To have children? Or not bother?

April 12, 2012

in Personal, Two of us

This is a special request blog post. How about that?? I’ve been asked to consider the issue of having – or perhaps not having – children.

We chose not to. And perhaps the starkest thing about this is that I have never once, for one moment, regretted not having children. I wonder how many parents have never regretted having their children? The catch, of course, is that once you’ve done it you can’t post them back if you decide you don’t like being a parent. And to wish yourself childless you have to wish the non existence of another human being. So it’s not easy to research whether it’s a good plan to have children.

Strangely we had a casual conversation with a stranger this afternoon, who confided that she had decided not to have children. She told us that she keeps being called ‘selfish’. I must admit I can make no sense of this at all. If the environmentalists have any case at all we should sing the praises of and be eternally grateful to anyone who refrains from bringing yet another consumer/polluter/breeder into the world. The only logic we could attach to the notion of not having being selfish – assuming that there is not one small unborn knocking frantically on the window of the world, desperate to be let in, is that your parents would have no grandchildren.

I have observed that not every grandparent is delighted to be a grandparent. And anyway, I think they will manage well enough without.

Not having children has meant that I have been able to do things I would never have dreamed of if I had had the expense and demands that children bring. A full, rewarding life – a rich life. Not so rich in financial terms but we have been able to buy a house in the country with four acres on a small income. I don’t think we could have done that, and made a garden here, if we had had children.

We have been able to devote time and emotional energy to one another – and I do believe men are a high maintenance luxury item, which thrive on care and attention. We can also give such care and attention to our friends – who are chosen, unlike offspring. I have an idea that not all parents and children actually like one another.

I wonder what drives people to want children? That is a total mystery to me. But I sometimes wonder if much of it is based in fantasy: the picture of the beautiful, tiny baby in your arms; the shared joy of parenting and happy family life; the child that loves and depends totally on you. Does reality live up the dreams?

The strange thing to me is that it is often those who are most concerned about the planet – which would like less children on it, thank you very much –   the environment, climate change and the rest who are most child orientated and likely to have several. I do wonder how that can be?

Wardrobe panel copyright Anne Wareham


Noreen Cormac October 12, 2016 at 11:54 pm

Hello,
Just read this tonight and I’m wondering how it turned outSally? I’m interested as I am very ambivalent about having kids. Me and my husband decided we’d give fertility treatment a go, but neither of us have made apointments or gone any further. It’s weird because whe I’ve spoken to counsellors or friends about my ambivalence, they seem to think that I’m just stalling and I come away with the feeling that they know me better than I know myself, that the desire to have children is at my core even if I don’t consciously realise it. But nothing about having a child makes me excited and at this point the only thing to motivate me is that I might regret it . I think people can’t understand that having kids might not be what everyone wants and they project their iwn desires onto you.
But maybe they know something I don’t.
It could be wonderful but then again many things are wonderful.

Aurora February 8, 2015 at 6:44 pm

You are so completely wrong! You have missed out on the best experience that life as a woman can offer.
Please correct your grammar you keep using which…..that is for objects. Who is for people!!

anne February 8, 2015 at 7:51 pm

I’ll manage. Sorry about the grammar.

Laura November 17, 2012 at 11:58 am

Just seen your post as I find myself faced with a painful decision – I’m in my mid-twenties, childless by choice, and unfortunately my boyfriend wants kids.

I think women have more choice to say no (morally or physically) than before, but also more pressure.
Motherhood is much more glorified now than twenty years ago. I see baby bumps, 3D in-utero photography, pregnancy fashion shows and trendy leather bags for nappies everywhere. Each time I say I don’t want kids, I get the same answers : surprise, disgust, then the questions : “why? They are so cute! Who will look after you when you’re old? Who will pay your pension? You will die sad and alone!”, or the always popular “it’s NORMAL for a woman to have kids”.
That makes my blood boil : why would it be normal to have kids / anormal not to want kids? Do women who choose to have 1 kid get criticized by those who have 4 ? I don’t think so.

I personally, am childless for a very awkward reason. I find babies ugly, taking a baby in my arms is the most awful thing you can offer to me, I hate children because they have such high-pitched, irritating voices and I can’t think of having to talk goo-goo for several years. I have never ever played with dolls (my thing was science, from a very young age).
I feel somehow like a monster, and usually when people ask why I don’t want kids, I have to lie and say that it’s for environmental reasons (I care about mother earth, but it’s not the prime reason here)….yes, I am ashamed to hate kids, because I feel it’s not “normal” for a woman.

Strangely, I haven’t met a single man of my age that doesn’t want kids. They’re all very attracted by the “family” thing, transmitting things to a new generation, having someone to play with, having an “aim” in her life, and an aim as a couple… so here I am, telling my boyfriend I haven’t felt the “tick-tock” yet, and feeling inside me that it will never come….

anne November 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Wow, I do feel for you.And perhaps things are changing, since all the men I was with as an adult were totally indifferent to the idea of having children.

But I am clear that they cost an enormous amount of life, effort, hard work and money. An amazing thing to demand of anyone else. And men do sometimes bugger off later when some sweet young thing offers exciting sex of a kind no long term partner could manage once any more, never mind every meeting for six months solid..

So you could (what are the figures) get left to manage them on your own too.

You have to want children a LOT for all that. Think it’s ‘no’, isn’t it? (you can’t send them back…)

XXXXXX

anne November 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm

O, and PS, babies are not very attractive and do make an awful noise. It’s just not kind of popular to say so. You are not so odd.

sally April 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I watched We need to talk about Kevin yesterday. Wow, did it put me in a melancholy mood for the rest of the day. Excellent film, but enough to put anyone off having kids. The most amazing thing though, was the interview with actress Tilda Swinton – she very bravely admitted that the minute she held her new-born twins, she not only knew that she was going to love them, but that she felt an odd sense of relief that she knew she was going to love them, and that she was sort of aware it could have gone the other way..

Lionel Shriver, who wrote the book, also write an account of her feelings about being childless in Maybe Baby. Although she is very content with her decision to not have children – citing reasons of wanting to retain/maintain her personal freedom and her writing career, and well as many other reasons – she is also simultaneously horrified at her feelings of contentedness with her decision. And doesn’t want to promote choosing to be childfree in any way..

She has a point, I think, that “we are in danger of not reproducing the culture that made possible our not reproducing”.. Apparently, 39% of women in Germany today have chosen not to have children.

It is kinda bonkers, that the more human beings develop their intellectual side, the further they get away from their animal side, the less the inclination to have children. Maybe in 200 years time, Western culture will be in danger of dying out..?

anne April 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

That could happen, but the mix of cultures we have look rich and productive (of children) still..

Long way to go before the whole world has too few children.

It is brilliant to have freedom and choices.. hope that survives.

Clare April 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm

As a young child, I knew that I never wanted to have children – the feeling seems to have been there for as long as I’ve been aware and it has never changed. Perhaps (as I sometimes jest to ease an “awkward” moment) my maternal gene was omitted at conception.
My parents never pressurised me either to get married or to produce grand-offspring for them, nor have I ever had pressure from my friends to “conform”. However, when D’s father realised I wasn’t going to give him grandchildren his reaction was volcanic, causing a family rift. He failed to see that his son didn’t want kids either!
Apart from father-out-law, it has always been strangers who have reacted most strongly to me. The inevitable polite-chitchat-at-parties scenario when I’m asked “do you have children?” (Why is it always the opening gambit?), and the puzzled “Oh” when I say “no”. The conversation usually dries up and they move on. Do they assume I can’t have kids and delving further would be rude and possibly upsetting, or do they simply not know how to make other conversation?
Probably the first time I qualified my answer with “I’ve never wanted any”, was to a bemused looking bloke who then began a tirade of moaning about his own kids. I asked him why he had kids since he was moaning about them so much. Not sure whether I switched the light on or off but he slunk away in silence.
At a colleague of D’s leaving party, I was seated next to said colleague’s Eastern European wife who asked “the” question and was clearly horrified “but what about your husband?”; “Well he doesn’t want any either!” She visibly shifted in her chair so that she faced away from me & we didn’t exchange words again!
It pissed me off feeling I always had to justify myself to others – there was always the big neon question mark hovering. I never expected justification from them for having kids. I never asked why people have kids which they clearly cannot afford and then expect the state to support them. And, most importantly, I don’t feel any less of a woman for choosing to not procreate.
Thankfully there are open-minded people out there & they seem to have read your blog and posted comments Anne. x

anne April 18, 2012 at 10:18 pm

That’s awful! What a small minded,unambitious world. There is so much more to life. Very strange. No wonder some people get bounced into it.

I would guess these responses must vary with different social circles and backgrounds?

Clare April 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Yes, they did. Although not always the response one would expect from a particular background!

anne April 18, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Well, I do know that I wouldn’t know what kinds of people, as in backgrounds, would think one way or another. (apart from some roman Catholics?). If we knew, it might take some of the power out of it, for those subjected to it.

Katie Fforde April 18, 2012 at 6:53 pm

I have three children and live them dearly but having them was an entirely selfish decision. It’s hard to be selfish after you’ve had them but you don’t have them for the good of mankind but because you want them. Anyone saying coupled who choose to be childless are selfish are mad. Or just wrong.

anne April 18, 2012 at 6:57 pm

It’s so true that if having a child is selfish, it may be the last selfish thing you are able to do!

Janet Stewart April 18, 2012 at 1:35 am

The issue of having children should, I believe, be based on a person’s desire to have them. Not everyone is cut out or meant to be a parent and many people have children due to pressure from family and friends or because it’s the expected thing to do and not because it’s something they truly desire.

When I was younger I imagined I would have children, not because I necessarily wanted them but because I thought that was the natural order of things – find a partner, get married and have children. I expected this to systematically fall into place, but so far this has not been the case.

I don’t have children nor am I desperate to have them – yet. It may be that it’s not a subject I’ve dwelled on also I haven’t felt my biological clock frantically ticking away. I have given it thought every now and then but I still don’t have an overwhelming desire to have a child.

I’m not sure what triggers the need to have a child, whether it’s due to chemicals/hormones in the body which are emotionally released and which therefore is unique to each individual?

Is the idea of parenthood something that can be blocked from your mind? I’ve never given it more than a moment’s thought primarily because I haven’t yet met the person I would like to have a child with. Opportunities have arisen but were never a consideration because they weren’t the ‘one’ I would want to spend/share my life with therefore having a child with them made no sense to me. So is it a conscious or biological decision? Will receptors be turned on if/when I meet the person I consider the ‘one’ or will I still feel this way?

To me anyone who decides not to have a child should be applauded and not be made to feel weird or be called ‘selfish’. Today there are far too many unwanted/unloved children in Children/Foster Homes and even in family units waiting to be wanted and loved. Being ‘selfish’ would be to have a child you knowingly don’t want then not loving or caring for that child .

The bond between parent and child is (in my opinion) unconditional love, having a child means a massive change to your lifestyle, relationships and any future decisions that you make and a child should not be made to feel a burden or inconvenience and, as they will no doubt tell you at some stage during their teenage years they ‘didn’t ask to be born’ – That was your choice, your decision.

What drives people to have children? A good question! I’m certain if you carried out a survey the answers given would be many and varied. For me it’s a further expression of love – the creation of a new life through the joining/bonding of two people.

Or, perhaps there is an inbuilt need in us to create new life to continue the species?

In my view no one is ‘right’ to have a child or ‘wrong’ not to have one, it’s a personal choice and whichever decision has been choosen/made (as long as it’s honest) is the RIGHT decision.

anne April 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

Well said. Given that until very recently it was not really easy to decide not to have children, it’s hard to imagine it was necessary to create any drive in humans to want them in abstract. To nurture them when we have them, yes. But I’m no scientist…

Sally April 14, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Thank you Anne. I appreciate your honest response. It has given me food for thought… XX

anne April 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Hope I haven’t made anything worse! Good luck, whatever you do.XXXX

Felicity Waters April 15, 2012 at 12:04 am

hey Sally – School Reunion – all agreed – motherhood ‘is full on’ – if you do decide to have children and you can afford it and you like a ‘nice’ house – I highly recommend outsourcing anything that drives you bonkers…..just cause we have a uterus does not mean we MUST also be responsible for housekeeping ….bollocks to that I say…..dont get motherhood and domestic slavery confused

Sally April 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Felicity – I’m intrigued, did you have any children in the end…?

Felicity Waters April 14, 2012 at 11:36 pm

ha
Yes x 2 (within 14 months of each other)

I knew 100% I wanted children at the age of 33.

At the age of 32 I swore to my dying mother that I would never have children – I 100% believe it at the time.

anne April 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm

O, Felicity! You are amazing…. XXXX

Sally April 14, 2012 at 7:29 pm

As somebody who is currently tormented over the decision whether to have children or not, I’ve read these posts and their replies with great interest!

Like Felicity, I am part of Generation X, and was firmly instructed/encouraged to pursue a career rather than motherhood during my school years. Becoming a mother never even entered my head in my twenties – I was too busy trying to ‘finding myself’, chasing the desire (or middle class requirement??) to make it in a ‘good job’, and swinging from one disastrous romantic relationship to the next! Also I found the cynical divorce culture of the nineties had a negative affect on me, and lively, late-night discussions on feminism with Uni mates, only added fuel to the fire. Throw in a creative, slightly rebellious and free-spirited nature, and I soon declared to my family “I’m never getting married or having kids!”…

Fast forward 10 years and I’m now in my mid-thirties, wringing my hands over whether or not I should have a baby. I’m anxiously checking that I still feel the same way as I did in my 20s, and I can hear that clock ticking loudly in my ear…

I envy you Anne, for knowing so clearly early on that it wasn’t for you. I tend to be fence-sitter at the best of times, and see all sides to a story – sometimes useful, but not in this case! Which way to turn? The ambivalence is killing me. Surely it’s best that you feel with every fibre of your body that you want one?

I can’t work out whether it’s social pressure, fear that I might regret not having one, fear of HAVING one, or whether I genuinely don’t want a child. I’m with a partner who would like them, he knows I’m undecided and is being patient and kind, but it’s just more pressure.

A lot of the replies to Anne’s post have been very non-judgmental about those who choose not to have children, and that’s great, but to me, it still feels like it’s one of the last taboos. I have found that many people look at me like I’ve just come down from Mars when I’ve mention that I might choose not to have any. You’re looked upon with pity or suspicion, and the usual line is “you don’t know what you’re missing, it’s great”. Somebody even once said to me “God gave you a womb. You’re not really a woman unless you use it!”.

Trouble is, all this neurotting could just be plain old fear that has developed over the years, and if I was to go for it, I really might be the best thing that ever happened to me…

anne April 14, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I suppose, bluntly, I believe that in the best of all possible worlds a child would be coming into a greater certainty of being wanted than this. It is such a big risk, it seems to me, to take with another human being’s wellbeing that I would want better than ambivalence.

But then – see my post about advice giving!!! Shut up, Anne…

Felicity Waters April 14, 2012 at 5:59 am

Went to my year school reunion two weeks back …we are all around 42.

Our school was about getting a career. Double maths, French and science was a pre-requisite (if you were to feel ok about yourself). Not one mention was given to issues surrounding children.

We did not get a balanced education – it was a reaction to the housewife career. Our headmistress never had children and I am not sure she thought it was in our best interests either!

I consider myself to have been very lucky to have a choice. Some of my former school mates disagree. They felt they were not prepared. My generation has a real tragedy to face …..some delayed having children not really understanding the implications.

I on the other hand had my mother reminding me every thursday/friday/saturday morning via phone ‘… the energy of your 20’s is for child rearing not for going to parties’.

anne April 14, 2012 at 9:18 am

Is it the business of schools to deal with questions like this? That would be an interesting discusssion in its own right….

Wendy April 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Interesting post and discussion. I’ve got two children (pretty well grown now) and they were both planned and wanted. I didn’t really analyse why I wanted them I just did. A natural urge I suppose, although natural or personal to me.

I would never call anyone without children ‘selfish’ and think this is wrong and stupid because there are selfish and unselfish people with and without children. Having said that people who don’t have children have to make significantly less sacrifices in their lives which in effect means they are able to do more for themselves. Yes we can all help friends and family or even strangers but the difference is normally we can choose to help them, or how often. When you bring another human being into the world, and one who arrives with you so vulnerable and needing care for so many years, the buck stops with you, always. Quite right but it still is a heavy load. Yes, some people might have that full responsiblity for a sibling or parent even but not for the whole of that person’s life.

I’m happy with the choice I made, however bad it has seemed at times (very hard) I wouldn’t change it for anything. I feel lucky to have been able to have a family when I hear about so many people who seem to struggle now for various reasons. I suppose if my wishes had been not to have children then I might be feeling lucky that nowadays the option is there too.

Laura lawless April 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Anne – you could have had Simon !

anne April 13, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Simon???

Laura lawless April 13, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Gardenhero!

anne April 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm

EEEEKK!!!!!

Zoe April 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I came to motherhood by accident, not ideal, and had been quite content to remain childless (after a medical condition where a doctor advised me that my chances of conceiving naturally were very slim) When I did fall pregnant, I was quite horrified at first, after considering myself to be lacking of a maternal bone in my body. But I kept being reassured that all would be well, and that I would feel differently when it was my own child. All was not well, after a very difficult pregnancy and constant nausea, I gave birth to my twins ( yes, I was expecting twins!) at only 30 weeks gestation. They were very tiny (only just over 3lb each in weight) and they had to spend almost 6 weeks in a Special Care Baby Unit. It was a frightening time, and hard to bond with babies who are whisked away from you at birth, and then kept at arms length for fear of infection etc. To cut a long story short, the threat of disabilities for both twins was ever present, due to their prematurity. My twins are almost 10 years old now, and were diagnosed with autism and severe learning disabilities when they were 3, and one also with epilepsy and the other also with ADHD. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that no-one should enter into parenthood half-heartedly, because you never know what’s going to happen. That perfect parent/child scenario that most people envisage, isn’t always what you get. If I was asked by someone, if they should have children, or not? I would put just one question to them in return – Could you handle parenthood, no matter what? Because although having a child with disabilities may be relatively rare, it happens, and not always expectedly. It’s can be a full-time job to look after any young child, but one (or more) with disabilities can take over your life, completely, and any vestige of what you were before gets lost in the stress, caring, advocating and fighting to give your child a decent life. Of course, my opinion has been shaped by my own personal experiences, and had things have been different, who knows? But parenthood is a serious business, no matter what.

anne April 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Zoe, you have had such a hard time – I do feel for you.

And, I do believe that my own attitude to having children has been partly shaped by having had a brother who was brain damaged. I have always been so concious of just what could be involved and what a hard, life long business your children can be.

Thank you for adding this important and really pertinent comment.

Michael Eastwood April 13, 2012 at 10:58 am

As a gardener married to an artist, we find that our creativity goes into our work. If we had children, which we talk about sometimes, one of us would have given up our creative lives to look after the children. Both our lives are rich and contribute something to society without children. When did society become so obsessed with an idealized idea of straight, able bodied people dictating what is correct.

anne April 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

Good question…

sally April 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I can identify with what you are saying Michael. I mix with a lot of arty/bohemian types in the town where I live, and, interestingly, a high percentage of my girly friends who are in their 30s and have working ovaries, say they don’t want children because it would get in the way of their creativity! They cannot bare the thought of life without being able to do their art (be it writing, painting, music or whatever), and regard their art as their ‘baby’.

Sue Beesley (@suebeesley) April 13, 2012 at 10:42 am

It’s my youngest daughter’s 23rd birthday today. I didn’t make an active decision to have children. I just fell pregnant through lack of sufficient care not to and decided to go ahead on both occasions with a now ex-husband who was keen too, once presented with a clear choice.

Having not cared that much one way or another beforehand, the strength of feeling for the newly arrived being was something of a shock. The pleasure to be had from watching another human grow from infancy to adulthood in your close company is hard to overstate. The sheer effort is hard to overstate too, best undertaken young, in my view. The cost is quite irrelevant. And the pleasure continues into their adulthood, small things like teaching Holly to knit – badly – one dull afternoon last Christmas and now seeing her quickly develop far greater skill than mine and putting it to enthusiastic use.

However, I know that this pleasure is horribly fragile. I could never be described as a smothering sort of mother and I do not live out my own dreams through them. But should anything seriously bad happen to either of them I know I would be distraught beyond relief. I try hard never to think about it.

From an environmental point of view, well, I remarried and Dave and I have not had our own children. The end product is three adults producing two children, which is less than replacement rate. And someone needs to fill the jobs and pay the taxes to pay our pensions…

anne April 13, 2012 at 10:50 am

There are plenty of people happy to migrate to the UK to pay taxes and fill jobs…Be great if they were more welcomed because our need for them was clearer.

And- just for the sake of my original correspondent, who asked for this discussion, I think there are other ways to experience the pleasures you describe.

And I’m glad that the financial cost is irrelevant to you, but for many of us it wouldn’t have been or isn’t.

Sue Beesley (@suebeesley) April 13, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Out of interest, why does it make more sense for people born elsewhere to come here and work than for us to produce our own? Seems much the same either way to me. Certainly the former is not obviously better.

Clearly someone needs to have children, otherwise the friends whose company you cherish would not exist, the quality products and services you enjoy could not be had. And when you need someone young and strong to give you a hand when you are ill or elderly, no-one would come. Will a robot do instead? Some bright spark needs to write the code and build the thing. Homo sapiens exists because people have sex and produce babies. If they stop, the human race would expire in a PD James-esque sea of creaking bones and grey hair. No bad thing, perhaps?

I don’t think this is about the actual having or not having of children. It’s about why, now, some of those with and some of those without seem to feel that the other ‘team’ are somehow applying some kind of wider judgement on them. That the child-free are selfish and lacking something in their lives. That those with children are besotted beyond reason and environmentally inconsiderate. I abhor both perspectives equally.

anne April 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm

It’s just that I don’t see the remotest likelihood of us running out of children in the world. Spreading them and prosperity around, irrespective of national barriers seems to me to make sense.But I think the debate has to be had, and over population may yet become a serious problem, and possibly is in some places.

It’s true that there seem to be unnecessary judgements around this issue. Good to let a little light and thought fall on to the issue.

Viki April 13, 2012 at 10:17 am

Thought provoking, as ever and I agree with a lot of what has been said both in this post and the replies.
For me, the desire to have children is almost a physical need. Does that make me selfish? Possibly.
If I’m lucky enough to have children then it would be up to me to make sure that they tread as lightly on the earth as is possible and not become just another polluter.
The decision whether to have children or not is a very personal one and I would never dream of criticising someone’s choice. Each to their own, I say.

anne April 13, 2012 at 10:23 am

I’d agree, Viki – and I do hope you do have children: when it’s that important who wouldn’t wish that for you?

I am still surprised though that people who are evangelical about environmental issues don’t raise this issue more. No child born in the West will manage to make no impact on the environment, with their need for housing, transport, heat and light. I think there may be a taboo about this particular choice being seen in that context. And still am wondering why. And how do men feel about these issues?

Annoné Butler April 13, 2012 at 9:44 am

A thoughtful piece. I decided to have children but it was a definite decision. Sara Maitland wrote a good book called “Why Children” which explores the arguments better than I can. I am glad I went ahead. My daughters are now grown and I have found them a fulfilment. But there was much heartache and worry along the way. As someone once said ” You are only as happy as your least happy child”. But I am quite clear that those willingly without children make an absolutely valid choice for them. I have many childless friends and can see that they live happy fulfilled lives and can often contribute more to others/their communities because they have the lack of narrow focus that parents often do.

anne April 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

Blimet – Sara is a great friend of mine and I didn’t know she had written that book! That could possibly be helpful to people wondering whether to or not.

Bethan April 13, 2012 at 9:11 am

I think there is some irony and bad management on mother natures part that those who choose not to reproduce in my experience are the people that have the potential to contribute most to the gene pool. Certainly true in the case of you and Charles xx I would hate to generalise but this tends to be the opposite for those who reproduce in abundance.

anne April 13, 2012 at 9:40 am

Well, it does still take quite a lot of commitment and …forethought ? care? not to have children, so things do tend to work that way perhaps.

Martin April 13, 2012 at 7:54 am

Definitely a thought provoking piece, made all the more so by the fact that you seem to possess a strongly nurturing personality – albeit applied to a garden rather than offspring. But most parents probably share a similar urge, and make the sacrifice in time, money and energy because there is a profound satisfaction to be had in creating and shaping a new life. Also, assuming you take pleasure from your own life, you might feel the desire to pass that on. I see little evidence amongst friends with kids that it’s a devious strategy for their old age.

anne April 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

I think you are right about my having a nurturing instinct – especially in relation to people. but we all need loving and we don’t need to make new people to have outlets for nurturing. i suspect actually that I would have been an appalling mother.

There is a paradox in the answer that it is satisfying to have children – and that is that you don’t really know that until you do it and you are stuck with it. If you don’t like it that is hard on a lot of people – but how are any of us to know until it’s done?

MelJd46 April 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I decided as a teenager I didn’t want children. I didn’t and still don’t like the way mankind is abusing the planet & decided I wasn’t going to add to the burden. My partner in my 20’s was a big kid anyways, it would have been nigh impossible to cope with both him and give birth to another.

My parents were fine about my decision & my brother provided grandchildren so that removed any guilt, of which there was little anyway. It’s my body and it’s my life and I was brought up to live my life for me not to live the life others may have wanted for me.

My family Doctor kept telling me Id change my mind and even in my late thirties, I was unable to get sterilised at the first attempt on the basis that a lot of women my age were starting families and I still might alter my opinion. I never did and a change of gynaecologist a couple of years later led to me being sterilised before I was 40.

I don’t feel I have missed out at all. I don’t worry that in my dotage I will be lonely as I have no offspring to look after me (this was a concern voiced by a friend a long time ago). From what I can see, the fact that you have children is no guarantee they will look after you in old age anyway. I know lots of children and am happy to be “Auntie” , in lots of ways I think that’s better than to be “Mum” .

anne April 12, 2012 at 11:41 pm

I cannot believe that in the Western world anyone could think of having children for the unlikely benefits there may or may not be in their old age! That’s creepy.

anne April 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

Your doctor’s response is interesting and, I bet, ordinary. The assumption that we all will want children is very strong. I suppose we are not very far on from the birth of reliable birth control, so it will take a few generations before we are really clear about how powerful a need it actually is once society’s expectation about their inevitability weakens.

Angela Jones April 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Amen to that sister! I’ve always thought that people have children for totally selfish reasons , ( to pass on their genes and leave their mark on the world, to have someone to look after them when their old), and so many people seem to just ‘let it happen’ without even thinking about it. The question is always “why don’t you have children” never “why do you have them?”

Victoria April 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Very interesting. I’m not quite sure how I came to have children – I was never very maternal. I certainly didn’t have fantasies about holding a baby in my arms, or having someone totally dependent on me. I remember thinking I might regret not having kids, but I have never regretted having them – not for one moment. They are an endless source of fascination and amusement.
What I find particularly intriguing about my children are the ways in which they differ from me – the idea that I’ve produced two people who can do maths, for example, is wonderful!
I certainly don’t think people who choose not to have children are selfish. In the same way, I don’t like to be labelled selfish for HAVING children. Too many people enjoy being judgemental in this world, I fear.

Angela Jones April 13, 2012 at 5:31 am

“Too many people enjoy being judgemental in this world, I fear.” Isn’t that a judgement?

anne April 13, 2012 at 9:32 am

Admit I did feel a mild reprimand!

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