A little over 3 years ago, I was adamant about my decision to forgo motherhood. I didn't like kids, didn't want a family, and the idea of experiencing labor and delivery was terrifying. Then, as life would have it, I found out I was pregnant with twins and felt this palpable shift within me. I wanted to be a mom, and knew I could be a great mom. So, I can say with absolute certainty that there are things moms need to stop saying about women who don't want children. Trust me, as a woman who didn't want children, who is now a woman responsible for a 2-year-old toddler, these statements are hurtful, inaccurate, a form of gaslighting, and you know, just rude.
It's odd to be on the other side of the "I don't want children" coin. So many people actually use me as an example of inevitable motherhood. They'll point to me and say, "See? She didn't want children, and now she's a happy mom. That's proof that every woman will, eventually, change her mind and either want children or regret not having children." False. I don't live my life as an example of how every other woman does (or should) live hers. Women have the right to be complex, multifaceted human beings. Women have the right to make their own life choices and decide what to do with their own bodies. They also have the right to be validated in those choices, instead of shunned or told they're "less than" or that they're somehow not "real women." A woman who has four children is just as "real" as a woman who doesn't have any. There is no "right way" to be a woman.
It was exhausting to hear I was going to "change my mind" when I said I didn't want children. It was hurtful to hear that my life wouldn't amount to anything substantial — that I wouldn't be fulfilled — if I didn't have children. It's even more exhausting, and even a little enraging, to now hear that my choice to become a mom wasn't really a choice at all, but an inevitable life decision I was powerless to fight. It's exhausting to be chastised for changing my mind in the first place, as if women shouldn't have the ability to evolve and make different decisions at different points in their lives. So, as a woman who believes in the power of supporting other women regardless, here are just a few things us moms need to stop saying to women who don't want children. Like, immediately.
They'll Change Their Mind
I was one of those women who happened to change her mind, but I know that so many women won't (and don't). My best friend, for example, has remained steadfast in her decision to not have kids. I don't downplay her decision or negate her life choice by trying to tell her how she might feel in five or ten years. Hell, I have no idea how I'm going to feel in five or ten minutes. Whatever she decides to do with her own body, and her own reproductive system, is entirely up to her. If she eventually does change her mind, cool. If she doesn't, also cool. The only one who knows what's in store for her and her future is, well, no one. No one freakin' knows that, especially me.
I can tell you that when I found out I was pregnant with twins and felt this monumental, palpable shift within me — a shift that said hey, not only can you be a mom but you want to be a mom — the last thing I needed to hear was, "I told you so." Instead, I needed to hear that I was going to be supported and that I could do this whole mom thing. So even if you're "right" and a woman does change her mind about having children, the last thing she needs is for you to throw your holier-than-thou opinion in her face. Just be supportive.
One Day, They'll Be Lonely
Yeah, no. You have no way of knowing that, and having children doesn't automatically save you from ever feeling an ounce of loneliness ever again. My father, for instance, decided to procreate. He doesn't have a relationship with a single one of his children. Most new mothers (myself included) report feeling lonely, even though they spend every hour of every day with a tiny human being.
Likewise, my child-free friends have fulfilled lives spent with numerous loved ones. They aren't lonely, they're surrounded by people who love them the most. So, you know, enough with the outdated, "You have to procreate in order to make sure you're not a lonely old hag one day." Ew. That's sexist, and just ew.
They Don't Know What "Real" Love Is
I will admit that the love I feel for my son is unlike any love I have ever felt before, but I am in no position to say what kind of love anyone else is currently feeling or has felt or will eventually feel. I only know my emotions, and the experiences and life choices that have facilitated them.
Plus, I knew love before I became a mother. I have loved my best friend and my partner and my mother and my brother, all respectfully and all fully. The love I feel for other people shouldn't be negated just because the love I feel for my son is different. Don't disregard other people's emotions just because they don't mirror your own.
They'll Regret Their Decision
You have absolutely no way of knowing what someone may or may not regret, so enough with the "I can see into the future" mentality that does nothing if not negate how other people choose to live their lives.
Perhaps you would feel regret if you made the decision to forgo procreation, and perhaps some women do feel regret if they don't have children. However, some women is not all women. Every woman is different, and every life choice a woman makes — every beautifully unique and complex way a woman decides to live her life — should be respected.
The obvious sexism rooted in the idea that a woman is selfish if she doesn't have children, is enough to drive me insane. You don't have to procreate in order to have some meaning in your life; you don't have to live your life for another person in order to live a fulfilled life; you don't have to use your body in a very specific way in order to give your life purpose.
I remember holding my son for the very first time, looking at his perfect face and promising him that I would love and respect him regardless. I wanted him to live his life however he wanted, as long as he was safe and healthy and happy and kind. I would venture to guess that every single parent wants that for their child, so don't take that away from women just because they have functioning uteruses and just because they don't decide to use those uteruses to have children. We all have the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, and none of us get to say what the "pursuit of happiness" should be for anyone else.
They Don't Know What It Means To Be Tired
I've always found this sentiment to be condescending, as it really negates the difficulties of others just because they're not living the exact same life you're living.
While I was absolutely exhausted after I had my son (for months afterwards, actually) I would be lying if I said I'd never experienced that level of exhaustion before. I was a full-time college student, working multiple jobs and never, ever sleeping, when I was in my early twenties. I worked three jobs and wrote at night in order to get my writing career off the ground once I graduated college. I have gone long stretches where I haven't slept that weren't facilitated by a crying newborn. Is motherhood exhausting? Yes, but so is, you know, life.
They're Not "Real" Women
It is on this day that I formally petition for the death of the "real woman" statement once and for all. No more "real women have curves" or "real women don't wear makeup" or "real women [insert whatever here]." Real women are whatever the hell they decide they want to be, so there's no need for some arbitrary checklist women need to follow in order to establish themselves as "real."
Gross, and enough.
They Can't Be Friends With Women Who Have Children
The idea that a mom can only be friends with other moms, is comical at best. While I love and admire and lean on my mom friends more than they will ever know, my best friend is a child-free woman who will never have children. She was there, in the labor and delivery room, the moment my son was brought into the world. She is one of the only people I trust to watch my son. She is by far, hands down the most amazing "aunt" to my son, the most wonderful friend to me, and everything that a woman could hope to have in a best friend.
So honestly, you don't need to kick people out of your life if their life choices don't mirror your own. We all have the power to decide what is best for ourselves, and we shouldn't shun people for choosing differently.