Monday, May 10, 2010

“If I No Have Kids . . .”

By Kate

Leann Sweeney’s beautiful Mother’s Day blog got me to thinking about the generations of parents before us – and what parenthood meant to them. My husband is fond of quoting his father, a native Greek who raised six children, ran three small meat stores and, with his wife, fed and housed the children plus one set of in-laws in a three bedroom flat above one of the stores. As you can imagine, with six children, there was always something brewing. With a weary sigh and a shake of his head, this man would say, “If I no have kids, I be king.”

For years, I thought that was a selfish attitude. Surely he wouldn’t have lived his life differently if given the choice. He loved his children, didn’t he? But then my children became teenagers who drove, and then students who lived away from home, and finally independent adults. Okay, semi-independent. Those promising post-college jobs just haven’t materialized, have they?

Anyway, there is nothing like a late night phone call from a distressed child in the midst of a situation not easily remedied to give a parent sleepless nights. Relationship problems, job crises, car breakdowns, emotional meltdowns, financial woes . . . . the list goes on.

Now I get it! “If I no have kids” . . . I wouldn’t have as many sleepless nights or angst ridden days. I wouldn’t hold my breath when the phone rings early in the morning or late at night. I wouldn’t shed tears privately for the heartaches my children must endure.

When I had my first child, I naively believed that once the children had grown and were living independently, my job was done. Yeah, right. My mom, who I miss terribly, used to tell me a parent never stops worrying. Ever. Now I believe her. On her death bed five years ago, Mom was fretting about my health (I was recovering from viral meningitis.)

Would I change things if given a do-over? No way. Until my children were born, I’d never felt such a profound love for any human being. I would sacrifice my life for them in a heartbeat. Without them, yes, I might live like a king, but it’d be an awfully empty castle.

And besides, my cats refuse to buy me flowers on Mothers Day.

What are the best and worst things about being parents – or not being parents? Would you do things differently if given a chance?


tonya kappes said...

I have four boys (16-11) and I stay in a worry fit. Even though some days I'm exhausted beyond words, I'd never change a thing. Well...maybe one. I've always said, 'if they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to know the answer'~now they are asking too many things I don't want them to know the answer. I think I might change my feelings on that statement...sigh...

CM Lefeve said...

It is selfish. I say that about myself because I don't have children. But is it really being selfish if you don't have kids?

Sure, my husband and I still have a few years to change our minds, but I doubt we will. It's not that we don't like children, we just don't want the responsibility.

We've been asked why we bothered to marry (uh, for love??) and we get knowing smiles and comments from friends saying, "You'll change your mind." Of course they say this right when their kid is in the middle of a tantrum (not convincing).

We spoil our friends kids rotten, have fun when they are around, but doing it for the rest of our lives just isn't for us.

Yea, I'm selfish :)

Sheila Connolly said...

Speaking as one whose adult child moved back in three years ago when she graduated from college...

You never stop worrying about them, as you said.

It's a treat to get to know them as adults. Not exactly peers, and not "best buddies", but friends.

And you're so right: that moment when you bring that messy little bundle home and realize how much you adore your child--there's nothing like it for intensity. Suddenly you're connected to the universe and humanity in a whole new way.

I'll shut up now before I gush any more (and yes, my daughter brought me flowers yesterday. And Brie.).

Rural View said...

Like CML, I don't have children; that's both by choice and by physical inability. We're happy enjoying the children of friends and neighbors, then retreating to our blessedly quiet home. The only disadvantage? People who ask why we don't have children and actually think it's their business. Just please enjoy your kids and grandkids and let us be ourselves.

Dru said...

I remember when my niece was very young and she asked why I didn't have a husband and kids and I told her because my love is for her, her cousins and the other children who cross my path. I get to take them places or do things with them when their parents need a break.

Then at the end of the day I remember the good times we had.

Lover of Books said...

Honestly there is nothing I'd change. My boys are 5 years a part and I wouldn't change it. The older one loves to be a helper and it's so great! Plus right now we are looking at moving again, so crossing my fingers that the move happens.

Kate Collins said...

As I tell my still single kids, do not marry and have children for anyone's sake but your own. It's your choice. I see so many children who weren't wanted. It's tragic. And I read a study recently that people who chose to be childless reported being perfectly happy in their lives.
No one should push anyone into a decision because it's the right decision for them.
I had a very difficult time conceiving, (didn't know I wasn't making enough progesterone) so when I finally did get pg, I was overjoyed. I consider the kids a treasure. But for those years of trying, each time someone would say, "So... aren't you ever going to have kids?", I wanted to cry.
I'm very mindful of that now.

Let's celebrate our freedom of choice!

Debra said...

The worst thing? When your child is mistreated or excluded. I am still not over something that happened when my boy was in 2nd grade (most of the kids have been together since kgarten) and he is way over it and ready to graduate 12th grade next month.
The best thing is definitely the laughter. When the boy was about 2 yo and I was desperately short of sleep he tried to pay me a complement one morning by saying, "Mommy, you have a really nice mustache."

signlady217 said...

We chose not to have kids and have been married over 24 years. We still get criticized for that choice. "It ain't your bizness!" is want I want to say, but I'm usually polite about it.

We are happy with our decision and it was absolutely the right one for us. Most of our friends have kids (all different ages) and we get to love them, spoil them, and then, Send Them Home!! There are also many of them that I worry about almost as much as I would if they were actually mine. This way, I have the best of both worlds and I love it!

Helen Kiker said...

No regrets here about having children - and now grandchildren. Life is easier now because I rejoice in their successes and no longer have sleepless nights worrying.

Kate Collins said...

Debra, that was definitely my laugh for the day. Too funny. Thanks for sharing that.
And thanks to the rest of you for sharing your personal feelings on the topic.

Maggie Sefton said...

I agree, Kate. There is no job as challenging or as rewarding ultimately as being a parent. However, it comes with the responsibility to always care. That doesn't mean we solve their problem, but we're there for support and love. And----to answer those phone calls late at night or early in the morning, to encourage them thru hard times. You said it best, Kate. I've always felt that nothing can break a mother's heart faster hearing and watching the heartaches our children suffer.

Vickie said...

I never planned on getting married or have kids...then here comes my hillbilly...I didn't even hear a biological clock anywhere near my nightstand. I was 42 when I had Lady K. She is the joy of life and drives me nuts. She makes me laugh every day. It makes me eeshy to think of all that is out there that could happen both good and bad.

Chèli said...

My husband and I were not blessed with children, we wanted them but it just wasn't in the cards for us. So we in essence adopted all our neices and nephews (there are 10) and support them as best we can. Now that they are grown we have a new generation of "grandchildren" to spoil - we have education funds setup so that part of that burden doesn't have to fall to our "kids". I get to play Nonna to my great neices and great nephews and they get all the extra love. Win-WIn ssituation for all.

Kate Collins said...

Cheli, that is so sweet. Your great nieces and nephews are truly blessed to have you and your husband in their lives. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Angeline said...

My husband and I married close to seven years ago. We decided to not have children.

It's true, you get a lot of questions about being married without children. I even had one woman ask me if I didn't think my husband would change his mind and leave me. I guess some people just can't imagine a couple making that choice together.

I'd have to say the best part of not having children is that my husband and I get to spend all of our free time together. No interruptions; just time to chat and take it easy.