Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it's the most exquisite love of all.
At 43, I have a lot to be grateful for: a husband, gratifying work, two fine boys (21 and 9 years old) who are, without doubt, the best things that ever happened to me.
I am grateful, and yet lately I find myself ruminating on the children I meant to have but never did. I always wanted four kids. For good and less-good reasons, that never happened. I regret that. I regret the whole worlds that will never come into existence, the children, the grandchildren, all the human possibilities that never were and never will be.
Why am I bringing this up? Two recent books have persuaded me that I am not alone in regretting the children I never will have. In "The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity," Phillip Longman notes: "Clearly, there is a large and growing frustration with the rising cost and difficulty of family formation, not only among the childless, but among parents as well." Only 4 percent of adults say they will be satisfied if they never have children. Among childless Americans 41 years and older, 76 percent wish they had children (up from 70 percent in 1990.) American women (like me) born in 1960 wanted an average of 2.3 children, but we actually had just 1.9 children, not enough to replace ourselves. One study found that 88 percent of American women underestimate (by as much as a decade) how soon women's fertility begins to decline.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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