By Annalena Dressler
As a twenty-year-old female, who is sexually active, I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about the possibility of pregnancy; not just due to the handful of pregnancy scares that I have had to endure, but also because I have a reasonable idea of how my life will play out. And it will not include children of my own.
Whenever I have said this to people, their first reaction tends to be,
'You say that now, but that will change. Just wait 'till you hit 30 and your maternal instincts kick in..'
I agree that that's a definite possibility. But why mention it? Why is it not okay for me to decide that I don't want children? Of course, that may change over time, but why is it that people seem to struggle to accept my decision to focus my life on my career and myself, to the point that they feel the need to 'correct' my life-plans?
I've also noticed that men take much more issue with my decision than women do. Perhaps this is because unless there is an underlying biological cause, the majority of women who remain childless do so by choice, whereas most men who do not have children simply have not found a woman willing to have a child with them. Touchy subject, perhaps? In all seriousness, however, I cannot begin to comprehend why someone would take issue with my decision to (most likely) remain childless, or more specifically, to simply not desire children of my own.
While the majority of women have had, and continue to have children at some point in their life, the number of women who, like me, do not desire to have children is on the rise. While there are many, MANY reasons why women may not want to have children, most assume it's because I am a rather driven young woman, with my eyes on the prize; in my case a Ph.D. And while I wholeheartedly agree that having children while being incredibly successful career-wise is no easy task, it is not impossible (disclaimer: this is based on my perception of the amazing and driven women that I am surrounded by). I think many people overestimate the importance of timing when it comes to starting a family.
As a woman, I have limited time to a) get a college degree/apprenticeship etc., b) have a successful career and earn money, c) find a partner and get married, and d) start a family (notice the order), all before the age of 35. Depending on how much emphasis one puts on the various aspects of a 'successful' (this is relative) life, one might just have to let one of them go. In my case, having a child isn't part of my to-do list, and I'm not upset about it. I could choose to have my eggs frozen, an option that often crosses my mind, but even there, timing is of the essence. Being a 21st- century woman comes with a biological clock ticking away in the back of your head; a ticking none of us can escape, a sound that haunts our every decision.
As mentioned previously, I acknowledge the fact that my view on having children of my own may change in the future, but I don't want it to, for two very simple reasons:
1. Either I will change my mind before I hit my late thirties, and I will have to rethink my entire career plan; years of working towards my goals will go to 'waste', and I will not be prepared for children. I would be forced to sacrifice options a, b, and possibly make a rash and ultimately
terrible decision regarding c.
2. Or, the want for children of my own will hit me once I am no longer biologically able to have them, in which case I will be filled with a deep regret that only a childless woman can feel. I will be filled with self-hate, and all of my accomplishments will suddenly become worthless; my life will feel like a waste.
So I implore you; respect my wish to not have a child of my own, and know that I am aware of the consequences of my decision and that even should I change my mind, while you are feeling smug for having 'predicted' my life, I will suffer the repercussions. So instead of berating me, why can't you just wish me a fulfilled life, and let me define 'fulfilled' for myself.