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I think its a much braver decision to not have kids if that's the way you feel. Not everyone is cut out for it, not every woman is maternal. To recognise that about yourself and choose not to have kids is the most awesome thing. The people I know who have chosen that way have never regretted it. Just as we knew we would never be happy until we did have kids, they know it's not for them.

I forgot to add, WOO HOO! I was first!

I think the hardest thing about the decisions about having a child or not having a child, regardless of fertility and/or lack thereof, is that you don't really know if you got the decision "right" until the deed is done. More suited to childfree? Whoops, already have a child & discovered too late. More suited to life with children? Too bad you waited so long to take it on & now you can't fulfill that yearning.

And the limbo moments before theoretic fertility runs out and treatment options are in the days gone by, those feel like a fucking pressure cooker where you cannot fathom the life long impact of whichever choice you pursue.

Welcome to my hell. I wish I was someone who simply "knew" one way or another, and wasn't scared that my choice will be the wrong one - either way.

I'm so happy to hear of your new found life, though. It makes my heart smile.

I agree with you completely and sometimes wonder who I would have been sans kids. But, it is a fleeting thought and then my heart swells up again as I think about my beautiful kiddos... and then I begin the countdown in my head until my youngest is 18 and tell myself I will travel then, etc.

I, like you, "waited" until my 30s to have children (if, by waited, I mean went through three years of fertility treatments). I agree--I am much better suited for motherhood in my 30s. My husband and I have been together 10 years and got to see enough of the world together, sleep 9 hours a night, and be hopelessly devoted to one another long enough that neither of us feel cheated now. My sister, however, had hers at 18 and 21 and is now still in her 20s with both of them half grown. I sometimes envy that she will still be in her 30s when they are off to college. I guess both have its advantages. As for child-free by choice--not for me, but can totally see how it would be a viable choice for others.

Maybe the regrets will surface if anything happens to her partner. Then she will be alone and maybe wish that he lived on in their kid. Bit morbid but a possibility. Whilst she is alone in the old persons home with no visitors, maybe then she will regret or then maybe she wil still be happy she enjoyed her life to the full with the love of her life. Who knows. I can imagine whichever way there will be regrets at some stage in life.

I know several women who are child-free (my sister one of them) - and it looks like a glorious life. It's hard to envision that for myself, though. I would sign up for a few weeks of it if I could, but I'd miss my stinky boys.
Oh well...

"...your life is very different once you have a kid or two. Being selfish, or self-absorbed is no longer possible."
Unfortunately, this is all too possible for some parents. These are the ones who probably should have thought a bit harder before having them.
This weekend I spent 24 hours away from my kids, and my husband, for the first time in almost 5 years. It was great, it was nice, and it was very very strange to be even temporarily child free. ;)

I want to chime in. I'm childfree by choice. I never want kids and though I thoroughly screened my husband for this before we got married, he has decided (post-vasectomy) that he changed his mind. So he's divorcing me so he can have a baby. I've spent the weekend helping him pack.

So much for being childfree so you don't have to sacrifice.

I totally take your point, Tertia, but for me it was a off the mark. Yes, I enjoy all the things I get to do without the kids. As do you - most parents LOVE the weekend away without kids. However, I did not choose to NOT have kids because I didn't want to sacrifice. On the contrary, I generally find myself sacrificing and putting other people ahead of my own needs. I think your argument that people who live childfree do it because they want to keep putting themselves first is like me arguing that people who WANT children have some sort of martyr complex where they must put someone before themselves. That's not why you have kids, and selfishness is not why I don't want them.

I chose not to have children because I have absolutely no desire to have them. I think about having a baby and I don't feel happy. I don't feel joy or maternal. My initial instinct was to say the thought of ME raising a child would be like choosing to have cancer, but that's not even right. If my husband had cancer and I had the choice to take it instead of him, I would. I love him that much, yet I'm losing him over not wanting to have children because they are that incompatible with my life. My entire being revolts against it.

Now please - you skimmers make sure you read this part - I don't think children are like cancer. My point here is that making a choice to have some terrible disease is choosing to introduce something totally foreign and destructive into your life. For me, becoming a parent feels that foreign and destructive. WANTING kids feels like wanting something equally terrible. (For me. Personally. My life only. Not yours.)

It's not that I don't like kids. My nieces are adorable. I love them. I take them out when I am in town, I talk to them on the phone several times a week. I adore them completely, love them with every ounce of my being. I am an egg donor, for gods sake, so clearly I understand how important it is for couples to have children, and how painful it must be to NOT have them when you want them. I don't think they are a disease. I think they are the greatest gift that parents who *want* them can receive.

However, for me the pain would be in having them - not because I couldn't go out or keep myself first, but because I just don't WANT them. Even if I could keep doing everything like I do now and they never cried and I could sleep all night and when I didn't want to be around them someone was there to take over, I still wouldn't want them. My deep instincts NOT to have children are as strong as most women's instincts to have them. It's not a decision. It's not "Hmmm....Pancakes every sunday or a baby???". It's much deeper desire than that. Unfortunately, it's a difficult one to explain - especially to people who have or want kids.

Sorry for the long comment. I frequently get the argument that I am selfish for not wanting kids, which is the crux of what you said in your post, Tertia (but in a nice way). I'm just so tired of that because it is completely off the mark in my case, and really makes those of us who chose to live childfree sound shallow and self interested. My marriage is ending over this, and my marriage is the one thing that means more to me than anything else. For me, sacrifice has definitely become part of the choice.

Oh, Tertia, your post today really resonated with me. Those days and nights of worry never end nor do the sacrifices- but I would never want it any other way.

I loved your comment- "your heart is forever exposed". Truer words were never written!

Enjoy those wonderful babes!

Out of lurkdom to post. I am also child-free my choice, but, to echo eggdonor, it isn't because I was thinking only of me, but I was thinking of future children and my future life. I don't feel a calling to be a mother. I think about being tied to another human being (beside my family to whom I am already tied) forever and my heart isn't in to it. I love kids and spend time nurturing those in my life but I don't want *my* hypothetical kids. I look at it as where do I want my energy to go? I want it to do go to my partner from whom I do so many sacrifices, to my work, to my politics. I think any relationship calls for sacrifice, although with children you do most of the sacrificing for awhile.

My concern whenever there is a child-free/parenthood conversation is that people think one choice is inherently better than the other. That drives me crazy. To me, there isn't. Why is there the competition between these lifestyles? (not that Tertia was doing that - I love the way you bring up things in an open dialog) I think any choice we make in our lives can be called selfish - pursing having kids can be selfish, not having kids by choice can be selfish, but is selfish a bad thing?

Thank you, Tertia, for another thought-provoking post.

Great post. I totally get it. When our daughter spends a few days with her grandparents, Tom and I use it to the fullest of how things were before Phoebe. Everything moves at a much faster pace when we need to get things done, and when we get to sit and crash or sleep, it's nice to have it uninterrupted or having to getup a thousand times to help someone.

But we love having her. We enjoy her fully when she's with us and living in that different pace of life. But I don't quite think we'll have "empty nest syndrome" when she leaves home as an adult. We know quite what we like to do together as a couple. However, like you said... our heart is forever exposed.

I, like you, had my kiddos in my 30's (not necessarily by choice, but by the way the dice are rolled, I suppose). There are days that I miss sleeping in, eating an uninterrupted meal, and even going to the bathroom by myself (6 years - hasn't happened yet). I've even had the "what ifs" about my second child who is 9 months old. What if I didn't have him? Would we be at Disneyland right now? Taking vacations while the 6 year old spent time at grandma's? Have more money? More elbow room in the house?

However, I'm always brought back to the reality of it all when I look at him. It has been a VERY big adjustment for us around here - #2 really sent us for a loop - but I'm so thankful for it. This is where I belong right now. I'm in my moment.

We have friends who are childless, not by choice, but by circumstances beyond anyone's control. It wasn't what they wanted. They spent a long time being unhappy and questioning their lives, but they have come full circle and are the most amazing couple I have had the privilege to know. I was *this close* (pinching my thumb and forefinger together) to being right there with them. It makes me so thankful for what I have been given, and they are able to be thankful for their relationship and their lives as well.


I've rambled forever now - thanks for a great post, Tertia!

This is my first post here. I've been reading you with a happy heart for many months now...happy for you and your family. Loving the pics of your adorable babes. But I never felt right posting because I'm such a fence sitter on the subject of kids.

There are days when I yearn for a child - like yesterday, when the "March of the Penguins" movie trailer made my ovaries cry. There are an equal number of days when it's my husband and I sacked out on the sofa watching DVDs all day or taking an impromptu night away at the shore and children are the farthest thing from our minds.

I hold old-fashioned notions when it comes to how kids should be raised. At this point in my life, I'm not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to live up to **my own** expectations of mothering. I don't think that's selfish. But with the passing of each and every cycle, I find myself pulled in both directions.

Thank you, G&D Tertia, for not being judgemental toward those of us still sitting contentedly in our lounge chairs along the side of the pool (with drink and book in hand) debating about the temperature of the water while you splash about with the kidlets.

Ta!

My husband and I are childfree by choice. It is a tough decision to make, but it was the right one for us, and ultimately very liberating when we did make it.

While I don't want to have my own children, I respect everyone's right to make their own choices...I'm certainly not one of those rabid anti-child people.

I've found that some of the most intelligent, well-rounded women I know take it so personally when (after they ask) you tell them you don't plan to have children...it's not like I said "put yours up for adoption" or something! As long as we are happy with our choice, why do they feel threatened when I don't feel the same way they do?

Perhaps we are selfish for not having children. But we recognize our limitations, and what we want in our lives, and we both know that we would not be as happy making the sacrifices it takes to have children. We'll shower our nephews and niece with gifts, pamper our pets, and live our lives.

I respect and admire the hell out of you, G&D Tertia, and your babies are beautiful. You are an amazing mother, and your honesty is refreshing.

I'm about one week off having my first child, and I am in my 30s. I still haven't figured out why the heck I'm doing this. ;-) My childfree life has always been pretty awesome - we are financially secure; travel lots and have a comfortable life. We are about to turn it topsy turvy! I too love kids - as a teacher, I have made kids my profession, as it were.

Oh well let's hope this is the right decision for me... :-)

My best childhood friend chose not to have children. She is always criticized for it. Who will take care of you when you are old? Etc. etc.

Sometimes I think the best parent is the one who realizes they don't want to or weren't meant to parent. Really why should we make someone feel bad about something so hard? I worked my ass off to get my kids, and I still wonder what the hell I am doing half the time. I can't imagine doing it if you didn't really want it.

I am so with you on this, Tertia. I was married for 15 years to a boy I met in High School, when I finally found myself pregnant. I always wanted children, but I was also enjoying my life without children, so I could see both sides of the issue, and decided to accept the apparent infertility that had afflicted my marriage. I always knew having a child would be a blessing, but I also understood how serious and long-term a sacrifice it would be, well before my daughter was born.

My daughter is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. She has, and will continue to change my life in countless wonderful ways. But lets face it: Life was easier before I had her. My poor husband had me all to himself. And we could travel, eat out and do whatever we wanted like nobody's business. No more reading books in bed for hours on Sunday morning, etc. etc.

Whatever....I'm glad that life has handed me this child and taken me down this new and interesting road. Parenthood is an important part of the human experience, and I willingly embrace it with all it's ups and downs and fears and joys and losses and gains. And I'm giving it my best, because I'm thankful for the opportunity.

Faith

I totally understand what you are saying here and realize how much you love your children. I have to add how appreciative I am of you adding that being childless due to IF sucks more than anything in the world because there isn't a day that goes by that I wouldn't give up everything and anything to not feel what I do or maybe what I know I'll never be able to feel. I think also after losing a baby at 5 1/2 mos. for me made me more determined and I never wanted children in my twenties. Funny how fate turns on you. Great post. I have seen how my friends have sacrificed and their lives changed but I still can't believe where life has taken me, childless. And the new pictures on the blog of the babies just melt my heart, they are so beautiful.
xxoo

Being single, I can't say that this won't change, but I don't see myself ever having kids. The biggest reason is not that I do not want to sacrifice my freedom and the way I live my life, though I do love how things are right now. My biggest reason is because I fear the kind of parent I will be.

I love babies. I am good at the whole cuddle-and-love thing. I could probably deal with the sleepless nights, and I can definitely handle diapers. But I'm not good at what comes after that. I am strict to the point of harshness and have very little patience. My dad was a tyrannical parent, and I see patterns with the children of friends that tell me I should probably not have children of my own. I started babysitting when I was 11, was a nanny for years... I am great with small children. My mom cried when I told her I didn't really want kids of my own, and most of the people who have known me all my life are shocked, but this is the way I feel. My sister is planning to have kids, and I think everyone thought it would be me having kids and her choosing not to.

Someone told me once that people who decide not to have children get all manner of crap for it, but that really, people who don't have kids have often out a lot more thought into it than many of the people out there who do have kids (no one here of course).

I did a lot of grieving for the life I was leaving behind. I'm 31 and also lived my twenties in a haze of cigarettes, beer, laughter and freedom. I liked that life. So much that I had to really weigh things out for myself when it came time to have children.

I'm not sorry to be pregnant and I'm not sorry to have given up parts of that life for this one (though I miss the beer like mad). I imagine that will become even more the case when Cleetus actually makes his/her escape.

I think it's necessary and important to mark the change between one phase of life and the other. In many other of those milestones, there's already a built in ceremony (a graduation, a wedding etc). But in pregnancy, it seems like thinking about it in terms of being a sacrifice means you are a bad parent. I happen to think it just makes you honest. And it says something about the high quality of your life before parenthood.

First a response to Egg Donor--I just wanted to thank you for giving me a different perspective on choosing to be childfree. I never thought of the aspect that it could involve such profound sacrifice, and I'm so sorry that your marriage is ending over this. How heartbreaking for you. Also my hat's off to you for being honest with your husband from the beginning, and I assume that he was honest with you at the time he first made the agreement to not have children. As you said, he changed his mind at a later time. At least you both were playing fair with each other, and I'm so sorry that you both will be hurt in the end despite your best efforts. I'm sure it is not easy for him to give you up. The honesty bit is important to me since I was in a first marriage where my husband knew full well of my intense desire for children but was passive-aggressive in delaying--he was never "ready." Later confided to a therapist that he never intended to have children and was planning to string me along until I gave up on the notion. Argh! Needless to say, when we divorced over the baby conflict, the nature of the crisis was quite different from yours and your husband's. If mine had only been honest, it would have hurt me, but at least we could have helped each other through it because I wouldn't have felt betrayed and victimized.

Tertia, children do require so much sacrifice, and I have learned not to judge people who don't want them. I used to think that not wanting children was abnormal. In recent years, I have come to understand childfree people better, and admire them for being smart and standing firm for what they know is best for them rather than bowing to societal or family pressures. I've also begun to see myself from a different perspective--maybe an argument could be made that someone like me who goes to extraordinary efforts to have children is the abnormal one!

One thing that really saddens me is that after spending a lifetime wanting several children, and doing everything humanly possible to make that dream come true, here I am pushing 44 and still trying. I will be in my 60s before I'm done with the childhood phase of parenting. Normally I don't let that bother me. There are plenty of older parents, both today and down through history. But recently, I don't know, I've just been thinking about it a lot and feeling angry all over again that I couldn't have children when the time was optimal, that even if I ever succeed in having a family, it will be quite different from my original vision (donor egg) and from my original timeframe (in my 20's and 30's rather than in my 40's to 60's). I've even asked myself, "are you sure you want this?" The answer is still yes, but just that fact that I have to ask it shows me how much the pain of infertility has changed me. I know what parenting involves, and the thought of dealing with little kids and teenagers in my golden years is a little scary, I admit. That is a time in life when most people are able to turn their attentions back to their own wants and needs, and rightfully so. On the other hand, I have a need to have children and I enjoy them, so perhaps I won't be so different from my peers who are fulfilling their desires by going on cruises and playing Mah Jong and golf.

you're right, kiddos' needs come first. that's why i spend all my pocket change on gags.

Tell us pleeeeeeeeese about your partying daze :)

But you get to relive your childhood. I play with my/james's lego, and get to run around hooting alot. Maybe that cancels out all the metaphorical grey hair?

Tertia, you are spot on about every thing. I couldn't have expressed myself nearly as well as you did, but you expressed everything I've ever thought. (Especially lately with two toddlers!!) I dream of the days I could have a lazy weekend, but while I know I will have lazy weekends again, I know my heart will forever been exposed and I will forever spend my life worrying about my children. I will be lazy again (one day) but never care-free like I was before children.

For this I'm also eternally grateful I had my children in my 30's (though it was later 30's than I would have liked) and I had my wild and carefree days in my 20's.

Life is good, but it IS different now that I have my much-wanted, long-awaited and much-loved children.

Still, I don't envy those who decide to live child-free. I envy their lifestyle occasionally, but I think how empty their lives will be as they age and have no one besides their life-partner in old age. And when they lose that person they will be alone. No, I don't envy them that.

I love you Tertia. Who else would write this? "Now that I have kids, I can now understand the appeal of NOT having children."

I have kids, and I didn't have to work hard to have them (though I had a long childfree existence before having them). I really understand the decision to be childfree (which, doesn't, for a second, mean that I don't love my kids, or want to give them back).

It comes down to the "cost" of kids. I spent 35 years of my life being the most important person in my life. (yes I was married, but he could take care of himself). We were partners, but we took care of ourselves. Now, we have this young'uns, who need us, and want us desperately. My daughter, who is now 4 1/2 is, and I'm saying this in the nicest possible way, a manipulative beast. It comes to her naturally .

I've occasionally had students ask me about my decision to wait until I was 35 to have kids, and when we talk about it, they always wonder if finances played a role (because they did for them). But, for me, finances had nothing to do with it. It was that I knew having kids meant that I couldn't center my life around my own needs (which for me meant a need to be able to think about things when I wanted to).

bj

I went back and read some of the comments by those who chose to be "childfree" and realized the danger in talking about the "selfishness" of not having children. I don't mean it in the sense of personal selfishness. What I do believe is that once you've had children, your children become the most important thing in the world. That means you take second place, but it also means that other things you care about (like the state of the world) take second place. So, I don't see being childfree as a personally selfish choice.

Take Marx's statement that having children is "giving hostages to the future."

bj

I envy their lifestyle occasionally, but I think how empty their lives will be as they age and have no one besides their life-partner in old age. And when they lose that person they will be alone. No, I don't envy them that.

That's just not fair. I know plenty of people without children who live full lives still...widows and widowers too. Especially in this day and age you're only as alone as you want to be.

Making a decision like that is living totally in the present without any consideration of the future. I know nobody sane who regretted having children I cannot say the same for the opposite decision.

Experiencing infertility made me think very deeply about my desire to have children and a family, and to consider all of my options, including living a childfree life. My husband and I decided that we would to whatever it took to become parents, and would have gladly adopted had our IVFs not been successful. But in all of my ponderings of the possibilities, I realized that if we ended up not having children, we could have a very happy life, and, in fact, would probably at some point have decided that we were glad we made the choice to live childfree. Now that I am a mother to three children (only ever wanted two, but ended up with twins) I would never trade my life for a childfree life, but I do see the appeal. I miss a lot of things about my former life. There are many sacrifices that go along with parenting, but I don't think people who choose to live without children are at all selfish. I imagine, like Donor Egg said, that they make sacrifices for their lifestyle, too, just different ones. When I was younger, I thought anyone who didn't want to have children was missing something. I don't think that way at all any longer. I think there are many ways to have a happy and fulfilling life. I was 40 when I had my twins. So I will be doing the parenting thing into my late 50's/early 60's. I've thought a lot if I'd want to switch -- have had my children young, so that I'd have relative freedom when I was still young. My cousin who is my age is sending her youngest off to college this year. But I think I like it this way better. My experiences of my youth -- traveling, different relationships, financial freedom, living on my own, pondering the possibility of never being married, etc. -- have made me who I am, and influence how I raise my children. My cousin spent her 20's and 30's raising her kids. She's never had a passport. Never lived on her own -- moved from her parents to her husband's home, with a baby on board. She finally has an empty nest, but can she really be open to new experiences the way I was in my 20's? And she still has lots of responsibility for her kids, even though they have moved out. So I'm happy (and tired) to be an older mother.

I understand what you are saying, whilst I would never swap my life with my children (and it does go on forever I still don't sleep properly if my 19 year old is not home) but I do think longingly of what it would be like to be able to read a book that I am dying to read as soon as it's released or to have my house stay clean for more than a milisecond after I've cleaned it. Joys outweigh the disadvantage - well most of the time :-))

I'm so glad you brought this up. It's such a taboo topic and it's nice that it's in the open that people who choose not to have children are not self-admitted child abusers or selfish assholes.

I work in the early childhood field and love children, love babies, but just don't have a great desire to have one of my own. I read IF blogs with passion--crying for those who are trying so hard and being denied something they want so desperately. I empathize with those trying and I celebrate my friends' pregnancies...when they tell me. Often, I am not told, because someone starts to think that since I'm 34 and not talking about trying to get pregnant, I'm hiding the fact that I can't. It's not that I can't, it's that I'm REALLY HAPPY now and every time I think about having kids of my own, I think "how do you deal with bullies? Mean teachers? Preschoolers with cell phones? Strangers with candy? Teenagers who lie?" The millions of scenarios fill my head and the anxiety overwhelms me. I have great respect for those who willing take it on...and willingly give away sleep, money, and their hearts...and please know that there are those of us out there who are willing to back you up, take a night with the kids, lend a sympathetic ear, when you're tired and it doesn't seem like it was such a good decision. Don't assume we don't want to hear about it, because many of us do!

A couple have people have commented re: if you don't have kids who's going to take care of you/keep you company when you're older? That's so &^$%ed up! People who consciously and thoughtfully choose not to have children are being responsible and adult. Producing other human beings to keep you company when you're older just prima facie sounds like a really frickin' bad idea. And it also means I have to deal with your heinous brats when I'm innocently trying to do some shopping or studying in the park etc. And for the record, I would def. like kids one day so I'm not really advancing a personal agenda here.

I get the decision to not have kids. However, since having a child is the richest experience I've ever had, times ten, I tend to think that in MOST cases (not all! Some people should never have kids, and they know it) they just don't realize what they are missing. Because, let's face it, it doesn't look that appealing from the outside. Diapers, tantrums, constantly mopping the floor, and then teenagers for God's sake - who wants it?

Well, we did, evidently. And I would trade everything in my life for this experience. I am so thankful. And I think that many people who never wanted kids for intelligent, sane reason are shocked how great the experience is when it happens "accidentally."

I get that sleeping in looks good. I love to sleep in. But my son is 5, and a lot of the time I do get to sleep in, because he can entertain himself for an hour. I get that not throwing money away for years on end sounds nice. But it's not really about money. I travelled before kids, and in a few years we'll be able to go almost anywhere. Maybe even South Africa!

I get why people don't want to have kids, I just think they might be surprised if they did.

Everybody here is so smart I'm not sure I have anything to add! I am also childfree by choice; I can't imagine taking on the daily array of decisions from infancy on up--as Another Kim said, the mere idea of that anxiety overwhelms me. Even more than that, I just don't feel what people who want to be parents must feel. I love my friends' babies; I avidly follow IF blogs; for that matter, I am often the "mom" figure amongst my friends--the one who always has a tissue and can diagnose strep throat by looking at your tonsils with a flashlight. But imagining being a parent fills me with a sort of benign bewilderment rather than any sense of longing. I have sometimes worried about what Heidi mentioned--being alone in old age--but I feel like it's my responsibility to make good plans and keep up connections with friends, other family members, etc. throughout my life so I won't be alone and will be well cared for.

Besides, the sleep deprivation of having an infant would kill me. :-P

Hmmm being infertile certainly forced me to consider living child-free differently. In my 20s, I thought I wanted to be a parent a lot. I really was bitter about being the unlucky one among my friends who couldn't get pregnant by simply having sex. In my early 30s, I still thought I was going to be a parent, but if I'm completely honest, I was having doubts about it. I think I held onto it because it felt like the infertility was put in front of me like a challenge of some sort. I was supposed to overcome it, beat it, and attain that baby.

At 36, I knew that time was running out and that application for adoption that I conveniently found excuses not to fill out was getting buried under other papers in the house. My husband and I had less and less conversations about adoption. We finally had a discussion last year and made the decision not to pursue adoption, IVF, or anything else. So now I'm 38 and finally feeling peaceful about our decision. For a while, 'becoming a mom' was looming over me and it felt more like something to dread if I'm being completely honest.

That wasn't the end of it though. We had to tell people. Surprisingly, our parents were the easiest to tell and accepted the news with grace. It was our friends who surprised us. Some continue to bring it up every now and then to remind us that they are disappointed by our decision. Others say things like, "good, now you can take ours for summers...", etc.

We know that when we see beautiful little toddlers looking adorable, we will occasionally feel wistful. Its to be expected, but the feeling is so temporary. In my particular case, I think it was just coincidence that I decided not to have kids AND happen to be infertile.

I always knew I would have kids, it was just a given. Now at 39 with 3 wonderful kids I am working with similar aged women who have never had kids. It has opened up my eyes. They travel, have extra $$, drive great vehicles, and freedom I can only remember.

Although I would not change my life for anything, I do respect their choice and hope my kids realize the choices out there for them to make.

Thank you for showing such grace and understanding about a lifestyle that you have not choosen for yourself. While I have choosen not to be a mom I certian love children and love to read about people and their children. I find it hard, sometimes, to feel not a part of ... and you just made me feel a little bit more welcome.

A couple of my friends just have never had any interest in having children. When I was younger, my own interest was of a vague, "someday but now" nature—my husband and I were married for 6 years before we started trying, so we got to spoil ourselves and have fun before having a kid.

There are plenty of sacrifices in parenthood, yes, but I really lucked out—I get really cranky when I'm hungry, whereas my son has a more lackadaisical appetite. I get to feed myself first! I was afraid to make him wait when he was a preemie baby. But now? I'm eating first.

A good friend of my grandmother recently passed away and at her funeral the church was overflowing with people of all ages - a "good turnout" as my grandfather would say. My grandmother commented that her friend had chosen not to have children and how my grandmother admired her. Her friend had used the time she would have spent rearing her brood to develop great friendships with people of all ages, to become involved in many people's families, such that when she was old and ill in the hospice, she was never without a visitor. My grandmother compared her to many of her other friends who had let their friendships fall away as they devoted themselves to rearing their children and now they were old, they were often sitting waiting for their children to call or visit them on the occassional weekend.

I don't think being old and alone has anything to do with whether you have kids or not, but how you build your life and your relationships with the people around you.

I wanted to respond to Alex's post. I think that was an absolutely fantastic comment, and one that really hit home with me. I am 36 and expecting my first child. I wouldn't have waited this long by choice, but that's what life handed me. I have always, always feared the "getting old alone" thing - working in nursing homes will do that to you - and always thought of children as the main source of "insurance" that that wouldn't be the case. That was not my sole motive for starting a family, but it certainly played a role in my thinking. It is very refreshing to think about the fact that people have other options with respect to opening their lives to other people who can see them through age and infirmity. I view this as easier said than done, as I am not an overly outgoing person - and often miss out on potential friendships because I don't have the gumption to reach out to others - but Alex's post really drives home how important those connections are. Children and extended family can be a joy, but they are not the only possible source of security in our old age. Thanks Alex!

There is a part of Economics that deals with the economics of the family (Becker mainly)
The main point is that people has children as an insurance. They take care of them so they will be taken care of in their old age. But, as any insurance, it's a bet. Maybe the parents won't need care so the time/money/human capital invested in kids would be a loss. Or they could invest a lot on their kids and the kids won't pay it back. Or invest nothing and the kids still will be good with them.
You cab add more parameters to that theory like the joy of reliving your childhood or the pain you suffer.
So, that's it, a little economics class in Tertia's comments. Enjoy!
and yes, Economics is crazy sometimes, I know. You do not need to remind me that.

Great post.

I had a book once called Women Without Children, which touched on reasons women decided or (fate decided for them) not to have children. One thing it made clear, and had data on, is that once the decision is final (or biological impossibility has been accepted), women rarely have any regrets about not having children. It also was reassuring about the "growing old with no one to care about me" fear; noting that such women tend to have strong friendship and extended family networks, and often more financial resources in retirement. And besides, having children is absolutely no guarantee of support in your golden years; there are plenty of neglectful children, parents who outlive their children, children who live far far away, etc.

For the longest time I thought I didn't want children, and my husband and I had a wonderful decade traveling, pursuing hobbies, helping our extended families, working hard at our careers, remodeling our house....all that stuff. But I ultimately decided I wanted a baby, out of some visceral need, fear of missing out on something critical; I'm still not entirely sure why exactly.

Sometimes I miss my old life, and I can see why people would choose not to parent. Indeed, there are plenty of people who shouldn't. But I also think Patricia is on to something in that people who don't have children see only the tantrums, diapers and sleep deprivation. It's a frightening amount of responsibility, time commitment, financial strain, etc. But what I didn't grasp, at least until the first baby was here, are the rewards. My children truly gave me a whole new emotional geography and continue to transform my personality and beliefs. I don't think I could have understood that back in my child-free life, no matter how much time I spent around my adorable nieces.

I am one of those mothers who probably never should have had children -- I have no maternal instinct whatsoever. I see so many others for whom dealing with their babies/children is the most natural thing in the world, whereas for me it felt very alien right from the start, and sometimes still does. I see natural mothers the way I see people with musical talent -- they have a natural ability that I just lack, which I greatly admire.
We have three kids, and I admit I had them mainly because my husband loves kids and wanted them, and because I love my husband. Yes, now that they`re here, I love them and want them in my life, and shudder at the thought of anything bad happening to them but....had I fallen in love with a man who didn`t want kids, I can easily imagine myself finding other ways to give back to the world and make my life just as rich and fullfilling -- but very, very different.

As someone who chose to be childless, I can not say that I wasn't ever ambivalent about that decision. There were often times I would see a child and consider trying to have one. I love children. However, I always thought about the sacrifices I would have to make to be the mom I would want to be. This next statement is not a meant to be a negative to working outside the house moms, but I always felt I should stay home if I had children and I wasn't willing to give up my career. Yes, my husband and I talked about him staying home, but he was only willing to stay home for 6 months and I couldn't figure out what to do with the other 17 1/2 years!

I admire all moms and particularly working outside the house moms. I don't know how you do it. I get to go home each night, have dinner (or not), relax, drink wine (not that kids preclude that), and do whatever I want. I have an idea of how much work kids are. I'm the oldest of 6 and I have 18 nieces and nephews, but I don't have children living with me and that is a HUGE difference!

I think most importantly, women should support the choices other women make. We are fortunate to be able have choices to make.

A toast to the G&D Tertia! For so long I wondered how many childless by choice women were reading this blog. How wonderful you have brought us all together.

I was always very anti-having children. And now that my husband and I are at the point of trying, I´m still reasonably ambivalent towards them. My husband knew from the start how I felt, and I knew he always wanted a family, so its more of a compromise - a large part of which is that he stays at home for the first year while I work (ohhh am I gonna get flamed down for that one?). If I ever pictured myself with a family it was always an older one that I fostered or adopted, not children I had myself. And now that we´ve "sort of" been trying for 6 months and it hasn´t worked yet, I´m not upset at still having the possiblity of going down the fostering path.
I never considered anyone deciding not to have children as selfish. Yes, once you have children there are monstrous sacrifices to be made and life as you knew it is over. However the decision to have a child, the drive "I want to be pregnant, I need to have a baby", is in itself entirely selfish. It is entirely about the parents and what they want, not "I´m going to get pregnant because its in the best interest of this as-yet-unconceived-child". If it was entirely unselfish then the first thing any wanttobeparent would do is go to foster homes and save a child who is already alive and needs a family.
This is NOT a People shouldn´t try and have babies, but should go and adopt, post. Not at all. I´m very happy for every person who has wanted to conceive and has managed to, and I´m sorry for all those who have trouble doing so. I also fully agree that being a parent requires huge sacrifices. I feel however that the word selfish in reference to people deciding not to have children is incorrect. The decision to have a child is just as "selfish" as the decision not to - its entirely about the parents.

Making a decision like that is living totally in the present without any consideration of the future. I know nobody sane who regretted having children I cannot say the same for the opposite decision.

**

Lovely, just a lovely comment here, really. Those of who choose not to have kids are 1. insane; or 2. shortsighted; or 3. just awaiting our future regret.

When I was in my teens, I visited my parents' friends and saw a magnet on their fridge: "If I wanted to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, I'd put shoes on my cat!" I felt like something so central to me was being validated - I'd NEVER wanted kids, never pictured myself pushing a stroller, never liked playing with babies, always wanted a high-powered career, but rarely saw that presented as an option in my conservative slice of the world.

I have NEVER regretted not having children, and I'm as sane as the mothers (and fathers) that I know. Quite a bit moreso than some of them. When I envisioned my life WITH children, I was so deeply sad - for me, my career is so immensely demanding, rewarding, and fulfilling intellectually and emotionally that imagining cutting back on that just tore my heart out. I don't think it's selfish - it's a job that requires a lot of giving, and nurturing of others. I just don't have the (mythical) maternal instinct to do that in the context of parenthood, and think that my gifts are better used elsewhere.

And, I do know quite a few women who regret having kids. Not to say they don't love them to pieces and beyond, but they do regret having them. (Often, the baby was a last-ditch, unsuccessful effort to keep a marriage going - people have kids for reasons just as selfish as some of us supposedly don't have them.)

Many more people would condemn women for not having kids than men. I'm not willing to take part in that system and feel some duty to have a child.

Let's not go making people who make well-thought out choices feel like less of a person for it.

When I was growin gup my favourite aunt and uncle didn't have kids. They were fabulous with us, - taking us out, spoiling us etc. Everyone always said how sad it was that they couldn't have children of their own since they were so great wit hall their nieces and nephews. I learnt recently that they made a concious decision not to have kids but to enjoy eachother and their lives as a couple. They felt in those days, late 60s early 70s, that it was easier to let people believe they couldn't have children than to deal with people judging their decision. I think that's a very sad reflection on our society and I'm not sure that attitudes have changed all that much in the last 30 years.

Please excuse the odd spelling above, - I just dropped a blob of yogurt on my keyboard and the space bar seems to have developed a delay!

I am a single mother of twin infants by choice at age 44 with no help. The choice was to have a baby. Not to have 2 babies. I was not given that choice. It just happened to me after my first IVF cycle with anonymous donor sperm and being single for 13 years post-divorce in my late 20's.
I always knew i wanted children and would have them. Ever since age 8 I knew this. My issue was not infertility. My issue was not having someone to do it with when i was ready. So, I was brave/stupid and at 43 finally did it on my own. At that point fertility was a huge issue and I spent alot of time, energy and $$ to get PG.
But I only wanted one baby alone. Not two. Yet, that's what the ultrasound showed and that's what i got.
Like Tertia. I absolutely love and adore my twins and wouldn't have it any other way than it is right now... BUT, because I am alone and exhausted and overwhelmed by this there are times I wish I could go back to my single life without children. Sometimes i just look at my babies and say,"WOULD YOU TWO GET A LIFE, PLEASE?"!!! Because i just am not feeling the love in that moment and, apparently, am not cut out to be a mother of twin infants all of the time. I think I would be much better at this part-time. Or, full-time with just one. I was always completely, positively, absolutely, unequivocally sure that i wanted children.
Now that i have them i sometimes waver. So, clearly, even amongst those of us who are sure they want children, there appears to be a sub-set of us who want parenthood in a limited way. We all have all our limits and I know mine. I know I was not meant to be a single parent of twins and pine away for knowing how the other half lives (those singles with only one baby!).

I used to be pretty fabulous, you know.
I used to sleep and eat and bathe. I used to have a rewarding career including financial success. I used to go out to movies and theater and travel the world. I used to have close friends who were witty and sophisticated and intelligent and educated who talked about politics, the economy and the environment (not just the consistency of baby poop).
I used to be thin.

I confess. I do miss many parts of my old life. And, sometime b/c of my being blessed with "Too Much Motherhood" I wish I was back there again.
But, I always know that in the end no matter how hard this is. For me... this is still better than that.

Tertia,
I was surprised when I read the loaded word "selfish" in your post. It is quite judgemental and perjorative and that is unlike you. I have only recently started reading your blog. You are smart and funny and perceptive and have been through a hell of a lot to have those beautiful kids you wanted so desparately. You deserve them and I am very happy for you.

I am childless by choice. In fact had my tubes tied at age 26. I was that sure.

Not because I had a fabulous life style I wanted to protect. But because I wanted to protect any hypothetical child from my lifestyle. I have a natural snarkyness and upredictable temperament that would not be conducive to raising a well-adjusted child. I am, in fact, a lot like my parents and no child deserves to raised like I was.

And honestly, I don't regret a thing, I don't wish that I was rasied by kind, loving normal people so that I could have had a chance at having a baby, too. I love my 13 nieces and nephews fiercely, I just don't want any of my own. I apparently have no natural yearning to mother. I occaisionally wonder if I could have done a good job at raising a kid in spite of myself but not enough to risk the mental well-being of another human by creating one to experiment on. That, in my opinion, would have been the epitome of selfish.

I think about the way you wanted to have children, how the ache tore at your heart, how you were driven to do what ever it would take to bring A&K here. That feeling of "baby hunger" is as mysterious to me as the feeling of riding the space shuttle. Thank you for being so honest about it because I learn so much when I read here.

I suppose I am as much a mystery to you, too: Imagining that this thing thing that is so huge, so intimate and interwoven with the fiber if your outlook on the world is entirely missing in some one else. I suppose it must be like imagining how some one lacking the sense of smell experiences the world.

Perhaps that is why you saw the decision not to have children as a preference to not make sacrifices. You made so many soul sacrifices to have your family that for now perhaps that is how you frame the experience.

I am rambling. Thank you for all the space and please keep writing exactly what you think because you help others to think, too.

Great post. Boulder and Socal's comments really resonated for me. I was always steadfast in my resolve that I did not want to be a parent, but the man I loved and have been married to since I was 20 years old always wanted a baby. I finally found the courage within to commit to the idea, but alas found we were infertile. Much IVF treatment later and still no babies I am not sure whether I am relieved that the end of my treatment is in sight without a baby, or whether I will truly grieve the fact that I did not have a baby. What I am certain about is that I will always grieve the fact that I could not help my husband achieve his dream of becoming a Dad - he would be a beautiful father and would certainly make up for any short comings I may have had as a mother - he had enough "maternal/paternal" instincts for both of us. I hold onto the thought and hope that my ambivalence about the motherhood thing will hold me in good stead at the end of my treatment, but I am not so sure it will - like Socal I am sure there will be many times I will look wistfully at small people and think to myself "I wish" or "it could have been", but to look back and regret would be a waste of energy - I will look forwards with love and enthusiasm for what my husband and I can share and achieve together in our next 40 years.

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