My Empty Dining Room Table

By Victoria Fryer 

My dining room table is heavy, wooden farmhouse-style table that seats six, comfortably—or you can put extenders on the end and fit anywhere from eight to ten people around it. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to have a large family to take up its seats: children coloring or doing homework, passing a dish around during a meal. Sometimes I look at it and feel that we are doing it a disservice by remaining childfree and not growing our family.

What I’m trying to say is that the table is something that brings out, to me, a sadness about not having children. But the fact that I sometimes feel sad about not having children doesn’t make me any less sure of my decision. And I know that might not make total sense.

One of the most difficult things to me about being childfree is that your decision is never really final. Unlike the finality of having a child, not having a child is just the absence of a thing that could totally happen later, maybe, somehow. So people will often say things like, “You’re young—you still have time to change your mind.” And, while technically true, I can’t help but feel like the unspoken words underneath are, “You have no idea what you want.”

But for me, knowing what I want in life is important to how I function, and making a firm decision about whether or not to have children was critical to that. I spent a lot of time thinking—both rationally and emotionally—about what decision I would make, and when I say now that I choose not to have children, it’s not something I say on a whim. It’s not something I say casually or chose carelessly.

Nevertheless, sometimes I’ll see a happy family at the park and think, ‘That looks like a very nice feeling,’ or I’ll think about my close relationship with my own mother and wish I knew I’d have something like that when she is gone. Or I’ll look at my dining room table with its empty seats, my front yard with no tea party picnic blanket, and think, ‘What a shame.’

Just because I sometimes mourn the other path, the experiences I’ll never have, doesn’t mean that I’m not sure about my decision to remain childfree. When I say that it’s important for me to have people around me who look like me—other childfree women who understand my experience—this is one of the biggest reasons why. It is difficult to talk about those kinds of emotions with parents, who may interpret it as ambivalence about your decision or tell you, “Well, you can always change your mind.”

I don’t want to change my mind. I made it up for a reason—many reasons. But, like the fact that I’ll probably never earn a Ph.D. or live in Paris or discover a planet, I sometimes just need to mourn the other path. And, maybe one day soon, I’ll invite my family over for dinner, and we’ll give that table a good using.

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.


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