Childless in Seattle

This columnist has decided not to have children.

Big deal. It’s her choice (and her husband’s); none of my business. I hate to see people with a dog when they’re not into it, let alone a child.

But the more she explains herself (which I didn’t ask for, remember), the less persuaded I am. If you need this many reasons, most of them lame, maybe you don’t really have any.

My husband and I just ended our debate about having children. To breed or not to breed, this was the question — and it had been ticking like an egg timer in the back of my head for 15 years.

We talked about it for five months. In the car on the way to work. During dinner. For five minutes, for 30 minutes. After seeing nephews and nieces.

I wanted it to be a decision we made, not one made for us by chance or time. I turned to friends with kids for advice. “Feel free to convince me to your side,” I told them. Leaving a legacy and crazy joy, they said. I bow down to their personal sacrifice. It is an enormous gift for society to raise an educated, productive, ethical, moral child.

On our last vacation, my husband and I mulled over this question: “On your deathbed, what will you regret not doing?” We listed our answers at dinner on the last night. Neither of us mentioned children.

We have decided we have other things to give to the world. We won’t be having kids. We choose to be childless in Seattle.

I would have been fine there. She points out that Seattle and San Francisco, the two most narcissistic cities in America, have the fewest kids as a percentage of their populations. More gay people, more hipness (with some overlap), equals fewer kids. I get that.

But then she starts to justify her decision, and she loses me:

I’m lucky. I live in a time and place where I have the freedom not to have kids. But that doesn’t mean society has fully accepted me.

Feminism empowered women to talk about motherhood as a pursuit that deserves as much attention as men’s work. In the past 20 years, women have bravely spoken about struggles to conceive, which helped educate a generation about fertility. But society rarely hears from women who decide not to have kids.

“Do you have children?” My friend’s standard answer is, “No, and it’s not for medical reasons.” I’m cribbing it.

Do I detect a note of hostility? Why should an innocent question be met with such a strident answer?

Will I regret not having children to care for me when I’m old and infirm?

Kids or no kids, everyone should be saving for retirement. I don’t believe in treating children like indentured social security, and, let’s be honest, many people in nursing homes have children.

What is she, a Republican? As she is a journalist in Seattle, I very much doubt it. Don’t worry about your senescence, honey, ObamaCare’s got your back.

Would I have to sacrifice my career goals if we had a child?

Probably. I’ve gone from believing I can do it all to believing that life is short. Saying no to some things allows me to say yes to others.

My husband could be the primary caregiver while I charge after my goals, but then he would have to say no to some of his goals.

If you’re talking about some amorphous career “goals” (in journalism, no less!) as more important than possibly raising a family, you’ve made the right choice for yourself—even if I kind of pity you your way of thinking.

My mom was a senior manager at a global stem-cell bank when she retired. While my brother and I were growing up, she worked part-time. I’ve heard her say more than once: “If I had just had another 16 years, I could have gone so high.”

Ah, I think I see the issue: mom not so subtly insinuated that if not for her two children she “coulda been somebody.” Her kids are left with the subconscious belief that they were burdens, that children are joy-killers.

Am I being selfish if I don’t have children?

I’m selfish for not committing to my hypothetical child’s well-being. But I will have a lot more attention and money to shower on real-life nieces, nephews, mentees and philanthropic causes.

For which the World Wildlife Fund is eternally grateful. And any future “mentees”. (Is she planning on adopting a sea mammal?)

Also, not having a child is the most important thing I could do to reduce my carbon footprint, according to a 2009 study by Oregon State University statisticians. (Of course, like all parents, I believe my theoretical child would have grown up to become a brilliant physicist and saved the world from global warming, so this is a moot point.)

No wonder she saved this one for so late—it’s complete bull[bleep]. No statistician from Corvallis, Oregon has a relevant opinion on whether you procreate, now or in 2009. And unless your little shnookums was planning on staying warm by burning cow dung, I think he or she would have had a significantly smaller carbon baby footprint than one born in Africa or Asia. What a crock.

I told my parents in California over Christmas. “Don’t do it if you don’t want to,” my mom said without pause. “You won’t like it.”

See my point about mom above. The woman sounds like a champion child-rearer.

The ability to bear a child may be what defines me as female, but I’m still a woman without one.

Agreed. And I agree with the five paragraphs at the start. Everything else is just horse[bleep]. It’s her choice, as I say, and none of my business. But I think it’s sad someone would be so hounded by an ambivalent mother to forswear children in favor of writing editorials for the Seattle Times. That’s not a goal; it’s a prison sentence.

4 Comments »

  1. Bloodthirsty Liberal said,

    February 1, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

    The truth is that raising kids requires giving up a lot of time, resources, money, etc., and shouldn’t be undertaken by spoiled people. Raising my kids was the happiest period of my life and I cannot imagine choosing not to do it, but it is a ton of work (as all parents know). So better for the world if really self-involved people get dogs instead.

    – Aggie

  2. Bloodthirsty Liberal said,

    February 1, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

    Cats. You have to walk dogs and pick up their poop. Cats stay indoors and you clean out their litter box when you (or it) can’t stand it anymore.

  3. judi said,

    February 2, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

    I never really thought of myself as breeding. I have four children, I guess that qualifies as a litter.

  4. Sandy said,

    September 11, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

    It’s a personal choice to have or not have children. I feel it’s better someone makes a conscious decision by weighing all the pro’s and cons based on their life and then make such a huge life changing decision than, to jump into it and maybe have regrets later ruining not only your life but that of the child as well!
    Live and let live! :)

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