Saturday, I took my six-year-old niece for a birthday mani-pedi, then lunch. And we spent the rest of the afternoon playing Just Dance on the Wii with her sister and brother (They thought they could out-dance me. Ha!). I love spending time with them, just as I’m enjoying helping my stepson navigate through life after high school and gossiping with my stepdaughter on the phone. These are my kids. I will never have biological children of my own–by choice.

I have a secret to share. I am a woman of child-bearing age who has no desire to have a biological child. This is not such a secret to those closest to me; It is certainly no secret to my husband. But I rarely discuss my lack of desire to reproduce with others, particularly other women, because their reaction is always the same. Take this exchange with a friend of a friend at a girls’ night out some years ago:

She: When are you going to have kids?

Me: I have kids. I have two stepchildren.

She: But when are you going to have your own kids?

Me: (I thinking my stepchildren, whom I love, are my own kids, but…) I’m not.

She: (in horror) Why!?

Me: I never really have had the desire to have children.

She: Is it because you think you can’t have children? Because it took my husband and I a while to conceive and…

Me: No. I have no reason to think I can’t have kids.

She: (pausing, staring at me quizzically) Well, my daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. I love her more than anything. You just don’t know what love is like until you become a mother.

Me: Okay.

When I say that I do not want to bear children, it is not because I don’t like them. When my nieces and nephews were babies, I loved to pick up their chubby little bodies, smell their baby smells and make them laugh. I read the Alex Rider teen spy series with my oldest nephew. And I’ve had numerous girls’ days with my nieces. I aspire to one day be one of those eccentric, well-loved Auntie Mame-type characters.

I love my stepchildren, who I think of as my own. I’ve been a significant part of their lives since I met their dad when they were 6 and 10. My son has lived with us since he was 13. My home is his home and my daughter is similarly welcome here, though she’s all grown up and living on her own now. I have helped with homework; ferried kids to summer camps and baseball practice; nursed them through sickness; laughed and cried. So, when I say that I do not want to bear children, it is not because I am afraid of the hard work, as one friend has subtly suggested. This friend once thought that child-free married adults were “selfish,” but now that she has her own children, she says she understands. “Being a parent is hard work.” But the implication is that all adults without biological children are living hedonist, responsibility-free lives of leisure that we cannot bear to interrupt. That is generally not the case, even for child-free adults who have little to no contact with or responsibility for children.

When I say that I do not want to bear children, it is not because I do not understand the importance of being a parent. How can you deny the magnitude of being charged with molding a new life into a conscious and caring citizen of the world? I reject that parenthood is the most important job one can have, or the only job that matters. In particular, many people advance that a woman’s life without children is meaningless. But would Joan of Arc or Mother Teresa or Harriet Tubman have been better women, more a service to the world, had they bore children? Certainly, though, being a parent is one of the heaviest responsibilities one can undertake.

When I say that I do not want to bear children, it is because though I like children, I have never yearned for them. I have never felt that my life would be incomplete without them. I don’t desire to know what pregnancy is like. And I don’t believe the only way you can have a significant role in a child’s life is through biology. I can explain it no better than that. It seems very simple to me. But to some people I encounter, the idea that I can choose not to have biological children is foreign and either insulting, a mistake or proof of some fatal flaw in my character.

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  • Alexandra

    Another great article Tami. I’ve talked about this with women a lot.
    When I was around 12 years old, I thought of how many kids I would have. As I got older my desire for children decreased. Now I’m 23 years old and I do not want children of my own (various reasons). The thought of being a parent doesn’t excite me. It’s not selfish at all, and in many cases choosing to not have children is responsible. I’d like to thank my siblings for having children sometimes, because if it weren’t for my 4 nieces and nephews, I probably wouldn’t have come to the realization that I’m not as crazy about kids as I thought. I’m responsible for my 4 year-old nephew for four days out of the week, as well as my 11 year-old niece and my other nephew who is 8. It’s hard work taking care of them and the fact that I’m always thrilled to give them back to their parents says more about me than anything.

  • newgirl

    @Yes LEMON the same plan that requires someone else to pay for the contraceptive. Not the person with the womb

    • LemonNLime

      You mean the same way insurance companies already pay for things like preventative care? The same insurance that the insurer pays for? Or do you have objections to insurance companies (that the insurer pays for) paying for other medical devices like inhalers or annual checkups? Please.

  • _mimicakes

    Tami, girl you could not have said it any better than that. I think its really funny how we, as women, not only have to fight male politicians from trying to control our uterus; but other women as well. Its so crazy to me that women are so critical of each other; particularly in the case of parenting. I have had 2 abortions; and regardless of how i got pregnant, i knew that I didn’t want a child at the time. And if that’s my decision, I shouldn’t be scrutinized for it! Thanks for sharing your story

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  • asha

    yuh right. doh study dem girl. you be yourself. whoever vex loss.