I knew I didn’t want kids as early on as middle school, and high school squelched any maternal instincts I might have possessed. Going to an all-girls Catholic school in the 90s, we were succumbed to scare tactics such as watching videos of abortions on a projector screen in the school’s gym to prevent us from experimenting sexually. And since having sex before marriage is a sin, pregnant students were permanently kicked out, their only option being attending an alternative school until they gave birth. Since I was barraged with so many negative connotations about sex and pregnancy at such a young age, I associated pregnancy with delinquent behavior and never had much desire to go through what was described to me as an awful experience.
On the contrary, writer Allison Glock describes southern women as baby making machines in Garden & Gun’s August/September 2011 issue.
Southern women love babies. We love them so much we grab their chubby thighs and pretend to eat them alive. This is not the case in the North or the West or the middle bit.
I grew up, like all Southern girls, babysitting as soon as I was old enough to tie my own shoes. I was raised to understand that taking care of children was as natural and inevitable as sneezing, that when we were infants, somebody looked after us, and thus we should clutch hands and complete the circle without any fuss.
Glock’s sweeping generalization of women below the Mason-Dixon line is not only out of touch with modern sensibilities, but I find her sentiment alienating as well. I’ve held a baby once in my adult life. They’re delicate, squirmy little things, so sweet and innocent — yet I can’t say my ovaries turned into Mexican jumping beans when I did it. That’s not to say that I’m petrified of kids; I have a handful of friends who have children I enjoy being around. I just don’t want any of my own.
Answering that age old question, “When are you going to start having kids?” is tricky. Make your feelings known about your lack of a maternal instinct, and you’ll sometimes get a “me too” and a sigh of relief, but other times such proclamations are met with disdain and disgust. I usually skirt around my true feelings by joking that I barely remember to feed my cats then quickly change the subject, so as not to offend. An old British colleague of mine would reply with an ambiguous “I can’t bear children”, her charming accent blurring the meaning behind bear. But why should anyone have to worry about offending someone because of a very personal, private decision?
There’s been an influx of women in the media coming out to profess their desire not to have children recently. Vogue Magazine ran an article on tubal ligation in their August issue, Huffington Post published a child-free diatribe on their site and another piece claiming that even gay men are starting to feel the heat for not producing heirs. I asked a few local women to weigh in on their decision not to have children, and how they relate to mothers in their social circles. First, their thoughts on giving birth:
Elizabeth: “There was no decision involved. I did not ‘choose’ to avoid having children. I’ve never thought about having children. I never had any desire to be a parent. It could be said, I suppose, that I was not born with the maternal gene, if there is in fact such a gene. It wasn’t an aversion to or fear of the idea, just complete indifference.”
Daniele: “I’ve never wanted kids, so I can’t really remember the moment that I made at decision or what my reasoning was. When I was young, I was always focused on other aspects of my future – having a career, visiting and living in cool places, having interesting experiences. Having kids was never on my list of things to do. If anything, I’ve always considered that having kids would prevent me from living the life I want to live. I am certain I will never change my mind. I’ve been telling my disbelieving friends and family that I don’t want kids since I was 15. At 33, I think I’m safely past the age where my “biological clock” would start to go off. I’ve heard neither tick nor tock from it. Adding to my certainty is the fact that a health issue I had last year has rendered me unable to bear children.”
Ashley: “At this point, I don’t want kids because I’m willing to admit I’m selfish. There are things in my life I want to accomplish and do. These things are hard enough to do with cats, let alone children! My fiance knows that the likelihood of us having children is nil — but that I also reserve the right to change my mind. He’d like children, but they aren’t a deal-breaker in our relationship. He shares the sentiment that there are things we want from our lives first before considering children. I often joke that if I get the urge for a child, I’ll get a dog. If the urge strikes again, a second dog. If I can handle two dogs, two cats, and a full-time job? THEN we’ll talk about babies. “
Now, on relating to mothers:
Elizabeth: “I have a difficult time relating to certain women with children if they are obsessive or fixated on the fact that they have children and can talk about nothing else. Or if they act overbearingly entitled and superior because they have chosen to be a parent.”
Daniele: “I can relate to women who have kids if we have something else in common. I get along well with my coworkers who have kids. I have friends who are mothers. That said, most of my close friends don’t have kids either. This wasn’t a conscious decision, but it makes sense. Parents, especially parents of young children, have more constraints on their time.”
Ashley: “In my experience, couples with children tend to think everyone’s out having fun and partying, that we wouldn’t want to come over because they have a child, and it’s simply not true. First and foremost: I’m your friend, and part of being friends means meeting halfway. Secondly, I may not have kids, but that doesn’t mean I’m not getting older! We’re not out partying every weekend like you think we are, and more often than not, are spending our nights in getting work done and taking care of [what] needs to get done.”
Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.