As a society, we get obsessed over certain goals in life – whether that’s landing a “good” job, getting married or becoming a mum. And that expectation encourages us to conform to pre-given roles. Or it means we develop a yearning for constant external approval.
It’s the reason why I often face pressure and judgement over my decision not to follow the parenthood path. I’m married, in my mid-30s and I own a house. But I don’t want children. I could spend a long time listing off reasons why, but the fact is, this is my choice. Just as others will choose to start families. My decision is not better than anyone else’s. It’s just different. And I think we need to normalise that idea of difference.
My decision is not better than anyone else’s. It’s just different
I get a lot of hurtful comments when I tell people I’m not going to have children, from, “oh, you’ll change your mind” to “you’ll never know love like it”. It’s a narrow-minded and also quite damaging mindset because you never know someone’s story. I’m child-free by choice; but other people are also child-free not by choice. And casting doubt on where you stand as a parent or not plays into that false narrative that life is a timeline to be fulfilled.
Curiosity, however, is a beautiful thing. When people engage with curiosity rather than judgement to my decision – “oh, why is that?” – it tends to lead to a really interesting conversation.
I’ll explain that, for me, motherhood is a full-time job; one that I don’t wish to sign up for. I may expand on my love of travel, career goals and various other passions in my life that are easier to fulfil without children. I’ll describe how I’m able to make spontaneous choices around the things that I want to pursue, like yoga training in India. I might talk about my decision to donate my eggs.
Your true sense of self cannot be found in external goals
The bigger point I want to get across is that we don’t have to do (or be) certain things in life in order to be happy and successful. The very fact that you or I are alive is a success in itself. But things become complicated when we search for validation in outside factors, or people, rather than looking within.
Many people are disconnected from themselves, which is why they cling to societal narratives versus turning inwards. It makes me sad to see, because happiness can only ever be an inside job. The sooner you learn to spend time with yourself, the more you’ll find answers about who you are and what it is that you want from life. You’ll come to realise that your true sense of self cannot be found in external goals. It’s all just background noise.
It helps if you surround yourself with other people who live life in the way that they want, too. I tend to not spend too much on social media, and instead prioritise time with my community and my friends. Like me, my loved ones around me don’t feel pressure to follow any timeline; and that means judgmental conversations are just not a thing.
Happiness can only ever be an inside job
My advice to other people, and especially women, who might be feeling pressure over the question of whether or not to have children is this. There is no “better” path in life, or a pre-set definition of success. It’s crucial to just be and do as you like.
To lean into your heart and listen to that instinct – and then stay true to it – is not an easy option. It can feel vulnerable and exposing to be so honest. But once you make that leap to be true to yourself, the universe has a way of catching you with big open arms. So go right ahead, and don’t be scared.
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Charlotte Holmes is a model, yoga teacher and embodied movement coach.
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Images: Brian Rolfe