It’s okay to not want kids

By Julie Van Wezemael & Charlotte Gruber

In 2015, scholar Ornah Donath broke significant ground when she started publishing her sociological research “regretting motherhood” – work regarding the taboos around expressing negative feelings towards becoming a parent.

It is only in the last few years that preconceptions, which wrongfully tie ‘the female’ to an innate, natural desire for childrearing, have been under scrutiny. When talking about parental labour in the context of the art career, it is important to stress that each person deserves to, first of all, openly and critically investigate whether they even want offspring. Women especially are at risk of being made to feel inferior for being assertive about these very impactful life choices. Strikingly, it does not even seem to matter which options they choose. Women receive judgment and criticism, both overt and covert, for their choices around family planning. We have to acknowledge this fact first, so that we can start to dismantle it.

In turn, we should break the taboo around speaking up about the painful aspects of becoming a parent because these conversations are a key foundation for being able to: 1. Understand the structural hurdles which (partially) lead to or enhance the experience of regretting parenthood 2. Create supportive environments and structures to Accommodate those who struggle with their decision and reality 3. Allow to build strong communities based on honesty and vulnerability 4. Offer individuals who are in doubt the genuine nuanced insights which will enable them to make informed decisions and be prepared for what is coming, instead of being taken by surprise, which can make it harder to adjust 5. Abolish the toxic positivity which associates parenthood with pure bliss, which causes unrealistic expectations and unnecessary feelings of shame.

In conversation about her project, “angry kids”, illustrator Julie Van Wezemael expresses how thoughts around parenthood have always burdened her to the point of a growing anguish. She remembers vividly the decisive, key moment when sometime during puberty, the realisation hit her almost to her own surprise that she did not have to have a child at all.

She states that that gave her immense relief. She has felt an obvious sense of calm ever since.

“The angry kids”, she says, “are my kids. They go and make important contributions to better the planet. They travel the world. They are leading their life and they express themselves freely”. She later calls them ‘an army’ of angry kids, fighting the war of injustices, which she, similar to a child, often feels powerless to transform. This helplessness and frustration becomes a source of rage. This is true for many artists who wonder how to make a real-life impact with their creations.

– Maybe there is a lot to learn from a toddler’s tantrum –

Since 2019, Julie has created around 70 angry kids from second-hand children’s building blocks and organised five auctions donating all revenues in their entirety to a number of different charity organisations e.g. Pride of Colour, Red de Colaboradores and meldet.