We can all probably agree that choosing not to have children or to have children is a major life decision. Here are five Malaysians (myself included) who have chosen not to have children or are contemplating on not having children.
Here’s what they had to say.
Khairie, 33 years old
“I wouldn’t say it’s a hard ‘no’ – rather, I can imagine a future where I don’t have any. Call me selfish, but I think I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to achieve. I can’t imagine neglecting my children to achieve them.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to neglect my dreams to raise my children and then resent them later on. I guess the only way would be to achieve those before I settle down and start a family, which could be quite difficult.
I guess it comes down to choosing either myself or my children – and that’s a tough decision to make.
I think it’s a matter of priority – for now, my priority is myself. Someday when I’m a little more satisfied with who I am and can afford to focus on raising a family, I might change my mind.”
Shanny (not her real name), 33 years old
“I currently enjoy my life being childless because I can go anywhere whenever I want to. I could also change my jobs or stop working whenever I want to.
It is mentally and emotionally straining to have children. I can never imagine myself as a mother.”
Mira (not her real name), 30 something years old
“Overpopulation, heavy responsibility, doubt my own competence at raising one”.
Valerie (not her real name)
“I do not see a need nor do I have an emotional yearning for it.
I love my life, where I get to do things purely for my enjoyment often spontaneously – travel, food, concerts, etc.- and I think that having children would put an end to that.
I often look at the exhaustion and what I interpret as the extraordinary mundaneness of bringing up a child and do not think it is worth it. I love the richness of my life and do not think a child would enhance it.”
Asha, 34 years old
As for me, I don’t want to have children because I simply don’t have the urge or desire to. I love kids and enjoy being around them and taking care of them, but I don’t feel the need to have children of my own. If I do change my mind, I would prefer to adopt a child. There are too many unwanted kids in the world as it is.
Did you ever think of getting married and having children when you were younger?
I was interested to know how other people felt because the idea of marriage and children was never appealing to me. When I was a child I was a mother to a few dolls, but I never dreamed of the white wedding gown or having children of my own, even as I grew older.
Khairie says he still thinks about or rather fantasizes about getting married and having children now.
“It’s like wanting a really nice car – you can afford to daydream about it, but actually going after that is a different thing altogether.”
“I suppose from childhood I’ve always thought about it, with the assumption that I’d naturally gravitate towards that as an adult. Now that I’m a full-fledged adult, I realise it’s not as compelling.”
Shanny also admitted that she thought of getting married and having kids as a child. “Yes, growing up we are instilled with the expectation for form a family, meet your prince charming and have children. Society largely supports the notion of having offspring.”
Mira told IRL that she did think of being a wife and mother in her early twenties, but that she is only beginning to feel that she may be ready for marriage now that she’s in her late 30s.
In her teens, Valerie said she considered having children, but she hasn’t thought about it again since her early twenties. “I did not think marriage was essential – being unhappy single always seemed a better option than being unhappily married – but having married my partner, it is something I truly value and cherish.
How do people you know react when you say you don’t want to have children?
Khairie’s response to my final question was, “The ones I’ve shared that sentiment to tend to agree with me, even the ones already with child. I suspect more people are having children against their will than I initially thought.
“Don’t get me wrong, a child is a blessing, of course – but I think as parents you need to sort your own issues first. Children are not and shouldn’t be extensions of ourselves. They shouldn’t be the ones to make up for our failures.
“I think having a child should be a very deliberate choice – one that’s planned out and thought through properly. In that sense, I’m in no rush to have one, if I ever do.”
Shanny told IRL that most people consider her selfish for choosing not to have kids. “But it doesn’t bother me a lot to be honest, because at the end of the day, I am the one responsible for my life. How much help will they offer if I were to have a child and become too overwhelmed with childcare?”
Mira said someone once gave her a lecture about how she should marry early to have kids early. “Then there’s the belum kahwin lagi (not married yet) to refer to my single status – like it’s compulsory to get married, and if not now, in the future definitely. I sometimes challenge them with tidak kahwin, kenapa mesti guna belum (not getting married period, no ‘yet’) in a joking way.”
According to Valerie, people are often shocked or surprised when she says she doesn’t want to have children. “Women with children and men often see a need to convince me about the joys of having children, even if I’m a relative stranger to them.”
Personally, I’ve had mixed reactions from different people when I mention my lack of desire to have children. But I often get the feeling that many people think that not having kids is selfish.
I would like to think that most people have children because they want to have children – that could be considered a selfish reason too. Any desire can be considered selfish, including not wanting to have children.
However, while wanting to have children is seen as natural in a biological clock ticking kind of way, not wanting to have children is seen as unnatural, cold and selfish, especially if you’re a woman.
I think making a choice about whether or not to have kids is responsible. To me it’s much more responsible than just jumping on the bandwagon of what everybody else is doing without considering other options.
This decision has a huge impact on children as well. Taking responsibility for your choices in life is not selfish – on the contrary, it forces you to think about others involved in your choice.
For more articles like these, read Malaysians, What Were the Most Romantic Things Anyone’s Ever Done for You? and Getting over a Breakup? Here’s What Malaysians Advise.