Do You Regret Not Having Children?
September 21, 2004 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Do you regret not having children?

I'm nearly 40, and my spouse and I have always agreed that we're not interested in having kids. Now that we're getting to an age where it's much less of an option than ever before, I was wondering whether folks later in life have made the same decision and now look back with regret. I don't think either way we will change our minds, but it would be interesting to know whether we'll be bitter and sad about it in our old age, or still enjoying the freedom and spare time and cash.
posted by icetaco to Human Relations (60 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
It's a purely private decision you make as a couple. That my wife and I, or any other couple, are very happy to be without children has no bearing on or relevence to whether you, or any other couple, will be happy with the same decision.
posted by normy at 9:25 PM on September 21, 2004

This is topic #1 to avoid in public, and even in private (making me a huge bufoon, clearly). It outranks Iraq and gay marriage on the radioactive scale, because if you don't want kids, them what does think you hate humanity, and they may be right.
posted by mwhybark at 9:35 PM on September 21, 2004

I am older than you, and single, and I never wanted kids, and I don't regret it. I don't hate kids, but the inescapable pressure of looking after them, constantly hassling them do things they don't want to do, worrying about what they're up to when they get older, not to mention the expense - no. I wish the best luck to parents, but it's not for me. I made the right choice.
posted by zadcat at 9:45 PM on September 21, 2004 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Normy, I'm just interested in others' experiences. Surely people aren't so radically different from one another that there's nothing I can learn from you and your wife, or any other couple? Or call it curiosity. Or just nosiness.

mwhybark; I read one other AskMeFi thread on it, and it did remain civil for the most part. I don't mean to disparage anyone's decision either way. I have a lot of respect for those who take on what I believe to be the hardest job a human can do - being entirely responsible for anothers' life.
posted by icetaco at 9:48 PM on September 21, 2004

I turn 40 in two months, and I deeply regret not having any kids. I still hope to, however.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:12 PM on September 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

Surely people aren't so radically different

In my experience and opinion, yes, they are.
posted by normy at 10:31 PM on September 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

I remember reading an article some time in the past year or so about a surveys of couples' attitudes about children, after many years. I hope I'm recounting it right. As I recall, couples who wanted kids and had them generally felt they had made the right decision. Couples who didn't want kids and didn't have them were just as happy with life, and also felt they had made the right decision. Those who were unable to have children even though they wanted them for the most part were happy, but did regret not having kids. And those who didn't want kids but ended up having them loved their kids, lived happy lives, but sometimes regretted having kids.

Anyhow, I'm still in my 20s, but I know with absolute certainty that I don't want kids. I've known since I was a kid myself. And although many people doubt what I want for myself, I don't. I've known old people who didn't have kids and who lived happy, fulfilling lives. That's what I'm looking forward to for myself.

You should check out
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:34 PM on September 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

If I never did, I would regret it (which puts me in category i or iii in the croutonsupafreak taxonomy). If I can pick up a well-matched wife to do parenting with, I would love to try and partly fail at the task of creating a few more good human beings, hopefully a little better than this model. And also, expand the circle of people I love a bit more.

This is actually a bit of a change for me. In my 20's, having kids was something I thought I would probably do someday, but not really a desire, and my priorities were often travel, self-improvement, career determination. All of those things are still important to me, but the idea of working at building family something like the one I grew up in has taken a stronger hold on me.
posted by weston at 11:43 PM on September 21, 2004

I turn 40 next year, and as I grow older I become more certain that not reproducing was and will continue to be the right choice for me.

Unless somebody chucks me like a million bucks, and I never have to work again. Then, sure, I'll happily propagate the wonderchicken genes, because I'll be able to be a father in the only way that I could imagine doing it : full time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:54 AM on September 22, 2004

I am in a somewhat unique situation, in that I have given birth, but I have not raised my child. She lives with her adoptive parents, and I talk to her regularly and see her several times a year.

That said, I feel like I'm in the "never had kids" category, in a way, because I've never raised one. And I don't regret it at all. I became pregnant despite all my valiant efforts at birth control, and since then I've been doubly vigilant to the point of near absurdity.

I don't want to raise children. My daughter, who I love and am immensely proud of, is a person raised entirely outside of my life. I feel like I'm in the role of cool aunt, and I'm happy with that. I don't want to give birth again, I don't want to raise anyone, and I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. Some people think it's selfish for people to decide against having children. I think it's the opposite. Most people who don't want to have kids have given much more thought to their decision than the majority of people who have kids (no offense to those who have kids - there are just a lot of people who have kids via "accident").

If you don't want kids, don't have them. You know yourself well enough to know you don't want them - don't give in to societal pressure that tells you you're not right.
posted by bedhead at 1:52 AM on September 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

No regrets from somebody rapidly approaching 50. My wife and I discussed it at length before we married, and the subject has come up occasionally since. It's not for us, nor are we bitter or sad.

Who will take care of us when we're old? Why, we'll hire other people's kids of course.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:58 AM on September 22, 2004

I don't think this is a black and white issue. There are good things and bad things with every choice we make. It seems that it's human nature, however, to try and justify 100% every decision we make.
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:22 AM on September 22, 2004

[raises hand] 40-year-old woman with no regrets here.
posted by JanetLand at 5:02 AM on September 22, 2004

no regrets--almost 40, and i'm a great uncle, and good to all the kids i get to know along the way (waves to davehat and family in Manchester, and others). : >

When i was younger, i thought a lover and i would have adopted some kid (maybe a special-needs kid?) by this time, but my life has moved differently, and that's fine too.
posted by amberglow at 5:14 AM on September 22, 2004

I am 41 and I regret not having children. But that is because it was not a black and white decision, so if I had kids, I would have regrets too.

I am still comfortable with my decision, though. And my wife and I agree that adoption is an exellent option should we change our minds. Until then, it's guinea pigs for us. Now that I don't regret!
posted by SNACKeR at 5:16 AM on September 22, 2004

It always struck me as terribly ironic that the kinds of people who should be reproducing are many times the ones who have no interest in it, while the sorts of people I really wouldn't want to see repeated end up having litters of them.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:36 AM on September 22, 2004 [6 favorites]

It seems that it's human nature, however, to try and justify 100% every decision we make.

That's probably why our relatives and acquaintances (and sometimes perfect strangers) can't get a grasp on our decision not to have kids of our own. At least at our age they've stopped saying "oh, you'll change your mind."
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:06 AM on September 22, 2004

I'm 36 and this past two years have brought roughly 10-12 new kids into my extended family of friends and they seem like wonderful little people. Previous to this recent baby boom, there have only been one or two kids added to the circle in a decade. So, it's time, for my social group anyhow. My boyfriend and I are pretty long-term committed but not that excited by the having-kid prospect [plus there are a TON of other kids out there to hang out with]. The only time I even think about it is when one of my female friends my age gets me on the phone and says stuff like "You know we can only have kids for a FEW MORE YEARS" even though she knows I'm not really planning to take that path, and that I'm already pretty good at math. I have a few nearly-hysterical single female friends who are nearing the end of their childbearing years who think I am making a big mistake and I've reached the end of useful things to tell them about why I think they're wrong [they believe I am in denial, that every woman wants a baby &c]. I just try to set a good example for the "it's okay not to have kids" crowd.

So, no regrets, but I sort of feel like the door is always open to bring in new family members one way or the other. The only regret I have -- and this is idiotic, I know -- is that if neither myself nor my sister has kids, we'll be the last of 13 generations of American "Wests" in our branch of the family tree down one side. My parents either haven't noticed this or don't care, which makes me supremely grateful.
posted by jessamyn at 6:24 AM on September 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

I've never really wanted kids, and I'll be 40 in a few years. I've often feared the biological alarm would start screeching at me, but it hasn't. I do worry about who will take care of me when I'm old, and I'm sad that generations of family lore will die out. But I've also always thought that if you are ambivalent about kids, you really shouldn't have any. (I know people who had one just to save their marriage and boy is that a huge mistake.) In some ways, I think I'd be a good mom. In many other ways, I KNOW I'd be a lousy one.
The only manifestation of alarm clockery has been that occasionally in the last few years I have found myself idly having imaginary conversations with a phantom child. It's always me explaining something to them - what other people believe about god or how to deal with bullies or how to cook coq au vin. I guess more than family lore, I'm sad all the stuff I've learned over the years won't be passed on.

I do hate the idea of that door - any door - being swung shut in my face. And if I were to fall for a man who desperately wanted kids, I might still go for it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:30 AM on September 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

I have many friends who are in their late 30's, early 40's and who don't have kids and seem very happy about it. (However, their circle of friends gets younger and younger as each set of friends has kids so they move to the younger set who haven't had them yet.) They were smart smart smart to realize that it isn't for them and do the right thing for everyone...themselves, the non-being-kids, and the world & environment.

I think it's good that society is at least a little more accepting of people who don't have kids-where it was basically unheard of or at least very looked-down upon in the past. So that led to people having kids who shouldn't have and didn't want them. Case in point: A family member had 3 kids and they are the most screwed-up dysfunctional family. I'm convinced it's because they didn't want kids but felt like it's what they had to do. She never really liked doing the raising them part.

So kudos to those who decide not to have them if they don't really want them! It's a very mature decision and I hope people become even more accepting of it over time.
posted by aacheson at 6:40 AM on September 22, 2004

It seems that it's human nature, however, to try and justify 100% every decision we make.

Heh. I usually just tell people who ask me why I don't have children that I haven't figured out what causes them yet.
posted by JanetLand at 7:01 AM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

I thought being gay would remove the pressure from my family. Alas, I was quite wrong about that.

If I hear my mother drone on one more time about how "there are lots of children in the world that need good homes..."

You see, I actually want kids, but I'm in my early thirties. I actually had a timeframe of my mid-fourties for this.
posted by hummus at 8:08 AM on September 22, 2004

Salon did a whole series on the "To breed or not to breed" debate about a year and a half ago (to celebrate Mother's Day, heh).

I found the articles fascinating and compelling. Here's one of them - and you're sure to find links to related articles once you read that.

Letters to the editor poured in from parents. The letters were, if anything, more riveting than the articles. Some of these people bitterly regretted having children.

I'm 31 and single. I want to have kids so much it hurts. If I never do find anyone I want to marry, I hope it will be possible for me to adopt. But after reading this Salon material, I was much better equipped to live with the possibilty that I may never have children. You idealize what you don't have, and the best antidote for regret is to replace those ideals with some knowledge of what the experience might actually be like.

Not having kids may mean that I'm spared having to watch a small child die. I may have escaped having my bipolar teenager commit suicide. I may have been saved from having to care for a profoundly mentally handicapped son or daughter for the next 50 years.
posted by orange swan at 8:31 AM on September 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

This is a rarity, but I just want to HUG everyone in this thread. As many of you know, it's often very hard for men and women in their late 30's who have decided to not have kids. There is a lot of pressure, direct and indirect, from family and from the general societal default that of-course-you-want-kids.

I'm grateful to see so many who feel and have chosen similarly to me express their feelings so eloquently. Thank you!

I'm nearing 40 and have never really wanted kids. My same-aged partner, either. We love them to bits, really, for an afternoon or maybe one night. We're so happy when the real parents come back to take over that we want to do a little freedom dance.

Yeah, you parents knock yourselves out. Have fun and make the most of it. I'm sure there are many blessings to the parental life, but please don't look down your nose at the rest of us who are content to live our lives focused on other things.

Again with the HUGS!
posted by squirrel at 8:54 AM on September 22, 2004

Actually HAVING children has made me understand and respect much, much more deeply the choice not to have them. It's also made me much more protective of a woman's right to choice, incidentally.

I'm mostly content with my decision to breed (twice, even), but right now I'm battling a pretty scary and isolating post-partum depression, and honestly I am focusing an awful lot lately on what my life could have been if I'd remained child-free.

(I would be thin, NOW, not in a couple months. I would be able to smoke. I would be able to stay up all night because I WANT TO, not because other little teeny people demand it.)

On the other hand, none of the things a child-free person does are really closed off to me because of my kids (except the smoking, but even that's simply a choice I made, and I should have made it even if children weren't involved). We travel, we eat well, we watch good movies (some of which aren't even animated). We've retained our child-free friends and we don't try to convert them. Nor do we try to sway the folks on the fence.

Set your mind at ease, because from the vantage point of twenty shitty diapers a day, a lack of interest in having kids is about the best reason not to have them that I can think of. I feel sad for people who tie parenthood into their identity so tightly that they can't imagine allowing the identity of others to exclude children.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go play Legos with my toddler.
posted by padraigin at 9:21 AM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Up until my early twenties, I wanted to have children. Several things changed my mind: raising a nephew and two nieces, lack of money, lack of a partner, selfishness (wanting to be able to do what I want when I want to do it) and other reasons.

When I met my future husband-to-be (I was 33, he was 49), it came up in discussion. He didn't want any more kids (he has an adult son and two grand-kids and had a vasectomy 25-ish years ago). He also couldn't understand my not wanting kids but he realized that I was old enough to have thought it through.

I'll be 38 in a couple months. Do I have regrets? Well... not regrets exactly, but I'm quite aware that in not having kids I'm missing out on something. However, I'm sure I made the right decision for me.
posted by deborah at 10:05 AM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Apparently my biological clock is broken, I’ve never wanted to be a breeder. Kids, albeit cute, have always been an unknown species to me. I’ve only been left alone with a child a handful of times, and each incident left me feeling helpless as to what to do with the creature before me. Every child deserves to be raised by someone who wholly wants and loves them. Since I can’t give that to a child, I don’t regret not having children.
posted by lola at 10:08 AM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone in this thread. I'm still pretty young--though I do have a great partner, who could take or leave having a kid--so my thoughts of children have remained pretty distant. Nonetheless, I am not so inclined, and it's been great to see a space that isn't pro-kid in the totalitarian way many other parts of our culture are.

So thanks. But no hugs. I don't like touching strangers.
posted by dame at 10:14 AM on September 22, 2004

I reproduced at a very young age, and there are days I really regret this. Of course, I love my daughter very much and much more often than not, I'm happy with the way things turned out.

I guess the best advice I'd have for everyone with regard to the child/no child debate is this: find someone of the same opinion. Nothing will erode trust and intimacy more effectively than the bitterness one person might feel towards the other for pressuring them to have / not have kids when they didn't want to.
posted by rocketman at 10:26 AM on September 22, 2004

i hope my previous post about having children late in life didn't seem in any way denigrating to people who choose not to, as I am a person who has actively chosen not to. While I want to know my options, I am fine with what i consider the probability that i won't have children which i believe is the best choice for me to have made in the interest of possible children, myself and anyone else involved. I don't think not having my own children means i can't love children (in the non nambla way) and be involved in their lives and welfare. having friends who have children has made all the difference, and i'm so much more suited to be auntie mame or some wacky relative anyway, but one never knows...
posted by ethylene at 10:26 AM on September 22, 2004

I think a lot of us in the thread make really good Auntie Mames/Aunt Claras/Uncle Arthurs... : >

And to the moms and dads: keep on keeping on--we all came from somewhere, and with cool parents like you around, everything will turn out ok is what i'm thinking.
posted by amberglow at 10:46 AM on September 22, 2004

Children may be the closest thing we humans get to immortality. I wonder how many people's regrets don't kick in until they really start to cope with the fact that they themselves are definitely going to die?
posted by advil at 10:54 AM on September 22, 2004

Happy Child-Free Birthday To Me!

I've taken care of children for months on end and came out of it so damned thankful that I don't have children of my own.

Indeed, not a week goes by that my wife and I don't thank each other for not wanting children.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:10 AM on September 22, 2004

Growing up, I was convinced I didn't want kids. I don't particularly like them, even now. Oddly enough, once married, I did want to have them, so I wound up with three. In the process, realized that I simply didn't want to be around OTHER PEOPLE's kids.

I am kinda of the theory that it is hard to miss what you have never had. But for those of you on the thread who don't like children in general, but are afraid you are making a mistake by not having any-it really is different if the child is your own.

Anyhow, if you do have regrets and it is too late, do what I do-I'm an only child and I just pick people to be surrogate siblings. No reason why you can't borrow someone's kid to go to the zoo, and the parents will be grateful for the break.
posted by konolia at 11:35 AM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'd think that parents who view their children as some form of their own immortality are deluding themselves. The goal of having a child should be to produce and raise an independent individual, not some part of yourself that will carry on when you die. That's incidental, and should not be a primary factor in your decision.

That said, I'm getting close to the end of the line for deciding, and I remain highly ambivalent about it, although I tend to be more on the "childfree" side, which probably means I shouldn't have one. I'm lucky enough to have two friends past their childbearing years, one with, one without. The one with is honest enough to say that while she loves her kid, it wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world not to have one. The one without worried until she hit menopause, and then felt relief that it wasn't an issue anymore, and now recognizes that a big part of her ambivalence was related to external pressures and expectations, rather than how she really felt.

I think the bottom line for me, personally, is that regret is a pretty useless emotion. As long as you're true to yourself, and honestly do try and do the right thing at the time, then you should have no regrets. Sure, you may say "sometimes I wish I'd had kids", but if you can look in the mirror and recognize that there really never was a time when having a kid was the right thing to do, there shouldn't be a problem.
posted by biscotti at 11:38 AM on September 22, 2004 [4 favorites]

This is actually something I feel strongly about--not having any--and so when I was dating, back in the pre-The Sweet One days--I brought the topic up very early after meeting a nice woman. Sometimes even on the first date. Though I sometimes never got a second one, the utterly core nature of this choice made it important to be of the same mind.

At 43, I do wonder about the old age question and then realize that my sister just married a man with four kids. So even with his ex-wife, that still leaves a nephew or a niece to care for us. ;)
posted by billsaysthis at 11:42 AM on September 22, 2004

I have never in my life wanted to have children, and I can say with a good deal of confidence, that I will never have them. Luckily my fiancé never cared about having children either, so that makes it a lot easier for both of us!

On the issue of regret I look at it this way - I would rather remain childfree and (possibly) regret it later, than regret the fact that I had children. I'm willing to take the chance with possibly regretting that we never had children!
posted by mabelcolby at 11:59 AM on September 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

I don't regret not having had children... yet.
posted by kindall at 12:10 PM on September 22, 2004

Mortality doesn't really trouble me; I don't mind that I'm going to die. Maybe that's why I'm not so worried about having kids.

And if I'm gonna be remembered for something, I'd like it to be for my work (no, not the money kind; the writing kind). Another reason to not have kids--a big one really: I have work I think is more important. Besides, (almost) everyone can breed. If I get my memory it'll be based on something not everyone can do. And if not, that's okay.
posted by dame at 12:28 PM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, you guys - I really appreciate the time everyone took to answer. I kind of want to hug you all too.

It's been good to hear from both sides.

Now to face the next big question: whether to get a dog. But that's another AskMe. :)
posted by icetaco at 12:29 PM on September 22, 2004

One more comment:

I may have escaped having my bipolar teenager commit suicide.

Speaking as a former crime reporter who has knocked on many dreadful doors to talk to suddenly newsworthy mothers, you have escaped something (arguably) worse: having your kid kill someone else's kid.

This is a great thread
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:35 PM on September 22, 2004

I may be a little late to this post, but I hope I have something to offer. I'm currently sitting opposite my favourite uncle, at his work (yes STA America, your server problems will be sorted within the next 10 minutes).

He's 53 years old and is childless by choice. This choice has caused the end of at least three relationships that have happened in my lifetime.

As a kid I would always bug him about it. I loved him so much, I was certain that any kid he had would not only be a cool cousin, but would also probably have a much better time of growing than I was having. I'm not going too far in to it here, suffice to say my home life as a kid was not a happy place.

Then, one day, it dawned on me. He really REALLY didn't want to have kids.

There were many reasons why, but they are not important. What is important is that he has been able to devote time to me, my siblings and my cousins by providing something that, with the late 20th century's disperate family set up is a rarety.

He's been a great uncle.

And as of last year when my son was born (the first of the next generation of my family), he's now a real great uncle.

There's nothing wrong with not having kids. Not liking them is a different matter
posted by davehat at 1:36 PM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

I love kids, and I've always "wanted to have kids." My three closest male friends, who I've known since high school, all became fathers within the last four years, and I've gotten a better idea of what it's really like to have children. As the "uncle" to their kids, it's all happy play time for me, but I've seen and heard about the less-fun aspects of it. Not enough to scare me off, but enough to think seriously about what it would actually be like.

I'm concerned I may be too selfish and financially loosy-goosey to be a parent. And I'm pretty sure that changing diapers would make me barf and barf.

I'm going to be 40 soon, and I was surprised at how many people, from their comments, seemed to that 40 was a cutoff date.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:42 PM on September 22, 2004

I'm surprised at how many MeFiers are approximately 40 (at least, judging from this thread). I wonder if that's the mean age around here? Man, you people are old. The pro-kid faction may be underpresented on this thread, because people with kids don't have time to hang around on Metafilter all day, pondering goofy stuff. Like it or not, they've got human beings on their hands, and they've simply got to get on with it.
posted by Faze at 5:37 PM on September 22, 2004

I'm surprised too--we all know who HR Pufnstuf was, and you don't, Faze. : P
posted by amberglow at 6:12 PM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

"Man, you people are old."

Thanks a lot, Faze!

I had also noticed that there seem to be a lot of people in that age range. I'm 39.

I never wanted to have children -- the only impulse to have them that I've ever had is that I fear that the time when I can do it will be over soon, and what if I regret it later?

I am not regretting it so far, though. We'll see what happens in the future.
posted by litlnemo at 6:30 PM on September 22, 2004

I'm only thirty, as it happens.

I'm sure that one reason more parents haven't offered their views is that the topic's pretty clearly addressed to the child-free. I threw my two cents in because I felt like it might be nice to hear, from a parent, that people who choose not to have kids aren't going to necessarily be heaped with scorn by those who do. And that not all parents are trained to parrot the party line of how freaking wonderful it is. It is, of course, but so are lots of other things a life can lead you to.
posted by padraigin at 7:08 PM on September 22, 2004

Man, you people are old.

Old enough to be... your father. *shudders* But still young enough to kick your butt, sonny boy!

I suspect that the bulk of the responses come not only from those who are childless, but those who are of an age where the likelihood of reversing a decision not to reproduce becomes slimmer with each passing year.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:15 PM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Being handed a newborn baby is like that scene in Sleeper where they passed the Orb around--their skin is soft and the Force is so strong in them and it makes the heart beat faster to hold them. But those moments pass away so fast and they grow and grow and turn into teenagers and then grownups and it all seems to happen in the blink of any eye. The pleasure of talking to your grown children adult to adult over matters of common interest seems like such a rare possibility from what I have seen.. But it's cause to feel wistful when I see it.
posted by y2karl at 7:27 PM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

37 today.

kirkaracha: you won't barf. Not more than once, anyway. It's shit, you get used to it.

Gotta admit, though, wiping a toddler's bum for her was a real shocker to me. I had no idea that little munchkins' arms are too short to reach! (Let alone their dire problems with co-ordination.) Amusing in retrospect.

The Story About the Baby is great reading. Made me realize how absolutely unappealing the baby-rearing job is. Ugh.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:40 PM on September 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Children may be the closest thing we humans get to immortality. I wonder how many people's regrets don't kick in until they really start to cope with the fact that they themselves are definitely going to die?

There's two pro-breeding chestnuts in a row, advil. The old mortality argument--which I always found profoundly self-centered--and the you'll-regret-it-later-in-ways-you-can't-yet-imagine argument, which presumes to know how much I've pondered my own mortality. Shouldn't you have thrown in the "biological imperitive" argument for good measure?

*sigh* I'm sure you mean well, advil.

This thread has been a wonderful tonic to the daily trickle of subtle guilt and implied threat pushed at the childfree daily by "well-meaning" friends and family. Thanks again to everyone, and hugs to all who want them!
posted by squirrel at 8:48 PM on September 22, 2004

I strongly second The Story About The Baby for anyone who's either on the fence, or who actually has a spawn in the works. It's about as real as it gets, and it should be required reading--a potential parent needs to recognize that there can be humor in the darkest and ickiest moments of childrearing.

And yes, it's quite amazing how much fluid you deal with from the moment of conception to...I don't know how long it lasts. Beyond the age of long enough arms to self-wipe, I am certain. I'm actually really impressed with my ability to cope with it. The only time I ever came close to yacking myself was the first time I dealt with a code brown during bathtime.

On preview: I admit that one of my reasons for wanting children is the circle-of-life thing. I have a really neat family. I'd like that to be perpetuated. So far, so good. But if I hadn't stepped up myself, I have plenty of cousins and such.
posted by padraigin at 8:52 PM on September 22, 2004

There's two pro-breeding chestnuts in a row, advil. The old mortality argument--which I always found profoundly self-centered--and the you'll-regret-it-later-in-ways-you-can't-yet-imagine argument, which presumes to know how much I've pondered my own mortality. Shouldn't you have thrown in the "biological imperitive" argument for good measure?

*sigh* I'm sure you mean well, advil.

Let me say that I didn't intend my comment particularly as an argument for anything. In fact, I have no idea yet whether I would want to have kids or even on what ground I should decide that. I further didn't intend it as a comment about any particular person, so I don't think I presumed anything about how much *you* had pondered your mortality. I did, however presume two things, both of which might be false, but I think are defensible: (i) it is very difficult for someone to "ponder their mortality" effectively without close proximity to death. (ii) most people do not have this kind of close proximity until long after the option to have kids is over.

In fact, at the least, I'm pretty sure both of these assumptions hold of me - I have no concept of what it means for me to be going to die, and I likely won't for a long time (hopefully). I'm also not sure it's a very good to assume that everything one can imagine now is the totality of what one can imagine.

That said, I agree that the argument from mortality is fundamentally self-centered, and perhaps not a very good argument. But, as I said before, my comment was not trying to argue for anything. It was more a question about human nature.

Perhaps a reason for the guilt and implied threat is that people who have made a decision not to have kids subtly confront those around them with their own mortality?
posted by advil at 10:51 PM on September 22, 2004

I am one of those people who never wanted kids, unfortunately this conviction wasn't strong enough to stop my partner and I having drunken, unprotected sex a couple of years ago.

I miss sleep
I miss having money
I miss having sex
I miss getting drunk
I miss getting stoned
I miss playing computer games for hours at a stretch
I miss going to the cinema.
I miss sleeping in.
I miss spending quality time with my partner
I miss being irresponsible
I miss my old life.

Unfortunately, in order to return to my old life I would have to give up spending time with the most wonderful human being who ever walked the earth. She can make me cry just by saying my name, her smile makes me grin for hours and her laugh is the sweetest sound there is, my daughter is my world.

So enjoy your life, you're in a win win situation.

As stressful and painful as having a child is, the rewards are unimaginable, which means that if you don't have one, thankfully, you don't know what you're missing.
posted by fullerine at 1:13 AM on September 23, 2004 [4 favorites]

That was sweet, fullerine. Thanks for responding, advil. You clarified yourself very well and made some interesting points to ponder. I, too, find it ironic, if not poetic, that the age of greater maturity and self-awareness comes after the time to chose has passed. I hope no offence was taken by my lamenting the character I percieved in your comments. I meant nothing personal.
posted by squirrel at 3:59 AM on September 23, 2004

As far as the "ick" factor goes, it winds up not being that big a deal, just like five fresh fish said.

Poo, blood, vomit, piss - it's all just something to clean up. And I used to be pretty squeamish about all of them. They all come off with soap and water, and you have great stories to tell at their 16th birthday party.
posted by Irontom at 5:05 AM on September 23, 2004

I hope it's not too late to add a bit more to this thread.

I love children, I've pretty much always wanted children, and I believe that in the grand scheme of things being a good parent is one of1 the most important things one can do with one's life. So I have strong feelings about this.

And I do admit that even the most neutral "I don't want kids" declaration puts me off just a little bit. But not very much. And I'm aware that it's a non-rational reaction.

That aside, I don't have any strong feelings about other people not wanting to have kids. It seems like a perfectly valid choice to me.

What mystifies and, frankly, depresses me are the strong feelings and animosity that usually arises whenever this issue is discussed. From my persective, people who have chosen not to have children are often very hostile to the people that do. ("Breeders" is a hostile term, I don't think it can be denied that it's aggressive.)

Whenever I encounter this, and I'm taken aback by it, I try very hard to recognize the bias and social pressure they must certainly be responding to. I don't feel that our culture is oppressively pro-parenthood. But then, since I favor it, I'd be less likely to notice the oppression. Also, I'm male. I have a very strong suspicion that women that chose not to have children face a relentless skeptical questioning of that decision.

Anyway, when the two sides are arguing with each other, it's amazing to me how much deeply held value judgments are in play on both sides. I mean in the condemnatory sense. Both sides seem to have a tendency to feel that the other sides' choice is a wrong choice in some deep sense. I don't really understand this, and I often wish I did.

As a member of the portion of our society that is pro-children and parenthood, I'd like to apologize for whatever part I play in creating the oppressive atmosphere that many of you obviously feel. Perhaps my initial comment in this thread is an example—but it shouldn't be, really, as I was only speaking for myself and certainly did not mean to make or imply a normative judgment.

I know that in my case, I've always been aware that I've wanted children. I love children, I'm good with kids, and I think (especially now that I'm older and more mature) I'd make a good parent. In that context, the fact that I'm about to be 40 and the clock is running out I think should be a bit of a warning to those similar to myself. That is, if you know you want children, you shouldn't wait too long because it becomes more and more unlikely as the years go by. One's thirties is a good time to have them, I think. Twenties are possibly too young (early twenties for sure, I think), and it gets very difficult post 40. That just leaves the thirties, which go by much faster than 20-somethings expect .

1 Emphasis on "one of".
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:36 PM on September 23, 2004

Every day, in every way, it seems a smarter choice.
posted by rushmc at 10:11 PM on September 23, 2004

When I was 17...
I didn't want children.
When I was 19...
I had an abortion.

When I was 25 I had my first son.
When I was 31 I had my second son.

I'm so glad they were boys.

But I never wanted children.

But I wouldn't trade them for anything.

And now that I'm 48, I'm a grandmother.

And even though I never wanted to be a mother, I wouldn't trade being a grandmother

for anything.

Regrets, I have a few, but then again, to few to mention.
posted by kamylyon at 11:38 PM on September 23, 2004

I don't feel that our culture is oppressively pro-parenthood. But then, since I favor it, I'd be less likely to notice the oppression.

Very sensitive and insightful observations all-around, Etherial Bligh. The decision of have or not to have seems to be pretty hard-wired into most people's identity. You start messing with people's identity and they get defensive about it. I think that's why there are such cut-throat battles over issues like this, and like religion, etc. Also, as you suggested, most of the world is invisibly pro-baby. It's hard being a middle-aged person who has no kids, whether by choice or not.

Great thread!
posted by squirrel at 7:40 PM on September 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

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