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Consciously Choosing Not To Have Children Has Set Me Free

choosing not to have children

With the utterance of a short sentence, it was over.

“I can’t do this anymore, Sarah.”

His words reverberated in every cell of my body, unleashing a tsunami of intense emotions and fear. Four years together, in the healthiest relationship I’d ever known, my world crumbled.

Getting married, settling down, and becoming a mother was a firm part of my life plan and future. And I really believed he was the man I’d share my happily ever after with. But that wasn’t to be the ending.

“I’m f***ed either way,” I yelled at him. “If we stay together, I’ll probably be too old by the time you’re ready, and if we split up, by the time I’ve healed and found someone else, I’ll also be too old.”

Too old for what?

It was Autumn 2019. I was 38 years old, with a biological clock that ticked louder with each passing month and year, while he was a mere 26 years old. My deepest fear was apparently coming true—a future that didn’t include a loving partner, a family, and a home filled with love and laughter.

“Do you want children?”

You’ll be asked this at least once in your lifetime. I’ve been asked many times, and the immediate response was yes each time. There was no pause. The answer was reflexive. But why did I want children? Where did that desire come from?

It had just always been there. A seemingly natural part of my identity. As young girls, we always hear “when you have children,” not “if you have children.” Society has expectations for us, and getting married and having children are firmly at the top of the list, especially for women.

But I was single again and two years away from 40—an age where milestones like marriage and motherhood should have been reached or imminent. What did my near future even look like anymore? The critical voice inside my head said, “you’re back to square one. Your moment has passed. You’re getting too old.”

This fear wasn’t only rooted in what I’d miss out on if I didn’t have children; it went further than that. What if the choice to be a mother was taken away from me through circumstance?

The ending of the relationship ignited something deep within me, the questioning of everything about my life to that point. What was I striving for and why?

For too long, I’d let life happen to me, the good and the bad, and never had I consciously explored the place of motherhood in the self-identity I’d constructed. So, after years of blindly chasing a singular path in life, I stopped to consider how much society’s expectations and norms had influenced my thinking on marriage and children. I asked myself where did the desire to be a mother come from? How badly did I want a child?

Putting aside external pressures and my own assumptions about what life should look like, I realized how many of my choices in life had made it less rather than more likely that I’d have a child. I’d changed careers several times, unsure of what I wanted to do, had repeatedly picked unsuitable relationships, and was enjoying an active social life.

I reflected on the doubts and questions that periodically surfaced in my mind. I’d often ponder how weird it must feel to be pregnant, and the idea of giving birth filled me with deep apprehension and fear. If only stories of the stalk were true or the baby just popped out in a few minutes, minus the painful contractions. And what about the sleepless nights and endless crying. I struggle to function without enough sleep, so how would that work?

Some of my reluctance stemmed from the belief that I didn’t (and still don’t) think I’m resilient enough to handle the pressure of caring for a tiny person solely dependent on me. As a recovering perfectionist prone to anxiety and overthinking, I wasn’t sure how well I’d cope with the pressure of motherhood. I had genuine concerns that I’d struggle mentally and emotionally to do a good job and enjoy the experience.

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I’d never been in a rush to have children. I always figured it would happen in my thirties, once I was settled in a career and had been married for two to three years. Yet, throughout my thirties, I liked my life as it was. I had a great circle of friends, financial stability, independence, and the freedom to do as I pleased. I was comfortable being in a relationship and settling down to family life was something that could wait just a little longer. I’d do the math and determine that if I got pregnant at 37 or 38, I’d be a mother the right side of 40, and if that only left time for one child, that was okay; that was enough.

I’ll be honest; my love life wasn’t always abundant. I had long periods of being single in my 20s and 30s. I’d sometimes joke to friends and family that I aimed to be a crazy dog lady when I was older, so my plan was right on track. Of course, it was a defense mechanism to mask fear and frustration. Still, in hindsight, maybe there was a fragment of truth hidden within the joke. A gentle nudge from the subconscious mind to question what I thought I wanted from life.

It was only when I reflected, post-breakup, from a place of greater consciousness to uncover my truth about the desire for motherhood that I hit upon a revelation. The certainty I’d held, for so long, about wanting to become a mother wasn’t coming from within.

If I asked myself why I wanted children in the first place, how did I answer? Well, it boiled down to cliché reasons like because it’s a natural womanly desire, and I want to create a family and give meaning to my life. I’d never considered anything else or given myself permission to explore that belief and desire.

Now, I know the truth of what drives me from the inside out. I know what I want and why—this is real freedom. Who I am and what my life can be, is not restricted to the singular purpose of becoming a mother. I am content with creating an authentic life and making my dream career a reality. I want to focus on the relationship I have with myself, making sure it stays a healthy one. I want to revel in a loving relationship and grow with that person, free from anxious attachment. These are my desires and goals now. They are fully aligned with who I am in my essence and what feels right for me.

I am an aunt and love every minute of it. I cherish the close relationship I have with my niece and nephew and am excited to help them grow and navigate this complex world. We have fun together and create memories. And that is enough for me. I love them completely and unconditionally and feel their love in return.

I’ve surrendered to the truth that there is no single right choice, and there will always be other paths I could have chosen. But the very nature of life is uncertainty, and I’m embracing that. Will I ever be 100% confident in my decision to be child-free? No, I won’t, but this is true for all of us and our future choices, not just this one. What is within my control is to trust that I know what’s right for me, that the Universe has my back, and that I’ll be okay, no matter where life takes me next.

At this moment, I feel content that this is how I want my life to unfold. My inner truth isn’t screaming, “I must be a mother.” And I choose to listen. Life has proven to be full of twists and turns. It has certainly been wildly different from what I anticipated, and I’m glad. Something deep within tells me, “Sarah, you don’t need to become a mother to live a fulfilling life rich with love, meaningful connection, and joy. Everything will be okay for you.”

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