Obviously from the title you know what this post will be about. Believe me when I say that I thought twice about writing it. Just like certain illnesses, a decision to remain childless, is often stigmatized. Many people assume that childless women have a physical inability to have children, and may therefore be pitied, or seem cold-hearted in some ways for not liking children. There are other reasons, too, that may be judged. I don’t think that because I choose childlessness for certain reasons, that other women similar to me should, too. I believe in freedom of choice, and hope that I won’t be judged harshly for mine.
There is a brief article in Wikipedia about voluntary childlessness. It includes a very long list of reasons why some women and men choose it. I could of course pick out many reasons from that list (some of which I’ll mention below), but one that was missing was “partner or spouse prefers not to have children.” I’ll admit that my spouse fits that category, but I will not discuss his reasons here. I think they should add that reason to the list. It’s certainly one that applies to some people, and is often cited as a reason for separation of couples. My husband’s views on children have not significantly affected my decision to remain childless. I’m not sad because of his views. Of course I’m not 100% sure how another man’s views would have affected mine, but that is neither here nor there.
I remember as a child being given dolls. I liked dolls, but to be honest I preferred full grown Barbie instead of baby dolls. I guess I preferred playing a grown up woman, and not a mother. Why that was, I’m not sure. I had a very loving mother. She treated me like her baby, and then her little girl, and then teenager at the appropriate ages, but I still never thought of myself as any particular age. I liked being young, but that’s about it.
I remember when I went to college it was extremely exciting. I wanted to take advantage of all of the learning and social opportunities it offered. I did find my first love in my senior year, but we were still in learning mode. He later began working on his Ph.D., while I was still figuring out my next steps. I worked during that period. I was in a bit of a party mode at times, maybe hypomanic, and other times depressed. I have bipolar disorder, and surely had it then, even though I wouldn’t be formally diagnosed until I was 32 years old. I remember at 23 years old wondering if that first love and I would marry, but circumstances made him change his view on me, so we broke up. It turned out to be for the best.
After my break up with my first love I moved to Taiwan. I loved travel, and Taiwan made sense since I studied Chinese at university. While there, I worked teaching English to Taiwanese children. I didn’t like the job because I didn’t know how to interact with them. I guess I’ve just never been a “kids kind of person”. The stress even made me ill with bipolar. I then eventually returned to my home state of New Jersey for a “break” before a planned return, but was blessed to find the true love of my life, my husband, so stayed put.
After my marriage I became hyper-focused on my career. Having a family was not really discussed, and not anywhere at the top of my mind. I, of course, took precautions to ensure there would be no “surprises” in that respect. Years passed as I moved up the corporate ladder. As my responsibilities became more and more challenging, my bipolar disorder worsened. The unexpected death of my mother exacerbated my illness. I found myself hospitalized for my bipolar disorder the first time at age 34. Hospitalizations continued off and on for four years. I ended up unable to work, and terminated from my job. The challenge of recovery has continued since then. There was no time that I, personally, felt having children was even reasonable for me. Having a pet parrot seemed sufficient as a third being in the house, and provided love and support to me and my husband. Caring for him was about the maximum I could handle besides basic housework and errands. Really, the thought of being responsible for actual children would have been frightening to me. Mental illness was also rampant in my family genes. That’s something I considered.
Last February my husband and I lost our pet parrot, and then another extreme loss in my family amplified that grief. I’m just getting over a depressive episode again. My goal in the near future is to recover sufficiently to find work again. Getting back to work will be a challenge for me, and one that I will start slowly at. Ideas like retirement are not that far off on the horizon now that I’m heading towards 50. Obvious preparations need to be made. Honestly, even if we were interested in having a family late in life, which we’re not, the financial requirements would be exacting.
I guess I’m lucky that I don’t regret being childless, but being childless certainly has had and will have some disadvantages. It is difficult when all of your friends have children and you don’t. A disconnect often occurs. I do have one living nephew on my side, but I rarely get to see him for various reasons. My bond with my husband is very strong, perhaps because we focus so strongly on each other. I do wonder what will happen if I’m the last person standing in the end, though having children doesn’t always equal support in old age. Anyway, looking at children only as a support in old age has, for some in my country, become somewhat antiquated. No, the rest of my life has to be planned differently. I owe it to myself and my husband to make our remaining years productive and satisfying in our own way.