Sunday, August 18, 2013

Being child free is NOT new and revolutionary

Looks are deceiving! (Photo by Mary Johnson)
Cyberspace is agog about the article in Time magazine this week about child-free couples. 

Suddenly it’s news.

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 without kids.

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 divorced.

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.


Tails from the Foster Kittens said...

I regret not having children in a very similar way I'm sure that people have children regret having them, a fleeting thought that never has much life to them.

Layla Morgan Wilde ( Cat Wisdom 101) said...

I'm surprised Time considered it news worthy as well. Regret is never a good way to live your life. I spent my fertile years ambivalent about having kids but now relieved I didn't. I've never regretted the four-legged ones.

C.A. said...

I'm 61, childfree by choice, and NO regrets. My decision was influenced by practically raising my younger 3 sisters, but by the time I was a teen, I knew. I even talked this over with the man I married BEFORE we got hitched. We had a long marriage of 35 years before he died, and even now as a widow I still have no regrets. I think the TIME article at least brings up an issue far too many women give so little thought about, just assuming they need to have kids. And I love my brood of four-legged critters, no regrets about them, and nope, they are NOT replacements for kids.

Enjoyed your post.