Amy Roberts: Childless by choice
December 10, 2013
I don’t have kids and have never had a desire to breed. Maybe I’m not very nurturing, maybe I’m selfish, maybe something is wrong with me. But every time one of my friends excitedly tells me she’s pregnant, my first reaction isn’t one of congratulations. For a split second, my first thought is always, "Why would you want to ruin your life like that?"
I realize I’m in the minority. Most people love the idea of a small fry and tater tot of their own. Here in Utah, they order a baker’s dozen. But every time I ever considered the idea, I thought of the hell I put my parents through.
My mom and dad spent every waking hour hauling me and my sisters to some sort of practice. In the summers, my swim team could only get pool time at 5 a.m., at a pool in a dodgy neighborhood half an hour from where we lived. My mother would get up at 4:15 a.m. Monday-Friday and cart me to practice. She picked up all the other kids on my team too, because their parents were sound asleep. She napped in the car while we swam laps, then took everyone home. There were soccer, basketball, track, gymnastics and dance classes too. When I decided in the 7th grade I wanted to play the saxophone, my parents penciled in practice times and helped me lug around an instrument I grew bored with before the first payment was ever made on it. And then I joined the debate team and, any sane parent would have said "enough" and demanded an end to my activity ADD. But mine just added another practice to the big whiteboard calendar we had hanging in the laundry room. Between my sisters and me, I don’t think my parents slept more than a total of 16 hours for about 22 years. They certainly didn’t have a free weekend to themselves for over two decades.
Frankly, I don’t know how, or why, they did it. For me, there is zero appeal in the idea of being someone’s taxicab for the next 18 years. I don’t want someone else asking me for money or siphoning every free moment. I don’t want to consider walking to the mailbox a luxury because it’s the only time I’m alone.
I know most people don’t think this way and everyone with kids tells me in vague terms "There’s nothing else this amazing." I’m sure that’s true. But I think having a kid is a lot like getting a tattoo on your forehead — you better be damn sure it’s what you want before you decide to go for it. And I’d sooner get a tattoo on my forehead than have a child.
That’s why I’m tired of those harried, frazzled, sleep-deprived women wiping baby barf off their shirts telling me what I’m missing out on, insisting I’m making a mistake. And the older I get, the more frequently I’m accosted by strangers telling me I better hurry.
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For example, this weekend a woman juggling two screaming kids, one with snot running down his face, the other tossing ten packages of Oreos into the grocery cart, asked me how I managed the luxury of solo grocery shopping on a Saturday.
I responded all of my trips to the grocery store are solo, because I don’t have kids.
"Oh, I’m so sorry. You must be devastated," she replied.
When I explained this was by choice, she went on to tell me all I was missing and what a mistake I was making. These words leaving her mouth as one of her kids picked up a wet, stepped-on cookie off the floor and ate it and the other one wiped his nose on her pants.
"What will you do when you’re 70?" she nearly cried. "Who will take care of you? I think you’re making a mistake. There’s no greater joy than being a parent."
It was bad enough when I had to justify my lifestyle choice to my mom, who would love a grandkid to spoil, but I couldn’t believe a complete stranger thought she had the right to judge my choices in the dairy aisle.
And since she was so condescending in her judgment, I couldn’t help but be a bit tart in my response. "It’s really none of your business. But considering you’re signed up for vacations to Disneyland for the next 10 years, a filthy house with sticky crap on the walls and putting every extra penny in a college savings account, and by the looks of things, you might want to save a little for future bail money too, here’s what I plan to do when I’m 70: Whatever the hell I want. It’s the same thing I do now."
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so rude, but it really annoys me when people think they know better than I do what is best for me. I’m sure I could have been nicer in my response, but no one has ever accused me of being diplomatic. At least that’s a gene I won’t be passing on.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.