I am turning 51 this year and celebrating my 25th anniversary with my husband. For the last few years we have been reflecting on our decision not to have children and we are so happy.
Neither of us were opposed to having kids when we met — in fact, we both figured that we would have kids. We both liked kids and were comfortable around them and we were very much shaped by society’s expectations that once you are married you will, of course, have a family unless you felt strongly otherwise.
In many ways, I feel that not being strongly opposed to having kids makes it more difficult to find your own way and decipher what is your own inner desire regarding having children vs. what is external expectation. I think we could have easily ended up just having kids without ever really thinking about it and would be one of the many people that end up reflecting back and knowing that they would have been ok without having kids. I suspect that this is more common than parents would like to admit because society says that children are always a blessing, and in early adulthood I heard a family friend say that she loved her kids but would have been ok not having them. That was a shocking thing to hear someone say out loud, but it also planted a seed in my mind of another way of feeling about parenthood.
In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I knew that we wanted to wait to have kids, do a lot of travelling and enjoy time with each other. During this time, we also spent time with family members and a few friends that were happily married and had made the decision to not have kids so we were also seeing that there were other paths, other ways of being. These couples had created full lives, populated with the people and pursuits that meant the most to them, no hint of the sad regrets and misery that society tells you awaits you if you do not have kids. It was gradual, but during my 30s when the biological clock started ticking louder, we kept putting off having kids and feeling increasingly ambivalent.
Being able to have the conversation and know that we could come to the conclusion that was right for us was incredibly freeing and strengthened our relationship. Now out of our child-bearing years, we have no regrets with the choice we made. We have lots of nephews and nieces and love being around them as the fun uncle and aunt, but are excited that we can talk about retiring early and fully enjoying life.