Have I Made A Terrible Mistake?

Abi And Baby

I’m 39 and I don’t have children, even though I always assumed that I would. Almost all my friends have kids and there are times when I think I might have made a terrible mistake. 

I don’t have children because the person I fell in love with and married decided that he didn’t want to have them. And also because my periods stopped when I was 22, due to the anorexia. Although the doctor says that everything is in tact and there is no reason that I couldn’t get pregnant, for a long time my self-esteem wasn’t buoyant enough to believe that I would be a good mother. And now that it is, it might be too late. 

Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of an existential crisis, I think that having kids is what gives meaning to life. But that doesn’t sound right. Shouldn’t we look inside ourselves for that sort of validation?

TAKING THE ROUGH WITH THE SMOOTH

Being a parent looks tough. It’s seems to add incredible pressure to relationships—that are difficult enough as it is; many of the world class mothers I know are crushing motherhood at the expense of fulfilment in other areas of their life; and for my father friends, often the sacrifices are far greater than they imagined.

Having said that, I’m acutely aware that I’m on the side of the minority and that is unsettling. I can’t work it out. Does everybody have kids because it’s the right thing to do? Or is that just an assumption that we haven’t re-examined in less religious times with more opportunities available to women? I wish this was something that we felt more comfortable talking about.

Maybe you can’t have everything. Maybe you can have the greatest relationship in the world. Or you can have a wonderful family. Or you get to do a job that thrills you every day. 

I met the philosopher Alain de Botton for lunch the other day and he told me he’s on a mission to tell adults who don’t have children that it’s ok. And I thought, thank you but I think I already know that. Having kids looks great but not having them is good too.

I just hope I haven’t made a terrible mistake. 

23 comments

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  • No you haven’t. There is nothing good/bad/ better or worse in the choices we make to have children or to be child free. Sometimes as you say, you can begin a journey imagining that certain outcomes will naturally evolve only to find that for various reasons your path isn’t as you expected. For those of us who always knew that children were never on our agenda it is liberating and empowering thing. There are so many ways to find fulfilment, to challenge yourself, to love and be loved. While the cultural pressures remain very real, there really is no right way. It’s entirely your life to live as you choose.

    • I think you should decide what is right for you Abi and go with it, don’t look back and doubt your decision – look forward to your future.

    • Thank you. That’s very reassuring. I think it is my ambivalence that is tripping me up. I don’t have the clarity that you have. I know that there is a version of life in which being a mother would be the greatest thing in the world but also, I naturally feel as you do—that I am incredibly lucky to have the freedom and ability to make certain choices that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Thank you again for your thoughts.

  • Hi AbI my partner Cara and I met you in Puerto Vallarta 10 years ago, we did a year travelling around Central America, we are a same sexy couple who never really considered having children, we decided in 2014 to look into adoption to try to give a child a good start in life, and a stable upbringing, we went through the process which took 10 months , in October 2010 we welcomed 6 month old boy/girl twins in to our life they turn 5 in March and we are all so Happy, being mums is most definitely the hardest thing we’ve ever done but we wouldn’t change any of it, we were 42 yrs old and many adopter’s we’ve met have been over 40 , I think having your own life, achieving your own goals and life experiences before embarking on mother hood is a positive thing, you are still so young and have plenty of time to be a mum xx

    • Oh wow. That’s incredible. Congratulations! I totally agree that it would be great to at least know who you are and have some life experiences before having children. You guys are doing it in an order that makes sense to me. It’s so inspiring. And I love that you are a same sexY couple! Thank you for keeping in touch. ❤

  • Hi Abby 😉
    I just wondered the opposite… how would my life looks like without my baby… I could go anywhere now and do anything without the fear of screwing her up, without having to ask her daddy… I could walk alway from relationship with him and never see him again. I could have a wild sex with many people without thinking what if she finds out… 😛 I guess no matter what we decide there is always the other side… and I think there is no good or bad choice it’s just us making it good or bad. FYI. would love to see you again 🙂

    • It would be so good to see you again Iza. I’ll have to come and visit you in Sayulita. I think you have just the right attitude. We are where we are. Let’s make the the most of it! ❤

  • I say do it. Its part of life’s great adventure, kids keep you young. It’s never too late anyway. My wife was 37 when we had our first. 40 when we had our second. You never know how you will feel until you get there, and I think there must be a minimal number of people in the world who regret having them.

    What we learned:

    1) The swimmers live for 5 days in the womb, so timing exercises are futile, and counter productive, they put you under pressure and make it less likely. just make sure you do it every three days or so around the two weeks your are likely to be fertile 9or all time if you want)

    2) in the same way, enjoy it, passion makes conception more likely.

    Good luck. thanks for the vids, keeping a 49 year old man flexible. My now 13 year old daughter has just got into fitness (she is a bit pudgy but we are terrified of pushing her for fear of anorexia etc) she loves MTB and loves your videos.

    • Huh! You make a compelling case. Thank you for your perspective. Food for thought indeed. When it comes to your daughter, if she loves MTB that is fantastic. As I’m sure you’re doing, encouraging her to be active in sports that she enjoys could be all it takes for her to get into a healthy shape. My biggest regret is ever having gone on a diet. It set me up with a strange relationship to food that I’m still trying to shake. If you can ensure that you don’t stock hyper-palatable foods at home, that is a really good start. I think providing the environment is more effective than taking a top-down approach. Stay supple!

  • Wow, I never get the urge to comment on articles, but I cannot help myself here (sorry).

    I’m not a woman, but I get the impression from those I know that once you feel a need to have kids it isn’t going to go away. Then once you cannot have kids it could become a big regret.

    I’d never thought about having kids, but its genuinely the best thing we’ve done.

    I get the impression you want to, it could be terrible if you let the chance go..

    Could you not get some checks done on whether you could have children and discuss it further with your husband?

    Good luck!

    • Thank you. I’m not married anymore so I have to address that first. But if it’s the best thing you’ve ever done, I’d be crazy not to at least give it be careful and considered thought.

  • Not a mistake, parenting is hard AF and there are sacrifices, but then there are gains too (like getting to mtn bike with them).

    I used to think not having kids meant not contributing, but non-parents contribute just as much and I think there are so many who can more readily volunteer their time to important issues since they aren’t tied up with feeding and diapers.

    Almost an empty nester now (last one in college) and my wife and I are finally able to have our own time, tons of travel. Three amazing kids who have and will contribute to help make the world better.

    • This is awesome! So good to hear. Thank you Troy. I have two fantastic nephews whose lives I intend to be a big part of. Sounds like the fun is just beginning for you guys!

  • Abi – there are other ways to be a mom. If you aren’t married now, then I think examining your desire for another husband is first priority. In the meantime, shepherd younger women and girls. You say that starting a diet was one of the worst decisions…..your knowledge and experience are a gift. Share them, in person. Mentoring is a way to parent. If you have any nieces and nephews, start asking God if you should move closer to them so as to share in their lives.

    Think about older women who would love to be a. grandmother – but THAT is out of their hands. I’d say the same thing to them!

    Be gentle with yourself, Abi!

  • Hey Abi – slightly off topic, but would you mind sharing how did you manage to have lunch with a hero of mine, Alain de Botton? Are you friends?

    Been loving your videos for many, many years now btw, I just never managed to write anything haha.

    Take care,
    Bálint

    • Hi! Thank you for writing and for sticking with the vids. Alain sent me a message on Twitter asking if I taught private yoga sessions in London. Unfortunately, I am not often in London so instead we met for a lunch that lasted several hours! He’s a great guy. What is it that you most like about his work?

      • Thanks for the reply, that’s awesome! 🙂

        Well, where do I start… I think his Book of Life website (https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/) is one of the best place on the internet. If you don’t know it, you definitely should, because there is a ridiculous amount of wisdom laying there, tightly packed and dispersed among the many topics. On top of that, on his Youtube channel and through many, many books he’s been giving actionable advice (or a place to turn to) for millions of people, for many years in times of despair. Not to mention, he’s one of the greatest philosopher of our time, also… Of course he’s got some flaws, but for me that man is just a modern day savior. Okay I should stop my ranting now because it’s getting awkward haha.

        Have you been familiar with his work before the meeting? Just curious.

        • I read Status Anxiety in 2008 and loved it. Next, I read The Art of Travel and most recently, I read How To Think More About Sex. I enjoy his writing but I tend to feel best when I set highish bars for myself—I don’t resonate so much with the idea of lowering expectations for peace of mind. I’m a bit more on the glass half full/self-actualisation side. But as you say, The School of Life site is amazing. I actually went to a talk there recently. It’s a cool set up.

          • Well that’s a very interesting problem you’re raising here. As I’ve said, I’m very familiar with his work, but I can’t recall where he talks about lowering expectations for peace of mind – either directly or indirectly. What his most important advices boil down to me are these:

            – Accept your imperfections wholeheartedly
            – Be vulnerable, because this is the bedrock of all relationships worth having
            – Know that you are a very irrational being
            – Fuck romanticism, as there is no one perfect being, and compatibility is an achievement of love, rather than its prerequisite
            – No matter what modern society tells you, it’s not always about you. Look up to the stars more often and know your own littleness
            – Religions suck but they can teach us many things

            He often talks about that you are good enough, which, FOR ME, is not in contrast with being a high achiever. Rather it’s just a necessary tool for preserving any mental sanity. 😀 But I completely see why you’re viewing it as a limiting mindset. I have a feeling you must resonate with Tim Ferris very much haha!

          • Oh…nice synopsis! Accept your imperfections wholeheartedly—I think is a wonderful idea but I don’t know if even he has been able to realise this. Being vulnerable is good but I prefer honesty. No doubt, we are irrational! I love all the cognitive bias stuff. I’m not sure how I feel about love. I think it is more complicated than even Alain has been able to articulate. For some, I think romanticism is possible, for example. Smallness is key! And I really love the way he simplifies the complex fields of theology, art and philosophy. Many people attack him for dumbing them down but you could say I do that to yoga, and my argument would be that I am trying to bring it to more people, the best that I can.

            By speaking to the majority of people, I think a lot of us get lost at the edges. Very few of us is normal in every way. Does that make sense? I prefer an approach where there are more options as to where you fit in. For example, monogamy is not at all difficult for many many people, but because it is for most, he speaks only to that group. Trends are interesting but they don’t account for all cases. Let’s say it’s 65%—that still leaves a lot of us that don’t identify/resonate.

            I have followed Tim Ferriss for a long time and he has been very influential on my thinking. But I think he is too hard on himself! Have you had a chance to read my latest piece on self-care? https://yoga15.com/thoughts/3-non-icky-self-care-techniques/