I love tigers – but I have no desire to have one in my life.
I’m fascinated by documentaries about extreme mountain climbing – but have zero urge to strap on some crampons.
And although I have five godchildren and a stepdaugher, all of whom I adore, I have never ever wanted kids of my own.
I haven’t talked much on social media about this, for no other reason that it doesn’t seem remotely weird or worthy of comment to me. Recently though, I’ve met a few people who have been a bit flummoxed by my decision – probably because, like many of us, I’m living a very different kind of life this year and mixing outside of my usual touring tribe. On the road and in the music business it’s really normal to meet lots of people who don’t have kids; but in a more home-based lifestyle, I’ve become aware that maybe it is a little unusual, so I thought it’s time to write about it.
I’ve known I wouldn’t be a mother since I was tiny. I can’t really explain it better than that – I’ve just always known it wasn’t for me. I can remember being nonplussed by baby dolls and far more interested in grown-up ones like Barbie; or in Lego, or dancing, or animals – the whole goo-goo ga-ga pram and bottle scene did absolutely nothing for me. In adolescence I got heavily into music, and knew that was my path, and there was no question of motherhood being in that picture. As I got into my late teens and twenties I made it abundantly clear to boyfriends that parenting was not and never would be on the table for me; when I accidentally got pregnant there was never a moment’s doubt in my mind about what to do. As I got into my thirties the occasional person would try and persuade me that I would either change my mind or regret my decision (don’t you just love it when virtual strangers know your own mind better than you do?!), and I remember noticing that it was always the parents who seemed unhappiest with their own situation who were the most vehement about it. People who were happy with their own choices would by and large say ‘fair play’ and leave it alone. I always thought that was interesting…
Around that time I thought I’d do some self-enquiry to make sure I was in my truth, but the answers came back stronger than ever – motherhood simply wasn’t my journey. Sure, it might have been interesting to see what my offspring would have been like; but a vague curiosity about paths not taken, which pops up every few years and vanishes at the next thought, is not a good enough reason to bring another human into the world. (I get curious about what it would be like to be a bird or an astronaut or all sorts of other things as well!)
I’m 45 now – old enough to have adult kids – and have never regretted my decision for a second. I simply don’t have that urge, that baby hunger that I’ve heard other women describe. I’ve nothing against kids whatsoever – they’re just small humans and I like some more than I like others, just like big humans! I have some delightful youngsters in my life and they’re great fun, but I’m more likely to go daft over a puppy than a baby if I pass one in the street. Not everyone has the urge to reproduce and it just never arose in me. Doesn’t mean I don’t like your baby or respect your parenthood, it’s just not for me.
The terminology can be sticky. I refer to myself as childfree rather than childless, because to me the latter implies that something’s missing – and freedom is important to me so I like the word.. But I’m also aware that some people take umbrage at ‘childfree’ – perhaps ‘non-parent’ works better. Hey, you can’t please everyone.
I find it curious that people think it’s ok to question me on my choices if they’re not prepared to talk about their choices in return. Why is it ok to ask me why I didn’t want kids and if I regret it, but not ok for me to ask you why you did want kids and if you regret it? Quid pro quo.
Thing is, we all want different things, and that’s ok!
Somehow though, a woman not in possession of a maternal urge is still seen as an oddity in some quarters (even an abomination in more extreme viewpoints). I tend to make clear that my childfree status is a choice, especially now I’m in midlife, because it makes people feel awkward talking about their own kids if they think I might be longing for a child but struggling to have one. It’s definitely more of an oddity in some places than others – in the UK and Australia it seems fairly accepted; less so in the US and Asia where (in my experience) my decision has been variously greeted with everything from bemusement and incredulity, to horror or pity.
But I think it’s really important that nobody just sleepwalks into parenthood, the way we seem to follow the script and sleepwalk into so many things in life. I think it’s really important that young people fully understand that being a parent is an ACTIVE CHOICE, and that saying ‘no thanks’ to that choice is a completely valid option. I think it’s really important to tell young women in particular that just because someone is older than them, doesn’t mean a damn thing about whether they should be listened to regarding huge and irreversible life choices. Maybe that elder person would have regretted not having kids – it doesn’t mean that you will. Only you know what it’s like to be you. Only you can decide whether or not having a child is the path you want to take. It’s a massive responsibility, and I have great respect for people who decide to take it on and give it their best shot, but it’s not for me.
We all tread our own path. Being a parent is great if it’s the right choice for you. Not being a parent is great if that’s the right choice for you. But please: don’t tell childfree people that they’re missing out, that they’ll change their minds, that they’ll regret it. They’re not the same as you, they get to make their own decisions just like we all do. Only they know what it’s like to walk in their shoes, and it’s really not your business. Yes, even if they’re family – it’s not your life, its not your business. Their status is no judgement on you, so please extend them the same courtesy.
All that not being a parent by choice means, is that I chose not to have children.