The Sad Lives of Couples Who Opted Not to Have Kids

My wife and I raised two self-confident, spirited daughters. Now in their late twenties, they both had to overcome several daunting childhood adversities, starting with the fact that one of their parents was a humor writer who had the maturity (on a good day) of an eight-year-old. But out of respect for their privacy, I will not reveal which parent that was.

I often feel deep empathy for all those couples who opted never to have children. Both my wife and I have siblings who sadly made the mistake of choosing a life without offspring. Recently we called my wife’s sister to let her know how sorry we felt about their shortsighted decision to never have kids, but no one was home. Turns out her sister was away with her husband on a two-week Caribbean cruise. She must be living in such denial about their lapse in judgment.

Oh sure, people who opt out of having heirs have time to travel the world, but how can the fleeting pleasures of 14 days in the Maldives in a four-star villa looking out on sparkling blue water possibly compare to the joy of a three-day getaway weekend to Disneyworld in Florida with your kids in July. Trust me, the It’s a Small World ride will totally be worth the 50-minute wait in 97-degree heat and sweltering humidity.

People who have opted out of continuing their lineage don’t know what they’re missing out on. Like the satisfaction of successfully changing an infant’s poopy diaper – 1,465 times over two years. Or the thrill of cheering for your nine-year-old in a rec soccer game when they suddenly realize they just kicked the winning goal – for the other team.

Childless couples will never know the thrill of visiting the emergency room for stitches after your 5th grade daughter came up with the brilliant idea to skateboard down a playground slide during recess. Or the surprise of returning home two hours earlier than you planned on a Saturday night to discover your 17-year-old son hosting a kegger party – with strippers. Thankfully, the neighbors called the cops, who broke it up before things really got out of control.

Some people cite as their reason for not having kids that it would interfere with their career aspirations. As a parent of young children, you can pursue any job you want, just so long as they let you start work after 9am and leave by 2:30, so you can be home before the kids, and your employer lets you work from home whenever one of your kids is sick (which I estimate to be roughly 20% of the time).

Sure, couples who choose to forego having kids usually avoid some minor expenses that the rest of us typically experience. But can you really put a price tag on the delight in your six-year-old’s face when they tell you they got the part of the fourth Christmas tree from the left in the school Christmas play?

I’m not going to lie to you, raising a family can be expensive. People say the biggest purchase a couple makes is buying a house. That couple apparently never had kids. Because the cost of supporting a child to age 18 is equivalent to the cost of buying FOUR houses – except that they don’t increase in value over time, you can’t sell them for a profit, and after 16 years they’ll probably inform you that they hate you. Okay, so having kids tends to be expensive – and exhausting. You can’t put a price tag on your 13-year-old’s beautiful smile. On second thought, you can. That would be $13,000 over six years for braces.

I’m getting the gnawing feeling I’m not making a very good case for having kids. Let me try again. My point is that I love our daughters. They have brought me so much happiness that it’s impossible to quantify. So what if our decision to procreate delayed my retirement plans by 13 years? So what if vacations for 20 years as our kids were growing up would consist of camping in a tent instead of villas in the south of France? So what if every now and then, I found myself getting sucked into shouting matches with my middle school girls about the fact that just because the Millers let their daughter Ashley have a smart phone doesn’t mean you’re getting one…. And so many other precious memories.

It’s true, childfree couples can live more spontaneously, hopping in the car and driving off to wherever their spirit moves them. Meanwhile, we parents spend most of our spare time as chauffeurs, taking our kids to soccer practices, piano lessons, birthday parties, and the occasional ER.

Sometimes I envy those kid-free couples being able to purchase a fancy new car every three years. But I’d like to see them try to haul six kids in their shiny red sports car to the mall to see Frozen – for the fourth time, like we can in our 12-year-old Toyota minivan.

What I’m saying is I can think of dozens of reasons not to have kids. But all of those reasons stacked on top of each other still won’t offset the one reason we chose to raise a family: Because for us, having a family was more important than accumulating expensive houses and fancy cars. No regrets.

My life is filled with memories that you simply can’t put a price tag on – like the summer I taught my then 16-year-old daughter how to drive. Okay, technically, you CAN put a price tag on that memory: $1,650 to be exact – the cost to replace the car’s front bumper when she drove it into a landscaping rock next to our driveway on the very same day she passed her driver’s test. Ah, the joys of parenthood.

For more of Tim Jones’ humor go HERE

Check out Tim Jones’ new YouTube channel, View from the Bleachers.

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