The Vagenda

Seriously, How The Hell Could I Not Want a Baby?


There is a sight that most of us see daily – one that many delight in – which elicits a feeling of abject fear and dread in me. And that sight is a child with its mother and father.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against children. In fact, those little tykes amuse me no end, if you want the truth. But what does annoy me is the general reaction to my position on wanting them. Or, rather, not wanting them. In any way, shape or form. At all. Ever.

But let’s start at the beginning. In Ireland, where I live, we are told from a very early age that we will all grow up to be mothers and wives – especially if, like me, you were raised in a rural community with the church at its influential centre. Gender norms tend to get magnified around here: primary school starts with strict admonitions that girls can only play with the dolls and the kitchen sets, and boys can only play with the farm animal sets and the cars. That pissed me off no end, because I loved that animal set. It had a three-legged dog and I really fucking wanted it. But I digress.

It wasn’t just the toys, of course, but the content of the games. The other girls were happily shunted into narratives where they had three children and the husband was about to come home for his dinner. Over in my corner, I was making up games where I went to space and lived with space pandas. It’s not quite fantasising about deconstructing the patriarchy but hey, I was eight years old. I wanted something different – dare I say it, something more.

And then there came the all-girls’ Catholic school. From day one, the talk of families and child-rearing between students and teachers was incessant and stifling. Boyfriends were the norm from thirteen, while I continued to sit in my corner (but this time I was reading, and listening to Rammstein. The space pandas had gotten kind of old.) Future husbands were serious topics of conversation between girls who had barely started their periods. One day, our Home Economics teacher gave us a class on how to have your children tucked properly in to their freshly pressed sheets.

What’s strange is that after I moved from this environment into a large college, away from country folk, supposedly into the world of liberated fellow media nerds, that narrative stubbornly failed to change. Sitting in the basement I sound-proofed with egg cartons, writing scripts and producing radio shows, I’d expected more than the reaction I got from my peers when I announced my intentions never to have children. That reaction came in the same three major strands I’ve been accustomed to hearing all my life:

‘But HOW can you not want them?’ (Seriously, it’s easy, you should try it sometime.)

‘You are being so selfish!’ (What?!)

(Whispered) ‘Is there something that means you can’t have them?’

So let me use this as my final, weary chance to state that there is nothing wrong with me. I am simply choosing not to produce children. It is not a bad thing, or a selfish choice. No, I do not believe that having kids will ‘complete me’ – but refusing to believe that isn’t the equivalent of me kicking your (probably lovely) child in the face.

I have nothing against you, your child or children at large. But I do not want one of my own. Despite the school, the kitchen set, the Home Ec classes and the traditional rural upbringing in a country that all too often sees women as baby-makers, I really and truly don’t.

The dread and fear that I feel when I see kiddies with their parents is not their fault, but rather a product of the society in which I live, and the pressures I’ve been put under to turn the other way and make the opposite decision, even when I know what’s best for me, my womb and my future family. So, no, I won’t take a child this lifetime around, thankyou very much.

However, I will take a puppy.


39 thoughts on “Seriously, How The Hell Could I Not Want a Baby?

  1. Good article, I’m sorry that you’ve been under this much pressure! I think I do eventually want children (although I’m only 22, so who knows what i’ll want ten years from now), but the incredible social pressure of everything wedding and baby related does scare me. My 21 year old friends’ Pinterest wedding boards terrify me. It’s very hard to escape.

  2. Brilliant article. Social pressure to have children still surprises me – I usually get the response from older women who have had children (including my own mum) that they ‘felt the same at your age’, and refuse to believe that not wanting children (or possessing a burning desire to get married – double whammy attack on tradition) is a phase I will grow out of… I’m 23 and fairly convinced that my position won’t change. I find it bizarre that in a world of supposed increasing gender equality and finite resources, young women are still feeling pressured if they haven’t jumped on the baby bandwagon through choice.

  3. If society could accept some women have no maternal instict we may have less abuse children.

    Beware – people will assume a puppy is a baby substitute. I had that for years!

  4. The hyperness that is is me after seeing something I wrote actually published is slightly insane right now but thank you and I’m glad people liked it

  5. I get told that I will change my mind and want children. I find this very patronising. I know my own mind and my own needs!! I too like children but I would hate to bring one up. The thought of it terrifies me. We ought to go around saying to people with kids (in a patronising tone) Ohh you’ll change your mind, you won’t want them soon….:)

    • “you’ll change your mind, you won’t want them soon” Hahaha, I so wish I could say that to people! I’m happily child-free, thank you.

  6. This article is amazing! It scares me the reaction I still get from girls as young as 12 when we talk about what they want to do in the future, most of them include children and just generally become shocked and weirded-out at why I simply don’t want children.

    Puppies are the best :)

  7. I had a similar sort of upbringing, ( but in Canada) and decided when I was 15 that I had no interest in having kids. I’m quite happy with my decision, and at the age of 44 people are finally laying off bugging me about it. But it’s been 30 years of ” when are you having kids” “what do you mean, you don’t want kids?” “You’ll change your mind/regret this!” .

    Oddly enough, the most hostile reactions have been from men. They seem to be personally offended by my refusal to reproduce. Women, especially as I moved into my late 30s , were more likey to say things like “I wish I’d thought about it a bit more”.

  8. Guess what? As a childless woman you will get asked these questions over and over again forever. From time to time I still get asked if I’m planning to have children one day. No, I am 54, for fuck’s sake.

    And that’s what I tell them.

  9. Hello, fellow Irishwoman. Your article just described my life perfectly (except it was Star Trek for me, not Space Pandas). I’ve always been the Odd Culchie Out; never wanting to follow the set path for Culchie women i.e. steady boyfriend from teenage years (preferably one with a farm) -> marry him -> pop out enough sprogs for a Hurling team (and work on the farm while sprog-popping).

    I live in a city now (happily married to an Irishman who’s not bothered by my choice not to have children) but still my lack of desire to reproduce is the thing about me that confuses and upsets people/my family the most. Ireland has some very entrenched ideas about women and their role in society.

    • Ah a fellow culchie who also does not wants the future under 16s team, we do have the joy of being the shunned minority in this country. My boyfriend has no wish to have kids either so thank you its nice to know I am not alone on this subject in Ireland.

  10. I too have never wanted children and was repeatedly told that I would change my mind. Well I’m 41 now and having seen numerous friends reproduce I am convinced more than ever that I have made the right decision.

  11. I have to agree with JG…I personally am quite looking forward to having children, in my own good time, when me and my partner feel ready (thankyouverymuch), but most recently we got a puppy. Because we wanted a dog, and not as the Facebook commenters like to tell me because I’m broody and/or test running my parenting skills. And my partner, despite the comments, shouldn’t be “scared” I’m pushing him into having children he doesn’t want (not all men are scared of babies – for chrissake he’s 35 and broodier than I am!!).

    Puppies definitely are ace. Enjoy it/them, and ignore the presumptuous baby replacement comments bound to come your way.

  12. I too have this problem (indian asian family). i’m now engaged so it’s gotten worse – now its WHEN are you having kids as now i’m engaged. it’s gotten worse the older I get (i’m 30 now). I wish it would end but I doubt it. And yes, i’m dying to have a dog!

  13. I’m also not crazy about the idea of having children – really doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy or ever want to do.

    When I mentioned this to a friend (who’d recently given birth to her first child) that I didn’t want children myself, I first had to deal with the initial shock followed by a string of “but what does your boyfriend/mother/grandmother think? Won’t they he upset?!”.

    She then asked me if I’d hypothetically be willing to carry a child for my best friend, if for whatever reason she couldn’t get pregnant. My “Hell no!” makes me incredibly selfish, apparently.

  14. I’m going to get a dog. It will be practice for the feeling of having a baby. Then I will have a baby as a way to practice for the day my personality disintegrates and I become one with the universe.

  15. It is another of the horrible “damned if you do damned if you don’t” questions. My daughter was 5 weeks old when a distant member of family asked when we were planning number 2. The stitches hadn’t even healed.

    Sadly being female means our reproductive choices are a public concern.


    No, seriously. Thank you. I am a 32-year-old woman who has never yet felt the urge to produce children, and I doubt I ever will; I don’t particularly enjoy being in the company of children, and the lifestyle I hope to pursue – self-employed artist, writer, and doer of geeky things – simply would not allow for me to give anywhere near the amount of attention to a child which it would deserve, even if I *DID* want one.

    When I mention this to some friends and work colleagues, I get stared at as if I have just grown another five heads, and then they try and convince me that I should want nothing more than to squeeze a squirming, mewling little jam-goblin from between my thighs before ‘it’s too late’. Too late? Too late for what? Too late for me to enjoy my middle ages and later years in relative peace and quiet?

  17. I’m really shocked to hear about such a sexist upbringing, so close to home. I grew up in a rural backwater in Scotland, and no-one ever told us girls that we had to be wives and mothers – we were pressurised to work hard at school so we could get good jobs… just like the boys.

    I got sterilised last year because I don’t want children, and reaction has been mostly positive and respectful. *cough*

  18. How do people who try to pressure others into having children not see how irresponsible it is? We try to warn people that a dog is for life, but nobody seems to bother giving the same warning when it comes to kids.

    People who don’t want children often have a list of reasons why, which they’ve been forced into making by the sort of pressure the article describes. Yet these reasons are ignored among claims that the new mother will see her baby for the first time and be overcome by a rush of maternal love so powerful that it will sweep all objections and annoying practicalities out of the way. Well that’s wonderful, but what if it doesn’t happen? What then? We may not like to admit it, but there are good parents and there are bad parents, and there are parents who are downright horrific. And I’m willing to take a guess at which were the group who actively wanted children and all of the sacrifices they make necessary.

    Having children should be an active, positive choice. It’s pretty much the most life-changing and irreversible decision its possible to make. So why do we see those who choose not to have children as making the bigger, more life-impacting decision? After all, if you don’t have children there are a million other things which could define you. If you do, then you’ll always be a mother or a father above anything else.

    An attitude that everyone should have children whether or not they want to fundamentally disregards the interests of children themselves. Somebody showing intolerance of a woman’s decision not to reproduce is essentially viewing the reinforcement of gender roles as more important than the happiness and welfare of children. Because nobody is hurt if a child is never born, but a child born into an unhappy or neglectful household will often suffer the effects of this for a lifetime.

    • “we try to warn people that a dog is for life, but nobody seems to bother giving the same warning when it comes to kids”.

      What an excellent point! And it’s not enough to say “ah you’ll see your baby for the first time and you’ll fall in love. It’s hormones”.

      Best not to put all your eggs in the hormone basket; it can be treacherous. I’ve known of women who have suffered post natal depression and nearly walked out on their families because they were so unwell.

      Children are a HUGE decision. I guess I want them at some point, and I know my decision is time limited, but I have to be a bit firmer in my mind than ‘I guess’ when it comes to it. Other wise I will resent the child for its having curtailed my freedom and independence. Who wants to grow up being resented?! That’s not the right thing by the sprog.

      Kittens. Much better than kids – they don’t dribble or throw scrambled eggs on the carpet.

  19. Great article! and I agree, in my family (Catholic, Irish roots) not having children is seen as strange or sad…

    I personally don’t yet know whether or not I want children… I don’t feel drawn to it as a choice, but neither am I repulsed by it. If I continue to remain apathetic, I probably wouldn’t do – after all, the world has enough children in it already (and many, without parents to look after them) and I guess you’ve *really* got to want them in order to make a good parent…

    This isn’t a selfish choice, either – how is not having children selfish? When I was younger, my mum’s response to my “I don’t think I’ll have kids” was the following: “well who will look after you when you get old??”

    Now if that’s not a selfish reason, I don’t know what is…

  20. As a 31-year-old who chose very early in life to pursue a demanding career that I knew would take many, many years to come to fruition (still not there yet), I am frequently asked of whether I ‘regret the decision’ and – my all time favourite question – ‘what happens when you meet the right guy?’

    I am puzzled and confused by this reaction. Do people seem to think that, upon meeting a man who desperately wants children that I will A) fall madly in love with someone with a completely opposing view to mine or B) decide I love him so very much I just want to churn out babies that look exactly like him?

    I have found over the years that my mother is my worst enemy in this. As an only child, she seems to have the expectation that her giving birth to me makes it my human right to give her grandchildren.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think babies are adorable. But so are puppies. And I’d rather have the puppy.

  21. Selfish to NOT want a child??? I consider it highly selfish to want a child (or two or six or more, as I frequently see) as the current world population is way past the point at which everyone can have the day-to-day necessities and still keep the planet halfway sustained.

  22. Amazing article. I’m bored to the back teeth of justifying myself. So if anyone wants to call me selfish,irresponsible etc.then go ahead, I’m too busy enjoying life to give a flying fuck about the mummy mafia.

  23. Great article! I’m in my mid forties and have two really wonderful, grown kids. Though I played my own version of Pandas in Outer Space, I also always knew I wanted children. My daughter has been clear since she was eight that she doesn’t want kids. It’s important to acknowledge that this is a decision and not a required life path for everyone with a womb.

  24. I once actually had a guy say that I was ”swimming against the tide of human nature” because I didn’t want kids.

    And ”selfish”? Wtf?? Choosing your own life, happiness and wellbeing over that of a nonexistant, hypothetical baby. Such selfish. Much inconsiderate.

  25. Raised in a similar community my parents are constantly asked, “What’s wrong with her she’s not married and has ‘wanes’ yet?” Odd Culchie Out Syndrome strikes again!

    • I am loving the fact we are all calling ourselves culchies, yeah we get that back in Wexford ‘oh now she is getting on in years’ or the one used by half the family ‘oh you have been with your boyfriend for three years when are we geting a day out and children’. How about you pay for a wedding and you can have grandpuppies intead? I’m glad you enjoyed the piece.

  26. Hi, speaking as a mother of two, if you don’t want children, please don’t have them. I do not regret my choices at all, but children cost a fuckton and take up a lot of time. Plus they are noisy, smelly and take forever to grow up. I love my kids but there are enough of them around and the world does not need any more unwanted humans.

  27. Great article! I too have never wanted children. When I saI’d this to a mother at work her reply was that she thought childless people we’re weird! It’s such a huge life changing event that I am just not cut out for! Plus I see others careers going down the tubes as beautiful and talented women become doomats for hubby and kids!

  28. Hey, it really is amazing what people feel it is appropriate to ask others. I mean talk about a personal decision. Of course people should be able to do what they want, and they should also be able to change their minds, multiple times if need be. My wife did that – always wanted kids in her early twenties (but wanted to wait till we were *really* ready), then by her late twenties didn’t ever want them, then in her mid thirties wanted them right then, that minute. Worked for us. Can’t imagine at this point not having them, but then again can certainly imagine someone else not having them and being very very happy.

  29. I found this a very interesting article, and the points it raises are not only relevant for people who don’t want children but also for those who can’t/ don’t have them. I love children: I run three toddler groups and spend most of my free time with my friends’ little ones. However, as a single woman in her mid-thirties with more than my fair share of depressive tendencies, I can’t see myself ever having children of my own. Sure I find this a little sad, but I know I can always get my child ‘fix’ by being there for my friends’ kids. My main problem is that, despite having ‘come to terms with’ being single and childless, I feel like I don’t really have a place in society. There are no older single women within my social radius, and I rarely read about such a rare and elusive creature or see one on TV. I’ve accepted that motherhood probably won’t be in my future, but feel unexpectedly adrift with no role models or defined role to slot into. Please, society, can we be allowed to see some alternatives?

    • Hello, Anna. I decided to reply to your comment because I too am an older single woman and we are a rare breed. I’m 31 years old and I don’t want to get married or have kids. Ever. The idea makes me cringe.
      My peers see me as eccentric, but in reality i just exercise my common sense and I developed a personality that allowed me to question my social and cultural programming.
      Even as a child I never understood why people were so desperate to be in a relationship and I still find odd that someone would jump into marriage and parenthood just because everybody else is doing it.
      I am delightfully introverted, highly-sensitive and a huge nerd. I not only enjoy, but I crave solitude. It’s a physical need that I have just like breathing. I know I could never live with a guy. I don’t like that kind of extreme closeness. I need my space….lots of it. The modern idea of what a relationship should look like is terribly suffocating to me.
      When it comes to children, I know who I am and what I want. I don’t like the idea of someone disrupting my much needed aloneness and depending on me so dramtically. I know I would hate it. It wouldn’t be fair to bring children into my world if I can’t give them what they need.
      In my social radius, I know 4 people that made similar life choices: a friend and three aunts (maybe it runs in the family), although we have very different motivations. You are not alone in this. I never believed in the fallacy that there is only one possible way for everyone to be happy. I hear a different drummer and I chose to dance to my own tune because it’s the only one that makes sense to me. Trying to live my life according to somebody else standards would be like trying to fit a huge rectangle into a tiny square hole.

  30. In my humble opinion and experience, a good chunk of people who tend to ask these questions are your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles etc, i.e. people who already have children and therefore can’t imagine life without them. Children are such a game changer, and by definition your immediate family will most likely have them and will have gained so much joy (and stress, and tears, and debt, and bodily fluids that are ‘all worth it’) that they want the same joy for you, because ultimately they want you to be happy. It’s possible that a blissfully childless life is a concept so alien to them that they can’t process it, and are truly convinced that children will make you happy. Obviously it’s entirely your decision, and people do need to learn to back the f*ck off about your life and your body, but this attitude can be well-intentioned as well as damn rude.

  31. Female childlessness, when mentioned in the media, seems to regard this state of being as a personal tragedy. Generally, this is the angle of articles about well-known women who have experienced years of miscarriages and (successful or unsuccessful) IVF treatment (e.g. Alternatively, there is the selfish woman angle. The former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, was constantly bombarded with insults about her selfishness and lack of empathy for women with children because she has no children. (See the following for a small selection of the abuse she faced: She, too, struggled to find appropriate responses to this invective. It seems as though she chose to ignore the comments until she made her “misogyny speech” about a year ago.
    Personally, I never wanted children. I was single for many years and, fortunately, did not work or play in an environment with people who felt it important to ask me about my childless state. Then I met and married my husband at 37 and I began to think it might be nice to have a child with him. But, we have found out that it is unlikely that we will have children. The most hurtful and insulting thing about this is that extended family as well as strangers think that it is acceptable to ask and comment about my childless state. They then feel that platitudes and assurances that ‘it will happen one day, just wait’ are going to be received with gratitude.
    Unfortunately, I still haven’t found a suitably amused and amusing response to such people – I do not want to include a mouthful of (I believe, well-deserved) swear words.
    Maybe, I should say “too bad we can’t all be George Clooney!”

  32. Oh man, I actually envy you. I have this desire to have children and I REALLY wish I didn’t. I have shit to do, and I don’t to schedule it around raising kids. And yet I know I’ll be unhappy if I don’t have them. It’s so crap.

  33. Lots of female wisdom in this great thread. I hope my post is not barred due to being male since I didn’t notice any other comment from men.
    I love reading wise female observations as unlike their male counterparts, females invariably cut to the quick and I can really understand what is being said which makes for exhilarating learning.
    As a bloke though, my decision not to father any children, whilst running concurrent with the views expressed herein is really and truly irrelevant to this article but having stated this have to say that I am passionately sympathetic with most of the expressed statements.
    Missy at 12.04pm on May 31 just about had me in hysterics and creating laundry.
    There must be one frightfully unnecessary load on the shoulders of young girls to do what their mothers and grandmothers did which seems so wretchedly unfair at a time when they, like boys, lack experience. I wish I could have met a female with a comparable outlook to many of those expressed but alas nearly every one I did wanted kids ‘eventually’. It was as though I was ‘a bit odd’ or ‘evading my responsibilities as a man’ etc., etc., to not want to breed. As an older bloke, just as all my life, I know for certain that I made the correct decision – in my case – but am keenly aware that most would hold other opinions.
    I immensely admire those females who didn’t want children and have managed to fight off the pressure to have them which sounds to be not only constant and sometimes painful, but debilitating in addition, not to mention plain boring.
    To all the female contributors to this (and many other female threads I have read) – a big thank you for all that you say which has been like a breathe of fresh air to this one, to read. If more blokes could be bothered to read such – they might understand females better ?Roger x

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