Friday, January 28, 2022

Unexpected Admission

Times are hard. But I don't have to tell you that. Just like I don't have to tell you that life was hard before the pandemic. But now things are even harder. In unpredictable ways.

It reminds me of a very unexpected thing a co-worker told me a couple of years ago.

I'd been working at my first hospital for a couple of months and noticed this one woman hadn't mentioned any kids. I don't usually ask people if they have kids. If they have them, they eventually come up in conversation. But she hadn't mentioned anyone except her husband, so I decided to just ask her. What she voluntarily told me took me by surprise. I'd never heard anyone before or since say anything like it.

Me: Do you have any kids?

Her: No. I mean... We wanted to, but my husband and I decided not to. We don't think it's fair to bring a child into this world. We don't know what the future looks like with gun violence and climate change and everything.

I was shocked. She didn't know anything about me or my perspectives and she just fearlessly and shamelessly told me how she decided not to have children. I wasn't expecting her to say something so stark and realistic, especially so casually at work.

And this conversation happened before the pandemic! I have thought about it often ever since.

It's not like I had a choice about not having children. And it's not like parents got a choice about the pandemic. We are all just living through these hard times, some of us while parenting and some of us while grieving and healing from the lack thereof.

But I often think about that co-worker and the reasoning that informed her difficult decision.


  1. Unpredictable is certainly the word for these times. I have found myself more than once wondering how humans throughout history have managed through previous plagues and related disruptions. It will be interesting to see what the long-term impacts of this chaotic period. FWIW: It seems your colleague was not alone. I've read in a few places that quite a few are opting not to have children given the many problems swirling ...

    1. It's not an easy time for anyone, that's for sure!

      I've been wondering how I've been getting through it... Then I realized that I've learned how to live with a profound sadness while looking for little things to enjoy.

      I've also been trying to imagine what the long-term impacts of this extended experience will be. I don't know yet. I know I feel changed but I can't put into words yet how I feel changed. I think the individual and societal impacts will reveal themselves over time...

  2. I'm glad she was able to explain her decision, and hope that she felt willing to do so. It's rare to hear someone say "we wanted to, but ..." and then not have infertility or other childless-by-circumstance reasons. Very interesting.

    The issues she mentioned (not gun violence - though we have it it's not an issue here in NZ in the same way) are also one of the reasons why I find it easier to be at peace with our situation.

    1. I was so surprised! Like I wrote, I haven't heard anyone say anything like that before or since. I've read some articles with that sentiment, but that was the first (and so far only) time I've heard someone say it out loud as their reason for not having children. I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision...

  3. I know a lot of young people are thinking long & hard about whether to have children for these exact reasons. I can't blame them, and yes, sometimes I think that maybe it's for the best that the children we wanted never materialized. Dh sometimes asks "What sort of a world is Little Great-Nephew going to grow up in?" Hard to think about. :(

  4. I love the empathy in this: "We are all just living through these hard times, some of us while parenting and some of us while grieving and healing from the lack thereof." I agree with others that it is easier to be at peace knowing that the world is so very broken. I still feel a bit of shame thinking that though.