Not the children themselves (although they are mysterious to me as well), but the desire for children. I cannot figure out what it is that makes people want to be parents. I can't wrap my brain around it. It seems to be the most frustrating, annoying, messy, expensive, and most unappreciated work in the world.

I have three younger sisters, and seven nieces and nephews between them. As far as I can tell, all my sisters looked forward to the day that they would become mothers, and never doubted that it was something they would do. They never doubted that it was something they would WANT to do.

I used to have nightmares about it. I would wake, sweating and terrified, from dreams in which I was being prosecuted for neglecting children I didn't know I had, or for abandoning infants who were repulsive to me.

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In the eighth grade, my feelings on the matter solidified. I had a teacher who, in an attempt to keep us from ending up pregnant, did his best to terrify us about children.

"Having a baby," he said, roaring with fervor, "is like being grounded for eighteen years!" His mustache quivered with his conviction. "You never get to do anything fun! You never get to spend any money on yourself, and you have to work like a dog!"

Now, I wouldn't say that this is what convinced me not to have children. I was already deeply skeptical. Rather, it confirmed the suspicions I already had, and I knew I wanted absolutely no part of it. I announced to my family that I was never, EVER, having children. They didn't believe me, of course. Now that I'm 41, I think it's dawning on them that I actually meant it.

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I have not changed my mind. I don't call myself childless, as I don't feel this as a lack, but neither do I call myself child free. I'm not; there are plenty of children in my life. Like I said, I have a slew of nieces and nephews, and many of my friends have children. They can be fun to hang out with. I like to buy them books, and give them cupcakes when I think I can get away with it. But I will never understand the feeling of wanting to have one.