My wife once told me that if she were straight she would probably have been married with a couple kids by twenty-five. We were twenty-five at the time. We had been dating a few months, and while it was said slightly in jest it was clearly true; that’s where she was headed. But being queer tends to enforce taking a step back about how you build your family, so she wasn’t quite there yet.
Instead, she was with me: the woman who had avoided dating her for eight months because I didn’t want a serious relationship, who didn’t see any point in marriage except perhaps if you were having kids, and who clearly wasn’t ever having kids.
Except I was seriously wavering on all that “not serious” stuff. I realized on the six-month mark that I would marry her if she were to ask at some point, and fervently hoped she would do no such thing. I was not prepared to come to terms with this new self. Rather than jump into making a lifelong public commitment, we purchased a home and navigated the polite concerns of friends and family over the enormity of that commitment. The dilapidated rose climbing our new front porch bloomed on our first anniversary.
We discussed having children, but we did not actually address it. Every time we discussed it we cried—unless someone was forward-thinking enough to change the subject before the crying. At the end of each discussion things remained the same. My wife wants children, has always wanted children, would even consider pregnancy as an option to procure them. I have never wanted children, I know very little about children, I am afraid of babies and more afraid of pregnancy and permanence.
At least we agreed: if we ever were to make a decision, we would pursue the legal, not the biological, route to parenthood.
Unable to agree on the main point, we skirted it. As the one on the side of the status quo, not talking about it left things squarely in my court. So I put in my best effort to convince myself to want to have children. My wife, politely (or resignedly), did not (she did make sure her mother knew who, exactly, was standing in the way of grandbabies).
On our third anniversary, we got married. I forgot to tell my wife the vow I hadn’t said—that I would have kids for her. She forgot to tell me that she had decided she would stay childless for me.
What I wanted more than anything was for her to be happy with our family. I suspect her reasoning was similar. Having decided having kids was something I would do, I continued trying to actually want it or to make it make sense. Clearly if I worried about it more, one day I would wake up with the realization that what I wanted out of life was “babies!”
And one day I woke up with the realization that I didn’t have to want kids. I didn’t have to understand her wanting to have kids. I had to be okay with it.
I spent three years trying to talk myself into wanting children because I was convinced that was the only viable reason to have children. I suppose it comes of the narrative that everything you do must be your passion, or you have failed yourself—and will fail at it. And how terribly would people judge our relationship if I said, “Well, I’m really only having children for my wife”? How terribly would people judge my parenting if I said, “Oh, kids? Really, I could take it or leave it, but here we are”? (As it happens, you can say either of those phrases in any company you like without judgment; you will always be assumed to be joking.)
We did it. About nine months after truly, actually deciding to go through with this children thing, we got our foster license (while deciding whether or not to have kids was probably the most difficult aspect of our early relationship, deciding to do it through fostering—for now—was so easy that I am not sure we even discussed our reasons).
I love it. I love being a parent, which has come as a shock. It is, more or less, as amazing and terrible as everyone told me it would be, which I was not expecting. I was not expecting it to be bad either; I think I was expecting it to be acceptable with a big dose of “I love seeing my wife this happy.” It’s not that at all. Because the details of parenting are sometimes as bad as you’ve heard; I actually worry quite a bit that maybe she doesn’t like this and we made the wrong decision because she’s not happy (not true either—as it happens, no one enjoys listening to three toddlers throw tantrums, which is not the same as disliking the whole damn thing). The reality is more that I love it, and I love watching her parent, not because she loves it, but because she’s great at it (honestly, is there anything better than watching your lover be awesome?).
I love our kids, I am keen to love our next kids, but I do not think I have changed my mind about having children. Our life with kids is wonderful, and our life before them was wonderful too, and I am almost certain that I could be happy with either.
Photo by Gabriel Harber