MANILA, Philippines – Considering the jostling, suffocating crowds in the metro these days, I figured people ought to be thanking me profusely each time I casually mention that I have no desire to have children of my own. While aboard the MRT, I have found myself wishing I were born two generations after family planning methods were made available for all. Of course it’s acceptable to suggest that I quit being prissy and move to New Zealand where there are more sheep than people. In any case, I still find it mad when they react incredulously to my passive unwillingness to contribute to overpopulation.
There are many other perfectly valid reasons to not have a child. I could cite the staggering cost of bringing up a healthy and well-educated individual, who’d be capable of reaching all the opportunities she wishes to take. I could say I enjoy my freedom and relish how I can make a plethora of life choices unbridled and without pressure.
I could say I’m selfish. It could also be that I’m too aware of the sacrifices a mother makes for her children. My parents are the best. I could never accuse them of not trying their damndest. They have taken and continue to take incredible pains for me and my siblings, from physical, financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, and many other levels that cannot be fully articulated. Their hearts baffle me. There had been times when I had reasonably come to the conclusion that a brother of mine was downright impossible and hopeless. I pitied and was a tad frustrated with my parents for not seeing this. But there had also been times when in my own impossibility, I got a real glimpse of how much they loved me. It was like standing in outer space with the sun in full view. I realized it could not be undone—for any of us. That kind of love and commitment scares me. I’ll be frank and say that while I know what I have and am eternally grateful, I don’t wish to put myself in that position. Imagining it in the future doesn’t entice me. I can see myself loving and committing to fields and other people, but not to offspring.
Lastly, I could say that I have never felt nor understood the so-called maternal instinct. As a full-fledged 25-year-old woman who has met other women like myself, a lot of them much older, I am telling you it is a myth that it always comes with the package. I also dislike children. I can only pretend for so long how, “Wow, yes, that balloon is so amazing! Yes, wow your teddy bear! You have so many toys, wow!” It’s exhausting.
The real issue
These are all true for me. I’d call them my reasons, but that would be flimsy. Finances can be figured out and worked on. Freedom is relative because everything, including career, ties us down and keeps us away from other possibilities. Selfishness and an aversion to sticky children can be shed, maternal instincts grown into. And if I really wanted to have a child, I most certainly wouldn’t be thwarted by the fact that our country’s population is pushing toward 100 million this year.
I don’t want to have a child because I’ve thought about it, over and over, and the answer was always no (as a matter of fact, if it weren’t the pushed norm, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it at all). And it’s not whether you’re a yes or a no that’s important. The most crucial point to all this is simply bothering to think. It scares me how people relate to having children as an automatic step. And when they bump into someone who diverges from this, they all jump to fix it.
This is a human being we’re talking about—a person who will continuously develop needs, thoughts, feelings, dreams, interpretations, dispositions, and make an impact on the world, whether constructive or destructive. So when people see a woman with a womb and dismissively assume that she ought to be popping out babies, it strikes me as a careless ideology. Isn’t it right that she should be thinking about it? And isn’t it right that if the answer were no, then no one should have to suffer for it?
Some might consider it a luxury, having parents rally love, conviction, and full responsibility behind them. Some might say they never had that, but were able to build good lives anyway. I acknowledge that. Still it is in my hands to do the best I can by people and potential people, and this is what I choose to (not) do.
Could I change my mind? Anything is possible. But if and until then, I don’t see why anyone should hold out for this. I am where I am and I will be where I will be. Do I worry about having someone take care of me when I’m older? I do. But I think that’s a sad, self-centered reason to create another life. You’re supposed to bite your own bullets, kids or no kids.
I will admit to liking a lot of my friends’ mommy pictures on Instagram—from their newborn babies, the sweet doodle cards their kids make for them, to their daughters’ first careers. I like them for the same reason I like and post away about my life. We’re both fulfilled, doing what we love, and filling our limited time with our own version of meaning. Is there anything else that matters?
* * *
Originally published in The Philippine Star’s Sunday Life section (11 May 2014)