I’m the oldest child of four, so I never got a lot of pressure of “grandchild now”, as I’m at the beginning end of kids who could possibly give my parents grandchildren. And I’m gay, which made made them think, “Oh, it won’t happen then.” I just haven’t disabused them of that notion.
A partner brought up the question of children, in the context of her friend going a little baby crazy, which got her thinking. In the beginning she didn’t want kids, but it kicked in for her, and it didn’t kick in for me. When it became a concrete thing, that was when I felt like, “Oh, I really have no desire to do that. I’ve been kind of assuming that this will change, but if it was going to change, it would have by now.”
I think this happens to a lot of people, and there’s no real answer for it. I don’t think that you can compromise on this, honestly. It’s a binary choice - you either have children or you don’t. If you end up in that situation, there are always going to be good things, and always going to be bad things. But if you have any control over the situation, and then feel like that was taken away from you, then that’s very easy to resent.
I get the impression that a lot of people have been pressured into having children. And they’re like, well, if these are the rules I’ve had to live under, that you have to have kids, why do you get to have different rules? There are plenty of women out there, I think, who didn’t especially want to have kids, and got pressured into it - by their partner, family or whatever - or they didn’t plan to have kids and ended up with them, or they had them, and it’s different than they thought it would be…
I do think, though, that in the last five or so years, the amount of transparency around people talking openly about what it’s like to have kids, or even to be pregnant, has hugely increased. If people went into it fully informed, some of them might think twice. More power to people, if they want to have kids, and want that lifestyle, and want all of the good and bad that comes with it. I just think it’s a good idea to go into it with open eyes.
The more I heard about the physical process of being pregnant and giving birth, the more I was like, no, hard pass. Because I date women, that wouldn’t necessarily have to be on me, but, still, I also don’t look forward to the experience of looking after a child. I value the ability to take care of myself, very highly. I think having children is one of the things that could pretty drastically decrease that. A kid has to be someone’s entire life, and I already have an entire life.
There’s so much pressure put on parents nowadays. If you want to have a significant career, if you want to have hobbies, if you want to have a social life… a kid’s got to be someone’s entire life, because you can’t just park them in the corner and turn them off for two days. You have to be entirely involved with them all the time. And for people who want to be, that’s great. I just don’t want to be.
One of my closest friends back in the US is 15 years older than me, and she had kids when she was 22, so I’m kind of halfway in age between her kids and her. Which is a really interesting position to be in, because she points at me and says, “look what she’s doing,” when she’s trying to get her kids to do something. So if I went home and rent a silly sports car to run around town in, she could say, “look at that, maybe you should think about a career in engineering or something like that.”
Other than that, I don’t have that many close friends with kids. Here in Berlin, my partner has two close friends who have just had babies right at the same time, and a bunch of coworkers as well. My partner doesn’t want kids - I made sure to bring that up early on in the relationship, after the partner who turned out to want kids.
Anything around reproductive health is always super heteronormative. So doctors ask, “when was the last time you had sex?” Define your terms, please. When I got surgery on my leg, I had to sign something saying I wasn’t pregnant. Like, I’m a hundred, a thousand percent not pregnant - I promise!
A weird thing happened to me recently. I needed to get some blood work done at the gynecologist, and my usual doctor was on vacation, so they had somebody filling in for her. She was looking through my chart and said, “Oh, I see that you’re trying to have children.” And I said, “you must be looking at the wrong chart!” She told me that my gynecologist must have put that there so my health insurance would pay for the tests. That didn’t give me much trust in the system.
This whole system only works if you accept the assumption that women do nothing but stay at home and care for babies, and have no other needs, and are not full human beings. And that’s just not the case.
My parents have a very traditional American type of situation going on, where my dad is the primary breadwinner and my mom hasn’t really worked since I was born. To ask them, they’re happy with that. But I could never see myself being happy in either one of those situations. I wouldn’t want the pressure of being the sole breadwinner, or being the only person responsible for everything else.
I’ve heard the boxes that women get put into described as: virgin, mother, crone. And of all of these, the most powerful is the crone, because she doesn’t give a shit. The mother is there to care for someone else and that’s her only purpose for existing. You hear women generally referred to as wives and mothers, and that’s so diminishing.
You see examples in history, of when, in the rare moments that society has deigned to give women a single fucking chance, they accomplish so much. Look at the women who worked at NASA, or the women who worked as codebreakers in World War Two - imagine how much further we could have come, technologically, as a society, if you used that brainpower. Rather than saying, sorry, you’re a cryptology genius, but your job now is to help your eight-year-old son with his addition.
The thing to me that’s really strange is when people say it’s selfish not to have children. Really? Because a big part of your argument for having kids is so you have someone to take care of you when you’re old. And I don’t think that’s a fair obligation to just drop on anybody for the price of existing. I think that’s significantly more selfish - to say, I’m going to have a kid so I can have a caretaker.
When all of my grandparents were declining around the same time, my uncle made a comment like, “Oh haha, you’re going to be the one taking care of all of us when we’re that age.” I was like, “I live on another continent, so I don’t know why you’re coming to me…” “Well, you’re the oldest girl.” That’s another real weird situation that women are put in. You’re not only the caretaker of your children, but also the older generation, and you’re meant to do it all at the same time, and also to have a career and a completely-fulfilled life.