Friday, April 4, 2008

The Authority on Regret

Have you ever met a woman who was staunchly childfree and never had an interest in having kids, but then suddenly changed her mind? Remember my Spa Ladies post? Well, I was thinking about getting my hair cut soon, which got me to thinking about my hairdresser and how she told me she never wanted kids until she was 38 and then she suddenly changed her mind. When I asked her why she changed her mind, she said, "well...I was 38 and at that point it was do or die. I was afraid I would regret not having kids later."

I thought it would be interesting today to discuss the idea that women who do not have children will regret their decision later. Most of us have been told this, usually by multiple people (usually other women), and I think every childfree woman, somewhere in the recesses of her subconcious, worries that maybe they're right - maybe she's kidding herself by choosing this lifestyle and that some day her choice will catch up with her and BAM - she'll realize she made the wrong choice. It's just a matter of time. We all know where this anxiety and fear comes - all the women who are warning us that we will regret our decision later. When you're told something frequently enough, eventually you start believing it is true. How can that many people be wrong?

Well, my question to you today is a very simple one: how can a mother possibly know that a childfree woman will regret her decision later? She is not childfree. She has not advanced to a later life without children. She cannot reflect back on a childfree life and make an assessment of whether it was a regretful decision. No, the only women who can authoritatively speak about any regrets of being childfree are childfree women.

If you want to know if childfree women really regret not having kids, ask a mature childfree woman if she is regretful. I can tell you from the studies I reviewed for my masters thesis that regret was not an issue for the majority of childfree women. Additionally, the studies I reviewed show that elderly and retired childfree individuals (as well as younger childfree) are happier than parents of kids, even when the kids are grown and out of the household. No type of parent has lower levels of depression than the childfree. In addition, the childfree have happier marriages and higher levels of psychological well-being than those with children. This doesn't sound like the makings of a regretful life to me.

When I think about regret as it relates to having or not having children, I wonder why nobody is asking mothers about their regrets - all the things they have sacrificed to have children - like my coworker and several other moms who told me if they had to do it again they wouldn't have kids. Why do you think they wouldn't do it again? Do you think regret might be a factor in their feelings?


CFVixen said...

Wow...great post! Although I'm only 37, I cannot imagine having any regret with this decision. It seems like a simple choice to me: do I want to have freedom and the money to enjoy it, or do I want to lose sleep, freedom, financial stability and clean poopy diapers, deal with tantrums, deal with bad grades, behavior problems, sickness, peer pressure, brattieness, trying to get them into college, etc......What were the choices again? Oh, that's right: Live my life to the fullest, or try to live my life through somebody else's. I know which one I'll pick!

Anonymous said...
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Trish said...

Okay. forget my last comment about writing about women who change their minds about having kids. Wow, you don't miss a beat.