Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘I Was Staunchly Child-Free – But I Think I’ve Changed My Mind. And Annoyingly, It’s For the Reason People Kept Telling Me it Would Be..’

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Maddison Leach planned to live her life childfree – it’s what she’s wanted since she was in her early teens. Over the years, people have told her she’ll change her mind, and now, well, maybe she has…

Sorry to disappoint child-free women everywhere, but it turns out people were right about at least one of us just needing to meet “the right guy”.

Before you send an angry email telling me I’m setting back feminism or upholding the patriarchal expectation that women must become baby factories, hear me out.

Having kids and becoming a mum was never in my plan. From as young as 13, I was telling relatives and well-meaning strangers I would be child-free to the day I die.

Pregnancy sounded like a nightmare to my teenage self (it doesn’t seem any less scary now) and the idea of giving up my life in service of some tiny, sticky-fingered tot certainly wasn’t on my ‘to-do’ list.

I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body. Motherhood always struck me as something other people enjoyed but I’d just never get, like drinking beer or watching cricket.

Besides, I had always pictured myself becoming a high-powered career woman who spends all her free time travelling and wearing power suits. Kids didn’t fit into that.

When I shared these plans, the most common responses were “you’ll change your mind” or “you just have to meet the right guy”. Sometimes I even got both back to back.

No way, I thought. I’m not going to put myself through pregnancy and 18+ years of parenting just to keep a man happy. 

I kept thinking that well into my 20s, even when kids became a point of tension with boyfriends. After all, plenty of men assume all women want to be mothers.

But when I fell for my current partner and started imagining a future with him, I wavered. He had always wanted a family and I didn’t think I could give that to him.

At times I felt like I had a responsibility to end the relationship to save him disappointment (and myself hurt) down the road. After all, kids are about as big of a dealbreaker as you can get.

While I knew there was a distant possibility that one day I may change my mind about procreating, I didn’t want to bet on it. Nor did I feel like I could.

There was this feeling deep inside me that if I did decide I wanted kids, I’d somehow be betraying the women who stay on the child-free wagon.

I also questioned myself constantly; what if I only changed my mind because of societal pressure, but I didn’t even realise it? What if I refused to change my mind and later regretted it?

For almost two years of my relationship, I grappled with these fears alone. But when I finally did voice them to my partner, his response floored me.

“I’d rather give up kids to have a future with you, than give you up just to find someone who does want them,” he told me.

“And if you do end up wanting them, I can always just be a stay-at-home dad.”

He told me how happy he’d be to stay home with our hypothetical children and insisted parenting was something we’d do “as a team“, if we ever did it at all.

For centuries, mothers have been expected to be the primary (if not the sole) caregiver. They are responsible for everything, they carry the brunt of the parenting and often receive no praise, no support and certainly no reward.

I never realised how much that had shaped my view of motherhood, how much it fed my desire to remain child-free. It never occurred to me that if I ever chose to become a parent, I wouldn’t have to do it alone.

So yes, my partner turned out to be the “right guy” all those relatives and strangers were talking about, the one they said would magically make me want to have kids. Just maybe not in the way they expected.

It wasn’t because he was so handsome, clever and perfect that I simply had to procreate with him (though he is all of those things).

It was because he showed me parenting didn’t need to be something I committed to alone. It didn’t have to be all on me just because I’m a woman.

Yes, women still carry the greater mental load, are more often still the primary caregivers – but it seems that men are realising that and stepping up to the plate too. At least some are.

And I guess I showed myself something important too; that it’s OK to change your mind about kids. 

The world didn’t implode and child-free women didn’t turn up at my doorstep to brand me a traitor, though I know women who go the other way (from wanting kids to not wanting them) would likely face a rougher reaction.

As for kids, I think I might want one or two in the future. But I reserve the right to change my mind as many times as I like between now and then.

This article was reproduced with permission from  9Honey. To read the original article, click here.

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