Last week's cover story about young people who never want children got a lot more response than I thought it would. I know people feel strongly about their own decision to have children or not have children, but seeing the wave of responses about how the decision to have kids is either RIGHT or WRONG surprised me.
I feel like I'm in a relatively small group of people in the gray area. I know I don't want kids within the next 10 years, but never? Yikes. I don't even have any tattoos or piercings, so getting my tubes tied is a long, long way off. I think not reproducing is a highly ethical choice, but I'm no moral absolutist (my friends make fun of me for being the kind of vegetarian who eats a turkey sandwich once a month or so) and think it's okay to be selfish about some things—especially the "thing" that can be the happiest, most important part of some peoples' lives.
Part of what makes my own decision difficult is that mainstream society absolutely refuses to discuss the possibility of baby regret. People with kids can complain about losing sleep, losing money, and losing their personal lives, but it's absolutely taboo to utter regret for ever having kids. Now that we have the technology and societal freedoms to allow young people to never pop out a kid, my generation is making that life-altering decision in a conversation void. When we can only talk about the positives of bearing children, no wonder people who opt for a childfree life get flack for being weirdos.
That's why I was happy to have a friend post Dear Abby's recent survey of baby regret. According to the venerable, very vanilla advice giver, 22 percent of her readers said they regretted having kids. Though it's not a remotely scientific survey, it's worthwhile noting that there's many, many people out there who regret having kids. A scientific study of women who get sterilized when they're under 30 turned up that 20 percent of women regret the choice. Both having kids and getting sterilized are major permanent decisions—but one we're not allowed to talk about.
I'm not sure how we go about having this conversation—it seems like a dialogue that would exist best online, where people can be anonymous. But it would be nice to acknowledge in everyday babymaking discourse that regret goes both ways. It seems that for every woman who regrets getting their tubes tied, there's likely a woman who regrets having a baby. Fingers crossed I figure out what I want before winding up in either camp.