Monday, March 24, 2014

What If Things Were Different?

Sometimes I wonder whether, if I married someone else, or if my husband and I followed a different paths, if I would have ended up having kids. I should note from the start that I'm not seeing this through the lens of regret. Quite the contrary. "What if" isn't always a sad, regretful scenario. I am extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunities I've had, and there is no regret here.

It's a weird thing to wonder, though, especially since, in theory, someone determined to be a father would be incompatible with me, but it's something I'm thinking about while I'm feeling kind of nostalgic tonight.

My husband wanted kids when we got together. It was a really big issue early on in the relationship. I knew what I wanted, and it didn't involve kids. It's part of why I lost my best friend at the time, because she wouldn't stop insisting that I was being stupid by making it a deal-breaker issue.

But it was a deal-breaker. I wouldn't get engaged until I knew he understood that this would be a childless marriage. I needed to know he could live with that.

As the years went on, I wondered whether he'd have regrets. We've built a pretty amazing life for ourselves, which I think it part of why he hasn't wavered, and we talk about it a lot to make sure we're still on the same page. Thankfully, though, we remain solid and together, especially on this issue.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if we ended up on a different path, if we'd have looked at the idea of children differently. If we didn't have the money to travel, or the house we really love, would we have made different choices? What if we lacked the rich social life and the amazing groups of friends who keep us so busy?

What if he never went back to school and was still working customer service? This is, perhaps, the biggest what if of all. I never would have left my corporate job to become a freelancer. The risk would have been too great. We wouldn't have this house, certainly, and we wouldn't have traveled to the conventions we visit every year, and certainly we wouldn't have experienced other countries and cultures as we have, which means our world would be much, much smaller. We'd have less free time, and would be far less involved in the geek community where we've met so many friends.

If he never went back to school, our household income would be less than half of what it is right now, and that matters. One of us would likely have experienced a long stretch of unemployment during the last decade. This house would only exist in our dreams. We would still probably have only one cat and would likely be in the same apartment. Maybe we'd have bought a small house, but money would be a much bigger issue than it is today.

The question I ask myself is, without the travel, the cultural experiences, the amazing friendships that we've developed because we have been so fortunate, would we have looked differently on having kids?

In a lot of ways we'd have a lot less to lose, even though from a purely numbers standpoint we're much more equipped to raise a hypothetical family than we ever would have been. Would we have succumbed to the short burst of baby rabies I had a couple years ago?

Now, mind you, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I would be a different person if those were the choices life led me to make. But it's interesting to think about how vastly different our life would be if my husband never finished college. He earns well over twice what he earned when he left his job to go back to school, which has afforded me the luxury of working for myself.

I don't think our life would be worse if we followed another path, one where fulfilment came from family rather than cultural and travel experiences with each other. But it would be so very different. And I can see us ending up in a position where we the sacrifices involved with raising a kid weren't so bad.

It's interesting to think about, but I'm so glad we have the life we have, the friends and kids in our life that we have. As far as lives go, I ended up with a pretty great one.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

A life lived is full of what ifs and considerations. I think that it is a healthy mental practice as it gives one a better perspective on the choices that lead to where they find themselves. There are many things that I myself have pondered through the years.

When I was younger, I found myself face to face with the fateful words of my girlfriend "We're in trouble". The pregnancy test was positive. We were too young, unstable and even though we had taken precautions, the line on the stick didn't lie. Neither of us could imagine the consequences of letting things run their course so we decided to terminate. It wasn't a casual decision as much as the Pro Lifers try to make it sound.

I was with her through the abortion every step of the way and to this day, only we know about it. I'm reminded every now and then that I would be the father of a thirteen year old had we of chosen a different path. I have no regrets but it is still something that I think about.

Anonymous said...

well i feel that having a child is simply one's choice and has nothing to do with what world thinks about it!
I have read a couple of blogs on this topic and have been thinking about it and more so because I'm a mother of a 2 year old. I didn't do it coz world was expecting this out of me...it did it coz I wanted it.

If one want to experience the world...life..nature..I must say that nothing is more beautiful than the world of a child...nothing more interesting than looking at the life your child growing at every step...and it is the best gift of nature to the humankind...it is simply incomparable...

Also having a child is absolutely your private decision...however things to ponder on:
1. you look out for your good friends to keep you BUSY!
2. joy of life really doesn't come with money or luxury...though it is certainly desired but having a good n happy life is more important...
3. if your parents would have had similar thoughts...you would not have been here writing this blog "to have or not to have"...
4. Also you are so happy with your decision..then why are you giving justifications to the world...no one is bothered!

Anonymous said...

Just to add-on to above comment...I don't envy you...please...i love my life...my kidooo...my job...everything...All I feel that there is just no need for explanation as why you don't have kids...if the world is asking you then too it really doesn't matter...if haven't understood you...they will not understand your reasons as well! Trust me...

bonclyde149150 said...

"if your parents would have had similar thoughts...you would not have been here writing this blog "to have or not to have"..."

You think it's never crossed her mind if her parents were childfree she wouldn't be alive today? She wants to make the most of what her parents gave her by living life her way.

Anonymous said...

"4. Also you are so happy with your decision..then why are you giving justifications to the world...no one is bothered!"

If ONLY!!! But people ARE bothered. When you answer with the truth, the majority (yes, the majority) of people will insist, they want you to justify yourself, and then they proceed to demolish your reasons one by one. It is mindboggling. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't experienced it myself.

And most of the time, the subject of us being childfree is brought on by those people. We don't go announcing it out of the blue. So yeah, she is right to have a blog about it, to support childree people and to inform people who don't understand.

EFR said...

"If one want to experience the world...life..nature..I must say that nothing is more beautiful than the world of a child...nothing more interesting than looking at the life your child growing at every step...and it is the best gift of nature to the humankind...it is simply incomparable.."

I just have to say...WOW. This statement is unbelievable and insulting. Some of my favorite authors (E.M. Forster, Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, to name a few) have managed to write the most beautiful words about life, love, frailty, growth, faith, etc., and guess what? None of them had children!!!! They could see the beauty in life just like all of the authors who DID have children. And what about Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, and all the other amazing people on earth who experienced the best gifts of nature and humankind without having to be parents?

Stasha, I have been reading your blog for a very long time. Your words have helped me through some pretty rough times in my marriage when my husband and I have struggled through infertility and also struggled with the decision to accept being childless and learn how to turn it into being childfree. PLEASE ignore the haters. You are right. Why would a parent search out a childfree blog and then leave such snarky holier-than-thou remarks? It's because they are not happy.

bonclyde149150 said...

"Why would a parent search out a childfree blog and then leave such snarky holier-than-thou remarks? It's because they are not happy."

Yep! 11:42PM Anon ought be enjoying the beautiful world of her child since she believes there's nothing more beautiful than seeing life through her child's eyes. But she comes here to inform childfree that they're not properly experiencing life and nature till they pop out a kid and watch the kid grow with each step.

Anonymous said...

Great website! There is an essay by Betty Rollins you would love called "Motherhood: Who Needs It?"
http://jackiewhiting.net/Collab/exploratory/motherhood.htm

I used to think I wanted children until I read that essay. It changed my life for the better!

Anonymous said...

As someone else commented, playing "what if" is a healthy way to maintain perspective, as long as you don't allow it to become a way for regret to rule your life. You can use the results of "what if" to influence your choices going forward. Almost nothing in this world is permanent, certain not childlessness. If "what if" caused you to realize that you want to experience some aspects of parenting, there are a myriad of options available to interact with kids in a wide range of commitment levels from volunteering to read at your public library, to a Big Sister program, all the way to a formal foster parent situation.

At least if you play "what if", you are actually conscious of your decision. I was married to my high school sweetheart for 17 years and the subject of children literally never came up. We both pursued our educations, our careers, bought a home, feathered our retirement plans, and sadly, grew apart and divorced. It was only in the counseling that we attended for closure that he brought up our childlessness, as if he might have wanted them but thought that I didn't. WTF - right? If you wanted kids, why didn't you say so?

At least by playing "what if" you can find these things out before it's too late.

Anonymous said...

I think "what if" is a fine game to play if only to take stock of where you are. If I play "what if" with myself right now, I am relieved that I have made the choices I have and that I don't have kids, so I know I'm on a good path. If I play "what if" looking in the future with changing my mind, I don't see a happy picture, and that way I also know I'm on a good path.

It's sad that you lost your friend over your choice, but then I suppose that means she was not much of a friend if she did not support your choice. I think it's very smart of you to have made that a deal breaker before going to far since you knew what you wanted. My husband and I both thought we might eventually come around to having kids when we got married. He decided he didn't want kids. I decided I needed to figure out if I just didn't want them now or wouldn't ever and landed on never. Lately he's back on the "maybe someday" side and I'm…not. I have made it very clear that I have not changed my mind and don't expect to. For me, him being able to accept that we won't have kids is a deal breaker. If he decides he isn't going to feel complete without them, I won't stand in his way of having them, but it won't be with me, so I'll have to exit stage left. We'll have to see what happens, but I know that with or without him, being a mother is not what I want.