I can’t remember the first time I was asked how many children I want. But I can remember the last time, and the several-hundred times before that, by every family member and most friends. The question is a close-second only to “so are you seeing anyone yet,” which is of course, another favorite.
As a woman, you can probably easily answer the question of which of your friends most want children, because it’s a conversation you’ve all had several times. Family members, friends, and sometimes people you hardly know all want to know how many children you’ll one day pop out, whether or not you’ve expressed any interest in doing just that. And as someone who can say I personally don’t want kids, my response usually elicits plenty of well-intentioned insinuations that I simply don’t know what I want.
But what if your future husband wants kids?
My favorite thing about this question is the idea that I’ll never have any sort of an important conversation with my husband-to-be before our wedding day. I don’t know about you, but personally – if a relationship is getting serious – conversations about marriage, where we want to live, and yes, children, will come up. If by the time I’m ready to get married I still don’t want children, I can guarantee that’s a conversation I’ll have had with my boyfriend; and if he does want children, there’s a good chance we won’t be getting married.
And while I understand that love is a thing, and sometimes you don’t fall in love with the person you’d like to, I also know that certain things about my life are incredibly important. Of course there are some things you have to sacrifice in a marriage -where to eat dinner, what to do on Friday night, even where you live. But something as big as having children – something that is going to completely change your life – is a deal-breaker for most people, including myself. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I will not marry a man who desperately wants children if I desperately do not. And if you pose that question one more time, I’m going to flip the coin and point out that maybe you’ll fall for a man who doesn’t want children.
You’ll change your mind.
This has always been my favorite (most infuriating) argument, because it’s as though I’m a 5-year-old who can’t decide what she wants to dress up as for Halloween this year. Maybe you’re right – maybe I will change my mind some day down the line. But that’s my mind to change, and as someone who’s been told this more times than she can count, take it from me that it is disgustingly and humiliatingly patronizing to be immediately told that your opinion is invalid because it’ll change at some point in the next 10 years.
I am NOT a child. I do not need for your immediate response to my choice about my life to be “well, you’ll change your mind and agree with me one day.” You can not know that. “My former co-worker’s friend’s niece’s daughter used to say she didn’t want kids and now she has triplets!” is not proof that I will change my mind. It is proof that people change and evolve and sometimes, that means that certain major life decisions change.
Well what if you…you know…get pregnant?
Based on other comments I get, you’d think these people are of the opinion that I am myself still a child. Which is funny, considering that they’re trying to convince me to get pregnant and have babies. But seriously, do we live in a dystopian (or Tea Party dominated) society where birth control, condoms, and abortion are all illegal?
While I understand that no form of birth control and safety precautions are an absolute sure thing, I can say with a pretty damn high level of certainty that if I don’t want to get pregnant, and I take the necessary precautions, I won’t get pregnant. Again, just because your co-workers sister’s best friend’s cousin got pregnant at 22 when she didn’t want children, does not mean the same thing will happen to me. And no, I don’t want to hear your statistics about all the unwanted pregnancies in America.
But thanks for the vote of confidence. Or was that just a mild threat?
Isn’t that kind of selfish?
To not bring another unwanted child into a world filled with unwanted and unhoused children? I don’t think so, but maybe we have different definitions of selfish. Doesn’t this sentiment kind of suggest that a woman’s only purpose is to have children, and that if she chooses not to, that’s the “wrong” choice? Believe it or not, I don’t find making my own choices about my own life to be selfish in the least bit, especially considering that this particular decision is not effecting anybody but me.
So what about you? Do you want kids, and if not – what fun responses have you heard to that decision?