Slate recently asked readers who are child-free and happy to let us know all about it—and did you ever! We’re posting some of our favorite responses on the blog this week.
Name: Heather Gentry
Location: Summerville, Ga.
In a college bioethics class, my classmates and I were asked how we would feel if we found ourselves temporarily attached through tubes and wires to another person for almost a year, while he or she depended on us for food and protection. It’s a parasitic relationship, we discussed. The host organism gets nothing out of the relationship and is in fact hindered by needing extra nutrients and energy to support the parasite. The lesson was to illustrate how a mother, maybe a rape victim, felt about her unborn and unwanted child.
That hypothetical scenario was the first time I was able to put into words how completely unnatural and abhorrent pregnancy seems to me. To have my body distorted beyond recognition for an alien-looking creature to live there for nine or 10 months and use up my food and energy storage? To have doctors poke and prod at my most private places because that’s where it’ll be born? Then, to be free of the creature on the inside, but to have to care for it for years and years, while it eats my food, lives in my house, and takes up my energy? A child is a proud role model for any parasite.
Even as a middle school parasite-child, I knew I didn’t want children. I have two little sisters. They weren’t bad kids, but I never knew what to do with them. They were young and alien, speaking strange languages and far too hyper and loud. Even with my parents there to buffer me from the worst of the crying fits, potty training, and sleepless nights, I just wasn’t interested in going through that again.
But I do live in the South, where there is a certain amount of expectation and tradition, and I fell prey to it in high school. With hormones flying and love blinding me, my high school sweetheart and I dated for three years, and yes, during that time we planned our wedding and named our kids. Four of them. Gross.
In college, I succumbed to another yet newer tradition—the starter marriage. I was married for two years to a man who was six years older than me and ready to settle down. Part of what made me leave was that he wanted to have children, and I just wasn’t sure how comfortable I was with the idea. Then came the divorce and the corresponding re-evaluation of values and worldview that comes from such a disruptive and never-thought-that-would-happen-to-me event. And I realized: Wait, I don’t have to have kids with anyone. I can choose to be with someone who doesn’t want to force me into that role.
It was a revelation to this Georgia peach.
So now I cheerfully tell anyone who mentions it—friend, family, co-worker, overly friendly stranger—that no, thank you, I will not have kids/parasites for reasons that will probably insult you. These include eww, gross, I-have-better-things-to-do-with-my-time, and there-are-7-billion-people-in-the-world-why-add-more. But if I can suffer through your alien ultrasound photo on Facebook or grin at your crying kids without vomiting, then you can be grateful that women like me will always be around to organize an occasional girl’s night out and to keep the population in check.