Mother's Day 2024: Childless or child free? It's a bit of both for me - Gaby Soutar

Children are lovely, but I couldn’t eat a whole one. Joking!

I think kids are wonderful. My nephew and nieces are the sunshine of my life. However, I do occasionally wish I had offspring of my own. The feeling ebbs and wanes.

Still, like most of my major life decisions, the thought of planning a family was so overwhelming that I ignored the issue, until it was too late to do anything about it.

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Forget egg-freezing, or anything pragmatic. I prefer the self-sabotaging route.

A Mother with her newborn baby Pic:Pololia/AdobeA Mother with her newborn baby Pic:Pololia/Adobe
A Mother with her newborn baby Pic:Pololia/Adobe

If in doubt, do nada.

In reality, though, I think life always seemed complicated enough, without adding the biggest responsibility to the mix. I’ve never felt the biological imperative, or had the pressure of clucky parents telling me to hurry up and spawn grandchildren. They didn’t seem bothered whether I did or not.

The same with pals. Most of my friends are happily childless by choice. Thus, it never seemed as if my lack of progeny was something unusual.

There were always other practicalities too, including general lack of cash and other commitments bubbling away.

I always thought, if I’m not 100 per cent certain, I probably shouldn’t bother. And, so, I allowed it not to happen. I’ve done my grieving and soul searching bit. I’m glad those times are over.

Now, as I hover around perimenopause, I’m increasingly philosophical.

There are way worse things than being childless – or child free, depending on your perspective. I think I straddle both camps.

The downside is the sense of a road untaken, but there are plenty of those in life. I might imagine that one of the other routes would lead to nirvana. More likely, suburbia.

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I’m sure if I’d had one (or a football team’s worth), I wouldn’t have regretted it, but you never know. For mothers especially, it’s the greatest taboo to admit that you wish you hadn’t had kids, so maybe I would’ve said it was pure dead brilliant through gritted teeth.

I certainly don’t care about continuing the Soutar bloodline. My sister has been fecund enough for both of us. And, after all, the entire global population descends from Mitochondrial Eve. I guess she must’ve got together with Jock Tamson, since we’re all his bairns too.

Also, not to be too pessimistic, but how many generations are left on this planet? Two or three at most, surely. Maybe I would have felt less cynical about the future, if I’d had kids. I think, most likely, with extra skin in the game, I’d be even more worried about what’s to come.

I remember a friend once saying that he thought those who don’t reproduce are selfish. That stuck with me. Maybe I am?

Mind you, those who have them don’t usually do it altruistically. The world is overpopulated enough. We’re certainly not low on humans.

Perhaps my misguided pal thought his offspring would offer some amazing contribution to humanity, but I don’t think he’s known for prodigious DNA.

Also, it’s fine to say all that, when you’re not the one who’s responsible for pushing a human out of your body. I’m sure some of my lack of enthusiasm on the subject has something to do with a gnarly video they showed in Eighties sex education classes. It was like aversion therapy.

Occasionally I do feel it would’ve been nice to have someone to really adore. I mean, my husband is OK, but he’s not as cute as he used to be.

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However, that’s about all I have, when it comes to the bad stuff.

There’s also the child free positive side of the coin. We may not get paid much, but at least my husband and I get to be DINKS (Double Income No Kids), so it’s easier to weather the cost-of-living crisis.

Also, I'm quite happy to think that when I bite the dust, my nephew and nieces will inherit whatever cash, property or strange objects – who gets the taxidermy finches? – I leave behind. There should be at least £4.50 in the bank for each of them.

Whatever there is, it will help, so they better be nice to their auntie in her dotage. No pushing me down The Mound in my bath chair for a laugh. If that happens, it’s all going to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home.

There are other pleasant child free things. It’s my favourite thing to have no commitments, and nowhere to be. I can feel my stress unfurl like a prayer plant, when there’s a day of nothingness. The approach of those void-like hours – a time to breathe – is my touchstone.

There’s also the fact that, if I had gone ahead and had kids at the average age for women, which is now about 30 or thereabouts, they’d be in their late teens.

I love a chubby cuddly baby, and little kids are super fun. My nephew, at four-years-old, is at peak adorable.

Teens, on the other hand, are hard work. It’s a tough time to be a teenager, with social media and peer pressure, and I have no idea how I’d help them navigate this new world. It makes Adrian Mole and his diarised concerns seem like an innocent relic of ancient times.

So, regrets, I have a few. You can’t have a life without them.

Sometimes I feel childless.

For the remainder of the time, I celebrate being child free.



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