We haven't decided not to have children. We can't have children. There is quite a difference.
When asked 'do you have children?', especially at a work or social event with strangers involved, the responsive look when told 'no' can vary
We have had the simple blank stare, followed by: 'well why not - I'm confused?'
The ever more popular: 'damn - what are we going to talk about now then' grimace and the almost look of disgust that infers 'warning! I am talking to a selfish person who doesn't want to bring life to God's green Earth!'
Granted the latter seems a little harsh and I am sure most people don't even realise what face they are pulling.
The true reason behind not having children is illness related. It just can't happen. Mother Nature decided that cancer and a heart condition shall prevail and the ability to reproduce shall sit in the pile of 'what ifs' for the rest of our days. Even adoption is off the cards for the same reasons.
Once compelled to explain to random strangers at parties that biology is against us, the standard head tilt and pity often descends. No one is being mean. They think they are being nice, and truthfully most people are. Of course on the odd occasion people are downright patronising.
Okay, so whatever - a long drawn out questioning of what life is really for has been and done. No kids. Best enjoy life without them.
So we get to book our holidays at any time of the year. We get to relax in the evenings instead of being the family taxi, off to football practise, ballet lessons or karate.
If we don't want veg, we don't have it, nor do we need to stick those things in plug sockets so no one gets electrocuted.
However, there is an underwritten invisible pain in the so called joys of childfree living.
As is the way, when you reach a certain age your friends mostly start to have children and birthday parties, christenings and family gatherings all start to take place. Something then happens that isn't planned, no one deliberately sets out to action, but all of the people with kids have a natural rapport and pull together like magnets. The folk without kids are lost for words as we can't compare lack of sleep or state how much sick I have had thrown down me already today. If I did it would be a bit weird!
It can almost feel like we stumbled in off the street and just sat down.
Don't get me wrong, of course not having kids has it benefits. We do (allegedly) have more spare cash, less worry on a daily basis and of course the freedom to do whatever we wish and please ourselves.
The benefits for those with kids is always going to be higher though. Unless you give birth to Chucky or Damian from the Omen, the joys of raising a child are, I am told, endless. First word, first day of school, first laugh.... As I say, endless.
However, on the flip side of that are the parents who say they can't wait to get their life back. Can't wait for the offspring to be of a certain age so they can once again drink, holiday and go wherever they like when they like.
To say to someone who has been unable to have kids, despite the desire to be a parent, that they wish the kid didn't have so many school plays can come across as insensitive. Unintentional, but still, it is.
The circle of life just doesn't happen for everyone. The sheer joy of children is often taken as given thing. To hear people say they 'want their life back', or 'you don't know what it's like' can be hurtful. We have even had a friend say they might have an abortion as they didn't want another child. They knew full well we can't have them and I am not going to get on my high horse about pro-life or anything - I just think some people should perhaps choose their audience better.
Don't get me wrong, I am not under some illusion that having a family to raise is all Curly Wurlys and story times. Of course times are hard. But the sheer absence of a baby to raise doesn't automatically give you the freedom, money and will power to do whatever you want whenever you can. There is a child shaped hole that so many of us crave and will never fill.
We, as a couple, are extremely lucky. We have nephews and nieces, friends with kids we can be slightly involved with and a wonderful God-daughter. But they are not ours. It fills a small void and brings energy and fun whenever we see them, but that's not every day.
Also please don't misunderstand that this is jealousy for people with families. Friends with kids have admitted they also feel they have a void in their lives too. A mini-me doesn't necessarily make a whole you I guess.
But it would have been nice to have the opportunity to try.