an adult woman in a black bikini and a kid swimming in a blue outdoor swimming pool
Photo: Annie Spratt

People Who Didn't Want Kids And Ended Up Having Them Explain Why

"I often used to judge people who decided to have kids. But sometimes, all it takes is one person to change things."
Nadia Kara
Antwerp, BE

This article originally appeared on VICE Belgium.

Broke, traumatised, over-educated: Millennials were the first generation to be less well-off than their parents, and Gen Z are seemingly following suit. As well as these economic challenges – which are disputed by some researchthe Earth is boiling, capitalism is crashing and the far-right is on the rise. So yeah, it's not surprising that many of us want to skip parenthood.


What kind of responsible adult would want to bring a cute, innocent baby into a world where they’ll have to work full-time and a delivery job just to make rent for a shared room until 35? 

Equally though, what if being so cynical about the future isn’t the right approach? A few people I know who’d always sworn-off kids ended up changing their minds, and have one or more. I spoke to them to understand why – and I must admit, they almost convinced me.

‘My boyfriend and I decided to go for it in our own way’

“Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt of having children before I turned 30. Then, as I grew up, I became aware of the reality of adult life, and what it means to have a family. I also became more and more concerned about the climate and global warming. Eco-anxiety really put a damper on things: Did it really make sense to bring a child into the world for them to experience inequality, racism, capitalism, war and violence, when I was already struggling?

At the same time, I was feeling more and more pressure from society to fit into a mould. So I asked myself: Do I really want children? Or is it just that everyone else wants me to have them?

I used to judge people who chose to have kids – mainly because they’d constantly talk about how tired they were and how difficult life as a parent is. I felt like they got stuck, as if parenthood was prescribed to them.


But then I had a lot of conversations with people who, like me, were afraid of our present and future world. One day, I heard a phrase that really resonated with me: “Sometimes all it takes is one person to change things.” Obviously, I’m not saying that my child will change the world, but I like to think that if we see things this way, we give ourselves a chance.

With this in mind, I was able to take the time to think about what I really wanted, without giving into external pressure. My boyfriend and I talked a lot about how we saw ourselves raising a child, and we decided to go for it – in our own way.

I have to admit that I've asked myself a few times if I’d made the right decision. Sometimes I find it extremely difficult, but I'm learning to control my emotions to face the challenges one day at a time. I’m just doing the best I can.” – Alexandra, 32, mother of one

‘The world will only get worse if only right-wingers who drive SUVs, eat meat three times a week and watch bad TV have kids’

“I used to think having children was a very selfish thing to do. Our planet is already overpopulated and the ecological footprint of one human being in Western Europe is massive. There was no way I was going to contribute to that.

But I've been in a relationship for six years with someone who really wanted to have a child. Her wish made me think more in-depth. Gradually, I came to the conclusion that if only right-wingers who drive SUVs, eat meat three times a week and watch bad TV continue to have children, the world is only going to get worse. 


We chose to have a child, but committed ourselves to taking on that role responsibly and consciously. We want to educate our daughter about climate and sustainability, and raise her in the most deconstructed way possible when it comes to gender and race – basically, equip her for the complex world she’s a part of.

We'll start by telling her about her Berber, Spanish and Polish origins. And she'll have access to our library to delve into these subjects, if she feels like it when she's old enough. We'll also make sure we give her the choice to live her own life. She’ll do what seems right to her when she reaches adulthood.” – Loïc, 33, father of one 

‘It's changed my way of thinking. I don't spend as much time dwelling on my own little problems’

“I never really wanted children. All I wanted was to discover the world, and travelling isn’t really compatible with children.

I had a rather unstable childhood: I grew up in Sochi, Russia until I moved to Belgium when I was eight. My mother stayed in Russia and my older sister looked after me. This forced me to become an adult very quickly. As I got older, I asked myself questions: Will I be able to bring up children, with such a chaotic childhood? Can I be a good mum when my relationship with my own mother is so difficult? 


Besides, in the culture I come from, women have children between the ages of 20 and 26. When I was that age, I still went back to Sochi regularly and often got comments about it – especially because I was in a stable relationship with my partner. The older I got, the more pressing and less subtle the questions became. After 30, every time I got my mum on the phone, she’d ask me when I was going to get on with it. Despite all that, I was happy with my choice.

I think it was when people finally gave me a break that I started to reconsider my decision. Around the age of 31, I felt the need to settle down a bit. I'd spent years travelling constantly for work and I realised that had become a version of a routine, too. My partner, on the other hand, had always said he wanted children. We had a lot of conversations on the subject, and I was hesitant. He didn't put any pressure on me, and I think that gave me the space to think about it at my own pace.

Today, I’m very happy I made this decision. I have no regrets – even if sometimes it's a lot to handle. More than anything, it's changed my way of thinking. I don't spend as much time dwelling on my own little problems, because I need energy to look after two humans who depend on me. My role as a parent has taught me to let go and appreciate the simple things. I know, it's a cliché, but it's true.” – Anastasia, 38, mother of two 


‘Having kids has allowed me to heal trauma and break the cycle for future generations’

“Getting married and having children is something I've never idealised. My dream was to become a successful doctor and be financially independent. I wanted to be a boss, probably because I had quite a precarious and traumatic childhood. I've always associated having children with some kind of burden. Being a parent means taking responsibility for another life, and I'd seen so many ways that could go wrong. But I was also jealous of people who were able to live that life without being constantly scared.

When I met my partner, we had no intention of getting married or having children. He’d had a difficult childhood too, and he became very stoic as an adult. I found enormous security and stability in the fact nothing could sway him. I think this made me consider getting married and having children – it also had lots to do with timing in our careers, biological clocks and social pressures.

Today, even though I have children, I'm still convinced a life without kids is just as meaningful. I'm very social and used to always be the last to leave the party. Now I'm a mother, I sometimes feel like there's a life I won't be able to access until my kids are 18.

But I've made a choice. I'm doing everything I can to give my children a dream life – the one I wish I’d had. My choice has forced me to focus on stability, something I didn't grow up with. Having the opportunity to heal trauma and break the cycle for future generations is truly therapeutic.” – Anne-Marie, 38, mother of two