Married Without Children, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 12 2011 @ 12:45pm

A reader writes:

My husband and I are childless by choice. What struck me about your post was the quote that childless-by-choice couples have certain personality traits of being introspective, who think before they act. It never occurred to me that this is maybe another influence on my choice. 

My reasons for not having kids are many, some of which are ideology-based; I believe in slowing down global population growth, and I also believe that if I wanted a kid there are lots of unwanted ones already on the planet who need parents. But the real reasons – and I think this is true for couples who want children – are emotional and experiential. Ever since I was a little girl, I didn't want kids. I just didn't. I didn't have the happiest childhood and became aware in my early 20s that I didn't want to perpetuate the dysfunctionality that I grew up with.

I have child-free friends who feel the same way, but I also have friends who had kids because they had a shitty upbringing and were determined to raise kids who would be happier than they were growing up.

As a woman, there is a pretty strong assumption that you want kids. When my husband and I started dating, he was 10 years younger than me, and I was in my supposed "ticking biological clock'"phase of mid-thirties. So I initiated a pretty uncomfortable conversation rather early on in our relationship to hash out the whole kids thing.

All that said, one of my most satisfying and amazing experiences as an adult is that of Auntie. We have five nieces between us, and we are the "fun" Auntie and Uncle, and we treasure all of the perks that this entails. You get to feel the attachment and the love from amazing tiny humans, plan fun things with them, let them eat junk food, and yes, give them back. 

I've always been a huge fan of Auntie Mame, and though we may never live in a NYC penthouse with parties and bathtub gin, as a girl I knew that Mame was my kind of lady.

Me too. It's great to be the uncle with the American accent whose name is printed in the Sunday paper. One of my nephews and my niece have come and visited me and Aaron in Ptown. I love the fact that, aside from a trip to Boston, Provincetown is what they think of as America. If they had been my own kids, that kind of magic – and illusion – would not be possible. They'd know me too well.

Which is not to say that their relationship with their parents isn't infinitely deeper. Just that there is a place in the world for the childless – and uncling and aunting is one of its perks.