When I was a little girl, I used to dream about getting married and having a bunch of kids. Like, a BUNCH of kids. I wanted five, and I had their names and personalities all planned out: Natalie, the eldest, quiet and studious and responsible, and then Amanda, a rambunctious high-spirited tomboy who was by design the total opposite of her big sister, and then twin boys, Phillip and Andrew, who liked to build elaborate fantasy worlds with their toys and spoke in their own secret language most of the time, and finally little baby Chloe, whose only distinct character trait was that she never fussed.
I imagined us loading the kids into the car on Sunday mornings and going out for drives in the country, and our intelligent and inquisitive little brood pointing out the windows and asking a thousand questions about everything they saw, and my husband and I always having the answers and knowing how to facilitate a good group conversation, and no one ever got carsick or complained that their sister wouldn’t get out of their personal space or asked “Are we there yet?” or whined about not having enough snacks in the car.
And then I turned eleven, got my first period, and went, “Oh, fuck no. I’m already trapped in this PMDD-fueled biological hellscape for the next thirty-five years, I’m definitely not bringing pregnancy hormones into the mix.”
So I decided that I’d adopt instead. I remapped my imaginary future, shipping my five hypothetical children off to a relative’s house in England where they could explore wardrobes that lead to magical realms, and made room for my adopted daughter Vanessa. It was a shame she’d never meet her non-existent sister Natalie; having exactly the same personalities would certainly have made them best friends. But it was better in the long-run: trying to have five perfect biological children was the kind of goal that you only set when you’re a child yourself. A single child was much more manageable, and not having to do any of the intense physical part of it was hella gucci. (This was right around 2007 so that’s probably how I actually described it, and I’m not sorry.)
A couple of years after that, I was really into a guy who already had a daughter. And I realized that being a stepmom was actually the ideal way to be a parent. No pregnancy, and in fact no dealing with any baby junk at all. I wouldn’t be in charge of any of the life lessons or discipline or big decisions. Hell, I’d realistically only see the little darling about twice a month. Absolutely, sign me up for that! It’s like being a mentor in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program except I don’t have to wear the stupid t-shirt.
And right around there is the last time I can remember having any interest in parenting, and you can see how quickly it was waning in the first place.
I finally realized that I just wanted the “fun” parts of being a mom, but none of the actual commitment or responsibility. I loved babysitting- when I knew exactly what time I was off the clock and could get back to my own life. I loved my job working with kids in an elementary school- when I could send them home at the end of the day and whatever happened to them after that wasn’t my fault. I love my godson- and I really love his future not being entirely on my shoulders.
After twenty-something years of thinking that I wanted kids for no particular reason, it finally clicked for me that I don’t.
I could list a hundred reasons that I don’t want kids: it’s a commitment you can’t back out of, it’s a huge amount of responsibility to both a specific person and to humanity itself, the exorbitant cost of raising a child in the United States, the ever-present threat of climate change making the future of the planet uncertain, just to name a few. But I can’t think of a single reason that I would want to have a child that wouldn’t be satisfied by just getting a dog, and that realization was basically the final nail in the coffin of my considering motherhood.
Now, why do I bring this up?
Well, my husband and I have been married for about three months now, and that’s apparently the moment at which it becomes fair game to start asking us when we’re having a baby. Not even if, mind you, but when.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to tell someone that you don’t want to be a parent. But if you do, they always say, “Oh, you’ll change your mind.”
So I bring this up to illustrate that I already changed my mind. It wasn’t a whim; it took years and years of introspection and actually getting to know myself as a person. I already had my Big Change of Heart about wanting children- I went from feeling like I definitely wanted them but just needed to find the perfect circumstances that would make it work for me, to accepting that there aren’t any circumstances under which being a mother works for me.
I know you want to make a helpful suggestion right now. Everyone always does. I know you want to tell me about how wonderful and fulfilling parenthood is and all the big and little reasons that I’ll be sorry if I don’t do it. But whatever you’re about to say, that ain’t it, chief. You missed the boat.
In conclusion: we’re having a baby never. Stop asking about it.