Hello, Mr. Right. We're a married couple in our 50s who've never had children, and we'd like to clear up a few misconceptions about couples in our situation. First of all, we weren't unable to have children, which is what most people assume. We're childless by choice. (Actually, we prefer the term "child-free" to "childless," since it suggests we're free of something rather than missing something.) And although we have a dog, we don't consider her our surrogate child. We don't dress her up in kiddie clothes and take a "family" photo that we send out to all our friends and relatives at Christmas. Nor are we particularly close to our nieces and nephews, although we like them just fine.
Others might disagree, but we don't consider ourselves selfish, immature or unhappy. And we don't expect to be particularly unhappy as we get older and there aren't any children around to take care of us. We're also not workaholics who've given up everything for our careers, although we both have fun, challenging jobs. Neither of us grew up in an unhappy family, thereby discouraging us from having a family of our own. We aren't opposed to the very idea of families on ideological grounds. Nor do we mind hanging around with families. On the contrary, some of our best friends are parents and their children, the children of various ages. And we, of course, consider ourselves a family, a family of two.
I did not hear my biological clock ticking ever louder as menopause approached. Nor did my husband feel a last-minute urge to pass on his genes. We don't think we would have made terrible parents, or even bad parents, or even average parents. We think we probably would have made good parents, perhaps even great parents. I don't believe I lack the maternal instinct. My husband doesn't believe he lacks the paternal instinct. We're not totally freaked out about overpopulation and can't bear the thought of adding yet another to the world's people supply. Along those lines, we don't believe the future is so dim, the present such a scary place, that it would be utterly foolish to bring a child into it at this time.
We aren't radicals or even particularly leftist. We aren't what used to be called hippies. We're probably closer to what used to be called yuppies. Even so, we don't drop tons of money on foreign excursions, fancy restaurants or clothes. We drive a Toyota Prius. We own a house. We pay taxes, including school taxes, which we are more than happy to contribute to. We believe that children are our future, just not our own children. We're rarely bored or lonely. We have many friends. We have hobbies we enjoy. We have each other. Nevertheless, if one of us died, the other wouldn't feel like he or she had made a terrible mistake, that we should have had children after all, if only so there would be a reminder of our beloved spouse.
We don't wish other people would refrain from asking us why we don't have any children. We do sometimes wish it wasn't the very first thing they asked upon meeting us. And we wish there wasn't an element of sadness in their voices when they asked the question. We suppose we also wish even our best old friends didn't start quite so many sentences with "Well, if you had kids..." or "You'll never know how it feels...," although we know that may be asking too much. We wish, in general, that people would celebrate our decision, not just accept it. We made the right decision for us. And except for these misconceptions, we've done very well by the rest of the world. Thanks for reading this, and sorry to go on so long. Sign us...
No Kidding: Well, if you change your minds, you can always adopt. Kidding.
If you think it takes a child to raze a village, write to: Mr. Right, Isthmus, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or call 251-1206, ext. 152. Or email email@example.com.