As people go, I’m not very old, and there’s much I don’t know about my future. I don’t know where I’ll live, what job I’ll have, or who my friends will be. I don’t know how much I make or what I’ll do with it. I don’t know what kind of pets I’ll have, whether I’ll own a car, or if I’ll go to graduate school. I know one thing, though: I will never have children. (No, Mom, I’m not saying this specifically to ruin your life.)
I wish I could say I decided against this because of deeply held beliefs: that I refuse to contribute to the overpopulation of the world, for instance. But no, it was for purely personal, selfish reasons.
I am the oldest in my family, and ever since I turned 13 and my mother started working full-time, I have been responsible for my younger siblings (and often friends and neighbors) during the summers. This means supervising anywhere from two to eight children and doing housework all day. I’m sure there are lots of teenaged girls who did this sort of thing and enjoyed it, and even more who were adequate; I was awful.
I’m terrible at handling small children, and not much better with older ones. I’m not much good at housework either. Even more, I despised being stuck in the house all day. Betty Friedan knew what she was talking about. I doubt any high-schooler looked forward to the first day of school quite as much as I did. The school year meant seeing people my age, an easement (if not a cessation) of chores and responsibilities, and the opportunity to do something productive with my time besides dishes and laundry. I never, ever, want to go through that again.
Admittedly, my experience is limited and YMMV, but every last woman I’ve ever known with kids has taken on a majority of the responsibility for childcare and housework. Like it or not, those tasks are inescapably gendered in our society. They are women’s work, and I’m a woman. Unless something drastically changes in the next two decades or so, if I have a baby, I will be the most responsible for taking care of the child and the household- and as I’ve already established, not only do I hate doing that, I’m really bad at it. Eighteen-plus years is a long, long time to do something you hate, not to mention the fact that having a mom who hated being a mom would probably fuck my kid up pretty badly.
I know, I am a horrible, selfish bitch. I love my autonomy, the freedom to do as I please without worrying about dependents. It is impossible, in society as it exists today, to be a mother with complete autonomy. I know I should be unselfish enough to procreate. I know that, according to many, “it’s all worth it.” I know I’m going to catch hell for this for the rest of my life, and I can’t say I don’t care, because I do. But I’ve paid my dues already. I’ve tasted freedom and independence, and they are so, so sweet. I write, I read, I act, I learn, I socialize, and I love those things too much to give them up for another human being. Even my own child.