When I went off to college I was secure in the knowledge that I had plenty of spending money. How did I acquire such riches? Babysitting! That’s right. Spending weekend evenings with the offspring of grown ups in our neighborhood in exchange for cash. This doesn’t make me different from thousands of other young girls (and increasing numbers of boys). What makes me different is that I have known since I was a very young child- we’re talking grade school here- that I never wanted to have children. Ever.
Those of you who haven’t just deleted your subscription to this site may be gratified to know that the really interesting part is yet to come. I actually adore most children most of the time. The more startling irony is that children usually seem to like me. This has also been a near constant state in my life.
So, what is this post really about? Well, it’s really a bit of a rant about choices. Here are some examples I’ve created from combining traits of friends and family. Put another way, the events are real, but I’ve played with the identifying features a bit! I have a dear friend who has a career, a husband, and a child. She is devoted to all three. Her child is one of the most charming, precocious little people I have ever met. However, it is next to impossible for me and my friend to get together without the child joining us. There is another couple whom I never see without their small child.
To be fair, my friends always ask if it’s ok to bring the children. What am I going to say? I want to see my friends. I even want to see their children- sometimes. Am I allowed to have my feelings hurt if they choose not to attend an outing with me because it isn’t kid friendly?
I am one of three sisters, and the only one without children. Both of my sisters have advanced degrees and multiple offspring. One has a career and the other gave up a career to stay at home. All the children in question here are wonderful little people who regard their aunt as a bit odd (doubly so because she has no children!).
While those children were small, we saw a lot of each other. I spent my vacations and most holidays traveling to visit family. Now we are all less young, and one of those children is even in college now (Honors College! Brilliant! Takes after her aunt!). For the last ten years or so, I have noticed that, sadly, I have seen less and less of my family or of those friends with children because… wait for it… they are too busy or they don’t have the money to travel. Last week someone even used their children as an excuse not to make a trip, saying that I should go instead because I don’t have children. Really?
To state the obvious: A person or couple can decide not to have children. Last time I checked, however, that same ability to choose applied to those who have children. Societal pressures aside, most people want children and are able to make that wish become a reality. Same for those who choose otherwise. Either way, those choices have consequences.
Do people with children envy my childless state? Is that why they insist that I am not busy? Were they never busy before they had children? Did they not know that children cost money? I know they love their children, but why do they make so many comments and jokes about them that are not quite as funny when uttered by a childless woman? Why am I incapable of understanding so many things, including love and sacrifice, because I do not have children? Of course, family comes first, but I don’t think that I should have to pick up the slack here, at least not every time.
There is one more question that has lingered with me over the years: Why? That question has followed me around the globe in my travels, as in,”Why don’t you have children?” In Afghanistan, I often received the compliment “You must have many sons.” (I tried to ignore the fact that I am less young enough to have at least several children!) Recently, a male friend of mine from another country shushed his wife when she tried to pursue the issue of me not having children. He was clearly trying to alleviate what he mistakenly thought was great embarrassment on my part. I assured them that the choice was mine, and we eventually worked it out. She got it. He didn’t.
A few years ago (in my own culture) I began asking the same question back: “Why do you have children?” To this day, no one has ever been able to answer. The responses are always about the wonderful things that have happened after the children were born- never the reasons behind the decision. Furthermore, the reasons I give for my choice, most of which can be collapsed into the lifestyle category, are quickly discounted by parents as either poorly reasoned (Oh! I still do everything I want to!) or even selfish (But don’t you want=love children? How can you not want=love children?). I never said that I don’t love children. I said I don’t want to have children.