On a forum I frequent, a man in his 20s asked about vasectomies, saying he is almost 100% sure he’ll never want kids and that his wife is almost as sure as he is.
“Give it ten years” was the popular refrain (in addition to “Why not have her use an IUD? It’s reversible” and “You might change your mind.”).
Look. I understand that saying you’re not 100% sure means there’s a fraction of a possibility that you might at some point say, “Wait! I actually DO want kids!,” but I have to say – telling someone who doesn’t want kids “You might change your mind” is both annoying and patronizing, even if the person is “only” 24 or 25.
It’s also better directed at a different demographic.
24/25 is the same age many people somehow “know” they want kids, which is rarely, if ever, questioned, and certainly not cautioned with, “Why not give it a few years and make sure you’re emotionally prepared for the responsibility and aware – as much as you can be – of how it will impact your life, your marriage, your work, and everything else? After all, you really should be as informed and prepared as possible before introducing, and then raising, a whole new life. Of all the things to not treat lightly, having a child has to be at the top of the list.”
No one says these things (not in polite company, anyway) to people who want kids. It’s assumed that they “know,” even if they say they’re only 93% sure.
Why are those who don’t want a child less trusted to know themselves and what they want than those who do want a child? Why is having kids while uncertain (or uninformed or absolutely oblivious) more readily accepted (even encouraged through a lack of skepticism or questioning) than not having kids?
Encourage them to get the permanent birth control. Why, even say, “Good on ya! I hear vasectomies aren’t bad at all!”
When people who say they don’t want kids are instead encouraged to use birth control that’s comparatively unreliable, what we end up with is unwanted pregnancies that can often lead to abortions or bitter, resentful parents. Doctors who won’t allow women or men to get sterilization procedures are deciding FOR them that they must have the option to become pregnant – even if they don’t want to (thereby sometimes contributing to that future abortion or unhappy/resentful – and likely divorced – parents).
People are reluctant to encourage sterilization – even for those who say they want it – but why? What’s the big harm in not having babies? Why the push to have them? (Highly recommend The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing our Minds from Outmoded Thinking about Parenthood and Reproduction Will Create a Better World, which addresses pronatalist beliefs and how they pressure people to feel like they *should* want and have children.)
“I don’t want to encourage a permanent procedure when you might change your mind later,” they say.
But people change their minds about things all the time. That someone WILL change their mind about children (or anything else) is never a guarantee. (And no one ever says to a pregnant couple, “Welp, you know, you might change your mind in ten years, so… Good luck!”)
Erring on the side of not having kids is far more responsible than erring on the side of risking an unwanted pregnancy. As many will say, adoption is an option if someone changes his/her mind.
And if adoption proves to be a problem later, well… we all make our choices. Parents can’t suddenly decide to go back in time and not have kids, and sometimes people who didn’t want kids when they were younger can’t magically make them appear when they’re older.
Life is a series of choices. We do the best we can with the understanding that by the time we die, we will not have had every single thing we ever wanted the exact way, time, and place we wanted it.