Anika

Growing up, I thought I’d definitely have children.

If you had asked me six years ago, I would have confidently said that of course we will have children. Probably one or two, ideally a girl, followed by another girl or a boy. I even knew the names already!

I don’t have a good relationship with my mother; I haven’t spoken to her in five years. Because of that, I always knew I’d be a good mum - I took her as a negative role model. I knew that, when I had a child, they’d get all the love; they’d be hugged and told “I love you”. That was never an issue for me. Over the years, people would tell me, “you’ll be a good mother, despite your mum”. I know - I know that I’d be a good mum, if I chose to be one.

I think it’s just what society puts on you. Every woman is meant to have children - that’s your goal in life. You get married, and you have kids, and then you’re super happy. But getting married and having kids isn’t what needs to happen, it’s just what has happened all of this time. To be fair, that idea’s important: it populated this world.

But everyone can decide what their “normal” is: for someone it might be having three kids, or adopting them, or having none.

Growing up in Berlin made me more open to these things.

I moved to London when I was 19. That’s where I really found myself, and where I met Chris, my husband - twelve years ago now. At first, he wanted three kids, and I said, “oh no, I’m not having three!” So we compromised on two - we would have two kids, but not before we've been together for five years at least. But that deadline kept moving. Every year, we’d say, “five more years…”

From Chris’ side of the family, I have three nieces and one nephews. I adore them, they’re the most wonderful little children. The oldest, who’s ten now, was the first baby I ever held. This tiny human being, who now has conversations with me, I held her before she could even stand. It’s a beautiful feeling, and I thought, “that’s amazing - one day I’ll have my own children”.

But seeing my family and friends’ children grow up has shown us that this isn’t what we want. After about a year, when there were two of them around, we saw how much it completely changes your life when you have kids, in every single way. It’s not that you don’t know it can be tough, but if you really want children, you’re naive to it, in a good way - you blank it out. Because, for you, the advantages of having kids outweigh the hard work. I’m always really happy for my friends when they have kids; I cry when they tell me they’re pregnant! It’s so wonderful that what you want in life is really happening for you.

I would go into a fire for any of the kids in my life. They all have such a big place in my heart. But they’ve filled that place that I would have held for my own child. I’m Auntie Anika, and I will always be there for them. My heart melts every time I am with them, but at the end of the day, I’m happy that they aren’t my own children. The longer you have that, the more you think, “I love you, but I’m really glad that I can give you back to your mummy now. She’ll put you to bed, and I don’t have to worry about that.”

You see that life really changes when you have kids - you can’t do your own thing any more. We've built up our own business - could we still work the way we do? Could we live the way we want? We have so many plans, like maybe moving to another country in ten years or so. The more we thought about it, the more our potential child moved out of the future timeline. There is no child present when I look into our future, so the obvious thought started to arrive: who says there has to be a kid there?

This is something that most women don’t talk about, that they aren’t allowed to talk about. I started to think, do I really want to bring a child into this world, just to say, "OK, that's done, what's next on the list?" I feel that's what my mother did, and let me tell you, it did not do me any good as a daughter, to have a mother who clearly regretted having a child in the first place, but did it because society seemed to expect it from her.

I felt it was much more important to be open and completely honest with myself, and say, hey, this isn't the right path for me! It was about two years ago that I said, I’m not going to put this off for another five years: we’ve decided we’re never going to have children.

For some people it was a shock, especially our family. They never had any doubt in their minds that we’d have kids of our own. One of them said, “what - everyone’s favourite auntie doesn’t want her own children? But it’s the best feeling in the world”. I had to say “I believe that it’s a wonderful feeling, but, for me, the feeling of being an auntie is enough”.

The question wasn’t meant in a mean way, but came from a genuine surprise, having known me for ten years, being really good with all four kids around. That person ended up saying, “you might change your mind”, and my only response was, “hmm, yeah”, even though I knew this wasn't going to be the case.

I look a bit younger than I am, so I haven’t had too many of these conversations. When I get to 50, it could get very intense - “how many children do you have?” - but I’m guessing by that point, I’ll be used to fighting that argument!

I absolutely love my life. I didn't really know who I was until I moved to London, and have worked really hard on figuring out what I want in my life. Around the time when I turned 30, I finally felt like I really know myself, and I’m happy with myself. It's taken me years to really understand that this is what I want. In that way, I’m going to be selfish: I’m going to live my life the way I want.