“Being responsible for another human’s needs felt suffocating, not fulfilling.”

Sally, 30, USA

I worked childcare jobs to get through college. I loved kids – I assumed that meant I would love working with them. But loving children is not the same as loving caretaking. These jobs – daycare worker, nanny, overnight nanny – would lay the foundation for my desire to not have kids.

I felt confused when I realized I didn’t like caretaking. Wasn’t I supposed to like it, love it even? But this work left me feeling exhausted, trapped, resentful. Being responsible for another human’s needs felt suffocating, not fulfilling. Even with support, I have no desire for that to be my life.

My decision to not have children crystallized after my brother lost his battle with addiction. His short life was heartbreaking for all of us, a blur of emergency rooms and rehab centers. My aging parents now care for his daughter, unable to rest or enjoy retirement.

Addiction has never skipped a generation in my family. Having a child would mean accepting the likelihood that I, too, would be driving them to rehab, bailing them out of jail, agonizing over if or when they would get home, and in what condition – with no hope of reprieve when they turn 18.

Orna Donath discusses the myth that having kids will protect us from unhappiness. She emphasizes that becoming a parent doesn’t change the messiness of life – children are not buffers for our pain.

To be alive is to accept uncertainty. Children do not spare us from loneliness, sadness, insecurity, or insignificance, nor should we expect them to.