The problem is I’ve always had two deal-breakers: where to live, and kids. I’ve never wanted kids (though I do have to admit that I haven’t completely closed that door), and I told him this early on and again a few times since. Every time I mention that I don’t plan on having kids my boyfriend acts like it’s the first time he’s heard this. He says that he isn’t sure about kids, but when he talks hypothetically about the future he mentions how he would want to raise kids. I’ve asked him outright if he definitely wants kids and he has said that he wouldn’t want an only child, so none or two kids, but he hasn’t said how comfortable he would be if it were none. I’m not sure if this is a deal-breaker for him, but since I have changed my mind on my location deal-breaker, could I also change my mind about not having kids?
I would hate to continue getting serious with him if he is only sticking around because he thinks I might change my mind, when I don’t know whether I will or not. I’ve gotten to a place in my life where, if I had to raise a child, I have confidence I could do it, but would I enjoy it? I hate to say it since it sounds so antagonistic, but I can’t understand what people get out of raising kids. I can see all the hardships, but what is the joy? On top of that the irrational part of me feels like it’s unfair that I compromised on where to live and now he should compromise on kids (if it’s even a compromise, I’m not sure he’s made a decision either way). Of course, this is all very theoretical at this point and actually making a decision is years away, but I don’t want to waste my time or his time if this is already doomed. What should I do? — Is the Coast Clear?
First of all, deal-breakers are called deal-breakers for a reason. They are definite, with no wiggle room, and no space for compromise. Say, if you’re Jewish, and dating a non-Jew is a deal-breaker for you, you’re not going to seriously date a Catholic person and be like, “Eh, we could make this work,” unless, of course, the deal-breaker wasn’t really a deal-breaker after all, but more of a “wish list” item. In any event, breaking a deal like location is much, much easier to live with — and to break again — than having a kid you don’t think you really want — or, in your case, potentially having two kids you don’t want since your boyfriend doesn’t want an only child.
I would never try to talk someone into having kids who is pretty sure she doesn’t want them. There are many reasons not to have children and many ways people can live fabulous, joyful lives without them. Kids take an enormous amount of time, money, energy, and love to raise. They require a huge amount of patience and sacrifice. They are often whiny, demanding, and, dare I say, boring. They get sick a lot. Oh! And one thing people tend to gloss over when deciding to have children is that becoming a parent means that in addition to your own offspring, you’ll be spending a lot of time with other people’s kids, too. There are birthday parties — God, the endless stream of birthday parties — play dates, school events (plays, field trips, band concerts), sports games, ballet and piano recitals, and swim lessons, to name a few, all of which will bring you into direct contact with loads of other people’s children, some of whom may be total pricks.
But despite all that, having children can, indeed, fill your life with more joy than you could imagine. Raising someone who is totally dependent on you to become an independent, productive member of society includes incredible rewards, both big and small. For me, hearing my baby laugh every day is a kind of joy I haven’t felt before. I have been lucky enough to experience lots of happiness in my life, but this kind of happiness — knowing that I am doing a good job at being a mother, that I am providing a comfortable, loving home for my son, where he is nurtured, protected, and appreciated — is an experience totally unique from everything else in my life. And there’s something about being a parent that makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself, in a “Roots” sort of way. It’s cool to be part of an ancestral line that continues to move forward knowing that you’re responsible for the forward-motion. That’s reductive and primitive, I know, but in its basic sense, that’s what having children is.
But I wanted to have kids, and I have a partner who wanted them, and together we are able to give our son the life we want him to have. It would be a different experience had I been on the fence about kids, or if I was with a partner who didn’t share my parenting philosophies and general world view. It would be much harder if we were broke or didn’t love each other or for some reason weren’t able to be as physically and emotionally present in our son’s life as we are now. I say all this to illustrate that while there are some generalities in parenting, everyone’s experience is a little bit different and dependent on variables that will change over the course of your life as a parent. Deciding to have a child is a huge commitment, and not one that should be made just to keep a man.
There are other men out there. There are men who want to live where you want to live and who don’t want kids either. True, they are not the man you are currently in love with, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be one day. You could find everything you have with your current boyfriend plus deals that don’t have to be broken. You may also find that there is no one else for whom you’ll feel as strong as you do for your current boyfriend, but there are many who won’t ask you to make such big sacrifices. Perhaps you’ll feel better about being with one of them than living somewhere you don’t want to live and having kids you don’t want to have.
But is your current boyfriend even asking you to have kids? Well, not yet. But if he’s someone who mentions children when talking about his future, there’s a pretty good chance that eventually, when the time to think about them more seriously is closer, he will be putting some pressure on you to make a decision. I just hope that if you wait to make a decision like that, you do so with everything I’ve said here in mind, and you only have children if you feel in your heart you’re ready to commit to being a good mother. And remember: children change relationships. The life you share with your boyfriend now will not be the same life you’d share if you have kids together. Don’t have kids to keep a relationship (because kids will definitely change a relationship); have kids because you don’t want to miss out on the incredible experience of parenthood.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter and ‘like’ me on Facebook.
MissDre June 20, 2012, 9:21 am
Amazing response Wendy!
bethany June 20, 2012, 9:22 am
I think it’s great that the LW is thinking of this stuff now, when they’re only 9 months in, but I also don’t think it’s necessary for her to make a decision about what to do about this just yet. She said herself that she’s still undecided- leaning more towards not having kids, but she hasn’t totally ‘closed that door”.
The LW doesn’t mention her age in this letter, which I wish she would have… Since she’s in grad school, I’m going to assume she’s in her mid-20’s. There’s PLENTY of time for her to change her mind about the kids thing, and there’s also plenty of time for them to break up for other non-related issues before she finishes school.
If I were you, I would enjoy the remaining time you have in grad school with your boyfriend and reevaluate this situation in 6-9 months. By then you might have had enough with the town you’re living in and want to move, you might have decided 100% that you don’t want kids, he might have decided 100% that he does want kids… When it comes to decision time, whatever you do- don’t stay with this man on the promise that you will have kids with him if you know deep down it’s something you don’t want to do. That will only end badly.
kerrycontrary June 20, 2012, 9:26 am
I think waiting and re-evaluating is a good decision. They haven’t even been together a year yet. People can be in a completely different place at 18 months into a relationship than they were at 9 months into a relationship. They might not even be together then!
oldie June 20, 2012, 9:36 am
Sort of agree about just enjoying and riding out the rest of grad school. However, from LW’s description of discussions with her bf, he is not playing fair. He’s pretty much said he wants kids, but then bobs and weaves when she reacts to that, even pretending she’s never before said she doesn’t want kids. This manipulation is a bit of a red flag to me. He is lulling her along on this issue, with a perhaps-maybe response in the hope that she becomes so attached to him that she gives in on this issue as she has given in on geographical preference. Unless he has a very strong reason, apart from personal preference, for staying in the burb they’re in, there seems to be a pattern forming here of his never being willing to compromise and follow her preferences.
I’m not sure what field LW is in, but finding a good job in a particular burb, rather than looking nationally makes the job search really tough. The economy is not going to be booming nine months from now. Looking for good jobs for two new grads in a particular burb is going to be a real challenge. Perhaps he has something lined up and is expecting that she will again compromise on the job she settles for. After all, she’s going to have at least two kids in short order.
katie June 20, 2012, 9:39 am
that is a good point- the boyfriend seems to have his head in the sand about this issue -“what? you dont want kids? since when??”- which is not going to be a good thing for either of them…
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 10:07 am
I really don’t see him as manipulative, but rather like everyone else his presumed age (even his girlfriend!) who isn’t sure whether they want them yet or not.
Also, no pattern is formed after 1 occurence. It doesn’t even sound like she asked him to move to the city and if he didn’t, I don’t think that means he will never compromise.
kerrycontrary June 20, 2012, 11:06 am
Yeh I don’t think it’s abnormal for a guy in his mid-twenties to not be seriously considering children yet. It probably just hasn’t entered his brain that often.
rachel June 20, 2012, 12:24 pm
This is kind of how I saw it. Maybe he wants kids eventually, but he knows he’s not ready for them yet, so he hates to make it an issue.
katie June 20, 2012, 9:34 am
wendy, do you do this on purpose? do you know that i feel exactly like this LW feels and that i play a stupid game in my head all the time about whether to have kids or not? thanks, wendy, for again reminding me i really do have to make a definitive decision sometime in the sort of near future about having children…
LW, listen to what wendy said. and ill try to as well.
katie June 20, 2012, 9:36 am
oh, and can we discuss this:
is it better to make the decision about having children completely on your own or is it possible to decide WITH a partner to have kids?
oldie June 20, 2012, 9:43 am
It depends how much you are committed to that partner and whether this pairing takes precedence over having/not having kids. It’s certainly best to at least have clarified your own thinking before initiating this discussion. It shouldn’t be a joint brainstorming session or you may leave each other with the wrong impression. If you’re determined to marry a guy, whom you don’t see as a good willing father, then your preference on kids or not ought to be mute, unless single parenthood appeals to you.
honeybeenicki June 20, 2012, 9:49 am
I think it is important to know going in at least how you’re leaning because it is a huge life decision that should never be a “compromise.” For a long time, I didn’t want kids. The idea of kids freaked me out with all the crying and pooping and stickiness (even when there isn’t anything sticky around?!) and having another human being completely dependent on me. I thought maybe later on I’d want to adopt, but wanted to adopt older kids (teens). When I met my husband, I still felt that way. He had 2 kids already and had told me that while he had thought about having more kids and was open to it, he was fine if we never had any (this was about 4 months in). After getting to know him and, more importantly, his awesome kids… I changed my mind and thought maybe I wanted to adopt. When I talked to him about it, he was over-the-moon excited. Apparently he had kept to himself that he really wanted to have and raise kids with me, but was willing to let it go if I didn’t want them. Now adoption is out (because of his current situation) and we are looking at having our own. I went from “absolutely not” to “absolutely yes”. But the moral of the story is – we both knew what we wanted and knew there was at least a little wiggle room, but we had come to those decisions on our own. We came to the final conclusion and decision together, but it had to be an individual decision first.
Iwannatalktosampson June 20, 2012, 9:49 am
Oh that’s a really good question! I’m leaning towards making the decision with a partner – especially if you’re totally in the middle because then you can be swayed one way or the other. Like if your husband really wants to and will be the best Dad his excitement might make you excited to the point where you can’t imagine not having kids with him. But alternatively if you’re husband is really happy being an Uncle and you two get in the habit of taking vacations and splurging on luxuries and stuff you might find yourself fulfilled with puppies and other peoples’ kids. But that only really applies if you’re totally on the fence about it in my opinion. If you already have an opinion you better find someone that shares that opinion.
I hope it’s okay to be married and still undecided. I think we’re okay though because we’re both 80% sure we don’t want kids. Every other year one of us might say oh if we had kids we would raise them this way – but it’s never a serious discussion about having kids. It’s more like when we talk about when we were little and things we would do as parents too – like it’s gotten brought up that we were both allowed pop like once a month tops when we were little and we would definitely carry that on as having it just be a treat.
Katie June 20, 2012, 10:10 am
Thats what happens with me and jake too- we talk about baby names pretty frequently. And then I’ll like, wait you like that name? I thought we weren’t having kids…? And then it just kind of is awkward and like oh right we’re not. Let’s not fantasize about baby names. But we have managed to find a girl and a boy name we like… Lol
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 10:11 am
Great post. FWIW, I was sure I was done after 1 (however, I was also single, so easy choice lol). For years I knew she was it for me. THEN, I got serious with my SO and earlier on in our relationship, I would’ve easily been convinced to have another with him if he’d wanted one. And I would’ve been totally happy with it too. Now, we are both 100% sure of not wanting any more. Also totally happy with that. So, yea, I think who you are with can definitely play a big role in picking one side of the fence.
Christy June 20, 2012, 11:10 am
That’s where I am–at about 80% sure I don’t want kids. But I still talk as if I’m assuming I’ll have kids. Does that make sense? Why do I do this?
katie June 20, 2012, 11:15 am
Exactly!! Someone please make this make sense!! Lol
summerkitten26 June 20, 2012, 11:38 am
There was a great post in the New York Times the other day, link below. The general point of the post is that people should think about having kids with as much reasoning as those who think about *not* having kids, but the author raised a really good point that we’re just socialized to have kids, so even if you’re mostly not sure, you still lean towards assuming you will because “that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
kate B. June 20, 2012, 12:38 pm
I love this post. I always had to justify my decision not to have children. People thought I was unnatural, weird (I own up to the weird part but not because of this) and my mother’s friends would ask her if I was gay. I was always told, “You’ll change your mind when you have one.” or “You will.” It made me so angry. How the hell do you know what I want? Are you me? It lasted until I was 35 when I had my tubes tied. I almost didn’t get my inheritence from my grandfather because that money was supposed to be for buying a house and I wouldn’t need one since I wasn’t having any kids. Don’t single people need houses too? (Thanks, grandpa.) I’m really glad I read this.
iseeshiny June 20, 2012, 1:21 pm
This article is wonderful. I feel like it articulates thoughts I’ve had on children for a while. I’ve often thought that choosing to get pregnant and have children is actually a selfish choice, with diminishing natural resources and population growth as they are.
I plan to have children down the road, but at times that decision gives me the same feeling that driving instead of biking to work does – I want it, I’m going to do it because I think it improves the quality of my day, but I know it’s growing my carbon footprint like crazy and I kind of feel bad for that. The fact that I will hopefully raise a great kid who will become a productive member of society and maybe help to solve the whole carbon footprint problem is moot, because that’s really a crap shoot.
iwannatalktosampson June 20, 2012, 1:43 pm
I have always kind of thought this but had no idea how to express it without 1) sounding like an asshole 2) sounding like a weird hippie – which is very contradictory to how I actually live my life (besides not littering and reusing water bottles I don’t do too much to save the environment) and 3) sounding really judgmental towards people that do have kids.
I just feel that for *me* – why have my own kids when I don’t feel like an unbreakable need to do it? Which is why if we decide to have kids we have agreed to adopt. I mean why not take care of the kids that are already born? I guess I just don’t feel that attachment to my DNA that some people do you know? Which doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m awesome – clearly I am – but to me a kid is a kid – and if there are already kids out there that need good homes why wouldn’t I raise them as my own before having my own. I know some people are really against adoption – they either feel like it’s a huge crap shoot or they could just not imagine not seeing their features, quirks and DNA passed on.
I hope no one takes offense to this because I really don’t think it’s selfish to have your own kids. Obviously not even a little bit. I just think it would be unnecessary for me to since I don’t feel that pull. I don’t know I don’t fully have my thoughts or opinions on the subject fully fleshed out, so I don’t know quite what I feel or what my future holds, and now I’m rambling – so I’m done. haha.
katie June 20, 2012, 3:13 pm
“they could just not imagine not seeing their features, quirks and DNA passed on”
my boyfriend feels like this… i found that out when i just asked him for conversation what he thought about adopting a kid.. he took the if its not my kid ill always know route.
i have never, never understood that logic. i get that some people feel that way, but to me it is just totally backwards.
sc August 17, 2012, 8:06 am
I agree. I’m trying to understand this too. My boyfriend’s the same way, and it might be the beginning of the end for us. Both of us know a lot of biology and about how little is heritable (though I’m the scientist), but he’s still so enamored of seeing his own genes passed on. Honestly, I do think it’s selfish when it means another kid won’t get the TLC s/he needs. I don’t know what to do.
IDreamofElectricSheep June 20, 2012, 11:29 am
I used to do it all the time. I was kind of sure for awhile I didn’t want kids (see post below), but would say “When we have kids” or “I fear our kids will get both our recessive genes, not the dominant ones, and be bad at everything, not athletic, and ugly” or yes, as mentioned, discuss baby names. I think it might be because it’s the majority view….such as when people say, “When I buy a house” or “When I get married”. It’s easier to see and plan life that way, especially when you’re undecided, simply because that is what is around us and is expected.
Also, I often viewed our future with kids in nebulous terms, as I did when speaking of our retirement. It was far enough away that it didn’t seem quite real…
Does that make sense at all? Anyway, that’s my take on it.
ktfran June 20, 2012, 11:42 am
I love this conversation. Thanks for starting it Katie.
I also talk in the same way. Like, when I’m married, or when I have kids. Or, I never want to get married but want a life partner and do the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russel thing. But I like that I’m so open to different lifestyles because then I think I can handle whatever comes my way.
I also like to hear that other people are in the same boat as me. A lot of people talk about life in absolutes. Well my friends do anyway. It’s nice to hear that other people aren’t so sure about everything.
katie June 20, 2012, 11:46 am
It was for completely selfish reasons, I can assure you… Haha
kate B. June 20, 2012, 12:43 pm
I totally love how Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have become the poster children for not getting married. I’m sure they didn’t intend to start a revolution. They just wanted to live together.
dandywarhol June 20, 2012, 1:14 pm
Ktfran- a lot of my friends and family talk in absolutes too. It’s like everyone is determined to have the marrige, 2 kids, house in the suburbs with a dog. I am not like that so I like to hear About other people who think similar to me, or a least can understand it 🙂
dandywarhol June 20, 2012, 1:10 pm
I do this too! It scares me a little haha.
SweetPeaG June 20, 2012, 9:49 am
I think having the right partner definitely solidified my decision of wanting kids… so no, I don’t think it is wrong to make that decision with (or based on) the person you are with.
With my ex, I always said I wanted kids (he was on the fence, but would sometimes profess to want a “son”). But inside my head I was often thinking “With this guy? Do you really want kids with THIS guy?!”. And even though I was on the pill, I would get super nervous if my period was a day later than expected.
But, now, even when I have the panicked thoughts of not wanting to wake up at all times of the night to a screaming infant, I can’t imagine NOT having a child with my current significant other. I just want to see him become a Dad!! That seems like the coolest thing ever. And knowing that I will be the Mother of his child(ren)? I feel so PROUD!
I don’t know if that really answers your question. But, I think it is pretty normal and healthy to base some motherhood questions on the person you are thinking of becoming a parent with.
Vathena June 20, 2012, 11:55 am
Totally agree with this – I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t be thinking babies if I hadn’t met my husband (I’m early 30s and married for 2 years). Some women are lucky enough to KNOW they want to be moms, to the point of making it happen with or without a partner. I envy that kind of certainty. I’ve always been pretty ambivalent about kids, but having a partner to go on the adventure with me definitely swings things to the pro-kid side. I really think raising a child with my husband, while being difficult in the ways that Wendy has so eloquently described, would just be…fun!
IDreamofElectricSheep June 20, 2012, 9:52 am
I think in general it’s better to make the decision of whether or not you want to have kids on your own before you find a partner, mainly so you can find someone who has the same goals. However, I’m 35 and was unsure about the kids/no-kids question until recently. My husband of 8 years was also unsure (or let’s say ambivalent). So it’s possible. I know now that I want kids, but I don’t necessarily want them NOW, but I have limited time if I want more than one, and we don’t want to be old parents, and….the thing is, 1) I had a horrendous, abusive childhood (yes, I am in therapy and we discuss the kid issue, and 2) my husband and I have so much fun together that it’s hard to give that up. Both these factors combined, more so the first, has made it hard to make the decision in the past and to pull the trigger now.
I think the kids/no-kids issue is so hard to discuss with people because they usually say things like, “Nobody is ever ready!” or “If you’re having doubts, it probably means you’re not supposed to have kids” or “You’re over-thinking it” or “It’s great, you won’t understand until you have them how wonderful it is (true, but not necessarily helpful)”, etc. The reasons people hesitate about having kids is as diverse as the reasons behind hesitating before making many major life decisions. It’s not always about rotten childhoods/dislike of children/selfishness and so forth; it’s often a mix of a few things with doubt.
As you can tell, this is an ongoing topic with me. But to answer your question in more detail, yes it is possible to make the decision with a partner, but it’s very unique to find one that may be as ambivalent as you are. I was fortunate; the guys I met before all wanted to have kids at some point and I was young enough that I felt like I could re-visit and decide this issue later, should it be necessary.
Eve Harrison June 20, 2012, 2:48 pm
I know exactly what you mean. I was physically abused when I was a kid, and it really affects a decision like this (at least for me). I realized I didn’t want kids because children could never make me happy, and would turn me into the controlling, unhappy, and insecure woman my abusive mother once was.
But there is this perception that child-free people have “something wrong with them”, which is completely insulting. My decision is rational. I have spent 9 years contemplating and really figuring this out and this is a conclusion that would have been reached with or without my mother.
Why? Because my mother never scared me from having children. My experiences have never limited my potential to decide what makes me happy. Experiences are there because they remind you of the your truth.
rilooyah June 20, 2012, 4:14 pm
I totally agree with you on the partner thing. I few times someone has asked me why I dont have kids (like it is their business), and I honestly say, “because I havent met a guy yet that makes me say to myself, ‘I’d like to have his children.'” (And I have dated some great guys!) And that usually shuts the other person up.
Also, so annoying that my stepmother has started openly talking about how she cant wait for grandchildren, and points out cute babies to my dad, very passive-aggressively in front of my brother and me. Yeah, Step-mom what a great idea. Lemme have a baby so that for maybe 5% of the week, you can ooh and aah and spoil a kid I have. Sounds like a great idea. UMM NO.
ktfran June 20, 2012, 9:54 am
I might be able to answer this.
I think I would be ok not having children. Especially since I’m 32 and haven’t met someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. But, if I did meet that person and he wanted children, I would totally try. Even if I was 40. Although, since I’ve come to the conclusion that I would be ok not having children, if I met someone wonderful who didn’t want them, I would be ok with that too. But then there are other days where I think I could do it on my own if the baby bug hits. I also know I would make a great mom.
I know this is wishy washy, but it’s honestly how I feel. I could go either way, depending on the situation and the person . . . so I guess you just need to make the decision that’s right for you and if a partner is involved, what’s right for both of you.
Kate B June 20, 2012, 10:37 am
I think the decision should be yours and then you should look for a person who would be a good partner in parenting.
ktfran June 20, 2012, 10:52 am
But if you’re on the fence, as I am, then it can easily be a decision you make together. But I guess that’s my decision, I’m on the fence and it’s going to depend on who I’m with or where I’m at in my life as to whether or not I have children.
honeybeenicki June 20, 2012, 11:05 am
That’s a good way to put it and I think sometimes that’s just how it works. Obviously someone that isn’t on the fence (in either direction) probably shouldn’t be in a relationship with someone who isn’t on the fence either (in the other direction). But many people are undecided and it depends on who they are with and if they find a partner they either want to or not want to have kids with.
rachel June 20, 2012, 12:35 pm
I don’t want kids, and my boyfriend doesn’t want kids, yet I could still see myself having kids if I were with a guy who really wanted them. I dunno. It’s weird. I guess like, if I were with a traditional marriage and kids kind of guy it might change my mind. But, yeah, I’m with those of you who are probably 80% never having kids.
FireStar June 20, 2012, 9:35 am
If you haven’t closed the door on children then I don’t know you can say that you definitely don’t want them. You have been honest with your boyfriend – you suspect that you will not want them. If he definitely wants some then he is taking a huge risk being with you since you aren’t sure – of course you risk him saying he does want kids at some point. You still have nine months left in your grad program – so you don’t have a gun to your head to make the decision now – though I appreciate it will be harder to leave him the more attached to him you get. But Wendy is right – a deal breaker is just that. You have the next nine months to talk about this with him and you can both plan for the type of future you envision for yourselves. At the end of grad school if you are still unsure and he has decided he wants to have some – then the good news is that you get to move back to the city you love. In the meantime maybe spend some time with your friends’ kids or any family members that are kids. It totally won’t be the same as if they were yours but you can get a sense for what they entail – and maybe make it a point to talk to some parents and non-parents so see if they have any regrets and what the benefits were each way.
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 10:03 am
You have already broken one deal breaker for him (where you live), are considering breaking your only other one, yet you can’t bring yourself to discuss this with him? That is an issue. A big one! Also, you still have almost a whole year left of school and have only been with him 9 months. Learn to communicate if you want to be in a serious relationship.
ps i hate being too busy for DW 🙁
JK June 20, 2012, 10:57 am
We hate that you´re too busy, as well.
Addie Pray June 20, 2012, 3:30 pm
I’ve missed out on a lot of DW letters…. I hate missing out on DW! What have I missed? JK, you’re supposed to keep me updated. You’re failing.
Traci June 20, 2012, 10:18 am
Though I read this column every day, I’ve never commented on anything. This letter really speaks to me though because I never wanted kids. I actively did not want them and never had my entire life. The idea of driving a mini van was repulsive to me. I did not enjoy being around kids at all. I found myself with an unplanned pregnancy about 9 years ago and though I was not terrified of raising a child, I wasn’t excited at all. I was old enough and had enough money. I wasn’t deeply in love with the father but I knew he was a good man and would make a good dad. I spent a whole pregnancy with the “meh” attitude. And it all changed when he was born. I’ve tried many times to explain to people what the joy in parenting is and I really can’t quantify it. It’s biological…genetic. When he’s happy, I’m happy. I laugh with him more than I’ve ever laughed in my life. It’s hard. It’s the hardest job in the world. I’ve spent 9 years focused on another person. He’s taught me so much about myself. I owe him everything. I can’t explain how or why it changed. I’m sure it doesn’t happen to everyone. It did to me. I wouldn’t change a damn thing about how things have gone. And I can’t explain to you the joy. But I feel it intensely all day every day even on the worst days. I know this doesn’t convey the answer to “what is the joy?” But I can tell you with 1000% certainty, there is an immeasurable joy in every day that far, far outweighs the exhaustion, frustration and irritation. Good luck in your decision, LW.
JK June 20, 2012, 10:58 am
Love this. Thanks, Traci.
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 11:34 am
YES! Helluva first post 🙂
cdjd0523 June 20, 2012, 2:13 pm
I was in a similar boat as Traci. I knew I didn’t want kids , they just aren’t my gig and then my bc failed. I’m now a single mom to an amazing little boy who I love more than I knew was possible. Having him though only made it more clear to me that I would have been fine not having kids and that I know with complete certainty that I don’t want any more. It’s ok to not know whether you want them or not but since the conversation has come up why not use the time now to discover if having kids is truely something you are open to.
bittergaymark June 20, 2012, 2:18 pm
I’m so glad it worked out that way for Traci! Yay!
But I do fear her tale could be the exception and not the rule… Look, I feel that if you genuinely don’t think you want kids, you REALLY shouldn’t have any. Just to be safe. It’s NOT fair to the kids! Clearly NOT everybody winds up with such a happy ending..
Traci June 20, 2012, 3:09 pm
I totally understand your concern and may even agree with you about being the exception and not the rule. I realize now that I wasn’t actually trying to provide an answer for the LW or really address all of her issues. I selfishly, now that I think about it, was only trying to address her wonder about what the joy of parenting is. And, did a poor job of it, too! Either you can’t really specifically nail the joy of parenting OR you would have an infinite list of the individual joys of parenting.
theattack June 20, 2012, 3:16 pm
Can I be a total dork and explain a bit of that genetic happiness? Humans nurture their crying babies with touch and affection. We learn that human touch is soothing, and we begin to enjoy it ourselves. Our brains start producing chemicals that coincide with the soothing touch. We grow up with that chemical, and it soothes us. It’s why hugs feel good, and it’s why we like to touch our SOs, and it’s why we eventually touch our own children. When we touch our children, it starts the whole cycle for them again, and it also activates our touch chemicals too. This is why parents who were emotionally neglected as children later turn out to emotionally neglect their own children, unless someone explains to them why they shouldn’t. If they don’t get a reward from the touch, they don’t know that their baby needs it either. And then there’s a cycle of humans who lack empathy and don’t value social interactions. This is obviously an extremely simplified explanation, but I think it’s pretty interesting.
But anyway, I think it’s great that you’ve found such joy in your child!
Leroy June 20, 2012, 10:29 am
I suspect that the LW is putting a lot more thought into this question than her BF is, being that he doesn’t remember prior conversations on the matter. That’s classic.
Kate B June 20, 2012, 10:46 am
Do not ever, ever have kids for someone else, have them for you. I mean, it must be a decision you make for yourself, not to please someone or to hang on to someone. What if the relationship ends? Are you prepared to be a single mom? I made my decision early on not to have children. I also don’t understand what people get out of raising kids, but that’s me. I got a lot of pressure from my family to have them and my answer was always the same: are you going to raise it? ‘Cause if I have one, I’m handing it over to you since you want it so badly. My brother has two and one is a special needs child who requires round-the-clock medical care. When I went to see him recently, he asked me if I was glad I didn’t have kids. My father asked me the same question. I have never once regretted my decision because it was a decision I made with my whole heart and soul. Think about this very, very carefully. I get the impression you don’t really want them. That’s okay. Don’t let anybody tell you it isn’t. Having kids is not for everybody and it’s not fair to bring one into the world who isn’t wanted. And the kid will know, believe me.
Tracey June 20, 2012, 11:23 am
This is what I was going to say. Kids should be wanted, not a “deal breaker” to smooth things over when a relationship gets bumpy.
Suzanne June 20, 2012, 10:48 am
I have never wanted children and do not at all miss having them (at 44 I’m basically past that fork in the road). There will always be nieces, nephews, friends’ kids, etc. that you can have a great relationship with – and send hom at the end of the day to put your pedicured toes up and have your martini in serenity. ; )
BUT as you get older you might find that you do want them. However, if you stay with this boyfriend, it won’t be a compromise, it will be a choice: him or non-parenthood. Make sure you make the decision for your greatest happiness, not his.
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 11:36 am
Hey! I put my pedicured toes up and have a serene moment with my BFF wine at the end of the night often, just after I put her to bed. 😉
Suzanne June 20, 2012, 1:00 pm
Haha, what’s BFF wine?
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 2:34 pm
Lol. My best friend forever, wine.
Christy June 20, 2012, 11:22 am
I feel like there are people who are adamantly against having kids and there are people who are adamantly for having kids. And then there are the people in the middle. They can either get unexpectedly pregnant, keep the baby, and be happy; or they can get an IUD and never get pregnant; or they can go off BC and just never conceive. And like that’s a nice option for straight couples, knowing that you’re ok if you end up with a kid but you’re not going to push it.
For me, I would be content to be in the middle–maybe go off BC, maybe stay on, maybe get an IUD, but should I end up pregnant, have a kid. (I also have low fertility, so I know it’s not likely to happen by accident.) But that’s not how it’ll work for me. Either I (and my wife) decide that we want a kid and get inseminated (likely not me because of my low fertility) or we do IVF (which is hella expensive) or we adopt (which I’ve never seriously considered, honestly). And like, all of those are major, major decisions. Ones that I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready to make. Will I regret not having children? (Also I can think of literally one person in my entire family older than 30 who does not have children–she’s also unmarried.)
angst rant over.
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 11:40 am
Interesting share, Christy. I never thought of the gay-on-the-fencers like that. Its so true, there are so many straight couples out there that are ‘if it happens, it happens’ but aren’t actively trying to get pregnant and then life will just happen for them, either with or without having children. I never realized that will never happen for gay couples. You are forced to make the decision entirely. Its such a hard decision to make (having kids or not) and you’re right, the ‘if it happens’ mentality makes it so much easier for us straight people. Not to make this a joke by any means, but maybe the “tradeoff” is never having to worry about accidentally getting pregnant? Anyway, thanks, made my brain work this morning 🙂
Christy June 20, 2012, 12:31 pm
That is definitely true–no pregnancy scares.
I’m glad this made your brain work–it’s something I think about a lot, but I don’t know that many people do.
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 2:38 pm
It is honestly something I’ve never thought of before. Go ahead bgm, call me sheltered 🙂
I love hearing about people who want to adopt though. Its something I’ve considered. Why not help the kids that are already here? I don’t understand the need to have your own, and had I not gotten pregnant unplanned, I think I would’ve adopted exclusively. Maybe I will one day.
ktfran June 20, 2012, 3:18 pm
I love Christy’s take. Like lbh, I never thought of it either and I guess I’m taking my wishy washy stance for granted.
LBH – I’ve thought about adopting in four or five years if I haven’t met someone I want to spend my life with and if the baby bug hits. I would love to provide opportunities for someone who might night otherwise have the chance. Unfortunately, it will most likely be hard for me to adopt since I would be single and I’m not wealthy. So instead, I tutor a low income girl once a week during the school year. It’s something I guess.
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 3:36 pm
I wonder if adoptions would be more of the norm if it were as “easy” as having your own. There are a ton of adopted children in my kid’s school, but seems their parents are all quite wealthy, married, a bit older, etc.
It really is something I wish were more the norm. Its so nice you’ve found a way to make a difference for now.
ktfran June 20, 2012, 5:08 pm
That’s a good question. I have no idea. I know some people are afraid of it. Well, they’re afraid of adopting a two or three year old which is what I would do. Anyway, I love hanging with my nieces in the mean time. They’re cool kids who make me laugh.
katie June 20, 2012, 11:41 am
That’s such a good point. For you, having a baby is going to be a completely deliberate process, without the typical “oops” pregnancies that is like the vast majority of where heterosexual couples get their kids. For you it’s a much more clear cut choice… Very interesting perspective.
rachel June 20, 2012, 12:39 pm
That’s an interesting point. Because while I don’t want kids, if I were to accidentally pregnant at the right time in my life (um, not right now), I might end up keeping it. This is of course why I try really hard to not get pregnant. But yeah, it’s like, the universe can’t choose for you – you have to actively seek it.
Christy June 21, 2012, 10:35 am
Exactly! It’s not something I can leave up to fate/God. That’s exactly what it is. And I think THAT’s the part that freaks me out.
Kristina June 20, 2012, 11:57 am
It’s hard to say whether it really is a deal breaker for your boyfriend to have kids. And I think it’s good you’re having talks now, even if you don’t end up together. While we don’t know how old you are, judging by the fact that you are still in grad school, you likely are into your career right now and in a phase where you think you’re too selfish to have kids–and that’s okay. You might change your mind, and you might not. I thin you should continue to think about your decision on kids, and how it your decision might affect your relationship, but like Wendy said, don’t make the decision for your relationship–don’t decide to have kids for anyone else but yourself. Relationships don’t bode well when you already have kids, but one partner wanted them less than the other, or didn’t want them at all.
Early in my relationship, my boyfriend made it clear he wanted kids someday, while most of my life I adamantly said I didn’t want them, but have slowly warmed up to the idea. I sometimes talk with him about wanting kids, and he will occasionally say he doesn’t want kids. We both flip-flop on the issue. Personally, I’m not worried that we both change our mind a lot–he’s at the age where he is starting to think about kids, and I’m not there yet. For now, we are both okay with the notion of if it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. My personal belief is it’s a lot easier to find someone to be a good husband than it is to find both a good husband and good father. So I’m okay with flip-flopping on the issue, while some aren’t, and that’s a decision both you and your boyfriend need to make–but I don’t think it’s something that needs to be done right away.
Jubietta June 20, 2012, 12:02 pm
Since no one else has brought it up…consider the fact that the child (when he/she grows up) will very clearly understand if you have them and but in the end figure out that you didn’t really want them. The child hasn’t asked to be born, it’s your responsibility to make that decision with sober consideration — wee little bairn torebellious teenager and all the way through adulthood.
I love the stories like Traci’s above where an ambivlaent parent siezes the joy at birth and spends a lifetime in love with their kiddo. The opposite is hard because the ambivalent parent can wind up feeling left out, or like they’re watching the rest of their family living in a loving little fishbowl of happiness, but completely out of reach.
Often the things we resist become the things we resent. Kids deserve better.
Good luck LW!
Anna June 20, 2012, 12:06 pm
I would also be curious as to how old the LW is. In my mid-twenties, I thought I wanted definitely wanted kids but I saw it being really far off in the future. The old body clock started ticking more after age 25 for me and now I am 100% certain at age 28 that I would like to have 2 kids by the time I’m 35.
If you’ve always felt that you DEFINITELY don’t want kids and don’t want to live in the suburbs, I don’t see a relationship working out when you become a suburban mom just to keep your boyfriend. That’s a great way to become bitter with your SO and your kids. I know lots of people who have kids and describe it as the most rewarding experience life has to offer, but they are also people who chose to have children.
Bottom line, you must be true to yourself. Don’t bring kids into this world if you don’t want to. You wouldn’t be doing yourself, your SO, or your kids any favors.
caitie_didnt June 20, 2012, 1:15 pm
I really like this; it’s pretty much how I feel about eventually having children. The thing with the suburbs or a geographic location is that you can almost always leave it if you truly hate it. You can’t do that with a kid- there’s no return policy there! And while I’m sure lots of people who were ambivalent about having kids and wind up accidentally/unexpectedly pregnant end up absolutely loving their kids, having kids “for” someone else is a pretty big risk.
MsMisery June 20, 2012, 1:03 pm
Don’t ever do anything for someone else when you aren’t even sure how you feel about it, especially something as serious as MAKING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. That’s pretty serious stuff. True, most people that have them accidentally tend to eventually like their own kids, even if they hate everyone else’s but there’s never any guarantee. There’s no “putting it back.”
Also, wtf is wrong with an only child? I am one. Everyone I know talks about them like they are the anti-christ. I’ve never cooked and eaten a fetus, burned down a house, stolen a car, or robbed a bank. There’s not a damn thing wrong with only-child-ness, only your parenting skills.
lets_be_honest June 20, 2012, 2:42 pm
Yikes! Angry ms misery, but yea, nothing wrong with only children 🙂
MsMisery June 21, 2012, 1:00 pm
Well, maybe. But yeah, I guess because I really hear the “only child” comments that people with siblings don’t register. My friend at work has one kid now and is debating another, only because she doesn’t want her current kid to turn out like “an only child” *wink wink*. I’m like, wtf. Why are we friends, if I’m so terrible? And is that a legit reason for creating another person on this earth? If your parenting skills can’t keep ONE kid from being shitty, you’re prolly going to fail with two, too.
HmC June 20, 2012, 8:49 pm
Time magazine ran an interesting article recently regarding only children, where they dissected (and debunked) many myths regarding the negative affects on the child. This is a timely issue, since due to the economy, more and more families are choosing to have only one child. Many of the families featured in the story seemed very happy, and the parents stressed that they could maintain somewhat of the lifestyle they had before children, but still enjoy parenthood. And like I said, it dispelled a lot of myths. If I recall correctly, they cited a study that found that only children were just as likely to be as socially adept as children from multiple families.
Personally, it really turned me onto the idea. Mostly because I want to have children, but the idea of juggling 3 or 4 would be hell on earth for me.
bittergaymark June 20, 2012, 1:26 pm
The fact that somebody even THINKS so casually about having kids proves me me that she DEFINITELY shouldn’t have any…
MOA. You two are simply NOT a match.
PS — Stop being so desperate. I’ll catch hell for this, I imagine…but SETTLING forever in someplace you absolutely HATE? Contemplating MAKING BABIES you DON’T WANT?? Newsflash! That’s all very desperate… Beyond that, actually.
honeybeenicki June 20, 2012, 2:22 pm
Totally agree. One of the most important places to me is location. If I’m not where I am now (the place I call “home”), then the only other place I’d really want to be is in Arizona (a few specific cities would work there). I couldn’t imagine living somewhere that I HATED. That seems a little ridiculous. And having babies FOR someone else? Not cool at all. That’s breeding ground for hurt and resentment and an unhappy childhood for that kid.
Amanda June 20, 2012, 2:26 pm
bittergaymark June 20, 2012, 2:42 pm
Special Kudos to Amanda: That’s the best acronym yet!!
Tracey June 20, 2012, 1:49 pm
No hell here. Having a baby to “settle” simply sets the stage for a lot of hurt feelings, resentment, and guilt. So does putting one’s life on hold simply because you feel as though you have to. Well said, BGM.
theattack June 20, 2012, 3:30 pm
I agree about the kids factor, because it’s just such a huge deal.
But not necessarily about the location. Location is something that can change every few years. You can’t change the fact that you have kids. I’m moving from a place I love to a place I hate to be with my fiance. It’s a trade off that’s worth it for some people, especially because it’s not permanent. But having kids you don’t want will obviously hurt others, and you can’t take it back later if you don’t want them.
Kate B. June 20, 2012, 4:11 pm
Location does matter to me. I wouldn’t want to live in some place I hate. Things happen, though, jobs, etc. so far I’ve been good at avoiding that trap.
Laura Hope June 20, 2012, 3:39 pm
I just looked it up. 1 in 5 American women never have children. I must admit that I am floored because it is such a strong biological force
. It doesn’t even necessarily hit in one’s 20’s anymore (or even 30’s) but when it hits, it’s powerful.I personally don’t think a woman in her 20’s is ready to make that decision.
Kate B. June 20, 2012, 4:09 pm
I have never felt this. Never. I had a friend describe it to me, but I can’t wrap my head around it. Maybe i was born without a biological clock.
theattack June 20, 2012, 4:23 pm
Why don’t you think a woman in her 20s is ready for that?
jlyfsh June 20, 2012, 4:31 pm
i don’t know i’ve never felt it and even now in my 30s i still don’t feel it. i’m currently surrounded by people with babies and still don’t even get a little baby pang. all i get are feelings of thank goodness i can leave them with their parents and just go home to my dogs. some people just don’t want to be parents. i do think i’m a pretty good aunt, but that’s all i really want to be, ever.
Laura Hope June 20, 2012, 4:24 pm
How old are you? I ask because it hit almost every woman I know at around 37 years old.
Sue Jones June 20, 2012, 4:45 pm
My high school reunions I have attended are filled with people who compromised on their real dreams. People who live in places they don’t like, work in jobs they don’t like, are married to someone they settled for and have 2.5 kids that they didn’t really want. They wake up 10, 20, 30, 40 years later and they are fat, old and popping antidepressants! It ain’t pretty! Don’t be like that! Figure out what and who YOU really want to be and how and where you want to live and go for THAT! Don’t get trapped too young! There are lots of men to be “met”. And then you can figure out the baby thing later if you are unsure.
theattack June 20, 2012, 8:38 pm
I agree with you. But something about your comment made me realize that it goes the other way too. People who are happily settled with their families always seem to think that those who are child-free and out living active lives must be internally so depressed with themselves. They say that they’re trying to fulfill the emptiness in their lives, etc. People are so judgmental either way
Laura Hope June 20, 2012, 4:47 pm
Of course I can’t speak for everyone and I know there are women who never want children. I just think that making that decision in your 20’s is premature. You really don’t know how you’ll feel after you’ve had the opportunity to do the things you want to do and you’ve matured.
Laura Hope June 20, 2012, 5:21 pm
Sue- That sounds like the Carly Simon song “That’s The Way I always Heard It Should Be”. Sad.