Since I was 16 years old, I knew I didn't want kids. This was, of course, just assumed to be a "phase" I was going through as a teenager disinclined to think beyond the immediate future.
"You'll change your mind."
No, I won't, I thought. And I haven't. And I never will.
There is a prescribed "script" for adulthood, and those who don't follow it tend to be viewed as "abnormal," even "deviant" in the minds of family fundamentalists. You go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, start a family, rear your children to adulthood, and eventually retire.
The problem is, the bulk of these so-called "typical" adult life checkpoints are antiquated and arguably no longer relevant for the generation now coming of age—those who are staying single longer; opting less for settled, "traditional" careers and instead working for themselves; viewing property ownership as more of a freedom-stifling burden than a benchmark of success; choosing not to have children if and when they get married at all; and looking towards "early retirement" at the age of 40 in a South American country with whatever money they've saved in a bank and made in stocks rather than locked away in a heavily-penalized pension. The times, they are a changin'.
While the "typical" family life is still the ideal for many people, those people need to understand that the same cannot be said of everyone. So next time you're speaking with someone who states definitively that she is not having kids (and let's be real, it's always "she" and never "he" who gets questioned), instead of looking at her as if she has three heads and bombarding her with prying questions, keep in mind what not to say.
"YOU'LL CHANGE YOUR MIND."
I change my mind about things like whether I want to splurge on an exotic vacation or an eleventh pair of leopard print pumps, not things like creating a human being for which I owe a lifelong responsibility.
"BUT WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU WHEN YOU'RE OLD?"
"DON'T YOU WANT TO LEAVE A LEGACY?"
Yes, and I can do this by means other than genetic transmission, but thank you for your concern over my sense of life satisfaction.
"BUT CHILD BIRTH IS SUCH A MIRACLE!"
Is it though? Countless billions of people have managed to do this over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. "Miracles" are, by definition, a bit more infrequent than that. The immaculate conception of Jesus, if you're into that sort of thing, is a miracle. The average accidental knock-up is not.
"YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT REAL LOVE IS UNTIL YOU HOLD YOUR FIRST CHILD IN YOUR ARMS."
Well that's a real bummer to all of the friends, family members, and romantic partners I've ever professed love to. Sorry guys, IT WAS ALL A LIE.
"BUT CHILDREN BRING SUCH JOY INTO YOUR LIFE!"
Not according to every mother I know who starts off sentences with, "Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, but…" Now don't get me wrong, I don't doubt that the love between parent and child is real and profound, but I also don't think that particular brand of "joy" is a universal cup of tea. You know what brings me joy? The sweet sound of silence from not having any kids.
"HAVING CHILDREN CHANGES YOUR LIFE!"
It does! But who said that's a good thing? A devastating house fire also changes your life, yet no one is pressuring me into arson.
"YOU'LL WANT ONE EVENTUALLY WHEN YOUR BIOLOGICAL CLOCK STARTS TICKING."
Well, my biological clock is apparently broken because I'm already past my breeding prime and have yet to hear a peep out of the thing.
"BUT YOUR CHILD WILL LOVE YOU UNCONDITIONALLY!"
No, your dog loves you unconditionally. A child will only love you unconditionally until about age 12 before he or she becomes a hormone-raging, money-sucking sociopath.
Time. Money. Energy. Freedom. Phonophobia. Shall I go on?
This article originally appeared on MarieClaire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.