Why I Might Not Want Kids, And Why That’s Okay

Choice
Photo taken from Google.com/

One of the biggest decisions that a person will ever make is whether or not they will have children. When I was teenager I thought it was a given that I would, providing it was possible, have at least one child of my own. However, having spent a fair few years thinking about it, I’m not so sure that parenthood is something I personally want.

The responses I tend to receive when I tell people this are, ‘But you’d be a great mother,’ or ‘Don’t you like children?’ both of which miss the point. As it happens I do like children – I absolutely adore my five-year-old nephew, and I love spending time with my friends’ kids. I also have no doubts about my ability to raise a child with all the love and care that it deserves. But does enjoying other people’s children and having faith in my ability to successfully raise my own mean that parenthood is something I should pursue?

The simple (and perhaps controversial) truth is that, as fun and endearing as children are, I have serious doubts as to whether I will thrive in motherhood, or find in it the same level of contentment that I currently enjoy as a childless woman. You might assume when you read this that I just haven’t found the right partner yet, or that it just isn’t the right time for me to think about starting a family. And this is understandable; within our culture wanting to have children is not only an incredibly common experience, but one that is expected, especially of woman. But for some, men and women alike, the idea of raising a child simply isn’t as appealing as it is for others.

Does enjoying other people’s children and having faith in my ability to successfully raise my own mean that parenthood is something I should pursue?

It’s often argued that starting a family is one of the most enriching and satisfying experiences that a person can have (if this is your personal experience then I fully respect that you have made the right decision for you.) But for someone like me who burns out easily, enjoys spending a lot of time alone, and often finds the expectations, needs and demands of others rather stress-inducing, parenthood (especially the pregnancy and early years bit) doesn’t seem all that attractive. Does this mean that I’m not maternal, or that I don’t appreciate children? No, it doesn’t. I’m very much in touch with my maternal side (there are many ways of expressing maternal love and affection) and I also understand from being an aunt just how joyful and life-affirming spending time with children can be. However, the difference between being someone’s parent and being their aunt is enormous, and as much as I adore and am always happy to see the children in my life, I also highly value the freedom that I have to choose both when and how my time with them is spent.

Of course, as well as feeling uncertain about how satisfying parenthood will be, there are a number of other reasons why a person may choose to remain childless, ranging from lifestyle preferences and financial restrictions to anxieties about mental and physical health. Whatever the reason behind the decision, though, it simply isn’t fair to negatively judge others according to our own needs and wants. We are each of us unique, and the experiences that bring contentment in life may vary greatly from person to person. When it comes to creating little human beings isn’t it better for everyone, including our yet-to-be-born/perhaps-never-will-be-born children that we acknowledge rather than ignore our differences?

For many people having children is an enormously rewarding experience, and I hold a huge amount of respect and admiration for every one of my friends and family members who have chosen to pursue parenthood. But common and accepted as wanting to have children is within our culture, it is each person’s right to decide for them selves (without expectation or pressure from others) whether starting a family is right for them. For some people it simply isn’t; let’s please stop judging one another for feeling differently.

 

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Unlocking the Language of Loss

Door
Photo credit: laurabillings via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Before my dad died a few months ago, I had never experienced the loss of a close relative. I had, of course, been exposed to the grieving process through friends and family members who’s loved ones have passed away, but never had I felt the full weight of loss myself. Something that I’ve come to understand over the last few months is that, profound and consuming as grief is when it hits, it is by no means easy to articulate in words.

Part of the reason why grief is so difficult to talk about, I think, is that death itself is something that many of us are scared of, and that most of us try hard not to think about too much. And, unlike other emotional experiences such as love and joy, which are always welcome and even yearned for in their absence, grief is something that we hope to encounter as little as possible.

When we do think about death and losing those we care about, our thoughts tend to focus on feelings of sadness. But grief, I now understand, encompasses many other, sometimes conflicting, emotions. When I found out that my dad had died, and when I was told how it had happened, I felt deeply sad and disappointed that he’d decided his life wasn’t worth holding on to. On the other hand, however, I felt a huge sense of relief, not only that he was finally at peace after years of emotional turmoil, but that his often careless words and behaviour could no longer hurt those who loved him.

Unable to fully articulate my feelings in words, I’ve had to find other means of tapping into and expressing my grief.

Along with these conflicting sentiments came additional feelings of guilt, anger and shame, and to rationalise all of this was and still is incredibly difficult. Unable to fully articulate my feelings in words, I’ve had to find other means of tapping into and expressing my grief. One of the most powerful tools that I’ve discovered so far is, perhaps unsurprisingly, music.

Lebanese-born poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran famously described music as ‘The language of the spirit.’ Only now can I fully appreciate this assertion. Feeling particularly low whilst travelling from Bristol to my dad’s wake in London last month, I remembered a piece that was first introduced to me during a yoga class last summer. I don’t often attend yoga classes, and I wouldn’t describe myself as an overtly spiritual person. But the first time I heard ‘The End of Suffering′ (produced by Gary Malkin) in the tranquil setting of the Pyrenees I couldn’t help feeling both soothed and enlightened by its gentle percipience. Listening to it through my headphones on the crowded Megabus that day, its effect was just as evocative and enduring.

Where the words to articulate how I feel about my dad’s suicide often escape me, this piece of music speaks a language that my heart understands, mirroring through its poetry the complexity of grief to open, reach in and draw out of me all the pain that rationality can’t understand.

Like my dad, I’ve always held a deep appreciation for music. Never did I imagine that I would find such comfort and catharsis in a single piece. 

Those interested in guided meditation can listen here to a second version of ‘The End of Suffering’ featuring additional spoken word by a Buddhist monk.