I was scrolling through my Facebook stream yesterday and came upon a post written by a woman I know via the social spheres. She was commenting on the fact that she was consistently asked why she only had one child, as if having only one was an indication that something was wrong or that she and her partner couldn’t handle more.
It’s all about choice. More importantly, the choices we make do not always require an explanation unless we choose to offer one.
A few years back I wrote the following post. I chose to resurrect it today because her post resonated deeply with me.
I’m fairly active on Twitter. And the other day, someone I follow and respect greatly tweeted the following:
Gaining a whole new appreciation for child-free by choice types and those without kids. Society views these women so very differently.
Data released by the Pew Research Center in 2010 demonstrated that childlessness is increasing in the U.S., with roughly 1 in 5 women past childbearing years currently childless. Although the research points to “never married” as a factor, it also emphasizes the power of individual choice, employment opportunities and most importantly, a growing opinion that ‘without child’ does not equate to ‘empty life.’
I am one of those women who are child-free by choice. I am a statistic. And my life is not empty.
“But aren’t you afraid you’ll regret it someday?”
“Don’t you feel badly that you didn’t give your parents grandchildren?”
“Do you understand what you are missing out on?”
Guess what? I’m going to share a little known fact with you.
I became pregnant at a time in my life when I felt I was too unsettled to properly care for a child. A time when I was with a partner with whom I didn’t feel comfortable sharing parenting responsibilities. A time that was simply the wrong time. Period. And after that? I certainly weighed the pros and cons of having children, many times. However, I ultimately decided that I was happier without having children of my own.
Shocking isn’t it?
My experience might resonate with some of you. Others might disapprove of my decision. At the end of the day? It truly is about personal choice, responsibility and a close, close look at oneself. Not everyone is suitable for parenthood.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
My life has been filled and surrounded by children for almost two decades now. I am an Aunt to three wonderful, amazing nephews and spending time with them brings me more pleasure than I can adequately express. I am also a surrogate Aunt to the children of an old friend, and although I don’t see them quite as often as I would like, I recently came to the realization that their presence, however sporadic, enriches my experience as a human being and as a woman in ways, again, for which there are no words.
Now that I’ve passed my fiftieth year, and two years after I first penned this, I still don’t feel as though the decision to leave the childbearing to other women is one that I regret or will ever regret. I made the decision based on timing, circumstance and a nagging feeling that I wasn’t meant to have a child, at least not in this lifetime, that I had a lot to offer the children in my life in ways that didn’t include being their parent.
So the next time you see a woman walking down the street without a child, or find a couple moving in next door without children, it’s probably best to assume that it’s best if all bets are off. There are many reasons why women don’t have children. And although being a mother is the defining moment for many women I know, I know just about as many who’ve chosen to remain childless and have experienced (and continue to experience) alternative defining moments in their womenhood, their lives and their spirits.
It’s all about choice. I’m grateful to have had the ability to decide what is right for me, to make choices based on that ability. Not every woman does.