Monday, October 6, 2008

You'll Change Your Mind

Introducing Desci to the Deliberately Barren team.

I'm 26. For the last decade or so, I've been wrestling with people's assumptions that I'll breed one day.

Because everybody does. And if you decide it's not for you, then there's either something wrong with you, or you'll change your mind.

Sure, you don't want kids now, but you will in the future.
Once you're older, you'll realise.
Oh, right, I was just like you, and then I woke up one day, and everything changed!

Frankly, it's becoming a chore. Why is it my job to explain to people that actually, having children isn't some mystical thing that everybody wants to do. Nor is it an essential step in life.

My partner, 28, feels exactly the same way. To avoid the constant debates of others, our team line is 'We're not ruling anything out, though it's extremely unlikely.' So unlikely, in fact, that I actually chose to be put to sleep in hospital so I could get the most effective - and long term - contraceptive solution available to me (Mirena. More information about it once I've adequately test-driven it for a few months). And when I was on the pill, skipping periods regularly to better suit my gym addiction, I was doing a pregnancy test every month.

I should point out that I'm most likely infertile anyway, thanks to my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (infertility is reversed once I shake the syndrome, it's not a permanent affliction).

But honestly, do these measures seem like the actions of someone who will 'change their mind one day'?

Don't get me wrong, many of my beliefs are fluid. Some things I felt at 16, at 20, even at 23, I cringe at now. That's normal. But... seriously, it's been a long, long time. I don't even know if I ever 'wanted' children when I was little, or if it was just a given assumption everyone placed on me, like finishing high school or going to uni. But the assumption that one day, a switch will flick in my head and suddenly I'll be a slave to my biology? It's a little annoying.

I say to my partner, I just want to fast forward time until I'm 36 and he's 38. By then, people may accept that the decision is final, or nearly so. By then, when people ask about children, we can just say that we never wanted them. (Except, of course, in the case of my grandmother. We'll have to avoid breaking her heart by just lying and telling her we're infertile). By then, they won't roll their eyes and tell us that they were just like us, and then everything changed at 25, 30 or 35. And if people think we're odd by breaking some bloody convention that states every male-female couple must squeeze out progeny, fuck them. We'll be living the life we wanted to, free of the sacrifice and boredom parenthood brings.

I have friends who have children, or want them. Sure, it's a drag, since everything changes once they've bred. They have kids, and, justifiably, their priorities change. They become less fun, harder to see, and all that, but I respect their decision, because that's what it is. They have weighed the pros and cons, and decided, you know what? I want to grow something inside me and have it crawl out and then take care of it.

I make the decision the other way, for so many reasons I've outlined at length, and I'm met with patronising tsk-tsking, eye rolls and head shakes.

Then, of course, there are the people that breed on instinct, like a fish squeezing out a sack of eggs. They did it because it was expected of them, without thought as to whether they were suitable as parents, or even if they wanted to. I have nothing but contempt for these people, mixed with a healthy dose of pity.

You know what? I know some people whose parents didn't have the luxury of deciding to have children. They did it because it was expected of them. And the product of such a household is always affected, often in ways which may not even be undone after years of therapy (as is the case with a close friend of mine). This lack of decision also may or may not lead to some pretty drastically bad phenomena.

I have made the choice to not have children. This is apparently unacceptable, as I am of breeding age and in a long term relationship. Such is the way people challenge me on it. I don't go up to people with kids and quiz them on when they decided they wanted children, why they made that decision, whether they'll regret it - that's their business.

It becomes surprising when my own parents challenge me on it. They know me, they know what I'm like. Many a family joke relies on how selfish I am, how impractical, how resentful I am of responsibility. And yet my adamant stance is met with heartbreak (and optimism that I'll change my mind). These people know how badly I'd suck at being a mother, and yet in the face of that they still inexhaustibly challenge me on my choice. What the hell? I know they spend the better part of their life stoned or drunk, but Jesus Christ, family.

Sure, several hundred years ago it was important to instill a message that it was imperative to have as many children as possible, since the mortality rates were so high. And a few decades ago, if you liked sex you pretty much were resigned to a litter, whether you liked it or not. But nowadays, we have the choice not to have children, and if we take that option it doesn't mean humanity might die out. Then why is choosing not to have children still so shocking a choice?

Desci is a writer and editor in Melbourne. Her blog of vapid ramblings and hissy fits is here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right on.