Recently turned 42, I've been thinking about why I haven't had a child of my own, as I adore my 12 nieces and nephews and enjoy children's company wherever I find it.
In my twenties, I wouldn't have even considered having a child. I was in Los Angeles until I was 26, at first working full-time and going to school at night, then working part-time and going to UCLA in the day. On graduation, I headed down to Orange County to pursue my MFA in creative writing at the University of California, Irvine; I lived in Corona del Mar for those two years before moving to Irvine when I started the PhD programme in English. So you could say that in my twenties, I was too busy getting educated--and was hence too poor--for a child to be a real option.
In my thirties, when I married, moved to England, and finished my PhD, the reason for not having children changed: my men became the greatest barrier. I have always been attracted to men whose vocation--intellectual, academic, artistic, or some combination thereof--is their passion and ambition. Literature and writing have been my driving force for nearly all my life, and I relish the company of others who have a comparable sensibility. My ex-husband, whom I began dating when I was 27 (I moved in a mere three months later) and separated from when I was 34, is a reader in philosophy at a prestigious university and has always had an all-encompassing intellectual ambition. This meant that after he was late with several rent payments, the finances fell to me, then all travel arrangements (for conferences, family visits, etc.), etc. My next partner was a poet and musician, whose hours reading, writing and revising poetry, and reading about, listening to, and playing music, took nearly all his time outside his teaching. Along with the finances, I took up the greater share of housework.
I knew that to have a child with either of these men would be like being a single parent. While I know they both would have loved a child dearly, their vocations would still have been dominant, the first thing they turned to in a free moment. I believed--and believe--that circumstance would be destroying for me and any child.
Now that I'm in my forties, I've lost interest in having a child of my own. I love their company, and I think if I could have a few hours a week in the company of my nieces and nephews, any maternal urges would be completely satisfied. I want to get on with my writing--there are so many books I want to write!
It's hard to wish things had been much different, as then I might not be here, where I have (apart from the admin &c.) a wonderful job teaching promising writers, I travel regularly to give readings and workshops, and I've published two books of poetry and edited an anthology. In Britain I've made the best of friends, found a little success in my writing, and come to live in a beautiful city with one of the best men I've ever known. I suppose that explains why I've stayed in the UK as much as why I don't want to change course now.
Why am I telling you this? Now that I share a house and have been with my boyfriend for over a year, people are starting to ask about marriage and kids, and when I say I'm not interested in the latter, they respond with disbelief or dismayed surprise. Is it really still taboo for a woman to choose not to have children? If so, why?