A Journalist’s 5 Month Debate on the Parenthood Decision

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.selfish

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!

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4 thoughts on “A Journalist’s 5 Month Debate on the Parenthood Decision

  1. I made my decision to remain child-free at the age of 27. I was in the on-line dating world and I realized that it would be very difficult to find the man of my life if I didn’t know myself well enough to at least have decided my stance on the non-negotiables, including (and most important, to my mind) whether or not I wanted kids. It hit me that if I kept waffling, I could end up in the heart-breaking position of being on the opposite page to a potential husband, and I didn’t want that to happen. So, I took a break and took some time to really think about what I wanted in terms of children. I came to the decision that, no, I did not want kids of my own for one simple, yet very complicated, reason: I don’t have the right temperament to be a good mother. I’m not patient, I’m easily overwhelmed, and I truly enjoy having the freedom to be spontaneous. I also admittedly have a very cynical view about the world – namely that it’s not a very nice place to be and I really don’t want to drag some poor child into the mess just to satisfy any mommy desires I might have. That said, I honestly do like children – they can be cute and fun and funny – but that’s where being the babysitter comes in! I can get my kid fix, help a friend/cousin/sibling get a much-needed break, and give the child back at the end of it.

    1. Crystal, So smart to really take the time yourself to come to your decision about kids Then look for the right guy. So often it works the other way and the couple ends up at a challenging point – one wants kids the other does not. I still remain very surprised about how many couples don’t talk about kids seriously before the commit to each other for life – they think it will just work itself out. Having said that I talk to more people these days like yourself in their 20s into Gen x years that don’t do this and really look at it seriously at the right time…a very good sign.

  2. I love what her mother said: “You won’t like it.” Time and time again, I keep coming back to this thought. If I had to be a mom every day, day in and day out, I just know that I wouldn’t like it. I don’t know *who* would like it, but I do think some people feel they were just made to nurture another life in that way. Me? I’m made to nurture lots of things (including human beings) in very different ways. I think we each really need to pay attention to who we are as individuals – what are our talents and strengths, what do we like to do, and what don’t we like to do. When we go in the direction of what we’re good at, and what we have a real affinity for, choices become clearer. Those of us just know, deep down, we “wouldn’t like it,” should not have our own children.

    1. Dee Kay – “we each really need to pay attention to who we are as individuals – what are our talents and strengths, what do we like to do, and what don’t we like to do. When we go in the direction of what we’re good at, and what we have a real affinity for, choices become clearer…” Such sage advice! Thank you…

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