Mother’s Day

A few years back, a man I passed on the street wished me a happy Mother’s Day. I thanked him. He was a man in his 40s, trying to be friendly to an older woman. He meant well.

But I’m not a mother and I will never be one. At this point in my life, I’m not only far past the point where I could get pregnant in the ordinary manner, but also too old to be considered as an adoptive parent.

I still have my uterus, so I suppose I could be implanted with a fertilized ovum and carry it to term. You hear of people past menopause doing that these days, usually to help a relative. While it’s fascinating that such technology exists, I’m not going to do that, either.

I don’t have any regrets about not having children. It’s not that I don’t like young people. Many of them are delightful and I have a lot of friends who fall into the age range where they could be my kids – some even my grandkids.

But I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not having kids of my own.

Some people tell me that having kids means that there will be someone to take care of you when you get old, but I’ve noticed that doesn’t always happen. I also know of too many people whose children needed nursing through a final illness, something that I suspect is much more painful than the reverse.

And having done the reverse – having done some of the care for my father during his final years – I know how hard that is. I want to do some planning in case I need serious care in my last years so that it isn’t a burden on anyone. If I had kids, I’d still want to do that.

It’s hard and painful work, caring for the dying, and even worse when you have to guess what they might have wanted. I don’t wish that on anyone.

I’m writing about having no regrets because I know younger people who don’t want kids often run into people who tell them they’ll regret it. Young women even find it hard to get necessary medical treatments such as medically indicated hysterectomies, because the myth that you’ll regret not having kids is so powerful.

I wasn’t sure myself, back when I was young. In my 20s, I didn’t think about it much because I didn’t feel ready, but in my late 30s and early 40s, I thought about it from time to time.

However, I wasn’t in a successful relationship at that time and I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be a single parent. So I kept letting it slide, though I occasionally checked out adoption programs.

Then, just before I turned 50, a single friend of mine adopted a daughter.

I kept thinking, “I’m going to see that baby and decide I want one.” The logistics were daunting, given my age and circumstances, but I knew that if I hit that point, I’d have to do it.

But I spent a little time with them soon after the adoption and all I could think of on my way home was, “Oh, thank God I didn’t do that.”

Mind you, there was nothing wrong with the baby, who has grown up to be a very accomplished young woman.

I just realized that this was the start of a lot of years of responsibility for another person, a level of responsibility I didn’t want. My friend did want that and it turned out well for both her and her child.

From that point on, I knew I had no regrets.

Of course, that means I won’t ever be a grandmother, either. I have even fewer regrets about that. At least if I ever end up defending myself on the street, the news report won’t say “Grandmother kicks suspect’s butt.”

They’ll have to just call me an old woman. I’ve got no problem with that.

2 thoughts on “Mother’s Day

  1. There’s no guarantee you’d be a grandmother even if you did have a kid.

    I never felt passionately that I Had to Have a Child, but all things considered, I’m glad I did. But I cannot fathom the people who are uncomfortable around (or actively hostile to) people who opt not to procreate. As the daughter of a woman whose unexamined ambivalence about motherhood did a good deal of damage to herself and to our relationship, I am firmly of the belief that no one who decides not to parent should get a lick of pushback about it. There are plenty of swell new people every day. You can assist them, enjoy them, ignore them as you wish. Or kick their butts if they sass you. Grandma, indeed.

  2. Good point about becoming a grandmother.

    I never got any pressure from my mother to have children. In fact, I’ve always thought she liked it that I didn’t. She wasn’t particularly fond of children and I suspect my relationship with her was better for her having worked on a newspaper when I was a tiny thing. She’d have been miserable staying home with me.

Leave a Reply to Madeleine Robins Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.