Dr. Elwood Watson doesn’t have kids, doesn’t want them and does not care what your opinion is on the matter.
Over the past few weeks, a number of articles on childless men have appeared in several mainstream publications. The latest being a New York Times piece by Sridhar Pappu entitled “Meet The New York Bachelors Who Yearn for Something More.” The article is an account of several men who have reached early middle age and have supposedly come to the realization that their lives “are missing something.” Response to the article was immediate, intense and garnered a number of comments on the NYT blogs. I will admit that after reading the article and the considerable commentary that followed, I felt compelled to weigh in on the discussion and mix it up with others.
The comments (more than 700) varied in sentiment. There were many that adamantly made the case that these men should have settled down long ago and now they are reaping the result of their supposedly “irresponsible” behavior. Others respondents were more sympathetic and in some cases, supportive. Slightly over a third subscribed to the argument there was nothing wrong with deciding to remain a childless or even unmarried man. As someone who is a middle aged man and is childless by choice, I have heard this sort of rhetoric more than a few times. In fact, whenever the topic comes up (and it has frequently throughout my life, although less over the past few years), I can already anticipate the comments. My response to such arrogant, presumptuous and unsolicited advice is the following:
- You will be much more content once you father children. I am quite content being childless.
- I can’t imagine not wanting kids. Since the age of 20, I have known that I did not want kids.
- What do you do with your time? I have many things to do that occupy my time.
- That is such a selfish position to take. There is nothing selfish about not having children you do not want.
- Who is going to care for you when you get older? What makes you think your children are going to necessarily care for you in your elder years?
- Children Give Your Life Meaning and make you happy. Perhaps, but they can also become a source of heartache and disappointment.
- You could have produced the next Albert Einstein. I might have helped give birth to the next Ted Bundy.
- You will change your mind. At this point, given my age and disposition, I seriously doubt it.
- Why not? Why?
- You are not getting any younger. You are correct. I am getting older, more settled and content with my situation.
There are others.
Admittedly, some of my responses are somewhat brash and mildly flippant. Nonetheless, I see them as appropriate responses to the individuals who are often under the misguided belief that people who are either unmarried or childless are somehow sad aberrations, freakish oddities, deviant weirdos, and in some cases potentially suicidal. Indeed, to a considerable segment segment of society, deciding not to put a ring on it and failing to procreate is tantamount to committing treason. In short, the assumption is “what the f*ck is wrong with you?” Do I exaggerate? Perhaps, but this mindset is more common than many people are willing to acknowledge. Can you imagine the response of many parents if they were told “you would be much happier and fulfilled without children?”
The reason(s) that I and millions of other men (and women) have decided to remain childless undoubtedly vary just as it does for the multitude of others who decide to pursue the spouse, children and family path. For me, it was/is simply a matter of choice. I have always been an iconoclastic individual. Rebellious in many ways. Growing up, I saw and heard too many stories of people pursuing choices whether it be marriage, children, selection of friends, jobs etc… because of family influences, societal pressure, desperation or simply because it was “the thing to do.” As a consequence many of these people found themselves stuck in unhappy, loveless, dysfunctional marriages or relationships, becoming “friends” and associates with individuals they tolerated but really were not tall that fond of, working at jobs they were miserable at and yes, in some cases, children they did not want and eventually regretted having! Witnessing such experiences made me determined that I was going to live my life on my terms and do what made me happy as long as it did not disrupt, directly affect or negatively impact on anyone else.
Let’s be candid here, there are some people who are first-rate and SPLENDID parents. Their children are the pride and joy of their lives, they would not have it any other way and their kids are lucky to have been born to them. BRAVO! On the contrary, to be blunt, there are people who are LOUSY parents and have/had no business giving birth to anyone! They are neglectful, psychologically (in some cases, physically) abusive, financially inadequate, emotionally distant, mentally poorly equipped etc… parents. You almost feel for these children. We all (or most of us) know these sort of people
When they were younger, I would tell people that I love my nieces and nephews to death, but I am glad that I do not have to raise them. Many would laugh and say “ I understand what you are saying.” Whether they did or not, the fact is that I was truthful in my response. Now, in early middle age, I can honestly say that I have not regretted my decision one bit. I have managed to inhabit a happy, fulfilled life without children being a part of it. In fact, I have mentioned to a number of people that in my almost two decades as a college professor, I have served as a parent of sorts to many students of across race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and gender in helping prepare them for their future careers whether it be graduate or professional school, the work world etc…. In short, I have been a “father” of sorts in other ways. For all you biological parents out there, you have made your choice. We childless parents have made ours. Lets’ respect each others decision.
Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera/flickr