Stories are written by people who don’t necessarily work or study in fields related to sexology. They convey emotions, perceptions, and subjective perspectives. Opinions voiced in the stories are those of their authors, and in no way represent the position of Les 3 sex*.
Ce témoignage est aussi disponible en français [➦].
Translated by Zoe Yarymowich
My name is Sylvie. I am 39 years old. I am in a relationship and I don’t have children.
As far back as I can remember, I always knew that I wouldn’t have children. When my school friends played with dolls and pretended to be “little mothers”, I preferred to build forts outside or play with toy cars.
Later, in high school and college, my friends at the time liked to tell each other about a future that was all mapped out with a husband and children. They have all realized this great life project, with more or less happiness and sometimes, disappointment. When I said that I didn’t want children and that I saw myself as free and independent, they invariably replied that I would change my mind and undoubtedly be the first to become a mother…
It was then that I understood that for most of my peers, it was inconceivable that a “normally constituted” young girl or woman could choose to be child-free and prefer not wanting children. However, in my own normality, intentionally opting out of motherhood was a certainty.
I can’t say exactly why, but I do know that I never felt the slightest desire to give birth. It’s not that I don’t like children - far from it! Children are often heartening, enlightening, and make me laugh. I love their innocence, their carefreeness, their spontaneity - but I have never seen myself “having my own”.
Not having children is not always a choice per se; it is something that has been imposed on me and this “non-desire” anchored in me is evidence with which I have always lived.
This evidence pushed me to question myself and others, especially when I saw my friends getting pregnant. This evidence sometimes made me feel abnormal or marginalized. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t explain this “non-desire” to myself when it seemed so normal and natural for all the women around me to have children; parenthood represented a sort of “achievement” and the guarantee of a successful life.
I tried to imagine my round belly, giving birth, experiencing restless nights, baby bottles, first steps, first words, the first day of school, grades, activities, learning, raising, educating, cuddling, consoling, scolding, taking care of, listening… I glimpsed through these moments of life, the joy, the anxiety, the fatigue… And as “great” as this experience seemed to me, I never felt the desire to live it myself.
Above all, I believe that I never wanted to impose life on a being that didn’t ask for it. Because giving life is an incredible responsibility that I just don't feel capable of having or committing to.
I could cite environmental reasons, economic and social difficulties inherent to our time, or the growing instability of our world to justify not having children. But these real concerns for our planet and our society, even if they have fuelled my questions and reinforced the fact that I don’t want to give birth to a new being, cannot explain everything. My “non-desire” is much deeper than all that.
Others, (Non-) Parenthood, and Me
I have heard everything on this topic. From being told “you’re selfish”, “you’re just not ready”, “you haven’t found the ‘right one’ yet”, “you’ll change your mind”, or even “if everyone thought like you, it would be the end of humanity”…Was I even thinking about all those who struggle with infertility and as a result, can’t have children of their own? Wasn’t I afraid of regretting it later? Or the famous question: “Who will take care of you when you’re old?”
In response to all of that, I counter that it is also just as selfish for one to satisfy a desire as personal as wanting to have a child of one’s own and that I will certainly never be ready for that. I don’t believe the “right one” would impose a desire unaligned with mine just as I would not impose or deny a fervent need of theirs. I would maintain that it seems presumptuous to predict the desire of others and that given the population explosion in recent decades, humanity isn’t at risk. I would continue in my response that forcing me to have a child wouldn’t make up for the loss felt by those struggling with infertility, retirement homes are full of “old” parents who rarely see their children, and that I simply cannot regret something that I don’t want.
On the eve of my 30th birthday, my mother died. It was during this time that a distant cousin told me at the end of the ceremony that it was time for me to have children. Now. I don’t know if this comment was due to the fact I had already lost both of my parents by this point and that, even though I was in a relationship at the time, I was still somehow “alone” (being an only child). But it felt like a slap in the face. In addition to being perfectly inappropriate, this reflection was also and above all, an intrusion into my personal life that more or less meant:
“So when will you use your uterus and finally decide to fit in?”
I think that most women without children have had a similar type of experience to mine. This “need” for people to juxtapose and project their own desires and experiences onto others is often painful for me at times. Especially when these individuals are adamant in wanting to show me, at all costs, that “their” way is “THE only way”, the “only” path towards a life of accomplishment.
I sometimes have the impression that the people who tried their best to convince me to reproduce, were in fact trying to reassure themselves about their own choice to have children. And when I was able to ask them why they wanted or had at some point wanted children, the answer was not always so obvious.
For many people, children are synonymous with a complete and fulfilling life. Children seem to be, for many, a tangible marker of success, but also one of conformity (social, familial, religious, etc.). For me, I find fulfillment in the love that I share with my partner (who has two grown-up children from a previous relationship), in the affection I have for my animals, in my friendships, in my artistic works, and in creating and cultivating my garden.
I finally understand that the happiness of some is not necessarily that of others. If I make a choice, it would be, above all, to listen to my (non) desires and my needs and not give in to the social pressures that glorify motherhood.
Other stories are available in the file “Childfree: Between Freedom and Stigma”. Do not hesitate to consult the file in its entirety to learn more about this reality.