Are you deciding whether to have children, or opt for a childfree lifestyle? I mean really, why bother?

Societal expectations largely come with a presumption that we will eventually make the choice to have children. That we will get there in the end. As if there really wasn’t a need to consider, or a choice to be had at all. Throughout my 30s, I’ve come across this assumption that I will 100% have children and regret it if I don’t, many, many times. So here’s my take on the whole experience.

I was often asked, Did I want children

Pre-Covid, my career involved meeting new people regularly. I was often asked whether I was in a relationship or whether I was married. Followed by, Did I want children? This question whilst innocently asked, always posed this sense of anxiety within me.

For one, it always came with certainty on the answer for them; Of course you must want children, what other option was there?. So then secondly, I thought I probably ‘should’ be having children at some stage in my 30s. After all I wasn’t getting any younger and it’s just like the assumed next step for a woman – especially one my age it appeared. And yet the answer was a real unknown for me, but even saying that I might not want children seemed to just utterly baffle people.

The expectation that children would complete me

Being honest, my biological clock was certainly loudly ticking away by that point. And I was searching for the right relationship with children as the end goal. But I was just sort of going through the motions. Because there were expectations from those around me and even myself, that children must and should be a definite part of my future. Despite all of these things, did I actually want children? I really didn’t have that answer. The internal and external pressure was there for sure, but I still didn’t know whether having a child one day was what I wanted.

So I was tackling a lot of thoughts throughout that time. Did I want children? Was I going to miss out if I didn’t? The reality of being single in my 30s and so the option of children felt incredibly far away anyway. A biological clock that wouldn’t shut the fuck up. And there was always a sense that having kids didn’t feel like a comfortable fit for me, I have just never felt that real urge to be a parent. Of course these people didn’t know all of this, that’s the very reason I’m writing this article. But the replies were always the same, “Don’t leave it too late, you may have issues conceiving”, or “You’ll regret it if you don’t.” And, “Children will complete you”.

The decision seems to everyone else, inevitable

People offered these statements with such assurity. My decision whether to have children seemed to everyone else as inevitable; that it would sway towards having them and a wrong choice if I did not. I was in my 30s and so age already felt like it was slowly working against me, and I knew that this contributed to my fear of missing out because I knew I was going to reach a point where that decision was taken away from me completely. It was a countdown clock I could not control. And when you’re aware of a decision deadline, everything feels infinitely more pressured.

But despite all of this and other people’s certainty, I still did not know whether I actually wanted children. Or whether along with other’s expectations, I had developed my own that I should have them one day. When people stated to me with assured boldness, “Children will complete you,” I would think, “But really, will they?” Everyone I met seemed to believe that I would eventually realise that having children was the inevitable path to choose. But being single in my 30s, not having children at this stage in life, I saw things from a different perspective. There was an attraction to both choices. But also, a general comfortableness and also enjoyable outlook of the thought of a childfree future. That future had always looked more right for me than one with children.

The question wasn’t, was I going to miss out on having children? The right question was, Did I mind if that happened?

I had been so transfixed on others and even my own assumption that I should have children – Because it had been such a high topic of discussion with anyone I had met – That I’d forgotten to consult myself on whether having children was really right for me. I had convinced myself that it was the only path. Because women are seen as an oddity if they express anything other than a desire to be a parent one day.

Any time I cited my unclear thoughts on the topic the conversation turned to convincing me it was the right thing to do. Never an understanding that it might actually be wrong for me. So you feel mistaken for seriously considering a childfree lifestyle, especially if it isn’t a resounding ‘No’ from the off. And people treat the situation like there is room for them to persuade you against a childfree life. And this was such a difficult thing to handle for me, when I was seriously considering what was right for my future. When the answer was to myself unknown but also, just kind of expected to end up in a certain direction.

But you’d make such a good mum

Yes, my biological clock was ticking – I’m in my 30s, I think that might happen to most of us? But when I really thought about it, aside from my body naturally expressing itself, I’d never had a desire to be pregnant or to be a mother. Oh I like the idea of it at times, but the reality? No, I’m not really into that. I love my nephew and my friend’s children with all my heart. I treat them as if they were my own. But to actually have a child myself, I just can’t see it. I don’t feel anything for it. And yet I get this all the time, “But you’d make such a good mum.” Like it’s a waste. As if being a fabulous Aunt is not an ideal aspiration. But maybe it is for me.

These damn societal expectations are outdated and unhealthy

So what is my answer now? I’m 99% sure I don’t want children. Maybe I’ll never be that someone who is 100% on the subject. Maybe if life had been different. If I hadn’t been single still at 37. Or spent my 30s mostly on my own and really grown to love time to myself. Considered it all at a much younger age. Maybe, that decision would be different. But life happened the way it’s happened. And what I do know for sure is that societal expectations that a woman should have children – and that it’s the only conceivable option for the future – are outdated and unhealthy. Especially when it is implied that having a child will complete someone, as if women without are somehow incomplete.

Why we should re-evaluate conversations around a woman’s choice to have children

It would be nice to change our mindset on what life can look like for each of us. Because I’d like it if the conversations I’d had, had come with understanding and not one sided perspective. I certainly considered the pros of being a parent, but no-one seemed to ponder what not being one might be like for me and how that would consist of many attractive positives too.

A childfree lifestyle or having children is a choice

It should be celebrated that we have possibilities. We are all unique and have different ways of pursuing happiness and completeness. There just shouldn’t be judgement. Or assumptions that can make any decision someone is debating more difficult, by implying that there is only one choice to be made. I know that I will be happy and complete with a childfree life. That is OK with me. The question is, Can everyone else be OK with it?

What are your thoughts on re-evaluating conversations around a woman’s choice to have children? Have you been in a situation where someone has assumed that they can convince you otherwise on a childfree life? I’d love to know. Please share your comments below.

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.

Join The Conversation