Between climate change and lack of reliable resources, you – society, America, and opinions I never asked for – fit within my reasons of why I never want children.
About every week my grandma asks me if I’m dating or have a boyfriend, and about every time I give her the answer, “Not yet, grandma.” To which she replies, “Hurry up and find a boy. You need a partner for life and I want grandchildren.”
That’s just a nice, rough translation of what she really says, but after years of living with her, I know what she really means.
I’m not sure where the idea came from that a woman’s purpose in life is to have and raise children, but I don’t buy into it.
Sure, there was a small window of time when I once wanted children. It was a direct result of my religious upbringing (Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply”) and the effects of a society and history where every story seemed to base a woman’s worth on her ability to bear sons — a story that occurs in both Western and Eastern culture.
But I’m no longer religious and I find the idea that my life’s purpose is to have children as archaic. And the more I look into what it really means to have a happy, healthy child, the more I realize that raising a tiny human is a lot more responsibility than just having one.
The difficult choice of becoming a mother
My coworker once told me, “The most woke women are lesbians because they don’t have men or children to hold them back from truly facing life head on.”
Here’s my theory based off that: The more independent — or woke — women become, the less likely they are to want children. Why? Because they’re aware of the circumstances stacked against them and their freedom.
In Japan, women have recently opted to go against the traditional, sexist grain and build their careers instead of a family. On the flip side, Japan’s declining birthrate is now considered catastrophic. Over 800 cities are said to be facing extinction by 2040, with the general population dropping from 127 million to 97 million by 2050. To counter this, the government is actually offering stipends for those who do choose have children.
It’s a trend occurring in the United States too. The average age of mothers continues to climb, from 24.9 in 2000 to 26.3 years old in 2014, and the average birthrate also continues to drop.
The overlooked costs of having a child
As women become older, independent, and more woke, raising a child can’t be done through love and want anymore. My mom assures me, once I hold my own tiny-limbed being, the miracle of life and unconditional love will make me forget the hardships.
But the reality is: having a child needs to also be a logistical matter. One where women need to also think about money, time, and the possibility of single parenthood. After all, the wage gap is real — putting the responsibility of children on women only is pretty damn unfair.
From the beginning: The cost of giving birth, without complications is about $15,000. Nerd Wallet recently analyzed the cost of having a baby with a $40,000 and $200,000 annual income level. For those on the lower end of the income spectrum, which is the majority of people in the United States, the potential first year costs of having a baby was $21,248. This is a price tag to which over 50 percent of surveyed Americans drastically underestimated. At least 36 percent thought a baby would cost only $1,000 to $5,000 the first year.
Consider those costs along with the fact that the average American graduate student is also about $37,172 in debt, a number that only goes up. No amount of “miracle of life” is going to make that debt go away.
This math gets to me every time I pay my credit card bills. I literally can’t afford to be a mother and I definitely don’t want to be one by surprise.
Researchers looking at data of 1.77 million Americans and parents from other wealthy countries found that people who were happier with children were those who made a deliberate choice to be parents. Maybe for them, unconditional love can offload some of the stress. Or maybe they were actually prepared for the costs of having a child.
But as long as a family is part of the low- and middle-income group, there’ll always be an increased risk of high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and more. Families who earn $100,000 annually have a 50 percent decrease in risk for chronic bronchitis than those who earn $50,000 to $74,999 annually. That’s a lot of health risks to consider.
Love isn’t enough to raise a child
I’ll admit, love can help ease the weight of stress. My friends see how much I love my dog and say it’s a sign I’m going to be a great mother. He’s a show dog with certificates and awards and gets the best I can afford. In human terms? He got the best education.
Let’s put the money argument aside in terms of education. There are only so many states that have educational standards I agree with. America’s public education system, with the current political climate, is unknown. This makes the planner inside me hesitant to pop out a kid unless I can ensure a stellar education for them.
Sure, parenting style plays a huge role in a person’s upbringing too. But then I think back to when I was 6 and my parents raised their voices at us, unintentionally taking out their stress on my brother and me. I can see my 20-year-old self like it was yesterday: sitting in my cousins’ living room, turning up the TV volume so their kids would only hear Mickey Mouse instead of the shouting.
I say it doesn’t impact me now, but a part of me believes it has. It must’ve.
I have my father’s temper, and I don’t want to ever be in a place where I’m apologizing 10 years later, unsure if I can ever assuage my guilt.
It’s why they say it takes a village to raise a child. Love, on its own, isn’t enough.
The huge carbon footprint of being a mother
My grandma tells me to change my mind because I’ll get old and lonely. I joke that I’ll live in my best friend’s basement as the troll aunt who kids visit when they’re behaving badly.
I’m not joking.
Other people’s kids are wonderful in the way library books are. When you’re not sure you want your own copy, give it a trial run. It’s incredibly environmentally friendly, mutually beneficial, and somehow the most rational choice for social good.
Wanting or not wanting to have kids is not about money, gender gaps, hypothetical stress, or age. It’s just about the limited resources we have and an experience that can’t be replaced by tech.
There’s only one Earth and with 7,508,943,679 (and counting) people slowly crowding it, not having children is one way of not adding to the problem of climate change and global warming. Not having children is probably the greatest going-green promise I can keep. And with the small allotted time and patience I do have for children, I can offer to help parents who need a little break for themselves.
The underestimated weight of wanting to be a good mother
My grandma's friend once called me selfish for not wanting to have children. In a way she’s right. If I had the money, if I lived in a city with good education, if I could reduce at least 20 percent of the stress and find the right balance of circumstances so my child wouldn’t make the world a worse place — yeah, I’d have a mini-me.
Author Lisa Hymas wrote for Rewire in 2011 about her decision to not be a mother due to environmental reasons. She also mentioned that real reproductive freedom “has to include social acceptance of the decision not to reproduce.”
It dismisses the stigma that people are meant to be parents, relieves pressure for those who don’t want to be parents, makes sure that children are born who are truly wanted.
It’s 2017, not 1851. Nobody’s purpose in life is ever to just copy and paste. Until I can guarantee my children can have a better childhood than mine, they’ll never come to be. And to the people who keep asking (especially if you aren't family), please stop asking.
Stop assuming that all women want children and it's just a matter of when. Some people can't have children, some people don't want children, and all these people don't owe any explanation to anyone.
Christal Yuen is an editor at Healthline.com. She regrets telling her grandma that she started seeing someone, but at least, for now, her grandma has a new set of questions to repeat, which is distractedly more pleasant than the old set of questions.