For years, I made a conscious choice not to have kids. It was a journey through many experiences starting in childhood, that encouraged me to make this decision. I did not start to honor this decision until after my first divorce. I was late to the single life. I met my first husband during my freshman year of college. I went from living at home, to living in a dorm, and finally moving in with him.
I divorced at 28 when all my acquaintances were getting married and having kids. A whole new world opened up to me. I was now living the single life I failed to live during college. You see, I was always expected to be older, so my experiences never matched the expectations of people in my age group. It had always been that way.
My childhood was not enjoyable. There were a few odd happy moments; however, overall I was not a happy child. One reason was that I was expected to act older, especially after my little brother arrived. He entered our lives when I was seven years old. In fact, before I entered middle school I decided I would have dogs instead of children (my dog Sheba was a constant companion then). If I did not have fun as a child then how could I expect a child of mine to have fun?
During my first marriage, we were both busy with our careers. I was starting my teaching career and just as busy as my ex who was an engineer. Time got away, we took each other for granted and grew apart. His affair did not help the situation. Needless to say, I was happy that we did not have children to tie us together after the divorce.
Afterward, my dad said to me that I dId not need to have grandchildren for him. At the time, I just filed his words of wisdom in the back of my mind. I think he somehow knew I would face this decision. I think he knew I would face it after he was gone.
My second divorce, which is too recent and too raw to talk about, drove home the point that children were not in my future. When we married, our goal was to have children (at least that is what he would say to me). Timing was very important because I was older and in my late 30’s and he was younger. They would have to come when he finished his degree and got a job working in his career, which did not seem that far away. Many ups and downs later, the goal changed.
He did not want kids at the time or to stay with me. He wanted to end our marriage. Now a few years divorced and looking forward to turning 47, I have started to mourn and make peace with my choice.
Yes, there were other circumstances; however at any time, I could have chosen to have children. I could have decided to become a single parent. That was never a desirable option since I grew up in a married household. Good, bad, or indifferent, I wanted that for my child.
I could have pushed the issue of having kids when neither my spouse or I were ready. That would have been selfish. It would have also caused stress and possibly anger. So, now I mourn the best decision I could have made given my experiences and emotional luggage.
I have had moments where I have slowly made peace with the decision to be childless. One moment occurred most recently on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was enjoying one of my summer vacation rituals: drinking beer and reading a book outside one of my favorite local pubs. It was the relaxation and peace I needed to start my summer vacation.
A family with two young children caught my attention. The children, both under the age of 4, were clearly not enjoying the family outing. I could see the stress on the parents’ faces as they attempted to calm both children down and to finish their lunch. They were putting in a lot of hard work just to have a family meal outside of the home. Parenting is hard work where you never have time off. I look forward to my time off.
It was at that point I realized I made the right decision. I am too selfish to forgo enjoying my beer and reading my book to focus on calming an upset child. I know I would have been a strong, caring parent if the situations in my life had been different.
I would have made sure that my children had fond memories of their childhood. I would have made sure they had the freedom to act their age. I would have given them a solid foundation of right and wrong. I would have been a good parent, however…
….I am an even better “non-parent.”
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