Just Shelley

To not have a child

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

In a quiet moment of sharing, Jonathon said the following in a post today:

Though I don’t believe in regrets, I have just one: that I don’t have a child. All my closest friends have children and every time they invite me to their homes, I feel a sense of gratitude that I’ve been able to share the intimacies of family life. I’m well aware that I’m getting many of the pleasures with none of the pain, but the rewards seem so great that I’m always left wondering at what point I took the wrong turn.

Making the decision to have a child or not is the single most defining moment in our lives. No one act we take can have greater impact. No one act we take should have greater impact in our lives.

Think about it — when you have a child, you’re bringing a new person into the world. You’re teaching this new person love and happiness and sharing and the values and beliefs you think are important. You have the front seat of a show starring this new person, watching as she or he grows and becomes something unique and special. From my own childless perspective, I can’t imagine that there isn’t a parent anywhere who doesn’t sit down daily and marvel at what they’ve done.

However, with the marvel also comes the complexity in raising a child. When I watch my brother with his kids, it looks to me as if there is a daily negotiation between him and each child about what rules apply, because every day new circumstances occur and new rules need to be made to meet these circumstances. Even the rules themselves have rules — when should the parent intervene, when should the parent step back and let the child learn the lessons they need to learn?

In my own field, I have had difficulty working with neural networks; a child is the greatest neural network there is. The thought of all that complexity, frankly, scares me.

Adding to the complexity is the issue of maintaining your own individuality, separate from your role and identity as “parent”. You want to provide what the child needs, but you’re also a unique person with needs of your own. Again, as an observer, it seems to me that you have to walk this delicate balancing act of being “you” the parent and “you” the unique individual.

I made the decision years ago not to have children. The reasons were many, and complex, and beyond the scope of this posting. I don’t have regrets about not having a child, but I do wonder sometimes about where I would be and what I would be doing today if I had children. Of course, being in my 40’s it’s still not too late to have children, though the risk of complications increase as you get older. Sometimes I even think about the possibility of adopting an older child, raising him or her as a single parent.

However, I think there are people, such as myself, who just weren’t meant to have children. I genuinely feel I wouldn’t make a good parent. In fact, the thought of being a parent scares me to death.

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