“Whatever your desire is, have faith in yourself, and live your life for you and no one else.”

Amy, Berlin

I’ve always been pretty strong-willed and opinionated, and it’s definitely solidified the older I get. We get mad at strong-willed children for being strong-willed, but they’re the ones who’ll grow up and change the world.

In my teens, people would always talk about having kids when they grew up. And I was always like, “Maybe. I’ll see if it works, or fits into my life.” But, by the time I was 23, I knew that I didn’t want kids. I never wanted to be pregnant, or give birth – the whole idea just sounded really weird to me.

The only way I would do it is, if a kid needed a parent, I’d step in. But I’m not in a position in my life to go out and fulfil the things that would need to be done. I guess I’m saying that, if it were a requirement, I would do it – but since it’s not, I won’t.

Oklahoma is quite conservative. There are pockets of liberalism, but overall, it’s a very red state. When I came out as a teenager, I was going to be separated from my girlfriend and sent to a Christian school. My family is fine with it now, but that was not a happy occasion.

In some aspects, it’s a little bit easier to be a queer, because there’s the assumption that you’re not going to have children. I think it’s easier to not be in a cis, hetero relationship, and not to have that expectation to have children.

This year has been all about new things, and the gender binary is something that’s been heavily talked about in recent years. I wonder how many women actually do want to have children, and how many have just been told, their whole life, that that’s what women do.

Of course, I’m not trying to take away from people’s decision to have children, but I do think we have to look at those influences. Like, why do I shave my legs? What is defined as femininity? What we’re supposed to do, and what’s expected of us from society how much of that is what I really, truly want? And how much of that have I been indoctrinated to believe is what I want?

We weren’t raised like, boys do the “boy stuff” and girls do the “girl stuff”. My dad is a very handy, very crafty guy – if anything needs to be done, he’ll do it himself. And he taught me everything he knows. Growing up, he was always like, “Come on Amy, let’s figure it out together. Let’s do it”.

I think that’s part of where my confidence comes from, and my strong will. When I see this kitchen cabinet and sink I’ve put in, and how perfect and beautiful it is, I’m proud of that. The fact that I know I have that ability, and that I don’t have to call someone else to do it for me, is huge. If I want to do it myself, I’ll just figure out how to do it.

When so much of society, or your friends, or even your family, don’t understand, especially as a woman, it feels like there’s something wrong with you. There are a lot of people who are like, “Oh well, it’s OK that you don’t want kids, because you’re not that maternal”. No, I’m incredibly maternal. I have cats that I adore – they lick their paws, and I think it’s the cutest thing in the world. I would go above and beyond, and do anything, for them. If you’re in my immediate family, I’ll do whatever I can to take care of you, and to be there.

There’s nothing wrong with me, that I don’t want to have my own children. There’s nothing wrong with that.

There are so many little nuances of modern life, and we don’t look at where they really come from. I always think it’s interesting when people say, “You’re going to regret it, if you don’t have children”. Because there’s not enough conversation about women who may regret having had kids. You can’t talk about it, because if you regret having your children, then you must hate them. You’re not a good mom.

As a society, we put so much guilt and shame onto mothers. We no longer see them. And I do this to my own mom, even, like she’s not her own autonomous person. She’s not a complete being that has her own emotions, and things that have happened in her life that didn’t involve me. We put so much pressure onto a mother to be a certain way, that if she were to say she regrets having kids, her personal shame wouldn’t allow her the freedom or space to talk about it.

I’m 34 now, and as I’ve gotten older, there are times in my life when I think about my decision. To be completely frank, it’s always related to menstruation. So I know that, if I’m getting more emotional about having kids, then I’m probably about to start my period. Even though I’ve felt the same for a very long time, I kind of worry, “What if I do change my mind? Or what if I get to 40 and regret not ever having kids?”

Flowerbox labelled "Love has no gender" in the communal gardens on Berlin's Tempelhofer Feld

If those thoughts and those emotions come to my mind, the climate crisis plays a role in solidifying my beliefs. The world is absolutely overpopulated – we have 9 billion people that are using a lot of resources, and it’s not sustainable. Even if I wanted to be a mother, I don’t trust the state of the world in 10 years’ time – what would things look like for my child?

What it really comes down to is caring about somebody else. We can’t just think, “OK, I want this, I’m going to buy it”. We have to look at the impact, and not just the impact on myself, but on the planet that other people are also living on. Governments and industries just go where the money is. But if we were better able to collectively focus on the greater good… I think the education that we need is really to learn to give a shit about each other.

When we’re inundated with things that we’re supposed to do, it’s nice to find people who are going against that. To go like, “You believe this, and you’re not wrong in the fact that you don’t want to do that”.

The biggest word of wisdom that I really try to take to heart, on a day-to-day basis, in my own life, is that nobody else is living your life. Nobody else has to go to sleep as you, to wake up and see your face. So, whatever your desire is, just have faith in yourself, and live your life for you and no one else.

Photos by Zoë Noble
Words edited by James Glazebrook