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

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