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Will I regret not having children?

By Allix Denham 

One of the many comments you hear aimed at non-parents is “You’ll regret not having children when you’re older”. This line is delivered with absolute certainty, as if the speaker can see into the inner depths of your being. How can they be so sure? How do they know something about your future that you don’t?

So let’s say they’re right. What exactly will you regret? I’m now in my fifties and I haven’t begun to regret my lack of progeny. In fact, the times I catch myself thinking ‘thank God I don’t have kids’ seem to be increasing. But let’s say these Mystic Mums are right, and once I hit sixty I’ll start regretting my choices. What exactly will I regret?

Will I regret never having been pregnant and not raising a child from birth? Will I be tempted to join the handful of ageing IVF mums who give birth long after menopause? Women such as Susan Tollefsen, who had daughter Freya when aged 57, or Patricia Rashbrook, who gave birth at 62, or businesswoman Elizabeth Adeney, who became Britain’s oldest first-time mother in 2009, when she had her son Jolyon (which means young at heart) at the age of 66.

Will I want to join their ranks? I can’t imagine I will. For starters, I fear that having a baby so late in life is incredibly isolating. Most young mums enjoy befriending and sharing experiences with other new mothers at playgroups and kindergartens. I can’t imagine a woman in her sixties fitting in, and nor can I imagine friends her own age putting up with that many stories of teething troubles or first steps. I certainly won’t regret not turning 80 with a galumphing great teenage son around the place, either.

All I have to do is look at my own mother, now 83, who’s in constant pain, getting increasingly forgetful and tires easily, and think, ‘You with a seventeen year old son?’ I don’t think so.

So perhaps I’ll regret not having a fully formed adult to call my own. One who’s intelligent, successful and well balanced, of course. Someone to spend Christmas and Easter with and whose birthday I’ll never forget.

To do so would be like regretting not becoming an astronaut, while failing to take into account all the study, training and hard work involved.

There’s no point in regretting a life that was never going to be your own, just as there’s no point in regretting those children, be they fully formed adults or babies. It’s better by far to carve out your own lifestyle, to develop your own friendships and interests, and to create your own reasons to get up every morning.

Regret, like guilt or worry, is a pointless emotion. Anyone who tries to burden you with future regrets is lacking imagination, and is to be ignored.

Allix Denham is a writer currently based in France. She and her partner have no children, but entertain the neighbour’s cat on a regular basis.

Childfree

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