When people ask me why I didn’t have kids, I give them the closest answer to the truth I can find: "I forgot."
When I was in my early 20s, I was sure I’d be a big success as a singer, have lots of money and own a sprawling estate on the sea. My future seemed limitless, and having "all the time in the world" was not just an expression, it really felt that way. I imagined my perfect mate: he was just under six feet tall, had dark, wavy hair, olive skin and a great sense of humor. We were going to have two kids, a boy and a girl, and I’d teach them to row a boat and play the piano. I was carefree while I thought about all the fun we’d have.
By 30, I’d lived through two tumultuous relationships, and two subsequently dramatic breakups. Both men I’d lived with had wanted kids, but I simply couldn’t imagine having children with them. For that, and my own yearning to explore the world, my career, and myself, I fled. My sprawling estate on the sea was just a photo I'd saved from a magazine, pinned up on the bare white wall of my rented basement apartment. I was broke and alone, but still full of ambition.
By 40, I’d traveled the world while performing my music. As I gained ground in my career, I lost track of time. The years went by without notice as I was constantly distracted by the demands of the music business, my immersion in the creative process, and the gleeful exploration of all the new countries I had the chance to sing in. During my travels I found it amusing how well-meaning folks from different cultures reacted to my childless status:
An Israeli friend told me, "a woman never feels like a woman until she has a child."
A French friend told me, "you’ll never really experience love until you have a child."
A Spanish friend told me, "there’s nothing greater than family. My kids are my world."
A Singaporean friend told me, "one must work for their children. If you have no kids, you have nothing to work for."
A Tahitian friend told me, "when a woman has a child, that is enough for her, she is complete."
A Filipino friend said, "I’ll pray for you."
Curiously, I wasn’t disheartened by all the concern. Although many people looked at me with compassion for what they perceived as this tragic story of the childless woman, I started to relax about the whole thing. I would check in with myself from time to time, asking, am I missing having kids today? Am I ready to have kids today? Would my life be better today if I had kids? The answer would always be, I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. My feeling of neutrality was a comfort.
By my late 40s, it kicked in, that yes, I’d forgotten to have kids. My life had taken me on other adventures.
One day as I was strolling on the poolside deck of a cruise ship I was performing on, I struck up a conversation with a couple in their mid-sixties. They asked me if it was hard to be away from my husband and kids for so long, and I told them, “no husband, no kids.” Much to my surprise, the woman smiled and clapped, exclaiming, “how wonderful! Isn’t it great, to not have kids? We didn’t have kids, and we’ve had a wonderful life… so much freedom, so much fun. Don’t let anyone pressure you into having a family.” This was the first time someone hadn’t felt sorry for me, and it made me smile.
Looking back, I think my big success has been to trust in, and continue to discover, my own path. Money comes and goes, and the sprawling estate on the sea is just down the street from where I live. I enjoy admiring it, but for now I’m enjoying the simple life in my cozy beach apartment here in Southern Spain. My perfect mate may still show up, but in the meantime I’m quite engaged and entertained by my life’s work as a musician. As for the the boy and the girl I always thought I would have, I now smile at that sweet memory, from the vision of the girl I once was.
Nancy Ruth is a singer, songwriter and recording artist www.nancyruth.com