It seems odd in 2018 to think back about how radical it was for women, in particular, not to want to have children when we were growing up. I knew from the age of 10 that I wasn’t interested in motherhood. Dolls did nothing for me. As soon as I turned 16 and could get another type of job, I stopped babysitting. I happily delayed marriage until my mid-30s without a thought of baby timing.
I kept listening for the tick of the biological clock, but it never ticked.
Then the pro-natalist society struck back, and hard. The Jewish community: “you need to have children to increase our numbers.” Parents: “you mean we won’t be grandparents?” Folks in general: “who will take care of you in your old age?” (As if there are guarantees that kids would be there for you.) “have you seen a therapist to figure out what’s wrong with you?” Eventually I did see a therapist, who seemed very disappointed when she couldn’t find anything “wrong.” I wasn’t an ogre or a witch, and I didn’t hate kids. I kept listening for the tick of the biological clock, but it never ticked. Apparently I just wasn’t interested in having children of my own.
There were many coping strategies I used to deflect nosy questions. I tried saying I had problems with my health, but that invited intrusive follow-up questions. I tried humor: “Gee, I was in the bathroom when the mommy genes were given out.” That worked better.
Finally, in my mid-40s, the questions diminished. In response to the comment, “I’m sure you’ve regretted not having kids,” I’ve consistently answered “nope.” Research bears out my feelings; women who didn’t have children by choice (not for lack of opportunity) very rarely regret the choice. It’s gratifying that both men and women have more choices today and aren’t second guessed. Kudos to parents and non-parents alike!
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.
I admire your fortitude—and creative array of responses—in the face of all of those well-meaning but ultimately demeaning comments about your choice to remain childfree (as we used to put it). Do you really think women (and men) today aren’t second guessed or similarly criticized? I haven’t noticed that parents, the Jewish community, or folks in general have changed all that much.
Thanks, John. Maybe there hasn’t been as much change as I thought (or hoped). By the time I reached baby-boomer age, I became more insulated from the pressure. Most of my close friends do not have children, and likely this is because we gravitated toward each other based on lifestyle. My sweetheart still thinks it’s odd that I would choose this path, so there you go!
Thanks for sharing this point of view, Marian. Very interesting. We weren’t in any rush to have children. We waited 11 years, and had some difficulty. When it didn’t come easily, I became comfortable with the idea that we wouldn’t. I liked our life, we had good jobs, earned good money, were starting to take nice vacations. Yes, I was not driven to have children. Then, of course, I did get pregnant, so the issue was resolved, but I think we could have been happy either way. Nice to know that you have been happy too.
Good point, Betsy, about being happy either way. So many times we think of choices as one extreme or the other. I have enjoyed the interactions with my niece and with my partner’s three grandchildren (I call them my “bonus” grandkids), whom I’ve know for 16 years. A great solution to not wanting kids full time!
Marian, just caught up with this story in the Past Stories feature. Thanx for your honest take on parenthood and your own decision to remain childless.
My informal observation of friends over the years has shown me that some folks and couples are happier or less happy regardless of marital status, sexual preference, decisions to have children or not.
Apparently life, marriage, the whole bag of worms is a crap shoot, isn’t it?
I’m with you, Dana. There seems to be so much luck and timing involved in a couple’s happiness that it’s almost arbitrary.
Loved that it never ticked. Loved that. Love your discovery and easy acceptance. Love ‘nope.’ Shocked and disappointed at all the stupid questions you gave the dignity of an answer. Brava, Marian!
Loved that it never ticked. Loved that. Love your discovery and easy acceptance. Love ‘nope.’ Shocked and disappointed at all the stupid questions you gave the dignity of an answer. Brava, Marian! Signed, kidless in Los Angeles. Well, three commune kids and lots of students.
Thanks, Charles. We need to follow our inner clocks and compasses. Love the idea of commune kids and I have enjoyed being a bonus grandmother to my partner’s grandkids.
There’s a whole slew of commune kids from utopian anarchist days in San Francisco. Most of them turned out surprisingly well, considering what we put them through!