POSTED ON Mar 20th 2013 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Fertility
Why does the possibility of regret hang so heavily over us? A commenter over at the Cowardly Feminist asked that question last week. The blogger, Vesta Vayne, had written a post about her current angst over whether or not to have children. Always believing that she didn’t want kids, now in her early 30’s she has doubts.
We have many regrets in life. Why does the mere thought of this one about children hold so much power over us, especially women? Two points: first, decisions not to have children eventually become final for women. That eventually arrives relatively early in life. The possibility, even if only theoretical, continues for a man while a woman will have decades to live with the knowledge that she cannot produce children. Consider, even in the high-tech fertility world, many women trying to conceive in their late 30’s use donor eggs. That is, the early 30’s baby hunger isn’t about hormones but about timing. A woman has to answer the baby question. A man doesn’t.
Two, the desire to have children is, at root, about meaning and consequence. The childless often boast how they can jet off to some new adventure or otherwise order their lives as they please. That sounds lovely. Eventually, however, we all must reckon with our lives. If all we’ve only pursued our own pleasure, then our life feels hollow. As one of my friends, another mom of four, once told one of the self-righteous childless on FB who threw down some challenge for us to justify parenthood, “Parenthood connects us to the infinite and eternal.” Becoming a parent forces us connect to something bigger than ourselves, to a life that we can look back upon and know that it meant something that we lived.
Having children isn’t the only route to meaning and consequence, just the most common one. Those who either have no children regrets or have made peace with their regret, they created meaning and consequence in some other aspect of their lives, but it is hard to achieve. Compare the stories of Elizabeth Wurtzel and Liz Jones to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice And UK Home Secretary Theresa May. Rice and May accept and transcend their regret. Wurtzel and Jones despair. It might help to ponder why.