As my family and friends (F&F) and I have grown older, we have self-selected into and sometimes out of different non-combative camps. Non-drivers vs drivers. Single vs in a relationship vs married vs divorced. Those with children and those without. Those who are a parent and adults who are not. Those last two sets are different in that sometimes it is not about self-selection, some choices nature dictates.
I am not a Dad nor a parent. Yes, you can be one or both or neither. For me, it is still a choice to have not tried to be either. But what if I wanted to be, how would that work, how easy would that be? Let’s see.
There are few things better than spending quality time with people you love. One of my favourite things is to visit friends and family. I am happy to slot into whatever routine stuff they have planned, which, initially confuses those who have children. It’s as if they have been re-wired into a default setting of organising pleasing activities for whoever is currently in the house or scheduled to be, no matter their age.
With them, I am on safari in a foreign yet welcoming land. I’m an Attenborough-esque observer, witnessing those I’ve grown up with putting the best parts of themselves into being the finest parents they can be. It is a wonder to watch them doing one of the most demanding jobs in the World: one which is difficult to excel at and where there is all too little thanks or fanfare when you totally stick a parental landing.
I have many F&F against which to measure any potential parental ability I might have: one is V. She is one of my oldest friends, and whilst she will give me plenty of flack for publicly saying so – she is amazing. I won’t embarrass her further by providing the readily available and extensive evidence of why but trust me; she’s awesome. In the year of 2022, she is a single divorced Mum of 4 kids, ranging from 19 down to 10 and also a teacher; so even more time-challenged than most parents. I am lucky; I get to witness the love and care with which she handles each child with their differing needs, for hours, with nary a raised or bored voice. I am aware that things are not always serene in V’s life because I check in every couple of weeks or so to get her to decompress if she hasn’t already. I hope, if I were ever to have children, that I would be capable of the kind of quality parenting that she and so many of my F&F deliver daily.
If you’re a parent and your kid(s) live with you, and you also have F&F in your life who do not, there will be some who are happy to spend time with you; not because they haven’t got anything better to do but because you are that better thing. When inquiring as to how you are doing, they rarely accept your stock “I’m ok”, or “I’m fine” answers; instead, they delve deeper, and they also ask about those close to you, how your wife/husband/partner/crush and/or kids are doing. They ask follow-up questions; because they care and are genuinely interested in you and your life.
Keep those F&F in mind because whilst being a parent can be hard sometimes becoming one is also difficult.
Yeah, I am single and without child. I am old enough to have had kids who could now be in their teens. However, I do not – at least, none I know of. A combination of caution, contraception and kismet; although if the reason is sterility, less lucky. I am, therefore, childfree in that I have chosen not to be involved in a pregnancy resulting in wanted-for-kids.
But sometimes, I wonder and worry that I may have missed out on one of life’s greatest adventures or am getting close to doing so; and if I haven’t, then what am I going to do about that?
I worry about having children, and I worry about not having them. Beyond my own selfish reasons, I fret that my Mum won’t get to be a Grandma. Most parents won’t explicitly guilt their offspring into supplying them with Grandchildren, although I suspect many would like them to do so. And why not? Grandparenting is all the fun parts of being a parent without any of the long-term responsibilities. Your parents have already proven they can keep kids alive. Now they only have to do so for short stints before handing them back; ladened with sweet memories, sugary treats and previously agreed, and tolerable behaviour restrictions reset.
Reasons for having kids? Well, I like them. I feel that should be a prerequisite, liking kids. Beyond that, I think I would be a good Dad in that I have useful knowledge and experiences to pass on. Most importantly I would always strive to be fully present, ready to listen and give whatever is required when it is most needed. I have been told I am reliably good at that.
As for children themselves, well kids are hilarious, often without even trying to be so. They are endless fun and inquisitive souls – both things of which I highly approve. However, they can also be life-sucking leeches with distinctly unformed morals and limited self-control, which is less good.
I am in a state of indecision: do I want kids or not? It is not a new question, nor are my vacillations on it, but with every passing year, the possibility of becoming a parent is ever more distant.
I am not unique in this; I have single and married or partnered-up F&F, men and women, who are either childfree, childless or do not have the number of kids or mix they desire. For us blokes, provided we have healthy sperm, then even from the age of 45 we still have 10-20 years more before our fertility window closes. In contrast, as women progress into their 40s their opportunity of naturally conceiving children without medical assistance decreases dramatically. Oh, and for women, having a child often means career-ending choices that most men never have to confront.
Gents – Imagine being a woman. Imagine being born with a body that upon maturation can conceive, nurture & grow another human being. Imagine growing up in a society that indoctrinates you into a system where your worth is adjudged by your ability to have kids whilst paying scant regard to whether it is something you desire or not. Imagine if you do yearn to have children but cannot find someone you want to share that experience with. Imagine you do find that person but then discover that you cannot bear and birth a child without intervention and perhaps not even with it. Imagine how gut-wrenching the pain of that is. Just imagine.
Women deserve to have partners in their lives who understand this and other inequalities and are prepared to do something about it or are willing to step aside and let them pursue what they need elsewhere. Actually, we, women and men, all deserve partners like that.
I have wondered if I haven’t had kids because my reproductive imperative is somehow lacking. Has my experience of parenting been so tainted by my Father that it has overridden any genetic compulsion to want to propagate the AK genes? Or am I just not wired right? [To better understand my relationship with AK senior click and search on Father].
I do have the predisposition to have as much sex as possible, but I have never had it as a driver to becoming a parent. I have friends who seemed to have had a surfeit of that biological urge and, perhaps, that led them to make it a priority to find a partner. One of my mates, P, was always going to be a Dad. He knew it, just as everyone who knew him did. Was it a key starting factor in his relationships? Yes, I believe so, and he and F have been happily married for years and have 2 lovely daughters.
For some, keeping the family line going is essential, however, family lineage has never mattered that much to me. My parents’ clans are large, so there is little danger of family names, history or heritage fading away. The only thing that might go missing is my genetic contribution to the family tree.
Many of my male F&F, who are parents and reading this, are likely thinking yes, conceiving your children matters. But does it really? Does it matter that much? Now, hang in with me here; you might find what follows challenging.
Imagine if the kids you think are biologically yours were not. Don’t freak out! If they were not, I wouldn’t be informing you by blog. At the very least, we would be in a pub, with many drinks already downed, before I would drop news like that on you.
In this hypothetical, having loved your kids for years, would you now love them less if you today found out they were not yours? No? Then what if you found out a year ago? Still no? What about the year before that? How close to their birth would we have to get for you to love them less?
I’ve not been a Father, but I have had one: and my experience of the Father-Child relationship with mine is not one I would wish to repeat. The reason I still like the idea of being a Dad is because of all the times I have spent as a kid and an adult watching Dads I like being a parent to and loving their kids even when they were not biologically theirs.
I think the act of conceiving a child is different and more profound for women than it is for men. While both sexes carry some of the ingredients for new life, women provide the conception cradle and incubator: that’s just all kinds of amazing. If I were a she and not a he (and could have a hard pass on period and pregnancy pains), that would be something I would be curious to experience, though I do know and understand women who very much do not.
Men, before you start trolling me on this, whilst we or, at least, our sperm is fundamental to conception, might we just agree that months and months of pregnancy culminating in likely hours and hours of painful labour along with all the potential post-birth stuff is much more taxing?
In life, you must be legally qualified to drive a car, fly a plane, be a Doctor, and do many other things but not to be a Parent. Weirdly, you do not have to be qualified at one of the most consequential things in life; being responsible for another person – a tiny defenceless one at that.
I have always thought that becoming and being a parent is a serious undertaking. Bringing a child into the World and/or being responsible for kids is something that should be considered and planned for as much as possible.
With regards to children, I believe in the latter half of the Whitney doctrine: “Teach them well and let them lead the way”. The first half: “I believe the children are our future” is a cop-out. Kids are not our future. They are the future of their children, just as we should be theirs.
Beyond keeping kids alive and satisfying their immediate Maslow needs, don’t we owe them a future that is as safe and comfortable as possible in the coming years? A future where:
- we have halted the worse effects of climate change
- air quality is good and not ladened with harmful petrochemicals or other pollutants
- kids can live full, rewarding lives without being locked in a spiral of student debts and/or unaffordable rents
- generations can easily live, love and work wherever and with whomever they choose.
If you spend too much time worrying about the state of the World, trying to plan a path for kids you do not have, it is quite easy to overload yourself with anxieties and fears.
If you become a parent, you will have many jobs, but your primary ones are: to keep your kids alive, hopefully happy and to equip them with the tools to do the same for themselves when they eventually leave your nest.
If you are worried about bringing children into an unpredictable world, then don’t have any. Life is full of uncertainty and danger but also fun and laughter. If you are the type of person who likes to exercise control and stick to carefully-constructed plans but are still trying for kids, welcome to your biggest adventure – it will be a wild and crazy ride.
Time for a break? If not, there’s more…
Interested in reading more like this?
Created: 31st July 2018
Released for review: 30th January 2020
Re-drafted 25th, 26th & 27th February 2020
Edits 24th February 2022: readability and addition of introductory paragraph
Edits 8th August 2022: procrastinating
Edits 24th August 2022: minor edits and title change from “Childless, Childfree, Child-limited or Child-gendered – pt. 1”
Edits 11th October 2022: procrastinating
Edits 26th October 2022: minor edits final readability run-through
Published: 27th October 2022.
© JAK 2022
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