Reacting to Others' Parenting ChoicesJul 10, 2018
I had a visceral reaction to this New York Times article "I’m in My 40s, Child-Free and Happy. Why Won’t Anyone Believe Me?"
"'You’re all alone in the world, and have no one to help you.' He turned to my friends, dramatically interrupting their conversation. 'Do you know how terrible this woman’s life is? She’s all by herself!'
My friends managed to snort back their drinks, barely. 'But I’m fine,' I protested lightheartedly, hoping to return the discussion to writing. 'I’m quite enjoying myself.'
Just because someone’s life doesn’t look like yours and you are happy with your life doesn’t mean they don’t have a good life. What makes a good life is your relationship with yourself and with your life. No guarantees of a good life come from whether you:
have or don't have children
have or don't have pets
order extra gluten
drive an electric car
or grow your own food.
Sarcasm aside, you get my point.
I’m in my early 60s and spend regular time each week with my twin, 3-year-old great nieces. If I loved them more I’d be in the hospital for a heart attack. They take my breath away. I find them amazing and I give them everything I have in the 4 to 5 hours I spend with them each week. And yes, they try my nerves when their fearlessness goes full speed ahead but I still love them more and more.
But I don’t have to concern myself with their next meal, only the one I give them. I don’t have to concern myself with preschool or saving money for their health insurance. I don’t have to think about their clothes, just the jammies I get them into before they are picked up by their parents in the evening. I get to love them and love them and love them. It’s a privilege to spend time with them. It’s a privilege to love them. And they are only two of many nieces that I have boundless love for.
I do not have children because I decided not to pursue that path after it was clear it wasn’t going to work out the way I wanted it to. I never worried about regret because I was conscious and knew why I was making the decision I was making. The writer of this article, Glynnis, knows what she is doing. And if at 65 she wishes she had children--oh well. She will face it and grieve. Why does anyone care? It is of no consequence to you. Because of her rich and good life she will contribute more to society than another person who becomes a parent and wishes they hadn’t.
"If you're one of these people emotionally triggered by someone else's parenting choice, ask yourself if you have regrets about something or if there are decisions you made that you wished you hadn’t. You don’t know and cannot know if any particular person is going to be happy with their decision or not. It’s none of your business."
Knowing myself better now and with age and wisdom it is clear to me that I could not have done motherhood well. It would have taken everything out of me. It would have been difficult and come at the high cost of my relationship with myself and others. Not that I can see into the future but I can see into the past now. The day in and out of parenting is hard on a good day. That doesn’t mean one should not do it. It doesn’t mean that I could not have done right by my children but I count my blessings everyday that I did not have children.
My life could not be more rich (though I could use a bit more money) and my heart cannot withstand anymore love it has in it (though of course it is endless). My point is: My life is rich and wonderful and I do not have children.
People choose to become parents because of a myriad of reasons: they want to or because they don’t believe they have a choice or because they believe that is their path for whatever reason. But why does it matter so much to others uninvolved with the decision?
The obsession that people have about other people's choices is about their own fears or their own projections. If you're one of these people emotionally triggered by someone else's parenting choice, ask yourself if you have regrets about something or if there are decisions you made that you wished you hadn’t. You don’t know and cannot know if any particular person is going to be happy with their decision or not. It’s none of your business.
If someone makes a personal decision about their personal life that you don’t agree with, wish them well, move on and take a look at your own life. Either appreciate what you have or try to change what you don’t have. Let people live their life. And years later, if they have regrets, don't be the "I told you so" police. Instead, engage with them as you want people to engage with you: "How are you? How is your life? I hope it’s well."