Why I don’t want kids

Children and motherhood are the subjects du jour in Norway these days. Women are told we aren’t having enough of them, and that we need to have a lot more babies if we want to keep the country running. We are told to embrace motherhood in order to save the economy and the motherland. I’m not going to throw my two cents into that particular debate, as my feelings have already been expressed by people far more eloquent than me, but I would still like to share a few thoughts on the subjects of kids.  

When I first started the job I have now a colleague asked me whether or not I had family. The question caught me off guard – did I look orphaned? Did I look like I had appeared out of thin air some 30-odd years ago, in a miracle rivaling the virgin birth itself? After a moment I realized that this person equated the word «family» with the word «children», and that they were asking whether or not I have kids. I politely answered that no, I do not have kids, and left it at that. But the question has stuck with me ever since, because of what it implied. I have a mother and a father and a sister that I all love dearly, I have a boyfriend of nearly 18 years, a little dog, aunts and uncles and a handful of cousins. But because I don’t have children, some people consider me to not have family.

A lot of times it feels like people think child free women find themselves child free because they simply forgot to get pregnant. Which is funny, seeing how a lot of us can’t open a newspaper or go to a family function without being reminded to have kids, just in case we forgot. The reasons we are given are many:

  • We should have kids because we need to produce more workers.
  • We should have kids because our parents deserve grandkids.
  • We should have kids because what if we regret not having them?
  • We should have kids because we might get lonely when we’re old.
  • We should have kids because that is what you do.
  • One that was previously only uttered in hushed voices or in the darkest corners of the internet, but that now is guaranteed to be found on at least one of your acquaintances’ Facebook profiles: White women should have kids because we need more white children.
  • And the underlying one, rarely uttered but often felt: We should have kids because if we don’t, what use are we, really?


I don’t want kids. Not in the way where I dislike children, or would have children if it wasn’t for some other thing. No, that’s not how I don’t want children. I don’t want children in the same way you don’t want to move to Northern Norway to have your own alpaca farm. You respect alpaca farmers and see how being an alpaca farmer could bring people joy, but you never grew up dreaming of moving up north to breed alpacas. Most days you wouldn’t even think about alpaca farming, if it wasn’t for the fact that the world wouldn’t shut up about how you’re not an alpaca farmer. Can you imagine people coming up to you, out of the blue, asking you why you haven’t bought an alpaca farm yet? “It is hard work you know, you have to do it while you’re still young, alpaca farming is not an old woman’s game. Tick tock? You’re not getting any younger.” But you never wanted an alpaca farm.

I also feel like I need to clear up a common misconception. And I can only speak for myself here, because I know that this does not apply to all child free women (we’re not a uniform and homogenous mass, despite what you might’ve heard). I don’t not have kids because I’d rather do something else. You see, this is not a question of “I would have kids if it wasn’t for….” If it wasn’t for my career. If it wasn’t for my wish to travel. To have wild nights out. To drink lattes with my friends after work. To sleep in on weekends. To spend my money on myself rather than on a child. It is none of these things. I don’t have a child because I have never wanted to be a parent, the same way you have never wanted to be an alpaca farmer.

I like kids. But I also know that kids are not babies, or toddlers, not the human version of puppies or dress-up dolls or mini-mes. They are little people, and creating one should not be taken lightly. My own childhood was not a storybook one – I was incessantly bullied for 8 years straight by most of my classmates and I sometimes still have to deal with the lingering trauma. As a parent I would be responsible for a life, a life that does not end after toddler-hood, or the teenage years, or after they leave the nest, despite what people might try to tell me. Parenthood should not be taken lightly. I don’t not have kids because I simply forgot to consider it. I have, as I expect all women have, considered it in great detail.

You should have kids because you want them, at the barest minimum. I have friends who ache to be parents, who have wanted to be mothers since they were children themselves. The closest comparable experience I have was when I was desperate to have a dog, and the very thought of not being allowed to have one in our rented apartment could drive me to tears on a bad day. I like to think that I should at least feel as strongly about having a kid as I back then did about getting a dog. I don’t.

So excuse me if I don’t feel appropriately motivated by the responsibility of producing future workers, or future consumers, adding to the whiteness of my country or having kids so that somebody else can experience the joy of having them visit for Sunday dinner. “Get knocked up for king and country” just doesn’t get my maternal juices flowing, shocking as it might seem.

Alpaca farming was never part of my plan.


Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash


18 thoughts on “Why I don’t want kids

  1. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for sharing what is a very personal decision. What particularly resonated with me was how being bullied has played a part in your decision. As an introverted and sensitive child life could be hard and I would never want a child to feel the way I did. I think we overlook how tough living on this planet is and how tough it will be in the future. We should all live our lives as we see fit – with or without children.

  2. It seems I will never find the right answer to give (my mother), but along a similar vein I have never wanted children, and I feel like people who don’t want them shouldn’t be encouraged to have them. If you’re lucky enough to have a choice (and many women aren’t), I think you should want children 100% to have them. The whole ‘you will learn to love them once you have them’ is not a risk you should take because it’s a living, breathing person you’re talking about here. There is nothing altruistic about having children; if that were the case there would be fewer children waiting to be adopted. I also find it mind-boggling that there are gofundme campaigns for couples who want IVF. If you don’t have enough money for IVF, how will you have enough money to raise a child? ? AND FURTHERMORE… Just kidding, I have a lot to say on the topic but I’ll stop here. If you ever need affirmation there’s an entire thread on Reddit of women who admit they regret having children…

    • Haha, I was settling in for a TED-talk™ there, Kordenary ;)
      I thankfully don’t get much hassle for my choice, at least not directly. But I do know that some people close to me have some very problematic opinions about child free women, and it is hard not to read between the lines. They’re not very subtle about it. Oftentimes it goes hand in hand with the opinion that black and brown women are having too many children – entitlement to women’s bodies and racism is just a match made in heaven, it seems.

      It’s also funny how nearly every woman I know has had to deal with birth control, hormonal or otherwise, since their teens. Yet people somehow expect us to not have properly considered whether or not we want kids, even when we’re well into our thirties. I can’t.

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  4. rodentraiser says:

    Thank you for your putting your thoughts in print.

    I’d like to point out that there are two complete sentences that so many people have a hard time saying and accepting. Those two complete sentences are “No.” and “Because I don’t want to.” Neither sentence requires clarification, explanation, or an apology.

    I am also constantly asked why I don’t have/didn’t have children. My answer is simply that I didn’t want to. No further discussion is necessary. My feelings about what I want and don’t want don’t need to be validated by anyone else. I am under no obligation to answer why. “Because I don’t want to” IS why. That’s all anybody needs to understand.

    • You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I think a lot of people can’t wrap their heads around there being an opinion that is neither “desperately wanting” or “profusely repulsed by”. Plus it’s frustrating when you get an answer you can’t argue with, I guess.

  5. Jen says:

    Wow. You expressed your opinion perfectly! I too, may use your alpaca farm example in the future!What I’ll never understand is how people think that just because someone doesn’t want children it means that they must hate children. Here in the US people get quite offended if they assume you don’t like children. I have been tempted to say to them “Do you have a dog? No? Well, does that mean you hate dogs?”

    • Thank you so much, Jen! And how good it is to see that this post is still getting new readers, a whole year after I posted it. Animals are a really good analogy for this one, I find :)

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