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Answering the question: “Why don’t you want children?”

By Victoria Fryer 

If you’re childless by choice, chances are you’ve been asked a time or two, “Why don’t you want kids?” First of all, I think we can all agree that this is an inappropriate question to ask in almost every circumstance. Having or not having children is an incredibly personal issue, and one that people approach with varying levels of baggage. But it’s also a difficult question to answer because, the truth is, I don’t really have an answer.

I think that, when people ask, they want or expect a response they can reason with. “I had a terrible childhood,” or, “I’m afraid of passing on a genetic disease.” In passing conversation, I could tick off any number of reasons why children aren’t for me. I have a career I care about deeply. I worry about overpopulation and the state of the environment. There is a history of drug abuse and addiction—and a dearth of affection—in my family. And, quite frankly, I didn’t enjoy being a child and would prefer not to relive the days of elementary school, lunchboxes, bedtimes, and regular shot schedules.

I understand though, that people who want children want them in spite of things like that. The decision to have or not have kids is, at least for me, an emotional one—not a rational one.

Unfortunately, the question comes up a lot. Though the rate of childlessness among women in America, where I live, is higher than ever—according to the Pew Research Center, “Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child”—my sense is that those childless women are more likely to live in urban areas. I live in a small town with a population of about 10,000. Here, the biological family is still largely the touchstone around which life is built.

When I first got married, I used to read all the mommy-blogs I could, hoping that other people’s experiences would imbue me with the desire that everyone else seemed to have: the desire to create new life and raise it into a functional human. I get why people would want that; I really do. It’s beautiful and noble and challenging and all those other things that people say about parenting. And I wanted to fit into my community, my family.

Some moms talk about the desire to have children overcoming them one day, like the craving for chocolate cake. I kept waiting for that feeling, but it never came. So when people ask me why I don’t want kids, all I can really do is shrug and say, “I just don’t.”

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

Childless

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