Choice advocate Tanya Williams shares the biggest reason why she didn’t want to have children: her mother’s life didn’t appeal to her.
Don’t judge me based on the somewhat shocking title. I love my mum very much, but I knew at a young age that I didn’t want her life.
I grew up in a traditional household. My dad was a train driver who did shift work. My mother was a stay-at-home mum. I don’t think there was ever any question of her working – and in the 70s and 80s, it was rare that a mother did work. After all, society deemed it a mother’s job to stay at home, be a homemaker, and have children.
My mum was everything a woman in that era was supposed to be: a wife and a young mother with two children by the time she was 23.
She was an excellent cook and not only made us amazing meals, she also baked delicious cakes, slices, and biscuits.
I have fond memories of lunch boxes full of homemade goodies and school friends who envied what I was eating.
Mum made many of our clothes and could sew anything from curtains to the most complicated dresses to beautiful knitted jumpers. She had a green thumb and a thriving garden.
She loved being a mother. She loved all the domestic duties that came with that life and the world she had chosen.
My mum’s life revolved around her family. She coached our netball team, ferried my sister and I to our school and sporting activities, and spent time in the school canteen. She cooked our meals and packed Dad’s lunch. I don’t remember too many social outings with her friends, to be honest. Most of her time was centred on us.
As happy as my mum was, I couldn’t understand it.
As I got older and was exposed to other worlds through television and movies, I saw another kind of life for women.
I was heavily influenced by the 80s power woman. My role models were women like Amanda Woodward from Melrose Place, Murphy Brown, and Alexis Carrington from Dynasty.
I wanted their lives. I wanted a career. I wanted travel. I wanted freedom. I wanted money and material possessions. I wanted it all, and I was not prepared to give up that life by having a child.
I also couldn’t see myself being happy as a mother.
I never wanted a domestic life. I don’t cook, I am useless at sewing, and I have given up trying to keep anything green alive.
I have vivid memories of girls in high school talking about their life ambition as being married with kids and thinking, ‘there is so much more to life than that’.
I never felt a maternal urge and never experienced what society refers to as the ‘biological clock’ – the fact is, it doesn’t actually exist and it’s not scientifically proven. I also didn’t see all the rewards that many do in becoming a mum.
“I looked at my mum’s life and I knew that was the opposite of what I wanted.” – Tanya Williams.
My mum had no ambition. The only time she has worked in her life was when she was a teenager in a small retail store. Then she got married and had kids, and the rest is history.
When I was writing my book A Childfree Happily Ever After, I asked her: did she want to be mum and what else had she wanted in life? She said she had always wanted to be a mum and she hadn’t really thought about anything else.
When it came to having children, I don’t think my mum realised that she actually had a choice. It was an era where women were brainwashed into believing that they only had one pathway – to get married and have babies.
But I wanted more. I wanted the life of those women I saw on TV with their fabulous child-free lives. I didn’t see why I couldn’t have it.
None of the things about motherhood interested me at all. I looked at my mum’s life and I knew that was the opposite of what I wanted. That kind of life looked empty, unfulfilling, and full of duty. I saw no adventure, no freedom, or anything remotely interesting about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for women who have children, if that is what they want for their life.
I am child-free by choice but my work and writing focus on liberating women with the ‘c word’ – choice.
All women should make a choice that is right for them. They should have the freedom to make their own rules. And the daughters (and sons) of these women need permission to also make their own choice.
We live in a world where living child-free by choice is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, families without children are predicted to outnumber families with children in the next 10 years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The reasons for not having children are many and varied, just like those reasons you might chose for having them. None are right or wrong, they are simply different and based on what an individual wants in their own life.
The reason why I’ve decided to remain child-free might be because my mum was so great at being a mum. But it was not a life I ever wanted for myself.