Being open and honest about real things that happen to real women is the fastest way to smash taboos and get us all talking about tricky topics. Which is why here, Louise, 38, opens up about her decision not to have children – as well as the backlash she's experienced.
“My mum was a childminder so I grew up in a house full of babies. A travel cot sat permanently in my bedroom for their daytime nap, I’d sit and eat breakfast with a toddler or two at the table, and you couldn’t move for nappies and feeding bottles. It would drive me and my two sisters crazy because we were forever tripping over Lego. By the time I moved out of the family home, I was totally babied-out and I knew all that was involved in caring for tiny children. To be honest, it didn’t look that much fun so having one of my own was the last thing on my mind. Maybe I don't want children?
“That was okay because I’d never been particularly maternal anyway. In school, friends would talk about how many children they wanted when they were older and I’d think, “how do you know you want that now?” Having babies was an abstract concept for me, something I felt totally removed from. That feeling never really changed as I grew older.
“I went out with my first boyfriend from aged 16 to 20. He was two years older than me and we broke up because he wanted to get married and settle down. I baulked and ran from that relationship. I felt way too young for marriage and because he knew he really wanted a family in his early twenties, it was never going to work between us. We were totally incompatible with our life goals.
I've never felt broody
“My twenties passed in a blur and I had such a great time. I worked hard, drank a lot and travelled a lot. Sometimes on work trips, sometimes for fun – I love getting on a plane and going somewhere. Life for me is about cramming in as many different experiences as I can, whether that's with a boyfriend or as a single girl when I was between relationships.
“Out of the five serious boyfriends I’ve had, three of those have children with previous partners. I’m not sure whether this is just a coincidence or whether I gravitated towards men with kids because it safeguarded me from needing to give them children straight away. I knew they weren’t in a rush to have any more so it took the pressure off me to make babies. I also got to enjoy time with their children, without any of the responsibility. Not that the “stepmother” role was a walk in the park.
"Then, as I hit 33 and 34, I noticed that my social media feeds completely filled up with bumps and newborns – it seemed everyone was having babies at that time. Meanwhile I still had zero inclination, I just didn’t feel any urge. Instead my list of places that I wanted to travel to grew and my job goals seemed to get more ambitious. I was living with my partner and we were happy and committed, I just didn’t want to be a mum. He didn't have children and maybe he thought I'd possibly change my mind, but he didn’t push it. I did feel like I had to justify my reasons to strangers though. In any social situation, I’m now always waiting for the “so, have you got kids?” question. I have some stock answers ready to roll out.
No, I don't hate kids
“My older sister had one beautiful daughter in her twenties and my younger sister hasn’t had children yet, but she’s getting married this year so who knows, she might be next. My mum has been very vocal about her disappointment with our grandchild output – she thinks it’s weird because we’re such a close family. As much as it upsets her though, I can’t make babies just to keep her happy.
“I’ve been asked a few times if I hate children and that makes me so sad, not to mention angry when I think about the rudeness of that question afterwards. I love children and actually think by not having any of my own I can appreciate all the lovely, sweet things about them. I played a massive part raising my niece and I’m godmother to three adorable toddlers. I like nothing better than hanging out with them, giving them cuddles and treating them to things. I take my role in their life really seriously so the thought that I hate kids is frankly an insult.
A future without children
"In the last year or so, I’ve really made peace with the fact that I don't want children. I’m aware that this choice will massively impact my life when I'm an old lady when I'll need looking after – that’s usually the job of your children. I’m confident though that times have changed. With so many families living away from each other or being estranged, friendships have become just as important as family and I know they’ll be people to look out for me, even without having my own children.
"I do a little fist pump when women in the public eye set the record straight about the fact they don't want children either. Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz are a good example – they refuse to be seen as a sad old failures, or any less of a woman just because they decided not to procreate.
"There are some women who want to have a baby and will do everything to make that happen no matter what. Others need all of their ducks in a row before they can make that leap. For me, my ducks were never in a row, so I never leaped. Sometimes it’s not just one reason that leads to a woman being childless, but instead a series of small choices over ten years or so. It is what it is.
“Ultimately, my womb belongs to me and whether or not I want to grow another human in it is my choice. It’s nobody else’s business."
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