This time it was another coworker. She is 65, married and has two grown sons (in their 30s). She's very fond of one of the sons - he has grown up to be a very responsible adult and a doting son. The other son has been nothing but problems for her since the day he was born. He still lives at home with her, has a drinking problem and she was lamenting about the many thousands of dollars she "wasted" putting him through private schools, hoping that he would make something of himself. She also said, in talking generally about motherhood, that she really didn't "like" her sons when they were kids - she loved them, but didn't like them. She felt like she lost her identity for many years when raising them - that all she did was work and give and sacrifice. So in listening to her complaining bitterly about motherhood and about how much suffering her one son has caused her (and is still causing her), I wondered how she might answer my famous question, especially since she's very fond of the other son. So I asked and she answered.
I also asked her "so, considering everything, would you say that having children was worth it? Do the rewards outweigh the negatives?" It took her all of one second to say, "no". She told me that all the problems she has ever had in her life were the result of having children. So I said, "so, if you had no kids, you think your life would be free of problems?" She answered, "no, then it would be the church" (she's a deaconess and her husband is a deacon in their church). We both got a chuckle about that.
So far to date since I came up with this "what if" question, I have asked it directly to 8 people, mostly women. Out of the 8, 7 have responded that no, they wouldn't have kids if they had to live life over again. Interesting, isn't it?
I have to say, I am really impressed with people (especially women) who have the courage to admit they feel this way because it's not exactly the sanctioned way to respond to that question. Women are supposed to LOVE motherhood and say it is the best thing they ever did. I guess they feel comfortable telling me their honest feelings because they know that I am childfree and will not be judgemental of them for how they feel about motherhood. I don't think many parents will admit these things to other parents.