This piece originally appeared in Huffington Post Women, and was also published in HuffPost Italy, Germany, France, Quebec, Spain, Korea.
“You’ll never understand the meaning of life.”
“You’ll be incomplete.”
“You’ll regret it when you’re old.”
“You’ll change your mind.”
“You’ll never be a real woman.”
“You’ll never truly understand love.”
I’ve been on the receiving end of these statements because I’ve chosen not to bear children.
My reasons to remain childfree are plentiful (and nobody’s business). Yet I’m constantly asked to justify my choice.
Here’s a sampling:
1. Economics: Children are expensive. As of August 2013, the average cost for a middle class family to raise one child for 18 years is $304,480. Giving birth can cost between $3,296 and $37,227. Sending a child to college costs between $8,893 to $22,203 per year, per child. I’ll go make myself a stiff drink; those numbers make me dizzy.
2. Logistics: In spite of social and cultural advancements, women are still default caregivers, especially in a child’s formative years. Raising a kid before s/he begins school is more than a full-time job. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no time off for good behavior. I’m not fit to be around adult human beings when sleep-deprived, let alone a child dependent on me for Every. Little. Thing.
3. Environmental: There are an estimated 153 million orphans on Earth. Why add another mouth to an overpopulated planet for an ego-driven biological imperative I don’t feel? If anything, I’ll adopt.
4. Physical: My body has been through enough physical trauma in its 35 years of being knocked about this world. Post-traumatic stress disorder from surviving a gun crime has wreaked havoc on my nervous system. I also grew up abroad and wasn’t exposed to the additives and preservatives rife in American food. Adding just one child to my family means no more organic and clean eating because we can’t afford it. Well, we also can’t afford cancer.
5. Emotional: Every day I struggle to manage PTSD. Having the freedom to be sleepless when the pain tsunami hits has been a godsend. Being able to sleep for 12 hours uninterrupted if need be has been a savior. I work from home and set my own hours, an ideal situation. Add a child and what happens when depression hits and I can’t get out of bed? Or I cry for an entire week? Or during bouts of rage in which I lose complete control?
6. Social: Last time I checked, this world is messed up. There is a school shooting almost every week in this country. Also, there’s this gnarly thing called “rape culture” and it permeates every aspect of our society. Many of the children of today will likely be its victims or perpetrators in the not-so-distant future. I’ll go ahead and make myself another drink, that is one Big Bad.
7. Cultural: I’m a half-American, half-Sri Lankan Third Culture Kid — someone who spent her developmental years outside her parents’ countries — saddled with identity issues galore that I also have to manage each day. I live under the assumption of otherness even when in my passport country of the USA. “Where are you from?” is the first most popular question I’m asked. (This article is about the second.) I’m supposed to hoist that cultural baggage onto an innocent by choice?
8. Interest: I’m simply not interested in the myriad awful things that come with childbirth and childrearing. Vaginal tearing, hemorrhoids, constipation, labor contractions, pinkeye, mucus, vomit, diarrhea, butt-wiping, public meltdowns, Dora on repeat, Terrible Twos, teenage rebellion, giving up my individual identity. No. Thank you.
“But, why, Sezin, are you not interested in having the smartest, most beautiful, most talented, and most special child in the world who ever lived? Why?!”
Because I love my sleep. I love setting my own hours. I love my alone time, my writing time, the time I spend daydreaming. I love eating an almost 100% organic diet. I love collecting tattoos. I love that when I have a project lull, I might have an entire weekend to do with it what I please. I love my freedom. Between my creative work, a job I love, and a husband I adore who agrees with everything in this article, I am happy, healthy, and the most fulfilled I’ve been in my life.
All of which go out the window once children enter my family portrait, because, well, that’s the nature of kids. A little being comes into the world and is completely reliant on you and only you. Your universe shrinks to their size and only expands as theirs does.
I prefer full access to The Everything whenever I want it, not just in the moments when my kid has finally gone down for a nap or in the spare minutes I have just enough time to take a shower and when was the last time I ate? I’ve helped friends with their kids. I know the drill.
Why am I asked to defend my choice on a regular basis? And why is my husband — who has made the same choice — never publicly shamed as I am?
This is why we need feminism: Even with all our technological, social and cultural developments, having children is still the default option in a woman’s life trajectory.
And here’s my main takeaway:
I do not assume that my personal life choices are so fundamental that other people are less human or will live less fulfilled lives because they don’t make the same ones.
I’ve made a decision to remain childfree. So what?
I don’t need to push a child out of my vagina to be a real woman.
I don’t need a child to experience unconditional love and sacrifice.
I don’t need a child in order to be happy.
I certainly don’t need children for when I’m old. That’s what retirement homes are for.
And, I am not going to change my mind; I actually have more than eight reasons to remain childfree.
As Anaïs Nin said: “Motherhood is a vocation like any other. It should be freely chosen, not imposed upon woman.”
Enough with the choice-shaming already.
Childfree folks and supporters, please chime in with your stories below.