Would raising children make the best use of what you bring to the world, or would not having kids do that? – Carolyn Hax

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.

I see my contribution to my world as being a friend. Not a perfect friend and sometimes a crappy friend, but I work at it. Adult relationships are front and center in my life.

I don’t dislike children, I’m not inept around them, and I’m Aunt Sophie to a handful. I love my friends’ children. But children in general don’t make me swoon like they do many other people. I like adults. (And teenagers. I mentor a teenage girl and find it enormously gratifying. Note that I feel compelled to add that for fear of being accused of being heartless, child-hating, and unwomanly.)

To a degree, I see my friends as grown-up children who need to be fussed over sometimes. While Mommy and Daddy friends concern themselves with the needs of their little ones, I try to keep an eye on the needs of Mommy and Daddy. I try to help them stay connected with the people they are when they are not being Mommy and Daddy.

In order to be friends with people who have children, you have to accept that kids come first. Plans are hard to pin down and can change at a moment’s notice. Almost nothing you do is as interesting as almost anything their kids do. Yeah, this can be a monumental bummer sometimes, but you get used to it and have no choice but to respect it. (I thought this would change in our later years but didn’t factor in the gravitational pull of grandchildren.)

Of course, many of my friends are also childless. It’s just easier that way. And it’s a good thing. We create family for each other, come to each other’s rescue when necessary, celebrate and grieve together, and help each other maintain purpose in our lives.

By not raising children, I bring my appreciation for adults to the world.

What about you?

By not raising kids, I bring ________to the world.

Photo of child in grown-up shoes is available from Shutterstock.