I got married at the age of 23, and I didn’t want to have children. So many people told me, “You’ll regret it.” The phrase took on a ridiculous, ominous tone in my head, like the voice of the ghost in the Christmas Carol movies who says, “Scroooge.” Yooooou’ll regret iiiiiit.
The people who warned me were parents themselves, so they didn’t speak from personal experience. The truth is, a person might regret anything she does or doesn’t do, but it’s usually considered rude to point that out. No one said to me, for instance, “Oh, you’re getting married? Could be a big mistake!” Many people feel not only free but obligated to argue with a decision not to have children, however. I think it might be much worse to regret having kids than to regret not having them, but what do I know?
I don’t want to offend anyone who wants to be a parent and can’t be, and I’m not denigrating other people’s choices. Personally, though, I really appreciate my child-free life.
When Mr. Donovan and I come home at the end of a workday, we can do whatever we want. Work on a novel, or a quilt? Play a videogame, or screw around online? Have wine and popcorn for dinner? Sure. Both of us prefer to have a lot of quiet, interrupted time. Then again, if we want to go out and see a movie or something, we don’t have to plan it in advance.
My friends feel like Mr. Donovan and I have a fantastic relationship. Most of the credit goes to him being so wonderful, but I also think it’s easier for us to be close and romantic because we don’t have arguments over child-rearing. The key to our marriage is that we rarely try to tell each other what to do, because we both hate being told what to do. I think it would be harder for us to have that kind of relationship while trying to parent together.
I don’t feel the passage of time as strongly as friends my age who are parents. When their kids start high school or college, that can make them feel old, but I don’t have that point of reference. Even in my mid-40s, it’s hard for me to feel old, because I have basically the same lifestyle I did in my early 20s. “My kids keep me young,” one dad told me. “Without them, I wouldn’t ever hear any new music.” I’m always getting into new bands. Maybe without kids and more free time, you have more opportunity to learn about things firsthand.
This is trivial, but to be completely honest, I like it that a pregnancy hasn’t taken a toll on my body. It’s funny: society pressures us constantly to look good, but if we have any negative thoughts about what having a baby does to us physically, suddenly we’re too superficial. The imperative to reproduce outweighs even the imperative to be attractive.
I’m not sure Mr. Donovan and I would be up for some of the issues my friends with children deal with, such as behavior problems and academic problems. I don’t know how they do it. I can’t even get our dog to stop pooping indoors on occasion. Parents worry about what their teenagers will be doing in a few years. I make exciting plans for what I want to be doing in a few years.
I’ve been told that not having children is selfish. While I hope most parents experience some personal gratification, I think the people who say this are probably right, at least about me. At any rate, when someone says you’re selfish, smiling and agreeing pretty much shuts it down.
We do have a lot of nieces and nephews, although none close by, and we love them. They’re cute when they’re little, and even more enjoyable as they get older and develop interests and opinions. I like being an aunt—all fun and no work. It’s like being a grandma who doesn’t always remember to watch her language.
My mom tells me I’ll be alone when I’m old. I’m pretty sure children wouldn’t provide me with a rock-solid guarantee there, and I’ll be damned if I arrange the whole course of my life according to fear of how it will end. Honestly, I’m a recluse by nature anyway. By the time I’m 90 or so, I may very much want to be alone, thank you.
I know I’m missing out on parts of life by not being a mom, and that’s okay with me. Every decision we make limits us in some ways and frees us in others. We’re all different, and what works for me wouldn’t work for everyone. I just wanted to write this for people who think they don’t want to have children. Others may say, “You’ll regret it,” but I want to tell you it might be a brilliant choice.