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Why Not Having Children Doesn’t Make Me Selfish

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Why Not Having Children Doesn't Make Me Selfish

I have a full happy life. I’m very fortunate. I also don’t have children. And honestly, I don’t feel like something is missing from my life because of that. I’ve never questioned that. At least not until recently.

Recently, it was brought to my attention that by not having children at my age, I’m selfish. That dumbfounded me, especially since “selfish” isn’t something that I’ve ever even considered myself to be or something that anyone had previously called me. See, I never consciously decided not to have kids, but I’ve also never had the ingrained instinctive desire to have a child that I believe many mothers possess. In other words, my biological clock has never ticked. And if I’ve never felt that urge to have children then how could I possibly consider taking on the life-long commitment of being someone’s parent? I thought that was called being responsible.

I’ve never felt guilty or bad about not having children. I’ve also never felt pressure from my family or peers to procreate. It’s just how things have turned out for me. While my friends were getting married and starting families in their 20s, I was exploring the world and all that it had to offer. Besides working and caring for my pets, I lived a care-free life.

By the time I hit 30, most of my friends had married and were trying for their second children. I was in a long-term relationship with someone who shared my passion for travel, exploring, and adventure. How could we possibly do all the things we wanted to and be responsible for a child at the same time? One of us would be missing out (us or the child) and what kind of parents would we be if we had regrets about things not done. From what I’ve learned, missed opportunities are usually the things we wind up regretting the most. And how could we teach someone to follow their heart and dreams if we didn’t do that ourselves?

Now at 36, having checked off a chunk of things on my bucket list, I’m still in the same committed relationship, and children still haven’t found their way into our home. It’s become our norm, and I’ve taken that for granted.

In the past month, the topic of being childless has come up several times in different circles. More so recently than it ever has in my life in fact. And truthfully, something that I’d never really spent a lot of time thinking about has suddenly become all I think about lately. I continually have an internal dialogue going on with myself. Why don’t I have kids? I like kids–but do I actually want one? Am I less of a woman for not having children? Am I really just being selfish?

When my best friend called me irate that she had just had the battle royal with her family about being married and not having kids yet, I didn’t know what to think exactly. Having never had experienced this kind of invasion of privacy, I wasn’t really sure how to respond. In this day and age, I didn’t actually think these conversations went on anymore. And the theme of the conversation came down to basically, that being our age and choosing not to have children just makes us selfish. It was as if having a child outweighs all the other life accomplishments. Never mind that my bestie is super smart and educated, or that she started her own business, or that she bought her own home all by herself, or that she’s happily married or one of the most all-around amazing people I’ve ever met. Apparently, all those things take second string to being a mother according to some perspectives. And forget the fact that maybe she’s not even sure she’s ready to be a parent or that she may rather wait until she is  more financially secure, or what if, God forbid, she and her husband couldn’t have children. How does any of that translate to being selfish?

The whole conversation left me feeling overwhelmed and a little off balance. I wanted to chalk it up to being a generational thing and forget about it. But then I had a random conversation with my step-mom. She’s in her early 60s and never had children of her own. I’ve never asked her why because honestly “the why” never seemed important, and it’s really none of my business. She chose career and travel and the experiences that come with that over having a family. She was telling me that to this day, people still ask her, “How come?” That blew my mind. Really, what possible answer could she give that would satisfy someone that was so invading to ask that in the first place. The decision to have or not have children is such a personal one that should only be discussed by the people involved in the choosing process. It’s not a matter of public opinion. It’s a private, intimate, life-altering choice.

And so after thinking, analyzing, questioning my choices, and replaying both conversations in my head, I had to ask myself, why don’t I have kids? And the answer, well, because I just don’t. It hasn’t been in the cards I’ve been dealt up to this point. I know that as time ticks on, my options become more limited, but I’m not really bothered by that. Do I want kids someday? I truly don’t know. Maybe–but my guess is probably not. I’m happy being the “cool aunt” to my sister’s children and an amazing pet parent to my four-legged brood. I’ve never had the innate desire to be somebody’s human mom. Of course, the thought has crossed my mind over the years, but it’s always fleeting. And that’s a better argument for me not to have a child than it is to have one.

Do I feel like I’m less of a woman for not having children? Just because I’ve never had a child doesn’t make my experience as a woman any less worthy. Women become mothers in different ways all the time, and a lot of mothers never birth children. Like life experiences, some people can relate to yours and others can’t. The same is true for the experience of motherhood. Not all motherhood is the same. Just because it’s not your experience doesn’t lessen it to those who’ve had it first hand.

And lastly, am I really selfish? Really? I don’t think so. To me, that word implies a choice for one’s self-interest. My choice not to have a child is no more selfish than the women who decides, “I want one.” They’re both just choices. Simple as that. When it comes down to it, we’re all just trying to make the best choices for ourselves to live the lives of our dreams. And that’s not selfish…it’s inspiring.

Also by Danielle: Aging Gracefully in Your Thirties

How I’m More Like My Parents Than I Realized

Related: 6 Things We All Love to Hear but Don’t Say Enough

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Photo: Brooke Cagle via Unplash

Danielle Lujan

Danielle Lujan

Contributor at Peaceful Dumpling
Danielle was born on a spooky Halloween night in Santa Barbara, Ca. She moved to Los Angeles at the age of two where she lived up until 10 months ago. She currently lives in the forest with her true love and their menagerie of animals. Danielle is an artist, designer, baker extraordinaire, a little bit country and a little bit rock n' roll.
  • MeowWow

    I could have written this article myself. By that I mean that my experiences are almost identical. For me, not having children is the least selfish thing. Aside from the fact that I have never had the urge to have a child, I also think about child-bearing from a much larger perspective – almost from a global perspective. I believe that most people think of having a child in a very limited manner – as in how it will affect them and their lives. However, I think about how it will affect the planet as a whole and how being brought into the world will affect the actual child. I suppose I am an anti-natalist. I think about the population of the earth and what life will be like for that child in 50 years (spoiler: outlook not so good, in my opinion). This, I argue, is the least selfish act. Not having children, for me, is selfless and it will allow more resources in the future for children who do come to be. For me, there are SO many reasons not to have children (more than there are reasons to have children) and what I have written is only part of these numerous reasons.

  • Robin Searcy Henson

    I have never considered the decision to remain childless a selfish one at all. I personally wanted nothing more in life than to be a mother, but some would consider that selfish. I admire you for your insight and self-awareness and think you have nothing to be apologetic for.

  • Andrea Adams

    Thank you so much for this inspiring article! I myself am almost 34 and have been plagued with the same questions in the last few months. I don’t think I have anything more to say because you actually did say at all, everything I’ve thought and said out loud to others. What I consider truly selfish is putting your own life path on to someone else just because it makes you feel like yours is validated. I am also a mother to a clan of animals and couldn’t be happier with that blessing. We are mothers to those who need us in the moments that they do, and not always are they going to be human. Thank you again for this, it has been a confirmation for me!

  • Ashley Johnson

    Lol. Living by society’s expectations rather than your own will always end in misery. Thank you for brilliantly stating my feelings. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone in my feelings. No I don’t desire to have kids. For the most part, I just find the pressure society puts on women annoying. Not everyone wants or should be a mother simply because they have the equipment to.

  • Sarah Burns

    Wow! I’m also 36 and this really speaks to me. I feel the exact same way. My husband and I have been married 5 years and he’s getting a vasectomy this week. Many people just can’t understand why, but it’s not for them to understand, just respect. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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