Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Wot, no kids?

Now and then I still feel a little embarr-assed that I don't have any children. Having children is seen so widely as the "normal" thing to do, that even after many years of being childless, and not in any way regretting it, I still feel it's a choice that needs to be somehow justified.

Nobody ever asks me why I don't have children, nobody ever gives any hint that it was an odd decision, but nonetheless I always feel slightly unusual, a bit of a maverick, a bit of a rebel.

I suppose it doesn't help that there are two schools close to our home, and twice a day dozens of children pour in and out of their parents' cars, the parents obviously doting on their little offspring and watching them protectively.

It also doesn't help that any woman who gets pregnant is promptly congratulated by all and sundry, everyone admires the gradually swelling belly, and when the baby finally appears, yet more congratulations are offered.

Unfortunately all the fervent enthusiasm and showers of baby-gifts, however natural they may seem, inevitably give the message that having a baby is much more impressive than not having one.

I can justify my child-free decision by pointing out how much extra cash I've had and how much that's improved my quality of life, but somehow that just makes me sound a little selfish and smug, as if other people's sacrifices for the sake of their children are worthless.

In fact being "selfish", not replenishing the human race but thinking only of our own pleasure, is what childless couples are often accused of. If I suggest that maybe the anticipated joy and reward of having children is itself a somewhat "selfish" desire, the reaction will be frosty to say the least.

I've never felt that I've missed out by not having the patter of tiny feet around the place. But it still seems a bit like the exception that proves the rule.

19 comments:

Bijoux said...

I have noticed that the childless do feel like they have to justify it somehow, but really, it's nobody's business. There are so many infertile couples that it's rude to assume anything.

I honestly could have gone either way. I married someone who really wanted kids, but I think I could have been swayed otherwise, because I really don't like other people's children, for the most part! (And I'm not going to justify that!)

Helen Devries said...

I had an elderly neighbour in France who said she envied me having no children...she was so happy with her husband before the birth of their only son and felt he was an intrusion on their idyll, not in himself, but in the changes he made to their lives.
She made sure, she said, that there were no more...

susie said...

My brother and his wife have been together since college. (He's 45.) They have never wanted kids. I'm kind of envious of their lifestyle...they go out a lot, travel a lot, learn new languages, have a dog, do whatever they want to do.

We only have one child. People always used to bother me with, "when's the next one?" Very rude.

I think there are benefits to being single, benefits to being a couple, and benefits to having kids. To each their own.



John Gray said...

I detest the patronising way some modern parents make their child the centre of EVERYONES world

Good for them
Don't visit the pleasure of parenthood onto me

Nick said...

Bijoux: I think it's quite common for parents not to like other people's children very much! And why should they, anyway? Why are we all supposed to adore children, even the thoroughly obnoxious ones?

Helen: I suspect that sense of intrusion is very common as well, and the feeling that something has been left behind.

Nick said...

Susie: When's the next one, indeed. What a bloody cheek! As you say, to each their own, there is no "correct" lifestyle.

John: Me too. The assumption that we're all fascinated by little Jemima and her latest exploits. Er no, the world's a bit bigger than that.

Wisewebwoman said...

We used to have a joke in our family when childless couples would take off on another cruise, buy a yacht, extend their education:

"Oh, there they go again, the poor unfortunate childless couple, consoling themselves with a Mercedes, hobby farm, cruise, what have you."

I think a lot of us had parenthood thrust upon us without much thought, at least in my generation.

I admire couples who make The Decision and usually find them far happier than couples with children. Odd that, yeah?

XO
WWW


Rummuser said...

We had to curtail our family to one child for medical reasons and we never regretted it though, I would have liked to have had another child as a companion to our son. My son and daughter in law now do not want any children and are content being so. I am happy because they baby me around!

Ursula said...

It's not a competition, Nick. Some people have children. Others don't. For many reasons.

What I think you left out of your post (but then you tend to leave out a lot) is that the biological will overtake reason. It's called instinct. The urge to procreate. Pass on your genes.

And may I say, and I do not wish to be hurtful to either you or any of your readers. There was a time, not that long ago, when there was no 'choice': Have sex have children. Have sex, have no children.

U

Nick said...

www: That's true about lots of people having parenthood thrust upon them. Before the pill, and when having children was seen as even more "normal" than it is now.

The latest research I've seen is that childless couples and parents are equally happy or unhappy and there's no noticeable difference between them.

Nick said...

Ramana: It's certainly becoming much more routine for couples to decide not to have children. And in the current economic climate, a lot of young couples simply can't afford it.

Ursula: I'm sure there are always plenty of things I forget to mention! But I don't believe in a biological urge to create. Where's the evidence? Conditioning, peer pressure and family pressure is much more plausible. A biological urge to have sex maybe, though some people don't even have that.

Sol said...

Hi there, new to your blog.

We don't have children either. When people say rather rude things to us. I always reply, where are you taking the family on holiday. they will say something like Cornwall camping (not that there is anything wrong with that), when they sigh I reply with, oh lovely, we are off to South east asia for 6 weeks in the winter, then in May we are off to Cuba and then in September wine tasting in France. must dash got to book extra leg room on the flight.

Or there is the other side of it. you could say that you chose not to be of any further burden on the Earth. And then you get greenie points. and no nappies sent to land fill.

Nick said...

Sol: Well, that's rubbing it in a bit! Certainly returning rudeness with rudeness! But there's no way Jenny and I would have been to Australia three times (and in her case five times) if we'd had children to think about.

And yes, we're very aware of the greenie implications and the planet's already colossal population.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I don't think choosing not to have children is rebellious or maverick-like, it's just choosing not to have children. We're lucky that that choice is available to us (for most) these days. I'm deeply grateful for my own kids, but don't give a damn whether other people want to have children or not.

Cheerful Monk said...

I wanted only one child --- Andy said zero or two for the children's sake. So finally I said, okay, let's say zero and plan accordingly. I was very selfish and got my way. Never regretted it.

My daughter and her husband have dogs instead of children. I like dogs better than kids so am happy about that, but friends who are grandparents think I'm weird. So what else is new?

Nick said...

Agent: Yes, in general women can choose whether or not to have children, though of course there are still those grey areas of rape and abortion and religious belief where choice may still be taken away from them.

Jean: I'm not so keen on dogs, but in my case it would be a close call between cats and children!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Worse, the childless are often perceived as not liking children and therefore suspicious altogether. I would rather live in a society in which only those who really want children and are able to care for them emotionally, financially, and in every other way, have them. The world is vastly overpopulated and many children are hungry, homeless and abused;adults whose egos don't require mini-mes should be rewarded, not reviled.

Nick said...

Heart: You're right that those without children are often seen as anti-children. And yes, if only would-be parents thought a bit more carefully about whether they're capable of bringing up a child properly. Too many parents seem to have just jumped in the deep end with little serious thought about what they're taking on.

Pamela (LadyLuz) said...

Stumbled on your blog via WWW, loving it and working my through it.

Had to jump in on this post about childlessness, which is my "forever-glad" state. I didn't think I was emotionally stable or mature enough to have the responsibilit of bringing up children, although I worked with them for years and enjoyed their company in small doses.

I'm now of an age where my contemporaries are grandparents and this attitude of the grandchildren being the centre of everyone else's universe is oh so prevalent. I have to get away when the conversations strike up.