Choosing to be Childless
Choosing to be childless is not so terrible.
After we married, my wife and I decided to remain childless.
I wonder what my ancestors would think of me if they knew I was helping to bring our DNA line to an end?
Working on the basis that I am, that I exist, my family line must date to humankind's origins.
Imagine all the human development and growth down through the millennia, from cave dwellers to hunter-gatherers. Through wars and pestilence, good times and bad.
My DNA has survived Viking invasions and endured, or perhaps partook in the Irish plantations.
My family line goes further back in time than the Rolling Stones.
My genes must be feeling successful at having been passed on countless times.
Then I come and decide, Nah - that's it.
Being Childless - A Mutual Decision
There is a nine-year age gap in our marriage; I was 28 years old, and my wife was 37, and we knew we'd have to decide within a year or two if we were going to start a family.
My wife had no burning desire to have children. She wasn't enamoured with the thoughts of labour pain, lack of sleep, living through teenage angst and the constant worry our children would be safe in a cruel world.
But if I had wanted children, she was willing.
However, I had no burning desire to have children.
I felt I needed to grow as an adult. I also saw children as something other people had. My life had always been as it was. Besides, I didn't want to change our lives so soon after marriage. Marriage was a significant change, and we both needed to acclimatise.
But if my wife had wanted children, I was willing.
Oddly, we never discussed the subject before marriage. Some people might think that was a risk, but our relationship felt like destiny, and we both put the other person first.
The Risks of Being Childless
At this point, I am going to sound selfish.
During our discussions about whether or not to remain childless, I pondered some issues on what the future consequences might be.
- Who will look after us when we're old?
- Who'll visit us if we have to go to the hospital?
- Will anyone miss us when we die?
Obviously, the issues crossing my mind were not reasons to have children. Indeed, are any possible reasons the right reasons to have children?
Maybe the only reason to have children is the paternal and maternal instinct to reproduce, something neither of us seemed to have.
Then there's the responsibility of continuing the family line, but as my wife pointed out at the time, there's no guarantee of future generations.
Our child might be gay and not have a family. An issue less likely to be considered today since societal attitudes have moved on about same-sex marriage and family creation.
A child could also die. A shared fear, and we knew neither of us could cope with such a loss.
Thoughts and Reactions
My wife and I have been married for 25 years, and we are happy. We have no regrets about being childless.
Occasionally I look at my wife and think what a wonderful mother she would have made. When I think of the children in the world who are abused or maltreated by their parents, I know we would have provided a secure and loving home.
Sometimes I wonder what our children might have looked like.
And again, sometimes I wonder whose lives are different today because our children did not exist to affect them. Some people may have fallen in love with our children, married them, or worked with them, and been best friends with them.
We'll never know.
On reactions, it took a few years after we married before people stopped saying things like:
"Oh, it will be different when you have kids." or
"When you have kids, you'll...".
Eventually, the penny dropped, but you could sense the subject became one that no one dared mention. I think people, especially family, assumed there was a fertility problem and that we were one of the couples who tried and never had success.
Put simply, we decided not to have children.
All is Good
One side effect for me of being childless concerns the illusion of time.
Since we have no children growing and reminding us of time passing, I tend to overlook the years. No child to support through university, no daughter getting married, and no grandchildren. The absence of these life situations means I feel as young as ever.
When I look to the early noughties I'm shocked that it was twenty years ago. I mean, where did that time go?
We value and appreciate life and try our best to look after our health. Our lives together are not worse off without children. We have a good life; ageless, free and happy.
Every day is to be cherished, and we feel young and in love.
In some ways, I feel proud, almost as if I have taken the next step in human evolution - a mind driven by thought and not by genes and the instinctive urge to pass them on to a future generation.
I needn't have worried about the gene pool. My Dad's two brothers and one of his sisters emigrated to Australia in the early 1970s and seemed to have reproduced a lot.
The genes live on, albeit with Australian accents.
All is good, with no children, no regrets and no signs of growing up.
And we may not be the only ones.