Most of us grow up knowing some things for sure. Things like having children. As a girl growing up in a family focused culture, you might have assumed that I would be one of them. My grandfather was one of 18 children, yes 18, and yes, they all shared the same mother, and no, she bore no multiples. My father is one of ten children and an unknown number of half-siblings, and I am the eldest of four.
I’ve never felt too strongly, one way or the other. Growing up, part of me believed that having children was a part of life, that it was a path to be taken, something you did at some point in the future. I remember being 11 when a friend asked me how old I wanted to be when I had my first kiss, my first boyfriend, when I’d get married and how many children I would have. Being heterosexual and maternal was a societal expectation so ingrained, that she had her answers ready at 10. Since then, a series of life events led me to being 35 years of age, child-free, and quite frankly, loving it.
That’s not to say that I haven’t seriously considered the option. I’m not fanatical about my views. I won’t bang on about the carbon footprint of each of your offspring, making it the single most destructive thing a person can do to the environment. No. I completely understand the appeal of having children. It’s in our biology, it’s how we got here, and for a lot of people, rearing children is their greatest achievement and their ultimate purpose. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop and ask ourselves the question, “Should I?”
Maybe having children would solve this apparently cyclical existential crisis. Every day might matter more, I would be irreplaceably needed, time might be more valuable. All the mundane day to day things would become more important because another human being relies on them for survival. Changing nappies, making dinner, cleaning vomit, school drop-offs, football, karate, swimming, play dates and whatever else might be on that seemingly endless list could bring me greater meaning.
Second point, children are impossibly cute (mostly). I’m an aunt of 9 children and nothing melts me more than my little nephews’ and nieces’ smiles, giggles and cuddles. I mean apart from the crying, the embarrassing tantrums, public toileting accidents, the panic of them going missing or breaking a bone, swallowing coins, running into traffic, the poos, the snot, eating dog food and losing every attempt at negotiation – they’re adorable.
After a lifetime of others trying to convince me, and seeing the pure rapture on new mothers’ faces, I’m still not sold on being a parent. The truth is, I really love life – just the way it is. I love my freedom and I am almost completely self-involved. I love to indulge on extrapolating the meaning of life and how I should live it. Clearly. This might sound less virtuous than giving life, but in my view, there’s nothing more self-serving than creating a human in the likeness of yourself – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but c’mon now, let’s be honest.
I’ve made an informed and considered decision that I’ve approached openly. Instead of walking down the path that was seemingly paved before me, I’ve chosen another. There is so much meaning to be derived from this existence outside of making other people. So, for the next person who asks me, “Why not?”, in the same tone that vegetarians are asked about meat, I will reply “Why?“