Sunday, December 17, 2006

No Kids, No Kidding!

I’m not sure why, but as I (not so gently) approach 50 years old I find myself encountering women of various ages questioning their childlessness or trying to feel comfortable with their decision to be childless. Almost all of these women I’ve met will tell you that, deep down inside, they don’t want kids or that they are content with their decision not to have children, but they feel isolated and misunderstood by the rest of the world. In another strange twist of fate, they have a bizarre tendency to look to me for re-inforcement (probably due to my somewhat in-your-face attitude)

I have always been extremely forceful in my decision not to have children. It has determined whether or not I get married, which man will or will not survive as a life-long mate, and how my entire life will and has been conducted.

I realized at a very early age (13 years old to be exact) that I was not cut out for motherhood. I’m sure Freud would have a field day analyzing my dysfunctional childhood, penis envy, inability to accept my role in life, selfishness, and my irresistible urge to indulge in an entire can of Pringles when I’m PMSing. But in the end it came down to one irrefutable fact – I just did NOT want to have kids. It wasn’t for me. The decision was easy..for me..not for everyone else.

So, this post is dedicated to those women who have (or are contemplating) the same choice I made. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!!

Even though I am well past my childbearing years, I cannot escape society’s disdain and confusion about my maternal void. To those who have been there, this is to reassure you that your experiences are not abnormal, to those who will be there, this is to let you know what to expect.

1. The most common (and infuriating) response I’ve had to deal with when I told people I didn’t want kids was “you’ll change your mind when you meet the right man”. There are no words to express the frustration I felt when told that. As if my mind, my decisions, my personal desires were nothing more than a whim, requiring the strength and influence of a man to bring me to my senses. My decision not to have children was well thought out, seriously considered, and adamant! I never wavered in the belief that it was MY decision and nobody else’s.

2. There must be something “missing”, “twisted”, “abnormal” about me if I don’t want children. WRONG!!! Twisted I may be, but it tends to show up only in my sense of humour. I have my quirks and my faults (many more than I care to confess to). But my friends and family will tell you that, in most respects, I’m pretty average and ordinary. I love and I hate. I cry and I laugh. I work hard and I goof off. I’m responsible and I’m selfish. You would have a hard time claiming that I’m very much different from anyone else.

3. If you don’t want kids, you must hate kids. Gaaaawd, this one is so indicative of a mind that hasn’t reached the same full formation as that of a mushroom!. Just because I don’t want to be a man doesn’t mean I hate men. Just because I don’t want to be a lawyer doesn’t mean I hate lawyers (OK…bad example). I don’t hate kids. I am an aunt to three children, a step-mother to two and a step-grandmother to two. I love them all dearly and there isn’t one I wouldn’t fling myself in front of a moving train for. I’m just deeply grateful I didn’t give birth to any on them.

4. You’ll be soooorry! (sung in a high sing-song voice). Guess what? Now that it’s too late to change my mind, I’m not sorry. I’ve never been sorry. It’s a highly personal decision and one that was precisely right for me. I’ve never regretted my choice and I never will. And I deeply resent anyone telling me that they know me better than I know myself.

5. Who is going to look after you when you get old? WTF?????? If that’s a reason for having kids, you have more problems than you think! Nuff said.

6. You’re going against God’s will. I don’t believe in your god. End of conversation.

I am expected to have regrets about not having children. I am expected to have had a less fulfilling life as a result. I am expected to be less than complete. As is commonplace in my life, I have failed to meet society’s expectations. There have been tremendous benefits to me by not embracing motherhood. I do not apologize for any of them. To wit:

1. I never “settled” for a man. A lack of imperative brought with it a willingness to accept nothing less other than “just right”. I was 44 years old before I got married (and I’m still partially convinced I was too young) and getting married was not something that I ever sought out. If there was indeed a drawback, I was highly reluctant to get married (and it required Dave appealing to the accountant’s soul in me to convince me). As a result, I never found myself in a relationship that I didn’t feel I could get out of (for the sake of the children). The freedom has been enormous…and delightful.

2. I have survived better as a human being by not having kids. I have had some serious ups and downs in my life that I was just barely able to survive on my own. Had there been the responsibility of taking care of children added to that, there is no doubt I would now be in a sterile room wearing one of those funny white coats with the long arms. I shudder to think of what psychological depths I would have plummeted to had I not been able to shut myself off from the world until I had healed. Go ahead and call me weak…I don’t care.

3. Although I may have missed out on certain (and I've been told..fleeting) joys by not having kids, I have also acquired a connection with the world that probably would not have been possible otherwise. The time made available to me has been used (I hope) wisely. I have had the freedom to explore excitement, adventure and solitude. They have brought a meaning and fulfillment to my life that cannot be expressed in words. I wouldn’t have missed out on it for anything.

4. I have hesitated to express that last benefit of being childless. It will be interpreted by many as being greedy, selfish, and materialistic. But it IS real and cannot be ignored. My standard of living is much higher than it would be if I had to support children. I have had the financial freedom to live a life with some ease and comfort (winning the lottery would have made it a whole lot easier, but alas…). For some strange reason, we seem to be reluctant to acknowledge the financial burdens and sacrifices children place upon us. I am willing to admit that my life has always (and will always) consist of careful budgeting and financial planning, and it will be an easier and more comfortable retirement due to my ability to invest my savings in RRSP’s, not in designer teenage clothing. Beat me up for it if you wish…I hold my ground.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to do this posting. I am normally an extremely private person. I guess I am amazed at how, at the age of 49, I am STILL being questioned about my maternal choices. I thought it was settled and behind me by now. But it’s never over. If I have any words of wisdom, based on my own personal experience, it would be…as trite as it sounds…be true to yourself. It is always worth it.

And if you want a really snappy comeback to the age-old question of "when are you going to have children?", tell them...."when my psychiatrist cures me of my the way, did you enjoy the pie I baked?"

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