I love not being a mother.
To say that is simply a statement of fact about myself. It does not contain an implicit condemnation of other women's choices.
I have friends and family members who love being mothers, with the usual caveats and qualifications and moments of exasperation and even regret. And, quite honestly, I'm fairly certain if, by some strange and unexpected twist of fate, I had become a mother, I'd love being a mother, too.
But that near-certainty still doesn't make me want to be one. Because, with absolute certainty, I love not being a mother.
The only thing I don't love about not being a mother is being constantly asked why I'm not one.
It's such an intimate question, casually asked by perfect strangers, frequently in circumstances I don't anticipate will turn into a referendum on my reproductive choices. People trying to sell us something—furniture, a car, cabinetry, a major appliance—are the most egregious and shameless offenders, marching straight toward impropriety without hesitation and dragging my womb out onto the showroom floor for everyone to examine.
Intrusive questions about whether my parts work are deeply unpleasant, but the worst inquiry I get is: When are you two going to start a family?
I hate everything about that question, from its wanton familiarity to its profoundly contemptible implication that Iain and I aren't already a family.
We started a family the moment we decided to spend our lives together. We committed ourselves, long before we were married, to build a life with one another, and our shared life looks like that of any other family—we love, we fight, we make dinner, we go on holiday, we rake leaves, we pick out a paint color for the bathroom. But for the intentional absence of children, the snapshots of our life are totally unremarkable.
We are a family.
To ask when we will start a family is to miss the point entirely. It's not that our family hasn't been started; it's that our family is already complete.
[Originally published February 17, 2010.]