Jen Kirkman has written a book that I’ve yet to read, but I’m still 99.9% sure I will love. Currently, I’m waiting for it to arrive at my house, but until then, I was lucky enough to read a piece she wrote for Time about how women who don’t want kids are usually prodded with questions and the ever-so-tiring, “Oh, you’ll change your mind” song and dance.
Oh, that song and dance. Here’s the thing about that song and dance: it is disrespectful as fuck.
When you say, “You’ll change your mind” — regardless of whether it has to do with someone wanting a wedding, a donut, or a child, it translates to, “You’re not someone who’s capable of making adult decisions.” As if that person knows because maybe they had the same idea once and THEY changed their minds. And if they did, congratulations. That’s terrific. That’s also their call/path/journey. Theirs. Exclusively. Not mine. Not someone else’s. Theirs. That’d be like if I told someone who hated cabbage that because I used to hate cabbage and now I love cabbage that they’ll love cabbage too. Odds are they’ll still hate cabbage. And me too, probably, for trying to make them eat coleslaw.
I’ve said I don’t want my own kids for as long as I can remember. Even if my Barbies had kids, there was also another Barbie to take care of those kids, and my Barbie still just went to work and she and her husband hung out, and it was almost like they didn’t have kids at all. Throughout elementary school and high school I was the first to say I saw myself either child-free or as a step-mom (think of me like Liz Lemon when she says, “This is my husband, Saul Rosenbear, and this is his son, Dennis, from a previous marriage”), though never the biological mother of kids of my own. Even now, as my friends start to have kids, I feel the same. I figure if I really want children, I’ll happily adopt. But according to me wanting to shout, “SHUT UP” to a screaming baby in a store, all signs point to me not exactly being mother material.
This doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t make me selfish. Or mean. It makes me honest. And despite knowing that, I partake in the song-and-dance routine every time somebody says, “Ah, but you’ll change your mind.” The song and dance that has recently transformed as of late.
Since being diagnosed as bipolar last year, the condescending head tilts have morphed into “poor you” pity nods when I say I’m really not interested in discontinuing my medication for nine months; that I’m not interested in the post-partum depression; that I don’t know if I want to chance passing the disorder down. All of a sudden, then, it’s okay. It’s acceptable that I don’t want to have children, and it wasn’t before because then, I simply “didn’t want them.” So why now? Because I’m “damaged” or “forced into a choice”? I’m not, and I haven’t been. And while what I’m saying is true — all of those things are absolute factors in not wanting kids, there’s another big factor involved, too: I don’t want children. Point blank.
"But you’d make a great mom!" some of my friends with kids have told me. Maybe. But are you really willing to chance that when I consider not eating at a restaurant because there’s only one table left, and it’s next to one with two kids under four?
"But it’s different when they’re yours!" Okay. But again, do you really want to see if I WON’T stare down my own infant when she’s screaming in the mall? (And in my defence, I’m usually staring down the parents for ignoring their child’s cries.)
"But you’re supposed to have kids." Says which person? Who said that? Because we have the parts do it? Around my house there are probably enough parts to make a robot. Should I make a robot? (Okay, see, that’s a trick question because obviously everyone should be building robots.)
"Why do you hate kids?" I don’t. Kids are great — I like my friends’ kids a lot. Kids are terrific, and smart, and they’re insightful. They’re inspiring, and they can redeem a lot of terrible adult shit. I also like (LOVE) my cat, but if he did more than just lay around, bat a toy mouse around, eat, and watch birds, I’d make him pay room and board, and we’d probably argue a lot. And that’s okay — I know that.
Ultimately, I know myself, and most people who know they don’t want kids, know themselves enough to make grown-up choices. Having children is personal — especially if you’re a woman, since it involves growing a human being in your uterus and pushing it out of your vagina nine months later. That decision isn’t for everyone, and that’s the beauty of living in a world where we’re allowed individual thought.
So when “you’ll change your mind” or “I used to be like you” or any number of “I know better/you know nothing”-esque comments are delivered to someone who doesn’t see kids on the horizon, remember that “I don’t want kids” is a personal call only the person making gets to have opinions on. And that no one person’s reasons are better, and no one person is more apt to change their mind than another, and that even if a mind eventually becomes changed, that has nothing to do with you, your held tilt, and that terrible “Aw, that’s adorable” reaction.
Because remember: you said you didn’t like cabbage. So I’m respecting that, and I’m not serving you coleslaw.
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