It seems very often when we parents read articles by people who don't have children for some reason -- whether they never wanted them or simply never got around to it -- there is always some inevitable defensiveness. Rather than saying, "this was my choice, but I respect yours," it always feels like there is a bit of bashing -- "children are annoying" or "the parents I know all look miserable."
That makes conversations between the childless (or child-free, if you prefer) often more about tit for tat and sometimes downright contentious. It does not have to be and writer Mandy Appleyard of the Daily Mail explains it well.
Appleyard never had children and that fact is both a major problem in her life and a major blessing. She is pretty honest. She says:
My regrets will always linger. My life is a poorer place for not having children, and I am less of a woman for not being a mother. There is a vast realm of experience and growth I will never know. But I am old enough to have learned that life doesn’t always give us what we want, nor what we might feel we are entitled to. I made some bad choices for which I take full responsibility, but in place of parenthood I have another precious gift, and one I do not underestimate. I have the gift of freedom.
And she does. As in any discussion where people keep it together and are actually honest, the truth is this: There are pros and cons to every decision. As Appleyard says, she never got to experience mother-love, which is fiercer and richer and more nuanced than almost any other kind of love. But what she has in its stead is something just as meaningful -- the freedom to make her own life.
I never look on women who chose not to have kids and feel sorry for them. I do feel badly for women who wanted it and for whom it never happened. But generally speaking, I think both choices have very strong points in their favor. As a mom of two under five, I often find myself wondering how my life might have been different had I not had them.
We never get to live the other life after we have had the other. I have no idea what it would be like to be 32 and childless any more than someone dying for kids knows what it would be like to be on my side of it. I know that when I was 28, my biological clock went insane and that was that. By now I would be baby crazy had I not had one. But for argument's sake, I can imagine a life without that clock.
I know my husband and I would travel more. Our disposable income would be roughly 50K higher than it is right now, which means we would have an enormous savings as well as plenty of money to shop and travel. We would likely go on an African Safari and to Thailand as well. We would frequent the best restaurants and by now have a much bigger house all to ourselves.
Those are the perks.
Of course, it is nearly impossible to imagine my life without the tiny creatures who have wriggled their way into every crevice of my former self. They are my whole life now and to imagine a life outside of them is nearly impossible. Knowing what I know with them in it, there is no vacation worth not having them.
But if I did not know what I was missing....
Do you ever imagine your life without kids?