9 Silly Things People Say When They Hear You Don't Want Kids (And Ways to Counter Them)
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It's been about five years since anyone asked me, "Why don't you have kids?"
"Just lucky, I guess," was my response then (it was a kid who asked me), and my friends and colleagues just know it's a non-issue, like you wouldn't ask Woody Allen if he'd like to go camping.
The subject has been in my thoughts, though, ever since I realized that I'm about to turn 45, which means that not being a celebrity, my chances of reproducing are now Olsen-twin thin. The realization that my fertility was a closed issue made me feel a bit like I did when they retired the Concorde: It wasn't likely I'd ever use it, but it was nice to know it was there.
Now if this were a movie, this would fling me into crisis mode -- I imagine Sandra Bullock having a comical panic attack, to bouncy-but-urgent music, and hatching a crazy plan to go the turkey-baster route with her gay BFF (played by Matt Damon). Of course, there would be happy endings all around, including an infant so cute she would make a basket of kittens look like Keith Richards.
But I didn't panic. I felt relieved and actually enjoy my friends' kids more now that the threat of motherhood had passed. I had occasional baby cravings in my 20s and 30s but curbed them like you would a yen for chocolate or cigarettes.
I never wanted kids the way some women do and I decided I wouldn't have one unless I got really rich, and since I didn't, I didn't.
Money plays a part in a lot of women's decisions. The U.S. birth rate recently dropped by 2 percent, Time magazine says, possibly because women are worried about having kids in this economy; it costs about $221,000 to raise one for 17 years (sadly, though, the story says, the economy is also making some of them skimp on contraception).
So, done. Curtain. And now a moment to stretch my legs before starting the last act.
Wanting kids isn't just the social norm, it's said to be a biological imperative, the only supposed "duh" of evolution, so I know my lack of sentiment isn't especially mainstream. I listen to people rhapsodize about parenthood, that it's so fulfilling and the greatest job in the world and good for them -- the more happiness in the world, the better.
Then I see parents at Target -- with one kid screaming in the cart, one screaming in their arms -- looking as blissful as a cat in a dryer. And I remember to take my pill.
Maybe because I was raised in the '70s heyday of feminism, or maybe ambivalence toward breeding is innate (Madelyn Cain's 2001 book The Childless Revolution: What It Means to be Childless Today, touches on the Mest gene in mice, which seemed to determine their levels of maternal behavior), but I never felt fazed by social pressure in my decision.
Now, in the interest of people who are made to feel defensive about their choice to be childless, and those who put them there, here are "Nine Things People Say When They Hear You Don't Want Kids" (and ways I've found to counter them).
1. Aren't you worried about ending up old and lonely?
No. When Mel Brooks, playing the 2,000-year-old man, joked that "I have over 1,500 children and not one comes to visit me on a Sunday," he had a point: There's no guarantee that kids will be there for you in your old age. Plus, the University of Florida has shown that the idea of the lonely, childless senior is flat not true.