Don't Have Children Just Because The World Tells You To - Baby Chick
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Don’t Have Children Just Because The World Tells You To

lifestyleUpdated July 26, 2022

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Having children and caring for others is relentlessly marketed at women. It’s made clear to women in every aspect of life, from birth until middle age, that their function is to be attractive, find a mate, have children, and look after them.

But you don’t have to do that.

Not long ago, women hadn’t yet won their right to vote, couldn’t get a loan approved without a man as a guarantor, and couldn’t seek legal help if raped by their husbands (rape in marriage wasn’t recognized). Getting pregnant out of wedlock meant society would make a woman’s life so miserable that she might prefer death. Women were bullied into giving up babies they’d had no choice in carrying. And most women couldn’t find a job that would adequately support them. Living independently without a male “protector” subjected them to all sorts of assumptions and dangers.

Though we make progress very slowly, we have made some. One of the most extraordinary scientific advances for women was the birth control pill. It changed everything for us. Though undoubtedly flawed, it allowed women choices undreamed of prior to its conception (pun intended). Those who live so far into the post-contraception era can’t really conceive of the dangers for women who attempted to have the same sexual freedoms as men in the pre-pill era.

Of course, women still experience all kinds of danger sexually. But at least unwanted pregnancy is one we can generally avoid if we so choose. If certain people had realized how a woman’s ability to choose bodily autonomy would change our society, they’d have shut down the laboratories.

The Love Trap

I love my children. In fact, there’s not a word for how I feel about my children. It’s much larger than the simple word love. There was a large chunk of their lives where my sun rose and set on them. They are fantastic young adults and my heart’s delight. I’m very proud of them and wouldn’t wish them out of existence. That’s what love does to you, you see.

But the truth is, if I hadn’t had them, I wouldn’t have missed any of it as I wouldn’t have known what I was missing. Somewhere in an alternate timeline, my alternate self is sipping piña coladas on a boat in her skinnier, wealthier, and less mentally drained existence and aimlessly wondering if having kids would have been nice before she closes her eyes for a nap.

Many women don’t love their children or love them with caveats, just like men. Until recently, that fact was heavily suppressed in the media. Many women would have chosen not to have children if their entire environment wasn’t structured towards making them doubt their own worth for even thinking that. What’s accepted as normal in many men, not wanting children, has been marketed as a horrible and fatal character flaw in a woman until recently. Possibly worse, the desire not to have children has been disbelieved. “Oh, sweetheart, you’ll change your mind.” Scoff, scoff.

But lately, I’ve seen more conversations around being child-free by choice and how it’s perfectly natural for some women not to want children. If the conversation arises, and it does so surprisingly often, I mention to young women that they should think once, twice, or thrice before having kids. And try to be really. REALLY. Sure. If you’re still unsure but feeling pressured, this might help.

Imagine you’re a man.

  • You can make a real choice about whether you actually want kids, and your mom won’t burst into tears at the thought of you choosing bodily autonomy.
  • Your friends won’t keep telling you how much you’ll miss out on.
  • Nobody will lecture you about biological clocks. (Though male sperm degrades too, and if you’re planning to have kids later in life, men should freeze their sperm before age 40. But that’s another story).
  • People will assume, just as with a man, that you will find another avenue out of all the wondrous choices in the world to give your life meaning and purpose.

Now transfer those thoughts to your psyche. You can choose. There are 7.8 BILLION people in the world. We don’t need more people, necessarily. We need more people to become scientists, nurses, plumbers, engineers, doctors, bricklayers, carpenters, mechanics, teachers, artists, and musicians. And that may mean sacrificing having a family to focus on a career.

Reality check: having children alters absolutely everything.

Forever. Though this is touched on, it’s rarely properly discussed. So let’s look at the realities and take off the love-tinted spectacles.

You are forever bound to your child, for good or ill.

  1. If you’re lucky, you will feel intense and boundless love for your children. Indescribable love. Sometimes exhilarating, exhausting, joyful, painful, and never-ending, utterly unconditional love. Consider what that really means. At no time do you ever get to be free of worry for this other human. At no time are you ever free of the possibility that they will need you. Until you die, you must, and will without hesitation, fulfill the caregiver role at the drop of a hat. That’s your life now. Assuming you’re lucky enough to have healthy children, even when they move out and move on, the thread is there. And it always will be until you can no longer function in that role. You’re a mother until the day you die.
  2. If you’re unlucky, you will be tethered by responsibility and duty to the caregiver role but without the joys inherent in genuinely loving them.
  3. If you’re really unlucky, you’ll hate the role and them. And there’s nothing more distressing and desperate than an unloved child.

There are more women trapped in scenarios two and three than you would like to believe.

Your physical and mental state will be altered.

If you’re fortunate enough to be the mentally and physically drained recipient of a healthy human life you love and are forever bound to, you still run all sorts of physical and mental health risks.

No matter what the Instagram Influencers would have you believe, having a baby changes your body in many ways, forever. Giving birth also increases your risk of stroke. And there’s even a possibility of heart failure related to giving birth. Let’s also not forget that you can still die in pregnancy. Yes, you really can. Regardless of the woo some people sell us, women occasionally still die giving birth even in the best conditions.

These very real dangers are regularly brushed aside in the relentless propaganda aimed at encouraging procreation. But what about general happiness? Having children fulfills you and completes you. It’s worth the small risk of death; at least you know you’ll be happier with a family.

Well, not quite.

If you have pre-existing mental health conditions, you’ll be well aware of them when dealing with the myriad stressors of parenthood. Any existing weaknesses in your overall mental health will be exacerbated. Hairline cracks can widen into chasms. But even if you were mentally stable before birth, you might not remain so. You may have to face postpartum anxiety, depression, or psychosis. Or worse.

Having children takes a toll on a marriage.

Let’s assume you didn’t become mentally ill after birth and are in a stable relationship. Phew. At least you’ve got each other.

Well, maybe. You’d be amazed at the numbers of sorrowful people jammed together in miserable matrimony who don’t want to split their families apart and deal with the inevitable fallout for their children. Whether dolefully eyeballing one another over breakfast and dreaming of never listening to one another chew again or trapped in an abusive and dangerous relationship where the children make the possibility of safety and freedom incredibly complex, kids do have a knack for making it truly difficult to do only what’s best for you, personally. Their existence and nature complicate every decision you make about where you live and who you live with.

Of course, you might be wealthy and surrounded by a fabulous support network to assist should heinous circumstances arise. If so, congrats, half your luck, as we say in Australia.

It is possible to be child-free and happy.

Then there are the studies. They keep proving that people who are child-free by choice are happier than those of us with children. “Research findings, however, tend to show that people are better off not having children, particularly women, singles, lower socioeconomic strata, and people residing in less pronatalist societies — especially when these characteristics act in combination.” So, there’s a great deal to consider. The default should not be to encourage all women to have children.

I’m not saying, “don’t have children.” I love my children. I could never, ever wish them out of existence. But I know I would have been healthier and wealthier if I hadn’t. What I am saying is, don’t do it unless you really want to. YOU. Unless YOU really want to. And please consider the realities when considering your choice.

And for your own sake, please make sure it’s your choice. Not society’s.

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