This week we’re happy to share another personal story in this space. Today’s piece comes from 28-year-old Miriam Lazewatsky in Newton.
I’ve known I don’t want children for nearly as long as I can remember, but with my 29th birthday less than a month away, I’m thinking more these days about what I do want. And one of those things is a partner, someone to build and share a life with. Ideally, I would like for that person to be Jewish. Although I’m not currently attached to a synagogue, I still attend services occasionally, celebrate holidays, and feel deeply connected to Judaism and to my identity as a Jew.
Dating has been frustrating. Recently, I noticed that someone with potential had checked out my online dating profile multiple times over several days. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I sent him a short, introductory message. His response surprised me: he did not consider me “dating material” because I do not want children. He also offered me some unsolicited advice—he said I won’t have much luck finding Jewish men around my own age who don’t want children and who aren’t “emotionally damaged” (his words, not mine), so I should consider dating men 20-plus years my senior who already had all the children they want with their first (or even second) wives. (He also asked to meet up in case I was interested in sleeping with him, no strings attached. I declined.)
The threat of step-kids within five years of my own age? Bizarre assumptions about the mental health of myself and others who choose not to have children? Ugh. But his words stuck with me.
In my five years of Hebrew school, I received many a lecture about how important, nay, imperative it is for Jews to marry other Jews and have Jewish children to ensure that the Jewish people survive. I remember my rabbi telling me once that she was the only person from her Hebrew school class who was committed to raising her children in a Jewish home. She also told me that I would be a great mother. But how can someone be a good parent if they don’t want to be a parent at all?
In a recent XO Jane article, Jen Kirkman talks about being child-free by choice and the flack she’s gotten for it. Pieces of her tale resonated; for example, people have told her that not wanting children means that she must have had a terrible childhood in some way. Yeah, I’ve gotten that too. But I also reflected on how much smaller the pool of potential partners becomes when Judaism enters the picture. It’s an extra layer of complicating factors.
I’m lucky that I haven’t faced any pressure from my parents about either marriage or childbearing. I know my parents want grandchildren, but they also understand that having children is a personal decision and would never want that decision not to be genuine. Besides, my younger brother is already married and does plan on having children at some point. The only person who has put any pressure on me is my great-aunt, my Nana’s youngest sister and the only grandparent figure still with us. She’s in her early 80s now and wants to be there when I get married. I want her to be there too.
But I also don’t want to rush things. My hope is to only ever get married once (barring tragedy), and disagreements about having children are a deal-breaker for most couples. So I’m resigned to being open about what I’m looking for in a partner, particularly finding a Jewish man who also does not want children. It makes my search harder, but I’m hopeful the end result will be well worth the frustration along the way.
Any other readers in the same boat? Please feel free to comment below.