According to the World Health Organisation, of the estimated 211 million pregnancies that occur each year, about 46 million end in induced abortion. That’s a huge number. That does not include the babies that are given up for adoption or who are killed after birth.
I am old enough now that people have stopped asking me when I am going to have children. But that was a constant question when I was younger and especially when I was married. It was expected that I have children which irritated me enormously at the time. Like it was a woman’s destiny or something.
I have a confession: I have never been particularly broody. I have broody moments which are fleeting- they seem to last for maybe half a day and then they go. Not that I don’t like children- I like them very much. I have three nieces and a nephew who I love. I hope they like me back. I love spending time with them and hearing about them. Maybe I was just scared to bear children – the thought of something growing in your body is completely bizarre to me, like something out of Alien. And, of course, there was the birth scene in Gone With The Wind which was enough to put anyone off childbirth. I always thought that if I did want children, I would adopt them. It felt kind of strange to want your own children when there are so many unwanted children in the world.
This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats in coats,
Who half the time were soppy stern
And half at one another’s throats
Man hands down misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
That is an all-time favourite poem of mine. It was said to me in Thailand by a man who is a father. He said it to me, sadly and humorously, while I cried. It kind of sums up my thinking on the matter of children. You might think it strange, considering the happy childhood that I did have. But it has taken me all my 46 years to figure out who I am and what I want in life. A lot of that time has been spent dealing with my childhood wounds. It has included a lot of time sitting and thinking quietly and a lot of time on my own. Time that I would not have had if I’d had children.
My oldest sister likes to quote a friend who says that having children is “all joy and no fun”. And perhaps I have missed out on some joy in my choice. Still, I think that the world would be a better place if more people made the choice I made. Less hunger, less poverty, less misery. That may be controversial – I know a lot of you have children and they are lovely.
Here are some of the reasons I like being child free:
- I am determinedly un-busy in my day to day life. I have a lot of time on my hands. Time that would have been spent in carpools or cooking for children or helping them with their homework. I treasure the time I have to do other things.
- I have a lot less stress in my life than those with children. The pressure to feed, clothe, educate and generally support other human beings, while commendable, is not mine.
- My mother once asked my grandmother when you stop worrying about your children. She replied, “When you climb into your grave.” Although, we often laugh about this – it is true. Most parents spend an enormous amount of time worrying about their children and that never stops.
Maybe I will regret my choice when I am old and have no one to look after me. I have threatened my nephew with having to look after me when I am older. He looked terrified.
But, just maybe, I took the road less traveled. And that has made all the difference.