October 13, 2007

Missing Out?

by Shelley
Regular Contributor
Purple Women & Friends

Tell a parent that you’re childfree, and chances are you’ll hear the timeless retort,

“You don’t know what you’re missing.” This comment exasperates me to no end, usually because I take it for what it is: a thinly veiled, critical judgment of my choices.
But as much as I dislike this loaded statement, I have to admit, there is a good chance I really might be missing out on something.

Sometimes I wonder how it would feel to love my own child. I love my husband more than anyone else in the world, so I try to relate how I’d feel about a child to how I feel about him. Our connection is so intense that sometimes it overwhelms me, and I think that losing him would be like losing myself.
Would my love for a child be similar? Or would it be even stronger, since the connection would be both physical and emotional?
I tend to think I couldn’t love my husband as fervently if I had to share my devotion with a child, but what if it doesn’t work that way? What if I was able to have two great loves in my life, and could have twice as much joy? Unfortunately there’s only one way to find out, and that’s quite a risk to take.

As much as I dislike society’s mystification of the bond between parent and child, I can’t deny that there must be something uniquely special about that connection. After all, even God used the father-son relationship to explain His love to the world. There’s something powerful there that I’ll never be able to experience.

Yes, I know that part of what I am “missing” involves loud unpleasant noises, in-depth contact with various bodily fluids, and a terrible restriction of personal freedom. No big loss there, that’s for sure. And for me, I don’t think there’s any other loss either.
I know that God doesn’t want me to have children, so that must mean He’s got something better in store for me. There must be something pretty special that parents are missing out on too.
Flickr photo by Mr.mt (cc)

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LauraS said...

Shelley--Great post.
Any time you choose one experience over another you're "missing out."

The judgment comes when people infer that their choice is better than yours.

I've too have wondered if I would have enjoyed such a close relationship with my husband if we would have had children. My guess is "no" because we could not have taken the time to travel together, and the time to support each other physically and emotionally during stressful times in our lives.

My focus would have been on my children while my husband travelled on business. I would have functioned as a single mom. My husband would have been the Dad who shows up after three weeks away with an armful of gifts for the kids.

I would have been the disaplinarian, the bad cop, the one who had to say "no." I probably would have been over-burdened, resentful, dependent on my kids for an emotional connection. My husband would probably have felt like the odd man out, the guy who shows up with the paycheck and the stuffed animals but misses the recitals, and the practices, while he sits in an airport waiting for his connection.

I am an adult, I know that my husband's career is more than a pay check. It's his love. I know he would rather be home with me than some factory in China. But young children often don't understand this. All they see is Dad leaving them again and a stressed out Mom, unhappy to be left behind.

Given this likely senario, I'm glad I'm missing out.

Anonymous said...

Shelley -
What a refreshing perspective. I suspect parents know exactly what they are missing because we all start out Purple.

Thanks for this fine post!

jess said...

I keep coming back and reading this post. I think it is one of the most balanced pieces of writing on this subject that I've seen. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Would my love for a child be similar? Or would it be even stronger, since the connection would be both physical and emotional?

I don't know about you, but the connection between me and my husband is both emotional AND physical. =)

- A

Shelley said...

Anonymous: Good point - I guess I should have said "genetic." :-)

Anonymous said...

Of course you are "missing something" if you choose a child free life. However, you are also "missing something" if you have children. It's a trade off because you simply can't have everything.

sfgal said...

I have also wondered the same. I have gone through my life preparing for a future without children. But what if I made a different choice? What would I be missing?

I heard a great analogy about this from a friend of mine that I would love to share...kind of abstract...could be applied to either side of the Mom/non-Mom side.

"I had been planning my trip to Paris for over 10 years. I read every single guidebook, every single magazine article. I researched where to eat, what to see, what to do. I compared data of the best place to say, and the best walking tours of the city. I knew the map of the city like the back of my hand. I bought a wardrobe that would be appropriate on my trip. Researched the best airfare, and best airline to take. Basically, considered myself the "expert" on Paris.

So I get on the plane. Fall asleep on my cushy business class seat.

I wake up, we land. I get off the plane, and I am in India. Paris...no. INDIA.

At first I am completely disappointed. Culture shock. I feel totally lost. I feel like my life has been thrown a loop. Everything I thought I would experience...is different. Everything I planned for is wrong. I never wanted to go to India!

But after a few days wandering around the streets of Bombay, I discover Curry. I discover architecture of the East. I smell the flowers and fall in love with the fabric. I wander the streets mapless. Eat in places I find randomly. I cherish the beauty of this place...a place I never planned to see in my lifetime.

You never know where your life will take you. But all choices lead to a different experience that is both beautiful and cherished. No decision is the "right" one. Because all choices enhance you life."

Childfreeeee said...

Great and thoughtful post.

I have always been of the opinion that people with children are missing out on a hell of a lot more than I am and frankly, I find it shocking that people still think of the childfree life as one of "missing out". In fact, I wrote a whole post on this in my blog if you want to read it!