Hello out there. This is my first blog and it is intended for people who think for themselves and ask questions or who at least have questions and don’t see the world in only “rights” and “wrongs,” but also look at things as case by case as well. I’m not talking about extremes here. Clearly some things are just wrong. Child molestation, rape, torture…all wrong. But in life there are also lots of greys. Far more greys than color extremes. A bit about myself: usually, I spell check like crazy, look for grammatical errors, sensor myself, make sure everything is proper, etc. For this blog, I’m going to attempt to deconstruct some of this perfectionism and focus less on being proper and more on just getting my thoughts out. There will be typos, errors, etc. If you are like me and care about this sort of thing, try to get over it. I will spell check, but may miss a thing or two…or five. Okay, so now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in.
I DON’T KNOW IF I WANT KIDS.
There, it’s out there. Now, when one is 20 and unsure if they (side note: I use “they” and “their” singularly at times, rather than saying s/he or his/her, etc. I use “they” in the singular form and plural in the same way “you” can be singular or plural) want to have a child, people generally say things like, “You have time. You’ll change your mind.” But what about when you are in your 30’s or 40’s and are still unsure? I mean, by our mid-30’s women are told that we should be in full swing and should be wanting babies, craving to have them, ready to bed any man in order to reproduce. But what if your biological clock is broken? Or what if you question whether or not having kids makes sense, even if you do want them? Or what if you are still on the fence like me? Or what if you have them and later wonder why you did (most parents don’t admit to this one, but I have had a few mothers and fathers admit this to me before)? Or maybe you always wanted them, have them and cannot understand why anyone would ever question whether or not they want to have them or (gasp) know they do not want them at all? It tends to be very difficult for people to put themselves in someone else’s situation or mindset, and not judge them. There is a lot of judgement out there and it tends to come from the two extremes in this case. It has been my experience though that the people who think everyone should procreate tend to be the ones who have the most difficulty looking at this from anyone else’s perspective. Like what works for you should work for everyone, except it doesn’t. Wow, shocking!
So, I’m at that age. I’m at that age when society says, have kids. Advertising and marketing definitely sell this. I just signed up for a music radio account who asked for my birth year in order to market to me. Well, since I am a woman in my 30’s, they are assuming I am a mom. It was very odd. Here I am listening to Crass (a hard-core punk band) and other alternative music, and this audio ad pops up telling me to take my daughter to the mall for a girls’ day out. I wanted to vomit. I don’t like malls, I’m listening to Crass, Talking Heads and the B-52s and you are telling me to take my imaginary daughter out on a “girls’ day out?” Did I miss something? Did my music taste scream mall mom? It made me wish I put in a different age in their mandatory questions section, just out of curiosity so I could see how they market to women of a different age or change my gender to male to see how they market differently to men. Yes, more and more in this country, people are being treated like products. I’m sure the marketing for 20 and 80 year olds is quite different.
This advertising lead me to the notion that there is a general cultural assumption that if you are a woman somewhere in your mid-late 20’s and beyond, that you are a mom or will be a mom someday soon. I’ve been told “Happy Mother’s Day” on Mother’s Day at the supermarket by the cashier, even though I don’t have kids and have been pretty happy without them. I’m not saying kids don’t bring joy, they certainly can, but, let’s be honest, they are a lot of work, it’s not like a cat or a dog…not by a long shot. I know some cat and dog owners claim it’s like having a kid, but it really isn’t!!! Dogs don’t cry all through the night, night after night, need diaper changing for 2+ years, lie to you, laugh with you, throw temper tantrums, feed from your breast, ask you to buy everything for them in the grocery store/mall/what-have-you, go to basketball practice, fail first grade, make the honor role, rebel against you, move out, go to college, get a job, take financial risks, make investments, drive cars…or live at home till they are 45 years old. Kids are a life-long commitment. Dogs and cats are a 10 to 20 something year commitment at best and are a fraction of the work. They really are not the same. Yes, they both depend on you to a degree, but kids depend on you far more and in a much more complicated way than pets do. Now, I know some smarty pants is going to say, “One time my cat got really sick and we had to put diapers on him and he whined.” Okay. So what? Do you compare that incident with raising a kid for life? Yes, kids and pets usually love you unconditionally, but if you equate your kitty diaper experience to raising children, spend a lot more time around kids and I think you will change your mind. A kid is a life-altering undertaking and should not be taken lightly. The mass amount of time and energy it takes to raise one is not equivalent to having a dog you need to walk and feed. Even the most difficult dog comes no where near how difficult it is to raise a person. Now there are a lot of people who call their pets their kids and I think this is okay because usually they don’t actually think having a dog or cat is like raising a kid, but that their pet is part of the family. What some of my friends with kids find troubling is when people who don’t have kids, but want kids think that having a dog will prepare them for raising a human being.
To have or not to have kids? Yes, that is the question.
I’ve spoken candidly with many moms, dads, aunties, uncles, childless by choice, childless by circumstance, through the years and you know what I’ve gathered? People, by and large, operate as to what best suits them. Some parents think that people who choose not to have kids are selfish. I would argue that having kids is also usually a selfish act, it’s just that people who choose not to have kids tend to be more honest about this. And, some people who choose not to have kids make that choice because they don’t want to pass on genes that may make their future offspring’s life difficult or they are thinking about how violent and chaotic our world is and don’t want to bring a child into this world, or think the population is already too large, and so forth. And many people who have kids have them for all sorts of self-serving reasons. Some of the reasons I’ve been told are: tradition and/or family pressure, to have a little someone they can mold to be the next so and so or to live vicariously through them, to become a parent, to be a better parent than other parents out there (most parents think they are better at it than others, even when they are not), to experience pregnancy, to have someone who looks like them, to have someone they can pass their ideas and beliefs onto, because they like babies (even though babies grow up!), to have someone who will take care of them when they are old, to pass on their genes, to pass on the family name, they are lonely, to have someone who will love them, it’s the next step in life, it’s what people do, it’s natural and what we are supposed to do (<
not everyone is biologically capable of having kids and/or some people meet their partner too late in life to conceive, so saying it’s what we are supposed to do is inaccurate), to dress them up in frilly outfits and have them compete in dehumanizing toddler beauty pageants, because time is running out. The list goes on, but it all comes back to you. Do not “kid” yourself into thinking you are better than someone who doesn’t want kids and that you are somehow altruistic because you want to have a child. People will keep having kids whether or not you do and there are plenty of kids in need of a good home who are already on the planet. When loving people adopt or become foster parents, they are behaving altruistically, but they must be good, loving people. My grandmother had her own child from her first marriage and adopted in her second marriage, but was an abusive mother to her kids. She adopted because her second husband was unable to reproduce. The act of adoption alone does not make you a selfless person.
I know a lot of people believe we are “all meant to be” and all have some grand life purpose. This is very poetic and if this thinking works for you and you are out there doing good deeds, keep it up. There are some facts though that make this statement difficult for me to believe, however. I believe we are all accidents (or lucky, unlucky, suprises)…even those of us who were “planned.” I don’t think our species is an accident, but for each individual to be here, timing and circumstance is everything. If your parents, and their parents, and great grandparents, and so forth, didn’t copulate at that exact moment, you wouldn’t be here. A different person, maybe, but not you. Now I also believe we are here now so in that sense we are “meant to be” because we are what is. And while we are here, why not educate each other, learn from one another, try to be kind, stop dehumanizing, and try to live more harmoniously with the other inhabitants of the earth. In addition to the “meant to be” argument, some of us were born out of or into abuse, some of us are the product of rape, molestation, science (test tube babies and the like), fertility drugs, donated eggs/sperm. Did God think it’d be cool to create fertility drugs to have litters of babies? And if this was “meant to be” why didn’t God do this a long time ago? Or better yet, if we are all meant to be, why is there even a need for fertility drugs? If we are able to “play God” does God have some special place and mission in life for the many human creations out there? And how can all 7+ billion of us be watched by one God at the same time? Is God a perv? Is he watching you in the shower?
Around 1930, the world population was around 2 billion people. 2 Billion!! Now we are at 7+. Meant to be? Really? Or is it the product of better health care, which leads to longer living, more people on the planet means more people reproducing, which leads to worse air quality, more pollution, more consumption, more killing of animals for food, more land needed for vegetables, but less land available, more “science food” because we are running out of space for trees, plants, animals, and so forth. We are an animal with a population that is skyrocketing and could lead to our eventual demise as a species. Even if over half the world decided not to have kids, we’d still be a-okay. Furthermore, I refuse to justify rape or child-molestation because a baby was born. No one should ever be subjected to rape or molestation. And if believing everything is meant to be means believing rape is meant to be? Well, consider me a nonbeliever.
The Perks of Not Having Kids
You mean, there are perks to not having kids you may ask? Yes. Indeed there are. Having time is a big one. Time to do things like type this blog, play music, go on tour, travel, hang out with friends late into the night, extra money, no need to find a sitter or pay for daycare, time for yourself, not having to be “on” all the time, making meals for one (or two if you have a partner, girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse), going out on a whim, having time for your own interests, sleeping through the night, feeling well-rested, more sex with your mate, not having to worry about the kids all the time, typically less fights with your spouse (or at least different arguments), time to write a book, invent something, daydream, take a long road trip, be irresponsible and not feel bad about it, do charitable deeds, work with kids and then go home and relax. More time to better your community, volunteer, start foundations, donate your time to social causes, more time to help kids in need, (many parents become myopic and focus so much of their time on just their kids), meet for coffee and stay awhile…there is a long list of perks and this is just scratching the surface. And of course, you can do many of these things even when you have kids, you just have to be a lot more creative with your time and usually have to limit your interests if you have tons of interests like me…or so I’ve been told. There are only so many hours in a day.
The Perks of Having Kids
This section is based on observation and on what people have told me. I’ve been told you feel a love like you have never felt before. (I was told this by mom’s who did not suffer postpartum depression after child-birth, though mother’s who had initial depression end up saying the same sorts of things after the depression passes). I’ve been told the love you get from a child is such an amazing feeling and that watching them grow and learn is eye-opening and blissful. I’ve been told that the choices you make are for the betterment of your child, and that you become more selfless. (I’d just like to say here that while deciding to have a child is sometimes a selfish decision, raising one and being a good parent is often a lesson in selflessness.) Seeing your child light up when you walk into the room. I’ve been told that seeing the world through a child’s eyes is awe inspiring and that you learn as much or more from them as they do from you. I’ve been told that one can speculate what having a kid is like until they are blue in the face, but that the only way to truly know how amazing, difficult, and rewarding raising children can be is to have them yourself.
If You Know You Want Kids or Don’t Know If You Want Kids
Spend time with kids…lots of time. Don’t fool yourself into thinking your kid will be different. Maybe they will. But in many ways, probably not. Realize that you really don’t know what you are going to get or what kind of personality your child will have. Know that even “easy” kids can sometimes be difficult to raise and that difficult kids can grow up to be loving and wonderful adults. Know that it is okay to be unsure if you want kids or don’t want kids no matter what anyone says. If you know you want kids, strive to be the best parent you can be, and at the same time, don’t lose sight of who you are. Remember to take care of yourself and don’t lose sight of your passions and who you are. When people just go on gushing about their kids all the time, I often think the parents are being really egocentric (my kid this and my kid that) and is sort of boring. There is a big world outside of your kid and many other topics to speak of and ideas and questions to ponder. You did have a life before your kid and one day your kid will grow up. Be an interesting person in your own right. Don’t just live vicarously through your child. What are your passions?
But then there’s our biology.
Yes. We are animals, whether you want to believe it or not. We are born, eat, reproduce, shit, die, just like the other creatures. We think we are so important and above all other creatures and unfortunately for us, this thinking will lead to our eventual extinction. We need to learn how to live more harmoniously in order to survive. We need to stop thinking we are the best thing on the planet, because the world will continue with our without us and was here long before we got here. As I said before, I am on the fence and don’t meet many others that are also on the fence. I have friends, both male and female, who either definitely want kids, definitely don’t, or who already have kids and tell me all the joys and woes of parenting. Most parents that I know who have kids are happy they had them. Some didn’t want kids until just recently when their “biological clock” started kicking in. I, too, have moments when my husband and I start talking about having kids. When we discuss the idea of having kids, we talk about having them one at a time instead of having some number in our heads, like when people say, “I’ve always wanted 3 kids.” This is coming from people who have none. They don’t even know what raising one is like, how can they know how many they want? I actually wanted 3 kids when I was 6, but when I was 17, I had a good friend in high school say, “I don’t want kids. I’ll just be the crazy cat lady.” This was such a foreign notion to me. I was raised Catholic and just thought that’s what you did in life. You grew up and had kids. It had never even occurred to me that there was a choice. Some people do want kids, have always wanted kids, can’t imagine life without kids and this is all fine and natural. I would argue that not wanting kids or being unsure about having kids is also fine and natural. In fact, the less kids we have, the more resources we have, the more attention and opportunities we can provide the kids we do have, and so on. My mom comes from a family of 10 kids. 10! Yes, 10. She was the oldest daughter and told me growing up she never really had a childhood because she was expected to help raise all the kids her Catholic parents kept having. She even told me she once found some Catholic literature on family planning, but that it clearly didn’t work, because my Grandma had 4 more kids after my mom found that pamphlet. She always told me she’s happy to have all of her brothers and sisters, but that her childhood (or lack thereof) was very difficult.
For men, it’s a bit easier. Society gives you a bit more freedom in this department than women. Yes, you may have parental pressures or pressure from friends, but in the media being a playboy or a bachelor is usually considered cool and glorified. You can get all the ladies (dehumanized sex objects) you want with no strings attached. Women are fed different social messages from cradle to grave. Being a wife, a mother, a grandmother, etc., is fantastic. Or, you can just grow up to be a slut or just grow old…or both. We are sold to chase endless beauty and youth regimes, because our looks matter more than anything else about who we are. We aren’t supposed to be “too good” at anything or if we are, we shouldn’t be as good as a man. We aren’t given the range of roles men get in movies, books, TV shows. Except for that once in a blue moon role, we are usually the sidekick to his action hero (and of course need saving), the sexy vacuous thing on the look-like-anything male comedian’s arm, the whore, the “mom”, the good girl, the bad girl, the good girl gone bad, the subordinate, not the heroine or the leader. Yes, you can point out a few dozen movies/shows, etc. that buck this notion, like the “Alien” movies or something, but for every “Alien” movie out there, there are endless amounts of movies that confirm stereotypical gender roles, not counter them. In the end, it almost always comes back to our looks, our biology, our sexuality, and being dehumanized. If we are a bit over-weight or less attractive than the man we are married to or dating on a show, THAT is the focus of the episode, show, movie, so forth. With men, we are expected to just suspend our disbelief, it is rarely called to the audiences’ attention when the male lead is double the female leads age, out-of-shape, unattractive Mr. Funny, so forth. 99% of the time, she must be hot, and he might be hot, but usually can look like just about anything. We are told that this happens because “men are shallow and visual” and we are often told this by men! As if women don’t like to see attractive men or are somehow not visual? I’m just saying, if women are going to be objectified this much, either show more similarly hot men with hot women or better yet, give women as much freedom in their appearance for roles as men get. Have a hot man cast? Get a hot woman. Have an flabby balding man cast in your movie? Get a flabby balding woman. (j/k)
Yes, I’m still on the fence.
From what I have been told, parenting can be one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences on the planet. Up until this point in this post, you may have been wondering if I truly am on the fence about having a kid. Truth is, I’ve considered adoption, but my husband would rather we have one of our own…and at this point if we have any in the future, we are thinking we’ll have a single child, but we are also “wait and see, one at a time.” By the way, I prefer single child to only child…only child just sounds so depressing. “Oh, you’re an only child?” Instead I like, “we are a single-child family.” or “I’m a single child.” After all, we don’t say to single adults, “Oh, you’re an only adult?” We say, “I’m single.” Just sounds better, less dire, and less judgmental. And, when raising a child in a partnership, it isn’t just about what you want. You have to be considerate of your partner’s desires. I’m open to the idea of having one, maybe, though as I said prior, sometimes I’m like, maybe none. Also, it’s okay to want a kid at one point in your life and later decide you don’t or that you are unsure, or that you didn’t want kids, but now you do. We are always growing and learning and getting exposed to different ideas so don’t feel like you cannot change your mind. You always can, about anything. As you can tell from this post, I’m super analytical, so if we have one, it may need to be a happy unplanned surprise, otherwise it may not ever happen. I typed this post because I know there are other adults who struggle with this taboo topic. And, there isn’t much literature on this. I’ve looked. Maybe after this post there will be. It’s like the elephant in the room. These are things I know a lot of people think, but are so afraid they will be judged by others that they do not dare talk about it. Especially women. Women are made to feel guilty by many men and by many women on this topic. I wish more people asked themselves why they want to have kids and fess up to their potential selfish desires. I have no illusions. If my husband and I have a kid, it was either an accident or a planned accident and I acknowledge that our choice is selfish and unnecessary. If we have a kid, it’s because we want to raise a family together. We know our kid(s) did not ask to be here. We will do the best we can, but it was a choice or an accidental choice we were willing to take. It’s better than saying, “it’s just what we do.” Like a kid is a crossword puzzle or something. I’ve worked with kids for a long time and have seen kids who come from abusive homes, or who are the product of parents who keep having more kids in order to get the gender they want. Some will say, “We would have stopped at 2 if our second child was a boy, but we just kept having girls so that’s why we have so many kids.” A number of us are the product of that! Being the wrong gender. Meant to be? I’m not here to judge you or your choices. I do, however, want you to realize you do have a choice and treat having a child as the monumental event and undertaking it is. Just because you have been given messages all your life that you should grow up and procreate doesn’t mean you have to. One of my good friend’s mom told me she never wanted kids, but that her husband did. She ended up having two girls and she said it was the best thing that ever happened to her. And, according to my friend, her mom was a wonderful mom. That’s the other thing, just because someone says they don’t want kids, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t make a great parent.
It’s a Crap Shoot, Honor Individuality
There are plenty of parents out there who could definitely improve how they parent and of course, there are parents out there who are amazing parents and who raise phenomenal children, and there are crappy parents out there who still end up having amazing kids. Honestly, it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Anyone who has multiple kids can usually attest to this and talk about how each of their kids have different temperaments. You don’t know who you are going to get, so just try to raise the best individuals you can. And let them be individuals.
My individuality is one of the best gifts my mom gave me and I have a great mom. When I was 20, I told her that I didn’t know if I would ever get married and I didn’t know if I would ever have kids. Her response, “That’s okay. I don’t need to be a grandma. I just want you to be happy.” Talk about a selfless answer! I know she would have been thrilled if I said I wanted to marry someday and raise a family, but instead, she honored what I said and didn’t patronize me with some, “You’ll change your mind” crap. Even if I did change my mind, that was how I was feeling then and that feeling should be honored for what is was. While we are all circumstantial accidents, either planned accidents or unplanned, we are also all individuals. From what I understand, the role of parents is to raise the best individual you can, so that when they grow up they will pass that gift on, either through their own families, or their friends, or their ideas. So many times we get caught up in how things are “supposed to be” instead of “what is.” You may want your kid to be the star basketball player, but they may have no interest and would rather play the drums. Honor who they are, not who you think they should be. And if they choose to play the drums, instead of playing ball, invest in some earplugs.