May 12, 2007

Happy Not-Mothers Day to Happy Not-Mothers!

So Mother's Day is almost upon us. On that day we will all think of our own mothers, and those of you who are mothers yourselves may soon be receiving expressions of gratitude: cards, flowers, candy, or perhaps breakfast in bed. (Burnt toast, undercooked eggs and cold coffee were what we proudly offered our mother when we were little--but being a good sport, she always pretended to be thrilled).

But it's not quite Mothers Day yet, at least not in North America. So today Crabby is proclaiming it officially "Not-Mothers" Day here at Cranky Fitness. This is in honor of all the Not Mothers who may be lurking in her readership--and particularly those women who are childbearing age or older who do not have grateful spawn of their own lining up to celebrate their existence tomorrow.

So here's an interesting study about women's decisions to have or not to have kids. The results challenge the notion that women who don't have children will end up bitter and regretful in middle age because they're not getting their share of saccharine Hallmark cards on mother's day.

According to University of Michigan sociologist Amy Pienta:

"Whether a woman has had children or not isn’t likely to affect her psychological well-being in later life. What is more important is whether or not she has a husband, a significant other or close social relationships in her life as she ages."

There are some interesting nuances in the study, which surveyed 6,000 women between the ages of 51 and 60. Moms who had kids early, for example, were not nearly as happy as those who delayed.

Crabby, though a believer in scientific research, doesn't think anyone in her right mind should make such a huge life decision based on somebody's study. But she appreciates hearing that she most likely won't be suffering any additional crabbiness as she gets older solely because she failed to produce little Crablets of her own.

Do any Moms or Not-Moms (or Dads or Not-Dads) have any thoughts to share?


  1. I made the decision in my mid-thirties to not have children. I was much older than my half-sibs and had no desire to return to a child-oriented lifestyle. I'm also one of those people who needs a lot of down time, away from interactions with people, especially needy people.

    I tried for a long time to force myself into an extrovert mold and ended up with a lot of mental health issues as a result.

    Once I started living in a way that matched the personality God/Nature had given to me, everything changed. No more neuroses, heavy drinking and suicidal behavior. No more need for shrinks and counselors. I no longer hated the world.

    If I had kids, I'd be doped to the gills on Prozac. I'm sure of it. And I'd almost certainly resent the hell out of the innocent kids, who by their very nature are needy.

    I'm so glad I didn't have kids just because I thought I had to!

    I should add as a caveat, though, that the way American society is currently structured is a recipe for neurotic parenting. In an earlier era of small villages (or lots of servants, if you were rich), no one was stuck with the lion's share of parenting. If a mom was being driven mad by it all, there was always someone who could take over for a bit until she felt better. Now, it's "You're a baaaad mother! You need some pills!"

    So I have total admiration for women who can raise kids in this crazy society and not have it drive them over the edge. But it's not for me.

    I hate hearing that you'll be sad in old age if you don't have kids. Kids are no guarantee of anything. You have to want them for their own sake, not as "insurance" against future loneliness, poverty, or whatever.

    If you want kids and have them, though, you'll likely be happy. If you don't want them and don't have them, you'll be happy, too. It's the ones that want them and can't have them or the opposite-- don't want them and have them anyway, who suffer.

  2. Bunnygirl,
    I don't have anything the least bit smartass to say--that was just so eloquent and moving.

    Thanks so much. I think your words would be extremely helpful to any woman struggling over a tremendously difficult decision.

  3. Yeah, I'm with the Crab on this Bunnygirl. I've usually got a wise crack in me, but I think you said it all so nicely that I will restrain myself.

    I went through a stage in my thirties when I seriously contemplated having a child "on my own". I didn't, and now in my fifties I know I made the right choice. I have a wonderful husband, and a fulfilling life. I wouldn't have made the greatest mother.

  4. I have a relative who's very self-centered and not a very nice person in many ways. She never had kids, and I give her serious kudos for that. She knew she wasn't parent material, and she made a choice and stuck with it.

    I never wanted kids. People assured me for years that I would someday. It never happened. I have never regretted it.

    The best thing we can all do is figure out whether parenting is really for us, and then don't let anyone pressure us into doing it if it's not. Kids deserve people who really want them and are prepared to make them the focus.

  5. Oh - and I don't have a significant other, don't want one, don't have many friends I'd describe as close, and I'm happy that way. I don't for one second believe that being "alone" is damaging for everyone - it depends what works for you, and I resent the attitude I get that sometimes makes me feel people don't believe I'm happy on my own.

  6. betacandy,
    Greetings, and thanks for your thoughtful comments!

    I agree with you completely. While it might be interesting to look at studies and statistics, conclusions about what makes people happy "on average" are meaningless when applied to unique individuals. Some people are extroverts who aren't entirely happy unless they're surrounded by others; lots of the rest of us are happy by ourselves or with a few carefully-chosen companions.

    I tend to like like studies best, however, when they say that people who choose to do something I wouldn't in a million years aren't nearly as happy as I am. I take studies as validation of my choices when they agree with me; when they don't they're hogwash.


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