It seems to happen in every young woman’s life. You’ll be sitting around with the girls, sipping some sort of boozy beverage and you’ll start talking about relationships. Then someone will mention marriage and start gushing over what they’d like their dream wedding to be like whilst wondering if their current partner could afford the extravagance. Then inevitably, the question of children pops up.
I’m only 21. I’ve just graduated and I have my whole adult life ahead of me. However, many people my age already know whether or not they want to get married and have kids. I know my stance on the subject. I was averse to the idea of marriage but I’m slowly coming round to it. After all, it’s a ceremony celebrating your love for one another and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Of course, it will not be a religious wedding. I feel that religion is something that belongs banished in the past; it complicates things more than it helps.
Kids? Absolutely not.
As soon as I say to my peers or anyone else that I am never having children, I’m met with gasps of shock and horror. According to most people and society in general, as a woman, I should be naturally maternal and have the innate desire to reproduce. It’s why I’m a woman; it’s why I have the capability to become pregnant. A lot of people call me selfish for not wanting to have children because of course, that’s the only reason women exist. Coming from an Asian background, the fact that I’m refusing to have children is absurd and strikes fear in any elder relative of mine. They can’t understand why I wouldn’t want to bring a child into this world.
One of the things that frustrates me the most is people telling me that I’m being selfish by not having children and that it’s…well, wrong. I think deciding not to reproduce is actually anything but selfish, particularly given my circumstances. I know what kind of person I am. I have no maternal inkling and I know that I could not look after a completely dependent human being. That child wouldn’t have a great life. I wouldn’t be able to love it. I may not even be able to handle being pregnant in the first place. As someone with a history of BDD and anorexia, the changes to my body during pregnancy may be too much to handle.
The main reason for not wanting to have children – other than the lack of desire to – is my mental health. My mental illnesses are hereditary. The majority of people on my mum’s side of my family have some sort of mental health problem, although some have gone largely undiagnosed due to cultural stigma which is still prevalent amongst Asian communities. My mum herself has suffered with depression for the majority of her life. My dad’s side of the family is hardly promising either. There is a significant chance that if I had a child, they would have mental health problems too. Having been through hell and back because of such problems, I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror if I brought a child into this world and it had to suffer a fate similar to mine. I wouldn’t be able to handle the guilt and the strain that a serious mental health problem puts on a family.
I’m currently trying to dissuade my brother from having children because of the likelihood that one of his kids may have a mental health problem. He was barely surviving when I had anorexia because of the emotional toll it had on him. I dread to think how he’d fare if a child of his went through something even half as bad. He won’t listen though. He’ll have kids and one or more of them may suffer. Then he’ll regret it.
I’m smart enough not to make the mistake of having children in the first place. It’s not just my inherited mental health problems that have put me off. It’s the fact that the world we live in is no fairytale. Suffering is everywhere around us; you cannot escape it, even if you live in a prosperous country. You’ll see it on the news. You’ll experience it, either directly or indirectly. You’ll get sad about it and feel helpless because you can’t do anything to help anyone. There’s crime. You may be a victim of crime and the likelihood increases tenfold if you’re a woman. What is the point of bringing children into this world when they will inevitably suffer in one way or another? Isn’t that the truest form of cruelty? Your selfish desire to have children was so strong that rather than consider the misfortunes that may befall your child, you decided to go ahead anyway. I think it’s far less selfish not to have children. At least that way, you’re not bringing an innocent life into this world for it to be subjected to suffering.
I was recently confronted about adoption because obviously, the child would not genetically be mine so I wouldn’t have passed on my mental health problems to them (although there’s still a chance that they could develop mental health problems later in life). Here’s the thing. I have never, ever wanted to be a mother. Ever since I was a little girl, I always thought ‘I want to be like mummy but I don’t want to be a mummy’, because my mother is a strong, kind woman but I didn’t want to have children. I never played with baby dolls – in fact, my brother played with more dolls than I ever did. I did play with Barbie. I wanted to be Barbie. I remember getting a popstar Barbie when I was about three or four years old and I thought ‘I want to be this Barbie; she’s strong, successful and independent’. Of course, I didn’t know those words then, but I can now articulate the feeling that popstar Barbie instilled in me.
Even as I grew up, I found kids undesirable. I saw on Facebook how some people I knew from primary school were pregnant at 16 and even then, the idea of children seemed repulsive. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if the child is biologically mine or not. I couldn’t adopt. I do not want to be a mother. It has never featured in my plans for the future, nor will it ever do so. I do not want to look after a human. No part of bringing up a child sounds remotely appealing to me.
I’m assuming there is some biological reason behind people’s fixation and desire to have children. I can’t really understand it; I have none of that aforementioned maternal instinct. I still don’t see the need. Many people come up to me and say ‘but you’re a woman, you have to want kids’ like it’s unnatural not to want them or there must be something wrong with me for not wanting them. The argument of ‘you’re a woman, it’s in your nature, you were made to have children’ is, quite frankly, bullshit. It’s my body and I’ll do what I want with it. Since when did we invent time-travel and go back to the Middle Ages where you absolutely had to have kids if engaging in sexual intercourse? My body was made for many things and procreation is not one of those things. Personally, I feel as though my body was made to get me through the toughest, most gruelling of physical challenges, to store my brain which can learn so much and help me enrich my life and to house my organs so I can keep breathing. Yes, I have a vagina. I’m proud I have one. Yes, I can fall pregnant; that is merely a consequence of unprotected sex. The main function of my vagina is to be stimulated into orgasm. I see my vagina as a pleasure zone and no mini-human is ever going to come out of it. People keep saying that it’s natural to have children and that’s why I have a vagina. Well, my vagina begs to differ. If that was the only reason to have sex, why is it so pleasurable for women, more so when it’s protected and there’s barely any chance of falling pregnant?
Others say I’ll regret not having children and then it will be too late, similar to their argument that I’ll regret my tattoos because of the way they’ll look on my wrinkled skin in 40 years’ time. I don’t think I’ll ever regret not having a child who would most likely be doomed to a life on antidepressants if they survived those terrifying bouts of suicidal feelings. I’ll never regret not putting an innocent life in this hellhole of a world. I’ll never regret saving a life the heartache that I’ve experienced. Yes, that hypothetical child may have had a wonderful life and we’ll never know, but I’d rather be ‘selfish’ and take that risk of never knowing. I’m prepared for the future. I’m prepared for people to label me as ‘selfish’ and ‘past it’ and ‘how she must regret it’. I’ll be content. I know my conscience will be clear.