Anasthasia Shilov

10 years from now, I don’t see myself with kids. Actually, I’ve never envisioned myself with kids; I never pretended to be a mother to a baby doll (I didn’t have one anyway) or play house with my little cousins. I didn’t like my Barbie Dolls and I never read to my stuffed animals. I’ve never held a baby in my life—to be honest, children make me uncomfortable. I see a child and am just uninterested. My mom has said that I will change my mind when I have kids of my own—I’m just not sure if I want to. I don’t feel the need to have kids, be near kids, or look at pictures of kids. I am not heartless, but I am not a “kid-person”. To stand up for those of us who feel this way and to protect them from the mother bears of the world who cannot fathom how we do not like their children, the worst qualities of children need to be shared. This is not an essay on feminism or women in the workplace or gender stereotypes. I seek to convey that kids are not universally loved—in fact, I often think kids are the worst.

Thanksgiving was a while ago and I was lucky enough to spend the holiday with my family—my little cousin included. Cori, just under three years old, is the youngest cousin in the extended family and therefore my go-to when I think of children. When she was born, I was old enough to understand and remember; I have watched her grow. And these past three years, I have not been impressed. Perhaps it’s because of my uncle’s new method of parenting called “never say no to your child”, but Cori is poorly behaved. The other day, she ran around with ear-splitting screams about monsters in the house (the “monsters” were her other cousins). She was also sick, so she was running around coughing and sneezing—right near the food and everybody else. She entertained the party with a large, automated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stuffed animal, incessantly playing its out-of-tune theme song. To this song, she ceaselessly performed the exact same dance show for two hours, dragging the whole family to watch at one point or another. While I may not be an expert in the child department, I feel that her behavior was fairly on-brand for a toddler. I was not impressed.

Cori produces too much noise for me to even appreciate her antics. She, along with other children I have met during my limited years, just go on and on—either talking or crying. The quantity of noise produced by children, and its capacity to irritate, is limitless. A child’s cry hit my ears like the proverbial nails on a chalkboard. Their screams are ghoulish and their speech, for far too long, is incomprehensible. To make matters worse, these sounds are not background noise. The noise is consistently brought to the foreground by the people taking care of them. Someone’s always worried about what the child is doing, how the child is doing, or whether the child has enough entertainment. And the adults, being the ever-devoted caregivers, must resolve the problem. The noise produced through these endeavors, however, ruins holidays, events, and conversations.

The other day I attended a talk by Dr. Yusef Salaam, a member of the notorious, but wrongfully convicted, Central Park Five. Listening to his story and his unwavering faith in God was both inspiring and moving. I guarantee, however, that his poignant, echoing words would have had a far greater impact if there had not been multiple children crying throughout the presentation. I cannot blame the children for crying—children have not yet developed the situational awareness that is necessary for good social graces. However, I do believe it is the parents’ responsibility to know whether their child is well-behaved enough to bring to such a serious event.

A child enters the room and, all the sudden, “goo-goo-ga-ga” comes to life. It has been hard to have a genuine conversation with my uncle ever since my cousin was born, since he’s always giving his child a nauseating amount of non-stop attention. This seems to be a par for the course, though, as far as adults are concerned — the “adult” dialogue ends when a child enters the room. The child is now the new conversation topic: what is she coloring, who dressed her SO adorable this morning, how much she looks like her parents, why was she crying, and does she want to eat?  I miss being able to put attention on something more productive than a child’s coloring book. I miss the family discussions and conversations I used to have with my young, cool uncle.

The amount of “cuteness” a child offers does little or nothing for me. Maybe it is just preference or a subconscious desire to be unique, but I do not find children cute. I see kids—and then I see germs and boogers. I see barrettes and little matching pajama sets. I see easy Christmas and birthday gifts coming in the various forms of toys, baby shoes, and pop-up books. But beneath the carefully-selected outfit that will be stained at the end of the hour, I do not see a cute child.

I’m not sure if I will ever catch “baby fever”. I don’t feel pressure to have children from my parents, my grandma, society, or anyone else for that matter. I do, however, think that if you do not have children, it is always something that will be noticed about you. Being “childless” becomes a part of your identity — you either become the doting aunt without any kids, or the traveling, workaholic aunt without any kids. Apparently, if I don’t have kids, “I won’t know what I am missing”. I am just confused on why people never say it the other way around — you will never know what you are missing if you do have kids. You could miss the next big promotion or never travel around the world or maybe never even acquire financial stability. Oftentimes, the “happiness points” that are lost after having children can be attributed to this continuing and intense financial burden of children. One article by the Washington Post delves into the statistics behind their article title “It Turns Out Parenthood is Worse than Divorce, Unemployment — even the Death of a Partner”. Children will not make an already happy person happier, nor will they make an unhappy person happy. Any “happiness surplus” from children will usually be swallowed by their associated financial stress. Greater anxiety, depression and marriage dissatisfaction are more common in marriages with children than those without. It is interesting to note, however, that child-related unhappiness is far more common in the United States than in any other country. Perhaps this is due to the pedestaled idea of American freedom —  and therefore a fear of deep commitment; I can’t say I don’t buy into this. Children are not for everyone; I don’t feel the need to see them at every event I go to. I don’t appreciate the constant head space they take up. And I definitely do not (as of now) want them for myself.

Hailey O’Connor | hailey.oconnor@yale.edu

  • Kaelin

    I have never related to someone more in my life. You have articulated my exact thoughts and feelings. It has been, at least for me, so difficult to move through life with this belief.

    My best friend, whom I grew up with from birth and consider to be my sister, has had baby fever since she could talk. She constantly sends me photos of babies, and always has to wander to the children’s section of whatever store we happen to meander through. I cannot stress how frustrating that is. I have expressed to her that I in no way shape or form relate to this, and that it in fact makes me actively angry.

    I understand your article did not go into the feminism, societal-expectation aspect of the issue, which I’m sure was intentional. But for me, it has always been a difficult expectation to live with. When adults ask me about having children and I reply with conviction that the route of parenthood is not for me, they always reply with “you say that now but when you have your own kids you’ll change your mind”; as though the question was baited, waiting for the right moment to shove their “superior wisdom” down my throat.

    Aside from that, my sister, whom for all my life I’ve known to have the same stance as you and I, is expecting her first baby this summer. This will make for an interesting experience, as I never realized I’d have to be an aunt. I wonder, perhaps fearfully, how this will all play out given your so supremely put points.

    A great read; the solidarity of another woman without baby fever is liberating. I thought I was the only one! I also applaud you for leaving the societal feminism side out of the piece, as sometimes such ideas can be misconstrued.