As I’ve got older, I’ve noticed many of my friends have children, as well as grandchildren. It’s a club I am not a part of. Sometimes I look at them and I am envious because they have a lineage that will follow them. Descendants will refer to them in the years to come, combing over pictures and other memorabilia.
I’ve been with my partner for 30 years. Being a gay couple back in the 1960s and ’70s was not easy, nor was it socially sanctioned to entertain the notion of having children. But having children wasn’t high on my bucket list for other reasons as well.
I came from a family of six kids and with eight people in the house, things were very crowded. I never had my own room until I was 15, because I had to share a double bed with my twin sister, with our older sister slumped in a small single bit across the room.
I was never alone in the bathroom and there was rarely any water. Food was scarce, and I always had to worry about my older siblings trying to grab food off my plate.
We also had mental illness in my family, and I think that contributed to my desire not to have children. Although I wasn’t afflicted with manic depression like my father and a few of my brothers, I was always worried the gene was somehow buried inside of me, and the idea of dealing with something like that made me too frightened to have children of my own. I saw how much my mother suffered dealing with my father’s and brothers’ illnesses. I didn’t want that.
Kids were expensive, and remembering my mother’s struggles with trying to raise all of us by herself made me not want to bear children. I worked with kids on and off for many years, and I really enjoyed them. But they could always go home to somebody else who had to deal with their temper tantrums, expense, and health issues.
My partner, Erika, was never afflicted with a strong maternal gene. She was used to being babied by her mother, and as I got to know her, I realised I was more of the parenting type.
I was the one who took care of the pets — taking them out for walks, dealing with the vet, feeding them, and handling the cat box and the dog poop. I didn’t mind at the time, because I was always up earlier. I guess that satisfied a certain maternal instinct for me.
We are now in our late-60s, and all our pets are gone. I sometimes miss caring for something that is dependent upon me, but it is just too hard because we like to travel. Also, my own health issues make it problematic for me to physically care for something else.
I also know that having children doesn’t mean they are going to love you and care for you as you get older. I’m sure a number of seniors are surprised by their children’s negligence as they deal with the challenges of growing old themselves.
I know that as I get older, I will hire somebody to come in and care for me, if my partner is unable or not wanting to do so. Ideally, this person would be a combination nurse, physical therapist, chef, maid, and travel organiser. That would cover most of my needs!
At least if you hire somebody, they are being compensated for taking care of you. You don’t have that with children. Some kids are very generous in that way, but others couldn’t care less. Sometimes they are just waiting for you to die so they can get with they think they deserve.
Time will tell as the future unfolds.