Childless by choice
Illustration: Rocco Fazzari
''Look, I like kids - I just couldn't eat a whole one.'' That's my favourite line to use when asked if I want children. It's easier than saying ''no''.
When I say I don't want children, people assume I'm selfish.
Or they tilt their head with pity or condescendingly pat my knee and say: ''Oh you'll change your mind.''
Imagine if I looked at a pregnant woman, tilted my head and said: ''You'll change your mind.'' I would never do that, so why is it OK to question my choice?
I'm 38 years old and I've never felt clucky. I have never fantasised about having a baby in my arms or raising a child. I don't like holding other people's babies. In fact, I hardly notice them. They are just not part of my life. I love my life the way it is. Yet my decision is written off as ''selfish''.
I hate the word ''selfish''. When Perth obstetrician Barry Walters called older mothers selfish last week I felt hot with rage. I don't want to be a mother but I will defend their rights loudly and clearly. I have friends who didn't choose to be older mothers - it's just either not meeting the right guy or struggling with fertility.
No mother is selfish and my decision to not have children is not selfish either. It's just my decision.
And it's not a light decision. I've spoken to a counsellor about it at length. It's never easy going against society's norms. I have some medical issues that mean it would be very difficult for me to have a child. Sometimes if I'm feeling judged or questioned I hide behind that, because saying ''I can't have children'' is more acceptable than saying ''I don't want children''.
I admire women who juggle family and career. I agree it's the hardest job in the world. It's not a job I want to put my hand up for.
If pressed on the subject I retort:''Did you 'just know' you wanted to be a mother? Well I 'just know' I don't''. I'm sure there are other women who feel the same way as me but don't speak up.
I love my life and my lifestyle. I get so much fulfilment and satisfaction from my career - I meet the most fascinating people and have so much fun. I love spending time with my family, I enjoy dining in fine restaurants and love travelling to exotic places.
I've now travelled to 47 countries. Is that bragging? Yep. Is telling me your son was voted class captain bragging? You betcha. Is one worth more than the other? I don't think so.
I do worry about being lonely when I'm older. I've had relationships end because he wanted kids and I didn't. But I'm holding out for a hero. I hope that I'll meet a fabulous man who either doesn't want children or has grown-up kids and we can all learn to tango in Argentina together. I do think I will miss out on that special love between parent and child. I love my parents so much I could burst. I pretty much think they are the two best human beings in the world. But then I have friends who don't even speak to their parents. It seems like a huge risk.
My brother has two boys and I love them to pieces. I love being an aunt (yes, I like that I get to hand them back) and it also means my mother gets to be a grandma. I know it breaks her heart that I don't want kids. She's not-so-subtly suggested I freeze some eggs - just in case. But is having kids to please my mum a good enough reason? No.
I feel like I have to apologise for my choice. Reassure people I don't lack compassion. I give to charity, I donate blood, I've offered to donate my eggs to a girlfriend and I'm in the process of creating a mentoring group for young female journalists. It upsets me that my choice seems to disappoint people. I don't want people to think I'm selfish. I'd just like my choice to be respected.
What do you think about women who are 'childless by choice'? Join the conversation in the Essential Baby forums.