Childless by Choice?
Earlier this week, I was asked to contribute to a book about being “childless by choice.” More specifically, I’m to expound upon whether I regret the decision, which I do not. The author has apparently been subjected to doomsayers warning that she’ll wake up some morning, childless, and feel as if she’s wasted her life. So she wonders if I’m happy about not being a mom.
The question itself leaves me unsettled, as if the alternative to regret is doing some kind of no-kid-here polka. That certainly isn’t the case. There’s always a touch of wistfulness in making those big life decisions…
In my twenties, I was among the first in my tribe to openly express the desire to have a child. That made for some awkward moments around the tofu buffet, let me tell you. As someone who was already taking heat for not agreeing that three-inch pumps were sinister tools of the patriarchy, I figured I’d better zip it. Like most of us, I focused on career.
In the 1990s, however, the yearning grew stronger. The difference now was that lots of my friends were having kids. It was kind of trendy. I was repeatedly egged on (so to speak) to knock one out for the home team. And indeed, I had my appointment set to order the requisite Cup o’ Sperm. To this day, whenever I drive past a certain ob-gyn office, I remember how difficult it was to cancel that visit, to step away from the brink of maternity. I so wanted to be pregnant.
So what was the prob, you ask? Simple: I didn’t want to raise a child alone. No, I knew I couldn’t raise a child alone—other people can, and do. But not me. It’s a fact. It seems odd now to remember how badly this tore at me for years, the endless perseveration about whether that was an okay thing to know about myself. At the same time, unfortunately, none of the women I wound up dating had the same level of interest in having a family. Though they usually said they did, when push came to shove, I think the notion of being that far out of the societal box was just too much to bear. Everyone reaches their limits of tolerance for the intolerance of others. Ultimately, the clock just ticked away.
But it’s a funny thing, that babyitis. After a while, it faded somehow, like a shadow at dusk. And while I’ve been known to ruminate endlessly about other choices, I’ve never questioned that decision. It was the right one. I do wish, however, that the ever-present specter of homophobia hadn’t played such a part in the choice. It’s a good reminder that much of the activism we do today is for the benefit of those who come after us.