I never wanted children.
I never wanted children. While everyone around me was planning and having families, I was on a course of my own, wanting to be free and experience life to the fullest, not wanting to be responsible for anyone else other than myself. It wasn’t selfishly motivated – or at least that’s what I told myself. I thought of it as the opposite – as recognizing the seriousness of taking on another life and raising it to be a contributing, happy adult. And recognizing that I just didn’t have that commitment in me at that time.
I also was single for a long time, and I definitely did not want to be a single mother.
Even after I met my husband, I never felt that urge so many people do to have a child, nor did he. We agreed we liked our lives as they are, just the two of us. Our cats and our nieces and nephews fulfilled any parenting emotions we experienced.
Between our two families and the friends who are family by choice, we have over two dozen nieces and nephews whom we adore. And now they are growing up and having children of their own who also call us Auntie and Uncle (or in one special case, Auntie and Auntie – a long-running loving joke.). We didn’t feel we needed anything more.
But lately, I’ve begun to have second thoughts.
Did I make the right choice?
As many of my friends and most of my family began to and continue to have children, I started to wonder… did I make the right choice?
What really got me thinking about this was when we celebrated a significant birthday for my mother-in-law, setting up a huge surprise party for her – and afterward, my husband and I gave her our gift, a fully paid trip to Europe with the two of us. His dad had passed the year before, and we both knew she’d always wanted to go. This was our way of helping get her living and enjoying life again.
And as we left the celebrations that night, a thought crossed my mind… who is going to do that for me when I’m that age?
I’d never really thought of that before.
I’d never considered the possible long-term consequences of not having a child. I’d only ever considered the short-term consequences if I did – that is, whether I felt ready for it or not in that moment. Whether it was something I wanted in my life at that time.
And I’m not saying this is wrong. To be honest, I’m very happy with my life now, with it just being my husband and I. We enjoy each other’s company a great deal (hence the marriage part of the relationship). We have a lot of fun together, and plan on taking care of one another into our old age, into, well, the whole “death do us part” bit of it. I know he will be the one to plan a party for me when I’m that age.
But the idea of having a lineage, of someone whom I could pass on my memories to, that was different.
As our parents aged, it occurred to me that this is the real gift we receive from them – and they from us. That we are the carriers of the memories of our lives with them, of who they are, and of the memories they choose to share with us from their own childhood. But if one has no child – who carries that on for us?
For all of these years I’d been telling myself this story: that I was a hip, happening, career-oriented woman who had no desire to have a child.
But now as I see children I helped babysit grow up and start families of their own, as I see friends begin to go through the empty nest syndrome, I realize I am feeling a sadness along with them.
I am feeling the emptiness of a nest that never hatched an egg in the first place.
Technically I still could – but as a friend of mine said recently; “Old eggs are old eggs.” While it’s possible, it’s not probable. And this in itself causes me to face my own mortality as I finally am face to face with the fact that time has, indeed, run out for me in this regard.
But recently one of my nephews and his family went through a tragedy – losing their home in the Paradise Camp Fire. Along with it, they lost all of their own cherished memories – the books they’d collected for their children, the musical instruments made by my brother, the beautiful china set his wife’s grandfather had collected and given to her when she married. Things that can’t be replaced. And I realized what I needed to do.
I began boxing things up. The children’s books I’d kept from my childhood. A doll my sister-in-law had made me as a little girl. A favorite stuffed doggie toy. My mother’s wedding dishes.
My memories will go where they are supposed to.
I may not have hatched these chicks, but they are part of me nonetheless, and as I handed over these items that held not only my parent’s memories but my own, I shared with them the stories behind them. And I saw in the tears of love and words of appreciation from my nephew and niece that I needn’t worry.
My memories will go where they are supposed to. And they will be just as cherished.
I have a couple of dozen hatchlings ready to carry them.
Jeanette Elaine Dubois
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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