I have a confession to make.
Whenever I hear the news that a friend is pregnant my first reaction is to be really and truly happy for them – but my immediate follow-up reaction is relief that I am not the pregnant one. These things are particularly true if the friend is close to my age (40) because it is likely their last chance to have a child (so yay for them!), but also because I can not imagine spending the years of 40-60 raising young children.
I used to worry a lot about whether I would experience mid-life regret as someone who has mostly chosen childlessness (I say mostly because at the age or 33 I went baby-crazy for about six-months, and once that settled down and I decided I was for sure not having kids, I met my partner who came with a 9-year-old). It’s the threat our mothers make when we first announce we probably don’t want our children — that one day we will rue our “selfishness” — and then it will be too late.
But thus far I have to report the opposite. Having M. come into my life as a stepdaughter was a pretty great addition to things, but it did not make me want a child of my own biological making. My nephew and niece are freakin’ adorable and I am blessed to be their auntie (I could just eat them up, they are the cutest bugs!), but it does not make me want babies. My fertility cycles are definitely a-shifting these days in preparation for the big change in a few years, but even that hasn’t triggered the last-ditch, now-or-never pregnancy that I am apparently at risk for.
At the age of forty I am looking forward to some pretty good years with my partner – years in which we reap the rewards of the good jobs and hard work we have been privileged with. We just bought this little property with friends that we are in the process of developing, we enjoy socializing with friends, we have time for academic study and community involvement, we have a home that is truly and awesomely comfortable and time to make it so. Early retirement is also on the table, though who knows if that will happen or not…. But most importantly? We have time and energy for each other. Lots of it.
As much as I recognize the joy it must be to have a child of one’s own, I would not trade any of the above for a squirming dependent in my arms right now, and I am positive that I in no way want an angry teenager in my life at the age of 55 or 60.
This is not to question the friends of mine who have chosen later-in-life-parenting. I think there are pros and cons to such an arrangement and I don’t have any judgement about when people decide to have children (including folks who have them young, cause I’ve seen that work out well in many instances). But I think it is important to acknowledge that not every woman who chooses to remain childless will end up bitter at forty or fifty, rueful and living a selfish life with regret.
Now we’ll see how I feel in ten years – because that’s when I suspect I might have a twinge of “what if”? But I pretty much guarantee it will be short-lived if it happens at all because I can’t imagine feeling physically “on” for having a baby another decade down the road. Plus “what if” is a problematic way to live.
So let me close by saying congratulations to all my middle-aged-mom-to-be friends! Because I’m sure you will love every second of your parenting experience, and I will crochet little hats for your babies when they are born and see you once or twice a year until your kid is past toddler-age (it’s not intentional, it just works out that way). But I’m also going to say, phew! because I’m not going to be balancing the insomnia of menopause with the demands of a six-year-old and I won’t be picking my kid up at 3 am at a party he sneaked out to and then got abandoned at as the vagaries of age start catching up to me. (You all think that won’t be your kid – but it will. Ask me how I know this).
Instead I’m going to continue doing what I have been – crafting a life I enjoy with people who I love and finding meaning in the doings of life – the suffering, the laughter and everything in between. Children or no children, we co-create our lives alongside luck and chance, and so far I haven’t a regret about what mine is becoming.