(Copyright © Universal Syndicate)
Annie and I don't have kids of our own, and this causes some consternation among other people. Most people are too polite to just blurt out "Well why on earth not?", but a few hardy souls over the years have gone there. I'm tempted to give either a smart-alec response, like "Well we had a few, but then decided we didn't like them and got Angelina Jolie to take 'em off our hands." Or with something brutally tragic designed to make them back off, like "I lost my testicles in a bad tractor accident."
But mostly I try to be honest. The pat answer I've come up with at this point is as follows:
Being a parent is one of the most important jobs there is. It's so important that we feel if you're not 100% committed to it, if you don't want it more than you've ever wanted anything in your life, then you've no business taking the job in the first place. So far, we don't feel like we want it enough.
The full answer's more complicated than that, of course, but usually that satisfies most people. I imagine in the back of their minds they're thinking "I get it -- you're a selfish bastard." And that's true a little bit, probably. It's also true that the idea of being a parent is scary, and that we're both afraid of some of the trouble lurking in our respective gene pools (alcoholism, schizophrenia, depression, etc.). I think we were both also had some pretty rough spots growing up, and we don't want to visit that on any of our own kids.
But at the end of the day, it really does come down to what I said initially -- being a parent is the most important job in the world, and unless you're willing to treat it like that you don't have any business having kids. And we aren't willing to do that. I respect the hell out of people who do, but we're honest enough to admit that we're not in that group.
We like kids a lot, and love having our nephews and nieces and goddaughters over to visit. We just don't want kids, and we're pretty OK with that decision. Society wants to make it more complicated than that, I think largely due to an understandable fear that if that choice gets too socially acceptable, we'll somehow run out of people to keep civilization going.
To those people, all I can say is "I offered to get a dog instead, and Annie agreed."