Sharon Pian Chan of seattletimes.com recently wrote a piece on how she and her husband arrived at their decision not to have children. Like so many childfree couples, they took the parenthood decision seriously. In her piece, she asks a number of questions that deserve elaboration…As part of their discussions, Chan and her husband asked themselves, “On your deathbed, what will you regret not doing?” Having children was not on either of their lists. In making this key choice in life, this is a Very Good Question to ask, and very truthfully answer for yourself.
She speaks to regret – “Will I regret it? Probably sometimes. Just like parents sometimes regret their choice.” Well, on this one, I have to say that most childfree I talk with would not say this. When it comes to regret, they say they would have it if they had had kids!
Re not having kids when she is old: “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.”
Amen to that.
Chan also asks, “Would I have to sacrifice my career goals if we had a child?” She says probably. I would answer – yes – odds are she would have.
And the selfish question: “Am I being selfish if I don’t have children?” She thinks not when it comes to being able to contribute to her nieces, nephews, mentees, philanthropic causes and not contributing more carbon that kids create.
But she does think she is selfish for “not committing to my hypothetical child’s well-being.” I have to disagree here. I have long harped on the fact that children are not the determining factor of whether someone is selfish or not. As we’ve discussed here in previous On-the-Ground Questions, those that have committed to their real life child’s well-being can be selfish too.
Then there are the viewpoints of her mother and grandmother.
Her grandmother, mother of six, who lives in Hong Kong responded to the childfree news with, “That’s fine,” she said in Cantonese, “if you want to be lazy.”
This makes me think of the stereotype floated around about how the childfree have all kinds of free time and want it like that. While this may be true for some, it is definitely not true for others. Their time is full – just a different kind of full. It’s not full of child related responsibilities (unless that is what their profession revolves around, that is).
But it is what her mother said that I love most. When Chan asked her, she said “without pause” -“Don’t do it if you don’t want to,” “You won’t like it.”
What if more moms said this, instead of all the other things designed to change daughters’ and sons’ minds?
Chan is a great example of the need to think hard about whether you want to raise a child. Do you have a story about how you made your parenthood decision? How someone you know did? Please share!