Cyberspace is agog about the article in Time magazine this
week about child-free couples.
Suddenly it’s news.
|Looks are deceiving! (Photo by Mary Johnson)|
Not so much here.
Not having children is a decision I made 40 years ago during
my time of prime fertility. It didn’t come after failed attempts to get
pregnant or late marriage. I knew I could get pregnant. That happened going
into my senior year of college and I knew without a doubt it was not the right
time. It was a mistake I never made again.
Once I got married, I thought perhaps my biological clock
would kick in. It didn’t. I was 11 when my sister was born and my parents never
had a babysitter. It also made me prime babysitter material in the
neighborhood. The reality of changing diapers, sharing a room with a much
younger child, and various child-related chores definitely colored my decision.
People would say, “But it’s different if you have your own.”
No, not the kid clutter, interruptions, diapers, crying, the noise.
In the mid-70s, I asked my elderly aunt (at a wedding
in which the bride was already pregnant) if she regretted not having kids. She
was slightly taken aback and immediately said Yes, but by the end of the
conversation, she admitted and she and her husband had had quite a nice life
My then-husband suggested we get a dog first. When we
adopted an Irish Setter, I said, “Just because we have a dog that doesn’t mean
we’re gonna have a kid.” We didn’t. He held it against me later on when we
When I turned 30, I didn’t know whether to have a kid, a
career, or an affair. A kid was definitely out at that time, I almost had an
affair, and I concentrated on my career. At my surprise 30th
birthday party, my mother bugged about grandchildren for the umpteemth time.
“It’s something I’m not going to do until I’m damn good and ready. If at all,”
I said. She and my father got a poodle.
Enter husband number 2. By then I was in my mid-30s. He was
40-ish, coming off a divorce and with a rebellious teenage son. Weekends and a
weeknight consisted of figuring out how to amuse the kid. For me, used to
minimal TV and movie violence and a calm existence, it was disconcerting. He
was 14 or so at the time. Could I imagine starting from scratch? At 35? My
husband had a vasectomy before we tied the knot.
Despite an occasional dream about being pregnant, the alarm
on the biological time clock never went off.
Coming home to a quiet home was always an immense relief after
child-centered family gatherings. The cost of kids, the stuff they required,
the cost of college (especially now) reinforced our decision. Still, even now
my husband, who professes no great love for the little critters, finds it odd
that I didn’t want kids.
So are we like the couple on the cover of Time? Svelt in our
matching bathing suits, spending our free time on tropical beaches? Dropping
everything for a weekend at the Cape?
No freakin’ way! So echos Laura Carroll, who contributed to the article.
We’ve had ups and downs with employment, surgeries, house
expenses, car expenses, a Recession-wracked budget that fails to keep up with
the cost of living. We can put off buying clothes and shoes; you can’t do that
with a growing kid. We can keep the house at 55 degrees in the winter to save
money. Sleep in. Have supper. Or not.
It’s not that I’m not nurturing. Just ask the many cats I’ve
had over the years. Yes, I love them and can’t imagine life without them. Just
the way parents can’t imagine not having kids.
I would hope in this day and age that women have children
because they truly want them, not because of societal expectations. The media
has been so brave in recent years as to question the sanctity of parenthood, daring to report that it’s not all it’s
cracked up to be. Really? What can be pleasant about sleepless nights, a screaming
kid in a grocery store and teen angst?
And just as I was getting ready to post this article,
Kristen Tsetsi, author of No Children, No Guilt (under the pen name Sylvia D.
Lucas) was interviewed on local TV. The spot was titled, “Can life without kids be fulfilling?” Ummm, yeah. Like it was some recent phenomenon.
Giving in to societal pressure was never an option here. I’m
not child free by default or fertility failure. It was a decision I made early
on and never looked back. Regrets? Not a one.
Labels: child-free, choice