If you’re a woman who doesn’t have kids, you’ve gotten it: the person who corners you to interrogate you on why you don’t have kids yet.
Maybe it’s your aunt. Maybe it’s your best friend from middle school. Maybe it’s a cashier. It’s not just Congress that has a lot of opinions about what I’m doing with my uterus.
As someone who has never had even the slightest inkling of interest in having children, I find these emotional outbursts entirely unconvincing but very interesting.
Why are people so hell bent on convincing me I should have kids?
Is there something uniquely transformative about having children?
I used to try to Shut It Down as soon as someone brought it up, but now I ask questions. What’s behind this cultural phenomena?
Why does the cashier have such strong opinions about this? People who caution me against adopting a dog or renovating a house because it’s a lot of work and am I really ready for that are fervent believers that everyone is more than ready to make an irrevocable commitment to keeping a human being alive. If I say I don’t like math people accept that at face value and don’t push me into a career in accounting, but they’ll insist that I should give birth to a child because I’ll probably love it once i have it. It’s…weird. Are they listening to the words that are coming out of their mouth? Do they think these things make any sense? What a fascinating culture we Naciremas have.
I find that there are three types of people who really, really want me to have a baby:
The parent whose heart is bursting with joy
They just had one of those days where everything felt perfect. They went pumpkin picking. They blew bubbles. They built a fort as a family and told stories while in a big cuddle puddle. There is an infant asleep on their chest.
Their heart is bursting with joy. They are so full of love for the universe. The world is just so beautiful they could cry. All of those gratitude mantras feel so profound right now.
They are just so excited, they want everyone to be as happy as they are in this moment.
The thing is, I, too have a family. We can be cooking dinner together or out on a hike and my heart can swell with the incomprehensible amount of love I have for these people and the fact that the world is so magical. Unconditional love doesn’t require that you share DNA. It’s out there, available to all of us.
Or, if we want to find a category of super exciting joyful experiences where we feel compelled to convert and convince everyone we come across — I’ve been to Burning Man.
The parent who didn’t realize they had a choice in the matter
These peoples hearts are not exploding with joy, but they sure are exploding with something. They are raising their voice with doom and gloom about how I will one day wake up and rue my meaningless existence.
They did not realize that the marriage, boring job, mortgage, and kids were all choices they made. They didn’t decide to do these things, they just happened. And they aren’t super thrilled about it.
The fact that I made choices and some of them are different is basically the equivalent of me screaming at them that everything they did in life — all the work, all the suffering — was for nothing.
They’re not going to stand for that! Clearly I have made horrible mistakes and I’d better get back on track ASAP or…chaos? Yes, definitely CHAOS. People who stray from The Path all end up as junkies living under the bridge and praying for another chance! Or at least, that’s what the DARE videos implied.
Oh, boy, do these folks need a hug. Assuming I can calm them down enough for them to be comfortable with that. Nothing in life is all hearts swollen with joy, regardless of how meaningful and rewarding it is. Having a rough time doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake.
The grown up trainwreck
These folks were basically Eleanor from The Good Place until one day they realized they were about to be a parent. Once you’re a parent, the only one who’s supposed to drink until they puke is the baby. Only one person can be a reckless hedonist at a time, eh?
Parenthood forced them to stop thinking only of themselves. Suddenly they had to start showing up every day and thinking about the future. A life of partying was traded for an Adult Life.
Thus, anyone who doesn’t have a kid must still be living an extended adolescence. Because if they didn’t have a kid, they’d still be out there living a life worthy of reality TV.
The thing is, children aren’t the only ones who can teach you to become a responsible adult capable of empathy. Parents can teach you that, too.
I’m still curious to know if childrearing is transformative in a way that is truly unique. Something tells me that the prosthelytizers aren’t the ones best suited to answer this.