Why I chose not to have children – Macleans.ca

Jenna Ross, at home in Knowlesville, New Brunswick, never wanted children. Climate change confirmed that decision. chris donovan photography

Jenna Ross wasn’t sure she wanted to be a mother. The climate crisis confirmed her decision.

Jenna Ross

May 9, 2024

When I played with Barbies as a child, I always imagined them to be businesswomen dressed in power suits and living in a big city. She was eight years old and this was the only model she had seen of a woman whose identity was not tied to motherhood. When she was 12 years old, she dreamed of traveling, having adventures and having pets. The common theme in these dreams was actually an absence: there were no children. There was no moment of epiphany. It happened slowly. As she grew up, after taking care of other people’s children, she would come home and say, “I don’t want this.” The immediate response from the people around me was that she would change her mind.

I then studied sociology and environmental studies at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. I spent four years thinking constantly and deeply about the state of the Earth. In 2006, during my third year, I saw firsthand the effects of climate change when I did an exchange program at the University of Western Sydney in Australia. In one of my environmental science classes, we took a field trip to the Pejar Dam in Goulburn, a major water catchment area for Sydney. For the first time in its 25-year history it was practically empty. It has a capacity for 9,000 megaliters of water, but there were only three left.

We walked along the bottom of the dam where the water should have been. It was cracked, dry and gray. In the middle there was a small puddle. A water tower stood above the dam, marked with years of water level lines. Neighbors in the area used buckets of water to shower; Hoses and sprinklers were prohibited. Conceptually and theoretically, he had understood the climate crisis. But until then I never thought about water conservation. I also experienced my first bushfires in Australia. As I walked through the university, I passed clouds of smoke in the air. I kept waiting for classes to be canceled (it was strange walking around the smoky campus), but things were going on as usual. They were great revelations.

Without the climate crisis, there is a small chance she would still have had children. With that, I know I won’t. It is too daunting to bring life to a warming world. It’s not worth the risk. Every time I make a decision, I make a mental list of pros and cons. When it comes to having children, as I run through different scenarios and necessary lifestyle changes I would have to make, I always come to a dead end on one thing: the climate crisis. It was something I could never justify.

Almost 15 years ago, when I was 24, I worked as a ski lift operator in Jasper. I was living the life of a ski enthusiast (hiking, camping, skiing) when I met a guy and fell in love. During the first month of dating, I told him, “I’m pretty sure I definitely don’t want kids, so if that’s something you want, I’m not your person.” We’re still together.

My family and friends support my decision. But I’ve heard it all before from others: You will change your mind. Who will take care of you when you are older? How can you know true love? It’s surprising how many strangers feel like they can influence my life choices. At a wedding just a couple of years ago, a man I had just met couldn’t get over the fact that I had decided not to get married. And when I told him he didn’t have kids, I basically stumped him. He spent a lot of time trying to convince me, a person he had just met, to become a father.

Ross lives in a secluded house in Knowlesville, New Brunswick, with his partner and two dogs.

Now I get less offended when these conversations come up. I am 38 years old and, although I am increasingly a minority among my peers, I know that I am not alone. New Research has found that more and more people are basing their decision not to have children on fear of climate collapse. A 2023 study found that people with greater concerns about climate collapse wanted to have fewer children, or none at all. It’s something so individual. If someone deeply wanted to have children, of course I feel sad for them. But my life is rich, meaningful and full, and I achieve that without having children.

The population is eight billion people. I don’t need to add another one. I don’t want to throw children into the game of an uncertain world. Displaced communities, years-long droughts, frequent forest fires: it’s hard to think about. And current projections say the situation is not improving. In fact, the planet is on track to see global average temperatures rise by nearly 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to a 2023 United Nations study. report. I’m not surprised.

I also looked for online communities. In 2020, I joined a Facebook group for people who also made the conscious decision not to have children. I subscribe to a weekly email newsletter called We Are Childfree, a storytelling project that features stories from people who have chosen not to have children. I have learned that the social pressure to have children is even greater in other countries. I’ve read stories of people in the Middle East or Latin America who describe their cultures as particularly resistant to childless options. Some of them are ostracized by their families and communities. It’s heartbreaking, but comforting to not feel so alone in the world with my choice. I like the idea of ​​giving more visibility to people who make the decision not to have children.

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I’m not an apocalyptic person who thinks the world is ending. I’m actually optimistic that we can change things and I’ve made many decisions in my life relying on that hope. Over the years, I’ve had odd jobs: tram guide in the Rocky Mountains, organic farmer, dishwasher at an Italian restaurant. The money he saved he used to travel the world. Being able to get up and go with my backpack gave me energy. I did work exchange programs on farms in Europe and Australia. There I learned from my elders how to live sustainably and realized how much I love working with my hands and growing plants in the dirt.

I am currently a potter in Florenceville-Bristol, NB, about a 90 minute drive northwest of Fredericton. My partner and I live in an isolated house, equipped with renewable solar panels and a compost toilet. I grow as much of my own food as I can and live lightly on the land. When I travel, I take the train whenever I can instead of flying. I’m no ecological saint, but I try to be conscious of my choices. I live on almost 100 acres and put a lot of energy into propagating native trees. Part of my climate action is forest restoration, slowly bringing back the traditional Acadian forest, one tree at a time. I doubt I could personally maintain this lifestyle if I had children.

Last year I spent three months in Italy. I traveled the entire coast, from Sicily to Rome, and walked through the Italian Alps. I wanted to learn from other potters and visited Vietri sul Mare in the province of Salerno, a city known for its ceramics. I worked on small farms and tried to learn Italian. I’m not sure these experiences would have been possible with children. It may be hard for some people to understand, but I’m just not interested in having a child. It doesn’t attract me. It would be a huge waste of time and energy.

Ross is a potter in Florenceville-Bristol, New Brunswick, about a 90-minute drive northwest of Fredericton, and also works in her own ceramics studio at home.

Everyone always told me I would change my mind. That was in the back of my head as I traveled the world in search of new adventures and planted roots back home. But that didn’t turn out to be the case. When people ask me if I have kids, which happens all the time, I used to say no. Now, I propose to say: “No, I have chosen not to.“That’s my way of trying to normalize the fact that women can make this choice. Growing up, I never had older women in my life who made that choice clear to me. Having children was the default setting. I like young people who are in The fence can see more visibility and options. It’s okay not to have children.

—Told to Emily Latimer

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