On the virtues of barrenness, or why I don't want kids

After reading a post about how different women decide on their family size shortly after answering a question on Answers about being childfree, I feel compelled to defend the choices of those who choose not to be parents at all.

I am 25 years old and plan to be married next year to a wonderful man. We share a vision of how we want life to be, a vision which each of us held long before finding the other. For example, neither of us wants children, a fact that really drew us together on our first date.

My parents were in their mid-thirties when they had me, so they haven't started pressuring me about children yet the way other parents might. I know, however, that they would like grandchildren, and since I am the only child, that part is up to me. My mom likes to tell me how great it is to be my mom, and how pregnancy and labor aren't so bad. Frankly, I'm not buying it.

The reasons that Andrew and I have for our decision are many. I'd like to lay them out here, and maybe you will agree with my feelings.

1) Pregnancy. The experience of another person living inside your uterus for nine months, squirming around inthere, just doesn't appeal to me - indeed, it sort of reminds me of a scene from Alien, when the creature sort of punches through the guy's belly. Yuck. Not to mention the various indignities of going to the gynecologist more than once a year, and the ways in which a woman's body can betray her, from frequent gassiness to oily skin to zero sex drive. And, um, I've worked really hard to get into a size 6 - why would I want to ruin my figure?

2) Labor. Thirty-six hours of contractions, pain, and screaming seems like nothing compared to the extravaganza of blood, poop, and placenta that emerges from what used to be a place reserved for pleasure and unity with your partner.

3) Breast-feeding and diaper duty. I really and truly have no problem with changing a diaper, regardless of what it contains. And I like babies. But the thought that another human being is going to use my bodily fluids as sustenance kind of disgusts me.

Yes, I know that the physical stuff is just temporary, that woman have been doing it since the dawn of mammals, and that it's all "worth it" in the end. But what about:

4) Raising the child. Babysitting is cool because the decisions you make about how to spend that time are up to you. The child will probably not grow up to be obese or a psycholpath because we watched two Disney movies in one night, or because I gave them extra dessert, or because I didn't want to play school again. It's the parents who make decisions that affect the kids forever, like what school they go to, if they are part of a religious community, and the sort of eating habits they are exposed to. A lot of how they turn out as grown-ups is rooted in what their parents did during their childhoods.

5) Paying for the child. The truth is that I have a lot of dreams and goals. I want a lively career that improves the world around me; I want to see every major city and set foot on every continent in the world; I want to learn how to tango, speak French, and how to fence; I want a doctorate. All of my dreams take money, and when there is only so much money to go around (we're not Hiltons here), I can't afford to make my dreams AND a kid's dreams come true. I don't want to hit 70 and wonder why I never went to Tuscany, only to remember that littly Billy needed braces that year.

But at the end of it all, there are lots of people who would say that any and all sacrifices they made were worth it just to see how well the kids turned out. That watching Susie twirl around stage in a tutu is better that doing an Argentine tango any day. But the final reason for me not to have kids is:

6) I love Andrew. The financial and time pressures of being a parent are so enormous that a lot of couples drift apart, their marriage getting lost in the endless chaos of child-bearing. I don't want that. I don't want to finally get a night away from the kids and find ourselves with nothing to talk about except the kids. At some point, around age 13, children stop considering their parents their best friends, and around 18 they head out of the house to start a new life of their own. Most kids don't look back or long for the endless demands of their parents' home again. And when the nest is empty, who's left behind? Just two married people who don't recognize each other anymore. I don't want that to happen. I don't want to forget what an amazing man I married, or run out of topics to discuss with him. He's the one who will be there when the chips are down, and he's the one I'm going to invest my time and energy into.