Childless By Choice

By Janey Womeldorf

I don’t know when I decided not to have children. I think children decided not to have me.

It’s not like with adults. Children know. I confess to having faked painful interest in conversations with adults, but it’s different with kids – they know if you’re genuine. Their “polite adult” radar can detect insincerity in a heartbeat and they don’t put up with imposters. They just walk off.

I was on a plane once with my sister. She’s a professional nanny – ironic really. We sat in a row of three. My sister had the window seat; I got stuck in the middle, and a gentleman sat in the aisle seat. A little girl mysteriously appeared at the end of our row. She looked about three or four; although, she might have been eight. Before the Mom could retrieve her inquisitive child, the young girl scrambled over the man’s long legs, pushed past me like I wasn’t even there, and immediately started chatting to my nanny sister like they were old friends. She was four years old. How did she know?

When you’re a healthy, happily-married woman, many people cannot comprehend why you would not want children. I overheard a conversation once between two relatives of mine talking on the phone. He was updating her on different family members when they started talking about my husband and me. The conversation ended in that predictable place. All I heard him say was, “No, not yet, but I think she’ll come around.” They both seem satisfied that one day “I would,” so the conversation moved on. To many, it is simply unnatural.

Some people consider it selfish, as if not wanting to share your life is a sign of greed. I’ve never thought of myself as being selfish, or greedy. If not having to worry about college funds means being greedy, I guess they’re right.

Other people have asked me who will take care of my husband and me when we’re older. I try not to engage in that conversation. If there were any reasons why I would have wanted children, I’d hope that was not one of them.

Mothers always ask if I have children. When I say “No,” there’s a pause. For a brief moment, they say nothing, fearing that their inner thought may slip out – “Is it because she can’t?”

A mother and her young daughter recently moved in next to us. I first met them as I was leaving the house. My front door was open and the little girl peered into the silent emptiness with a puzzled look on her face. Looking up at me, she asked, “Where are the children?”

“There aren’t any,” I replied.

“Why not?” she asked.

There it was – the sixty million dollar question few adults dared ask. Caught off guard, her mother flinched in embarrassment, but not before I caught her eyebrows instinctive rise from curiosity.

I thought about her question, then replied, “I have a goldfish. Would you like to see it?”

“No thank you,” she said, then smiled and walked off, apparently satisfied. Her mother, on the other hand, was left hanging.

I don’t recall ever wanting children. Dolls bored me as a child, and my favorite toys were a roulette set and my potter’s wheel. What does that say about me? Maybe I’m just a clay-loving gambler at heart, hardly the poster child for ideal Mom candidate.

Maybe my sister – the nanny – got my share of the “maternal” gene. Now, she has the right idea when it comes to raising children. Not only does she get paid to do it, but she gets days off, the luxury to “leave” work at the end of the day, paid vacation time, and daily recognition of a job well done by happy parents. To me, the decision to bring children into this world is the single, most-important decision any woman makes in her entire lifetime. Being a Mom is the hardest job out there, and I am in complete awe of any woman who takes it on. It’s 24/7 and it never quits, not when you’re sick, tired, or 80 years old. When a mother’s child is hurting, it does not matter if that child is four or 40, mothers tell me it is still as agonizing.

When an injury forced my husband to spend a night in the hospital, I called my mother-in-law to reassure her everything was OK. She came anyway – she’s his Mom. I was glad she did. I tried feeding my husband soup. I have never fed another person before, neither man nor child. I hit his front teeth with the metal spoon. As his mother took over, I stood back and watched, in awe. It was beautiful. That she was 60, and he was a grown man of 35, made no difference. She was where she needed to be, doing what came naturally – taking care of her injured child. Maybe then, for a split second, just maybe, it entered my mind.

I always thought that when it came to having children, you would wake up one day and just know. That day never came, so we chose the childless road less traveled.

We will never hear the excited squeals of our child riding for the first time without training wheels. Nor will we experience the depth of love that only a parent can feel for their own flesh and blood. A father once confessed to me that he never thought he could kill another human being until he had children. Only then, did he know that if ever someone tried to harm his children, he would do anything to protect them – anything.

Will I ever regret it? I don’t know. Do I feel my life lacks meaning and purpose? Not at all. Would I have made a good mother? Some people would say yes, but if you really want an honest answer, ask the children. I’d ask them myself but they keep walking off.

You see, children know.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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