Wednesday, February 24, 2016

When Did You Know You Wanted Children?

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Do you want children? Lately it seems nearly every one of my friends and acquaintances has either just had a baby or just announced a pregnancy. I’m not kidding, it’s been one or two per day for the past few weeks. Now, I know this is to be expected and can at least be partially attributed to the nature of Facebook, but what’s surprising is… well the surprising fact that I’m, seemingly, now in the minority. To be clear, I love my friends who are parents and I love (or at least like) their children. I’m thankful to have known almost all of them before they became parents because it’s incredible to see how they’ve translated their passions and skills into parenthood. Friends who love Star Wars now have little girls who hum the Imperial March while playing with toys (this is a true and amazing fact), friends who love snowboarding now have daughters who just signed up for lessons, and friends who never thought they’d ever have kids have just fallen head over heels for their new baby girl who’s already been introduced to the magic of drone on vinyl. But, this is also strange new territory. After the early converts of our mid-twenties, this second wave of new parents and second (or third) time parents puts in to stark relief the fact that I am 32 and have no inclination towards motherhood. Like me, most of my friends are now in their early to mid thirties, a time when one might normally be thinking of parenthood, some even craving it. But I’m not. I'm thinking about my career and planning a road trip and where we should go out this weekend and other things that have nothing to do with reproducing. And I’m often left to wonder, while yet another girlfriend confides in me just how much she wants to become a mother or how much she just loves babies, if I’ll ever have that feeling? A few years ago when I first announced my engagement to Chris on this blog, many were quick to congratulate and say what cute babies we’d have, and while I’m appreciative of that sentiment and understand the thought behind it, who’s to say parenthood is a goal of ours as a couple? And yet, as ages 27 and 30 came to pass – the age my mother was when she had me and then my sister, and as 35 looms in the future (when she had my brother), I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever have the intense desire for children like so many of my friends describe.

I understand that this ‘feeling’ doesn’t necessarily hold bearing on whether or not you’ll ever have children, or that you won't become a great parent regardless, but I believe women are primed, by everyone from their mothers to the media, for the expectation of feeling some inclination towards motherhood at some point. We’d constantly being fed messages about how we should feel the desire to have a baby, about raging hormones and dreams of motherhood. So, what happens if you don’t feel any of that? When do you know it's the right time, or any time? On the other end of the media spectrum is the crazy, single, childless wild women, the spinster, the cold-hearted bitch. With cats. And a career.

The internet is chock full of essays and articles profiling those who choose not to have children, who make the conscious decision and grand declaration with their partners to steer clear. Conversely, there are more than enough articles extolling the virtues of motherhood and children. I’m not into any of it. I want to read about those in my shoes, who have no fucking idea. Who feel like they should want children by now, right? Who have a partner they know would make an amazing parent, but are left doubting their own ability to care deeply for something other than their spouse/partner... and cats. What about those of us in the middle who just don’t know? Chris is far more comfortable around kids than I am. He’ll easily drop to the floor to play with a friend’s kid, while I’m left rigid, offering a stiff “hello there” and maybe a handshake or a painfully awkward hug. It’s embarrassing and I immediately become self-conscious about my behavior. Our families are, thankfully, not pushy on the matter.

The one thing that’s given me pause lately is this image and caption from Humans of New York. “The full human experience.” I love this. I loved reading even just a small excerpt from someone who wasn’t sure but consciously decided to do it anyway, simply for the experience of having done it.

So, that’s where I’m at. I’m curious, do you have kids? Have you always known you were destined for parenthood? Are you unsure and caught in the middle like me? Do you not give a fuck and just own it?

Image of us and out "baby" by Mandy Fierens

51 comments:

katy said...

I'm on the cusp of 30, and have yet to be hit with the baby fever. My husband is wonderful, we've been married for 9 years, and he would be an amazing father. but. We have no plans for children and never have. We like kids, and are good with kids. Note:kids, not babies. I've never understood the draw of a baby, and when faced with friends' little bundles of joy feel nothing but fear and a strange lack of connection. Maybe someday we'll look into fostering/adoption, but it's not in the cards for the near future. I don't worry about it - my parents were 35 when I was born and I was the first. Funny thing, my sister has the same feeling towards children I do - maybe it has something to do with being raised by parents who waited. I don't really know how to act/react around all of the baby announcements sometimes, especially when they're followed with a question as to how soon we will be joining the baby train. It's not for everyone, but it seems that everyone expects you to want what they do. My in-laws don't get it, and comment all too often. I'm content with where we are, and the decisions we've made, I just wish others would respect it, or at least recognize it instead of the constant chime of "oh, you'll change your mind." I'm sorry, but our family is full and happy with me, my husband, and our furbabies (ok, with six cats we might be heading towards that second stereotype, but it's a comfortable place to be).

Anonymous said...

I have no desire to have kids. The only time I can even imagine it is if I was a single mother which is odd because Im in a healthy long relationship and my parents are happy and been together for 35 years. Its just not my jam I suppose. Im good with kids for like 1 hour and then Im all set. People have given me a lot of shit about not wanting to have kids("you'll change your mind"), I once had someone who I barely knew get visibly upset about it. Im all good with being the mom of my two kitties. Also, my mom had me at 40 and Im an only child, so I think you shouldn't feel like you need to figure anything out immediately.

Bridget said...

I think the tough thing is that no matter what you sign up for in life, whether it's having a job you love or a job that pays the bills, having or not having kids, traveling and living in apartments or getting a house...well, there are so many unknowns that it makes it harder to know how everything will turn out. All decisions have consequences, and the uncertainty makes it maddening. No one has the foresight to know how things will be 20 years down the road, and that's what makes all these big decisions such a leap. But leap you must, whether it's down one road or another.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same position--early 30s, no strong desire to have a child now, with a partner who would make a great parent. I'm also in academia, which makes it very tough on women to have children and stay on the tenure track. I tend to do a crazy amount of research when thinking about life decisions, so I've also been on the hunt for any articles that discuss being unsure about parenthood. I've really liked listening to the podcast The Longest Shortest Time, which shares stories about parenting (and even one about this very topic). I'm just letting it all marinate for now. :) -Annie

Amber said...

I'm a strong fence sitter when it comes to having kids. I'll be 31 this year, and I've been with my husband for the past 16 years (married for 4 months!). I never had a great relationship with either of my parents, and I was always tasked with stepping in to help raise my younger siblings. As I dive into my thirties I can list off so many things that I would rather do besides have children...travel, write about politics, eat healthier, get a PhD, travel more. I'm still trying to figure out where my dreams and desires fit in the grand scheme of my own life. So, I can't get comfortable with the idea of supporting and nourishing someone else's dreams, when I don't feel self-actualized myself. Also, as a feminist, I resent the notion that women need to reproduce. I don't think it's fair, and motherhood often reeks of selfishness and self-indulgence (my kid is the best, I'm going to have the best Pinterest-worthy party on the block, etc)--atleast how it's portrayed in blogland. I really don't know Julie. I'd peg myself at 70-30 against having a kid. I have so much to figure out about the best way to live my life and sustain my marriage. Becoming a mother is just totally unappealing right now.

Orchid Grey said...

Amber, all I can say is that I think we'd get along great. So much of what you said resonated with me. While I have a good relationship with my mother, as the oldest I started babysitting my brother and developmentally disabled sister very, very young. And my interest in children and babysitting never stretched beyond family obligations. I also agree with the self-indulgence that seems to permeate motherhood, I know it's not everyone, but I think blog-land can magnify things and it's a huge turn off.

DLB said...

I love kids. I teach elementary school! Lol but as far as having them myself goes... I'm very content with my life. My hub and I have a great relationship, we are happy. We have dogs who are my everything. Have we thought about kids? Sure.... A few years back we even tried. But now at 39 and 40 we can't imagine having them now. People often ask us "who will take care of you when you're old?" And it's a horrible question!!! There is no guarantee my potential offspring will live nearby as adults, be my caregivers, or even like me! The decision gets easier as you get older...

Ashley Brewer said...

I'm so with you! And, just like the Humans of New York person, I've decided to do it anyway. Our friends who have adorable three and four years olds, when I'm around them, I sometimes get the feeling -- when they do something insanely cute or sweet, I'll usually jokingly say "oof! Right in the ovaries!" But babies, quite frankly, still terrify me. And when left to my own devices, I don't get "the feeling." I don't feel a strong urge at all or even really think about it. And I think that is the most confusing part. I always thought that I would just "know." Either my clock would go "ding!" or it wouldn't, and if it didn't then we'd go without kids, and that would be that. But then my husband decided he really wanted kids, and he said it was ultimately up to me, and he would be happy and supportive either way, because he'd gone into our marriage knowing that kids were not part of the deal. But my adamant feelings against kids had slowly softened into ambivalence, and then I didn't know where that left me. Plus, a lot of things turn me off about motherhood, but that's really just how it turns some people into insufferable monsters on social media. I DO know plenty of moms who DON'T replace their own profile picture with one of their children and refrain from posting incessant congratulatory pictures of themselves and their ability to reproduce! And I know I won't be like that because I hate it so much, ha, so no reason to hold other people's annoying behaviors as a reason not to do something.

Interestingly, I only made the decision to have kids (though still not for a year or two, I'm 31, for the record) very recently, something I read years ago is what ultimately got to me when I thought about it later. It's similar to the Humans of New York person and what they said, only longer, ha, and includes a Tomas Transtromer poem that I love. I fully admit, the "sister ship" of all my other possible lives has haunted me for most of mine, and led to some of my worst choices -- basically the fear of choosing leading me to make the wrong choice (because even not choosing is a choice.) Anyway, Cheryl Strayed (then under her Dear Sugar moniker) writes it much better than I can: http://therumpus.net/2011/04/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-71-the-ghost-ship-that-didnt-carry-us/

Either way, you're not alone! You're not crazy or selfish if you choose not to have kids, and you're not typical or a victim of societal pressure if you choose to. You're just you and no one else gets to politicize that. As a feminist, I think I always want to make the choice that pushes back against expectations, but sometimes that can just hurt too much or go against your own desires too much to be worth it. Not everything has to be a protest (she reminds herself daily.) I think the noise is what makes it so hard sometimes to know how you really feel, especially as a women, when everyone seems to have an opinion about what we do with our bodies and our lives.

Colleen said...

I was just like you and then around 33 (and already married for 10 years), the husband and I decided on the human experience thing. We figured we would regret not having one at least...and kids are so darn funny and we love all our nieces and nephews! And to be honest we kind of felt like something was missing in our life and had gotten through the "finish school, go back to school for our masters, buy a house, decorate a house" stage. So we got pregnant right away and had a miscarriage at 9 weeks. Accidentally got pregnant three months later and had another miscarriage at 9 weeks. Decided to take the whole summer off, got pregnant in September and I'm now 34 years old and 25 weeks pregnant and honestly, neither of us has ever wanted something so badly. I think hearing your baby's heartbeat for the first time will change you forever. And we got to hear the first two babies' heartbeats as well. We've seen this sweet girl on ultrasound a number of times, and without being cliche, the feeling is just indescribable. We really hope we get to take this one home in June (things are looking great for us!). I say just give yourselves time, you will either get there or you won't. And if you do, it will probably surprise the hell out of you! <3

Alisha Green said...
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Alisha said...

I'm 32, married for 10 years, and not having children. Being a parent has never appealed to me and I'm not ashamed of that. People continue to tell me that I'm too young to know, or that I will change my mind, but that's just not the case for me...and that's ok.

astr!d said...

i had a 'suprize' at 18. then went to college, got out , started a career then opted to have another child. i love them with all that i am and i never ever regret them. i love love love kids, i do. but there is a lot of pressure to be 'in the norm' if you will. just because having kids is what most everyone does, doesn't mean that's what you have to do. i do think we are led into motherhood, that biological clock is a true thing in some of us. one day you will just feel that either you neeeeeed a baby, or that you're okay without it. and that's what you have to listen for. :)

The Suburb Experiment said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Suburb Experiment said...

Sorry, I forgot to add that the unhappiest people are usually ones doing something out of a sense of obligation. My mother made parenthood seem so tedious and joyless, and any of my attempts at joining a mommy group are soon abandoned. There's a lot of people in those groups that did/are doing things because they felt like they "had" to, and it turns them into someone who need constant praise and reassurance (which I think what you see in Blogland) to affirm their choices because they don't find it fulfilling within themselves. There's a certain amount of self-sacrifice involved in (good) parenting but there's also lot of us out there that don't feel the need for the external validation. You probably don't notice them as much because they're not the ones parading their children, their sacrifices, and their Pinterest parties on social media. Their kids are probably making dirty snowmen while wearing something mismatched but comfortable. You know, just so you know. There IS a middle ground.

Gwen said...

You shouldn't feel bad, Julie! I mean, a few years ago the seven billionth person was born - the Earth certainly has enough humans on it! Personally, I feel a bit like you - there are so many other things I would still rather do than devote my whole being to motherhood. And the weightgain from pregnancy really freaks me out on a visceral level. But still, I'm going to do it, because I feel like I (we!) will regret it when we are too old if we don't have at least one while we still can. I'm sure I'll be happy enough when I'm knocked up and all the hormones kick in, but right now... it doesn't feel too appealing. But anyway, you have to do what's right for you! Nobody else, society, family or whatever, can tell you how to play the starring role in your own movie. If that makes sense. :)

if it makes you feel any better, my mom has NEVER pressured us for kids. My mother-in-law, on the other hand... favourite one was when she shouted across a crowded hotel lobby, "GWEN! WHEN YOU GIVE ME VICTOR SON!!" What I would've given for a Harry Potter invisibility cloak just then... ;)

lacylynn said...

I feel like this article really speaks to this.

http://therumpus.net/2011/04/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-71-the-ghost-ship-that-didnt-carry-us/

I think about it a lot whenever I'm making a big choice, or looking back on things I could have done differently. Adulting is just too much sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I never saw myself as a mother, I am not nurturing nor do I/ did I care to be anybody else's "role model." I dreamed about traveling the world, meeting a man to spend my life with and owning a pet, so I 100% see where you are coming from. It's tough as a woman to make the commitment to have a child, and place your career on the back burner (at least for a little bit of time) or you don't put your career on the back burner and you feel guilty while raising a child.

I recently at 29 began to feel the desire to have children. It isn't because of a societal obligation, but because I look around at family dinners and I look at my husband, and I feel a sense of yearning. I had a large family growing up, and I miss being surrounded with the people I love most. We just found out we're expecting, and I STILL do not feel like a mom. I am scared shitless. But the time feels right for me, and that's all that matters. If the right time comes, and you feel like it will fit into your lifestyle, than so be it. If not, then you will write your story the way that makes sense for you to live your life the happiest, if that makes any sense! :)

Heather P. said...

I swear it sounds like I wrote this! I think you encompassed a lot of how I feel about the "urge" to have kids not really being there. I'm 32, married, and while my husband has started backing off his "never ever having kids" philosophy, I haven't changed my "never say never, but probably not" mindset. I just don't feel right in my gut about it - and the older I get, the more that seems "wrong" because of all we hear about the clock ticking away and all that. Our friends have all had their kids in the past 4-5 years, but were in their 30's and all had different experiences going into parenthood, so they seem pretty understanding that we're not chomping at the bit yet. ;-)

The insane pressure from our families, though, has been the worst part about living without kids. My husband's family is very dismissive toward me about it (a lot of the "Oh, you don't know what you want...you'll change your mind...when your husband wants them, you'll have them..."). I try not to talk to them about it anymore because they're so mean and disrespectful of my and my husband's feelings. My own family is more understanding, but my dad doesn't hide that he's a little heartbroken about not being a grandfather yet. I can't lie - it hurts that people think not having kids is selfish, mean, and most of all...everyone else's decision.

Hang in there, like all of us in this situation are, and focus on the amazing friends and family you have that respect and love you whether you're a parent or not. I have the utmost respect for those who choose parenthood...it's just not for me. :-)

Lindsey said...

This post spoke so much of how I feel. I am 32, as well and also have no desire to have children. I realize that it's something I will probably do, but it's such a gigantic commitment and, personally for me, a hard leap to make. I keep wondering if this is something I will ever truly want because I think I would know by now if I did? This post sums it up, though. 100%!

Orchid Grey said...

Heather - I'm so sorry to hear your husband's family makes you feel that way. The thought process behind "Oh, you'll change your mind" is truly maddening and dismissive and I feel for you. Chris's mom started asking me about kids on the day she and I met, she's a wonderful woman and doesn't push too hard now, but at the time I was 19. 19!!! xo

Orchid Grey said...

Lacylynn - You're the second person to point me in the direction of that article and all i can say is thank you. It's a great read (and Dear Sugar manages to make me cry at least once per day)

Orchid Grey said...

Anon - I totally understand that, and I actually do find myself wondering how a child would fit into certain situations (like dinner time, errands, morning routines, etc). I know a lot of friends who felt the way you do, who even took a few days to fall in love with their babies once born, but they're amazing parents and I bet you will be too :)

Anonymous said...

I've been all over the board when it comes to having children. When I was first married I didn't want children. As our relationship grew I questioned what life would be like with a child. All of that changed when I was told that I wouldn't have children due to a medical condition. Well, I got a surprise one day when I found out I was 2 months pregnant! I had, at that time, been married for 10 years and was just about to turn 40! My daughter will be 4 this year and I couldn't imagine my life without her. So I don't know if there is a right time or if things just happen for a reason.

Ashley Ording said...

I love this post. I have never had a desire to have children, and the older I get the more decisive I feel about this. Having a future stepson is, of course, a crazy curveball I couldn't have prepared for but a sweet one nonetheless. But when it comes to having my own child I've never felt that biological clock ticking away. I think for some women if it's not there, it's not there, and that doesn't mean that you are not a loving, compassionate human who feels deeply for the important people in your life. I think you can be maternal and caring without having your own child, and no one should ever cave in to that societal pressure if they know that they are just not up for it.

Courtney said...

I relate to what you've said, so much! I'm nearly 33, single, and have never in my entire life wanted kids (I even find it difficult to imagine myself married). I was always the neighborhood babysitter growing up, children usually tend to like me. I'm great with my niece, but then again I wasn't around when she was an infant. I've never been a fan of babies, and I still feel very awkward around them (please don't make me hold the baby!). I've always said I will be the awesome auntie who brings presents from her travels, and takes the nieces and nephews on adventures when they're older. I am perfectly content to stick with 'furbabies' for the rest of my life!

Anonymous said...

I won't be reproducing for a variety of reasons. Where do I even begin? The environmental reasons are enough for me (overpopulation, and the effects of humanity on our planet) not to mention the millions of children in foster care who need someone to give them a chance. Seriously, browse the state adoption sites where you live and see how many unique kids full of potential are waiting for homes and families. If I ever become a parent, it will be through adoption.

kelsey williams said...

Wow, this is such a great and honest post. I don't know why, but I always thought I'd have kids. Four, to be exact.

When I hit age 26, I was glad to realize I finally felt like I would actually be ready someday (before then, I was like you, more interested in planning road trips and dating my husband. Then, when I turned 27, overnight I wanted a baby in my uterus. It took us eight months to get pregnant. I was 28 when I had my daughter.

You probably know this way more than I did at the time, but DANG, parenting is hard. I've never wanted only one child, but I can see why people have one and stop. It took me two years to be able to say, "I would have still done this had I known really how hard it is."

When Rooney was 2.5, I was suddenly ready for another. Finch was born nine months later. And now, two feels like the perfect number for our family.

I totally get what you mean about not being interested in playing with other people's children. I also don't care to hold other people's babies. And I love my kids, but sometimes it stresses me out to think about all the challenges I may face as a parent.

I, too, read that caption on HONY, and loved it. Does Chris feel the same as you? More than anything, whether you want kids or don't, I think it's such a gift when couples are on the same page.

Orchid Grey said...

Anon - I have similar thoughts when it comes to environmental impact and over-population, and something I didn't touch on in the post, but maybe should have, was that Chris and I both have family histories of mental and physical disabilities/illnesses, which throws a whole new level of complexity to the matter. I know it's not a guarantee, but I think because of this I've always felt much more open to adoption, but that also doesn't mean I don't have the same misgivings about actually having a child around. But you make a great point - fostering and adoption are excellent choices.

Orchid Grey said...

Kelsey - It's so interesting to me how some people just 'know'. I never played with baby dolls as a kid, never played house outside of pretending I had my own art gallery, and had a fleet of stuffed animals and maimed barbies for whom i'd make clothes and forts and that's about it. I also hated baby sitting and only did it once outside of watching my siblings. I say this because so many of my peers were doing the opposite, they all talked of wanting children, while I inwardly prayed I'd just somehow become a cool/crazy aunt (interestingly my brother adamantly does not want children - so i guess the aunt thing is off the table). i think it's awesome that you guys followed your hearts and have two beautiful children to show for it, and also that you're willing to admit it's hard. Chris is mostly on the same page as me, he could go either way but is more on the 'wants kids... someday' side of things. I think it's a bit different for women, though. Even though fostering and adoption will always be an option, it's hard not to think (and be weirded out by the fact) that at some point, it won't be a choice anymore and my body will me the decision for me.

Elizabeth Rose Hisle said...

Like so many of the others before me, I feel like I could have written this. I'm almost 29, married for 4 years, and I have two dogs that I baby to death. Year 1 of marriage: Def want kids someday. Year 2: Eh... not just yet. Let's save money. Year 3 and 4: ehhhhhh maybe someday???For the past two years mentioned we lived in poverty, so no one really bugged us about it that much and just assumed we were waiting for my husband to finish school and get a good job. Last week, that day came, and from the point I announced he was offered a position at a good company the questions came... rapidly.

I feel so lost! I have no desire to be pregnant anymore... ever. When I hold babies, I just get stiff. Like I can't connect with them or help them. I feel like I am miles away from them when they just stare at me. BUT, I can see myself being a mother to a slightly older child, so that's where the confusion sets in. The more my husband and I talk about it, the more we think that, in a few years, fostering might be a good option for us. It would firstly let us know if we can handle it, and secondly allow us to do good in the world. There are so many unwanted children on this planet that I really don't feel like I need to have my own.

Furthermore, I suffer from depression! It's usually under control, but it does run in our family, along with a few other mental illnesses (though I have no idea if it's nature or nurture tbh). Why would I want to pass that on to my child?

Fortunately, I do have a few years left to decide! But for now, I'll just accept that I'm in a middle ground rut. If, somehow, we had an accident, I wouldn't abort, but I won't plan one either and just let life happen.

P.S. I also effing hated babysitting and only did it when my parents made me. I also had to raise my youngest brother and he lives with me now while he goes to college because my parents were 40 when he was born, exhausted, and later never could accept that he was gay etc... When he was little, he was dumped on me. When he got older, I took over voluntarily, but it has left me tired. If, somehow, I do have kids, I will never dump them on each other to raise. It's bullshit.

Orchid Grey said...

Elizabeth - I think financial status can absolutely sway your mindset, without getting too specific, we've also had some struggles over the past few years and it's made even the thought of bringing another human being into the mix, well... laughable. People have told us, oh, you'll make it work, but the thing is, I wouldn't want to just "make it work". If we did ever have a kid, I'd want to give it a good life, you know? Not just struggle. And I have the same worries about passing along illnesses.

I think it's wonderful that you've been such a support for your brother. I bet he's so appreciative of being able to stay with you and having you as a support system, especially during college which is such a transitional time.

kelsey williams said...

Also, after reading the rest of these fascinating comments, I want to mention that although I have kids, I have no desire to have pets. We’re done having kids so now people will say, “Time for a dog!” which I think is so absurd. I’ve never had a pet (other than a couple fish) and I see no draw. Who wants to take care of a baby puppy? Baby humans are hard enough. I’m sure if we got one I would eventually come around, but I’m just not interested. I guess perhaps that’s how some people view having kids. It’s not for everyone!

Orchid Grey said...

Kelsey - Ha! As much as I can't imagine life without at least one animal in the house, I see where you're coming from. A pet + kids does seem like a lot - especially a puppy! We've thought about getting a dog, but even then aren't sure we could deal with the commitment of walking it, being home at a certain time, etc. We're happy with our one cat (though I miss having two) who is perfectly fine with being left the heck alone :)

evenstar444 said...

Haha thank you for this post! Glad to know there are others out there that feel the same. My husband & I have no desire to have kids at this time. I like children, I have a younger sibling, and many of my friends have children. As far as having one myself, that desire just isn't there right now. I've been married for almost 3 yrs, been with him since high school so the subject of children has come up for YEARS. Mostly people have backed off by now, but I'm very comfortable being totally honest & telling people when they ask that I don't have a desire to have kids. It surprises a lot of people to be sure. There's a definite assumption with the general population that procreation is every woman's destiny. I love my friends' kids - I see the joy they bring their parents. But I am comfortable acknowledging that it's not something I'm yearning for right now. My husband & I love animals though, and we really want to adopt a dog as soon as we live in a place that allows it :)

Anonymous said...

First we didn't have kids because we wanted to enjoy each others' company and have fun (we did and we are) and then I had a health situation that meant it would be physically dangerous for me to do so going forward. Theoretically, I still could, but practically, it feels like an impossibility now.

That advice post one of the commenters linked to talks about making decisions if you feel you might regret it otherwise. I heartily disagree. In my opinion, one should either do something knowing it's right (rationally) or feeling strongly (emotionally) that it is, either or both of those serenely and over a long period of time. Fear of regret is a terrible, crapshoot, weathervane sort of way to live. It is not making a positive, affirmative choice.

The assumption people make when they have kids is that their kids will be healthy, happy people who will be devoted to them. This is not a given. Nor is it a given that one will be a good parent, able to provide time and thoughtful attention to raising a fulfilled human being. My husband is a teacher and it is amazing the stories he hears from the kids... of parents not speaking to them, eating with them or helping them with their homework, of parents who turn to teachers to solve their kids' problems, clearly disappointed and exasperated that their kid isn't perfect and requires so much effort from them. Too many seem to have had the kids for the sake of an extension of themselves, an asset, reflected glory, someone to make them feel better.

I was never baby crazy, but I always liked kids at the age from when they first start talking to pre-tween, a time during which they have incredibly solid and creative little identities. I'm sorry I'll never meet that person that age that I might have produced.

On the other hand, I think, what does childhood look like in Western countries these days? I had a great childhood, pre-cellphones and at the dawn of the Internet, going out in the morning on weekends/holidays and roaming streets and fields with a gang of kids till sundown, playing and biking and having adventures. When I think of having a kid now, I think of the restrictive boundaries, their inability to go anywhere alone till their late teens, the constant social surveillance and peer pressure in a digital age, and I feel less sad for my potential kid as well.

Certainly, the majority of people my age who have had kids do not seem filled to the brim with joy by the experience. Some have become self-centered and insular; some have abandoned cherished dreams; some marriages have broken down over unshared home responsibilities; some are tied to careers they loathe because of their financial obligations.

I think like you, I was lucky to meet my life partner quite young and we've been happily together a long time. I think that wards off the great "fear of regret" about that other path not taken somewhat, when you've had one person in your life with whom you've bonded deeply. Though a biological child would be one's flesh and blood, that is still no guarantee of being simpatico for the rest of your lives as parent and child.

The fact is, everything is a trade-off. For one reason or another, it may be as regret-filled to have children as to not have them.

Thanks for sharing. Obviously, though my choice is dictated by physical considerations as well, this is something I too turn over in my mind regularly.

Indigo said...

Great post! When I became engaged and then married, people kept saying how we would have beautiful children. My answer to them would always be, " No, I won't because I don't like babies." They would respond with things like, "Oh, you'll change your mind later." Or, "When those babies start coming, you'll quickly change your mind." Blah blah blah.
But I never "changed" my mind. Neither my husband or myself ever wanted any. When my nieces send me pictures of their kids and babies I do not have any interest. My iPhone albums are not filled to exploding with pictures of kids. When there is a new baby around and everyone is all oohing and ahhing and giggling, I walk away.
I prefer to have my freedom, to go anywhere I please whenever I please. My money is better spent on interesting things Rather than on diapers, or carriers or future college funds.
It's odd, but not having children was my decision ever since I was about 11. I'm glad I made that choice.
Have a beautiful day!

Anonymous said...

I found this post very intriguing and it's gotten me to think again about the reasons I don't feel it in my bones to have kids. I'm only 27. I have a wonderful and caring boyfriend and we have been talking about marriage. We're just starting out thinking of our lives together, that adding a child to the mix is extremely absurd. We're kids ourselves!

I have girlfriends who have always talked about their desire for kids. How many, when they wanted them, the whole mix. They've babysitted, not only their own siblings but others as well. They love it. I only baby sat once for a family friend and the kid was a spoiled brat (tortured it's hamster, screamed and wouldn't listen to me at all- I had to lock myself in the bathroom to call her mom and tell her sorry, but I can't handle her child anymore).

I am the youngest of four siblings, their is 16 years between me and my sister, so I was never old enough to baby sit my nieces and nephew, and now they don't need to be baby sat. You can imagine my oldest niece is 4 years younger than me so it was like having a sibling I didn't want and I was a little bratty because it felt like I was an only child living with my mom and dad. All my other siblings were out of the house already.

I've always told my mom I felt I was too selfish to have a kid. So when my boyfriend brings up the idea of kids it's a little stressful. We both at first admitted it wasn't for us, but as our love grew for one another we keep coming back to the idea. But I still feel that it isn't for me. Not intentionally I suppose. Not at this time. I want to be able to enjoy our time together, building a life together. We want to travel, and go to concerts, and art galleries, and beer festivals- without pushing a stroller with us, or begging our aging parents to babysit. My mom has had her fill of grand kids-she loves them dearly and would love any others that came up, but why would I want to burden her in her retirement when she has goals of her own now that she is once again a single women (my dad died of cancer 3 years ago).

I guess what I'm saying is, the desire was never there. I may have played along with friends, coming up with kids names when I really wanted to be creating characters for stories I wanted to write. We played house but I thought nothing of it. I love my dog but she's getting up in age, and while I loved raising her as a puppy, her aging and eventually death may be it for a while on the pet front. It will be too much to bear.

The sickness in my family with cancer is terrifying and if I had children, I would certainly want to be here to help raise them.

There are too many what if's right now. Too many things to do and see. Too many art projects to get too. Too many late nights talking and drinking and laughing with my boyfriend and friends. I don't doubt that having kids are life changing and a great experience that has it's benefits. But right now I'm content with my boyfriend, family, and friends.

I guess we'll see if it happens, and just take it one step at a time.

thotlady said...

Well, I was 40 when I got married. I kept telling my husband, if we want children we should start soon. He didn't seem interested. I think both people should want to have children otherwise there are unforeseen problems down the road.

My MIL kept saying, we choose not to have children, I finally corrected her and said "your son didn't want to have children". She stopped talking about it then.

I am now almost 60 years old and do regret not having children from time to time. But I try not to dwell on it, because life is what it is.

My rambling probably hasn't help much, but there it is.

Dana said...

Kelsey Williams -- HA! my partner and I are firmly in the "no kids zone" and people just don't get it (both good with kids/nurturers, financially comfortable, mid 30s, and would have 'good looking kids' -- btw, never get that one). I've often said, "there's a ton of people out there that like dogs/cats well enough, but they just don't have the want or need to own a pet. it's like that, only with kids, for us."......most folks don't like the reversal where I'm comparing not having kids to not having pets!! "kids aren't dogs." lol

(I think they especially don't like that comparison b/c we're the crazy animal family -- 8 dogs and a cat -- so they think I'm considering myself "equal" to them as far as being a "parent" to four legged "furkids". I'm not. I don't think of my pets as kids -- I love them to pieces, but I fully understand the difference. it's why I DON'T want kids. they can't appreciate that nuance.)

Anonymous said...

I am 28 and my husband and I have been married for 8 years. Growing up I always planned on getting married and having a lot of kids because that is what everyone in my highly religious culture did. I love kids and am the favorite aunt out of our 20 nieces and nephews but I haven't felt the desire to start having any of my own. While I am great with kids I have never felt drawn towards babies. I usually only hold them when asked and I just feel awkward and wait to hand them off to someone else. I have felt enormous pressure from our families to have kids and they don't understand why we haven't had any yet. I do feel like I want to have kids eventually but I am just not ready yet. What makes it even more difficult is my husband wants kids badly and I feel guilty for depriving him of having them now. I feel like most of my family and friends just had kids because they feel that was the next step and what they were supposed to do. I don't even know if any of them really thought it through and decided if it was what they really wanted. When I think about having children or not I try to think about what my reasoning would be for both decisions. If I decide to have children is it because I am being pressured into it or is really what I want for my life? I think it is completely wrong to have children just because others expect you to do it. It is a little infuriating that other people feel they can decide for you what is right for your life. They make me feel like there is something wrong with me for waiting so long and make me feel like I am being selfish. I think it would be more selfish for me to have a child that I am not completely ready for than to wait until I have things more figured out. While I love my husband I got married way too young and don't want to make the same mistake with having children. I am just tired of feeling guilty for decisions I make concerning my own life. I really appreciate this post and reading the comments knowing there are many more women indecisive about this decision.

Daynya said...

Ugh. This is honestly a large challenge for me. When I was in my mid-20s, I met my husband and soon after, I was desperate for a baby, which caught me off guard. I had never wanted kids, and suddenly, I needed a baby, and I was honestly kind of embarrassed by this. He said he was not sure, but was inclined to want them as well, in quite a few years. So I constantly reminded him of my waiting needs, and he constantly assured me that we'd get there. When I turned 30, we were engaged, and I started taking planning a baby very seriously. However, my feelings on the subject started to change at that time. I realized it was no longer something I felt I needed, but something that was basically just 'the plan', and I was going along with it. So I took a step back, and decided to reevaluate. I even signed up for an online course to help me figure out if I actually wanted a baby or not. The result? Basically what I knew before I took the course. Both sides are compelling. I am an artist, I want to make sure I never lose the ability/time/freedom to create. My husband is a musician, and he feels the same way. We both greatly value our free time, and our quiet time. Those are the priorities. A child is a major life disruption, and I'm open to the fact that it could be in a great way, or an awful way, probably both. I am much older than my siblings, so I know that I would love caring for a small person in that way, I can tell that in my heart. But do I need to? Not sure. So, basically my husband said let's wait until we're married, and then we can assess. So we did, and we decided we'd like to either adopt (due to overpopulation, and also because I really believe that all of the children without parents deserve to have loving homes. I'm not so hung up on putting more of my - admittedly not amazing - genes into this world), or maybe even try for our own, we weren't sure. We were going to move cross-country, and we decided to wait until we did to start the process. Then we got there and hated it, and decided we were too unhappy to worry about anything other than returning back home, and dedicated the next year to that. Then we moved back cross-country, landed back home, and again the topic surfaced. This time, however, I was unprepared for what was waiting. My husband informed me that he was no longer in favor of the idea, and I suddenly was completely shocked. I hadn't anticipated this, and I had not anticipated the ache in my heart as a result. This is where we are now. Me feeling shocked, and assuming that the hurt I feel is because I have realized I finally do know what I want, while also wondering that if kids were so important, why is it that I'm about to turn 35, and they have yet to make an appearance in my life? My husband doesn't think his feelings will change, and I love him more than anything, so I've said we'll just take it as it comes and see what happens. We love our cats, and plan to have many more animals over the years, because I do really like caring for other beings. I think I'd enjoy being a mom, but I feel like I can forge a life of happiness without going down that path.

This is totally not helpful, but I just wanted to chime in and say that I get that it's not a fun struggle. I don't want to force myself into something, and the more sure I feel, the more critical I become of that decision. The less sure I feel, the more (very kind, but still) pressure I get from family about the whole thing. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this! I am 30 and have no desire for kids. Admittingly, I have also wondered if I am missing something, or if I should be feeling a certain way and am somehow broken. How can we help it with all our friends, family and media surrounding us?! About 6 years ago I was looking for volunteer opportunities for my resume, and found something with kids once a week for 2 hours. I was skeptical about it since I was so awkward around kids, but about a year into it I felt like I could connect in a way I never thought I could! Now I feel more comfortable around my 20 nieces and nephews. And I feel even more content with not having kids. Volunteerism really helped me feel more connected with the family I already had, therefore taking any glimpse of yearning out of the picture. I found it was better to improve on then create my own out of the unknown. Of course when friends mention marriage, kids, houses, I still feel a second of "humpf" but it passes when I realize I am living the best life for me! Keep doing what you love and things will fall into place as you change and find your niche.

Anonymous said...

This is why I love coming to your blog! Refreshing perspectives, fashion, and photography.

I am 37. My husband and I have no plans to have a baby any time soon, much to the chagrin of our parents and believe or not, perfect strangers. The funny thing is, I work with young children all day and am being told constantly what a wonderful mother I would make. People don't stop to think that perhaps the reason I am so good at what I do is because I get a break! Every day I get to go home and recharge my batteries, patience and my spirit. So that when I do my most meaningful work, I am fully present and engaged.

Having children is not a small undertaking. Ultimately, your body is nobody's business. It took me along time to realize that not having children doesn't mean you are a bad person, or that you're selfish, or that something is broken or wrong with you. It doesn't make you any less of a woman either. It means that you are strong enough to listen to that tiny voice inside that says, I am making a choice that is right for ME.

Kara Tedder said...

What a lovely post, so glad I saw it. You described my emotions about having kids exactly, in a way I could never articulate. My husband and I have been married 16 years & we JUST now have our first little girl on the way next month. I'll be 37 & he'll be 44 when she is born. The timing is perfect for us & we are so happy. For years, we said we either weren't having any at all, or weren't sure & did everything to prevent it. Only within the past year did we start to soften up to the idea (the loss of a parent 7 years ago had a huge impact). We never tried to get pregnant, just didn't prevent it for one month, and here we are. :) We LOVE our cats & dog, I adore being an aunt, and I NEVER had a ticking biological clock, not even once. It was a subtle shift inside both of us, and that's ok if it's the same for you. There's a reason you feel the way you do, and I understand it completely. Much love, Kara (& Summer Faith) :)

Mirja said...

Wow! I'm 36 now and this could have been written by me! That same sentence from Humans of New York moved me as well, and I'm struggling with the thought of motherhood. It's not who I am all. I don't go crazy about babies, I go mad for kittens. If you figure this out please write about it. I feel like my window of opportunity is slipping away, me none the wiser about what I want. I want the full human experience. But does that necassarely involve becoming a mother?

Ana said...

I'm also 32 and have no children. I was married before, and my partner wanted a baby. I was dragging my heels on it, though, always saying "in a few years." A few years passed, and I found myself definitely not wanting to but stupidly agreeing to go along with trying to start a family anyway. Thank goodness nothing became of it because I was relieved every month with the sign that another life was not forming inside of me — that relief a sure sign you should NOT just do it. But part of what influenced me to just go along and do it was the push from my partner and society and family and friends and the mind-set that "This is what happens now. It goes: love, marriage, baby carriage." Well, for other reasons my marriage ended, and I suddenly felt free to focus on what I wanted — to travel, to focus on my career, to simply have many moments all to myself. I do love children; spending time with my niece and nephew fills my heart with joy. But I'm glad to not have to be their caregiver full-time. Society teaches us that this is selfish, and if that's true, then I am selfish. So what? One day, I'd like to adopt children...perhaps. It had always been my go-to option when thinking of building a family. But even now, I feel I'm buying myself more time by saying "I can adopt older children once I reach 35." Thirty-five seems so close now though! And so many friends have already started their families, covertly pushing their babies on me maybe in hopes that I'll get the baby bug. Nope. Your child is precious and beautiful and having one of my own would definitely change my life, but that's not the way in which I want my life changed. I feel like women's decision to not procreate — however foreign an idea it may be to some — is slowly becoming more commonplace and actually respected in society. And for that I am grateful. For that I affirm no children for me yet...if ever.

Anna Wagner said...

I have never really felt strongly either way, but it's odd because I've always assumed I've had kids. My husband and I haven't been married long (less than a year) but met young and have been together almost 10 years. We both feel similarly in that we always figured we'd have kids and generally plan on doing so but also really enjoy not having them at the moment and consider what it'd be like to never have them (more freedom, time, etc.). Neither of us particularly enjoy other people's kids, though we're generally fine with them and I'm kind of anxious to be an aunt for some reason, and the thought of pregnancy and birthing scares the crap out of me. Yet we constantly say "when we have kids....".

In all our discussions, he's always said he wants to be done having kids before we're 30. We're 25 right now and suddenly that doesn't seem so far off, which is scary and crazy to me. I'm concerned about what having kids will do to my career as well, which I know is something men don't think about it and I know my husband will do his fair share but it's still concerning. So I guess many, many things about having kids scare me and I'm not really sure it'd be a net positive in ours live but yet we both assume we'll have them? It's weird.

Anonymous said...

I was married young (fresh out of college at 22) and my husband and I agreed that we'd like to have kids, probably, maybe. As time went on we found lots of reasons not to do it, though: law school, starting a business, travel, buying and renovating a house, etc., etc. Then at 31 I ended up pregnant (I just couldn't deal with the side effects of birth control anymore and went of it) and I still wasn't sure. Now that my daughter is 13 months old I love being a mom and we even have another baby on the way. I never liked other people's babies but I love my own. Everything is different but you find time for the important things. Also, we have a rule that we do not post any photos of our daughter on the internet so that cuts out a lot of that craziness. All this to say, I didn't think I wanted kids until I had one and was really happy. Elissa

Anonymous said...

Just to say - I always felt like you, but my husband and I finally decided to have one kid, because intellectually, we saw it was a major life experience and we didn't want to miss out on it. So yes, the 'full human experience' thing. Three kids later, all I can say is, unless you're aiming to be the head of a major bank or president, at least have one. The expansion, the sense of family, the depth of the bond between you, the sense of family - it's not something you regret.

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Michelle Brown said...

What I took from this article is that you do want children. However you are 1. afraid that you may not bond with them and 2. your waiting for the ahh moment or a strong desire. The later first, you may never have that ahh moment. While a baby changes everything it doesn't change who you are. Because you are in your thirties you are already aware of your self. For the former, the way you are with friends children and the way you will be with your own is TOTALLY different.

I'm 43 I have seven children (which nobody ever believes when I tell them) I work full time (I'm a hair stylist) I travel, go out with friends, read, stalk fashion blogs lol, am totally into fashion and makeup and am totally into probably many of the same things as you. Children don't have to stop you from being you.

Whether you chose to have children or not I hope this was helpful. If you would like to discuss this further please feel free to contact me.

God Luck :)

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