“Why don’t you have kids?”
I think people mean well when they ask, but it’s not really a question that is as benign as they think. For starters, it’s none of their business. But I’m not usually so crass as all that. I’m pretty open about just about everything, so I understand people feeling comfortable asking me that question. But for another person or couple it could be a very sensitive issue to bring up. Perhaps there’s a physical reason that is painful or sad or even devastating. That doesn’t happen to be the case for me, but there’s hubris in someone to presume otherwise. Frankly, it shows hubris to assume that having children is even an end goal or desire for someone else. It’s as if a physical predicament is the only acceptable answer.
For me, not having kids is a complicated thing. Though in a way it’s not. The short answer is Patrick and I decided not to because we didn’t want to. Or at least we didn’t want to enough. There are numerous reasons, many of which might hurt some people’s feelings, so I will be thoughtful with what I share here.
I will say this: When I was a child I never imagined my life with kids. I didn’t daydream about being a mom. I had fleeting thoughts about it in so much as it’s expected, so I sometimes thought about it as an inevitability. But when I played house as a kid I imagined being married, I imagined having a husband, I imagined cooking dinner, I imagined greeting my husband at the door as he came home; but I never really played with baby dolls. I never pretended that I had a baby or children. I’d play Barbie, but not “Mommy”. I would sooner play teacher, setting up a classroom where I could stand and speak in front of a class (or audience, as I thought). Or I’d pretend I was a writer, setting up a desk with a typewriter, pencil holder, and pad of paper. And here I am living the exact life I imaged in my youth — a wife, a performer, a writer. Isn’t it powerful how we can generate the exact things we picture in our minds?
Everyone tells me how children would change my life. And honestly, not everyone has said for the better. In either case, better or worse, it would change. Change forever. Patrick and I have not wanted our lives to change. We are happy where we are. (Sorry, don’t gag.) Children could put a strain on us that might be the one thing too hard to weather. We are constantly being told we’d be wonderful parents. I am flattered and warmed by these sentiments, but I’m not convinced we’d be wonderful spouses after becoming parents. We have been through an awful lot together (much of which has already been shared in previous blog entries), but I have a funny, sinking feeling that parenthood could be the one challenge our marriage would not survive, not in the form we currently enjoy anyway. And I am simply not willing to take that risk, putting our relationship through that strain, no matter how great the reward might be.
Patrick says I’m a silly doofus for thinking that. He believes strongly that our marriage would undoubtedly survive children and would continue to thrive. Our love would grow. I should clarify . . . I am not willing to change in the ways it would be necessary for us to make it work. I do tend to get frustrated with him in ways that aren’t fair to him. If he parented differently than me, which I believe he would, I’d be pulling my hair out daily. I just don’t think we’d be on the same page. We aren’t even on the same page with our dog most times. He’d undoubtedly be the good cop to my bad. And I think I’d easily slip into allowing his career to take precedent over mine. I see a future where I’d spend my days resenting him. But regardless, he doesn’t want to have children for other reasons that are his own and that we share.
Back in the days when we were still considering having a baby it was easy to procrastinate. We’d always discussed adoption as the method we’d choose even if we could get pregnant and carry a baby naturally, something I honestly don’t know if we could do because we’ve never tried. But now, at 44, almost 45, it’s less likely anyway.
We had an eye-opening discussion at dinner a number of years ago. We were talking about having a baby when I admitted I’d only be doing it for him. Then he said, “Well, I was only considering it for you”. What a shock to realize each of us was willing to “go there” only for the other person. I know, I know, that’s an ideal quality for a parent to have. But I see this settled indifference as a red flag telling me we do not want to tread that path.
I’ve seen couples in this business succeed beautifully at having it all. But I’ve also witnessed the falling off of dreams when people add children to the equation. Or rather, I should say the changing of dreams. Having children is a dream in and of itself, a gift, a beautiful, magnificent gift, I do not want to unwrap.
Do not get me wrong. I love, love, love babies and children. I have immense joy around them. I adore their minds and their questions and their innocence. When I spend time with children I am enchanted, but I am beyond relieved when I get to hand them back, so to speak. And I know what you’re going to say here . . . It’s different when they’re your own. I believe you. I do believe you. But please believe me. It wouldn’t be different for me. I would resent them. One of the truest, most raw things I can admit here is that I know I am too selfish to be a parent, or rather in a way, I am not selfish enough. I would give up everything for a child and then I would resent it.
So now the barrage of questions and assumptions, among them: Children give your life meaning. You don’t know what real love is. Who will take care of you when you’re old? You’ll regret it.
My life has incredible meaning. Maybe different than yours, but fulfilling and exciting and surprising and lovely and beautiful and powerful and spontaneous and exactly how I want it. And I do know what real love is. I live it every day. And just because you have kids doesn’t mean there will automatically be someone to care for you when you’re old, unless you consider being visited once a year in an assisted living home the same as taking care of you.
There is no way I can know for certain whether or not I’ll regret it. But I’d rather regret not having a baby, then regret having a baby, because there is only one choice that puts another human soul on the line. It would kill my heart, simply slay me forever, if I knew my child could smell the resentment oozing out of my pores.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, please don’t judge me. I’m speaking primarily for myself and from my own experience, but I imagine I speak for other women who feel as I do. Please don’t shame me. And please don’t try to make me feel like I don’t know what I want. Please know I have given this incredible, soul-searching thought. I think about it all the time. Every day. Each and every day. And seeing a video like this pop up in my Facebook feed can send me reeling:
This video may not play on mobile devices, but I promise, it’s worth watching.
I am keenly aware of the gravity of my choice.
You may think I’m making a big mistake. I hear you loud and clear. And I might be; I know that, too. I am gravely aware of what I am missing. But maybe, just maybe, I know myself well enough to make the choice for myself. Trust me.