An ex-colleague once commented that my husband and I wouldn’t be a real family until we had a child. I wasn’t offended, but I disagreed. I do not think blood makes family. Family is so much more than that.
At 45, I still have no desire for children. Growing up, I was not inclined towards being a mother either. I have never felt particularly maternal, but I always hesitated to say that I would never have a child. What if, against all odds, I changed my mind one day? As people, we are constantly evolving. Gratefully, my husband and I have been on the same page about this for 20 years.
A lot of who I am has been influenced by my mother. She was 30 when she had me and was an older mum for her generation. In that sense, she has always been slightly unconventional. Even when I was very young, she would tell me things like, “You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to”.
“Truthfully, I don’t think my career would have been possible if I had had children”
On hindsight, it was quite an odd thing to say to a child. But that was her—she gave me permission to be me. It’s not like she had a bad marriage with my dad. She just believed that I didn’t need to do anything solely because society expected me to, whether that was getting married or having children. “Get married for the right reasons,” she would say. “Don’t just be a slave to a man.”
Before I married my husband, I asked myself, why do you want to get married? My answer was that I had found the right person. He and I are total opposites when it comes to personality, but he is someone that I knew I wanted to build a life with—someone with the same goals and outlook on life.
If we were ever to have kids, I would have asked myself something similar. I pose these questions to my friends with children sometimes. Why do you want kids? What made you choose to have one kid versus two or three or four? It’s so interesting to hear the thought process behind it. There is no right answer, of course, and very often, there isn’t a clear thought process.
I suppose a decision like this often comes down to gut feeling. For some, it’s linked to the survival of their bloodline. This may be a more traditional way of looking at things, but it’s human instinct, which I can understand.
“I admire my parent friends deeply, but never once have I felt any sort of serious maternal instinct or a pang of longing for my own”
I’ve never felt that way, but I’m not an anti-natalist by any means. I’m aware of an argument that exists which says that we should no longer have kids because the planet is dying and we have too many people on Earth. By that logic, we shouldn’t be doing any of the things we love. Travel leads to carbon emissions, even eating out can cause food waste. But that’s the human condition. It’s important to acknowledge the complex consequences of the ways in which we live, but we can’t stop living altogether.
My work has always brought me a lot of joy and my career defines me to a large degree. As a radio DJ who also hosts TV shows, events and gigs, you could say that I’m an entertainer at large. In the entertainment world, there are many jobs where you work on a project basis. But radio DJs are part of a specific breed (which also includes newscasters) who technically still run on a nine-to-five schedule. Consistency is key in this line of work.
Truthfully, I don’t think my career would have been possible if I had had children. I’m an all-or-nothing type of person—if I had a baby, I would want to be around all the time. I would be an incredibly hands-on mum, even as they got older. I respect the mothers who can juggle work and their personal lives, but with children in the picture, I think I would have struggled to give as much of myself to my career as I have.
Even outside work, choosing not to have children has given me a freedom I don’t take for granted. Of course, the frivolous part of me enjoys the fact that I can drop everything at a minute’s notice to travel the world if I wished to. I am a dog-mama to my two adorable dogs, but in the right pet-sitter’s hands, they’d be a fine for a few weeks without me. A child? Not so much.
Then there is the graver, more nebulous responsibilities that parents face from the minute their kid is born—sometimes, even from the second they are conceived. You’d want to bring up a child who will be a good person, who will be kind, who will be willing and able to contribute to society. You’d of course want them to be happy. But life is unpredictable, which means that there is immense pressure on parents to try and control outcomes. Every little choice made while raising your children—from how much time you spend with them to which tuition class they go to—will shape the rest of their lives.
I admire my parent friends deeply and I know their children bring them so much joy. I, myself, love so many of their kids—they are often smarter and kinder than adults. But never once have I felt any sort of serious maternal instinct or a pang of longing for my own. I’m happy to go home at the end of the day to my husband, who is my family.
Some women know from when they are little girls that they want to be a parent one day. From what I’ve heard, it’s like a calling. I have left myself open to that calling, but it has never come. And looking back on the life that I have built for myself, I truly believe it was the right choice for me.
The October anniversary ‘Voices’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store from 10 October 2023.