I'm new here, and so grateful to have the opportunity to tell my story/hear it reflected in the words of others. I'm usually more of a listener and tend not to talk very openly about my decision to be childfree, so I'm going to allow myself the space to tell my story at length here.
I'm white, born to white parents, and raised in California as part of a very devout international Hindu community (not Hari Krishna). Our Guru's teachings emphasized the importance of shunning the attractions of worldly life in order to achieve a deeper spiritual attainment, and while there were many beautiful silver linings to this upbringing, the intense patriarchal attitudes, gender biases and anti-feminism was damaging.
Our Guru's directive was for us children to be home-schooled. We were all required to wear Indian clothing exclusively, allowed to partake only in Indian food & music, and to limit involvement with non-Church members. Our parent's prerogative was to protect us from the influence of American pop culture.
Boys were allowed to attend public school once they were high school-aged (because "of course", they would need to participate in the workforce as providers for their families if they chose not to become monks). Girls were disallowed from attending any public (or private) schools including college, because the Dharmic (rightful) way for us to live out our lives was as mothers and keepers of the home.
There were no other paths offered if you were female.
As a young girl, I felt that this predetermined role suited me, and prepared my whole life for the challenges of parenting. I thought about it constantly. Studied it. Acknowledged all the ways that it would likely be the hardest thing I'd ever do, and wanted to do it to the best of my ability. Anticipating motherhood constituted my identity.
At 15, I left the Church, my choice spearheaded largely by my desire to go to college (which I did), but the programming around the righteousness of motherhood (and therefore the wrongfulness of childfree-ness) was -and in many ways, still is- woven into the fabric of who I am.
Fast-forward 20 years: I am now 35 and last year, married a wonderful man. He's incredibly kind, wise, hilarious, hard-working, empathetic, smart and loyal, and he loves me unconditionally. He also struggles with Major Depressive Disorder. I knew very early on that he was the one for me, but felt a simultaneous shock in accepting that he had never wanted children, and really didn't want to pass the pain and darkness of depression on to his kids. He was willing to consider having or adopting children with me if I really wanted them, but I realized I needed to accept that the sometimes brutal conditions of child-rearing (constant loud noise, no time for oneself, the requirement of extreme adaptability, financial strain and sleeplessness) would likely sink him into depths of depression that would both be harmful to him and our marriage, and leave me to manage parenting mostly alone.
This brought me around to a most surprising emotion: RELIEF.
I wasn't going to have to bear the unbearable, suffer the endless worry, be charged with protecting a child from the dark realities of an uncontrollable world.
It was the beginning of the true realization that I had a CHOICE; and that maybe, just maybe, I alone am enough.
Enter all the people in my life that have strong opinions about the importance of motherhood:
"You've got to grow up sometime."
"It's the only way you'll know what it is to be a real woman."
"People who don't want kids are just selfish."
"You'll never know a love like the love you have for your child."
"I just wouldn't want you to regret your decision once it's too late."
And this is when I had another huge realization:
Not only do I think children would be unhealthy for my marriage, I don't think it's kind to children to bring them to a planet with this level of instability on the horizon.
Hang on with me here.
Nobody wants to talk about this.
It's dark and scary to imagine what happens when environmental pollution is so advanced that our water, air, soil and food are contaminated such that bees can't function, crops no longer yield enough and cancer is rampant.
It's scary to imagine what happens when resources for the constant growth that all developed, developing and "under-developed" countries are built upon are exhausted.
It's scary to imagine what happens when these realities are so extreme that we find ourselves in serious political and social upheaval.
These are just a very few examples of what I think we're choosing not to look at seriously; and I'm so sad that in America especially, this topic has become so polarizing and politicized.
Whatever your beliefs about climate change, the rate at which the earth produces resources vs the rate at which we consume them (& our production of waste) is a scary but simple math problem.
To be clear, I am not just continuing with the hallmark G.I.N.K. (Green Inclinations, No Kids) argument about how more children = an increase in carbon emissions, overpopulation issues, etc. (although I agree with that); I'm arguing that those children are also going to have a seriously rough ride as we make our way through the unparalleled global instability ahead of us.
Whatever happens over the next 100 years in terms of major environmental, political and social instability (or 20-40 years, in the opinion of many), the damage to our environment is done, and I strongly question whether coming generations will have a chance to have any real impact (I was told that my generation was supposed to fix it, and it's apparently really hard to fix).
Of course, I know and love many men & women who have chosen to be parents--and they're rocking it, because it's something they greatly desired to do.
But it needs to be acknowledged that they're responding to just that, a desire for their own fulfillment through motherhood or fatherhood.
I think it's time to reconsider the morality placed on having children.
Are people having babies for the long and beautiful life they hope those children will get to lead on this planet? Or for the rewarding experience they wish for themselves through parenthood?
I hate that the point I'm making can sound judgmental of those who've chosen to have - or greatly desire - children, and I want to express that I do understand that becoming a parent is a very valuable, beautiful experience, and I myself love children.
But for all of us that are feeling punished for our choice not to parent, there should be encouragement, not judgement.
In closing (and thanks for reading this far), I don't want to portray myself as self-righteous or as an extremist. However, I'm willing to take that risk because I feel a profound urgency to share these feelings of mine publicly, and whenever I've done so in person, people's reactions are ones of pain and rejection, or difficulty absorbing what I've said.
I really want to hear how people feel about this at large--not just those who are personally attached to whether or not I procreate.
If you feel inclined to share your response, I'd be grateful to hear it.