I've had some serious regrets about not having a child or two. I always wanted a family, but between lack of health and wealth, it just never happened. I'm too careful and responsible (and lucky!) to have the kind of accidents that result in pregnancy, so I am “child free.”
Aside from having the experience of bringing human life into the world, of being a mother, and so forth, the thoughts that haunt me at times revolve around who will care for me when I'm old (assuming I reach advanced age)? Many of the governmental services the elderly rely upon now may collapse or at least diminish by the time I can partake of them. My extended family has been turned against me by my mother. My sister can't help me, I'd be helping her if anything. My marriage is over. My options for assistance in the personal way are down to hoping I have some really good friends without kids themselves who will enter into mutually beneficial relationships if needed.
It could be worse. I could be terminally shy or otherwise isolated from creating and maintaining friendships. I already have many good friends who are not likely to have children (or for whom its too late) that will be in the same bind as myself, etc. Regardless, I know that its not the same as having family who can care for you when the chips are down. I have real fear about the future without adult children around.
…. but then I realize that maybe its a mixed blessing sometimes…
A lot of people with children have kids too messed up to help them, and who, in fact, may actually be detrimental to their physical and emotional well-being. I know TWO families out of dozens in my acquaintance who are truly happy. Most are a mixed bag, of course, but several have children or adult progeny who are absolute nightmares with substance abuse, mental illness, and plain selfishness. Those parents won't ever be able to count on assistance from those adult kids. In point of fact, they have to constantly work to protect their assets from being purloined, and I wince thinking of what will happen when they are more vulnerable as elderly people. Some adult children are con artists, criminals, and perhaps even directly dangerous to their own parents.
Aside from that issue, just looking at my friends with kids convinces me that one's creative and personal life is pretty much put on hold for at least 22 years, and sometimes more, when one has children, especially for women, who are still tasked with the greater responsibility of child rearing. I've been able to focus on many projects and pursue my interests, even with a disabling chronic illness. There is no way I'd have any kind of life at all had I a brood to raise!
I keep running into more and more stories that all seem to point to families as being more of a burden than a blessing. So many individuals manipulating their relatives and clan members and so much unnecessary drama! Over and over again I find myself actually feeling a little thankful that I don't have to put up with nonsense that those with more intact families routinely negotiate just to get along at a minimal level. So many Thanksgiving and Christmas horror stories, and just as many family vacation stories…
I guess it's rarely easy regardless of where you end up, either with or without much family, let alone children.
I know I would like to think that I'd be a good enough mother to raise my kids better than that, but there are never any guarantees. And maybe I'm turning the benefits of adult children on its head to just convince myself I'm better off without kids because I don't really have a choice about it anymore… but oh well! If doing so helps me reconcile the reality of my situation, I suppose its okay to comfort myself with the dark realities some parents have to deal with. “At least that will never be one of my problems,” I can tell myself. And I must confess, I do. I sigh with relief when a friend with adult children talks about all their problems with their kids. Sometimes its because of an ex-partner or the ex's new partner, that poisons the kids. Some people realize they themselves messed up, but by the time they figure it out, its too late to fix the worst of it. But it doesn't matter– they are stuck dealing with incredible stress and I'm SO glad I don't share their pain!
And then I look out on my child free and sometimes scary and lonely life and I'm okay with freedom over security. I'm okay with peace over drama. And I'm okay with uncertainty regarding the future, because that is the reality for everyone, even with more family ties than I have.
A part of me will always be sad I never had children. Another part of me will always be grateful– and that part just keeps growing, much to my surprise. Which is a good thing, I think. Ultimately, I don't want regret to be the most powerful emotion when I look back on how I've lived.