'I think I'd make a rotten mum'
Choosing not to have children
Let me get it out of the way before we even begin. I like kids. Some kids I even love. None of these kids are mine.
I did not make the decision not have children by watching unruly kids and I did not make it because I dislike them.
When I was growing up it never entered my mind that I wasn't going to be a mum. I knew that I would leave school, get a job, meet a man, marry him and then one day have babies. Four out of five ain't bad.
I don't even know when I made the decision not to have children; when I think back, it appears more like a natural progression, maybe even a subconsious understanding that even though I might make a fantastic auntie, I'm pretty sure I'd make a rotten mum.
What surprised me is how personally people take my private decision. I remember the first time someone asked me if I had kids. I hadn't been married for long and I said no I didn't. The person actually said to me, and this is burnt into my brain like it was yesterday, "Why not, is it a medical thing?"
This was just the beginning of nearly 20 years of defending my position to be childfree.
If I have the courage to admit I don't want kids, as opposed to let's say, just not having kids, the person inevitably takes it as an insult to their own decision to have children. I have lost count of how many times people try to tell me "it's different when they're your own", "you don't know what you're missing" and the old fallback "but you'd make a great mum".
It got to point I was even too scared to hold a child in case some well-meaning individual started cooing and asked the old chestnut "So, are you clucky yet?".
I have even had to defend my decision to my own doctor who refused to provide long-term contraception because he didn't belive that I was making an informed choice. I was 30 years old at the time.
I know there are people out there who don't have kids because they don't like them. Who call parents breeders, like this is any less of an insult than someone calling childfree folks selfish. I'm just not one of these people.
I look on parents and am amazed by their accomplishments and stamina. I love watching them in love with their own children; I am however, not envious.
I am one of the lucky ones. There are plenty of people who get asked the same questions as me and have to answer that they want kids but can't.
I am childfree, not childless. The position I defend is one of my own making and I am not saddened by my choice. I just can't see why other people are.
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