Parenting

 

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.—Frederick Douglass

To some of you who know me, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about “parenting,” since I’ve never been a parent. I’ve been reflecting on the choice to be childless; I think any good human beings who choose not to have children must sometimes contemplate their decisions.

Before we married, we discussed our decision about parenting. My husband had been previously married and had one daughter. He said the decision was mainly up to me, and I shared the usual selfish and narrow excuses of the time: that I couldn’t imagine trying to work and raise kids; that my mother was very difficult, and I felt I would follow in her footsteps; that achieving a balance in working and parenting was an illusion, and I didn’t want to give up work.

The usual self-serving excuses.

Do I regret never having children? I think investing in regret is time ill-spent. And I now know there were many more choices than I realized for balancing child-raising and work, such as part-time work or working from home.

I have led a rewarding life and am grateful for a nearly 50-year marriage. But I admit that there are moments of sadness when I reflect on those times I missed.

One thing I do know is that there are many fine parents out there who dearly love their children and who have invested time and energy in nurturing responsible and capable and loving human beings.

I’m glad they were up to the task. 

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  1. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    For those of you who would like to share parenting stories, happy or sad, I’d love to read them.

    • #1
  2. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Susan,

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your self-examination on such an important and personal subject.

    I think most people with children are reluctant to discuss the pros and cons of parenthood with those who, for whatever reason, have not and never will have children of their own. I read your post (as I almost always do) and was persuaded by that reticence, until upon reflection I decided that the topic deserves to be discussed — that now, more than ever, it needs to be discussed.

    I’m going to use this as an opportunity to express a few thoughts about parenthood, imagining my audience to be that growing population of young people who are considering committing themselves to a life without children.

    I think healthy humans of at least normal capacities, once they have achieved the essentials for survival and basic security — the lower levels of the pyramid of wants and needs — require purpose, both to feel meaningful in their day-to-day lives and to have confidence, as they grow older, that there was a point to it all. For most of us, children provide a hard-wired sense of purpose, an assurance that we will be able to look back on our lives and believe that we made a lasting difference, left our mark on the world.

    One can achieve that without children. One can commit oneself, as you have, to a life of service to others. That’s usually a deliberate act, something one has to go out and seek for oneself. We rarely wake up one morning and realize that we suddenly have no choice but to spend the next fifteen years caring for a hospice patient. Parents, on the other hand, experience something very much like that [in terms of level of commitment].

    I think people can live full, meaningful, deeply satisfying lives without children. I think it’s harder, even as the childless life tends to be easier in terms of material costs, flexibility, personal autonomy, and emotional burdens. The moral hazards faced by those who have the luxury of being able, if they choose, to think only of their own wants and needs, are considerable. I think it’s hard to become truly adult without taking on the responsibility, the actual duty and obligation, of caring for others.

    Speaking for myself: I think being a parent is the only thing I’ve done that will outlast me in any meaningful way. In those moments when I wonder what contribution I’ve made to the world, it certainly isn’t the millions of lines of code I’ve written that I think about. It isn’t the acts of service to my friends and community, or the handful of missions I support. For me it’s overwhelmingly the knowledge that I raised, shaped, and launched into the world six children, and that whatever mistakes I made (and I’ve made plenty), I gave them the most security and assurance of love I knew how to provide, and that, upon a moment of reflection, they’ll realize that my commitment to them was absolute.

    In summary, I strongly encourage everyone to have children. Those who don’t I hope will actively pursue opportunities to sacrifice their time and their hearts in service to others (as I believe you have done, Susan), because the alternative seems, to me, to be ultimately unsatisfying. Those who choose (and are able to choose) parenting will take on financial burdens, sacrifice freedom, invite exposure to emotional pain and stress, and give up countless opportunities to have fun.

    In exchange, they’ll be guaranteed a life of purpose and meaning. Few will regret the trade.

    Love,
    Hank

    • #2
  3. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I advise people to have children like Democrats vote: early and often.

    But unlike Democrats, the payouts are in direct proportion to the investment: the more you invest of yourself into your children, the better the entire world is as a result.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Susan,

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your self-examination on such an important and personal subject.

    I think most people with children are reluctant to discuss the pros and cons of parenthood with those who, for whatever reason, have not and never will have children of their own. I read your post (as I almost always do) and was persuaded by that reticence, until upon reflection I decided that the topic deserves to be discussed — that now, more than ever, it needs to be discussed.

    I’m going to use this as an opportunity to express a few thoughts about parenthood, imagining my audience to be that growing population of young people who are considering committing themselves to a life without children.

    I think healthy humans of at least normal capacities, once they have achieved the essentials for survival and basic security — the lower levels of the pyramid of wants and needs — require purpose, both to feel meaningful in their day-to-day lives and to have confidence, as they grow older, that there was a point to it all. For most of us, children provide a hard-wired sense of purpose, an assurance that we will be able to look back on our lives and believe that we made a lasting difference, left our mark on the world.

    One can achieve that without children. One can commit oneself, as you have, to a life of service to others. That’s usually a deliberate act, something one has to go out and seek for oneself. We rarely wake up one morning and realize that we suddenly have no choice but to spend the next fifteen years caring for a hospice patient. Parents, on the other hand, experience something very much like that.

    I think people can live full, meaningful, deeply satisfying lives without children. I think it’s harder, even as the childless life tends to be easier in terms of material costs, flexibility, personal autonomy, and emotional burdens. The moral hazards faced by those who have the luxury of being able, if they choose, to think only of their own wants and needs, are considerable. I think it’s hard to become truly adult without taking on the responsibility, the actual duty and obligation, of caring for others.

    Speaking for myself: I think being a parent is the only thing I’ve done that will outlast me in any meaningful way. In those moments when I wonder what contribution I’ve made to the world, it certainly isn’t the millions of lines of code I’ve written that I think about. It isn’t the acts of service to my friends and community, or the handful of missions I support. For me it’s overwhelmingly the knowledge that I raised, shaped, and launched into the world six children, and that whatever mistakes I made (and I’ve made plenty), I gave them the most security and assurance of love I knew how to provide, and that, upon a moment of reflection, they’ll realize that my commitment to them was absolute.

    In summary, I strongly encourage everyone to have children. Those who don’t I hope will actively pursue opportunities to sacrifice their time and their hearts in service to others (as I believe you have done, Susan), because the alternative seems, to me, to be ultimately unsatisfying. Those who choose (and are able to choose) parenting will take on financial burdens, sacrifice freedom, invite exposure to emotional pain and stress, and give up countless opportunities to have fun.

    In exchange, they’ll be guaranteed a life of purpose and meaning. Few will regret the trade.

    Love,
    Hank

    I am so deeply touched by your sharing your thoughts, Hank. I can’t tell you how much that means to me, that it is so beautifully crafted and is so genuine. And it’s all true. Thanks so much. Love back.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    iWe (View Comment):

    I advise people to have children like Democrats vote: early and often.

    But unlike Democrats, the payouts are in direct proportion to the investment: the more you invest of yourself into your children, the better the entire world is as a result.

    Your family is proof of this statement, @iwe. Thank you.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Like your husband, I left the choice to my wife. Not having to worry about children, I probably took far more chances in life. I started and ran three different businesses. I did other things that I would not have done had I had children to worry about and provide for. And, looking back, frankly, children were far better off under some other person’s care.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Like your husband, I left the choice to my wife. Not having to worry about children, I probably took far more chances in life. I started and ran three different businesses. I did other things that I would not have done had I had children to worry about and provide for. And, looking back, frankly, children were far better off under some other person’s care.

    Thanks, Arahant. It’s fascinating to see how some of us came to these decisions and how we see them later in life.

    • #7
  8. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    Mywife and I have four children. @henryracette expressed my sentiments much better than I could have. When considering the “mark”/what good I’ve done in this world, it’s been them. 

    I enjoy work but nothing has come close for giving me a purpose in life than helping to take of my family (and my wife works, wouldn’t have been able to do it without her – both as mother and as additional breadwinner after kids were in school full-time).

    MySon was asking me what it was like and I told him how an instinct-like force took over after we had kids. I was a pretty non-focused, party-guy from the Happy 80’s.

    Biggest source of angst is the mess we’re leaving these kids, I am very anxious about it. Looking forward to grandkids but still very anxious & angry about future for them – and Global Warming is not remotely part of that anxiety.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    WI Con (View Comment):

    Mywife and I have four children. @ henryracette expressed my sentiments much better than I could have. When considering the “mark”/what good I’ve done in this world, it’s been them.

    I enjoy work but nothing has come close for giving me a purpose in life than helping to take of my family (and my wife works, wouldn’t have been able to do it without her – both as mother and as additional breadwinner after kids were in school full-time).

    MySon was asking me what it was like and I told him how an instinct-like force took over after we had kids. I was a pretty non-focused, party-guy from the Happy 80’s.

    Biggest source of angst is the mess we’re leaving these kids, I am very anxious about it. Looking forward to grandkids but still very anxious & angry about future for them – and Global Warming is not remotely part of that anxiety.

    You and your wife are truly blessed to have each other. Well done. And I share your fears for the future, even though I don’t have my own kids who will have to deal with it.

    • #9
  10. Chuck Coolidge
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    I choose not to comment on the determination whether or not to remain childless:  I do suggest any decision to remain childless would be different if the State weren’t in some way involved.

    • #10
  11. Doug Watt Member
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    My wife and I raised two children. We knew when to say no and when to say yes. Both yes and no is said to prevent your children from having to learn every hard lesson from direct experience.

    We allowed both our son and daughter to go on group dates until their senior year in high school, no single dates. Our daughter did not like that rule. One day long after her high school days she thanked Karen and I because she said it was very easy to say no when she was asked for a date. All she had to say was my parents will not allow me to go on a date.

    • #11
  12. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    My wife and I raised two children. We knew when to say no and when to say yes. Both yes and no is said to prevent your children from having to learn every hard lesson from direct experience.

    We allowed both are son and daughter to go on group dates until their senior year in high school, no single dates. Our daughter did not like that rule. One day long after her high school days she thanked Karen and I because she said it was very easy to say no when she was asked for a date. All she had to say was my parents will not allow me to go on a date.

    Children thrive on well-considered structure. I told our kids — particularly the five boys — that they would lead regulated lives, and the choice they had was whether that regulation would be the product of their own self-control, or whether it would be imposed on them against their will by society and circumstances. I’m happy with the results, and think they probably are as well.

    • #12
  13. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    A candidate for office in a recent local Republican primary shared, as part of a long list of personal and professional accomplishments, that he and his wife were childless by choice.  Looking at his resume, the political PTB had assumed he would easily win the nomination.  The donors filled his campaign war chest.  He and the professional pols were shocked when a pro-family candidate beat him by over 30 percentage points.  

     

     

    • #13
  14. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    iWe (View Comment):

    I advise people to have children like Democrats vote: early and often.

    But unlike Democrats, the payouts are in direct proportion to the investment: the more you invest of yourself into your children, the better the entire world is as a result.

    I’ve tried to live without regrets. As a young father, I remember thinking that I’d never met any man who said he regretted spending time with his children. Like they wished they had spent more time on the golf course or pursuing their career.  So that’s what I did, and I recalled that thought at times when the kids were being a pain in my a**. 

    Also Vito Corleone: “A man who does not spend time with his family is not a real man.”

    • #14
  15. Al Sparks Coolidge
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    We knew when to say no and when to say yes.

    I’ve never had children.  But my mother once said about rearing children, and I was an adult by then, was how uncertain she often was on whether she was doing the right thing.  I don’t think she would have endorsed that statement without qualification.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    J Climacus (View Comment):
    So that’s what I did, and I recalled that thought at times when the kids were being a pain in my a**. 

    Kudos for your good choices, J!

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    We entered marriage not wanting children.  One big reason that neutral observer couldn’t have children, so it was not big deal.  After 9 years of childless marriage, my boss at work told me about this family of kids who lost both parents in an auto accident, and how lucky they were a childless couple in their church adopted them.  That’s when the bug bit me, and I had no trouble selling the idea to NO.

    Long story short (long version told here: https://ricochet.com/227070/national-adoption-month/), we adopted three little sisters from Russia.  This June, the last one turns 30.

    We both know several childless couples, and if they have any regrets not having children, they keep those feelings to themselves.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    We entered marriage not wanting children. One big reason that neutral observer couldn’t have children, so it was not big deal. After 9 years of childless marriage, my boss at work told me about this family of kids who lost both parents in an auto accident, and how lucky they were a childless couple in their church adopted them. That’s when the bug bit me, and I had no trouble selling the idea to NO.

    Long story short (long version told here: https://ricochet.com/227070/national-adoption-month/), we adopted three little sisters from Russia. This June, the last one turns 30.

    We both know several childless couples, and if they have any regrets not having children, they keep those feelings to themselves.

    Every time I hear your story, I smile. It’s such a beautiful and generous act.

    • #18
  19. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    At a graduation party on Saturday, I was able to have an extended chat with a former co-worker/friend who had moved to another state.  He and his wife longed to have children, inspite of [insert a narrative about medical interventions], this did not happen for them.  Nearly at the end of their patience, the wife’s sister became pregnant without benefit of marriage.  My co-worker and his wife agreed to adopt the child, a girl.  They formed a lovely family.  About 3 years later wife became pregnant and they couple had a second child.  Two years later, a third.  Two more years later, a fourth.

    If you ask me, I’ll point to them as another example that miracles still happen.

    • #19
  20. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    I can’t imagine my life without my kids.  On the other hand, I can’t imagine my life without bourbon.  Although both give me headaches sometimes.

    I have friends who don’t care for bourbon.  That mystifies me – what are they living for?  But they seem to do fine.  I guess bourbon is not for everyone.

    Neither is having kids.

    • #20
  21. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine my life without my kids. On the other hand, I can’t imagine my life without bourbon. Although both give me headaches sometimes.

    I have friends who don’t care for bourbon. That mystifies me – what are they living for? But they seem to do fine. I guess bourbon is not for everyone.

    Neither is having kids.

    Yeah, I get it: my daughter doesn’t understand why I like bourbon, either.

    Wait. Did I misunderstand your point?

    • #21
  22. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    I can’t imagine life without my kids and grandchildren. It wasn’t easy when we were both in the AF. Last night, I had one of the most relaxing nights in a long time. My oldest daughter’s in-laws had a supper party for friends and family. We each chipped in food. Since it was also my husband’s birthday, my granddaughter baked him a birthday cake. We had fun with the kids and spent hours eating, drinking, and talking. Since I was the designated driver, I had a virgin mimosa (orange juice). When the temperature dropped, we went outside and settled around the fire pit (no fire, just fans) and continued to socialize until 10PM. Without kids, and  grandkids, and friends with kids, this wonderful place I am in  my life wouldn’t exist. It might not be for everyone but I have no regrets and nothing I would want to have done differently.

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine life without my kids and grandchildren. It wasn’t easy when we were both in the AF. Last night, I had one of the most relaxing nights in a long time. My oldest daughter’s in-laws had a supper party for friends and family. We each chipped in food. Since it was also my husband’s birthday, my granddaughter baked him a birthday cake. We had fun with the kids and spent hours eating, drinking, and talking. Since I was the designated driver, I had a virgin mimosa (orange juice). When the temperature dropped, we went outside and settled around the fire pit (no fire, just fans) and continued to socialize until 10PM. Without kids, and grandkids, and friends with kids, this wonderful place I am in my life wouldn’t exist. It might not be for everyone but I have no regrets and nothing I would want to have done differently.

    RH, it sounds glorious. Every bit of it. Thank you for sharing it with us. 

    • #23
  24. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    I can’t imagine my life without my kids.  On the other hand, I can’t imagine my life without bourbon.  Although both give me headaches sometimes.

    Truth . . .

    • #24
  25. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Red Herring (View Comment):
    Since it was also my husband’s birthday

    Tell Mr. Red “Happy Birthday!” from the Stads . . .

    • #25
  26. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Stad (View Comment):

    Red Herring (View Comment):
    Since it was also my husband’s birthday

    Tell Mr. Red “Happy Birthday!” from the Stads . . .

    He says thank you. 

    • #26
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