I’ve seen a lot of articles lately about young people making the decision not to have children, as I did. Here’s a perspective from someone who made that choice and now isn’t so sure it was the right one.
When I entered graduate school, a few years after my first partner passed away, I made a conscious decision not to have any children. My partner and I hadn’t had any kids, because we were having too much fun being kids ourselves. We were so young, and perhaps it felt like we could go on forever, and there would certainly be time for all that settling-down stuff. A few months after she died, I went from being a musician to a psychology student and decided that I could help more people if I didn’t have a family of my own. Dumb move.
I think it was based more on my grief than on reality. It’s also true that while my own childhood did have some poetic moments, it was pretty abusive, and I didn’t want to relive any of that. When you don’t get a great example of mothering, your desire to parent becomes somewhat less attractive. So I opted out.
Once my career took off, I happily went along for the ride. My pets were my kids and were doted on and spoiled rotten. I dated women with children and even played parent for a couple of years. Those were fun times. I enjoyed being a “dad.” Those kids will never forget me, because I taught them to ride bikes and how to drive, and I still hold them in my heart.
It sounds pretty nice, and it was. But while the kids and I got along great, there were serious issues with their mom, and it got very uncomfortable and eventually unbearable, so we went our separate ways. The demise was so ugly that the missing didn’t set in for a few years. And there were yet more dark times ahead. My BFF died, and with her went the feeling of family that we had always shared. Then my therapy dog died, and I was very alone, very successful, and very unhappy. But I did survive it.
I had my work and a very few great friends, and I spent just about every evening with them. There was laughter and joy, and we fell into a good mutual support system. It worked so well that one of my friends moved into my house with her grown kid. We all got along well, and it did soften the blow, but it wasn’t the same as family.
Another few years passed, and I met my wife, who has brought joy and brightness into my life like no one ever has. She loves me to pieces and is always there for me. She has a loving mother (who is coming for her second extended visit), a sister, a nephew, a brother, and a daughter, all of whom she talks to with regularity. And I have my guitars. They are a little bit like kids to me, and playing can soothe my mind. But it’s not like getting a hug around the neck from your kid or even a text just because they want to connect with the parent they love.
Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself in this aspect of my life, but I don’t deserve sympathy. I made a choice, and in hindsight at this point in my life, I believe the effort, the pain and tears, the fear and the financial burden, all the difficult parts that I missed out on—along with the many joys of parenthood—would have been worth it. I want to share this with those people who have made their decision. Please don’t carve it in stone. Just take a look at what you could be missing. A trip around the world, or any great experience, cannot match the love of your child.