Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2014/ Childless


This is probably a side effect of recently reading Augusten Burroughs's memoir A Wolf at the Table, but I feel compelled to make a public statement: I am profoundly grateful that I have never had children. Furthermore, I feel this gratitude almost every day. I harbour many, many regrets about my life. Being childless has never been one of them, and I doubt it ever will be.

In addition to being profoundly grateful that I have never had children, I am profoundly grateful that I have never even felt urges to have kids. I am ruled by my cravings, and I frequently crave things that I know are bad for me. Sometimes I still indulge thoughts of pet ownership -- something cuddly like a cat or a garter snake. I never feel any such cravings for children.

Admittedly, I do harbour a few regrets about getting the snip, but not for the reasons you might expect. I regret not being able to pay for the surgery out of pocket. I regret that the surgery did not go smoothly, and than I cannot completely trust that it was effective. But I feel no regrets about being rendered infertile, and I wish I had advocated more strongly for the procedure when I was younger.

I am grateful that I have never been put into a situation where my wishes to be childless have come into serious conflict with somebody else's desire to have children. My mother probably still wishes that she had grandchildren, but I did not end up in an arranged (or "family facilitated") marriage where children would have been expected. 

Many people assure me that parenthood is the most rewarding activity of their lives. They tell me that one's attitude towards children and towards parenthood change profoundly once one actually have children. Maybe these claims are true. I don't care. Even if parenthood offered more euphoria than injecting speedballs, I wouldn't care. Even if parenthood was not actually the relentless barrage of expenses and discipline and conflict and stress that it appears to be from the outside, I wouldn't care. I feel no regrets about missing out on this transformative experience.

I admit to occasionally feeling strange that my window of opportunity for biological reproduction is closing: people my age who want biological children and don't have them are getting desperate. I admit to occasionally feeling strange that it is socially acceptable for people fifteen years my junior to be starting families. I admit to occasionally feeling strange that one of my best friends at university had a child at age 20, and that (knock on wood) that child is almost old enough to attend university herself now. But these feelings of strangeness are all a function of getting old, not of regret.

I am completely ill-suited to having children. I value autonomy. I value private time. I value opportunities to rest. But most importantly, my experiences in taking care of small helpless things has been disastrous. I am controlling and abusive and anxious and prone to losing my temper, particularly when I am stressed. I have made small helpless things suffer and scarred them emotionally, and I will have to bear the burden of those regrets for the rest of my life. At the very least I have never had children and will never have children, and so will not compound my atrocities in that way. But even if that all was to change tomorrow, even if I magically became an excellent caregiver, even if I could somehow undo and atone for the harm I have done in the past, I remain convinced that I would not want to be a parent, and that I would harbor no regrets for being childless.