15 Women on How They Know They’re Pretty Damn Sure They Don’t Want Kids

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Cuddling in bed recently with the handsome surgeon I’m hooking up with, (those details aren’t relevant, I just want everyone to know that I’m banging a hot doctor) I happened to drop that I’m 99 percent positive I never want to have kids—because one thing about me is that I definitely think post-sex pillow talk with even the most casual of flings is the perfect time to discuss major life choices like my reproductive future. His response: “How does one come to that conclusion?”

It’s important to note that he didn’t ask in the typical, “How do you know? I’m sure you’ll change your mind,” kinda way this question is often posed to young women who proclaim their plans for a child-free future. This inquiry struck me as coming from a place of genuine curiosity. And honestly, it was a good question. How did I come to this conclusion? And when, exactly?

As a child, I’d certainly assumed I’d follow the standard first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Kayla with the baby carriage prototype of adult life my parents had modeled. I’d played with baby dolls and begged my mom for the pregnant Barbie (which, I’m just now learning, was apparently the subject of some pretty hilarious outrage in the early 2000s). In my tween years I’d browse baby names online for hours and make the Sim versions of me and my crush “WooHoo” until we had a small army of Sim children. When did I start to phase motherhood out of my plans for the future, and why the change of heart?

Was it when, as a newly sex-having teen, the terror of unplanned pregnancy that had been drilled into my brain by fear-based sex ed and millennial media (lookin’ at you, Secret Life of the American Teenager) had me Googling things like “Can you get pregnant from pre-cum on birth control?” Or was it a few years later when, with the future of women’s reproductive freedom increasingly uncertain, I started having nightmares about being pregnant and unable to access an abortion? (A nightmare that, tragically, is now becoming a reality for more and more women in this country.)

As far as I can tell, there was no one a-ha moment, reason, or experience that made me not want kids. I just grew up and, somewhere along the way, realized that I simply have no interest in being a parent. It’s not even just that kids don’t fit into my other plans—I didn’t sacrifice my dreams of motherhood to prioritize my career or my passion for being a carefree degenerate. I’ve simply never had those dreams at all—at least not as an adult for whom parenthood is a potential reality. I know I don’t want to have kids the same way I know I don’t want to become an astronaut or go blonde. Those just aren’t things I’m interested in doing with my life.

Still, I was curious how other childfree-by-choice women had come to their own conclusions on the matter. So I asked them. Here’s what they had to say.

1.“I’ve always known I didn’t want children. When I was a kid myself, my favorite game was pretending to be adults with boyfriends and fashion jobs in NYC—baby dolls never did it for me. I’ve been vocal about it forever but usually people (especially women, which feels particularly hurtful/frustrating) tell me I’ll change my mind when I meet the right guy. It just doesn’t fit with the lifestyle I see for myself and I personally don’t feel great about having kids knowing their future will be shaped by climate change. When people say it’s selfish not to have kids I just roll my eyes because really it’s anything but.” —Emma, 29

2. “I babysat only one time when I was in eighth grade. I hated it. I knew children were likely not for me at that point, but became positive once my sister and friends started having children. Their lives looked messy, loud, exhausting, awful, thankless and expensive (and not in the fun way). Hard pass. I’d love to say I have ‘noble’ reasons for not having children, like being mindful of overpopulation in our dying planet, or that I plan to adopt (I don’t) to help the children already in this world, but it comes down to three things: 1) I am selfish and don’t want to put energy/thoughts/money/time/love etc. into a child. 2) Children are annoying and I don’t want to put the time/energy/patience into being around them. 3) I love my current life and don’t feel it would be better in any way with children in it. Being a weird, rich, traveling aunt, on the other hand? Sign me up.” —Trisha, 33

    3. “I’ve always known that having kids was not for me. I have Tokophobia, which is a fear of getting pregnant. The thought of a baby growing in my stomach, which most consider a beautiful thing, is scary to me. On my Tinder profile, I’ve always ended my bio with: ‘A non-smoker who has no interest in marriage or having kids but wants a relationship would be a dream come true (if you already have a kid or two that’s a-okay).’ I have a job where I’m constantly on the go and I also love to travel and know that my life wouldn’t be the same with a child. That said, I love other people’s kids—especially when they’re at the stage where they can walk, talk and use the restroom without assistance.” —Marie, 40

    4. “I’m not sure when I realized I don’t want to have kids, but I do know that I saw the sacrifices parents had to make—sometimes giving up their life dreams to care for their child(ren)—and I didn’t want that to be my reality. I love children and I dream of eventually opening up a school, but when I was a teacher, I was satisfied with taking care of other people’s kids and then going home alone. I also spent a long time caring for my siblings when I was younger. I don’t want the responsibility again.” —Brianna, 22

    5. “I was 11 years old, sitting at a table with some friends while our moms puttered in the kitchen. I don’t know what we were talking about, but I remember saying, ‘I don’t want children. I think I’m meant to mother in a different kinda way.’ What happened next was traumatizing. My friend’s mom came over, crouched down and said, ‘I know you say that now, but you’re not really a real woman until you have a child. You’re young. You’ll see.’ Although probably well intentioned, as an adult I know how shaming that response actually was—and that I should probably be back-charging her for therapy bills. It’s funny though, as a professional dominatrix and sex worker, one of my specialty niches is Adult Baby Diaper Lover (ABDL) and Adult Nursing Relationship (ANR). So 11-year-old me was right: I am meant to mother in a different kinda way.” —Priestess Francesca

    6. “Unlike a lot of women I’ve spoken to who knew they didn’t want kids from a young age, I started out wanting four kids (!) as a teenager. As I got older, the numbers slowly dwindled to three, two, one, adoption to none—the reason being all the reasons someone would not want kids: economic, climate, personal, what it would do to my body (not just appearance-wise but as a sufferer of chronic pain) and career, and also the fact that I just don’t like them or like being around them that much!” —Scarlett

    7. “Growing up, I always thought I’d have a huge family. Now as an adult, the reality of the world is much different than the fantasy I was raised with. Having kids isn’t financially feasible with inflated costs and lack of social support like affordable childcare and healthcare. Even if all economic concerns were removed, I know I’d be part of a privileged few, and I question if I’d even want to bring a child into a world with so much disparity.” —Lorrae, 33

    8. “I don’t think there was a particular moment when I said, ‘I don’t want kids.’ I don’t think I ever felt that draw towards having children. My family isn’t the happiest about this and I feel like they think I’m joking half the time when I say I don’t want kids. I am the oldest grandchild and oldest daughter, which puts a lot of unfair pressure on me to get married and have children. (Although my mom also welcomes grand-dog-children.)” —Haley, 26

    9. “I spent the first decade of my working life in childcare jobs. I got burned out early on the appeal of childrearing and never really recovered. Also, I live in a big city and work in a creative field. I’m damn lucky I can afford to have a place to myself and a cat, and it took me till 33 to even get to that point. Kids are out of the question.” —Jennie, 33

    10. “I grew up with five siblings and an abusive father. I watched my mom give her entire life to her children without receiving any real romantic love or support (or money!) because she didn’t have much of a choice. Try as I might, I cannot imagine a life raising children that seems more fulfilling than one without them. My childhood was rough, and having kids of my own feels sort of like a PTSD trigger. I’m lucky enough to be an aunt to three perfect kiddos, and I know that being able to enjoy my freedom will only make me happier to be a big part of their lives as they grow.” —Nicole, 25

    11. “Aside from having fun picking out future baby names as a little girl, I never *actually* felt a desire to procreate. Maybe because I’m the youngest of eight kids myself (that seems like enough carbon cost to the world!), or because the Catholicism drilled into me from an early age never clicked, but for whatever reason the thought of bringing a child into this world always seemed selfish and, honestly, a little wrong to me. From a very early age I wondered, why would anyone force this on an unwitting soul? As I became a teen and started babysitting and nannying I knew for sure: Kids are NOT for me. I don’t enjoy them until they’re at least teenagers and can hold a conversation. I genuinely don’t think babies are cute, and I find kids annoying, not charming. I also have a theory that since I come from such a big lineage, maybe I was born without the gotta-get-preggo gene in order to balance out the over-population on Earth. Lastly, I value my sleep too much to ever sacrifice it for an offspring parasite.” —GG, 32

    12. “My family likes to joke that I didn’t even like children when I was a child. I knew I didn’t want to have kids back in elementary school when we were asked to describe how we want our future to look and everyone else imagined having a family and that just didn’t make sense to me. That feeling has never changed. I don’t think I’d be a good parent and the horror that some women go through during pregnancy is not worth it to me.” —Jules, 26

    13. “Motherhood has never been a dream of mine. When I was a child, I opted to play video games instead of playing house, wore overalls instead of make-believe “wedding dresses,” and never selected a baby doll at Toys R Us. Now, as a woman in her 40s, my preferences haven’t changed. However, I do care about children and choose to support them through the non-profit route: sponsoring children, donating to child-related causes like No Kid Hungry, and volunteering to be a mentor. Also, I’m okay being the ‘somewhat cool’ last-resort babysitter when my friends or family can’t find anyone else. My favorite movie was and still is Adventures in Babysitting.” —Joy, 40

    14.Sex work has allowed me to deeply understand how men think—why they settle, why they cheat, and how little they understand about bodies that bear children. They think they know but they really don’t! People who give birth can experience regular prolapsing, dental complications, skin discoloration, and more. Seeing the intimate sides of men gives me less trust in believing that I’ll be raising a child in a partnered household, and raising kids alone is a huge undertaking that I’m not confident I can do well.” —Addis, 27

    15. “Since I turned 30 three years ago, many of my friends have started having kids, so I’ve spent a fair share of time observing and listening to stories. Everyone is exhausted, relationships turn upside down, and despite the unconditional love I know parents experience for their children, the sacrifice that comes with it increasingly outweighs the benefits to me as I get older. I’m in the best partnership I’ve ever had, my partner feels the same, and we don’t want to change our lives to have a child. It honestly feels freeing and I’m excited to be a great ‘aunt’ to my friends’ kids without all of the weight of being a parent.” —Natassia, 33

    Quotes have been lightly edited for context and clarity.

    Headshot of Kayla Kibbe

    Kayla Kibbe

    Associate Sex & Relationships Editor

    Kayla Kibbe (she/her) is the Associate Sex and Relationships Editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers all things sex, love, dating, and relationships • She lives in Astoria, Queens and probably won’t stop talking about how great it is if you bring it up • Follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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