This is not an original thought, but life seems to go through two distinct stages for people in more or less the same age group. If you are not one of the participants in that stage, you tend to lose friends as they move the next. The stages begin after everyone has gotten through the post-high school years.
- Everyone gets married/moves in together – you end up participating in a lot of weddings at this stage. Friends you knew when they were dating each other now get married, or you become friends with the person your original friend marries/moves in with. You do things as a foursome or sixsome or other group divisible by two. If you are the unmarried friend, it can get awkward.
- Everyone is having kids – after the above stage, your married/cohabitating friends start to have kids. Being with someone else got you into the club during the previous stage, but now to stay in the club you have to procreate. If not, you miss out on play dates, attending sporting events where you can commiserate about the coach, parent-teacher conferences, and a number of other events where the cost of admission is a child. As a result, the friends you were close to in the above stage start to drift away.
I’m sure there are other stages, but I haven’t lived long enough to identify them yet. I am married. I don’t have kids. I’m not going to get into the why’s and wherefore’s of that because it, frankly, isn’t anyone’s business.
It’s not because I don’t like kids. I do for the most part, unless you’re one of those people who take their kids to EVERYTHING, and I end up sitting in front of you and your six-year-old in an R-rated movie. Then my kid like-o-meter dips into the negative. Also, it seems to me that a lot of people are more interested in being their kid’s friend than their parent, so those kids develop into tornadoes of bad behavior and destruction. Other than that I have no problem with kids or their parents. I wish I could say the same was true in reverse.
I’m at the age now where one of the small-talk questions that get asked at corporate and social gatherings is “do you have kids?” This is added to the list of small talk questions like: what do you do, where do you live, how about those Red Sox/Patriots/Bruins/whatever, and how’s your golf game (or some variation on that theme). When I respond that I don’t have kids, I am often greeted with a response that would be the same as if I’d said “I don’t believe in bathing, it’s unhealthy.” The person sort of shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot and says “oh…ah…hmm” and mumbles something. I only follow football, so coupled with my lack of progeny and the fact that I don’t play golf, my ability to small talk with people is seriously hamstrung. Unless you’re interested in one of the esoteric and nerdly things I am, there’s not a lot of it happening.
So here are some of the things I wish I could say to people about not having kids that polite society does not give me the opportunity to say. I’m not trying to offend anyone who may resemble these comments:
- Please stop acting as if I failed society by not having kids. I believe you should have kids because you want to, not to give someone else grandchildren, great-grandchildren or nieces/nephews. As I look around, I see no shortage of them. In fact I see people who are having way more children than they really have the money, time or emotional maturity to have. So that overage more than makes up for my deficit in this area. The earth is not going to run out of people any time soon.
- I get a sense that people are jealous/envious of the fact that I don’t have kids. Or rather they are jealous of the extra time I have. When I tell people what I did over the weekend, which usually amounts to whatever the heck I wanted to do, people tend to smile condescendingly and say “I remember when we could do that, but now we have kids,” or something to that effect. It’s like I’m playing hooky or something. My perspective is that you presumably chose to have kids, or at least to allow the conditions that result in kids to occur. Either way it’s on you. So, yeah, I can travel where and when I want, I don’t have to worry about babysitters, practice schedules, lessons, after school programs, Summer camp, or whether the place I want to travel is ‘kid-friendly’ and has activities or not. Sorry.
- Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean that I lack maturity or some sort of significant life skill. I went to more places and did more things before I turned 30 than a lot of people do in their entire lives. I have seen things that have caused me to grow and mature pretty fast. Having children may give you a set of experiences that differs from mine, but mine are not less important because they did not involve kids. Having children doesn’t automatically make you a mature adult either. I’ve seen plenty of parents who don’t have the maturity to be a camp counselor for two weeks, never mind being responsible for a human being for life.
So these are things that I need to get off my chest, but I don’t see anybody else saying. I don’t mean it to be offensive, because I have a lot of respect for people who raise happy, well-adjusted children –especially in today’s environment. I‘m tired of being treated like I’m selfish, have something lacking in me as a human or simply a freak. Growing up as a ‘nerd’ in the 80’s surely gave me good training to withstand that kind of treatment, but it does get old. Will I regret not having kids later in life? Maybe. I kind of regret it now when I have to mow my own lawn. But part of living is having regrets. You make your choices and have to live with them, and you’re not going to agree with the choices everyone else has made. I just wish that people would treat my life choices with the same respect they would like to receive from me regarding theirs.