My mom recently observed that when she was younger, the problem of most couples was how to keep from getting pregnant. But now, she says it’s the other way around. Quite a few couples are having difficulty conceiving. In fact, some actually try to get pregnant before getting married because they need more time to save up for a wedding, yet need to conceive as soon as possible, for health reasons.
This is why it’s rare to come across couples who have made the decision not to have children. Two women, whose names have been changed, speak up about their reasons and experiences.
“I view parenthood as something really sacred, a pact you enter into with your spouse and the child who did not choose to be born into this difficult, messy world or inherit the problems we and our forebears created that he would have to live with,” explains Janet. “So unless I'm ready and able to live up to that pact 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the rest of my life, and have a good answer for the child who may someday ask, ‘Why did you even have me in the first place?’—why do it?”
Rose’s reason is simply, “I just never had the desire for children of my own.”
Some parents might not imagine how anyone can have a fulfilled life without children, but Rose sees it differently. “I'm happier without having kids,” she says. “I lead a pretty full life: I have two businesses and like to travel. And I'd feel terribly guilty should I have had kids and not been able to attend to them properly.”
The usual question after a couple gets married is, “When are you going to have kids?” So it’s safe to assume that most people will not be happy with a couple’s decision not to have children.
“My family has never given me grief about my decision, bless them,” says Rose. “But women I've just met, upon learning I have no children, almost always tell me I should have kids so that I'd have someone take care of me when I am old. Some clients and casual friends still encourage me to change my mind and to have kids for that eventuality. I don't agree with that reasoning but perhaps quite a few believe that is as good a reason as others for having kids. I've gotten so used to the comments that it’s no big deal for me, I usually just laugh and tell them I have employees and an older husband so that's enough ‘kids’ for me.”
Janet is just as lucky when it comes to her family. “We have supportive or at least, non-intrusive families,” she says. “Sometimes there would be hints or jokes, but I would always let them slide off my back. At the end of the day, it's up to me if I want to take offense or not and I choose not to. I do understand that to other people, the natural thing is to become a parent, so I respect people who think I'm weird. But I don't think I'm weird and neither does my husband, who feels the same way. So as long as we're on the same page, other people's opinions don't really matter. Also, I think that our families realize and accept that they will not be the ones going through nine months of pregnancy, painful labor, nighttime feedings, crying, paying for tuition, dealing with bad behavior, and generally getting grief from the children they may want us to have. So I am grateful that they understand it is not their place to pressure us or make us feel that we owe it to them.”
Change of mind
Janet and her husband are still open to having children in the future, though. “We talked about it—that if later in life we should realize that we want to be parents and the window has closed for us biologically, we could always adopt,” she shares. “I think there's something beautiful to taking care of a life that already exists and volunteering to be responsible for it.”
In the end, becoming parents should not be entered into lightly or on a whim. It is a responsibility for life. And if you do feel you aren’t ready, then by all means, do not rush into it. Parenthood requires complete commitment, taking over your heart, body, and soul. And if you do feel it’s not for you, don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
Olivia Yao has been writing ever since she can remember. She has written for health, teen, parenting, and children's magazines. Then again, she thinks being a mom to her daughter is her toughest assignment yet.
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