Dear Therapist..."I Feel Judged for Choosing Not to Have Children"
I'm turning 40 and most of my friends either have children already, or want them desperately and are trying to have them. I feel quite alone in my wish not to procreate, and it's as though there's something wrong with me. I feel like people look at me and feel sorry for me and assume that my life must be meaningless if I'm not a mother. But then my friends who are mothers talk about hard it is to have children and how they envy my freedom.
Am I crazy for thinking that we should all stop judging each other and just enjoy our lives, whatever way that plays out? My life may be childless but it's still meaningful.
Dear childless and meaningful,
You are astute and witty and insightful and so likeable from this message alone; your friends are lucky to have you! The world is sadly still lagging behind on this one. You are entirely right that there are numerous paths to fulfilment and happiness and procreation is not only a choice that isn't for everyone, it's full of complexities and heartbreaks and challenges that do not make it a guarantee for lifelong fulfilment by any means. Human beings want and need myriad things and it's courageous and heartening that you know that motherhood isn't for you.
My response to your message is that society still indoctrinates us with some expectation that motherhood should happen. It's simply untrue and brava for knowing what you don't want. Hold onto living your meaningful life and knowing yourself well enough to recognise these pressures. When you say your friends envy you for your freedom, some of this might be the freedom you have to think for yourself, which is a rare and beautiful quality.