‘I openly said, ‘I never want kids.’ No one took me seriously. ‘You’ll change your mind when you meet the right guy.’ I’m not any less of a woman.’

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“It’s a beautiful, pleasant, and sunny Saturday afternoon. I am currently seated on my desk in my spacious, quiet, and cozy one-bedroom apartment in the Eastern suburbs, unleashing my cathartic side and pouring out my heart on a topic that I am incredible passionate about. This was after a delicious sleep in until 11 a.m. and an enjoyable night out with my girlfriends last night.

Not too long ago, I took my situation for granted, but now, I cannot stop counting my blessings and feeling grateful for making a conscious choice that has enabled me to live this lifestyle on my terms. That choice was to be and live as a child-free woman. The majority of my friends and extended family members’ lives are consumed with parental duties and responsibilities. For this reason, many of them struggle to get their heads around how I could be living the way I am. Yet NOTHING in the world could convince me to trade lives with them.

The words ‘child free’ are a grey area and has different meanings for different people. It is also associated with a lot of misconceptions and controversy. My personal definition of being child free is making an active and conscious choice to not ever be a parent or primary caregiver to a child. This includes biological children, adopted children, foster children, and stepchildren. It has been quite the journey that has led me to this point, but let’s turn back the clock 33 years (when I was born) on how and where it all started.

I am the only child of my parents and was born and brought up in New Delhi, India, one of the most overpopulated and crowded places in the world. I was raised in a very comfortable, peaceful, loving, and secure home environment and was blessed to have had a very privileged and charmed childhood. However, I can recall almost always having trouble connecting and relating with children my age and especially children who were younger than me. I was an only child and always felt more comfortable around people older than me.

Courtesy of Shweta Ramkumar

I took no interest in being around toddlers and babies and while I enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls, I spent most of my time playing ‘house’ with my vast collection of stuffed animals. When my cousin’s sister was born in 199, five years after me, I asked her mom how babies are born, and her description made it sound like a rather unpleasant and painful experience.

Courtesy of Shweta Ramkumar

Fast forward to when I turned 10. Some of my closest school friends were making plans about their fancy future weddings, their future ‘Prince charming’, the house they’d like to live in, and the number of kids they want when they grow up. I scratched my head briefly but proceeded to tell them about the countries I wanted to visit, the number of dogs I wanted to have as pets, the books I want to read, and the stages where I would like to perform as a singer. Hence, at the tender age of 10, I had subconsciously programmed my mind to not want to live a traditional or conventional life. I openly said at the time, ‘I never ever want kids.’

Courtesy of Shweta Ramkumar

Obviously no one would take the words of a 10-year-old kid seriously, especially a kid who comes from a very traditional, conservative, and family-oriented culture. It wasn’t longer before I was exposed to judgement and criticism. I remember others telling me time and time again, ‘You’ll change your mind when you get older or meet the right guy.’

As I entered my 20s, I felt a lot of social pressure to have kids. I thought it was the only way to have a long-term relationship. My boyfriend at the time was someone who was brought up in a very old-fashioned and traditional Indian family environment and was desperate to be a husband and give his parents two grandchildren. I silently questioned his credibility in being a parent and the primary reason why he really wanted children. All the while, I was hoping my ‘maternal instincts’ would finally kick in. I desperately felt I needed to be accepted by others in society. I needed my existence and identity validated and if agreeing to be a parent was the one-way ticket to it, I was happy to go for it.

Courtesy of Shweta Ramkumar

At the time, I had also embarked into my career as a high school Science teacher and was working with children who didn’t even have a bed to sleep on or proper meals to eat. They came from dysfunctional environments filled with substance abuse, violence, parents who had severe mental health challenges, and often dealt with trauma. It broke my heart to see these kids not have anything like the childhood I did. I couldn’t turn a blind eye. But working with them made me question if parenting really is universally the ‘be all and end all of life’. The only source of fulfillment and purpose for us as humans. If it was, then how come there were so many people who got it completely wrong? How come it was such a major source of misery for them? Incidentally, my relationship with my boyfriend ended for various other reasons and the heartbreak lead me to decide to book a one-way ticket to London, continue to teach there, and devote the next few years to traveling the world.

Courtesy of Shweta Ramkumar

By the time I was in my early 30s, I had visited 40 countries and had lived in 4 of them. I had switched careers and had my eyes open to the reality of overpopulation, the depletion of global resources, and the fact that many recklessly procreate despite the vast number of unwanted children who are longing to be adopted into a stable, loving family environment. To me, parenthood seemed like lifelong stress, responsibility, commitment, and sacrifice. All of it felt restrictive. This was the final nail in the coffin for me and being childfree became an integral part of my identity since then.

I firmly believe that children deserve the absolute best in life and unless people have understood the ‘big picture’ of what parenting is actually about, they should never embark on the journey of parenting. They must be willing to invest everything they have into children emotionally, mentally, and financially. It should be due to personal desire and not out of ‘natural instinct’ or to give in to pressures.

A lot of people may and have accused me of being ‘selfish’ due to my choice but I seriously question couples who have kids for what I think are more selfish reasons. To save their marriage, for their own entertainment, to impose the dreams and ambitions they couldn’t fulfil onto their kids, so that they don’t feel lonely when they get older and need someone to look after them. Not to mention having their OWN children for their own needs when there are so many of them that are unwanted and longing to be adopted. I personally think it’s more selfish to have kids when you’re not 100% committed to raising them and giving them the best life. It is not fair on the kids and more often than not it ends up scarring them in the future.

Parenting is a no return investment. If someone’s heart isn’t 200% set on it and they aren’t committed to doing whatever they can to give their kids the best, they should NEVER go down that path. You can change careers, jobs, get divorced, change where you live, but you can NEVER stop being a parent. It’s a permanent, lifelong decision. A lot of parents I know, including single parents, have no regrets about their choice and really find a lot of joys and rewards. On the same token, I’ve also spoken to parents that say that despite them loving their children, they experienced a lot of regret and If they could turn back time they would’ve never had children.

Choosing to be child free has enabled me to change careers multiple times, travel the world, become a published author, dip my toes into entrepreneurship and freelancing, share my experiences as an MC and guest speaker, devote my time to passion projects and causes that are close to my heart, be a mentor and role model to children as a teacher, experience the unconditional love and joy that pets give as a pet sitter, and live a life of spontaneity, freedom and flexibility. I can focus on things that give my life a sense of meaning and purpose without ever feeling guilty or ‘tied down’. I have to admit that I do have a very strong maternal instinct and while it doesn’t come out with kids, it is showered thoroughly on the four-legged furry children who are under my care. Adopted fur babies from rescue shelters are the only kids I want in the future. I’d invest in my pets to give them the best life they deserve to have, even if it involves altering my lifestyle in any way.

A sense of family and a maternal instinct doesn’t just involve human children. Furry ones matter just as much. People underestimate the privilege, commitment, and responsibility that comes with owning a pet. I am CHOOSING to have pets because I WANT them and choosing not to have children because I don’t want them. It’s simple logic.

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That’s not to say that being childfree does sometimes have its drawbacks and challenges. Society still portrays parenting as the ultimate act of fulfilment and selflessness. Anyone who deviates from it, especially women, are questioned constantly and met with a lot of criticism and judgement. I am no exception. My parents are incredibly supportive of my choice and I was aware of how much my own mother had to give up in her career, how challenging parenting was for her (even though she made it look so easy) when she had me at the age of 23. My choice doesn’t surprise them. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t go for extended family members.

On top of this, dating in particular can be very challenging as a lot of men still want the option of having their OWN children. It limits my pool significantly and some have even gone on to question my worth as a woman. However, with the popularity of online dating and social media where I can state what I want and don’t want in a partner and my lifestyle, I have encountered quite a few promising potential prospects for the future and am in no rush or feel no need to settle since I don’t have a ‘biological clock’ ticking. I can take as much time as I want to be with the right man.

Courtesy of Shweta Ramkumar

Being child free can also be socially isolating, but through social media and groups I have been able to connect with a lot of like-minded people and have an active social life too. There are also the implications on my identity as a woman and what womanhood means to me as society and the media equates motherhood to womanhood. I consider myself to be a feminine woman who is strong, courageous, powerful, confident, yet soft, playful, emotionally mature and with a nurturing maternal instinct, with the difference being who it gets expended into. My definition of being a woman applies to all women whether they’re mothers or not. I also believe that anyone who is able to make informed, well thought out, and conscious choices every day is a secure and complete person, which includes myself and dispels the myth that only children make your life complete.

Courtesy of Shweta Ramkumar

The purpose of me writing this is to not bash parents but rather serve as a catalyst for people who feel pressured to have children (by their partner, family, friends and society) or are on the fence about it. It’s important to stay informed and make a conscious choice by considering the bigger picture. Your choices should come from a place of logic and consideration, not pressure.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shweta Ramkumar. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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