A relative on my wife's side was on the phone with his mother recently, reflecting on his impending 50th birthday. He wondered if he'd leave a legacy of any kind. His career has been spent on the Internet—he made a nice bundle during the tech boom, but as with all things Internet, it flits off into cyberspace.
He and his wife have lived in an apartment—albeit an impressive one—all their adult lives. When they're gone, it'll be turned over to another tenant.
But most paining to him was the regret that he and wife did not have children. They pursued careers doggedly in, let's say, Seattle. She law, he tech. Excitement abounded: international deals, courtroom drama. No infirmity prevented them from having children—they just decided not to. They liked each other, the vegan cooking, the wine, and their dog. The apartment was filled with nice stuff that a kid would just knock over or smear with peanut butter. The joke was that the dog is their child.
Need I mention it? They're white.
His politics are typically liberal: he spits and sputters at family gatherings about white racist hostility to immigrants, redneck Republicans trying to force their religion on the rest of us, and so on. Yet he's nice enough, and certainly bright.
And here he is, at the mid-century mark, wishing he'd had children.
I sympathized. At a decade behind him, I've thankfully avoided childlessness myself. I ache to consider life without them, even as I attempt to get an entire bottle of pink paint out of my daughter's bedroom carpeting.
Of course, as a demographic matter, it's only whites having this regret. I wonder how widespread the feeling is?
Here's a thought for the teens and twenty-somethings reading this: make marriage and children at least as much of a priority as your career. You'll be galaxies happier, especially as your body starts to rot and you ponder what might have been. If even people living the lifestyles meant to disprove the need for children are having second thoughts about not having them, what does that tell you?