Am I A Failure For Never Having Kids?

Am I a failure for never having kids, family, passing on the family name, relationships, fatherhood, philosophy, life, Modern PhilosopherAs I was stressing out this morning about having to take Luna to the vet, Modern Philosophers, a strange Deep Thought formed in my mind…

I bet my friends with children would laugh at my getting all worked up about a sick cat.

That one fleeting thought set off an unexpected internal debate.  I’ve always wanted to be a father, but with each passing birthday and every day spent without being in a serious relationship, I get the sense that fatherhood is simply not in the cards for me.

Which led to a much more depressing Deep Thought…

Am I a failure for never having kids?

I remember learning in Catholic School that the whole point of the Sacrament of Marriage was so that we could procreate and continue the species.

Sex was not for pleasure, but rather to create life.  The Catholic Church didn’t believe in birth control because, I had to assume, the Pope wanted the world overrun with Catholics.

I always wanted to have a family.  I especially longed to have a son who I could name after my father.  This concept led to an ongoing battle with my ex-wife, who refused to have a child who would have to carry around the suffix of “The Third” after his name.

Dear old Dad, carrying on the family name, becoming a parent, family, fatherhood, life, Modern PhilosopherThe main reason I wanted to be a father was because my Dad was such an amazing man.  He was my hero, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps with my son as I carried on the family name.

One of the reasons we moved to Maine when we did was because we decided we wanted to raise our children here rather than in Southern California.

Unfortunately, we got divorced less than a year after the move.

I’ve always said I’m happy my ex-wife and I didn’t have kids because I’d never want them to be the product of divorce.  I guess I’m old school in the belief that children shouldn’t come from broken homes, and I’ve often wondered that if we would be have stayed together if we’d had kids.

Of course, when I find myself lamenting that I’ve never had children, I sometimes waver on my belief that I was better off not having any with my ex before our divorce.

When people ask me why we never had kids, I’m not quite sure of the answer.  We both said we wanted them, yet we never seriously talked about trying.  Maybe we both knew down deep that the marriage wasn’t going to last.

I always thought I would have plenty of time to have children after my divorce.

I suppose I just underestimated how difficult it would be to find someone new to love, share a life with, and raise a family.

raising a family, fatherhood, relationships, having children, life, philosophy, Modern PhilosopherI had pretty much given up on the idea of becoming a father until I met Melissa.  The Sweet Irish Girl was quite adamant about having a large family, and even though the idea of having three children at my age was rather intimidating at first, I quickly warmed to the idea.

Who wouldn’t want children who looked like her and had both a Brooklyn accent and an Irish brogue?  I’d almost forgotten about how important fatherhood was to me until we’d have these lengthy talks about what we would name our children, how I would look after Melissa during her pregnancies, and how we would raise our little ones.

The more we talked about it, the more I knew that I needed to be a father.  I’d make The Sweet Irish Girl laugh hysterically with tales about the wild stories I’d tell our children when they asked me how something worked or why something was a certain a way.

I wanted to teach my wee ones how to play baseball, ride a bike, write like their Daddy, and love the Star Wars movies.

Sure, even Melissa refused to name our son Austin, III, but by that point, I was willing to relent and use Austin as a middle name.  I’ll never forget the first time she told me that she knew I’d be an amazing Daddy because of how much I loved my kitties.

raising a family, fatherhood, failing to reproduce, killing the family name, philosophy, Modern PhilosopherAnd here I am again, feeling a little silly because I panicked about taking Luna to the vet, while my friends are dealing with sick children, overwhelming schedules, and the skyrocketing cost of raising a family.

Sometimes, I feel incredibly relieved that I don’t have all the stresses that my friends do.  Most of the time, though, I’m jealous that they have children and I do not.

Now I’m beginning to think that I’m a failure.  I didn’t procreate.  I didn’t put more Catholics on the planet.  I didn’t carry on the family name.  I’ll never get to teach my children about their incredible grandfather.  And there won’t be an Austin, III.

There are times when I really miss The Sweet Irish Girl, and while I loved her deeply, I think it has even more to do with the fact that she convinced me I was going to be a father.

Maybe that’s why I loved her so much.  She promised me the dream that I had all but abandoned long ago.

I know I would be an amazing father, and that’s what upsets me so much…

I took a little break before editing this post to watch last night’s Stephen Colbert show.  Jim Gaffigan was on talking about his five kids.  I totally feel like a failure now!

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About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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49 Responses to Am I A Failure For Never Having Kids?

  1. This is such a powerful and poignant post…please try to believe that I don’t mean to invalidate your very understandable feelings…I share in the event that it might hold some value for you. If the argument is that–beyond any intrinsic value–a person’s worth and success must be measured and assessed, then, let it include more than the the soul(s) they bring to life. It must include the light they shine…and you, amazing soul that you are, shine oh so brightly! Thank you for your wonderful vulnerability and authenticity…thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. grannyK says:

    I think you are the total opposite of a failure. You rock! You didn’t become a father just for the sake of saying you fathered a child. You have solid morals. You wanted a safe and stable family life before having a child. That makes you a wonderful person.

  3. If you want to be father, you can be, there are many orphans who need shelter of someone who could affectionate them…really a god’s job

  4. Gail Kaufman says:

    Austin, I’ve been reading your blogs for quite some time now and your writing has never reflected the type of person I would label as a failure. You’re writing indicates you are smart and funny with a big heart, determination and a strong work ethic. However, please don’t get offended when I say that I do think you romanticize marriage and family a bit. There are happy people who never took that route and some rather unhappy people who did, though they may not admit it.

  5. Louise says:

    I wholeheartdly agree with gail…neither you nor i or others are failures…its ok to have conservative type morals and values..

  6. tarnegolita says:

    Austin, if I weren’t married already I’d propose to you on the spot. Reading your posts, I see an intelligent, sensitive, funny guy who also LOVES CATS!! Nothing failed about that! Oh and you’re a man! You don’t have to worry about your biological clock. If a family is what you want, you don’t have to give up on your dream when you’re 40. Unlike women… 💚

  7. The Hook says:

    Be a good man and maybe a Big Brother, Austin, don’t sweat anything else.

  8. April Munday says:

    It’s odd. I have considered myself a failure for many reasons, but not because I have never given birth. I have known people who have thought less of me because I’m childless, but that’s their problem and they weren’t always good parents.

    Thank you for sharing, because it’s not necessarily an easy thing to talk about, especially if you do want children.

  9. Mark Myers says:

    “No man is a failure who has friends.” -Clarence Oddbody.
    Of course you aren’t a failure. However, you will have to find someone to groom in your philosophical ways to take the mantle when you are a post-modern philosopher: a Plato to your Socrates.

  10. ksbeth says:

    i don’t any of us who know you through your sincere and heartfelt words would ever consider you a failure. quite the opposite. one day you will find someone who will see and love the person you are. until then, perhaps, help a child as a ‘big brother’ or in a foster program or so many other ways.

  11. Allie P. says:

    I hope your cat gets better. For the record, even with kids, it is completely understandable to get worked up over a sick child of the furry sort.

  12. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I think it’s a sad reflection of society that people without children are deemed a failure. I’ve never even had a serious relationship but I’m deemed a failure because I don’t even want a family. But I’m a teacher, so am I not still helping to raise the next generation? There are plenty of ways to have a hand in improving a life.

  13. It’s sad how some folks don’t want or care about having children and other people such as yourself would love to and it doesn’t happen for them. Bless you, I do hope that you meet a special someone and it all changes and that you get to be a dad one day.

  14. Klaudia says:

    Oh , wow. I am a bit … hm, out of…don’t know. I am mega impressed by your post. I can relate and recognize myself, yet my kitten is a chihuahua boy, my everything. I am so impressed to hear a ‘male version’ of almost my own story. No divorce or so, but that desire to have children of my own. ( I have got two wonderful ‘secondhand kids’ 😊 2nd hand kids are absolutely brilliant btw , as they can already walk, talk , use knife and fork … don’t poo in their pampers anymore .. ) But that one child, we also ‘knew’ what SHE’d look like and all that. She just never happened. Okay, life isn’t too bad without children, you know best what I mean. Kids are wonderful , and having healthy kids is such a privilege. I will never in a million years understand how parents can kill their children , how mothers can turn into monsters … how some women have 4,5,6 children and they are all in homes … while others like you or me would have been amazing parents. I am not bitter or so, my life is good , I am not missing kids or feeling somehow less worthy. But I am sure, it would have been awesome to have that one little girl with blue eyes and long dark curly hair. What I actually wanted to say , excellent post ! Very impressive read.

    • Austin says:

      Thank you for your comments. Like you, I kept picturing a daughter with Melissa’s big green eyes and Irish brogue and maybe my sarcasm and writing ability. 🙂

  15. No, you aren’t a failure. It’s as simple as that. And as complicated as that. We all strive to make our mark on the world, and having children is just one way.

  16. Thanks for the post Austin! I too do not have kids, married someone quite a bit older than me and we decided not to have them. I do feel a sense of disapproval occasionally from some people, and being a Christian I am sensitive to that. But, I think what is more important is that you care about and for other people as you can in life and of course try to follow the blueprint God has left for you through Christ and the bible. I’ve had many a pondering about this as well. Life is complicated and messy, and no one should judge others – especially when they can’t know all the circumstances. Love is the rule. Stay strong. (I also have a cat!:)

  17. Louise says:

    We want what we want. And not getting it is hard. I love the honestly of your post. I’ve had two – no three – male friends talk to me on this subject that we so often hear from a women’s point of view that we forget there are men out there like you who both want to be – and would be – excellent fathers. I hope it ultimately happens for you. But while it isn’t – or in the event it doesn’t – I think the measure of “are you a failure” is if you don’t find an outlet for that love you have to give. Because not finding a way to action your clear intent to nurture and love would be a loss, not only to you, but to others who would be fortunate to have you in their lives.

    And given people seem to be weighing in re: cats. I don’t have one. Allergic. But my good (childless with partner) friend is currently keeping her 19-year-old kitty alive through meds and massage and after I thought about it a bit because it was out of my area of knowledge, I think it’s lovely that cat massage exists – and that she cared enough to research and decide it would be a good (and affordable) alternative to pills and a good way to keep her elderly cat mobile and happier. So given I’m not laughing at the extents she goes to for her cat, I don’t think your friends are laughing at you either.

  18. floridaborne says:

    Austin, there are over 7.5 billion people on the Earth, not all people in the world were happy to be born and many live miserable lives. It’s not the quantity of life that counts, it’s the quality. Some of us are meant to weather the day to day child rearing that include sleepless nights with infants, illnesses, terrible 2’s, keeping them alive — as well as their curiosity, fighting with schools, the teenage years, and the fact that people in your area spend an average of $12,000 per year on one child .

    That’s why it’s so important to have that “crazy” aunt or uncle in a child’s life.

    I had 2 kids. My sister chose to have none, and she’s never looked back. However, I consider her as much of a mother to my children as I ever was. It takes a family, and not just mother/father, to do justice to raising a child.

  19. That line about the Pope wanting more Catholics in the world was funny. In my opinion you are not a failure for not having kids.

  20. Louise says:

    Austin to add to this.. Here in Australia yesterday we had a new premier ( kinda equivalent to your governors) of the state of New South Wales sworn in and one of the first things she had to answer was to Why she is single and has no children. Her answer was brief but to the point ïf they ( journalists) had asked her 20 years ago if she thought she would be in that spot her answer would have been no. To her it was all about just how things have happened. “So even politicians get deemed ‘failures’for not having kids etc. Our prime Minister Julia Gilliard at one ( and often) had to justify her childless state, lack of marriage etc. so damn if you do damn if we don’t..

  21. zippynz says:

    Interesting read! The thing I notice about being childless is that it’s getting more common but it’s still socially awkward if you don’t have any – and there can be all sorts of reasons why people don’t have children. Look forward to more posts

  22. Gul says:

    An unusual piece Austin! I am a mom so I can’t say that I understand what you are going through. But if it’s because of the social norms that you think you are a failure, then give yourself a break my friend. Don’t be so hard on you! Universe has it’s own plans for each one of us. And you never know, maybe that’s something that is in store for you in the future. Meanwhile, be yourself and stay awesome. Cheers!

  23. Hi Austin, I really enjoyed your post (if enjoyed is the right word.) I absolutely love your honesty and your thoughts on this subject. Painful honesty so often opens us up to the best conversations. That being said, as a Father myself, and knowing I am blessed by God to be in that position, I wanted to encourage you.

    Whatever would be to happen on the kids front, those desires you feel are god given desires and you can use them in very positive ways. There are so many children our there who need a male role model in their lives. Who teaches them integrity, honesty etc. I hope you can be that man to many children. Stand up for them. Protect them. Lead them in integrity.

    @foreverbeingdad (Twitter)

  24. acewizard says:

    Hi there. I’m a new comer to your blog. I truly believe that success is not measured in romantic relationships and children. Stay awesome.

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