Deciding to live childfree includes putting to rest the potentially active ghost of second-guessing. For good. Being childfree is a choice, which means more than likely there were other choices we could have made. Continually saying or thinking thoughts like: “Should we have?”, “Could I have?” “Will I regret it later?” “What if we made a mistake?” is second-guessing.
Why waste hours, day, years – even a minute – berating yourself for supposedly missing the boat, not having the family people are telling you you ought to have, or that you think everyone else has? Why waste time comparing your life to the fantasy filled life filled with perfect children? Never mind that the fantasy is continually shouted at us from every societal corner.
Often, childfree adults and childfree women in particular, are either told by parents and other “well-meaning” people that if they don’t have children “they’ll regret it and find out too late what they’ve missed out on…” or, if they are contemplating a childfree life, asked: “But don’t you think you will regret this decision later on in life?” When they ask this question, they already pre-suppose that you will.
Childfree adults may ask this question of themselves too. The fact is, no-one can know the answer to that question. This is part of what makes it so difficult. The fact is that any choice can carry regrets, but you decide what you will focus on – regrets or the benefits of that choice. The expectation that one should have a child simply to guard against future “regrets” is just another example of the many inherently selfish reasons people have children. If it isn’t about the child, it is all about you. I think the question – “But don’t you think you will regret this decision later on in life?” should more often be asked of those who blithely assume having children is the norm or “just what you do”. Even though, if parents are being completely honest about it, many will admit they do regret having children and parenting. But they only know this after the fact, which to me is too late and rather sad.
It is of course very human to second-guess ourselves. Is there anything you can do about it?
If you do start second-guessing your decision, here are some tips. First, compare your fantasy child/ren or fantasy family with families you know, and have known, and allow yourself to be reminded of the reality. Ask yourself what is the reality of what you have missed? and not what is the reality of the fantasy? Two completely different things. Easily confused so here’s a clue: The reality includes the real deal of parenting – not to be mistaken for the rose-coloured version of parenthood we are often presented with.
And then you can:
1) Remind yourself of all you have achieved and accomplished and the positives of being childfree.
2) Remember that there are probably more parents who have regrets about what kind of parents they were, or about their decision to become parents in the first place than there are people who have chosen to be childfree
3) Ask yourself: “Which would I rather have regrets about… not having children, or having them?
At the end of the day since we lack crystal balls, we can’t know what we we’ll feel in five, ten or fifteen years. I’m not sure I would even want to. So it’s rather a waste of time berating ourselves or worse, let ourselves be pressured into reproducing because other people think they know what we’ll be feeling. If we don’t know, how the heck can they?
As far as our own decision to remain childfree – I’ve had no regrets, if anything I’m more certain it was the right one for us and we love the many good things it has allowed us to do and be. I know many other childfree people who feel the same – however they arrived at their decision.
And whenever parents lament to me about the trials of bringing up their kids (sometimes closely followed by the stock “ but it’s all worth it” line), I say to them “That’s why I don’t have them.”