Friday, September 08, 2006

Growing Old Together

It's often asked of childfree couples what we might do when we're older. What about grandchildren? Won't we be lonely? Who will care for us?

Set aside the fact that having children is absolutely no guarantee of future care. My friend's father (rest his soul) was abandoned by all his children but her and her husband, who took him in when he was too ill, and provided him home hospice care when their family, with meager means, could not afford a dignified nursing home. She and her husband lived in misery for her father, sacrificing much of their first year of marriage, caring for him. They wanted to do this, but the lack of caring from her other siblings was constant and palpable. Her father was miserable and knew that only his eldest daughter gave a damn about what happened to him when he became incapacitated.

Many aren't even fortunate enough to have one of their many children care for them.

My husband and I, on the other hand, will have a long-term care plan to guarantee us care when there's no one else to do that. The money we save by not having children will go to our retirement and future healthcare arrangements. We will have this luxury.

Aside from care, there was the question of loneliness. This was answered for us at Dragon*Con, a science fiction convention in Atlanta that we were fortunate enough to attend this past weekend. Throughout the *Con, we saw this adorable little costumed couple -- at least in their 60s, sometimes in full Jedi regalia, other times as elaborate wizards -- having a blast. Their love for each other could be felt a mile away and they were so clearly having a blast, talking to other *Con-goers, smiling with each other, posing gleefully for photos. My husband and I mused that we would be that couple in 30 years.

The best part? A dear friend, upon seeing the couple for the first time near the end of the *Con, turned to me and said "that is SO going to be you and A in 30 years".

I don't believe children keep one young. I believe the responsibility for that lies i oneself. In many, I daresay most cases, children make one exhausted, bitter, grumpy and haggard. They turn loving couples against each other, unable to appreciate each other after years of putting the children ahead of their relationships. It makes me sad.

I wish I'd approached the little wizard couple at Dragon*Con. My instinct was that they were childfree, but who knows. In my fantasy, they are, kept young because they never decided to grow up. That's the beauty of remaining childfree -- you never have to grow up. You pay your bills, manage your investments, buy your houses and cars, but there's also no reason you can't have ice cream for breakfast, stay in Saturday morning and watch cartoons while snuggling on the sofa, decide on a whim to go on a roadtrip, or maybe just to the mall.

Sure, you can do this with kids if you put your mind to it. It's just not as fun because whenever you're with kids, you still have to be The Grown-Up. I never want to be in a situation where I have to be The Grown-Up for more than a day or so at a time.


Anonymous said...

I was just like you when I was 28. No interest in having kids at all. Now here I am at almost 36 with two little boys and I wonder how in the world did I get here. I often wish that I could have my old life back. I love my kids, but I don't really like being a mom. Don't ever let anyone twist your arm into having kids. Motherhood doesn't magically change you into someone else.

LovelyMonAmi said...

Ther is no guarantee that children will take care of you in old age. I know countless people who say this line of silliness when I ask, "what is the point in having children?" I have not gotten a stright answer to that question yet.

Anonymous said...

I always look towards facts. Will someone take care of you? you have a more than 50% chance that if you have 2 children that you will be assisted. So more statistics. More than 50% of men change their mind and decide to want children later in life.. while women do not. Divorce rate for couples w/o children 66.2% while only 33.8% of couples who have kids divorce. (Census bureau). STATISTICLY SPEAKING.. by gathering the #'s up ur best chances towards the future are: Your husband will divorce you at around 35, he will remarry and have kids, you will remarry and become a stepmother. That marriage will fail (once divorced next divorce %'s skyrocket). I woulnd't worry about who will take care of you.. save more $ up in your 401k etc. just plan on taking care of yourself b/c chances say your husband will not be around. Male's internal clocks don't kick in till later in like.. mid/late 30's, its to easy to find a female that wants kids. Also men w/o children tend to cheat x2.5 times as often then a husband w/o children. There is less guilt involved in cheating on a female vs. a family involving an innocent child.. If you don't like this information that's fine.. but none are opinions these are strictly statistical facts gathered from 2002+

Anonymous said...

btw I am a male w/ no childen in a relationshiop almsot 30. Been gathering research for my master's degree on population changes and increasing #'s of childless women. Many reasons which point toward's economic and others pointing towards nature saying the world is overpopulating, which could through hormonal changes alter the woman's internal/mental need to reproduce. Just some thoughts.. still reading.. but u guys are die hide.. it's like a cult. Referring to the general population as "breeders"??

Anonymous said...

Stats like this don't tell us much if you don't control for (1) Catholics, who have a much lower divorce rate than the rest of the population and are forbidden from using birth control and (2) age demographics. If you consider the entire population you are including the entire older generation which had higher barriers to divorce and less social choice.

Anonymous said...

As an ICU nurse, I see plenty of situations that dispute the "your kids will take care of you when you're older" argument. Many many times, while mom is 86 and on the ventilator, no one comes to the hospital. No one visits, no one can be reached over the phone-no one is there. Children are NO guarantee for care later in life. This was an amazing post, and I agree with you 100%