Why are some women choosing not to be mothers?

Eight responses for opting out of motherhood

I do not want to be a mother. However, I was pregnant once. It lasted for 20 minutes — as a mystery shopper. And before you ask, no, I don’t have reproductive issues.

I slept with a girl before — several times actually. She has four legs and will hog a bed. Before you wonder, no, I’m not a lesbian.

As a kid, I was once so scared that I went flying across a field, screaming and running full speed. Why? Because of a life-size Chucky chasing me at a haunted house on Halloween. But before you speculate, no, I don’t have any long-standing family trauma.

I open this post like that because I’ve had to answer those three questions entirely too many times about why I opted out of motherhood — from men I’ve dated, from a family friend and countless strangers. People believe any woman who doesn’t want children must fall into the three categories above. I understand the curiosity. I’m perplexed in this manner when I meet people who don’t like dogs, but I don’t automatically assume they must be allergic to fur, must have been bitten by a family pet or must prefer cats. In my mind, it’s not their thing, and that’s fine with me. I don’t need to be a nuisance about it. It’s none of my business anyway.

If you happen to deal with the Parent Police, too, here are a few responses I’ve used to get them off of my back.

  1. Don’t you worry about who will take care of you when you get older?

First, dark as it may seem, unfortunately I’ve experienced my fair share of peers who have passed away. A parent should never outlive his/her child. Second, I’ve recently observed a daughter who hadn’t been to her hometown in almost 20 years to visit her father. But when he passed away and she felt slighted that she got no inheritance money, she flew home twice in a matter of months. Money brings out people’s true personalities. Third, in all fairness, there are countless examples of (adult) children and grandchildren seamlessly volunteering to be caregivers for their elders. But your child being your caregiver is simply not a promise.

2. What if your mother thought like you do?

Hang out with me and my mother for more than 20 minutes, and you’ll quickly realize we couldn’t be more different if we tried. Besides being short, we don’t have a lot in common. Still though, she is my best friend. And people you love (or even enjoy the company of) are not required to think like you do. But it’s an ongoing joke with us that she almost runs into traffic at the sight of a stroller. Meanwhile I’m doing the Super Bowl Shuffle to get near anything that barks and stands on four legs. She loves dogs, but I really love dogs. She really loves babies. Me? There are a total of five babies that I’ve ever wanted to babysit. They’re adults now, and that’s where it ends. She made her decision to have two children. I made mine to have none. And neither one of us is losing sleep over the other’s choices.

3. But God created us to reproduce.

I carefully skip over the religious part of this comment because I’m Agnostic. I realize there are man-made books that dictate what life should be like. I will never disrespect someone’s right to their beliefs. If it brings you joy and isn’t discriminatory, follow whatever religion you choose. But what I will not stand for is someone who doesn’t live in my body telling me what I need to do with it. Not all women can reproduce — for health reasons — so this guilt trip about God definitely doesn’t hold any weight. And I will never feed into the bizarre belief that you’re “less of a woman” without a kid — not when I get a monthly visit from a guest I’m never thrilled to see in my home. But every 25 days since I was 11 years old, here she comes again!

4. You could just adopt.

Yes, I could. I could do a lot of things. I could volunteer for fundraisers or march for social causes or feed the needy. Check. Check. And check. The whole goal of not having children is to not have children.

5. Don’t you want your family to grow?

I sure do! And that’s why two of those five kids I mentioned above are my nephews. I’m always pleased at the sight of their faces whenever they’re in town. They grew up to be handsome, well-spoken young men. Personally I think they should model. “Family” does not just mean biological children. Family also means cousins, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc.

6. So you’re going to be one of those women with a bunch of cats?

If not for my brother, I still wouldn’t understand why people want cats. This question always strikes me as strange because everyone I know who owns cats are men. I don’t know one African-American woman who owns a cat — besides his wife. I do, however, understand the appeal of being a pet owner. I was one for 22 years, and have completed 276 dog walks with 48 different dogs as of today. While there are wacko rationales dismissing people who don’t gush over babies (ex. they’re addicted to opioids), people’s tastes are simply different. If I had the option, I’d have a condo full of puppies — at least five. But I will never ever desire to own a cat. I turned down several hundred dollars last month because I didn’t even want to cat-sit for one week.

7. You better freeze your eggs. You’ll change your mind later.

Oprah Winfrey didn’t change her mind. Halle Berry did. Tracee Ellis Ross didn’t change her mind. Janet Jackson did. Older women change their minds all the time, and some don’t. And of those who didn’t, they seem pretty content being childless. And those are just names of women you may know. I personally grew up with women who chose not to have children — and plenty more who did. But unless you’re a fortune teller, you can’t convince me you know my mind better than I do.

8. What if the man you marry/date wants children?

Now this is the one area where I fully understand the dilemma. If you are asking someone to spend their life with you, there has to be an agreement when it comes to whether you want children or not. I’ve met women over the years who said they “gave him a child(ren)” as opposed to wanting to have a child. And I have had a few childhood friends whose stepparents were just terrible people. They tolerated them because their parents loved the stepmom/dad, but it was more than obvious that one of the two did not have a parental instinct. For women who are sure they do not want children or to date men with children, do not make any child’s life miserable because of it. Children are so much smarter than people give them credit for. And they can feel that unwanted feeling no matter how much you fake it. Be honest early and often. So should that man (or woman?) really be passionate about being a parent, both of you can avoid the heartbreak of separating on bad terms later.

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We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 5x officer; WERQ dance enthusiast; Visit Shamontiel.com

We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

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