Virtually every childless couple and, perhaps to a greater extent, childless woman, has had the “so when are you going to settle down and have kids?” conversation.
It’s usually, but not exclusively, some distant relative that you never speak to (and with good reason), and it always unfolds the same way: the smug smile, the irritating head-tilt, the wise nod as they confidently assure you that “you’ll change your mind one day”. Is there anything more infuriating?
We’ve all been there. It’s not a fun conversation to have.
And this attitude is everywhere. From marketing to television, the overarching message is: have kids or be a tragic spinster for the rest of your life. It’s enough to make even the most resolutely childless individual doubt themselves.
But I’m here to remind you (and, admittedly, myself) that it’s okay not to want children. Here’s why.
Peer pressure is not a reason to have children
This should be obvious: doing something just because you feel like doing it is literally the worst reason you should do it.
It’s like buying bitcoin because everyone told you it’s a great investment and it’s going to be worth millions soon. How many bitcoin millionaires do you know?
In reality, it’s far better to raise a child in a world in which they were wanted and planned for. When you know you want a baby, you plan for it — setting aside money, picking out schools, finding a good place to live, and so on.
Of course, I’m not saying that an accidental pregnancy will result in a child coming into a world unloved and uncared for — far from it. There are plenty of accidental babies that are loved and cherished by their parents.
But it’s much better to be able to plan and prepare for a birth, both financially and emotionally.
Having children because you feel like you should, rather than because you actually want to, doesn’t always put you in the right emotional mindset. We can feel rushed into it, pressured by parents, partners, or peers into doing something that, at the bottom of our hearts, we don’t want to do.
The world is changing and not for the better
It won’t have escaped your attention that the world is rapidly changing. Overpopulation, climate change, political turmoil, not to mention an actual global pandemic hardly make for a utopia for raising a child in.
Overpopulation is particularly concerning. Compounded by vast portions of the planet either now covered in water or flames, the number of places we can survive and thrive on Earth is dwindling. Adding more people to the planet just exacerbates that situation.
Beyond this, it’s getting harder and harder to get on the property ladder. Stagnating wages and a global recession (with possibly another on the way), buying a property can take years of careful budgeting. With an expensive baby on the way, it becomes all but impossible for the average couple.
While it’s possible to rent, you really want the security and stability of your own property, rather than being at the mercy of a landlord.
No, one person not having children won’t make a difference. But we all have a part to play in the future of our planet, and if you choose to stay childless? That’s totally fine.
Smash the patriarchy and don’t have kids
While anyone can feel the pressure to have kids, there’s no denying that women who face the greatest burden from society. From depictions in the media to social norms reinforced through generations, it is the female sex who are expected to have a child in order to properly fulfill their role as a woman.
The connection between womanhood and motherhood is long and closely-knit. Throughout history, women have been the primary caregivers — they were mothers, first and foremost.
When Homo erectus first appeared on the scene, this was generally the done thing. Human beings are animals, and animals have one base desire: get busy, keep that bloodline going, and procreate like there’s no tomorrow.
But the human race has evolved beyond our primal state and developed into a fully-fledged civilisation (albeit one that’s going through something of a rocky patch right now). Today, women have choices: be a mother, pursue a career, both, neither — whatever.
Pressuring a woman to have a child denies her agency as an individual, and it’s even downright sexist. Gender equality means body agency, and this extends to having children as well.
The idea that young people, especially women, should settle down, get married, and have kids is a common belief — but a dated one. Whether or not to have children is your choice, not society’s, your family’s, or a faceless ad agency with products to sell.
While I can’t help you deal with those irritating conversations with your distant relative, hopefully the above gives you some ammunition when you’re gritting your teeth.