“Maybe I’ll change the world one day.”

Lisa, Berlin

Lisa welcomed me to her Berlin apartment, before she moved to Switzerland for work. Covered in maps and souvenirs from trips all over the world, Lisa’s home is a celebration of the adventures her childfree life has made possible.

When we played Father-Mother-Child at kindergarten, I always wanted to be the dad. To just be out and about and not taking care of the child.

I never had that feeling, “Oh, I want to be a mom”; I can’t identify with it. Because you can’t get rid of that role, the second you have it. For me, it was always like, “No, I want to have freedom. I want to travel and spend the money I earn on myself”.

It has always been kind of an issue. People would tell me that my inner clock is ticking, and that one day I’ll change my mind. Back in school, 12 years ago now, friends said, “You will be the first one to have kids. You hate them now, but then you’ll decide to have children”.

And the thing is, I don’t even hate children. They are cute, they love you, and you can make them happy so easily. But yes, I’m always glad when I can hand them back. I’m fine with being a cool aunt.

Some moms get very offended when I say I don’t want children. It’s like I’m judging them for being a mother. And I always think, “Wow, you’re doing such a great job. I couldn’t do this. If I was tired and stressed the whole time, I couldn’t – I simply couldn’t”. I respect moms so much.

We can’t have it all. Or rather, we can, as long as we don’t have kids. That’s the reality, and it sucks.

It’s terrible because politics works on a male schedule. All the important meetings are in the evening, and how is a mom supposed to attend those? Men in their 40s can be dads and just do their regular jobs, while moms, they have to breastfeed. They can’t do that in Parliament. They can’t do that in an everyday job either – if they work shifts, it’s just impossible to do. Society is built on accommodating men.

I work in logistics and, in my company, it’s quite easy to be a parent. We have a few men in their 30s who do parental leave. But they normally just do two months, and leave the rest of the time to mom. And most of them go travelling during that time. Like, that’s not everyday life. That’s dads not knowing their children.

I don’t think it’s just the guys who don’t get it; it’s also society. I was just talking with a colleague, who told me that 10 years ago, he went on parental leave for two months. And his bosses, who are still working for the company, looked at him like, “Two months – what? That’s so long!”

I found that crazy. If you do parental leave, you should really do it 50/50. My colleague said, “Yes, but that’s not how business works. If you’ve gone for longer than two months, then you’re out of business”. But the expectations are different for women – they just stop doing their careers.

I’m doing my master’s thesis at the moment, in the company’s diversity department. There’s this talent program that people start in their 30s, and going in, there are four women to every three men. But after the program, which takes two years, men follow their careers and the women just stop.

So far, no one’s really followed up on what happened. But because the women are in their 30s, I assume it’s because they are having children in that time. It’s just sad because then their career is paused. And I’m wondering, is it just paused or did it end?

I don’t think women can do anything right in society. When they decide, “I don’t want to have kids”, they’re a bad woman. If they decide to have kids and take care of them, that’s also the wrong decision. If they decide to go back to work, it’s also wrong.

One day I want to change that. That could be my legacy – it doesn’t necessarily have to be my genetic imprint. Maybe I’ll change the world one day.

Photos by Zoë Noble
Words edited by James Glazebrook