Years ago I caught in Ann Lander’s column a piece called Pity the Childless Couple. The original piece was penned by Rosalyn South in 1957 for a magazine called The American Mercury (thank you Barbara Mikkelson of Snopes for the info). The original had some revisions made to it by the time I read it (to include coming from a father’s perspective), but the dripping satire remained. I so enjoyed the version printed in Ann Lander’s column that I cut it out of the paper and kept it for years.
I was thinking about that piece today while I reflected on the real commitment folks make when they choose to parent. It doesn’t seem as if one day of honor for mothers and fathers is even remotely enough. Not that we are limited to thanking and appreciating parents only on Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, but it does seem that we have bought in as a society to the Hallmark scheduling of our lives.
The point is – parenting is unlike any other commitment one makes in life. So much changes after you have a child and life is never again the same as it was before you skipped toward the parenthood road. But there are no regrets when you see your child’s face or hold their little hand. Whatever you give up or do without cannot compare to the love and happiness you gain.
But there are days…days when you look at the folks without children and think – yes, I can remember when I was like you. I remember when I owned a car that no one had spilled apple juice in or had left crayons on the dashboard to melt. I remember when I didn’t spell like baby spit-up. I remember when I could sleep as long as I wanted, whenever I wanted. I remember having money to spend on my follies. I remember being able to take a shower without being interrupted by screeches of “MOM!” and frantic pounding on the door. I remember so many things that were my norm before I was a parent.
On this Father’s Day as we celebrate dads, let us remember that there are some folks who are not parents. There are some who have never experienced handmade cards, noodle necklaces, and dandelion bouquets. Poor folks – they are the childless couples that Rosalyn South referenced.
Pity the Childless Couple
There is nothing sadder than a childless couple. It breaks my heart to see them relaxing around swimming pools in Florida, sitting all suntanned and miserable on the decks of their boats — trotting off to Europe like lonesome fools. It’s an empty life. Nothing but money to spend, more time to enjoy and a whole lot less to worry about.
The poor childless couple are so wrapped up in themselves, you have to feel sorry for them. They don’t fight over the child’s discipline, don’t blame each other for the child’s most obnoxious characteristics, and they miss all the fun of doing without for the child’s sake. They just go along, doing whatever they want, buying what they want and liking each other. It’s a pretty pathetic picture.
Everyone should have children. No one should be allowed to escape the wonderful experience that accompanies each stage in the development of the young — the happy memories of sleepless nights, coughing spells, tantrums, diaper rash, debts, “dipso” baby sitters, saturated mattresses, emergencies and never-ending crises.
How dismal is the peaceful home without the constant childish problems that make a well-rounded life and an early breakdown; the tender, thoughtful discussions when the report card reveals the progeny to be one step below a moron; the end-of-the-day reunions with all the joyful happenings recited like well-placed blows to the temples.
Children are worth it. Every moment of anxiety, every sacrifice, every complete collapse pays off as a fine, sturdy adolescent is reached. The feeling of reward the first time you took the boy hunting — he didn’t mean to shoot you, the lad was excited. Remember how he cried? How sorry he was? And how much better you felt after the blood transfusion? These are the times a man with a growing son treasures — memories that are captured forever in the heart and the limp.
Think back to the night of romantic adventure when your budding daughter eloped with the village idiot. What childless couple ever shared in the stark realism of that drama? Aren’t you a better man for having lived richly, fully, acquiring that tic in your left eye? Could a woman without children touch the strength and heroism of your wife as she tried to fling herself out of the bedroom window?
The childless couple live in a vacuum. They fill their lonely days with golf, vacation trips, dinner dates, civic affairs, tranquility, leisure and entertainment. There is a terrifying emptiness without children, but the childless couple are too comfortable to know it.
You just have to look at them to see what the years have done: He looks boyish, unlined and rested; she’s slim, well-groomed and youthful. It isn’t natural. If they had had kids, they’d look like the rest of us — worn out, wrinkled and exhausted.
Day one thousand four hundred and thirty-nine of the new forty – obla di obla da