I’m never really sure what to say when people ask me why I don’t have children. I have been asked this question a million times – at dinners, at cocktail parties, at social gatherings, in business settings, as a panelist at professional conferences (during the panel), and as a guest speaker during the Q&A (almost every time I speak).
At this point in my life, I’ve become amused by the question and I’m quite comfortable sharing that my path hasn’t included children and I’m quite happy with my path so…. It’s not a big deal to me that I don’t have kids. It doesn’t feel like something is missing from my life. And to be honest, since I was around 15, I knew that a baby was never coming out of my body. I can’t explain why exactly but it’s something that I just knew. So this is something about which I have not struggled internally but I have struggled with it because of others’ expectations that I’d have kids and how fundamentally NOT NORMAL their questions have made me feel over the years.
And then I started thinking.
Isn’t the bigger question why someone DOES choose to have kids rather than why someone does NOT choose to have kids?
I mean, isn’t the bigger decision – with the bigger consequences and the bigger responsibilities and the bigger commitments – the decision to have kids? Isn’t the real life doozy the decision to create and raise small humans and to be responsible to make sure that they survive, thrive, and become responsible adults? Isn’t that a much bigger deal than deciding not to have children?
After all, choosing not to have children means choosing to be responsible for yourself – which supposedly as an adult you’re going to have to do anyway. That’s it. No other big requirements. The rest is sort of optional – if you want to hang out with other people’s kids – be an auntie or uncle figure in their lives – show up for the fun parts and then wander off when the diapers need changing…
So instead of asking people to justify their choice to refrain from having children, I think we should start asking people to justify why they choose to have kids. So at my next cocktail party, watch out. I’m going to be asking all the parents and people planning to be parents to justify their choices instead of feeling on the spot to justify mine.
After all, theirs is actually the bigger decision!