To have or to not have a child—be it biologically, through adoption, or by other means—is an individual choice.
Yet, there is an assumption made by many that having a child is a “normal” desire for every human being. And when such an assumption is made, it automatically makes folks who do not have the desire to procreate or raise a child “abnormal”—or worse, “selfish.”
My husband and I contribute to the growth and development of many children in our lives—nephews, our friends’ children, and more. But we do not have the desire to raise a child of our own, which is a choice that is just as beautiful as the choice to raise a child.
Years ago, a dear friend of mine wrote me a note explaining why I “should” have a child. She assumed that I did not have a reason for not wanting children, because she herself didn’t for the longest time. After giving birth, she discovered a kind of joy that she had never experienced before: the joy of unconditional love. This led her to write the note.
Her words baffled me at the time. My first reaction was, “How can she assume these things? This is ridiculous.”
But assumptions are a part of human existence. And the concept of it being a “normal” desire to have a child has existed for centuries. And it is high time this changed.
I responded to her with a truthful and mindful email. I let her know that we did not have any desire to raise a child. We were completely fulfilled with our babies (music, art, yoga, travel) and did not wish to undertake the physical, emotional, and financial responsibility of raising our own child, based on where we were in our journey. We had given this choice a fair amount of thought as a couple.
This still holds true today.
I pour every ounce of love into my paint brush, my words, and every yoga pose I teach. Indeed, these babies are different from human beings. But for me, they are akin.
My nephew (not biologically, but that’s how we refer to him) and I have had a relationship since he was born. He is 13 now and I will love him unconditionally till the day I die—whether I am still his favorite aunt or not. Also, if one of my best friends were to entrust me with raising his or her child in a dire situation, my husband and I would accept the responsibility wholeheartedly and do our very best.
On a different note, I have also observed that by not being a parent, I have time to provide emotional support or friendship for older parents whose children are swamped with the responsibilities of balancing a career and raising children of their own.
So, no. I’m not selfish. I can fill gaps that exist in society by not having my own child. And even if I wasn’t ready to do any of the above, it is still my choice and my right to not want to procreate.
One does not need to give birth or raise a child to experience unconditional love.
This is a concept that seems hard for many mothers, especially those who have given birth, to comprehend and accept. But I learned all about unconditional love from my parents, and I embody what I have received to the best of my abilities. Human beings can love unconditionally without experiencing childbirth or child-rearing.
When we love ourselves unconditionally and accept ourselves as we are, the love spreads outward and expands into the entire universe. My yoga practice, the words of the great Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa, and witnessing the death of both my parents within a period of 13 months have taught me how to love myself, and others, unconditionally. We have one life to live, and our best differs from moment to moment. All we can do is be our best in every moment and love each other fully.
When it comes to society’s opinion on childbearing and child-rearing, these are my four requests:
1. Please do not assume that every human being wants to have a child. It is an individual choice that we all have the right to make, without judgment.
2. Please do not call people who do not want to have or raise children “strange” or “selfish.”
3. Please do not think that people who do not give birth or raise children are incapable of giving or experiencing unconditional love.
4. Please do not assume that I “cannot” have children due to a biological or medical issue.
1. Please ask questions. If you would like to understand someone’s decision to not become a parent, just ask. However, be aware that the why or why not is often private and they may not want to share it. Respect their decision if they choose not to discuss with you.
2. Please take the time and listen to friends who would like to have a dialogue with you about this. Whether to have a child or not is a dilemma for many individuals, and there are some folks who might appreciate your insight.
3. Please be as kind and supportive as possible if a friend is experiencing biological issues on this journey.
4. Please respect anyone who does not wish to have a child, regardless of the reason behind it.
Let’s live and let live!