I am as sure that I don’t want children as I am that I don’t want to move to Phoenix, Arizona. Or Mars. Or study macroeconomics. But of all the things I am sure I don’t want, the only one I get pushback on is my decision not to have kids.

I used to think I wanted children for superficial reasons — I love Pottery Barn Kids and little girls in tutus and headbands are adorable. I am a cisgendered woman who has a working reproductive system and having kids is what I’m “supposed” to do. However, I’ve never felt that burning, unmistakable desire to be a mother.

The idea of having a child doesn’t excite me or bring me joy — it stresses me out and gives me anxiety. I think of all the things I would have to sacrifice to be the kind of mother I think my child would deserve, or worse, all the things my child would have to sacrifice for me to live the life I want. I won’t jeopardize someone else’s life simply because society thinks it is my duty to reproduce.

Sometimes my friends ask me: Who will take care of you when you’re old if you don’t have kids? But I would never want, ask or expect anyone I’m not paying to care for me when I’m old or sick. I couldn’t fathom allowing my child to put their life on pause to feed and bathe me, take me to doctor’s appointments and help me put on socks.

They also ask: What if you change your mind? But what if they do? There is a growing number of women who are now admitting, albeit anonymously to avoid the inevitable tongue-lashing they would receive online, that they regret becoming mothers. I don’t think I will regret this choice, but I would rather realize that I want children down the road (because I can adopt or foster), than live every day with a life-altering choice that’s impossible to reverse.

A common misconception of women who don’t want children is that they must not like them, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been an educator for most of my adult life; I have worked as a preschool teacher, a camp counselor, an adjunct professor, and even a nanny. I am well aware of the wonders of children — I know how funny they can be, how loving and wondrous. I know how it feels to make a difference in a child’s life, to see them grow and change and blossom. 

But I also know the challenges and struggles of having children, and the strength and resilience it takes to raise them. I know how fragile they are, and how strong-willed; I know how one wrong decision can affect them for life, and how much parents have to give of themselves. There is no one I admire more than a parent, because they have a job and a life that I am not equipped for; I’m okay with that, and I wish everyone else was, too.

My husband and I want to travel. We want to start an animal rescue, and adopt senior dogs from shelters and buy a beach house where our friends can bring their families on group vacations. We want to watch these people we love cultivate life and raise other human beings to be selfless, caring people who do good in the world. But we believe that you don’t have to be a parent to make a difference, or contribute to society or have a fully-realized life.

We are happy, and there is so much left for us to do in our lives — having children just doesn’t happen to be one of them.