When I was young, people asked: "Why don't you have kids?" I usually muttered back something smart-alecky like: "I had one, but I forgot where I put it." When it was too late to conceive, people asked me that same question, but in the past tense with outrage: "How come you never had kids?!?"
They asked it as if I’d made a careless mistake, as if I'd forgotten, as if I'd left the house without my pants. Now I'm older and the question has morphed into a statement with a despairing tone: "You don't have any grandchildren?"
No, I don't. Sadly, I’ll never have grandchildren, something I hadn't considered when I chose a career over family. Something that seemed obvious to those of you who planned your life out, but for people like me, I just hadn't thought it through. Yes, I forgot to have grandchildren. Understand, choosing not to have children was intentional. I wanted a college education and career from as early as I understood those words.
When I went off to college, feminists were touting "having it all." The only women I knew who had it all had the "all" part first and then had the kids. It didn't seem to work in the other direction. Perhaps I was just too self-centered and irresponsible to have kids. Maybe I was a narcissist with a conscience. I felt as if I could’ve handled grandchildren when I was younger, like perhaps part-time children. Maybe someone could’ve dropped them off and if I broke one the parents would’ve come and picked them back up.
Despite the cultural norms at the time, Mother discouraged me from procreating. She alluded to her life as an example, pointing to my rebellious younger brother and saying, "See?" Mother was an intelligent, competent woman who could’ve run a company. Like most women of her generation, a career wasn’t an option. Instead, she was a stay-at-home mom who raised three children and accepted home management as relevant. When I drove off to college, she reminded me: “You don’t need children to be valid. Don’t come back with a husband.” I didn’t.
But apparently, being a grandparent is the greatest high there is. Who knew? I must’ve missed that day in school. Now, all my friends and relatives are enjoying their grandchildren and blasting all over Facebook about how their grandchildren are the joy of their lives.
To compensate, I purchased a Shih Tzu puppy and posted her pictures on Facebook along with a funny quip: “Hey, I bought this adorable new puppy, Snickers. She’s the joy of my life!" But if you really knew me, you’d know there's an emptiness in my heart where the rest of you are bragging, sharing photos, and running off to Disneyland with your grandchildren. Instead, I'm home alone, wondering who I’ll my spend my evening with. Can't someone drop off one of their grandchildren for a week and then come pick him back up?