Lyndsay shares her very personal experience of knowing from a young age that she did not want to have children and of her choice to live a life childfree.
I love Sunday mornings; they are filled with coffee, lazing around in my pyjamas for longer than I should, followed by whatever I choose to do with my day (which is not a whole lot at the moment, thanks to the pandemic).
For as long as I can remember, I have not wanted children. Even as a child, I was far more interested in Barbie and her dream house than I was in playing mums and dads. I would like to say I decide to remain childfree based on moral reasons, like the world being overpopulated or lessening my footprint on the environment. However, it’s nothing like that, but I think it stems from two things if I’m honest. One: I have a deep-seated dislike at the thought of being pregnant, and two: I never want to be a single parent.
When I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) in my early 20s, I was actually not that bothered. What did bother me were the potential side effects – easy weight gain, acne, and mood imbalances. Thanks to being put on the pill, most of those side effects went away or became more manageable.
What I remember very clearly is my doctor’s face when telling him I was not bothered at all by my likely infertility. When I explained this to him, I was told in no uncertain terms that not only would I change my mind, but that I should start thinking about having children before I was thirty; otherwise, I would probably need IVF.
I am now 33, focused on building my career as a writer and still don’t want children, so I feel my position is now very unlikely to change. The other thing missing from my life that most people want when they have kids is a partner. My last long-term relationship ended a coupled of years ago, and due to the pandemic, I have not really had the opportunity to meet anyone else. I entered the pandemic in my early 30s and by the time this is all over, I will be in my mid-30s.
Even if I did a 360 and decided that I do want children, by the time I actually meet someone and we spend some time enjoying our relationship before thinking about children, I would be in my late 30s. This is definitely the red zone for someone with PCOS.
Luckily, I have never experienced the longing for a child. That feeling women describe deep down inside when they look at babies and children. I’ve never felt it. I do get the warmth and fuzzies when I look at dogs and cats, though, and I am fortunate to be a proud owner of a spectacularly petulant Birman named Gryff (short for Gryffindor).
Over time, I became accustomed to being told I would change my mind on the child front when I was in my late teens and 20’s. It’s frustrating when everyone around you seems to think they know your mind better than you do. I expected when I got to my 30s that people might actually accept that I was very okay with my choice to not have children, but boy, was I wrong.
Bearing in mind, I am not currently in a stable relationship to bring a child into the world; people still feel they have the right to involve themselves in my decision. Instead of “you will change your mind when you are older”, it’s now, “oh, you have plenty of time. Don’t worry about it.” (Oh, don’t you worry because I’m not).
I can’t tell you how many times I am asked if I’m afraid of who will look after me in my old age if I lack on the children front. Honestly, as if having kids guarantees you a nursemaid in old age? Nor am I worried about not passing on all of my knowledge to the next generation. I want to reach people through my writing, so as far as I am concerned, I don’t need to be related by blood to someone to have a positive impact on the generation after me.
Even though it is a sure way to bring the conversation to an abrupt close, I very rarely use the ‘I can’t have children’ excuse, because while my chances of having children naturally are diminished, I am not technically infertile, so do not like detracting from the many women out there who unfortunately are and desperately want children.
I do know most of the comments from those who know me are well-meaning. I am a warm, caring person who loves to do things for others, and I actively enjoy spending time with my friends and their children. So, I know it doesn’t always make sense to people that I would not want to channel my need to care for someone into a child.
The answer is that while I enjoy being selfless with my time, I also enjoy being selfish. I love picking up and going wherever I fancy at the drop of a hat, getting so lost in a novel that I don’t move all day or deciding to lie in for hours on a Sunday. Don’t even get me started on sleeping through the night undisturbed.
Being a mother has got to be one of the hardest jobs in the world, and I am constantly in awe of the mothers. I know how much of themselves they pour into raising their children. But I also know that you always need to be living every moment for someone else. The lack of time to care for yourself properly and the endless daily routine that comes with parenting would make me profoundly unhappy.
Having the time to be creative rules a large part of my life, and scheduling every minute of my day would drive me nuts. Because of this, I know I would resent any child who sucked away all of my free time, which wouldn’t be fair to myself or the child. While I think if I were a parent, I would do my best to be a good one, I also feel that I would more likely regret having children than regret not having them. Children do not have a return policy, and once you are in that club, you are in it for life.
Some people also assume that I don’t want to get married because I would like to remain childfree. Wrong. I would love to share my life with a partner, build a home together and get married. I just don’t need the pitter patter of tiny feet that usually follows (unless they are of the dog or cat variety).
In my last relationship, we didn’t really discuss the idea of having children properly (probably a sign that things were not going to work out). However, I remember a friend asking me at the time if I would have one for my partner if he decided he wanted one. Even now, knowing how much I loved him, I know pushing myself into having a child to make him happy, would have ultimately led to my unhappiness. Why should I give in to having children, any more than him giving in to not having them if he wanted them?
Dating is a minefield even when you are not a societal abnormality, let alone when you don’t fit the marriage and babies norm. When I was in my 20s, I used to hear my male friends moan about the “baby crazy” women they would meet that just wanted to get married and start having kids. Based on this, I thought finding a man feeling the same I do about having kids would not be all that difficult. Cue all the “baby crazy” men in their 30s. It seems like just about every dating profile I see at the moment has “want to settle down, get married and have kids” on it.
I decided the way forward was to be open and honest on my profile about not wanting kids. I have had matches telling me my life will mean nothing unless I leave children behind, all the way to asking if I was really really sure I didn’t want children. This just adds to the many reasons I hate online dating and long for the days when meeting someone in a natural social situation returns. Unfortunately, this is not the place we are currently in.
Maybe I am a bit different from some in the childfree gang because I would have no issue dating someone who already has children. I do like children and just because I have no desire to be biologically linked to one, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to be emotionally linked.
On my dating app, if I switch the no children filter on, I have about 20 potential matches within a thirty-mile radius. Now, not all these guys are my type, just as I am sure I am not theirs, but the numbers game you need to make online dating work is definitely not in favour of those who want to be childfree.
Am I afraid my choice will affect my chances of meeting someone? A little. But I think remaining single and fulfilling my own life is a better decision than being in a relationship and having a child in order to stave off the fear of ending up alone. Children should be had because they are desired and wanted by the people who have them, not because they are a check box on a societal norms sheet.
So there it is, my story. I am a single 33 year old about to embark on doing my Masters in English Literature alongside working full time, probably a bit too obsessed with books and coffee – and happy to be one of the voices normalising the choice not to have children of my own.
This article also features in the blog Boo & Maddie.