Just like people say you can’t be happy or have a meaningful life if you’re single, they say the same thing about your decision to pass on parenthood.
I never had children. I was never all that interested, nor did I have the sense that a clock was ticking or some crucial element was missing from my life. And since I had no desire to be a single mom, I was well versed in how to prevent that from happening.
When I was married for a brief time in my 30s, I was still ambivalent about having a baby. I was busy doing other things: pursuing a career, traveling and figuring out how to be a wife. If I would’ve gotten pregnant, it would have been fine. I would’ve accepted it as the next indicated step. But there was no sense of defeat when it didn’t happen.
These days, when people ask me if I have kids and I say no, they look at me with a sympathy I don’t feel for myself. They tell me I’ll never know a love as profound as what they feel for their child. They tell me what I love — my pets, my friends and my romantic partners — all pale in comparison. They make sure I know, with smug superiority, that I’ve let something very special slip through my fingers.
Well, truth be told, I’m not sorry I’m child-free. I’m grateful I don’t have a life that revolves around the demands of another human being. I’m grateful those tender hooks were never set into my heart — hooks a child pulls so adeptly to control a parent’s behavior.
I feel no sense of regret, envy or longing. That’s because from what I’ve seen, being a parent doesn’t end when your child grows up. It means doing things like putting them through college with funds from your retirement account — despite your financial planner telling you it’s a very bad idea. Sure they could get a student loan or go to a less expensive school, but it’s your child and they deserve the best. You don’t want them to face the challenge of repaying a student loan like you did. You love them too much to do that.
It means buying them a car so they don’t have to figure out how to take the bus. It means taking them shopping for new clothes, a new phone, and buying them concert tickets, vacations and music lessons they don’t care about. It even means giving them a credit card when they implode their own credit history. You tell them it’s just for emergencies, but before long, you see charges from gas stations, restaurants, bars and boutiques.
It means keeping a roof over their heads long after they’ve turned 21 because it’s tough out there. You know how hard it can be because you were there once, too, and faced the challenge of sharing a 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment with four of your friends — challenges that shaped you into the person you are today. But it was hard, too hard, and you can afford to help out, so why not?
It even means ponying up to pay for your 33-year-old daughter’s dream wedding by violating your own rule to never borrow money you don’t have or put more on your credit card than you can pay off, in full, when the bill comes. And as you create this new financial hardship for yourself, you know she considers it to be her entitlement and your obligation, even though you’re 10 years from retirement and severely underfunded.
I don’t dare say a word when I hear these things. I know they think I’m the one who has missed out. I’m the one who never learned to love or be loved the way one does when you have a child.
OK, if you say so. But although I’ll never say it to them, I’m glad I never had kids. If being a parent means that by depriving yourself, you’ll get something you want — a child that loves you unconditionally — then be my guest. As for me, I’ll do just fine with my cat, dog, parrot and the company of friends — all of which ask for very little and give back so much.
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2016 Singular Communications, LLC.
Kim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.