Editor’s note: This article was originally published here and has been revised by the author in this post.
Almost two years ago, in January 2016, New York Times reporter by Sridhar Pappu entitled “Meet The New York Bachelors Who Yearn for Something More.” The article was 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 mixed it up with others.
The comments (almost 1000) 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 (Just turned 50 this year) and is childfree 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 interestingly, less frequently less over the past decade), the comments go something like this:
1.) You will be much more content once you father children
2.) I can’t imagine not wanting kids
3.) What do you do with your time?
4.) That is such a selfish position to take
5.) Who is going to care for you when you get older?
6.) Children Give Your Life Meaning and make you happy
7.) You might produce the next Albert Einstein
8.) You will change your mind
9.) Why not?
10 You are not getting any younger
There are others.
My response to such arrogant, presumptuous and unsolicited advice is the following:
- I am quite content being child free
- Since the age of 20, I have known that I did not want children
- I have many things to do that occupy my time, not having children ha made it more possible
- I call it being responsible
- What makes you think your children are going to necessarily care for you in your elder years? The number of elderly people in nursing homes complaining about children who hardly ever visit and numerous stories of estranged parents and children can attest to this fact
- Perhaps, but they can also become a source of heartache, frustration, and disappointment
- I might be giving birth to the next Ted Bundy or Charles Manson
- At this point, given my age and disposition, I seriously doubt it
- You are correct. I am older, more settled and content with my situation
There are others.
Admittedly, some of my responses have been are somewhat brash and mildly flippant. Nonetheless, I see them as appropriate responses to all those individuals who are often under the misguided belief that people who are either unmarried or childless are somehow freakish oddities, sad aberrations, deviant weirdos, in come cases, potentially suicidal. Indeed, to a certain, perhaps 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 heard and saw 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, having 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. They are caring, attentive, conscientious and loving. Their children are the pride and joy of their lives, they would not have it any other way and their kids are fortunate 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! Period! They are neglectful parents, psychologically (in some cases, physically) abusive, financially inadequate, emotionally distant, mentally ill equipped etc… parents. You feel for these children and hope that they do make it to adulthood. We all (or most of us) know or have encountered 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, as a middle aged man, 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 more than 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 child free parents have made ours. Now, let’s respect one another’s decision.
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