I knew when I was 12 that I didn’t want children. My mother says that she distinctly remembers me storming into the house after babysitting the neighbours’ kids and announcing angrily, “I’m never getting married and I’m never having kids.”
There is also my brother, who had “issues” as a child. I babysat him most days because both my parents worked, and once—when I was 12 and he was 8—he chased me down the hall to my bedroom brandishing five knives in his hand. When he wasn’t flying into a daily rage over one thing or another, he was at my heels like a puppy dog begging for my attention—not exactly behaviour that would encourage me to want a child of my own.
As for marriage, I’ve been a little more ambivalent in my thoughts.
When I was 19 and madly in love with my first boyfriend, I told my parents I was going to marry him. Wisely, they said nothing. I came to my senses, and decided that marrying a drug addict was not in my best interests.
My next brush with marriage occurred in my mid-20s, with my Brazilian boyfriend. When he went home, I followed. Upon my arrival, he presented me with a wedding ring. We “married” — sans the ceremony and legal entanglements.
A few months later, the subject of a real marriage—and kids—came up.
"I want six," he said.
I wanted none but told him I'd compromise on two if we could have a nanny raise them.
"Okay," he said, "but we have to raise them Catholic." This mortified me.
"I'm Jewish, so by Jewish law, my children are Jewish too. I will raise them Jewish. Anyway, you don't even practice your religion."
"But my mother will insist that they be raised Catholic." Needless to say, I didn't marry Marcelo—or have his children.
I made sure my next serious boyfriend did not want kids.
He said he didn't, though I never quite believed him. But he also said we shouldn't get married until I lost the 36 kilograms I had gained when I quit smoking—not because my weight mattered to him (it didn't), but because it mattered to me.
I didn't lose the weight. We broke up when I was 33, and those 36 kilograms quickly melted away until I was once again a size 8. He went on to marry, have a son, and get divorced.
Now my childbearing days are fast diminishing, and I haven't heard one peep out of my biological clock.
My life is not filled with nieces or nephews (my brother is also unmarried and childless) or friends' kids. I don't dislike them—a baby or cute kid always makes me smile—but as an adult, I have spent little time with them, in part because of their constant need to be the centre of attention (normal for kids but mentally wearing); their steady stream of chatter and raised voices feels like an auditory assault to me. Sometime in my mid-30s, I quit apologising for the fact that I enjoyed living by myself, or that three hours was my time limit for social interaction.
Because I'm an extreme introvert, I have to try to balance my need for the love and companionship of friends, family and a mate with a need for a lot of time alone (my introverted father understands; my extroverted mother never will).
It was also in my mid-30s that I decided that I might get married if I could find someone who would be willing to live in the same building—but down the hall in his own unit. I met a guy who thought that this was a fantastic idea (another introvert), but we ended up staying just friends.
Finally, I've always had this burning question: what's the point of getting married?
By my teens, almost all of my friends' parents divorced (one was on her fourth marriage). By my mid-40s, most of my contemporaries had married and divorced at least once.
It has always seemed silly to promise forever when it's just not realistic. Very little in life lasts forever. That's not bitterness; that's sheer pragmatism. What's wrong with serial monogamy without the legalities? I've seen too many messy divorces. Isn't it better to give or not give what one chooses to in a relationship, both during and after it's over, than to have the law tell you what you "owe?" I think so. I've been accused of all sorts of things—being afraid of commitment and being an "unnatural woman" for not wanting kids, to name two. But some of my long-term relationships have lasted longer than many marriages, and at least I haven't irrevocably damaged a kid's life by not being up to the task.
And I hate it when people ask me who's going to take care of me when I'm old, and if I want to die alone. Statistically, women outlive men, and it doesn't seem fair (or necessary) to me to have kids just so they will care for you in your dotage.
I regret very few decisions I've made in life and don't regret remaining childless.
As for marriage, while it's never been on the list of things I felt I had to do in life, I've never ruled it out completely. But I'm not alone and never have been. I've always had the love and companionship of friends and family, and I usually have a sweetheart in my life as well.
While I'm pretty sure I can't promise forever to a man in terms of marriage, maybe when I'm 70, forever won't be so daunting, and I'll walk down the aisle for the first and only time.