I am one of those people…rare perhaps in the US, who is staunchly opposed to having children. (Well, at least among my friend/acquaintance group, so let’s go with that)
Let’s give a bit of background, and I’ll cycle around into how this has to do with me being a member of the pagan/polytheist/witch/occult community.
I am a woman, born and raised in a society that insists I have no worth if I am not having children. My own grandparents, a few of them, insisted that I have to have children, or else I’m not living a whole, full life. My grandfather has been telling me as much since I was 15 years old. A majority of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, even my cousins (all of whom, we must note, have had children), all insist that I will never understand true love without having a child. That I can never give voice to my opinions, as long as I have not popped out a child.
I am one of a small minority of women who do not want to have children. Not under any circumstances. Childbirth terrifies me. Children scare me. I hate them in all honesty. Children are not pleasant for me to be around. I don’t like how loud and whiny and messy babies and toddlers are. Little children are not much better, though they can at least get a snack pack and go to the bathroom on their own. But they’re still messy. I do not like children, and I never have. I have no maternal instincts in me, admittedly. My own friends with children have flat stated that they would never allow me to babysit alone, because I just don’t get what they seem to naturally understand as a parent. It goes deeper than my admitted annoyance at idiot parents who let their brats run around like hellions without consequences. I just don’t like children. Never have. But of course, to my family, there’s something fundamentally wrong with this perception. So I’m constantly told, “Oh, it’s different with your own children”, or “once you have a child, you’ll understand”; or my favorite, “once you meet the right man you’ll change your mind and want to have children.”
These are rude things to say on multiple fronts. It’s as if I have no worth as a person on my own, as a woman on my own. That I cannot have worth without having given birth to at least one, but more preferably several children. Or that, I just don’t know my own heart and will. Best–that once I meet some guy, I’ll miraculously grow to love the thought of children and having them. None of which are true. I know my heart, I know my mind, I know my limitations. I do not want children. Not just for the reasons I just listed, but a more fundamental one, which for me is the absolutely most important.
I am inherently selfish as a person. I want to do things my way, in my own time at my own decision. Having a child would not allow me the freedom that I want. I would have to cater to the little thing. Even if it were my own, I do not want to be beholden to any person. Having a child takes away freedoms to move and act as you want. Now there’s responsibility for someone who cannot take care of themselves. I do not want that. I am selfish. I want to be on my own, pick up and go do whatever I want, whenever I want. You cannot do that with a child, and I do not care what any of my new-parent friends say–you cannot travel or do things the same once you have children. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar to one extent or another.
I am comfortable admitting that I’m very selfish. But, I think I’m good to be selfish and admit that I know I don’t want children. And my plans to not bring any children into the world I think are smart. Because I cannot guarantee that I would love my child, and that is a cruel fate that I would not wish upon anyone. Not to mention, there are a host of mental and physical concerns that I would not want to pass on. All of which are fairly severe and too big a risk to knowingly risk passing on to another person. My concerns are difficult enough for me to handle, let alone considering giving them to someone else by my own actions. Also, my inherently selfish nature would make me a terrible parent. I have no desire to put another person completely above myself in my hierarchy of needs and priorities. I’ve come to terms with all that, and I’m fine with it. I am probably not meant to have children.
However, in the pagan community, this is somewhat a problem; that I do not want to have children. Not for the same reasons as it is with my family, but for similar reasons. See, paganism is stereotypically all about “fertility”. And women are supposed to go gleefully through the three stages of life:
Which I really have no desire to have to define my life, or the stages thereof, in relation to any other person. I’ve worked hard to be independent and not have to rely on another person to make my life into what it is. And traditionally, this cycle goes from youth and virginity, to motherhood and raising children, to the elder parts of life, after one is no longer capable of bearing children or once the children have left the roost. All of that is not to my liking. I am one who enjoys life as it comes. I don’t want to have to worry about being defined by what children I have, or how I raise them…or the sheer fact that raising children should define a whole part of my life.
But within the broader pagan community, it often feels like I’m somehow “wrong” for not following the neo-pagan prescription on fertility and how everything women does has to relate back to fertility. It sometimes feels as though I am wrong in even being part of the community when I am deliberately placing myself outside of the usual roles that women are supposed to take on. Women are supposed to be nurturers, caregivers, mothers and carers of children (stereotypically, of course, as there are always those who do not fit the mold). I am definitively not in any of those categories.
So it is sometimes awkward being in this community and knowing that I am very set on my beliefs. I am young, early 20s, which I know is young, so I’ve gotten the backlash online from other pagans who tell me, “you’ll change your mind in the future.” It’s the same thing I heard from my family…but it echoes in a different tone. From my family it’s condemnation that I am not continuing the family line. In the pagan community, it is a condemnation that I’m not following some prescribed fertility cycle that I should follow.
And I’ve never understood that. I’m not naive enough to think that the pagan community is so “all-inclusive” as to accept every belief that is out there. And they shouldn’t. Some beliefs are outside the norm. However, for a community that does tend towards tolerance more than some other groups, it does surprise that I get such push back for making an honest, well informed decision, understanding myself and my circumstances. Just because I have no interest in children, does not make me “broken” as a pagan, as I’ve been accused of before. There is no requirement for men to reproduce, to be seen as pagan enough, and yet I am, as a woman, expected to have children to be considered a real pagan. Or at least, I’ve gotten those comments often enough to realize that it is a real, pervading opinion in the community. And I’ve gotten them often enough that I rarely explain why I don’t want children. If it comes up in a discussion online, or in part of a pagan group, I just said I don’t have any, and refuse to elaborate further, because hearing about being “broken” often enough has made me weary of ever explaining myself, or even thinking I have to explain myself, again.
So I’ve learned a while ago, through lots of arguments and discussions–that there are some parts of the community I will never be welcome in. The fact that I choose not to have children, to willingly remove myself from the “fertility cycle”, does mean that some people do not welcome me. It is not exactly ideal, but I’ve accepted that. And I’ve come to terms that I am no longer worried about that.
It used to bother me. But I’ve come to terms. I no longer care. It’s my decision, intensely personal, and I know why I’ve opted to remove myself from this whole debate, with well-reasoned out opinion on my part. It might not make me fit in well with some sections of the community. That just means I’ll have to forge bonds with the parts of the community that are not requiring me to fit into a prescribed cycle of what my life should be.∗