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42 reasons this baby boomer’s glad she didn’t have kids

May 8, 2017

There’s a magnet on my fridge that reads: “Just because you can have children doesn’t mean you should.”

I took its message to heart years ago.

The fact is, I never heard the siren call of motherhood. If I ever had maternal instincts, I burned through them early when forced into the role of surrogate parent to my 11-years-younger sister because our divorced mom abdicated a lot of the caretaking to me.

As the “responsible one,” I also became a mother to my own mother—a role that didn’t end until mom died when I was in my late fifties. It soured me on mothering. Intellectually, I understood that having a child is different—their dependence on you is legitimate—but I still didn’t want one.

When I was in my thirties, a male business client opined that childbearing was a woman’s duty. I don’t recall the context in which he made his remark, but to this day I remember how I bristled when he said it. Believing discretion the better part of valor in a business setting, however, I bit my tongue. If someone said that to me today, though, I’d respond:

Um, no. Motherhood is a choice. I chose to be child-free and I have no regrets. I respect women who choose differently, because parenting—good parenting—is one of the hardest jobs there is. It’s also not for me, and here are some reasons why I’m glad I never had kids:

  • No boomerang kids showing up on my doorstep
  • I never had to decide between paying for a child’s education and funding my retirement
  • No changing shitty diapers (Well, actually, I did change more than a few of my sister’s diapers when I was a ‘tween. And in my and Hubs’ dotage, it could still happen.)
  • I could pursue a career without feeling conflicted or guilty
  • After a long, exhausting day at work, I could just come home, eat cereal for dinner and go to bed—without having to feed and bathe a child, help with homework or otherwise be engaged
  • I was never at risk for post-partum depression
  • I didn’t have to worry about passing on family dysfunction
  • I never had to stay awake at night worrying about a child’s whereabouts and safety
  • I could consistently sleep through the night (back in the days when I actually could sleep through the night, that is)
  • I never had to lock my bedroom door to prevent interruptions or be quiet during sex
  • The only vomit I’ve ever had to deal with is my own (well, and the cats’)
  • I never had to attend PTA meetings or parent-teacher conferences
  • I never had to organize or supervise play dates
  • I never had to be a child’s taxi service
  • I never had to give up plans because I couldn’t find a babysitter
  • I never had to use my breasts to feed another human being
  • I never had to endure the pain of childbirth
  • I never had to decide where to live based on the quality of the school system
  • I never had to explain the birds and bees to a child, or witness the look of shock and disgust when the child realized I did “that”
  • I never had to deal with the raging hormones of a child going through puberty, or a rebellious teenager
  • I’ve never felt the sting of being taken for granted by a person I’d pushed out my birth canal
  • I never felt duty-bound to attend kids’ soccer, football or other sporting events
  • I never had to pack for every trip out of the house as if I were going to the airport for a two-week vacation
  • I never had to nag a child to do chores, or clean up after him/herself
  • I never had to deal with a two-legged fussy eater who turned dinnertime into a battle of wills (the cats are another story)
  • I never had a child insist on accompanying me every time I went to the bathroom
  • I never had a child demand my attention every time I got on the phone
  • I’ve never known the frustration and helplessness of seeing a child make bad decisions
  • I’ve never had a child assume I’ll watch—or raise—their children
  • I could be as sweary as I wanted in my own home without worrying about “little pitchers having big ears”
  • I never had to have endless baby conversations with other mothers
  • I never knew the terror of having a seriously ill child or, God forbid, the soul-crushing pain of losing a child
  • I never had to structure my life around someone else’s sleep schedule
  • I never had to juggle raising children with taking care of aging parents
  • I never had to give up drinking for 9 months or more
  • I never had to worry that I might raise someone who turned out to be an asshole—or worse
  • I’ve never had a child assume I’ll “fix” whatever problem he or she created (although my mother did)
  • I’ve never had a child consider me “The Bank of Mom” (although my mother did)
  • I never had to worry that I was doing everything wrong and screwing up my kid
  • I never had to say “no” to the same question a bazillion times (well, there was that guy I dated in high school…)
  • I don’t have to worry about becoming a burden to a child as I age (or have a child fear that I will)
  • I never had to regret discovering that having a child didn’t make my life complete (on the contrary, my life has been fulfilling without having kids)

Some of you may think my reasons for being glad I didn’t have kids sound superficial, self-indulgent and/or selfish. I’m simply speaking my truth (with a little bit of what I hope is humor thrown in). And let’s face it—if these reasons reflect my priorities, then it’s probably a good thing I didn’t become a mother, right?

Look, I know being a parent isn’t easy. It’s a commitment like no other. You are responsible for clothing and feeding and shaping the values and helping with homework and changing diapers and making doctor appointments and chauffeuring and loving and forgiving and worrying about and modeling good behavior and simply being present for another human being for the rest of his or her life. Sometimes you have to make unspeakably difficult decisions. And sometimes you have to let go.

I let go of societal (and some familial) expectations that I should reproduce a long time ago. And I’ve let go of others’ judgment of my reasons for not becoming a mom because I know in my heart it was the right decision for me.

Just like my fridge magnet says.

What do you think? If you’re a mom, has motherhood been all you hoped it would be—or has it been more or less in any way? If you didn’t have kids, do you have any regrets? While you’re thinking about it, here’s this week’s haiku:

Life teaches us that
motherhood, like old age, is
no place for sissies.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who are moms.

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  • 24 thoughts on “42 reasons this baby boomer’s glad she didn’t have kids

    1. Carla says:

      Thank you for writing this. I’m sending it to a few friends but had to stop and share some thoughts here before I did. I think it makes people uncomfortable when I say that I like being a mom but my life would’ve been phenomenal and four had I not been.
      Three cheers for you for knowing what you want, for sticking by it and for being unapologetic about your decision.


      1. Roxanne says:

        Thank you, Carla. Your affirmation means a lot.

    2. Elaine says:

      Never wanted any. Never regret it. My choice!

      1. Roxanne says:

        I hear you loud and clear, Elaine! Thanks for joining the conversation.

    3. Haralee says:

      I have been called selfish, or told I would have been a great Mother, or asked who I thought would take care of me when I am old, all have a negative subtext. The drive was never there for me. I appreciate women who have to have children or those that truly want children.
      When I used to fly a lot for business the common conversation question from seat mates, men and women, ‘Do you have children’. I wish I could tell you how many people responded that they wished they never had their kids. Over 15 years, I heard it thousands of time! About ¾ were from men. They would admit it and then say “But I can’t imagine my life with out them”.

      1. Roxanne says:

        I’m right there with you, Haralee! I’ve heard those same comments from both men and women. I used to feel defensive, or would question my motives. There was a time in my late thirties–when I figured that the decision about whether to have a biological kid would soon be out of my hands–that I gave it a lot of thought. And I still came up, “Nope.” Thank you for sharing your experience.

    4. Hi Roxanne! Great post! Of course my first thought when I read your title was, “Only 42?” hahaha! As another childfree woman I know there are many advantages and I have no regrets. I realize other women feel differently and that’s cool with me. I am incredibly grateful that we live in a current time when we can choose whether we want to create children–or not. Hopefully that right will not only continue, but extend forward so that more an more women don’t feel the pressure that you and others faced when we were young. That way only children who are REALLY wanted are ever brought into the world. ~Kathy

      1. Roxanne says:

        Amen to your last sentence, Kathy. And I like your “only 42?” comment, too!

    5. Ann says:

      I’ve never been made to feel selfish myself, but have heard those comments from others. I totally agree with what your magnet says! I’m not sure I would have been a good mother–I would have done the job if it ever came up, but I’m mostly glad it didn’t.
      And although some of your reasons are tongue-in-cheek, others are spot-on with my own feelings too.

      1. Roxanne says:

        Thanks for the affirmation, Ann. Like you, I would have done the job if I had to, but I think I would have felt resentful at some level. Which just underscores that motherhood was not for me!

    6. I survived all the “never had to” explanations you gave – except for having boomerang kids. My two children are grown, independent, and ran out of the house eager for their freedom and never moved back. We all live near each other, and I enjoy watching them become good parents. I respect your choice but hope you have some children in your life. They can be delightful..

      1. Roxanne says:

        It must be unbelievably rewarding to see your kids grow into terrific adults and good parents. My hat’s off to all the moms and dads who do the hard work to help make that happen. I am fortunate to have a now eight-year-old grandson (the benefit of marrying later in life to someone who already had a grown son), so I do know the joy of having a child in my life (without all the other stuff I didn’t want). Thanks for your comment, Elaine.

    7. Being a mom is a hugely hard job. I’ve been thrown up on numerous times and almost all of the above and don’t regret it a bit. However, I totally respect that it wasn’t something you wanted to do. Some people make horrible moms. I’m sure that wouldn’t have been you but it’s definitely not for everyone and there’s nothing wrong with not being one. You were meant for other purposes in life and that’s a good thing.

      1. Roxanne says:

        It IS a hugely hard job, and I so respect women who take it on. I’m glad I came of age at a time when I could make the choice not to. Thank you for commenting!

    8. Anne Newman says:

      I think with Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) discussing recently that being childless was a conscious choice has made it a subject women can now discuss with no judgment imposed.

      I am a mother of three adult age children, grandmother of five, and have no regrets. It is a huge commitment, and I commend the women who know motherhood is not or was not for them. Children are not like puppies you can return to the shelter if it doesn’t work out.

      1. Roxanne says:

        Your puppy analogy is spot-on, Anne! Having a child is a lifetime commitment at so many levels, and some of us just aren’t able or willing to make it. And that’s okay. Thank you for your comment.

    9. margaret says:

      I love what you have written about choosing to have children. Women really need to feel that they can choose to have children or not. Thank you for your post, Roxanne, because so many women do not feel that kind of power.

      1. Roxanne says:

        Thank you, Margie. I may have questioned my decision a few times back in the day, but I never doubted that I made the right one for me. I appreciate your comment.

    10. Good for you Roxanne to actually voice what many women feel. Being a parent is not easy that is for sure and of course I would never not want my children or my grandson who bring me great joy. I think in our generation though it was expected of women to get married and have children whether you wanted to or not. You should be proud that you could take a firm stand in what you believe in. I’m sharing on my ST60 FB page. Have a great day!

      1. Roxanne says:

        It’s hard to think of the women of our generation–and especially before–who had children simply because it was the only path they felt was (or in actuality was) open to them. Thank you for your thoughtful words, Sue, and for sharing my post.

    11. Ellen Dolgen says:

      I have many friends who are Mom’s and now Grandma’s and many friends who chose to not have children. This is such an individual, deeply personal choice. Everyone seems very happy with their decisions. I applaud you for listening to your gut and living your life the way you want to. We do not have to march to the same drummer to hear the music!

      1. Roxanne says:

        Love that thought, Ellen, about how we don’t have to march to the same drummer to hear the music. Amen to that! Thank you for commenting.

    12. I always wanted to be a mom and love that I made that choice. But it is a choice and I respect the choice of women who decide not to travel this path. If I had written out the pros and cons and based my decision solely on those, the cons would probably have won for all the reasons you have outlined. I always said if people thought logically about it the human race would not survive as no one would have children. For me, it was a great decision to have a child but it was not easy. I only had one and I’ve felt like I had to apologize for that at times. Having a single child is also a choice and I could write 42 reasons why that was the best decision for me.

      1. Roxanne says:

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Molly. It affirms how the decision to have a child isn’t always based on objective reasoning–rather, many women feel that intangible pull to procreate, and that’s the right path for them (as it was for you).

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