Appreciating What I Don’t Have

I have two points to make.

1. I do not want children.
2. I do like children.

And now, in case in ten years I have a couple of pod-people and someone wants to point this out, an immediate addendum to point 1:  I reserve the right to someday want children.

Every now and then (like today) someone asks me when I’m going to be having ‘Zee Baybeeeze’. (They don’t phrase it that way, but that’s how I hear it.) When I reply that I’m not planning to have kids, they respond – with variations, of course – with one of the following:

(a) Oh, you’ll change your mind about that! (Insert occasional winks and references to biological clocks.)
(b) Oh! I’m so sorry. (This is accompanied by a furtive glance at my lower abdomen, as if they could see a faulty womb nestled in there.)
(c) Good for you! Kids are so annoying! (Cue immediate telling of stories regarding how not-cute their own little brood can be. These stories are inevitably cute and I am forced to make ‘Aww’ sounds at appropriate intervals.)

Response (a) & (b) don’t bother me, they really don’t. I realized long ago that the only reasonable reaction to (a) was to think, geesh, that person is completely right. I may change my mind one day! Good thing they pointed that out to me!

And yet. At this point in time, at this junction in my life, I don’t see myself having children. As for response (b), that’s just funny. And potentially mean, so if you’re one of those people, you should stop, in case it someday applies.

The one I want to clear up is – you guessed it! I hope! – (c).

There’s no need to assume that just because I don’t want kids, I dislike them. I think my friends’ kids are adorable as babies, amusing as toddlers, and frankly, the second they turn thirteen I’m going to roll around on the floor laughing as their teenage worlds crumble into THE MOST IMPORTANT TIME OF ANYONE’S LIFE EVER and their parents, my dear friends, run screaming to my house for strong drinks.

So, yeah. I like kids. I will be a great auntie to any child who gets stuck with me – I will have The Sex Talk, pick them up from parties when they’re too scared to call their parents, change their diapers (hopefully not the same night) and love them unconditionally. I will babysit them. I will babysit their parents when they’re scared out of their minds and have forgotten what we were like in our teens. And I can’t wait to do all of these things.

Still, it’s not an ideal choice, not having kids. It scares me, which is why most of the time I don’t talk about it beyond a laugh and a comment on how dogs are cheaper. (Which is still true.) I worry that I will have no one to carry on my line. (Yes. I am aware of how stupid that sounds.) I worry that one day, I will be old and lonely. Let’s face it, the best case scenario for me in my dotage is that my partner lives to be the same ripe old age as I, and we die – healthy enough to live alone, and still happy to be together – within a few hours of each other. Otherwise there will be retirement homes and no one to visit . . . oh, well, except for the miriad of neices and nephews I plan to accumulate.

Hey, that’s kind of cheering!

Anyway. A parent, for all their imagined and sometimes real failings, can always look back on their lives and say that they contributed to the world. And if by some amazing chance their great-great-grandchild solves world hunger, then they have a part in that too. I’m not saying it’s a good reason to have a child – just that it’s one of the small comforts I will never have, assuming I don’t change my mind.

So I’m not making a choice of high lifestyle, here. I’m not choosing a life of non-parenthood just to have more money (though I will) less gray hair (ditto) and more free time (yep).

I wish that I wanted children. I wish that I looked upon that responsibility and that commitment and thought, I want that. But I don’t. And despite how scary it may be, and how uncertain I am of a future without children, I am very certain of this: I should not have a child unless I really want one. I will not have a child just because I’m scared not to. That’s just stupid, and unconscious, and unkind to the child.

That’s all I have to say on the subject, except for this: Thank you to my own mother, who is so truly amazing that I could never, ever live up to the standard of parenting she has set.

If I change my mind about kids, though, you can bet that I’ll try.

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12 thoughts on “Appreciating What I Don’t Have

  1. “Thank you to my own mother, who is so truly amazing that I could never, ever live up to the standard of parenting she has set.”

    That’s how I feel. I experienced as near perfect of a childhood as you can get, and my parents are still supportive and wonderful friends for me now that I’m an adult. I have other reasons, too, but I don’t think I’d feel comfortable constantly comparing myself to such amazing parents and knowing I wasn’t measuring up.

    I think it all comes down to the fact that I’m a great second-in-command, but a shitty captain. I like being an au/ncle. (I can’t decide which is better, being an aunt or an uncle, but luckily I own clothes to be both.)

  2. Maybe we could form some sort of hippie commune for the aged and childless. We’ll call it, “Our parents were so great we don’t need to have kids,” or something shorter.

  3. About the looking after you in your old age thing – kids leave the country and abandon you anyway. So you are better off just collecting lots of friends to get old with. 😉

  4. I don’t want kids either. And I’m 41, so I think the biological clock skipped me entirely. Unlike you I don’t particularly like them either, especially the small ones. I was hoping for nieces and nephews, but that’s not likely either.

    When I told my mother some years ago that my partner and I weren’t having kids, she looked at me in shock. “What did I do wrong???”

    Um…

    • I like the very small ones best. There’s a period of time when they can’t even cry very loudly, so they’re just very sweet and small and they smell nice – well, most of the time – and when they don’t, you get to give them back!

      How to explain to mothers that, in fact, they probably did something *right*? A bell curve graph of the carrying capacity of our planet, perhaps?

  5. It’s funny–when Chrissy got pregnant with our first, we had really different attitudes. She wasn’t sure if she wanted kids. I definitely wanted them, but I didn’t really think about it. We had a lot of stuff we wanted to do first… which is still undone. Oh, you long-dreamed-of trip backpacking through Israel, I will get you one day.

    That said, she threw herself into mommying pretty seriously. But we definitely were less apprehensive about the second, who we tried for.

    I sometimes feel, in the words of Harvey Danger, that “I’ve been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding.” At times I wish my queer (in all senses of the word) liberal freethinking folks would breed a bit more so that my kids are not surrounded by the progeny of Fox News.

    But having known a lot of those who reproduced because they thought God expected it… you’re much better going into fully willing and hopeful. So, until then, Sän is Adia’s honorary ankle.

    • Yes, but YOUR children are adorable and probably never do anything gross or inappropriate, Spencer. Sän will make an excellent ankle, though your children will need to be taught to occasionally push him over on footpaths. I will assist with that.

  6. I think I completely lost my suspension of disbelief when you said that Spencer’s children would never do anything gross or inappropriate… 😉

    /agree on the not having children thing. I enjoy my nieces (mostly) and nephew (always) but I know myself too well to think that I would be a good parent. Too impatient, too selfish with my free time. The dogs are bad enough. 😉

    • Yeah. They are damn cute, but I assume they are also gross and inappropriate at times. Isn’t that how children work?
      I think you’d probably be an awesome mom (Remember that time you made me do push-ups? That’s practically parenting, right there) but I’m not sure the dogs of the world would be too happy if you left them. So that’s good news for the canines!

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