Well, me, actually.
But I was supposed to want to have a baby. I was thirty-one years old. – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
Don’t get me wrong — I like children — as long as they are not mine, and I can play with them for a short while before handing them over to their parents. But as I write this, I start to reflect, did I always think this way? The answer’s no.
I remember playing house as a little girl, remember asking mom to keep my favorite clothes safely for my baby. As I grew older, I started looking back at those times and laughing at myself. “There’s a long time still before I go down that road,” I used to think to myself. I thought I’d feel the maternal instincts start kicking in by the time I approached my 30s, once I’d settled down, lived life, and was ready to take on the responsibility of an innocent child. But as the years passed, and as I approached the Big 30, I realized that nothing of the sort was happening! Instead of “settling down” and wanting children, I became convinced that motherhood wasn’t for me — at least not yet.
…I did not want to be pregnant. I kept waiting to want to have a baby, but it didn’t happen. And I know what it feels like to want something, believe me. I well know what desire feels like. But it wasn’t there. Moreover, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my sister had said to me once, as she was breast-feeding her firstborn: “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
The reasons to not have children are many — and at the individual level, they are all relevant — my reasons aren’t any better or worse than yours, they’re just uniquely mine. I have a lot of reasons for not wanting children: I’m absolutely petrified of the entire 9-month process, the labor pains, the birth, the post-natal depression; the thought of the responsibility freaks me out; I need my space…just the thought of having a small baby and then a growing child and adolescent around me all the time makes me feel suffocated; it’s a huge economic responsibility (or should I say liability?); and it totally crimps your freedom. That’s what I think, anyway.
I have had a lot of friends and family tell me that I’m making a mistake, that I’ll regret my decision later in life, that I’m being selfish. I’ve answered them in a lot of different ways, but this excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love sums up my thoughts really well:
I still can’t say whether I will ever want children…I can only say how I feel now — grateful to be on my own. I also know that I won’t go forth and have children just in case I might regret missing it later in life; I don’t think this is a strong enough motivation to bring more babies onto the earth. Thought I suppose people do reproduce sometimes for that reason — for insurance against later regret. I think people have children for all manner of reasons — sometimes out of a pure desire to create an heir, sometimes without thinking about it in any particular way. Not all the reasons to have children are the same, and not all of them are necessarily unselfish. Not all the reasons not to have children are the same, either, though. Nor are all those reasons necessarily selfish.
I may live to regret my decision, then again, I may not.
I love children, but what if I don’t have any? What kind of person does that make me? – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
I’d say it makes me a stronger person that those who give in to the pressure to have children, even if they secretly may not want any. It’s just easier to follow the mould and do what’s “expected” of you than to take a stand on a sensitive issue like this one and stick to your guns.
What gives me courage, though, is what my father-in-law said when we told him we were thinking of not having children. “That’s a very good decision, if you can stick to it. Most people end up bowing down to family pressure. If you can stand up to it, and stay firm with your decision, it will be one of the best decisions you have taken. Just remember to have a purpose for your life. For most people, it’s children. If you can rise above that, you’ll need another purpose, so give that some thought.”
Abbuji, I miss you.