For a long time now, I’ve been bothered by the idea that we have to choose to between what’s best for other people and what makes them happy. This comes up all the time in our personal lives. Your friend is dating a deadbeat who she totally adores. Your niece suffering through a miserable internship that might open amazing professional doors later. When is something deemed good or bad for you? When do we decide that being happy is more important? Can the two ever coexist?
As long as I’ve been open about my desire to be forever childfree, people have expressed concern that I’ll somehow miss out on a formative experience in life. This, I feel, is about other people’s belief that I need to experience something, perhaps something that changed their lives; that I will somehow be a better person because I’ll have been a parent, that choosing motherhood is the best option, even if it wouldn’t make me happy, because I will learn so very much about myself and the world around me.
Happiness is fluid, of course, but I’ve never been willing to bet two decades or more on the idea that maybe, eventually, an experience will be “good” for me. I’m not afraid of missing out on something by not having children. If anything, I’m afraid of the flip side, of having so many things to do in life that I’d never be able to balance it all. I feel lucky to live in a time and place, supported by a like-minded partner, when making that decision is possible. I wish that freedom for everyone, the freedom to make choices about not just what might be good for each of us, good for society, or good for the planet, but choices based on what we truly believe will bring us long-term happiness.
Finishing up this blog series, I’m so appreciative of this space and the readers who offer thoughtful feedback and ask questions. Of course, there were a lot of things I didn’t cover in this series. If you want to pick up where I left off, get in touch with the Bitch crew. Maybe it’s because I’m a full-time freelance writer that people sometimes ask me, “But how did you get that job?” For me, the answer is pretty simple: I asked for it.
Thank you to the folks who have followed this series along the way, have sent notes and emails about your own experiences and frustrations. May a series like this one day be unnecessary.