Everyone has regrets in their life; you probably do too, right? What if I had ______? I wish I’d been able to go to _____. If only I’d been braver, I would have _____. But recently I realized that I just might have regrets about our decision not to have kids. OMG, I can’t believe it. This is a major shock to me, because for my whole life I’ve been absolutely, utterly, 100% sure I did not want to be a parent. I never had the slightest desire to have babies, and thought parenthood would be too stressful for me anyway. (If you’ve ever read Elaine Aron’s book, “The Highly Sensitive Person,” that’s me — and I hope to write separately about that soon.) So the decades passed and we went on with our lives, enjoying a peaceful life with freedom to travel or whatever we wanted to do. Sounds great, right? Especially to you frazzled parents out there just wishing you could have a few hours of quiet with no kids underfoot. I know.
It’s not that I don’t like kids, I do — at least the cute babies and the well-behaved older kids who don’t have their faces buried in video games 24/7. My temperament just doesn’t handle noise and chaos well; so I really do think it was a wise decision to remain childfree (my preferred term to “childless”, which implies that you want kids but can’t have them). But just because it was the right choice doesn’t mean there won’t be regrets.
Two fears have provoked these uncomfortable feelings. The first is fear about aging without having adult children to depend on if we need help. I’ll turn 50 this summer and the other side of the hill is coming into clearer view, if you know what I mean.
The second fear is about being forgotten when I’m gone. Without descendants, will anyone ever remember me? Sometimes I think I don’t care about that, but other times I think it’s very sad. And I guess it’s more than that too; even while I’m alive I feel that I’m often on the outside of life looking in at everyone else marking milestones. Suddenly I feel sad and lonely on Mother’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, my birthday, or even our anniversary (which we just celebrated quietly this weekend). There are no kids to call us or send cards on holidays, and our friends and siblings are very busy with their own kids and grandkids. Sometimes I’m even resentful of people I love dearly because I envy the life experiences they get to have that I don’t. I know this may sound pathetic, and you may be thinking, “You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.” I get that. But that doesn’t make it any easier.
I think this feeling is a large part of what has been motivating me to write more lately. If I leave my words behind, well, at least that’s something that will linger after I’m gone. And I have SO much I want to say; I spend lots of time thinking about our culture, about human nature, and how we humans relate to the natural world (not well). I want to put those thoughts into writing, if only to see if anyone else looks at life through a lens similar to my own. So I’ll keep writing, and I hope someone reading it (you?) will find something useful in all of this.