As Oprah used to say, frequently, raising kids is the hardest job in the world. And I don’t argue with that. (I wouldn’t dare.)
But choosing not to have kids has challenges of a different kind–not the least of which is censure from a segment of society that assumes you must be selfish, self-centered, or in arrested development.
My husband and I are childless by choice and have some very good reasons for this, which are none of your beeswax. Fortunately, I am past the age where people want to debate our decision with me, but you can’t imagine how tiresome that was. Here’s a hint, people: Asking someone who has chosen not to have kids if she fears regretting the decision someday is uncool. Duh. It’s not like we haven’t considered that. Would you ask a woman who does have kids if she fears regretting that decision?
Not having children is challenging in that your life is not mapped out for you according to the needs of your children. You have to take full responsibility for your own life trajectory, which can be oddly daunting. And you have nothing to distract you from complicated adult relationships. I know a lot of marriages crack under the pressure of parenting, but a lot of other relationships probably last because of the needs and distractions of children.
But I really like the quote from Carolyn Hax, part of a response to someone wondering how to decide about having children, because she acknowledges that some of us are better off contributing something other than our DNA to the world.
The good life is just the process of figuring out what brings you inner help and comfort, and living your life around those things, places, people, activities, etc.
Research finds that people get happier as we get older. Very likely this is because over time, we figure out what brings us inner help and comfort and stick with those things.
But while the quote and the concept are simple and straightforward, the process isn’t always. Sometimes even when we know what we need, we don’t always make sure we have it.
“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations – one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it – you will regret both.” –Soren Kierkegaard
A friend was struggling with regret. I have strong feelings about regret, but found myself tongue-tied. I couldn’t find the words to express my distaste.
I don’t do regret.
When I was about 16, I wrote a poem:
Not cold, but cool.
Regrets in life make bitter fools.
Very teenage girl, but it’s knocked around in my head so long, it’s become my little credo.
I’m impatient with regret. I would rather get on with things. Take a lesson and don’t look back. Regret is dangerous, a suffocating morass that only sucks you down. It drains energy and motivation and has no cure if you let it take hold.
Regret is no good, no good at all. But how how to wave someone back from the edge of the abyss?