Take No Shame in Saying You Don’t Want Kids
Parenthood isn’t for everyone
In 2013, four months into our relationship, my partner Aloha says to me, “I would like to have three kids one day.”
My blood runs cold at the thought of having one. Imagine how I felt when she told me she wanted three.
“Three?! Why three???”
“Because I have a brother and a sister. Having two siblings who love you is one of the best things in life. I would love my kids to receive that same kind of love too.”
For the next five years, I thought the day would come when Aloha would ask me not to have just one, but three children. Not for a single second did I ever feel excited about that idea.
For the next five years, I tried to convince myself that being a dad was a beautiful thing. I tried to look for evidence that starting a family was a life choice I would never regret making. I would observe young parents having dinner with their children and think, See, it’s not that bad. Look how cute and happy they are.
But much as tried to push this idea into my brain, I never managed to fully believe that having a kid was for me. I didn’t want to become a parent and I secretly felt ashamed of this. Becoming a dad is what mature men want. This is what mature men do.
Five years after she gave me a heart attack with her terrifying “I want three kids” desire, Aloha says to me, “You know, I’ve realized it’s not what I want. I don’t want kids. ”
That comment made me as happy as a parent who’s just had a baby. What a noisy celebration all my brain and heart cells had that day. A huge load off my mind.
But I then wondered, Why did I feel ashamed for not wanting to become a parent? Is parenthood for everyone? How many people feel that, to be liked and accepted, they must evolve into parents?
Society pressures and pushes
It seems there’s an unwritten obligation that once you’ve been in a romantic relationship for a while, the next thing you must want is get married and have a kid.
Becoming a parent is the norm. Your family tells you that. Your religion tells you that. Your culture, your favorite movies, your government, your colleagues, your friend who’s got a boy and a girl.
If this pressure to conform gets you but you don’t follow suit, you might then feel there’s something wrong with you. That’s at least how I felt.
But here is the thing: it doesn’t matter who says you should become a parent. Having kids is for someone — not everyone. So if the person who says it isn’t you, then you ignore those voices coming from the outside world.
“When are you going to get married and have kids?” people often ask me and Aloha.
“Never,” we shamelessly reply. We’re a happy childless couple.
Yet then the next thing we hear people say is that our relationship will never be complete if we don’t have children. They tell us we’ll be alone when we’re old. They point out to us we have the responsibility as human beings to reproduce and contribute to the survival of our species.
People can say whatever they want but you’re free not to listen. You don’t have to force yourself to accept the idea that becoming a parent is the right thing to do in your life. No need to beat yourself up like I did for five years.
You may say, “But what if Aloha had wanted to have kids? What would you have done in that case?”
Good question. I don’t know. Picturing that is enough to make me sweat. But I suspect I would have an untidy living room scattered with toys by now.
Would that have been a tragedy though?
The real tragedy
I’m describing parenthood as an awful life tragedy that could have happened to me. It is not. The real tragedy is thinking that you’re either a parent or a failure. I had this thought too.
Reject this idea.
Parenthood is just one of the many things you can pursue in life. It’s okay to have other goals, it’s okay to want to shape your life in what you think is the best way for you, it’s okay to not want what others want.
The ultimate life goal for every human being is to be kind to each other and bring love into the world. Kindness and love aren’t exclusive to parents. You have the ability to fulfill this goal regardless of the number of kids you have.
Have kids only if you truly want them, not because societal expectations dictate so. Don’t let others make such a huge life decision for you.
That would be tragic.
I did a quick search of some of the amazing people who made meaningful contributions to the world.
Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor known for his contributions to the field of electricity, never had kids. Queen Elizabeth I of England reigned from 1558 to 1603 and is remembered for her strong leadership — she never had kids. Coco Chanel founded the Chanel brand — she never had kids. Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Mother Teresa — none of them had kids.
You could be the most amazing person the world has ever seen without ever becoming a mom or a dad.
So have as many children as you want. But take no shame in saying you don’t want them.
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