Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Because I said so, that's why.

I don’t have children, and let me be clear: It’s because I never wanted any. It took a lot of tries before I found a man who felt the same way, but find him I did, and we live contentedly child-free.

I don’t dislike children on principle, but I know my limits both emotionally and organizationally, and it would have been grossly irresponsible on my part to have attempted parenthood. This is a sentiment that, when expressed openly, immediately makes other people (usually parents themselves) insist that I would have been a wonderful mother, an excellent parent, and the producer of very smart offspring. This only proves to what degree they don’t really know me. Some people were never meant to be parents, and I am one of them.

This wasn’t a decision I came to late in life; in fact, it was something I knew in my early teens. At that time, I babysat a lot. By “a lot,” I mean I babysat in what seemed like every waking moment that I wasn’t in school. I loved the money, but couldn’t relate to the kids. I didn’t tell stories or play games mostly because it never occurred to me that this is what one does in the presence of small children. There was just no connection for me whatsoever—a fact that never changed with exposure or with age. It’s possible I couldn’t entertain children because I never thought like one myself, even when I was a child.

Of course, by my late teens, I knew there was something terribly wrong with me as a human being, and although I didn’t know the source of my defect, I knew it should never, ever be passed onto another person. It was a conviction I could not be talked out of then and never could going forward. I have great respect for genetics, and I do not harbor the kind of hubris that would have me procreate to continue my lineage rather than not procreate in the name of preventing more suffering in the world. Have I made worthwhile contributions to the world? Maybe. Small ones here and there, I’m sure. Don’t we all do that? I am average—just as average as about, say 33% of the population (the other 66% being above or below average, in case your math skills didn’t kick in while reading that). I am so average that I do not see and never have identified anything so extraordinary in myself that reproduction would be a positive contribution to the world.

I don’t know how people with BP manage families. Maybe they end up with terribly broken or dysfunctional families. A good portion of my life has been skewered by the warped perceptions and erratic moods inherent to BP. I honestly believe that had I opted for parenthood, any children I had would have been forcibly taken from my home years ago. In the end, I prefer to be criticized for not having children than to be vilified for having unwanted children I could not care for. There is no social demon quite like the woman who is accused of failing in motherhood.

Why do people feel they must argue the point of another person’s decision to remain childless? Do they doubt their own choice to have children and need validation by seeing others choose likewise? Do they honestly believe we have a biological mandate to reproduce? Do they just want to see somebody suffer through an unwanted experience? I don’t know the answer, but for the past 20 years, I have had to defend my decision, and frankly, I’m tired of it.

I don’t have kids because I didn’t want any. I don’t regret my decision and I never have, not for a second. It doesn’t mean I’m selfish. Selfish is having children to satisfy your own egotistical need to pass on your DNA. Selfish is having children because you think you should and not because raising a family is something you are passionate about. Selfish is having a child you aren’t all that interested in. I could say it’s selfish to have a kid even though you know you have a genetic defect that could be passed on and it could cause untold pain and suffering for that child, but that’s not really selfish; that’s irresponsible. End of argument.

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