Choosing to be child-free and why you don’t need to have everything figured out in your thirties
I’ve never wanted a mortgage, marriage or kids and I’ve never cared for climbing a corporate ladder. Often the thoughts of these things make me feel sick rather than fill me with joy like they do for so many others.
There was a time when I’d wonder if I was the weird one for not wanting these things. I wondered if something would eventually change one day and I’d be like everyone else. I used to think life would be easier if it did. That perhaps I’d fit in more. Over the past few years, I’ve come to realise I don’t want or need to be like everyone else and if you feel the way I do, neither do you.
What does this have to do with being 30? Heaps, actually.
When I turned 30 this month, people kept asking me how I felt because I’m ‘old’ now. One person even said ‘how was your dreaded day of turning 30’. I am not old, nor is anyone else in their thirties.
I think western society, especially in Australia, places far too much importance on buying a house, having a family and knowing exactly what career path to take. Attaining these things are often placed on an imaginary timeline, with your thirties being at the end of it. I think this is why so many people are afraid of reaching them. If they don’t have these things, they feel like they’re failing. They feel like they’re not meeting the societal norms and they won’t fit in. They feel like once they are 30, or when they turn 30, they’re in the race to get to these (stupid) markers of success. This feeling can be ten fold if the people they’re surrounded with have them, or are on the ‘correct’ path to getting them.
Before I quit my job and left the country for a second time to travel long term, the amount of people who told me I should “have fun while I’m young and before I settle down and have kids” is abhorrent. As a woman it’s generally assumed I want children, like that’s all I could possibly want out of life because I have ovaries. Other than the people who know me, everyone else just blatantly assumed I want a life with children and a husband, without even thinking to ask if I do.
Can you guess how many times my male partner at the time was told the same thing? None.
To put it simply, I’d rather regret not having kids than regret having them. The thought of being responsible for one human for the rest of my life gives me nightmares. I’ve never been maternal to anything except animals and I want to be free forever. I also strongly believe I don’t have the emotional tools and resources to raise a child and I think it’s irresponsible to bring one into the world without them.
I’m very happy with being the cool aunt to all my friend’s babies. I will definitely not encourage them to take drugs in foreign countries and experience the world before handing them back when they start to cry or shit themselves.
I’m lucky that I don’t have a family pushing me to get married and have kids. My mum knew that was off the cards quite some time ago. She’ll be happy with a couple of ‘grandogs’, as will I. I know lots of other people who do have pressure from their family though and I hate it for them.
Many people, especially Gen X and Boomers, seem to think a family life in one safe, settled country is the only life to live. And you know what? It absolutely is for some, in fact, it is for most, but it’s not for everyone. For some of us, that life looks like torture.
In all my travels, I’ve found other parts of the world don’t hold these things so highly. Having a family and a mortgage isn’t the end goal of life. Many people pursue creative careers, live like digital nomads, work in hospitality or live alone and they seem much happier to me. For them, 30 is just a number, rather than this age to be afraid of. What a dream.
I think there should be more importance placed on finding what makes you feel fulfilled in your thirties, instead of it always being about having a family or a well-paying (often corporate) job. Doesn’t that sound much better? Doesn’t turning 30, or being in your thirties, feel far less scary if it stops being about having everything figured out?
For me, it always comes back to travel. When everyone around me wants to settle down, I want to run. Whenever I’m not overseas, when I’m in Australia trying to fit into a box I don’t belong in, I feel anxious. Like I’m not doing the right thing. Like I’m not experiencing enough. Like the world is getting away from me and I’m running out of time to see it all. I often feel like a large piece of me is in the wrong place.
Getting older has made me realise not wanting what other people want and not following societal norms, in any capacity, is okay. It’s okay to not want a family or a house or to settle in one place. It’s okay to live out of a backpack. It’s okay to not have a corporate job. It’s okay to want to stay single your whole life. It’s okay to focus on your career and nothing else. It’s also okay to want the family and the white picket fence, but I think those things are far more common and accepted than everything else.
You know what else is okay? Not having everything figured out in your thirties. You don’t need to reach 30 and be afraid you’re not there yet. You can get married and buy a house at 40. You can change careers at at 50. Yes, the whole biological clock thing might be harder when you’re older, but I’m a firm believer in when there’s a will there’s a way.
You can also do none of these things and still lead a happy, fulfilled life.
As some of my favourite podcasters, Girls Gotta Eat say, ‘Live Your Truth’ (these fantastic women are in their thirties not following societal norms, give them a listen). Do the things that make you happy and stop stressing about having everything figured out. If turning 30 is coming up, I’m telling you it’s no different to 29. If you’re in your thirties and think you need to follow societal norms, you absolutely don’t. I’m the example and if I can do it, you can too.
As a little side note, if you’re one of those people who often ask women when they’re having kids and ‘setting down’ (boring), please stop assuming that because you have a nice life with kids and a husband or an excellent secure corporate job, that’s what everyone else wants. What is great for one person, can be hell for someone else.
And for the love of all things good, please stop asking women when they’re having kids. Maybe they don’t want them. Maybe they’re physically unable to have them. Maybe they’ve lost a child. The question should always be if we want kids, not when we are having them, then perhaps consider if it was a male you were speaking with if you’d ask at all.
Yours in a life of no kids sport every weekend,