'I've Never Wanted Kids—People Told Me My Life Is Pointless'

When I was younger it definitely felt like I was the only person I knew who didn't want to have children. From the age of 10 or 11 I would say that I didn't think I would have kids, but at that point, adults would tell me that I would change my mind when I was older, or that I'd meet the right man and things would be different.

But even as I grew up, the gut instinct a lot of people have telling them that they want to have children just wasn't there for me. I wanted to get married, but I never really imagined children being part of my future. That feeling has never changed.

Up until my mid-20s, I would always say "I don't think I want children, but that might change.'' Because previously, when I had given a firmer answer, people were so quick to say I was wrong and would change my mind when I got older, married or when my body clock started ticking. It was easier to pretend like I didn't know.

Since then, I've been much more firm about not wanting kids. I have become more aware of what having a child means and I have a better understanding of myself. When you have children, you have to give things up, there are compromises to be made and you are responsible for an entire life. I have always been an introvert and children, by their nature, are loud and unpredictable. They can't help that! I also suffer from quite severe emetophobia, a fear of vomiting. So there is the prospect of morning sickness, and that's just to start with.

The issue of children has only really come up twice in relationships. In my 20s I was in a relationship where my boyfriend most definitely did want children. I was very upfront with him and said that I didn't. In hindsight, I suspect he thought I would change my mind as I got older. Obviously that relationship didn't work.

With my current partner, the conversation about kids happened about six months in. I was almost certain that he would want to have children because he has nieces and nephews who he adores. He actually brought it up and I told him I didn't want children and I didn't think I would change my mind. I remember thinking the relationship was over, but he said, "oh good, me neither." It was such a relief.

Something I have heard a lot, and I know a lot of other child-free people have heard, is that I will regret the decision when I am older. I'm always quite willing to say that I might. I can't predict the future, but I feel so strongly the other way now that I feel it's a risky game to play. I would rather not have kids and regret it later than have a child and think that I shouldn't have done it. People have said that I would feel differently when a baby came but I can't help thinking: what if I don't? That would be a horrible way to bring a child up.

The most common reactions I get are around regret, or that I'm being selfish. I've also been told that it's wrong of me to deny my parents grandchildren and that I will die alone because no one will want to marry me.

A former colleague once said: "What's the point of your life if you don't have children?" It was implying that I may as well not be here. I was shocked by that. No one had ever said anything quite that harsh before.

Although some of the comments I've received have come from family, I've never had a bad reaction from my parents. They have never said they felt disappointed, it's always been other people. My friends have also always been really understanding. The comments usually come from colleagues or people I have encountered at events. It's frustrating when someone thinks they know you better than you know yourself.

If I said that my fiancé and I were going to have kids, no one would say: "What if you get divorced?" But everybody is very quick to tell me I'll have nobody to take care of me when I'm older, or that I'm going to regret my choice.

I understand that friendships I have with some people are going to change in the next couple of years as they have children. I appreciate that children take a lot of time and people have to be more organized. It's sad, but I know what I want, so I have to be supportive of them doing what they want.

I actually find myself in awe of people who are parents. It's relentless and the emotional, physical and financial demands that having a child puts on your life are huge. It never bothers me to say that I think parents are made of far tougher stuff than I am. But I've got to a point where I'm confident in how I want to live. I enjoy that not having children affords you quite a lot of freedom. You can be more spontaneous. I love that.

But I don't view my life as being any better than a parent's life, or theirs as being any better than mine. It's just a choice; a different way of living. I really wish that a sense of "them vs. us" didn't sometimes exist between parents and those without children. Why does either party have to judge or criticise the other? I do think it's a two-way street. Some child-free people are also quick to judge parents and offer up unsolicited opinions.

Erin Spurling has never wanted children
Erin Spurling has known since she was a child that she didn't want to have children. She has now created a space for child free women to connect with one another. Erin Spurling

But there are lots of spaces for mothers, fathers and grandparents, and less for those who don't have children. The idea to create an online platform for child-free women began in my 20s. I wanted other people who have made the choice not to have kids to feel like they aren't the only ones. Then, in 2020, other child-free women I had met online were saying they felt like they couldn't contribute to conversations around parenting during the pandemic, even though they sympathized. By this time I had more business experience so I created The Childfree Lounge.

The intention isn't that we spend all day online talking about not having kids, but it is nice to know you have that common ground. Recently, one woman was struggling with a friendship she had with a parent and she knew that no one in the group was going to judge her for how she was feeling. We're quite spread out geographically, but I'd like to do in person events eventually.

At the moment I'm consciously keeping the group as women only. Partly because the reaction men get to not wanting children is wildly different. For example, nobody cares that my fiancé doesn't want children, but almost everyone cares that I don't.

I realize that I am opening myself up to criticism and unsolicited advice but I hope that by talking about being child-free, I will help people to understand and reduce that judgement and criticism, or those views that child-free people will never know true love or that there is no point to our lives.

I think we're a long way from it, but ultimately I would like there to be no reaction when I say I don't want children, in the same way that there isn't a reaction when people say they want to have children. I would like people to know that it isn't that I think my choice is better, it's just a choice. And, people are often quick to assume you're judging parents for their choices, which I'm certainly not.

I have been told that I won't leave a legacy, but I think you can have an impact on the world without having a child. There are so many things you can do. It's not a competition, it's about coexisting. There is more than one way to live a fulfilling life.

Erin Spurling lives in London with her fiancé, and is the founder of The Childfree Lounge, a membership for women embracing a childfree lifestyle. By speaking out she hopes to educate, support, reduce loneliness, increase confidence, and allow all women to live their lives proudly. You can follow her on Instagram @thechildfreelounge.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.

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