A man in his early thirties who, along with his wife, isn’t sure he ever wants kids asked this question on an internet forum I frequent:
Do you regret not having kids?
Everyone’s answer: “No.”
I always think the “regret” question (or, sometimes, curse – “You’ll regret it!”) is a little weird, because it creates – as I see it, anyway – a paradox.
If someone who genuinely doesn’t want kids at 20, 25, and then 30 doesn’t have kids, s/he’s behaving in a manner consistent with her/his desires for his/her life. “I don’t want to have or raise children” = “I won’t have or raise children.”
If at 55 or 60 the same person has retired and says, “Gee, I wish I would have had kids,” that isn’t – or shouldn’t be called – regret. If anything, someone who genuinely didn’t want children when younger but decides when they’re older that they “shoulda had them” is experiencing a simple desire for something they don’t currently have. They want a child or children right NOW…that is, to suddenly have them around for this moment now that they’ve changed their mind/become lonely/had a crisis. But they certainly didn’t want them before, didn’t want to spend the rest of their lives raising them, or they would have tried to have them.
How can there be regret for something that was never, until now, a desire?
“Aren’t you afraid you’ll regret not having kids later?” (something many people ask) also implies that at some point everyone wants, or will want to have had, kids. And that simply isn’t the case. It also implies that you should aim your life in a direction that MIGHT eliminate regret felt on a porch swing at 90 years old, that to be on the safe side, maybe you should give birth and overhaul your life even if you really don’t want to on the off-chance that you’ll have second thoughts in the future.
A good predictor of future regret – whether it’s over eating a donut, marrying the wrong person, or calling in sick for the third time that week – is thinking I’m going to hate myself for this later.
A person who desperately wants children, marries someone who doesn’t want children, and agrees to stay married without children even as s/he continues to want them will very likely likely have that thought. This person is creating a perfect regret scenario.
But people who truly don’t want children usually aren’t thinking, “I’m going to hate myself for this later.” See video below (60 seconds) for an explanation.