Why I Have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life by C. Zacharek
I’d always wanted babies. Probably. Eventually. Possibly. When I graduated from college, in the early 1980s, friends started having them while I remained happily unencumbered.
Even after I married, family planning was more like having no plan, other than putting it off until later. When I reached the age when I was supposed to be desperate to be a mother–early to mid-30s–I didn’t feel desperate; I only felt unsure.
My sole mistake at the time, I see now, was not trusting that I’d be O.K.–maybe even better than O.K.–with or without a baby.
Today, more and more women are choosing not to have children, and while the stigma hasn’t completely lifted, it’s not what it once was.
But if the urge to have a child is at least to a degree biological, what does it say about you if you don’t want one? At 57–a childless 57–I still meet young women who wonder why they don’t want a baby more.
Should they try to have one anyway? And if they don’t have one, what will their lives be like?
The issue is obviously even more fraught for women of childbearing age who are having trouble conceiving and are asking themselves how far they should go with it, how much they want it, if their partner wants it more than they do.
When I was in my mid-30s, my then husband and I did try, and fail, to conceive a child. I’d seen other women who wanted babies so much that they almost seemed to be erasing a part of themselves with their anxiety. Though I would have welcomed a child, their yearning seemed foreign to me…..
In social situations around that time, when outsiders would nose into what I believe is private business, the fact that I had taken the path of least resistance gave me an easy out.
If anyone asked why I didn’t have children, I could simply say that my husband and I had tried and failed. Not only was it the truth, but it sounded less cold than “I didn’t want any.”
And yet even today I rarely volunteer how utterly happy I am with the decision I made more than 20 years ago.
Because I never had a child, I don’t really know how to miss the experience of having one. But I do recognize all the things that have come my way as the result of not having kids–and, by extension, being a woman on my own after my marriage broke up: not having children certainly made it less difficult to end the marriage when it became clear that my husband and I had to do so.
In some ways, the baby I never had is a part of me. She has given me freedom.
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