I Have Bipolar Disorder & I Don't Want Children
One day, I decided to research women who don’t want children, and I discovered the childfree movement. A community of people who don’t want children, and I finally felt like I had found my tribe. As the oldest of eight siblings, I helped my mom raise my siblings. While she did not require me to help her, I gravitated toward helping since I’m the oldest. At nine years old, I changed my first diaper and remember taking my little cousin, who lived with me as a toddler, shopping at 12 years old by myself. In high school, we had the option of taking care of an egg or a doll that acted like a real baby and cried for one week. I was one of the few students who picked an egg because there were five children in my house, ranging from newborn to seven years old. I also worked at a daycare in high school, so I quickly learned that parenting was more than dressing children up in cute clothing.
I’ve always struggled with my mental health since I was 12 years old with suicide ideation. As I became older, my mental health worsened, leading to a suicide attempt. I realized that having children was probably not the best idea for me throughout my recovery. However, I did not think that was an option. I’m a woman. Aren’t I supposed to have children? Is something wrong with me for not wanting them? After speaking with two mentors without children, they shared that they are also childfree.
I decided to talk to my therapist about it, and I told her I was about 95 percent sure children were not in the cards for me. She told me that it is my life; I do not need the approval of others and can go against societal norms. After my therapy session, I wrote a list of reasons to have and not have children. Guess what? I came up with nine reasons for not wanting children, and I had zero reasons for having them. The first reason on the list was my mental health. As someone with bipolar disorder, sometimes I struggle to get out of bed, eat, engage with others, work my job, clean, take care of my hygiene, etc. I know a child would add to my highly fragile mental health. I still struggle with suicide ideation frequently. I know women with mental health diagnoses who are great mothers; however, I do not think it is the best decision for me. I told this to my OBGYN during my appointment, and she mentioned that she has never had a patient consider their mental health before having children. Many joys come with being a parent, but it also comes with stress.
Does this mean that I don’t like children? Absolutely not! That is the story of some childfree people but not me. I am a big sister and cousin, a godmother, mentor, and eventually an aunt. I keep them on weekends occasionally and enjoy my time; however, I do not think I can manage that responsibility 24/7. I remember a friend asked me, “Who is going to care for you when you’re old?” Ideally, parents prefer their children to care for them when they age, and many children care for them. However, I also realized that children are not obligated to care for their parents. I do not need to have children for someone to care for me when I am old. I have poured into so many children and have a big family, and plan to get married, so I doubt I will be left alone on my death bed. I plan to make a will and discuss my desires with those close to me before I transition.
I enjoy time with family and friends and speaking publicly about my mental health recovery, allowing me to meet hundreds of people inspired by my story. Still, I thoroughly enjoy a lot of time to myself, so I travel alone often. I am happy and content most of the time by myself, and when I feel the need to be around people, I make plans.
My values are also different. The idea of starting a family does not excite me as it does for other women, and that is okay. I prefer to spend most of my time traveling and having a fulfilling career that supports my mental wellbeing. Because of my mental health challenges, I am incredibly passionate about mental health advocacy, education, and policy. To help with ending the stigma, I teach mental health training and host events part-time for my business, volunteer with mental health organizations, and recently accepted a new position as the Director of Communications and Programs for a mental health non-profit in Washington, DC. I plan to start a scholarship fund for black students who desire to work in the mental health field and raise money for low-income children to access therapy.
Traveling allows me to experience different cultures, have fun, take a break from my daily responsibilities, and is simply self-care for me. Does this mean that women with children can’t travel, participate in charity events, and have great careers? No, it does not. However, children are also a huge responsibility. Good parents make sacrifices to ensure they raise responsible children to their best abilities. They typically do not have the flexibility to take a spontaneous trip or do what they want without impacting their children. Some women are okay with making those sacrifices, and there is nothing wrong with that. I do not think I want to make those sacrifices and put someone else’s needs before me all the time. I prefer to choose when to put my needs on hold for the sake of others. I don’t think “rolling the dice” by having children to see if my mental health can handle it is worth it.
I also have more flexibility with my finances. I can do a lot more for my family when I choose to and have the mental capacity to handle it. For instance, I am taking my mother and sister to Puerto Rico to celebrate their birthdays in Puerto Rico. As a parent, I may not have that freedom, and children in my life can get what they want from me most of the time because I don’t have my own who would need my finances. I feel extremely fulfilled doing things for others.
I have seen many mothers judge other women for deciding not to have children. We are called selfish, told that we will never know true love, bitter, and old cat ladies. Saying those things hurtful, but I also see stories online of women who regret having children. I would rather regret not having children than have them regret it, and it impacts my parenting. Women must respect other women’s choices, whether that includes children or not. One is not better than the other. Our values, health, and reasons are unique are we are. Being childfree allows me to have the flexibility and freedom to manage my time and money how I see fit, making it easier to prioritize my mental health. And therefore, I am leaning toward not having them.