I always thought that I would want children at some point. I was waiting for that moment, like, when is this going to kick in? When will I feel this urge to reproduce? And then there was this time when friends and family started to have children, and I always felt weird. I was trying to imagine myself in that situation, and figure out if I wanted it, too. Did I want to have children, or did I just want to blend in with all the others? It’s only recently that I realised I never really wanted it for myself.
I think my sister was worried at one time that I might have children first - everything is competition with siblings! She always really wanted children, and I’ve seen how she’s changed since she had them. Now she’s at peace with everything. She’s much more relaxed and she’s a really cool mum; she’s doing a great job. She sees me being single for most of my life, and questions that, rather than my decision not to have children. I’ve never heard from her that I should have kids, which is kind of cool.
But I think the rest of my family doubts my decision. They’re skeptical about whether I mean it, or just haven’t had a chance to have a child yet. My mum’s a little more relaxed, now that she’s had grandchildren, and she’s trying to say, “whatever you do, whatever makes you happy, I’m fine with that.” But I don’t think she really trusts that decision, which is kind of sad. I want to tell her, “it’s not a bad thing - I’m really happy, and I’m not just pretending to be happy this way. It’s fine - we don’t all have to have children. We can have a life of our own.”
Now that my siblings have children, I can’t see myself living the life they do. My sister and her husband are doctors, like me, and they’ve been struggling to organise childcare since their first child was born. You have to cut back on your own desires and plans. It always sounds like a selfish thing to say, but I don’t want to give up anything in my life, not for anyone. When I tell people this, they always say, “well, you’ll grow into the role of a mother.” But what if I don’t want to? What if I like the role I have right now? It took me long enough to get to the place where I am now.
I’ve worked as a neuroscientist, doing stroke research, for the past six years, and in my spare time I explore art, photography, music and all kinds of cultural events that Berlin has to offer. All these interests that you have aside from your job, they’re so important. I need them to balance against the depressing, sad and difficult work I do. I need to free myself from that, and do something completely different, which also takes time. If the only counterbalance to my job was a child, which is a job in itself, that frightens me. I don’t even want to try.
Because you can’t “try” it, that’s the thing. After four years, you can’t say, “oh, I don’t really like this, now go away.” You always hear about how great it is to have a child, but you never hear from women who doubt if they made the right decisions. Or if you do, there’s immediately a stigma attached to that woman, as if she isn’t loving enough. I don’t think it’s a question about loving or not loving - it’s just how you feel, which is frowned upon.
I’ve experienced episodes of major depression and if I was in the position to think about having children, I'd be worried about passing it on. If I’ve had that, I don’t know if it’s ever going to stop, and I don’t want to expose a child to that. I realise how difficult it’s been for friends and family that have known me in different situations. It’s a terrible thing, nobody should go through that.
I’ve thought about what would happen if I got pregnant - what would I do? You have to accept the inevitable, what you can’t change. So, if I got pregnant, I’d probably have the child. I’m not against abortion at all, but I’m not sure if I could do it myself. I live in a stable environment, and I have enough money to support a child… and I like children. I would see it as a personal offence to that child to kill it. I wouldn’t be happy about it, and I’d probably be honest if asked about it, but I’d have to make the most of it - as with all accidents that happen.
I wonder how many parents are parents just because of peer pressure - because they think this is something that you just have to do. Even I felt it at some point, everyone was having children and I felt like an outsider. You think something’s wrong with you, and everyone, they’re not saying it, but it’s always suggested that you just haven’t had the right opportunity, it’s going to come. So you think, well I’ll get it over with, and blend in, but that’s just wrong, so wrong.
There’s no need to pass on our genes. Even if I had children, whatever I could give them would fade after some generations. We’re all going to be forgotten, eventually. It’s such a terrible thing to ask a child to carry your legacy for all time.
I wish I wasn’t forced to defend myself at all times. I find myself in the position where I start to rant about children, which is also not fair, because I like children - I just don’t want to have them. Whether you think this is the right decision or not, just keep it to yourself.