When I was sixteen, I announced to everyone I would not be having children. Everyone, except my mother, said, “Oh you will change your mind.” Now I am sixty-one and gloriously, ecstatically happy with my choice.
Why would I make such a life changing choice at such a young age? Simple. My sister is fourteen years older than I was and had a baby at ten. As a child, I was excited for this new adventure.
Once the baby was born, however, it was a nightmare. My sister went back to college in June after the baby was born in March and suddenly, I was a caregiver. Yes we had some babysitters, but babysitters don’t live with you and when Mother was at work trying to, as she put it: “Keep a roof over our heads.” I cared for an infant who was constantly either throwing up or soiling her cloth diapers every ten minutes.
Everything, and I mean everything, in our household was about the baby. Please note that our household consisted of my sister, my niece, my mother, my grandmother, and myself, all living in a small three bedroom house with one bathroom.
My sister finally graduated college three years after the baby was born and ten years after she graduated high school. I hoped for a return to a quiet home. That hope was short lived and my niece was soon back in the house with my mother and me, and I returned to caregiving after school and on weekends.
I left high school a year early and refused to go to the local junior college as my sister had. I wanted out. I told my first husband when we started dating that I was never having children and he agreed. Two months after I graduated with my MA he said he wanted a baby. I was twenty-two. Until I was thirty-eight he nagged me repeatedly about having a baby. I finally divorced him at thirty-nine.
I have had people tell me I would be sorry when I got old and lonely. I am not lonely. I have many friends, most of them millennials, two dogs, and enough money and insurance to provide a comfortable life for myself and my two dogs, who are infinitely better than children as they do not have to go to college, do not grow out of their clothes, and only sometimes talk back.
I gave up my relationship with my sister in my twenties and with my niece three years ago. To them I was just a caretaker.
I grieve the loss of my childhood and the unending work my mother had to do to care for all of us. I do not grieve for any children I might have had. I would not have been a good mother. Now, my life is perfect.