I finally found time to read Time Magazine’s piece: “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children”. I held pen in hand as I read it, underlining ideas that I thought significant and making notes in the margin. I just need a professor to quiz me now.
Bernie and I have been blessed with many grandchildren, currently 22. When I tell people the number, they always ask me “How many children did you have?” assuming that I was the one who had the many. “Only four,” I say, “My son and his wife have the big family – 16.” This piece of information is never received without comment. Questions are about adoption or twins or if they are Catholic, as though Catholics have the corner on large families. I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on that. If the issue of overpopulation comes up I usually respond with a comment about how we Americans use way more than our fair share of resources. I want to ask them how many square feet per person their house is. Sometimes there is the joke, “Didn’t you tell them how babies are made?” Good grief.
I read the article with a few preconceived ideas. One was a reaction to the title words: “Having it all”. Were they talking about material all? The comments by the couples in the article lead me to think it was more about being able to follow their dreams, sometimes material, sometimes not. It seemed that the perception is that there are some dreams that cannot be attained if you are saddled with kids so you have to make a choice. Saddled? Tied down? Some people need an attitude adjustment. There are some pretty significant people in history, men and women, who managed to achieve greatness and raise children.
One of the couples cited in the article formed a support group for people who don’t have children. They said that when their friends began having kids, they began to experience exclusion. Apparently, the only things that their friends could talk about was their children. I have met people like this. I had four kids and I got bored talking only about kids. One can talk about cooking and foods, about what is going on in the world, about spirituality, about one’s hobbies, about feelings, and about kids. These excluding groups were members of their Christian church and they felt judged as well.
This couple said that their decision not to have children was contrary to the status quo and it was troubling to have to constantly defend themselves. Interesting. I think those who decide to have large families would say the same…that they are constantly being challenged to defend themselves against that other status quo.
This makes me think of the word, “codependent”. Thinking about these couples, I wonder about why they are so concerned about what others think of their choices. I have greater wonder about those who feel obligated to form an opinion about someone else’s choices, especially one as personal as whether and how many children to bring into the world. I am always pleased when a decision is made by both persons in the couple.
This would be a much happier world if we could all give people the space and freedom to do their own soul searching as they try to make wise decisions. And once they make them, we should support them. If they later regret a choice, we can still support them.
But if we all behaved this way, what would people write about?