i want to be a fireman
August 26, 2002 08:12 AM

I do not want to have children.

I've maintained this position since roughly middle school (around the time it sunk in just how much of an accident my own existence had been). And I've probably maintained it tenaciously enough that all of my additional experience has simply served to support an already made decision. I admit that.

Childlessness by choice seems to be one of the few areas of adult life in which others feel entitled to tell you how you will feel later. Just as adults did when you were a child. Honey, you won't want to be a fireman when you grow up. What if I do want to be a fireman? What if I have no interest in bearing children? [I'd like to add that I never really wanted to be a fireman, but I did at one point want to drive a dump truck. The fireman thing makes a better metaphor.]

At my age (I'm slowly approaching thirty now, I suppose) it's easy enough to let others think what they will about what I will or will not want in five, ten years. But I suspect I'm nearing the time when they will no longer be able to assume I'll think differently soon. I'm nearing the time when they'll want to know why.

I've practiced this for years. Here's why.

I don't want to have a mental forecast of this whole life without children stuck in my head. Hard as it may be to believe, I have never more than passingly visualized my life with kids in it. I have, however, worked out several possible lives without them. I never want to unfavorably compare my actual life with those plans.

I recognize my own selfishness. I need attention. I need to feel unique and important in and of myself. I am not very good at sharing the stage; in fact, I feel best in the center of it. My experience of children is that they steal focus. I don't like this. I had a nightmare once in which I was pregnant and started quickly losing weight, literally wasting away. In the dream a doctor hooked the non-baby up to an IV to feed it and let me die around it. Everyone else was perfectly okay with this, even myself. Hello, obvious subconscious (well, conscious) issues about childbearing and identity.

I do not like neediness. I don't like declarations of need or obvious helplessness. These things can often make me want to run. No, I'm not a heartless, unfeeling person; I can handle, and even anticipate, others' needs. It's just desperate, clinging need that makes me squirrelly.

I don't like many people who have children. Not all, just many. The people who don't parent their children well, who subsume their own identities in their children and ignore their kids' actual personalities and desires. I don't want those people to ever feel like we have some common experience. I'm fairly certain I would never become one of them, but I still might be forced to talk to them. Ick.

The parents I do like and respect make it clear (usually through their actions, not their words) that parenting is hard work. No matter how rewarding it may be, it drastically changes your life. And it's just plain hard. Why do that if you aren't compelled to?

I don't feel the impulse. I know that some people do feel a need either to "better" the world through better childrearing or to perpetuate themselves and their love of life. Some women, particularly, view parenting as a requirement, a key part of the feminine (or masculine) experience. I don't fault that. But I don't feel it.

I have seriously thought about this. A lot. I like children. I respect the efforts of good parents; they are all admirable people. And I can think of loads of things I'd want to teach a son or daughter, ways I'd want to improve upon the parenting status quo. But this alone isn't enough reason for me to have children.

Maybe this will change later. But for now, I stick with the decision I made as a kid. I want to be a fireman.

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