Soon I’ll be sixty years old,Lukas Graham
Will I think the world is cold?
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me?
When I was 6 and thought about what my life was going to be, having children was always a part of the plan.
That’s just what people did;
They grew up, got a job, married someone, and had children.
It had been modelled to me by everyone around me throughout my life,
That was my future.
When I was 16, and knew I wasn’t ‘regular’,
I told myself that I’d have to stick to it.
Stick to the plan.
Find a woman, marry her, have children with her –
It would be my best disguise.
That was my future.
I was 26 when I decided not to have children.
And with that decision, everything I thought my life would be changed.
Any idea of how I thought it was going to look turned on its head.
Fortunately, for me this was a peaceful decision.
And, perhaps most important of all – it was a decision.
I was walking back home from grabbing a coffee,
Freshly married – to a man,
An uncle to two nephews at this point, and I thought:
‘You know what? I think this might be enough’.
And it turns out – it was.
And so now, this was my future.
It was such a calm feeling,
A freeing feeling,
A decision made without external pressure or expectation,
Without a lingering sadness or longing.
For me, it was a decision that came from looking at all that I had,
And feeling that in it all, I was whole.
Being an uncle, a friend, a neighbour to children around me,
We either shared blood, a last name, or a suburb in common,
And for me, that proved to be enough.
I felt relied upon,
The paternal part of me that I still possessed,
Could still be used even without a child of my own.
Because in my life, choosing to become a parent was only going to happen if I couldn’t imagine a future without a child of my own.
If I could see no way forward in life without it.
I know these people, and I think they make the best parents –
But that wasn’t me – so I wouldn’t.
Although, with any big decision made that drastically affects your future path,
There can often be panicked thoughts of ‘Have I made the right decision?’
‘Is my partner completely on-board with this?’
‘What will I feel down the line?,
‘What if you regret it when you’re 50’.
They’re all thoughts I’ve had by myself,
And things I’ve been asked by others.
But for me, choosing to become a parent was never going to be a decision based on a ‘what if’,
Or a decision made out of fear.
Not something to do in hopes of alleviating a potential future sense of longing, or future loneliness.
Because loneliness exists everywhere in the world.
And it doesn’t just come from people who don’t have children.
People with the largest families, people with smaller families, people with no families.
Loneliness won’t discriminate,
And I wasn’t going to bring a child into the world in an attempt to alleviate this for myself.
And so, I chose to trust in my love,
To trust my head, and in my heart,
And know that I had made the right decision – for me.
Becoming a parent is certainly not a decision that I was in need of being ‘talked into’.
Not a case of me being blind to see all the brilliant things that can only ever come from being a parent,
Or ever thinking I wouldn’t be good at it.
I can see how incredible that role is,
And all the love and joy that comes into your life along with it.
I know what my life will lack that with this decision –
I’ll miss out on Saturday morning cuddles in bed,
Coaching the soccer team,
And I’ll never experience or get to understand the love that a parent feels when they look into their baby’s eyes for the first time.
I’m aware that I will be living a very different life than if I did have a child.
But rather than fearing what I can’t do with this life after making this choice,
I’ve chosen to focus on what I can do instead.
Refusing to exist paralysed with indecision,
Or being bogged down in a downward spiral, forever tortured by what could have been.
I’m choosing to see the beauty in life after making this choice.
To be grateful for the freedom I have,
The time I have,
And all the good that I can do with both those things.
I’ve been relieved to find that, after coming to this decision, I still have the same amount of love existing in my heart,
With the same ability to give it back out too.
I just won’t ever be giving it to something and someone that is explicitly ‘mine’.
It’s been a relief I think, that after six nieces and nephews now (and plenty more to come down the line),
To know that I have the capacity in my heart to have it open even wider with each and every one that enters into my world.
There were initial fears within myself that I had decided to not become a parent because I lacked the heart,
Then came the fears that at some point that as an uncle my heart may soon hit a ‘love limit’,
That I’d stop feeling such a rush of affection for the next niece or nephew brought into my family,
And that I may not be able to be the kind of uncle I was to my first nephew to my last one.
But time has shown me again and again that these fears were not only baseless, but simply untrue too.
And for that, I am grateful.
One thing that proved to be hard was that although my partner and I were completely on board with our choice,
We had to begin telling people in our lives, when they asked the inevitable ‘baby question’, that we’d decided we weren’t going to have kids.
Back in the day, being openly gay was enough to have the topic of future children pretty much come to a grinding halt.
But these days, in a world full of blended, delightfully different versions of what ‘family’ is,
The option for my partner and I to have children is as normal as our ability to be legally wed.
Which has led to some uncomfortable conversations where we needed to explain more that we were actively choosing not to have children,
Not simply resigning ourselves to the fact that we couldn’t.
As it seems same-sex couples are now where women have been since the beginning of time –
Battling the expectation that they will become a parent,
And having to explain the choice not to ever have children to the bewildered masses.
There were tears shed from those we told,
And the phrase ‘But you’d be so good at it’ came up time and time again.
Which whilst we believe that this may be true,
For us, we’re now invested in – and focused on – being the best uncles we can be,
Forever grateful to be afforded that role and that opportunity.
My partner and I were fortunate to be in a position when discussing our options,
That, as males, a ticking clock wasn’t a crucial player in our decision.
That if we were to end up deciding to have children, the option could still exist for us.
There was always just going to be some pre-planning needed.
There certainly wouldn’t be any accidental pregnancies in this couple.
No drunken romp, broken condom or missed pill,
Resulting in a special ‘whoopsie’ baby.
Over the past decade, the number of eggs and wombs we’ve (metaphorically) had thrown at us by the women in our lives has been so kind and so generous.
People offering up a part of themselves and a significant period of their lives to help us complete a (hypothetically) missing part of our own life’s puzzle.
But for now, we’ve bundled these back up, and handed them back to their rightful owners,
As we head into the future excited about what’s to come,
Content and grateful for everything we have.
Because it’s not always a choice what road your life goes down,
And I’m acutely aware of the slog that deserving people, couples, and families go through as they fight for their turn to become parents or to expand their family.
There’s a lot of heartbreak as people journey to become the parents they were born to be,
And it’s with this in mind, that I am endlessly grateful for what I do have,
And for being afforded a choice in this matter,
To be able to take the time to find out where I stood on this decision.
To be able to make that choice myself, and most of all, to have that be a choice in the first place.
So don’t cry for me,
Don’t pity me,
Don’t think less of me.
Parenting simply wasn’t my destiny.
Not on my cards, or in my stars.
And if, for whatever reason, there was a child waiting up there for me to bring them into this world,
I hope that with choice,
There’s now an extra child in that cabbage patch, or bundled up in the sheet hanging from that stork’s beak,
Who will now find a new person and parent who is far more deserving of such an incredible gift,
For them to have as their own.
As they begin their own story and their own family together.
There is a fear I had and still have about what I will be leaving behind in this life.
Becoming a parent seems to give people a pre-set legacy as they leave behind the lives they’ve brought into this world and children they’ve raised,
And without having that, I often fall into the trap of thinking that my life isn’t enough, or as important.
It’s certainly not a fear I’ve gotten over, or one that I’ve worked through completely.
But what that fear has afforded me, is the drive to make the most of the limited time I have left.
I’ve discovered that perhaps the childless have a special role that only we can play in the lives of children around us.
An opportunity to be an integral part of the village that raises a child.
An ability that we, the childless, have to help fill in the gaps.
To be there, and offer a part of ourselves to those who are in need of it.
Whether it’s jumping in and planning an Uncle’s Day Out,
Or giving some weary parents a well-deserved sleep in or night out.
There’s enough kids out there who aren’t getting enough love,
And plenty of parents working themselves ragged to provide love and stability to those that do.
So maybe our superpower is to help ensure that the children in our lives have too much love,
And that those out there, who may be lacking some,
Get a bit more,
In whatever way that may be,
Simply by having us be there.
There’s never a perfect route in life;
And if there is, we can be sure that no-one has found nor taken it yet.
We’re all just here following our instincts, doing what feels right, as we each try and live the best version of our lives.
Some people with children will say that it’s the only way to live,
Some people with children will say they wish they had made a different choice.
Some people without children will say they missed an opportunity,
And some will say they’re doing just fine without them.
Which is why there’s no one right path –
There’s billions of right paths,
That head off in an infinite number of directions,
With their own peaks, troughs, and winding roads to work through.
In some ways, mine may be an easier road,
But in others, it may be harder.
But that’s life.
There’s no avoiding these tests.
And I won’t begin cursing all that I am lucky enough to have been afforded in life –
Because what I am most grateful for in all of this,
Is finding myself surrounded by a whole lot of love,
And having a whole lot of people I can give that love right back to.
Your children don’t have to come from you. They go through youCollateral Beauty