I feel trapped from being too different?
October 30, 2012 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Pretty sure I don't want to get married or have kids. Problem is, almost all my friends are doing so and it's just getting to the point where I am the only one who isn't doing either of those (not a bad thing).Help me not go crazy if I hear one more person say the words 'I'm engaged" or "I'm pregnant".

So I'm 23 years old, graduated from college in June, finally becoming an independent contractor very soon in massage therapy. I have never really thought about settling down with someone or anyone at all. I have been in tons of relationships. Mostly where the guys treated me like crap so the relationships didn't last for more than 4-5 months. In my longest relationship, which was a year and four months, the guy I was with told me he wanted to marry me and after I graduate get me pregnant. It was both our mistake for not discussing this a few months into the relationship, but the way I saw it time was going by too fast and we were having way too much fun for this kind of discussion to come up. A year doesn't seem that long to me.

Well I told him I don't think I wanted to do either. He was very upset by this but we continued our relationship. I felt kind of bad, like I was holding back from living his life. I tried to think of ways that maybe we could get married, someone else have our baby, or we could adopt a baby or kid. BUT after awhile even this seemed like something that would very much make me unhappy in the future. I told the guy I was with that I could no longer be with him. It was very painful. But almost a year later he is in a relationship with someone else who seems to want what he wants and that is very good for him.

The reason I think this happened is because around this time (two summers ago) was because most of my friends and his friends have started to get pregnant or give birth. Also a few of them had gotten engaged or married. I feel like he was looking at these factors too much..I feel like a lot of people feel pressured to do this because they think it is what they are supposed to do.

I dated another guy a few months after I broke up with my longest relationship guy and he seemed to have the same views as me, besides marriage. He did say he eventually did want to get married, but not till years from now. I kind of ignored it because we were in a fairly new relationship and still in the getting to know each other stage. He told me he was indifferent to having a baby.Four months into us dating he started to act real distant and just not as affectionate, only when he wanted sex. I could tell that I had been tricked into thinking he was a nice guy but now he thought I would stay with him. The thing that got me to run...not walk, out of the relationship is when he told me he did want /babies/ kids..not an adopted baby or kid, but a baby he created with someone he was in a relationship with. He knew from the beginning that I did not want kids at all. He asked how I could be so sure. I told him that all my friends from high school, my three closest friends, all have babies, and hate it, and I don't feel a tad bit jealous of them. You would think I would be if I wanted to have a baby, but I just feel sorry for them. My friends are in relationships with guys who they have been with for 4+ years.

My current boyfriend and I have been together for almost 7 months. This is my second longest relationship and this is his first. He had been in relationships with women who wanted kids, but he never stayed with them long enough so it was never a problem. I am sooo grateful I have finally found a guy who doesn't want to get married or have kids. He actually has a baby phobia, which is kind of funny. He says maybe he needs to get it fixed, but I tell him I'd rather him have a phobia, then go to counseling and find out he does want one. Lol.

As far as the marriage issue goes with both of us we don't want to get married. We haven't even dropped the words "I love you" on each other. Which is fine by me, because he has been one of the guys who has treated me very very well past the 4 month mark of us being together. I don't really put much thought into those three words anymore. They used to be very important to me, but when I did have a guy say them, they wouldn't show it. This guy I'm with, he is funny, he's understanding, he has opened my eyes to lots of different interests in life. It makes me realize that having a baby would ruin this. Only for a few years, but still. The thought of becoming 50's heavier, taking care of a baby for a few years while I stay at home doesn't seem like fun to me. I thought of every possible situation in which maybe I could get over having one one day. But something always come up and I realize I would be very unhappy with having one.

My question is why do I feel this way? I'm not looking to change I just want an answer. I sometimes feel very awkward around my friends babies or toddlers, but it mostly wears off, BUT at the end of the day I am so glad the kid is not coming home with me, lol. I have fun with some of them, but when they start screaming and crying, that's where I don't want to have anything to do with them. People have said "You'll change your mind" or "You never know what love is until you have a baby" Oh geez! That is VERY insulting.

Does anyone else feel this way. Did anyone else go through these feeling but despite their feelings go along and have a baby? And if so, are they truly happy with their life? If they didn't have a baby ever I'd like to hear those responses too. Do you feel like something is missing from your life? Like I said I'm NOT looking to change my mind. I just am stuck in a place where I am the only one not doing either of these things and it's beginning to become uncomfortable defending myself when people ask "when are you guys going to get married?" or "When are you popping one out?" Also would like to hear about people who maybe never got married. :)

From what I told my parents, they tell me I am very smart for thinking this way, but then again..they are divorced :P
posted by Autumn89 to Human Relations (55 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You're 23. No offense, but lots of people don't want to get married at 23. Move to the city, have some adventures, travel, and check back in when you're 30.
posted by Oktober at 2:02 PM on October 30, 2012 [51 favorites]

Yeah, move somewhere with a lot of young professionals, like the city. This reads like you're out in the country where everybody starts knocking out kids as soon as they get out of school. This is 100% normal at 23 and you might change your mind later or you might not, but you shouldn't be getting pressure about it, nor put up with it from your friends.
posted by empath at 2:04 PM on October 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

I will be 26 in 6 weeks and have been dating my lovely girlfriend for 3.5+ years. We don't have a kid and will not be having one any time soon. It is totally normal and OK to be 23 and not yet ready for marriage and/or kids. I have friends getting married and engaged too, and that's great for them, but I don't want that in my life right now. There will be plenty of time for those things later, in my life and yours.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:06 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Empath, that's what my boyfriend says. He lives near Baltimore...and out of all the friends he has only one has had a kid, and it was not planned. I feel like a lot of people are just bored around here honestly. But I've never been that bored yet and plan to keep it that way.
posted by Autumn89 at 2:08 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know lots of people like you (men and women). There's nothing wrong with them or you. Some people just roll like that.
For a years I was a bachelor, never giving a thought to marriage or kids. Then I met a woman, we just kinda hung out for about 8 years, and one day she said "you wanna get married?" and I was like "Sure".
And several more years later, we just kinda felt like having a kid. That was when we were in our mid 30's.
My 23 year old self would've never seen any of that coming. But 41 year old me is pretty damn happy with how things turned out.
posted by ducktape at 2:08 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

When I was 23 last thing I wanted or thought of was kids. I did not even know how to hold a baby, let alone raise one. Fast forward 4 years, I am now married with an almost 1-year old and other than sleep deprivation am loving every minute of it. My point is, things change.
posted by mooselini at 2:10 PM on October 30, 2012

My question is why do I feel this way? I'm not looking to change I just want an answer.

I don't know if there is an answer beyond "people are different." Different things turn people on in life. Some people really, really want to get married and have a child. More people find the idea rather interesting and acceptable, and do it when the opportunity comes up. Some people have little to no interest in those things. You are in the third category.
posted by deanc at 2:10 PM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

People have said "You'll change your mind" or "You never know what love is until you have a baby" Oh geez! That is VERY insulting.

Does anyone else feel this way.

I am 41 & divorced. I never wanted children & was told that I would change my mind.
I never have.
Sometimes I have felt like I am made wrong or have some defect or switch that never got switched on. But here I am, and I am happy. Thankfully since I am pretty long in the tooth now I no longer worry and people have stopped telling me I will change or that I should.
Good luck & enjoy your life!
posted by pointystick at 2:13 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm 45 and divorced. The last time I remember wanting a child was when I was 21. There's no right or wrong in it; I'd be okay dating someone who has an older child already, but I have no interest in bearing one of my own, and biology is helping me out with that at this point.

It's OK not to want kids or marriage. It's OK to hold those positions for decades to come, but it's also OK to reassess things when you end up in a situation where marriage or kids feel right in a way that they hadn't before. Just keep on being honest with yourself; the hardest thing is to realize you've ended up marrying someone or having a child because you didn't want to hurt the other person.
posted by catlet at 2:14 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

People have said "You'll change your mind" or "You never know what love is until you have a baby" Oh geez! That is VERY insulting.

Things can be insulting and still be true. You *might* change your mind (or not). You will, without question, be different at 30 than you are now - you will think about things differently, you will see things differently, you may not recognize some aspects of your 23-year-old self.

That's all normal, as is feeling differently about relationships and kids from how all your friends feel.

In the meantime, you might find it helpful to try to stop thinking about how you feel about stuff (all kinds of stuff, not just marriage and babies) as being set in stone. How you feel about something is how you feel about it now. It may or may not change as you change. You don't need to build an identity as "Someone Who Believes XYZ About Marriage [or whatever]" in order to have a particular perspective about something.

I didn't want kids when I was 20something. I'm now 40something and still don't want kids, though I know some that are darned nifty. So that's a thing I haven't changed my mind about. I also used to be in the never-getting-married camp, and yet here I am, married. It's all good!
posted by rtha at 2:18 PM on October 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Some of us think we want kids because it's the thing to do and anyway Christmas and Holidays and Vacations and all those great things, then have them, and find out that we aren't really wired for them and then it gets awkward and we do our best trying to be good parents intellectually while never really feeling that brain-melting parent hormone flow. So it becomes kind of a struggle to be a loving parent while most other parents are obviously infected with some brain parasite or whatever, I don't know.

So, yeah, like, if you don't feel you really want kids, like really really want them, it's absolutely okay to not have them.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:18 PM on October 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

When I was 23 I didn't want kids and I didn't want to get married. My best friend wanted both. I'm 34 and still don't want kids, and am consulting with my doctor right now about how to permanently guarantee they never happen. But I am married. The same best friend, meanwhile, no longer wants to get married and thinks life without kids might just be fine -- though life with them would be OK, too.

For all the folks who are saying "things change," gotta say: Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. And that's OK. And it IS insulting for someone to assume they know what's right or wrong for you, or what will or won't change in your life.

I think that getting past the next few years will help with the marriage pressure. I had a whole frenzy of weddings in my early 20s that's tapered off to a trickle in more recent years. Odds are that friends will continue to have kids for at least the next 10-15 years, though, as they introduce siblings, divorce and remarry, settle down later than the first wave, finally save up for fertility treatment, etc. The pressure on women to have a baby can be more universal and oppressive than the pressure to marry.

The answer to how to handle this: Work on loving yourself and recognizing that others' actions are a reflection of what's right for them, not what's right for you. Do what's right for you, not what's right for them. Come up with a few pat lines to say to obnoxious people who think they can dictate your future, and if they're too obnoxious try to avoid them.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:18 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Science is on your side.
posted by hmo at 2:19 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

i am 37. my boyfriend and i have been together almost 10 years. we have no desire to get married, have had no desire to do so, and well more than likely will never do so. i also decided when i was about 12 that i never wanted kids - and i still don't. therefore, we don't have them, and i told him from the get-go that this would never be something i wanted.

this is something you have to work out for yourself. you're not defective. some people just aren't wired to want marriage or kids. and trust me, it's perfectly okay for you to be this way, even if you never change your mind. if you do, you do. it's your decision, and you shouldn't let anyone pressure you or make you think it's not, even your family.
posted by koroshiya at 2:19 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've never, ever wanted a baby. My partner has never wanted a baby.

I have a visceral reaction of panic and distress at the thought of being pregnant. I don't really understand how/why other women do it, but I recognize that this is my idiosyncrasy. My upbringing was not very much geared toward having children young, so when I was 23 it would have struck me as stark insanity if anyone had suggested that I - I, a mere infant myself! - should ruin my future by having a baby.

I have never wanted to be responsible for a kid full time, especially a very small one.

My partner really enjoys taking care of babies in the short term and does occasional babysitting for friends. I like my friends' children and am willing to do emergency babysitting, but I'm not especially good with children in general. (I've gotten quite fond of a several of my friends' kids when I spent a lot of time with them and got to know them, and in fact have thought a little bit about seeing if we can foster GLBT teens if we ever get our house fixed up enough to be up to code.)

It's true that "getting to know" a child can make you much fonder of the kid and much more at home with childcare- if one of my friends couldn't care for their kid for some reason, I'd feel willing and able to step in, even in the long term. But that does not translate for me into wanting a child of my own. Don't let folks push you into thinking that if you like to babysit little Matthew, or you enjoy taking Claire shopping for school clothes when her folks are busy, that means that you should have your own child. There's lots of ways to support other people's child-rearing and lots of ways to enjoy the company of children.

I'm in my mid/late thirties and at this point it seems very unlikely that I'll ever have a kid. I've never regretted this.

Also, almost all of the women I know who had kids young had their male partners run out on them, either soon or late, and in most cases the man had been the one who first wanted the kid! Since I knew I didn't want kids, this didn't really have any effect on my thinking - but it has made me very, very skeptical about men as parents, especially young men, especially men who really talk about how they definitely want a kid Right Now! None of those guys stuck around - partly because they were young and flaky, partly because they were sexist jerks (who mostly have ducked out on child support) and partly because since they were very young there were additional economic and social stresses on their relationships.

Fortunately, my social circle is such that it's just not cool to lean on people about when they plan to marry/have kids, so I've dealt with very little of that.
posted by Frowner at 2:19 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

One thing I forgot to mention as silly as it may seem. Guys who want kids or want to get married, become extremely unattractive to me....I just couldn't put myself in that situation again. Now it is possible, that maybe someone I'm with could change their mind, but that has happened and it made me want to be away from them even more.

So how should I deal with someones questions these type of issues without them insulting me and without me seeming like a bitch? I know people say I am young, but other people I know are young and are making these decisions. I wish I had the resources to just get up and move, but it looks like I will be in this situation for awhile.
posted by Autumn89 at 2:21 PM on October 30, 2012

I'm in my 30s and don't want kids. The only reason my wife and I got married (though we'd been shackin' up for years) was I was moving out of the country and it was much easier to get her in on a spousal visa rather than as an individual.

I've been assured for years that I'd change my mind and want kids. Hasn't happened yet. Every now and then I'm around a kid and get twitchy and annoyed after 15 minutes.

Because, here's the thing, what if they're wrong? What if I DID decide to have a kid but, oops, still hate kids? Now I'm stuck with a kid I don't like for 18 years. Doesn't seem right.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:22 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm hitting my early 30's and I still don't want to get married or have kids.

We're social animals, we judge our own normal based on what people around us are doing. If everyone around you is doing something differently, your brain is going to start asking if you should be following the herd. That's why you feel this way. It's not that what everyone else is doing would be correct for you, it's just that everyone is doing it.

I had those confusing and turbulent feelings about these things when I was younger, as I get older my knowledge of myself gets deeper and I know I'm doing what is right for me (I also believe that other people are doing what is right for them). Sounds like you are making the decisions for yourself based on what you know of yourself, and questioning it when you don't instantly have an answer. Sounds healthy and mature to me!

(Also, everyone I know who got married in their late teens/early 20's is divorced now, and the women are single parents with little support from their ex's. I have no regrets.)
posted by Dynex at 2:23 PM on October 30, 2012

People have said "You'll change your mind"...

Eh, you might. And you might decide one day to take up hula dancing. Worry about it then. Just because other people are doing something doesn't mean you have to. Yes, we're social creatures and attempting to fit in is normal, but it's not an obligation.

I am a 31-year-old father of one. It is a fairly all-encompassing experience. Like every other experience, it has its highs and its lows, but unlike every other experience, you can't decide to quit if you figure out you don't like it after a few months. Once you start, you're committed for a long time, even though it does seem to get easier as they get bigger.

Don't do it if you don't want to. One of the great this about getting older is that the older you get, the less you care what other people think about your decisions. Don't worry, the human race want go extinct just because you're not contributing offspring.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:25 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

You never know what the future brings.

When I was in my late 20's I thought I might want kids, but only if I were married. Since there wasn't a good guy to marry in my life, it passed me by.

I got married at 39, when I met the most amazing guy. It was kismet, beshert.

At that point, neither one of us wanted kids and it's been great!

When you're young, you can feel very strongly about things like marriage and family. Sometimes your views change, sometimes they don't.

One thing to be careful of is that it's possible that either you or your current boyfriend may think differently about having children further down the line. It doesn't make either of you bad people. Or, both of you will never marry and have kids. Who knows.

All you can do is live your life and take each day as it comes.

As for what others are doing, meh. That's them, you're you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:25 PM on October 30, 2012

So how should I deal with someones questions these type of issues without them insulting me and without me seeming like a bitch?

"I've never wanted kids. And I want kids to have parents who want them."
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:26 PM on October 30, 2012 [17 favorites]

So how should I deal with someones questions these type of issues without them insulting me and without me seeming like a bitch?

Well, you can't control how they question you, that's really on them and you shouldn't stress about it. If they think you're a bitch because you don't want to have kids, I say let them think you're a bitch. Embrace your bitchitude!

The creepy guy on the corner thinks I'm a colossal bitch when he commands me to smile and I flip him off instead. It's an opinion I wear with honour.

(Maybe don't flip people off when they ask if you want kids, they might just be making conversation.)
posted by Dynex at 2:27 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Favouriting feral_goldfish so hard. That's the key thing: kids deserve parents who really really want to have kids. Anything less is sadness.

And I think maybe that's your gateway into getting people off your back. It's not about what you want, it's about what's best for the nebulous children in some bizarro world future envisioned for you by someone else.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:30 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you so much for all your comments. The best thing I think I have said in the past when asked this question is "I feel like if you want to have a baby, you should be 100% positive and if anything goes wrong with it's health, if it grows up to be crazy, if your babies daddy leaves you, you have to be there for that child. That is a risk that I am not willing to take in the future." It really made people think that I was being selfish. But I only have one life, so I am going to be selfish!
posted by Autumn89 at 2:34 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Guys who want kids or want to get married, become extremely unattractive to me....I just couldn't put myself in that situation again. Now it is possible, that maybe someone I'm with could change their mind, but that has happened and it made me want to be away from them even more.

I hear this! I remember how freaked out I was when my first serious boyfriend started talking about having a baby (and that was basically just a Fantasy Football League version - he didn't really want one). I never really felt the same in that relationship; I felt somehow reduced, like I had to be aware always to keep from being pulled into a trap. (And he was a great guy; we're still friends.)

Honestly, one of the things I've accepted about myself is that certain kinds of risk and loss of control aren't cool with me. Some of it is upbringing/family stuff, some of it childhood experiences, some of it a long illness I had when I was young, some of it is just random. These experiences make having a child sort of extra unappealing for me...it's not just something I don't want, it's something I really, viscerally don't want.

And I'm okay with that! I am the person that my upbringing made me. I'm not hurting anyone by not having a child. I don't owe anyone children. So what if maybe I'm a little more "really don't want to be pregnant ever OMG" than many women? As long as I'm not a jerk about it and not a jerk to my friends or friends' kids, that's fine.
posted by Frowner at 2:34 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Personally, I think bringing an unwanted child into the world to sate your own ego and societal expectations is way more selfish than not having one because you know you don't want one.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:36 PM on October 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

Frowner, I wish we could be friends. :) Lol. No disrespect to anyone who has them or wants them, or is TRYING so hard to have them, but I think it is the unpredictable part of it that is very unappealing to me. Yes my life could take a change for the worse tomorrow, but I would rather do it by MYSELF then have to take some innocent baby in it with me.
posted by Autumn89 at 2:38 PM on October 30, 2012

I know people say I am young, but other people I know are young and are making these decisions.

And many will eventually regret them. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's a good idea. Some people you know will also decide to do heroin or steal things or play golf in a lightning storm or jump off a cliff. This does not mean you have to do those things too.

Married at 32, vasectomy shortly after, 40 now and no regrets yet. Never wanted kids, didn't like being a kid, can't think of any compelling reasons to have them.

These questions that you don't like being asked? Rude, awful, bad, mean, evil questions that emotionally mature people - who've had any sort of adult exposure to the world so that they understand that this is a private and sometimes brutally heartbreaking matter for some people - don't ask. It's enough of an answer to tell them that it's inappropriate to ask. And then hope they grow up one day.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:39 PM on October 30, 2012

I got married at 22, before any friends or family. At 32, none of my friends from high school or college have gotten married, and only one has a child. It's okay to be different from everyone else. It's okay to be really sure about it too -- I was and I still think it was the best decision. (And I'm sure why friends are happy single too.)

I agree that moving to a more urban area where people are more career driven might help. (I can't imagine living in a place where a 23 year old gets asked about why she hasn't had kids yet.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:45 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had my tubes tied at 21 because I didn't want kids that much. Every vaguely serious boyfriend since then has gotten the talk. It basically goes, "Hey, I don't want kids. Like for reals, don't want kids. I'm not changing my mind and even if I do, it's kind of hard to undo. So if you really want kids, now is the time for leaving."

A few guys backed out early on after that talk, two stuck around for a while. One realized it was too important and he did want kids, the other one is my husband. He's said he wouldn't mind kids, but their absence is nothing that he really notices. He enjoys our life the way it is, as do I.

Back in my early thirties there was a rush to have babies by my friends, but it seems to have leveled out a bit now. It got tiring to see perfectly intellgient friends begin to talk about nothing but babies, but the same thing happens when someone buys a house or gets married. These big life changes absorb all of your focus. I've just tried to be understanding and let a good bit of the baby talk slide. But honestly, there'll always be someone judging you for not having kids, and there's not much you can do about it. I just smile and nod and make a joke and then politely change the subject.

If it continues to be a drama, then that's a sign that this person and I shouldn't be friends.
posted by teleri025 at 2:48 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

So how should I deal with someones questions these type of issues without them insulting me and without me seeming like a bitch?

Early 40s, never wanted children here. I'm male, and I know men don't get those sorts of questions as much as women, but on the infrequent occasions I do get asked about it, my default response (with a grin) is "oh, I can barely take care of myself, I definitely shouldn't be responsible for anyone else."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:51 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Let me tell you about my workmate. She's 45, never wanted kids. Thought that she and her husband couldn't have kids, and were totally happy about that.

Then she got pregnant. People said that she'd be super excited when the kid came along, and be really glad about it....and she wasn't, particularly. She just isn't wired to really really want children. [At one point she forgot about her kid completely, left him in his pram in a park and went to leave...]

So yeah. You are definitely not alone, and getting pregnant doesn't necessarily make people want kids.

I like what rtha and others say: maybe you'll change your mind. Maybe you won't. People do evolve and change, so be open to the possibility that you will. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with you for not wanting kids, now or in the future.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:51 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

That's what I think I need to do from now on. If I start dating someone I should tell me I don't want kids...I've hurt one person I cared for deeply without having this conversation. The only thing that sucks with finding guys like me is that usually we don't get along. We may have these things in common, but personality wise these guys are jerks to me. Not saying the other males on here that don't want kids are, but the ones I did find that didn't want kids were just rude. That's why I'm hanging on to my boyfriend for dear life, and not just that but we get along pretty well. :)
posted by Autumn89 at 2:54 PM on October 30, 2012

23 is so so young. Many people getting married now will be divorced in a few years.

Don't let anyone influence you but you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:58 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

And that's what I can see happening. It doesn't matter what age you get married, but not everyone stays together forever..I have heard many stories of people who are married around here that are married, but neglected, unhappy, or cheating! Wow, I make my state seem so wonderful to live in. Lol. I am almost jealous of my boyfriends life. He has tons of friends who don't have children. But then again where he lives, rent is $1,000 a month for a one bedroom apartment, compared to rent here being $450-500 a month for a one bedroom.
posted by Autumn89 at 3:04 PM on October 30, 2012

[Heya, Autumn89, I'm hoping you've gotten some useful answer from this thread but we expect Ask Metafilter not to be used as a chat space and it feels like this is going in that direction a bit at this point. If you specifically need to follow up on or clarify something in the question, that's fine, but you need to not just sort of converse in general in here.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:08 PM on October 30, 2012

I'm 29 and divorced when I was 25. I don't want kids; the older I get, the less I want them. My ex-husband does want kids, and even though he said he was fine with that still secretly told our friends and family that eventually I'd change my mind. Hence the "ex" before his title.

I love kids and my friends' kids; I would not be a good parent. I'm too selfish and too ambitious regarding my own wants and needs. Do I ever think about my potential kids? Sure. I'm human. But I'm also a realist. And I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything because I have the opportunity to be a big part of kids' lives through my friends and through volunteering and teaching.

People tell me I'll change my mind; I just smile. I like being "cool Aunt Sara."

The guy I've been involved with for a few years now has teenage/grown kids. He doesn't desire any more. This is good for us, because he loves his kids and has that outlet.

We say that neither one of us really wants to get married again, but it he asked me, I'd say yes. I think he agrees with me so that we don't have to have that conversation, and that's okay too.

Don't let anyone convince you to place yourself in a situation that would make you feel that you've compromised your opportunity for the life that you want.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 3:15 PM on October 30, 2012

Did anyone else go through these feeling but despite their feelings go along and have a baby? And if so, are they truly happy with their life?

I was 18 when I started dating someone. He never wanted to get married because the marriages he knew were abusive and he was pretty solidly on the "no" side of the kid thing. I was okay with that at first, but as time wore on, started wanting some of the tangible benefits (think: legal) of marriage and just kind of warmed to the idea. I asked if he'd be game and he said he would.

I love love love being married. It's awesome. We have a very good, loving, stable relationship--a friendship, first and foremost. I feel very secure, which I never did when I was single. A plus plus plus, would marry again.

I should note that from 18-26 I was vehement that I never wanted children. I went so far as trying to get my husband to get a vasectomy. He waffled a lot--turns out he was worried I would change my mind.

The scary thing is that I did. I had to go off birth control for health reasons and suddenly found myself very, very, very much wanting children. And weirdly, my husband has warmed to the idea too. He was 24 when we were first together, and has changed very much over the last decade. We plan on starting a family soon and I'm really excited about it!

I felt almost ashamed at first for changing my mind. I wondered if I'd looked stupid. And I wondered if this shift in my opinions made me a bad person--a breeder, a square, a bad feminist.

For me, a lot of my maturation process has been realizing that you don't need to reject everything that you see as traditional to be a good feminist, which is the position I was coming from when I was younger. Rather, you make the best choices you can for yourself in a given situation. I'm also glad to realize now that you can and will change over time. I'm not the same woman I was at 18, nor am I the same one I will be at 38. I just hope I can make choices which honor myself, even as that self is constantly in flux.

I think it's good you're not making decisions based purely on what's expected of you. But I think it's also good not to make decisions based in reaction to what's expected of you, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:28 PM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think you're smart and responsible to recognize that you don't want kids, and even more so that it would be unwise to force yourself to do so anyway to "keep up with the Joneses" in some way, and find yourself unhappy as a parent.

This isn't like trying a food you think you won't like to prove to yourself or someone else you actually don't like it. As you say, it's your life.

The planet is groaning under 7 billion people. It really, really doesn't need another baby, and especially not one from someone who's pretty sure motherhood is not for her.
posted by zadcat at 3:44 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, mid 20's female here, and I don't like kids. There are ones I can tolerate in the presence of their parents, but that's about it. I hate it when people say with certainty "You're young--you'll change your mind". Like, don't I have some agency? I hated being kid, always never liked being with children, and it would take a huge life change for me to change my relationship with children in general, much less my own. Being hetero, I'm also wary of being saddled with the double-shift trap... my partner and I working wage labour full time, but I have to take care of both kid and house. Screw that, no way, I don't want to end up becoming my mother. Sure, the way to remedy that is to find a spouse that will do things in actual gender egalitarian manner, but that's crazy hard to do in practice when you have to go against so much hetero socializing. But currently I dislike children enough that I can't have any of my own even if I were to play in a "traditional father" capacity (play with them then hand them back to the caretaker when they need something).

But yeah, currently the way I retort to those kinds of comments is "Yeah I'm young, but me wanting children is like me becoming [insert obscure religion here]. Possible, but highly unlikely." That usually gets them to shut up, or they repeat themselves in a way that doesn't add to the conversation so I just switch the subject because I have made my point.

You're not alone, and move out to the city.
posted by Hawk V at 4:05 PM on October 30, 2012

48-year-old woman here with a 45-year-old male partner; neither of us have ever wanted kids and my partner had a vasectomy to make sure he'd never have them. And, yes, there's a lot of social pressure on women to WANT to get married and have kids and people are weird if you say you don't want either one. People told me that I would change my mind when I "met the right man," that the baby craving would hit me at age 25, etc., and it just never happened. And, frankly, I think it's super rude to say that stuff, as it implies that the speaker knows me better than I know myself; there's something really condescending about saying those things. I kind of think they do it because seeing your life makes them wonder if they made the right choice; it's a lot more comfortable to pretend that everybody has kids, so you're the weird one. I'm with you, OP, I think kids deserve to be really wanted; it's because I take childrearing so seriously that I didn't want to do it unless I was ready to commit to it. That's how I would respond to people who ask you when you're having kids. And maybe consider widening your social circle a bit? 'Cause there are actually lots of people who don't have kids, are thinking the same things you are, and would like to have some new friends who don't have kids. Maybe take a look at Meetup groups in your area?

And zadcat is so right: even if you never recycle a single can in your whole life, you're having a HUGE impact on the environment by not having kids. So thank you!
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:17 PM on October 30, 2012

Another vote for move to the city, especially one on one of the coasts.

I'm in my late 20s and almost no one I know is married or has kids - I live in SF now and NYC previously. I have a few colleagues and friends in their mid-30s who do, but they are the exception. Most people wait until they're older than that (partly because it's extremely expensive to have kids in the city) and most people are focused on their careers/fun/travel/whatever in the mean time.

In contrast, almost everyone I know who lives inland or in "smaller" towns (big cities for their region, but not big compared to SF or wherever) got married almost as soon as college was out, got a mortgage, and proceeded to pop out some children. From my perspective it seems a product of boredom and cultural expectations - it's just what is expected of people that age, and they don't have any other ambitions so they just go with the flow. Nothing wrong with that, but now that we're all getting to be around 30-ish many of them are on their second marriages and are clearly bitter about the cultural roles and responsibilities they took on when they were in their early 20s.

I can't even really imagine dating someone here who would even say "I want to get married and have kids in the near future" yet most of my friends back home are settled into the suburbs for the long haul doing exactly that. Even if I wanted kids or that life (I don't) it seems like such an abstract possibility that's it's not even really an option. I have a friend in NYC who is from my home town, and when we go back for the holidays and see our old group of friends we always talk about this - "I love these guys and I hope they're happy, but man am I glad I got out of here."
posted by bradbane at 4:33 PM on October 30, 2012

Move! It's a very regional thing. If, at 23, I told my big city friends that I was getting married and having a baby they would have had me involuntarily committed. Nearing 30 now and I am married and so are some of my friends, but wedding fever didn't hit until late 20s. I suspect baby fever as we edge closer to 35.
posted by murfed13 at 5:51 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know people say I am young, but other people I know are young and are making these decisions.

Yes, and if you are old enough to decide to have a child you are old enough to decide never to have one. Likewise, if you are old enough to decide to get married, you are old enough to decide not to.

(I'm 38 and have never, ever wanted children.)
posted by Violet Hour at 6:01 PM on October 30, 2012

yeah, wtf. when i was 23 i was dating hot twins. not wanting marriage and kids at that age is super, super normal.
posted by elizardbits at 6:11 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hey, Dudette! I bet you are getting A) a lot of testimonials from (un)married childfrees who are super stoked to be (un)married childfrees or B) people who changed their mind and love! their! babies! and want to remind you that you, too, could be someone who might change their mind.

I bet many of these responses still feel kind of pressuring, yes?

Here's the deal: tons of people like to come in and testify, not necessarily because they want to help you (thought that is what they might think), but because they are re-enacting their decision in order to (re)legitimate it in the eyes of the world, and to themselves. In doing so, there is some implicit urge for you to indirectly validate their decision, which in turns, makes you feel pressured.

Reason why? We all feel pressured about these decisions! Western culture is very competitive, and can be very critical, especially if you are a women. So, regardless of whether you have kids, never have kids, or become a foster mom to an entire army of gutterpunks who raise seeing eye puppies between pandhandling gigs, you're are going to feel pressure, because everyone feels pressured, and they're trying to displace it, or to make themselves feel better.

It's understandable, but kind of sucky. Know what's even more sucky? Even when you're 32, you're going to face the same shit: a new group of friends will married, your mom friends will keep telling you that you are going to change your mind (remember, ovaries shrivel up right at the turn of 35, so better watch out!), and people will still implicitly ask you to legitimate their own personal decision...which all ends up making you feel like you have to wade through all this BS, yet again. I bet it happens at 42, too. It's not going to go away, though it might change.

As long as you are doing what feels congruent to you, you are doing all right.
No matter what old or new pressures you face, or what questions you get asked, or what insensitive insults get thrown your way, you should just ask yourself, "does what I'm doing feel congruent with me and my core values/interests/desires?"

If the answer is "yes," keep doing it, no apologies, no guilt, no nothing.
posted by vivid postcard at 6:14 PM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think you are the farthest thing from selfish for feeling the way you do!! I think it's selfish for people to say they can't wait to have a "mini-me" to attempt to train and pass on all of their own traits and beliefs without acknowledging that it's actually a human who will turn into an adult who might be completely different than expected. I also know more than a few people who feel exactly the way you do, both single and coupled. And yes I live in an east coast city.

I was always really vague on the idea of having my own children, never fantasized about babies/pregnancy, and actually spent most of my life fantasizing about adoption. There was a period of time when I watched every TLC "Adoption Story" and cried, but any time I saw a clip of "A Baby Story" I wanted to puke (still do really). But my spouse doesn't feel this strongly about adoption, not enough that I feel ok pressuring him into it right now. He does feel strongly about trying for our own children first. Meanwhile my "I don't want a baby" has turned into "I'm willing to make some personal sacrifices to raise a human or two to be decent people who could possibly make the world a better place and I already know my spouse is going to be a wonderful dad and husband, so I'm willing to give this a shot right now." (how's that for trying to legitimate my personal decision to others?)

Maybe you'll sort-of change your mind like this in the future, maybe you won't, it really isn't anyone's business but your own! For better or (usually for) worse, choosing to have or not have children is the only decision we can make all on our own, without any mandatory testing, training, or practice, but usually with a lot of other people's opinions forced on you. i truly admire people who are not interested in having children and have no problem sharing that information with others (especially parents, ha) - hopefully you will meet someone like me or my child-free friends at some point!
posted by wannabecounselor at 6:50 PM on October 30, 2012

Many others have covered the emotional, social, and practical aspects of this, so I'll just go ahead and point out that the average age for first marriage in the United States today is 28.9 for men and 26.8 for women. So if you end up wanting to get married at some point down the road, you still have a ways to go before you even reach that. And that's not counting the significant portion of the population who never get married. You're only "different" in that the people you know happen to be getting married younger than the average, there isn't anything unusual about you.
posted by gregoryg at 7:06 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have friends who the same thing you do, that Everyone wants them to have kids and doubting their honesty when they say they don't want them. I don't get that. I'm 40, don't want kids and largely haven't since puberty. But any time someone told me I would want them some day I just said, "I don't think so, but we'll see". Nobody can argue with that, I guess, because people haven't bugged me about kids pretty much since the Clinton Administration. If that fails, ask them about how many kids they want - everyone loves to talk about themselves.
posted by ldthomps at 7:23 PM on October 30, 2012

I am almost jealous of my boyfriends life. He has tons of friends who don't have children. But then again where he lives, rent is $1,000 a month for a one bedroom apartment, compared to rent here being $450-500 a month for a one bedroom.

I take it your boyfriend lives in a bigger city, or closer to the city? Smaller towns tend to have a different pace when it comes to settling down and having children. It's more expensive to live in bigger cities, but it sounds like the lifestyle and pace would suit you better.

There is nothing wrong with not wanting marriage or children. It might feel strange that everyone around you is jumping on that bandwagon, but that doesn't mean you have to join them. It's your life to live. And you're so young, there is no hurry to make any kind of decision about these things. In my early 20's I was sure I wanted children but could take or leave marriage. Now in my late 20's I looove being married but have much more complicated feelings regarding children. I feel like I still have time to be sure I'm making the right choice for myself. You've got tons of time!
posted by keep it under cover at 7:27 PM on October 30, 2012

Married, neither of us ever wanted kids, now glad I'm in my forties so I don't get harassed about it any more.
Sure, lots of people are happy with kids, even a bunch who didn't want them - but that doesn't mean that kids are the one and only path to happiness. It's like that person who keeps going on and on AND ON about chocolate cake being the best thing in the world - yeah, it's nice, but so are a lot of other things, and it's perfectly ok to not be into chocolate cake.

In a case of perfect timing, the t-shirt my husband asked me to buy him arrived today... 'nuff said.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:30 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

there is nothing, NOTHING wrong with not wanting to be married or have children. And I say that as someone who wanted both those things since I was a young teenager. Just. . . just nothing wrong with it at all. It's true, you might change your mind; I know a couple of people who have, who have gone from NOPE NOPE NOPE to OMG BABIES overnight, or who have gone from "gosh, doesn't seem worth it" to "well if I'm having them with YOU, then sign me up!" or whatever. But you also might not. Either is fine, because nobody gets to make reproductive decisions for you but you.

And the whole selfish thing? Choosing not to have children is no more selfish than choosing not to become a maxillofacial surgeon, or a mountain climber, or a symphony conductor. You do not have a responsibility to produce extra people to populate the earth. In fact, that's how I'd recommend responding to the "when are you getting married / having kids?" questions: "Oh, I'm not! When are you going to medical school / opening a restaurant / starting training for the US Olympic Canoeing Team?" Anybody who'd make such crass assumptions deserves the whiplash.
posted by KathrynT at 8:00 PM on October 30, 2012

Yeah... I lived in SF, bunch of friends live in East Coast cities, live in Sydney now. Almost all my friends are still single - only just started getting married (we're 30). I got married super young at 26. We might have a (solitary) kid in a few years, and we'd be the 2nd of our friends to do so. Age is definitely part of it. Geography is part of it in the sense that NO ONE has ever asked me what my relationship/breeding plans are. NONE of their business! "None of your beeswax" is a perfectly legit reply. I'd be super annoyed if peeps were hassling me too!

I have PCOS, so having a (ONE) kid may be tricky anyway, definitely don't want to talk about it. If I can't have kids with reasonable (minor) intervention, I'll probably just let it go. There are so many awesome things you can do without kids too... like volunteer overseas long term in yellow fever zones. =) =) =)

My aunt is 60+ and never married or had kids. It's OKAY. You're really young - your friends, imo, are too young to be getting married and poppin' em out. I did TONS of stuff before being comfortable getting married (he didn't slow me down though - the opposite!) or thinking about kids. (What changed for me? Mostly, I got tired of "me" - worring about moving again, what job to take, etc... worring about "me" and realizing they are all boring first-world non-problems. The "doing whatever I want!" got boring, and I got comfortable with who I am. I love - LOVE - my husband, and he'd be an awsome dad; also I've had a lot of adventures... it's just another adventure, and I'm ready to learn to worry about and be generous to someone else... but this is after years of globe-trotting craziness.)

I love this T-shirt.

and this blog post. (Lots of comments by older women who never had kids.)
posted by jrobin276 at 8:20 PM on October 30, 2012

Oh, I have a great story about this. The best answer I ever heard someone give repeatedly when they kept insisting that one day she'd want kids is, "egh, maybe, let's see how it goes". It was annoying because there is something obnoxious about other people insisting they know you better than you know yourself. And that if you only knew yourself better, you'd want exactly what they want for themselves. It's. Ego personified. But with her it was funny because her mom just wouldn't let her be, and by friend would just goad her by responding with a shrug and "egh, maybe". And the best was when she actually was pregnant a couple of years later, and one or two of her friends would say something obnoxious like, "I told you you'd have kids"....and she'd put her hand on her tummy , as if she was seriously considering her pregnancy and she'd say, "egh, maybe. Let's see how it goes".

Drove them nuts. It was awesome.
posted by anitanita at 8:31 PM on October 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

In my early 20s I was insisting I would never move for a man, that I didn't want kids, and that my career always came first. I also broke up with a guy shortly after a botched proposal when we were in college because OH GOD NO I CAN'T GET MARRIED. Now in my late 20s I'm happily engaged, moved to a different country for my guy, looking forward to having kids some day (not any time soon), and yes, my career is really important, but there are ways of making it work without being exclusive of everything else. So. Shit happens that you don't expect. Maybe it will happen to you in a way that will make you end up married with kids. Maybe it won't. Either is perfectly fine and normal.

My advice is to just leave yourself open to things changing *in any respect*. Perhaps you'll get married but won't want kids after all, or maybe you'll want kids but decide to screw the institution of marriage. And maybe in ten years you'll still be thinking exactly the way you do now. But the reason I say to keep an open mind is because if you DO change your mind from your firmly-held beliefs in your early 20s, if you have been absolutely adamant about it all this time (and, let's admit it, been a little judgmental of others in the process), you'll spend more time than you're willing to admit trying to justify to yourself why you've changed your mind about something you considered so critically important and defining about your relationships. That's time wasted and it just makes you feel crappy for a while.
posted by olinerd at 1:50 AM on October 31, 2012

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