Lately, I 've been reading about so many different reasons, from mainly limelight-hogging celebrities, for not having children. I thought I should add my ageing male viewpoint. People espousing being child free as a choice and not by circumstance are somewhat missing the grand point. Which is this: the childless person making that decision is completely different to the person they' d become if they were to have one. There are hormonal changes in both men and women that nature deems necessary to prepare for the new role. For women the major changes of incubating a future life, but for men also their testosterone decreases as they go from Lad to Dad to prepare them for paternal duties. Subtle hormonal changes also occur through adoption or via surrogacy as you consciously decide to parent the body/brain accommodates and aids your choice. You do not have to feel overly maternal or paternal beforehand to trigger the response that you are now somehow ready for the Grand Undertaking. There are no flashing lights that signal NOW NOW. Somehow and somewhat ironically it is never the right time to have kids for many people. It could be the wrong partner, the right job, innate selfishness, stubborn refusal to grow up, financial restraints or the need to prolong until a later unspecified date....that never arrives.
And as its Poetry Day on Sat 21 March, singalong with me
I am a bachelor, I am free, what's for dinner, what's for tea?
Whatever I please, whatever I please,
I am a bachelor, look at me, smartly dressed in my own stylee,
Loadsamoney earnt by me, to spend on who? That's easy ..Me.
whenever I please, whenever I please.
I am a bachelor, by choice you see, though every woman fancies me
But I can't commit there's more to see
I am a bachelor, I am free, I am selfish, Me, Me Me
It's all about me, It's all about me
I am a bachelor lonely as can be, I've had my fun don't pity me
Got no kids, no family tree but I've got a new car and flat screen tv
Is it all about me? Not sure you see
I am a bachelor tell me sincerely, does everybody envy me
And if they don't, what's life for me, is there really more to see?
Before I'm old and unhappy....Save me, something save me, please.
A sperm, an egg, million to one
A test result, new life begun
Where there was one, now there are three
An unborn child, mother and me
And so I bid the old life bye, awaiting baby's primal cry
The bachelor has had his day, life part two awaits some say
With boundless love and wordless joy
No matter whether girl or boy
The belly swells, the hormones swirl, got your mother in a whirl
I'm ready, what will be, will be.
On being Dad, it's not about me....finally.
Getting back to my point, for me at least there was an unexpected transition...I was not the same person I was before kids. There were gaps in my viewpoint of the world, attitude, understanding of love and relationships and comprehending my full abilities that I would not even have known existed. I had not had to plug those gaps as there was no need to acknowledge them in the pre-kid world. Afterwards there were so many things I just seemed to acquire naturally and it suddenly dawned on me finally what the fuss was all about. I can only imagine that it's an instinctive response, an innate desire to survive and protect your offspring over and above yourself if required. In fact if I look back I even find it difficult to recognise my old self. This is why I feel it is difficult for adults to be so totally sure that they don't want to be this new person that they really have no conception of. Some part of the unwillingness to conceive could be blind fear, almost panic, that you will have to be responsible at keeping another human being alive for as long as possible. That commitment, the helplessness, the unsure unknown and unspecified doubt all conspire to have some of us believe "Nah, no thanks, not for me, not interested, must dash". Byeeeeeeee.
The thing is I was one of the Total Doubters. I'm the eldest, at the time of being Dad I was 56 years old, of a huge family consisting of nine brothers and sisters who between them had produced at least 25 children at the last count. I liked to think I had escaped that breeding rigour routine. I was a happy singleton, a world traveller, free to do what I want, go where I please, any old time. A week before my girlfriends pregnancy I had told her I had never wanted kids, I would not be a good Dad, blah, blah. I had so convinced myself. I was very believable. It was definitely what I wanted.....wasn't it? What the hell did I know? All I know is when I made a New Years Resolution for a new project I had in mind a house renovation not instigating a lifetime commitment. However, after the test said Bingo! and I knew Yes was the only answer, selfish traits of my old character slowly, slipped away as I prepared not to be number one any more. I had been relegated...in a very nice way to number two in the grand scheme of things. Was it fate, randomness, good/bad luck, law of attraction? Who the hell knows?
Now I went from Total Doubter to patient, Euphoric Dad it seems in one fell swoop. I really didn't recognise some of the traits I was exhibiting as New Dad, as bearing any relationship to that pre-kid person. If beforehand I had been given a snapshot of the Euphoric Dad I was to become...I would have been impressed. Cool under pressure, patient, caring, problem solving, loving and an expert on poo densities to boot. What's not to like? But perhaps the misconception of people who make that definite choice to remain child-free, based on the notion that it is their prerogative after all, are simply unable to envision their new self in this new role. They cannot visualise loving another human creature more than life itself or acquiring such infinite patience, for instance. It is always easy to see downsides, a screaming child in the supermarket and a superior singleton thinking "Phew, not for me" but the upsides are something much more profound and perhaps invisible to the uninitiated eye.
Pre-kid adults have no conception (s'cuse the pun) of that dormant DNA lurking in some dark recess crooning Please Release Me, Let Me Go, let me breed, free the seed, feel the need in me. But its there. I ignored it for years quite happily. I was wrapped up in Self, Self, Self. What do I, I, I want to do, do, do. And then there I was dealing with doodoo...and much happier for it. To put it simply, it was a feeling of completeness, going full circle and reliving my own childhood through the eyes of another who just happened to be part of me. As you become Dad you also access your inner child. Two for the price of one. How cool is that? Your threshold for happiness becomes easier to attain. No need to worry about being hip, being seen in the right places with the right clothes and the right amount of money to spend. Just absorb the pleasure gained from the most trivial or banal activities of a child and the self-satisfying need flees. I'm not trying to convince anyone of the right or wrong way to live life, this is just my take on my change of circumstance. Some may see a rugrat brat, some may see a cherubic angel, some might not notice anything beyond their peripheral vision. Such is Life.