Having children: did I change my mind?

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

This week, an egregiously terrible advert by Crown Paint has attracted criticism for peddling the narrative that women who don’t want to have children will probably change their minds one day. As a woman who has been very open about the fact that I don’t want kids, and is now rapidly approaching a point where that choice stops being a choice and becomes an inevitability, I thought I’d weigh in.

If you’re keen on having children and are currently struggling with your own fertility journey, you might find this post upsetting. 

First, let’s look at the advert. Please be advised before watching that it may make you want to vomit into a bin.

There are two key criticisms of this ad:

  1. It is outrageously, cheesily, awkwardly terrible. No argument from me here. I think I can sense every single person involved in it internally cringing even as they ‘sing’ their lines, mourning as the last shreds of their acting ambition go up in smoke. I swear the third time I watched it I spotted one of the extras mouthing ‘energy bills are about to reach over four grand a year, don’t you dare judge me for selling my soul to perform this horseshit.’ And fair enough. My sympathies to each and every one of them: it is not your fault. We all have to live under capitalism. It sucks, and I’m so sorry.
  2. The script peddles the irritating ‘you’ll change your mind’ narrative around having kids. The character Hannah in the poem song abomination seems to change her mind from ‘never’ to ‘OK let’s immediately have a baby!’ with seemingly no explanation other than the passage of time. It is obviously this second criticism that I’m going to tackle today.

Usually, my response to a corporation trying to imply that I’ll ‘change my mind one day’ when it comes to having kids would be to give them the blog equivalent of a strongly worded letter – railing against the insidious idea that somehow everyone is destined/designed to have kids, and that women who don’t want them will inevitably change our minds as soon as we realise the door is closing on our own fertility. However, I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself lately – to the point where I already had some thoughts in a draft blog post, so I’m going to take a gentler approach.

Having kids: it’s getting late!

I made up my mind long ago that having children wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list, and I’ve always been comfortable with that decision. Eleven years ago, when I first started this blog, I used to rant about how often people would smugly assure me ‘you’ll change your mind one day!’ but have I? At the age of thirty eight, has my biological clock taken over and instructed me to get pregnant immediately? The answer might surprise some of you…

I genuinely do find myself quite affected by the looming end of my own fertility.

It has hit me extremely hard in the last year or two that the door is fast closing on the opportunity to have my own kids. Fuck it, it’s not like there’s an easy way to test this (I have an IUD and PCOS and neither of those things is going to change) so I’ll say that it’s more than possible the door’s already closed. That fact has given me more than a few unexpected shudders of panic: although I’ve always known I didn’t want to take that path, I hadn’t anticipated how affected I would be by approaching the final turn-off.

Of course, this feeling is entangled with lots of other emotions kicked up by the last few years. Thanks to Covid, I spent a lot of time inside, listening to the clock ticking down seconds and minutes and days of my life, feeling like I was wasting precious chunks of it. I had to leave a man I loved desperately, and not only upend the rest of my life (bye bye security, home, stability and companionship!) but set sail on the dating scene too. Would it still be easy to find new guys now that I’m ten years older than I was last time I tried it? Will men see my age in The Apps and think I’m baby-hungry and desperate to settle down? Is my body ‘past it‘ now, and therefore no longer desirable?

I sometimes feel like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom trying to escape that room – rolling out of the rapidly-closing door to safety, accidentally leaving his hat behind him as he rushes out. I’ve escaped and I’m free, but do I still have time to reach back and grab the hat?

Probably not.

I appreciate children more now than I used to

Against the backdrop of all this, people around me are having kids. I love my niblings so much – not just the ones I’m related to, but also the ones I am not. The children of friends with whom I’m so close that they let them call me ‘Auntie’, and humour me when I gush over how cute they are at each stage of development. I have always loved being an auntie – not just for the jokey reason that ‘you can give them back to their parents when they get annoying’, but because watching a tiny human being grow and develop is a truly astonishing thing. From the scrunched-up-and-vomiting bundles to the babbling toddlers who are suddenly developing whole personalities of their own, to actual full-on grown ups with jobs and ideas.

The joy of watching kids grow up isn’t just about the children, either: there’s something powerfully moving about watching my peers grow with them. Friends who used to slur sex stories with me over a bottle or two of wine are now worrying how to instil their child with confidence or hope or respect for others. There’s a rich and brand new kind of pleasure to be wrung from watching my peers raise children: seeing resemblances, mannerisms, kindnesses and love passed down the generations. It floors me. I adore it. It’s far more powerful, in so many ways, than most of the hedonistic bullshit that I dabble in.

It really is.

Alongside this, I have friends who are desperate to have children of their own but so far have been unable to. As well as being more familiar with the joys of kids, I also understand better the agony of this desire, having held people’s hands as they’ve gone through it. But I’m so far from qualified to cover this part well that I’m not going to pretend I can speak to it – my guest blogs are always open if you would like to share your perspective.

Approaching the age when ‘probably can’t have kids’ becomes ‘definitely’ means I’m paying more attention to the journey that people I love have embarked upon, and the delights that are scattered on route. Those people who assured me that my feelings would change as I aged were right in one sense: I have richer and broader feelings now about the reasons people might want to have children, and the ways in which that choice can be fulfilling.

To continue the Indy analogy – that stone door is closing for many of my peers, and people all around me are reaching through it to grab the hat. These days I understand why they want to.

But I haven’t changed my mind

There’s one way in which my feelings have not changed, though. And this is my proper answer to the ridiculous Crown advert and those who used to assure me that my biological clock would start screaming at me when I reached about thirty five: I still love my life the way it is, and I do not want to make any big changes.

The feeling I get when I wave goodbye to my parent pals and hop on a train home to my lovely single-person’s flat, a haven of peace and calm: I relish that. When I pack my bag to go to a festival, knowing I’ve got no responsibilities until the day that festival ends: I cannot see myself ever wanting to give that up. The pleasure of seeing a bit of money drip into my bank account and knowing that I can spend it on myself. The ability to make my own choices in every aspect of life, knowing that if they go horribly wrong the only person they’ll radically fuck up is myself. The ability to say ‘no’ to anything at any time, and ‘yes’ to some weird things too. To curl up in a ball and cry when I’m down, and not have to push through it because someone else is relying on me. The blissful absence of the sheer terror that so often grips my heart when I’m in sole charge of a tiny person, and have to make sure they don’t accidentally eat dishwasher tablets or fall down the stairs. And yeah, of course, the feeling I get when I close my curtains and have a wank in the middle of the day, or let my friends draw dicks on my hallway wall in Sharpie. Bring men back home at midnight and leave dildos drying by the bathroom sink.

The door is closing on me, faster and faster, and if I lean back through it might snap down on my hand – crushing me as I reach in vain for something I could have grabbed sooner.

But the thing I need to emphasise here is that although I’m more aware of my own fertility – and mortality – these days, my mind remains set on the decision I made all those years ago: I do not want to raise my own children.

No matter how happy I am for others who have grabbed it, I’ve still never wanted that hat.



  • Clarissah says:

    Hi. Like you I found the advertisement to be stupid but that’s it. I didn’t get a all women will change their mind because that’s what women are meant to do vibe that you did. That doesn’t make you or I wrong, it’s just a different outlook resulting I’m a different response. I’m a 48 yr old female, child free by choice. I’m often faced with comments of “when you’re older you’ll change your mind” – that’s because I look in my 30s. Those comments are not a reflection on me but the stagnant opnions of others.

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Well said!

    I’m still honestly undecided on the kids question myself, though men obviously don’t face the same social pressure over it that women do. Definitely enjoying the ‘being an uncle’ part; but the thought of doing all that myself remains somewhat terrifying. If I ever did do it, it would have to be with the right person (obviously) and I’d have to be in a position where my life feels suitably stable to provide for a child. In any case, our fertility doesn’t decline quite so rapidly, so still got a little while left before the door closes…

    I am aware though that most women my age are very conscious of that closing door, and will either be keen to get going through it, or have decided by now that it definitely isn’t for them. What I wouldn’t expect is for any woman to suddenly change from one to the other!

  • K says:

    Love Crown’s implication that Hannah is also a huge, cheating, slut, because why else would Dave just be ‘hoping that it’s his’? Reckon it’s e cause she’s so desperate to have a baby that she’ll sleep with anything that moves, or because of the implication that she was a slut before they met, since she never wanted kids?

    Suuuuuper gross, all round.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yeah that part is extremely weird as well. Like… why would someone have this as their primary worry?! Horrible.

  • Mosscat says:

    I hear you! Wanted kids, didn’t have them, very happy about that. I have some great kids in my life and huge respect for their parents but still happy without and I feel no sense of loss. I did mourn the ending of my fertility, because I liked my monthly cycle and the ebbs and flows of my body. Not cos it was a use by date! In my 60s I’m now facing the ‘oh you’re missing out if you are not a granny’. I call bollocks to that one, too.

  • Excellent post, GOTN, and very well-reasoned.

    I’m in the position that’s probably the most annoying: I’ve just gotten married, and a few months ago I started a full-time job, so I’ve been getting The Question™. Mostly, I will admit, from well-meaning people at work who don’t know what else to ask me, but it’s something for which I have an answer nobody is expecting to hear.

    I don’t want children, I never will have any children, and I never have wanted children.

    I have, to my shame, sometimes pretended otherwise, mostly to impress former girlfriends who did (in fact, the one ex who desperately wanted kids now has at least one), but I’ve never really wanted to have any of my own.

    The reason people are surprised by this is probably best summarised by the fact that I am incredibly good with children. I like children. They like me. Babies smile at me and grab my hands. Schoolchildren laugh at my jokes and sing songs with me. Even teenagers, who are notoriously difficult to get on with, sometimes ask me for advice and genuinely care for me. On one of my recent trips to the ground, the one who stayed with me while I lay bleeding on the pavement was a 12-year-old I only very vaguely knew. When I asked him why he was so concerned, he shrugged, “because I like you.”

    I have also, in the past, worked with children. Every now and again I bump into kids who recognise me by name because I used to work in their school or youth service. Most of my married friends, and some of mine who aren’t married but pretty much may as well be, have children too. There were more than ten running around at my wedding, and their enthusiasm brought a touch more colour to a(n admittedly already rather-) colourful day.

    The issue being that I don’t think I quite have the right qualities for being a parent. I have both physical and mental conditions that would make parenting difficult. I may have a job, but I certainly don’t make anything near enough money to raise a child (zounds, I can hardly afford food!), I seriously doubt my wife’s body would survive the ravages of pregnancy, and I genuinely can’t imagine bringing a child into the world we’re having to deal with right now. It’s a chilling time.

    The main reason, however, being that I like children too much. I’d fear myself spoiling a child, or being too present, or overbearing. I certainly wouldn’t be a very good disciplinarian – something an ex once told me as she started talking about parenting using phrases like “united front” as if it were a battle. If I’m going to make too many allowances, or too little, I don’t think I should have any children.

    But then I don’t want any, so there’s no problem there.

    See also the phrase “start a family”. I’ve already got a family – how do you think I came into the world, serendipitous creation?

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ohhhhh the whole ‘start a family’ thing absolutely does my head in as well! I HAVE a family! My family is my people: both biological and chosen family. The idea that we are not part of a family until we’ve had children is so toxic and shitty. Very good point ILB!

      I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with The Question at the moment. Huge congratulations on getting married, I hope that you’re both really happy together – and I am delighted that you get to have fun with children and bond/nurture/support them without feeling the need to have any of your own. One of my people who is a parent is a big fan of the phrase ‘it takes a village’ – and it does! Being a good member of the village for other parents is a valuable and lovely thing <3

  • You’re also right about the “it takes a village” thing. I’m perfectly happy being a favourite uncle for the moment – which is something I meant to mention in my original comment, but forgot to!

  • Iam Student says:

    i have some relatives who say oh it is good that youth does not make families, common, i am from four kids family, some day even trees will not say a word about wind, so the best wind is made by you and your family

  • Sy says:

    Not really, you’re nowhere near. Menopause doesn’t set in until 50. You’ve got over a decade left!!!!!

  • PurpleRain says:

    Weird answer, Sy – given GOTN has said she doesn’t want kids.

    But also… whilst fertility is not quite so cliff edge as once thought, women don’t remain fully fertile in the run up to menopause. A woman of 38 does not have “over a decade” left.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Exactly what PurpleRain said, thanks PR! I’d also add that your comment, Sy, belies a huge ignorance of the fertility issues that can arise for people who want to become parents later in life, and is extremely dismissive of the struggles that many people go through if they want to get pregnant at my age. Please don’t be so flippant about it.

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