I'm Not Planning on Having Kids — and Feel Guilty Because I'm an Only Child

Growing up, I loved being an only child. The bountiful, unshared Christmases. The peaceful, unshared teen years. The relaxing, unshared visits home as an adult. Notice a theme here? I hate to reinforce the stereotype that only children don't share — but usually, we don't have to divide up anything, from dad's hugs to Halloween candy. But now that I'm in my 30s, there's one thing I would happily split with brothers or sisters: the "burden" of giving my parents grandkids.

"I've just . . . kind of accepted that I'll never have a grandchild," my mom recently sighed, more glumly than she'd meant to. I was heartbroken. I had always assumed that a yearning for a baby would kick in for me, but it hasn't. Oh sweet-cracker-sandwich do I want a dog, but a baby? Eh. Meh. I just don't feel that tug — not yet, anyway. And while I want to give my mom everything she wants — I won't even use a laundry detergent she vetoes — should it come at the expense of what I want?

Besides, I've always believed that no child should be born into this world as part of an agenda: not to fix a marriage, not to force someone to grow up, and certainly not to spice up a grandparent's retirement. Yet the idea of so profoundly disappointing my family isn't easy. Especially because if I had a sibling, I'd have written off kids a long time ago.

I can't help but feel like I owe my parents a baby.

I fill with envy when I hear my friends talk about how fun it is to be an aunt — to breeze in with gifts and cuddles and then skedaddle right around meltdown o'clock. I'd give anything to have a brother who's happily procreating, or a sister who just can't wait to make Mama into Meemaw. Then I'd be able to just enjoy my child-free adult life.

And, in a way, my parents could relax and stop worrying about me, too. With a child of my own, I would finally seem like a full-grown adult. They could pass the parental baton; the generations would have continued, their work here would be done. Instead, I feel selfish and guilty, like I've doomed them to eternal parenthood.

All this is made even worse by the fact that I don't even have any cousins, either. Both my parents, and all four of my grandparents, were only children. So the entirety of so many family lines comes down to me. It's a genetic burden I wasn't thinking about when I was riding a pony at one of my over-the-top childhood birthday parties. But I sure am now, and I can't help but feel like I owe my parents a baby.

In the end though, my parents lived the life they chose, and I think I have the responsibility to do the same, no matter who it appears to disappoint. What worked for one generation may not work for the next one. I know that my parents only want me to be happy, and right now I am — but as a daughter, not a mother.