09/23/2011 08:06 EDT | Updated 11/23/2011 05:12 EST

If Women Don't Want Kids, Are They Inadequate?


I've never had any burning urge to reproduce. There's no family pressure and plenty of grandkids, even great grandkids, from the other siblings. And spending two days at our cottage with a friend's rugrats quelled my urge even more.

I admire women who have always known they would have kids, no question. But I also admire the ones who have always known they would not.

Like my friend Karen, now in her 40s, she knew by her mid-20s that she never wanted kids and got her tubes tied at 31. "I could not see bringing yet another child into this messed up world," she says. "If I did want kids, I'd prefer to adopt a child who needed a home, rather than create another human being."

Frankly, I wish people with kids had to defend their position as thoroughly as those who don't want children. Because, heaven knows, some folks are having kids for the wrong reasons.

Say, to have someone to take care of them when they're older.

But, chances are your partner and/or your friends will be more reliable in old age than some kid who will no doubt grow up and move to Australia.

Another argument is that people who don't have children are selfish. And your point is? Yes, I like the freedom to work and enjoy life with just little old me to think about. Besides, give me a break. Why do you think people have kids? To further the human race? For the kid's sake? Doubtful. Usually, it's just the thing to do. Or, as Karen says, to create the ultimate accessory. "It's typically women who are oohing and ahhing over all things baby, the teensy clothes/shoes -- 'oh isn't this adorable?' -- photos, all the nursery stuff. It's like a commodity."

Sure, some people have kids because they genuinely like them, but there are plenty of folks who don't.

The last big grief people who choose not to have kids hear is this: "You'll regret it." There are plenty of things I could regret if I let myself. But I certainly don't want to have a kid just in case I regret not having one. Karen says she hasn't regretted her decision for one second. "If I feel the desire to be around children, I have my sister's kids -- and remember, I don't hate the little buggers in the least!"

Okay, let me say it too. I enjoy kids, sort of. I like the fun stuff but I'm always ready to hand them back after an hour or so. New mothers always say it's different with your own. But what if it's not? You can't toss 'em back.

Obviously, we have some genetic disposition to reproduce or the race would have ended long ago. But it's not for everyone. And I don't want to feel inadequate or less of a complete woman for not popping out a kid.

We make childbearing so noble, such an achievement, like it's the most exciting, fulfilling thing you can do. For some, I'm sure it is. But, given our social bias, deciding not to have a child is an equally noble and difficult decision. And that, I think, deserves a cigar.