I Believe that having children ain’t all it’s cracked up to be

Elaine - Cape Coral, Florida
Entered on September 19, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I’m that rare baby boomer woman who had neither the teenage pregnancy nor the requisite baby as the younger second wife. Not that I planned all that well or thought I was above what was happening all around me mind you. It was a consequence of timing, surgery and……luck.

But as the years went by I began to question the luck part. When I would recount the hideous details of my marriage to the emotionally abusive basketball hero, sympathetic friends would comment that it was a good thing we didn’t have children. At some point I began to wonder about that. If those six miserable years amounted to nothing more than expensive life lessons, what if there had been a beautiful product that came out of that?

Would having to interact with my ex for the rest of my life have been a reasonable trade-off for experiencing what those now around me are filling their conversations and digital cameras with? Here I am at midlife still asking those questions.

My mother who made motherhood her career, cautioned me about making it a sacred gender mission. “Most people mindlessly procreate because it’s ‘the thing to do’ she observed, “I think it’s just too painful to watch someone you love suffer so much.” So to her who had made raising children her life, she agonized just watching us go through life’s normal challenges. (None of us were ever jailed or seriously maimed.)

Ann Landers found that it was indeed the parents who suffered. You may have heard about her survey of her readers in 1975. She asked them if they had it to do all over again, would they have children. America was shocked to learn that 70% said no. This unscientific survey has since been duplicated and verified with the clincher being that the percentage drops dramatically if the survey isn’t anonymous.

So, are we childless baby boomers cursed or blessed? You’ll be pleased to know that I did 10 minutes of online research on this and have some answers. I found a website with a message board called “childfree boomers” and wow, talk about sanctimony! These people are seriously defensive about their choice. I simply must share one of the messages with you that totally discounts that ‘taking care of you in old age argument.”

“Just a heads up on the reliability of children being around for you. I feed my Mom twice a day everyday at her nursing home. It breaks my heart to see how many of the residents have children and foster children or adopted children who NEVER darken the doorway of the home. Not on the weekends, holidays or birthdays. My only brother is one of them. Some mammals have the instincts of turtles.”

Whew! That’s pretty harsh right? Chances are you’ve encountered someone who has suffered this fate. All those sacrifices made for offspring whose only interest now is the jewelry and the will. It happens more often than we want to believe doesn’t it? Luckily the woman in the previous story raised one good one.

As long as we’re on taboo subjects, I’ll tell you my truth: I never felt qualified to be a parent. I felt it was all I could handle just guiding my own life. Unlike some of you who may have felt the same, serendipity never stepped in to prove me wrong.

Thinking about all this found me visualizing my Michigan niece and nephews years from now, visiting Aunt Elaine in her Florida house full of cats, outdated furniture and an indefinable odor commonly called “old peoples’ house smell.” Grisly stuff huh? Well, maybe they’ll take me to Hooligan’s where they’ll reminisce with me about my days as a journalist exploring the Interior of Alaska and exotic Club Meds.

Now those of you who are presently surrounded with joyful brilliant grandchildren borne of your enormously successful children—-count those blessings! Oh, and don’t show me pictures and newspaper articles about them unless you want to see a photo of my homely, income-generating, low rate fixed mortgage, greatly appreciating duplex.