I am fairly old to have children in grade school. Jill and I are always relieved when we aren't the oldest parents at the school function. It's an oddly sickening feeling to be 20 years older than the youngest parent's at the New School Year Parent Orientation.
I couldn't have imagined having children in my early 20s at all and not very much more before the age at which I did. However, I never envisioned a future without them.
I'm one of those horrid people that have a hard time accepting that some people choose to not have children. For all my kvetching about parenting, there's really nothing better in my life than my family. It's no sacrifice at all to know that the vast majority of my time isn't my own and that every decision I'll make for the next 15 years or more will have to consider the consequences to my children first and foremost.
I'm happy to have to make this kind of choice.
I have a hard time understanding how couples could actively choose to forgo parenthood and have found myself committing the hideously impolite activity to questioning people's motives for making that choice. It's not my business or my place to question another person's choices over something so personal as the decision to live life without children.
Still, I don't understand it.
Yes, children limit your lifestyle options. Spontaneity becomes so distant a memory that it might at well ride on a magic carpet en route to never-never land. Careers are limited because the flexibility to relocate, devote slavish time, blood, tears, toil, and sweat to the pursuit of career advancement. If your goal is to do what is best for your family, either you or your spouse or both will have to make extreme sacrifices with regard to career. Hobbies, interests, friends, physical fitness, intellectual development and everything else you care about by necessity should take a back seat to your duties as a parent.
Sleep, of course, becomes a unaffordable luxury.
So, yes, a parent must give up so many things. But, what is gained as a result?
There's the selfish things. Continuity, biological imperative, familial perpetuation, and, most importantly an abundance of love. I'm not the most sensitive or patient parent. I lose my temper with my children in ways I haven't ever anywhere else in my life. But, I've learned to forgive, ask forgiveness, teach forgiveness, and accept forgiveness as a result.
I remember with some sadness the amount of disposable time I used to have. I remember long, luxurious mornings where I had a few hours on weekends to enjoy the sunrise, listen to the birds sing, and leisurely sip my coffee while reading the paper before walking inside and taking a nap before spending the rest of the day in pursuit of whatever-the-hell-I-wanted-to.
But, as a result of my paucity of free time now, I've learned to squeeze the most out of it as possible and as a result, I've done more and produced more and am more actively engaged in things then I was in the years of leisure. I'm may not have more than 10 minutes at a time to devote to my interests, but I've learned to economise as a result and the sum of these things is an artistic output such than I never knew before my children.
I remember when Carter, Sara, and Zane were about 6 months old, Jill and I hired a carpenter to do some things we needed doing and when he saw the kids he asked when they were born and I said, "February." He said, "Wow, triple Capricorn. Your house will be full of creative energy." I thought it sounded silly at the time. But, Capricorn or not, children do inject your life with creative energy and as a creative person, I've never before experienced that degree of energy before. It's a kind of energy that sometimes feels like fatigue, but it is energy none the less.
If you choose to not have children. God Bless You. I'm not going to judge you just because I don't understand that decision.
ON the other hand, If I could talk you out of it, I'd try. I'm just going to try really hard not to.