No, I really don’t want a baby

More and more women are choosing not to become a mother, but this does not mean that this choice has been accepted. Fleur Paxmir is consciously child-free and knows all about it.

“People who don’t have children are often a bit selfish, aren’t they?” My mother says so as she walks into the living room, a wooden tray with cups of coffee and wedges of cake in her hand. It almost sounds like a statement from her mouth: the grass is green, the sky is blue, and people without children are selfish. It’s a response to the book I gave her a week ago, A real woman has a baby By author Liesbeth Smit. I read it in one sitting, delighted that attention was finally drawn to a subject that stretched like a thread through my life, but is rarely talked about. I’m talking about consciously staying childless, a choice more and more women are making. In the Netherlands, one in five women is currently childless, and more than half consider themselves childless of their own volition. That’s a lot more than it was in our grandparents’ days, but as a non-mother – to use a nice term – I’m still much less numerous. And that sometimes feels very lonely, as I know from personal experience. About all the other big life choices – jobs, homes, traveling the world, yes, even buying a new car – you can compete extensively with your friends, family, and colleagues. But it seems that the decision to have children or not is a topic that many people prefer not to burn their fingers on.

I lent my mother my copy of A real woman has a baby Hoping to start a conversation. About her choice to have three children. Did she always know she wanted to? Would you do the same now? I was curious about her perspective on women making a conscious decision to remain childless, more specifically: her daughter. And yes, I did read the book. But she said while she was cutting the apple pie, I thought the talking women were sobbing a lot and only thinking of themselves. You didn’t bring me that as a reprimand, at all. However, it affected me, because it symbolizes a greater sense of incomprehension.

Not if, but when
I grew up in a village where all the girls in friendship books usually answer “Mother” when asked what they want to be when they grow up. Families with three, four, or five children were the rule rather than the exception in my elementary school. If you go with another kid after school, you play mom and dad for hours or pretend to bathe a little doll. My mom was also ready for some style after two tech-addicted boys, so I had heaps of Barbies, a Ken doll, and of course their adorable baby boy. There were plenty of examples of how it should have been, but somehow it was more to me playing the outside cowboy than being my doll mom. At family parties, the anecdote is often shared about how a five-year-old girl—a pink dress, two pigtails, and more shy than smart—stood before the festively dressed bride at a wedding, amazed at her pregnant belly showing under her tight dress and said, “I’d never want a baby.” I didn’t understand why everyone around me laughed and quickly returned to my father’s safe arms. But the fact that this story is still eagerly told decades later proves that I said something that day is remarkable. Despite all the liberation, motherhood is still a foregone conclusion. It’s not a question of if you’ll get it, but when. This is actually not surprising, because every year around 175,000 babies are born in the Netherlands alone. On average, a Dutch woman will have 1.59 children, in other words: if you don’t have a child, you are in the minority. And as with minorities, you have some explanation to do. It’s a shame I wasn’t counting, but I must have been asked hundreds of times why I don’t want children. Don’t get me wrong: everyone should be able to ask for anything, so keep doing it. But imagine that I will ask all the pregnant women in my environment why they want a child and you will immediately understand that the proportions are a little skewed.

outright attack
If you choose to have children, no one is pressuring you. Nothing: you can never combine that with your career, how do you plan to pay for that, isn’t that too full of you all in your little house? Instead, it’s all fun: eeeeeeeeks, what great news, congratulations honey, here’s a diaper cake and when does the gender reveal party? How different if you consciously choose not to have children, because this is a license to say anything and everything. I notice that sometimes I suddenly get a slap I didn’t see coming from the people I hold dear. And you might not do that either.

why is that? And what can we do about it?

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