Up until I was 27, I assumed that I'd have kids one day. I'd been brought up in a family where a woman's sole purpose was procreation; indeed, motherhood was the only 'career' appropriate for a mere female. The only voluntarily childless adults I was aware of were my uncle and aunt, and my mother always described them as selfish. Back then, I imagined parenthood to be rather like some of the unpleasant jobs I'd done in my teens and early twenties – overworked, underpaid, stressful – with occasional moments of enjoyment but large swathes of drudgery. Then one day it dawned upon me that I had a choice. I owed it to myself, my potential offspring, and the planet not to dump more unwanted people into our overstuffed world.
That was 16 years ago, and they've been 16 fabulous years. I haven't regretted my decision for a moment, and am generally unafraid to own up to my 'childfree' status. In turn, most people I talk to about it are gracious – they don't attack or accuse or belittle – at least to my face! But from time to time I do come across hostile responses. They puzzle me, as how can my decision not to have kids negatively affect anyone else? Why are some people so insistent that everyone should have kids, even if they have no wish to be parents? Here are some of the arguments I've heard about deciding not to have kids, and a few counter-arguments from me.
Do you hate kids?
No. Most of my friends have kids, and they're fascinating little critters. I've also done lots of volunteer work with and for kids, and support a range of child-centred charities.
It is our duty to make sure the human race doesn't die out.
Are you kidding? When I decided not to have kids around 1995, the world's popluation was 5.7 billion. Now it is almost 6.8 billion. If the human race does die out, it will be due to over-population, or environmental damage related to over-population, rather than because people like me choose not to have kids.
But you're smart! Smart people should have kids, to cancel out all those stupid people who have them.
No. Two wrongs don't make a right.
You'll regret it later.
That seems highly unlikely. I certainly haven't regretted it yet. And anyway – so what? Surely it is less harmful to all concerned if a childfree person later regrets their decision, than if someone goes ahead and has kids, then regrets that decision. You can't give 'em back.
But who will pay for your retirement/wipe your bottom in the retirement home?
I've been working, saving and paying taxes since I was 16 years old. I plan to fund my own retirement. Oh, and by the time I can't look after myself I really hope that euthanasia will be an option.
Just my two cents' worth.