Am I Less Of A Woman For Not Wanting Children?
“So, when do you plan on having kids?”
As a 29-year-old childless woman, this is the question I dread the most. Not just because I know I don’t want children, but because I always feel I have to justify why.
I’ve never been maternal—not even as a little girl. Unlike other girls my age, dolls and pretty dresses weren’t my things. Instead, I liked to climb trees and make mud pies with the neighborhood boys. But not because I fancied them—I saw myself as one of them. And for a glorious few hours every evening after school, I could bask in the feeling of being free from the pressures of gender stereotypes, just for a little while.
That feeling never really left me, despite how hard I tried.
Over the years, telling friends and family that having children isn’t for me has left me with a crushing sense of failure, guilt, and disappointment. I don’t grieve for the children I’ll never have. But I mourn for my family. I’m sad for my mom, who will never get to experience the joy of being a grandmother to her daughter’s children. I’m equally sad that my family still thinks I’ll change my mind.
Don’t get me wrong—I wish I wanted kids. I really mean that. Today, whenever I see a newborn baby, I imagine my life as a mother. But instead of feeling an overwhelming sense of longing and maternal love, I panic at the idea of having to keep a fragile human being alive for so long.
But it’s not just that. For me, having children would draw too much attention to my gender. I’m proud to be a woman, but I’ve fully embraced my tomboyish side—the side that likes hanging out with the guys and kicking about in baggy clothes.
You see, society seems to like women who spend a lot of time on their appearance. If you’re preened and groomed and plucked to perfection, there’s a perception that you’ll do better in life. This belief extends to motherhood. To be at the top of the pile, women need to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they didn’t work. Why, then, aren’t men subjected to the same double-standards?
Which makes me wonder; am I less of a woman for not wanting children? Does abandoning the idea of motherhood denounce my femininity?
Unfortunately, there are so many assumptions that come with not wanting children, which has made it so much harder to come to terms with. Society still doesn’t know how to deal with women who don’t want to be mothers. While the term “spinster” might have had its day, there’s still a stigma that childless women are shallow, self-absorbed, and misguided.
These outdated beliefs make it difficult for women like me to admit we don’t want to be mothers. Until we start to stamp out this taboo, women who don’t want children will continue to be marginalized and misunderstood. And that’s not okay.
Women who don’t want children are amazing in so many ways. We care deeply for our friends and family—displaying our maternal instincts by making sure those closest to us are cared for and looked after. We’re charitable and love to give back where we can. And we value the time we get to spend with our mother friends, as we know how precious their time is.
There’s a part of me that’s worried I’ll regret my decision later in life. What if I get to my 50s and suddenly realize I’ve made a terrible mistake—one that I can’t reverse? Years of being told, “you’ll be lonely when you’re older,” and “you’ll have no-one to care for you when you’re an old woman” have somewhat taken their toll.
But you know what? It’s okay for women to change their minds about having children. It’s nobody’s business whether we change our minds or not. We’re not hurting anyone, and we certainly don’t have to justify our decisions.
Not wanting children doesn’t make me any less of a woman; it just makes me a woman.
Lorna McGachie is a freelance copywriter and digital content executive based in the UK. As an English graduate, she’s passionate about storytelling and making content more accessible and fun. She’s also a keen skier who’s interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle.