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Yesterday at the dentist, the hygienist, a woman I had never seen before (my usual hygienist was on vacation) asked me when I planned to "start a family." I replied politely that I was just waiting for hell to freeze over. She laughed and then proceeded to tell me all about how she thought she'd never want kids but had them anyway, and her best friend wanted them but never had them. The best friend, she said, ended up being the "career woman" -- you know (her tone implied), a twice-divorced, lonely and barren old hag with no one to care for her in her dotage? I explained, still politely but more firmly, that I wasn't putting off childrearing for the sake of my career -- I just don't like kids. "Me neither!" she cackled. Then she told me in great detail how I would eventually ponder my own mortality and decide to have kids, just like she did. "You think about it," she advised.

It didn't seem like a good idea, as she was holding pointy things at my gumline, to tell her to fuck off. But I wanted to. I've also been tempted over the years to make up tragic, elaborate lies about my childless state -- something involving cancer, flawed genetics or perhaps a small explosion -- in order to reduce nosy inquisitors to stammering and blushing and hasty apologies. I guess I'm not that cruel. But for some reason people don't believe me when I say I don't want kids. It's so patronizing and infuriating to be told -- often by strangers, who really have no business asking about the state of my reproductive organs anyway -- that I'll "change my mind" or eventually regret my decision.

I am 33 years old, and I have never in all that time felt that primal urge to make babies. I know people mean well when they tell me, "Oh, you'll love them when they're yours!" or "Just wait -- you'll want them!" But it's insulting. What they're actually telling me is that I don't know my own mind, that I'm not qualified to make this decision, that I'm going against the natural order of things because who ever heard of a woman who didn't love cute little babies?

Michelle Goldberg's piece in Salon today kicks off a series of articles on why women choose -- or choose not -- to become mothers (get the day pass if you're not a subscriber). She's squarely in the non-breeding camp. Her reasons (and mine) for not wanting kids may strike some as selfish -- more time to read, travel, have sex -- but I've heard plenty of selfish reasons for having children. One ex-boyfriend's dad thought we should have kids to "so our family name doesn't die out," an idea so stupid it still takes my breath away.

Plus, I honestly just lack that whole maternal-instinct, miracle-of-life gene. I find children to be baffling, sticky things that are entirely too noisy and have terrible tastes in music and film.

This is, or course, not a popular opinion. Friends of mine who have kids are often evangelical about wanting me to experience their joy. Friends of mine who are infertile seem angry with me for throwing away an opportunity they'll never have. People are weird. That's one reason I don't want to make more of them.

Replies: 16 Confessions

Bite that hygienist.
I have kids (well, now I have grownups, but they were kids once) and I would not trade the experience even for more time to read but telling other people to have kids is like telling other people to get a cat - that is, likely to be bad for the cat.
Feh. At least you know who you are, unlike some.

elavil @ 05/06/2003 04:00 PM CST

Amy, I so agree with you. It is the same as not letting a woman choose to end a pregnancy... That is what the Pro-Choice movement is all about. Your body, your choice. And my job is to respect that choice, and shut the fuck up.

vince @ 05/06/2003 05:29 PM CST

Fucking Darwinian theory - clearly your thinking is fit, why oh why is fitness measured in reproductive capacity? Trailer parks are not (tell me they aren't) the end all be all of the planet's dominant (so they keep telling us) species?

My mom, not having actually read it, gave me this book - it made me feel a lot better about falling in the "hello, there are too many people already and I am *not* being selfish, geez" camp.

Jessica @ 05/06/2003 08:33 PM CST

she didn't want kids but she had them anyway.
what? "i don't like them, i don't want them, but i'm gonna do it anyway, just for the hell of it?" that's really great. you pop out a couple of kids that you don't have the will or the desire to pay attention to and love, just because it's expected of you.
go you- the world does not need more people that are merely tolerated or treated as glitches in the birth control regimen, and more power to you for your decision.

Liz @ 05/06/2003 10:20 PM CST

Amy, Amy, Amy... Didn't you know we're living in Ashcroft's America now? The deportment and functioning of your reproductive organs are an official matter of public record now! You are under the authority of the Office of Family Security Secretary Santorum. And he is just so disappointed in you. Don't you understand we need you to make more babies for the Homeland!

Starting . . . NOW!

Phineas @ 05/07/2003 08:47 AM CST

I'm perfecting the -"I can't have kids. I have a hostile womb." followed by weeping -response. I'm still on the kids/no kids fence. few things make me more violent that being told "you'll change your mind/you'll never know true joy till you are a parent/it is your biological imperative to breed.

oddly, I like kids. I just think I'm a touch too self involved and batshit crazy to raise crotchfruit.

shechemist @ 05/07/2003 09:08 AM CST

Unsolicited Suggestion #1. You might direct your complaints about the hygenist to your dentist.

Unsolicited Suggestion #2. You were there, I wasn't. But IMHE, most inquiries about having kids are basically a (somewhat inept) attempt at small talk. (Probably a professional habit--I suspect it's a little creepy to try to clean someone's else's teeth in total silence.) Next time someone starts to rattle on about reproduction, you might ask about their vacation plans, their job, the weather etc.

Moll @ 05/07/2003 10:38 AM CST

Moll, I don't mind someone asking me if or when I want to have kids. What I object to is when I say "I don't want to have kids" and they say "Sure you do!" and telling me all the reasons why I'll change my mind. That goes beyond making small talk. And I would have liked to have changed the subject, but my mouth was sort of occupied. All dental-office conversations tend to be one-sided.

You're right that I should say something to the dentist about it, but I probably won't because I'm too passive about stuff like this. I don't want her to get yelled at.

amyc @ 05/07/2003 11:39 AM CST

unlike amy, I do mind when people ask me if I am going to have kids.

the only time it is not rude to inquire about someone's desire to have or not have kids, is if you are fucking them. and then only if you are trying to decide if this is a long term or a short term gig.

otherwise, it is absolutely no one's bee's wax. small talk my ass.

otherwise, it is absolutely no one's bee's wax. small talk my ass.

shechemist @ 05/07/2003 12:02 PM CST

Different people have different ideas about acceptable topics of casual conversation. I am rabid about my name, for example, but I recognize that I'm not typical in this way and try to cut casual questioners some slack about it, at least the first time. I think it is not uncommon for newlyweds such as Jim and Amy to hear this question and as long as people don't "should" on them (my issue with the hygienist, whom I would definitely bite), I'm not sure they need to get hostile or defensive about it. All I know of shechemist is from her posts but I gotta say, I think shechemist and I have a very different interpersonal style than, for example, Amy.

elavil @ 05/07/2003 01:16 PM CST

All I know of shechemist is from her posts but I gotta say, I think shechemist and I have a very different interpersonal style than, for example, Amy.

yeah, you both are far more tactful and can edit better. *smile*

I don't think asking a couple (or person) if they are going to have kids in casual conversation is any more approbate than asking a couple (or person) how often they are getting it on and if they are using birthcontrol. it's just fucking rude.

shechemist @ 05/07/2003 03:26 PM CST

My personal favorite childless moments...

1. When my mom told me that I was not having babies just to spite her.
2. When my sister warned me that my eggs weren't getting any younger.
3. When a friend said that people who do not have children are not able to experience all that life has to offer.
4. The time a friend saw all my childless by choice books and asked why I don't like children. (I LOVE children. I just don't want one of my own.)
5. When my other sister said that being part of a big family makes you a better person, that it makes you less selfish.

I would never presume to tell someone not to have children, so it amazes me when people tell me to have children. I've got a couple of standard come backs when someone suggests that I should start procreating.

1. Oh my god! That is a fantastic idea. I SHOULD have a baby.
2. I would love to have children, but I don't believe in sex outside of marriage.

It is insensitve to ask a personal question like that because there are loads of people out there who can't have kids and having casual acquaintances ask about it can be mighty painful.

ms. haplopia @ 05/09/2003 02:14 PM CST

The only time I ever wanted kids is when I was in college and was head over heels in love with some bum and thought it would be so fucking adorable to make little versions of him. I personally think, if you don't have the money to raise kids, you shouldn't; and if you do, that money is better spent helping take care of the people we already have because most of them are starving because 10% of the world's population has 90% of the wealth, which isn't fair to start with.
In addition, you have two choices in raising a kid these days: You can either raise them to cope well in this society, which means raising a total asshole; or you can raise them to be a nice, considerate, ethical person, and then send them out in the world and watch them get chewed up like a chicken nugget in a pirhana tank. [Well, that and, I hate babies. They're ugly and they don't understand anything you say. Cats, at least you can train them, and they're more fun to pet.]
Frankly, I'd like to see people limit the amount of kids they have [or adopt from overseas] til the world population is back down to about 2-3 billion or so, so it's easier to acquire food, clothes, shelter, jobs and privacy for everyone. I can't stand people who think that they and their oh-so-precious genes are the only important things in the galaxy.
As for Asscrack's America, let's kidnap the sonuvabitch and make him live in a housing project for a few years with no hope of finding a job and 3 kids to take care of and Child Protective Services on his back because he lives in a shithole, and see what he says about the American Family then.
Rock on, Sister.

Frida Peeple @ 05/11/2003 06:42 AM CST

You can train cats?

amyc @ 05/11/2003 03:47 PM CST

I Googled the phrase, "I don't like children" (try it sometime) and found your webpage. It's a rare "treat" to read the musing of others that are kindred to my feelings. Being on my third wife (while not "on her" at this very moment), every wife that I've had in the past didn't want children and then I received the bad news later. Society had broken them down and they changed their minds. My present wife is well-aware of my past but has broached the subject of adoption. "No," I told her..."You don't get it. I don't want, or particulary like children." While this doesn't seem socially acceptable, I believe that the best favour that I can do for a woman is to hold true to MY beliefs. I realize that I am quite the specimen in that woman can't resist wanting a child from me. Har har har. But it's so, so sad to get attached and fly in the face of what's supposed to be normal.

Why, oh why can't our 162 pound loving, affectionate, goofey, eleven-year-old Rottweiler be enough for her? His time is short and I'm grieving his potential loss associated with yet another loving wife abandoning a relationship in favour of future calamity.

Help me.

Lance @ 02/13/2006 12:03 PM CST

Hmm...I like kids myself. However, I respect the fact that not everyone does. I like kids in the 2-6 group, most fun and well-behaved, IMO. Don't mind coloring books or sing-alongs once in a while.

Frida, I'm with you about babies. Some babies are cute, but most of them poop constantly and they're plain annoying. I don't follow people who coo over "little miracles" and whip out photos. In my mind, babies are only miracles if there was something miraculous about the conception or birth (an infertile couple being able to finally have a child, the baby surviving some life-threatening ordeal/illness, or something like that). Other than that, they're simply people who will most likely grow up and do the things that others who came before them have done. Nothing new about it.

Never understood the hoopla. Babies come into the world every day under different circumstances, but it is no one's business if you choose to live a child-free life.

Mindy @ 09/10/2006 02:32 PM CST

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