Not Childless, Child-Free

“I don’t have any children,” I told my new acquaintance. “Oh, I’m sorry! “ she said, frowning. I almost laughed. She assumed, like so many others, that I was not childless by choice. Years before, when I told friends that I didn’t want to have children, their typical response was, “You’ll change your mind when the right man comes along.”

I never changed my mind.

Maybe there is something wrong with my “biological clock.” Maybe it was set for the wrong time zone, or the wrong century. There are those who have implied that there was something “wrong” with me because I didn’t want children. But I’ve always found it difficult to understand why a woman would want to have them. Show me a kitten or a baby goat, and the mothering instinct starts to flow like warm maple syrup. But human children? It just doesn’t happen.

Oh, there was one time that I wanted a child. I was in a grocery store, in the cereal aisle. There was a young woman with her daughter, a cute little thing about 18 or 20 months old. Mom said to her, “Okay, honey, what cereal do you want? “ The little girl, wide-eyed with the wonder of Cindy Lou Who, pointed to a box with a funny face on it. That’s when it hit me: “Oh my God, she’s adorable! I want one!” Through my haze of longing I heard Mom reply, “Oh no, honey, you don’t want that one!” Suddenly all the wrath of Zeus and Jehovah combined and merged with the armies of hell. The little girl let out the most bloodthirsty scream this side of a banshee. Then it was over. Not the screaming; that continued and reverberated throughout the store. But my biological clock had sounded for a whopping 6 seconds before petering out, never to be heard again.

Little wonder that, some time in my mid-twenties, I approached my gynecologist about getting my tubes tied. She left no room for discussion; she merely justified her refusal with, “Who am I to say that you won’t change your mind some time down the road?” All I wanted to say to her was, “Who are you to say that I will?”

My time is my own. I want to be able to leave my house suddenly, to take a walk at midnight if I’m inclined. I don’t want to have to give so much of my time and attention to another human being, cooing and applauding over every new endeavor, every successful bowel movement. In short, I value my time and my freedom too much to have a child.

Most of the reasons I typically hear in defense of having children don’t sound like good ones to me: to have someone take care of me when I’m old; to have someone who will always love me; to solidify a relationship; to pass on my genes; because my parents want a grandchild; because that’s just what you’re supposed to do. I’m not saying there AREN’T good reasons to reproduce. I just don’t hear them very often. I butted heads with one lover when he passionately spoke of “the joy of bringing a new life into the world,” and “the awe and wonder of teaching the child everything you know … ” Valid points, I suppose. Then I said to him, “And whose last name would the child have?” His response: “Well if the kid didn’t have my last name I’d just as soon not have it.” So much for joy, awe, and wonder.

Never mind about that. Give me a kitten to bring out my mothering instinct. Give me a baby goat. Now that’s the kind of kid I’ll gladly wrap my arms around.

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4 Responses to Not Childless, Child-Free

  1. Kaye says:

    I really don’t understand the “pass on the family name” reason. There are a million names in this world. Few are special. My last name is as common as a cold.

    I tell people my biological clock imploded very early. Apparently, it wasn’t supposed to go off until I hit 30.

    I don’t think one can value time and freedom too much. I understand what you’re saying, but those things can so easily be taken away. They’re two of those things that most people take for granted. I hear parents say having a kid makes time they get to themselves more valuable because they don’t have a lot of it. That might be true (for them), but it just tells me they never valued it to begin with it. I relish the freedom I have.

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  2. I understand you. In my personal case, I knew not to bring children into my situation when I was younger. By the time that changed enough to matter, I knew I would not be reproducing. I am at ease with my life, and I have siblings who have passed on the family name, for what that’s worth.

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