Thoughts on not having kids

"Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother." --Oprah Winfrey

Oh amen, Oprah.

See, I don't have kids. Not only that, but it's unlikely that I'm ever going to have kids. Oh, sure, it's biologically possible, and should be for another few years, anywaybut unless my life circumstances take a strange and bizarre turn, I'm probably not going to be needing any baby showers.

And like so much of my life these days, I feel completely out-of-step.

I know women for whom becoming a mom just isn't open to debate--women who, if they were in my shoes, would be either deeply grieving an irreconcilably empty life or fiercely trying to remedy the situation by any means necessary.

I know women for whom motherhood is the most incredible, wonderful, fulfilling thing they've ever done--a pile of hard work, certainly, but something that manages to define them as women in ways that career, hobbies, and other types of relationships never could. Yes, they're tired a lot, and yes, they miss the freedom to curl up with a book or in a bath without interruption--but they're deeply, deeply happy, and wouldn't have it any other way. 

And finally, I know women for whom motherhood is definitely a mixed bag--who are doing their best, but feel intense guilt at the ambivalence they sometimes feel towards their kids, who feel like they're never quite enough, never quite measuring up, never quite as thrilled with the whole parenthood thing as they thought they would be. 

This is the kind of mom I'm worried I'd be, all the time.

Being a mom always seemed to me more inevitable than desirable--it was just something you did, like going to school and getting a job and buying a house. Parenthood was something on the road towards becoming a real grown-up, something akin to managing mortgage payments and making RRSP contributions--something that marked your place in adult society, as a fully-fledged human being. 

And while I never would have written, at age six, "I want to be a mommy when I grow up," I probably would have followed that path myself, not really stopping to think consciously about my choice, just keeping in step with most of the people around me, because that's what people do--except life didn't quite turn out that way. 

Now that I'm not exactly on the happy edge of fertility--almost two years beyond that magical low-risk age of 35--I actually have to sit down and think about what having or not having kids means to me. (And don't think I don't know it takes two people to make a baby--in this post, though, I'm going to stick to the only person's thoughts I'm sure of: mine.)

A year ago I was firmly convinced I didn't want children. I was coming out of an enormous personal transition, enjoying a relatively independent lifestyle, and couldn't possibly conceive of upsetting my hard-fought solo applecart. I relished my solitude, revelled in my freedom, luxuriated in my liberty. I hated the idea of having a child, then resenting him or her for destroying a life I'd worked so hard to build, that I truly loved.

I still feel that way. But...


I still don't get goo-goo over other people's babies. Don't get me wrong--I like kids, a lot, and they seem to like me. But I don't feel any sort of uterine throb when I see a mom and her child.

I wonder, though, whether I'm missing out on some very essential human experience--whether I'm missing out on an intensity of love that just doesn't exist in any other human relationship. If our purpose on earth is to love, and love, and love some more--and I believe it is--shouldn't we be seeking out love in all its incredible forms? 

Would I be a happier person if I had kids?

Would I be a better person if I had kids? 

I don't know--but the fact that I may not get a chance to find out is a little scary.


  1. I'm not too fussed about having children either. I do work with them everyday, and I kinda consider them like my kids. I don't have any internal pressure to procreate, so I don't know what those biologists are going on about. I think that wanting to have kids has become more socialized than anything, and its considered weird to not want them. Ah, maybe I just want to spend the money on a trip to Europe instead. I can be incredibly selfish sometimes.


  2. And I don't think having children makes anyone a better person. That is something people need to want to do for themselves. At least that's the way I see it.

    Getting off my soapbox,

  3. I know I felt quite strongly about the kids I worked with when I was teaching--not as strong as a parent's love, maybe, but certainly the responsibility and affection that a family member would have. And any time you want to soapbox on my blog, Steph, you go for it.:)

  4. I thought of your blog when I came across this quote (author's credit not provided) in "The Happiness Project" by G. Rubin.
    p. 124: "I'm now looking down the barrel of not having the opportunity to have children. Always though I'd think about it/decide what I wanted when I met my future husband. Still haven't met him (if he exists!) but time waits for no ovary."

    Sorry, nothing deep here from moi, that just tickled my funnybone. :)


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