No Children. No Regrets.
A week ago Friday while I ran into a friend at the grocery store who asked me if I regretted not having children. She was reaching an age where her biological clock had started to tick and had concerns that if she didn’t have kids, she’d regret it later in life. That conversation combined with the Day 6 discussion panel on NPR yesterday afternoon with women over 40 who did not have children caused me to reflect on my decisions and share them.
During my childhood years when I played with dolls I did fantasize about a future that included a home in suburbia with a husband, 2 kids and a dog. But by the time I graduated from university I’d long since left that ambition behind. I had no desire to be a mother. I knew I wanted to marry. But I also wanted a career. When I began my adult life in the working world in 1980, it was still a man’s world. Even women who aspired to be successful in their professional lives were expected to get married and quit working to raise a family or to focus on climbing the corporate ladder to the exclusion of a personal life.
For some years I deluded myself into thinking that I would be ready to have children after I turned 30. But as I approached 30, I knew I didn’t have it in me. And I had an excuse. I’d discovered my marriage was disintegrating and pronounced to all that it would be selfish to bring a child into such an unhappy situation. In those years people with children would routinely ask why we didn’t have kids – even at corporate functions. Rather that acknowledge the truth, I would fake a sob, bring a fine linen napkin to my eye, and say that it was just too painful to discuss. Then I’d order another glass of wine.
Thus far I’ve enjoyed an extraordinary life filled with experiences I could never have imagined while I was growing up on Logansport, Indiana. And I would not trade a moment – the good, the bad, the glorious, the painful, the joy, the sadness, the successes and failures because it has brought me to who I am today – a woman filled with happiness, peace, and contentment.
The truth is that I never longed for children; I don’t regret my decision. I am where I am supposed to be. My husband and I share our lives with 2 housecats and an assortment of outdoor feline vagrants. He has two adult daughters with whom he does not have close relationships. But I love them and appreciate the fact that I can be a grandparent without the interim steps. It is a win-win for me.
We should not forget that the women’s movement was more than a quest for equality in the workplace. The goal was also for women to reach parity with men in society. There is still a long road to travel. Does anyone really ever question whether a man feels unfulfilled if he hasn’t had children? I think not.
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