There are many reasons why women voluntarily choose not to have children: career advancement, preferring to spend life alone or with a partner, wanting to live spontaneously, disinterest in raising a family, physically being unable to conceive, settling down too late in life, not having the financial security…
While many of the aforementioned reasons are also pertinent to me, the reason I decided not to have children stems from a psychological conditioning that occurred to me as a teenager. I grew up in a working-class, immigrant enclave and went to school with girls who began having children at the age of 14.
The reasons for them doing so were myriad: lack of proper sexual education in school, lack of access to both contraceptives and abortions, and profoundly religious family structures that didn’t agree with either of the above. In the United States, teen pregnancy is an epidemic, especially among ethnic minorities.
Like these young girls that I studied alongside, there was always the risk that I too could have ended up pregnant. After all, four of my brothers had gone on to have children by the age of 18. Surely I would be next?
Despite the frequency with which this seemed to happen, teen pregnancy was still looked down upon in my community, even if more as a sad fact than a situation where a girl was ostracised. It is for this reason that at a young age I began to associate having children with failure and soon, I wanted no part in it.
While, of course, I now disassociate the two in adulthood, this early internalisation opened up the possibility of a different reality - one in which it is fine not to become a mother, rather than feeling as though it is an automatic condition of my gender. That was my trigger, but now this is my future.