, there are times when families and friends do treat you differently when you choose to be childfree. And I can even see why that might contribute to some women having kids, even if it isn’t the right decision for them. And I don’t believe that it is the right reason to bring a child into this world. It is the biggest commitment and responsibility you can make in life and you must want it with all your heart.
Real friends and people who love you will fully support your decisions and life choices. I have always been happy for and supported my friends when they have told me of their decision to have a child. Granted, it is not a choice I make for myself, but for me, as long as they are happy, that is what matters most. Similarly, whether they agree or disagree with my decisions, they should just care about my happiness.