Why Wife & Mother Do Not Have To Go Together (Part I)

I know what you’re thinking, “She’s only recently back from vacation and she’s dipping her toes into the kids-or-no-kids discussion for the first time? She’s craaaazzzzyyy.” Which. Is probably true. Or maybe I’ve just been missing your bazillion smart comments… you never know. Regardless, here we go.

I’ve gotten tons and tons of emails from you guys over the last few months wanting to talk about kids n’ marriage, and for whatever reason, I picked Jennifer’s letter. Something about it grabbed me. But this post isn’t for Jennifer in particular, it’s for everyone, with thanks to Jennifer for kicking the discussion off. Today’s post is about deciding when to have kids, and next week we’re going to get into deciding NOT to have kids (because I know there are plenty of you who don’t plan to have any, and I think that’s rad.)

Hi Meg,

My name is Jennifer, I’m 25 and I’ve been with my soon-to-be since 2007. We bought a house last year knowing we would get married and have a family eventually. He proposed in February of this year and we are planning a charming backyard shindig at our new home. We’ve been discussing all sorts of things about our future together including the having (or not having of kids). We’ve decided that we do want children but not now and not immediately after getting married either.

I’ve heard so many women (and men) claim that they want to travel and see the world before settling down with kids. I don’t blame them at all. For Stephen and I, we have two dogs that we are extremely attached to and we are working on creating our fortress of solitude to our liking. Travel isn’t very high on our bucket list. Sure, it would be nice to have vacations, but we live in Florida, so we don’t have to travel far to “get away”. Anywhere else just costs a fortune. We have steady (well paying) jobs and we own our home. We know the lifestyle of being tethered to our home by our precious furry kids, so it should stand to reason that we could at any moment be conceiving a child.

I can’t speak for my other half (although he says he wants to try in another three years or so) but for me, I just want to hold out a little longer. I can’t exactly pinpoint the reasons why. It could be that I’m not ready for the post-pregnancy body changes because lets be honest, I haven’t yet recovered from the teenage trauma, the birth control trauma, and college weight gain trauma that it has already been through. It could be that I have a deep respect for the 24/7/365 job of motherhood and my self-esteem says that I wouldn’t fit in with such heroes (yet). It could be that my heart tells me that life may be short, but my head tells me to slow down and enjoy the views. I’ve always felt that if you rush into all that life has to offer before 30, promotions, homeownership, marriage, kids, etc…then what is left to look forward to?  I guess what I’m trying to ask is…why not? When all the tangible needs that a child could ask for have been met, (aka when the planets have aligned) what other reasons besides ‘travel’ are there to wait?

P.S.-We don’t have pressure from family or friends. Actually it is quite the opposite, they say “Recreation, not Procreation”



Orlando, FL

Ok. So. This is going to be a multi-layered answer from me, not to mention the thousand other layers the rest of you are going to add.

First, I’ve been somewhat surprised since our wedding by how tightly we still tie new marriage with new kids. I knew that once we got married, people might start asking us about kids, sure. But what I didn’t get is that there seems to be a powerful tie in our collective (even our indie collective) brains between being married and having kids. I didn’t forsee how many friends would have kids shortly after tying the knot (not that it’s a bad thing, quite the contrary, more cute babies for me to eat). Failing to realize this might make me a little slow, but it probably makes me a halfway decent person to answer this question (because in my surprise, I’ve had to think a lot about it).

David and I didn’t get married because we wanted kids. We didn’t get married because we thought the time was almost right for kids. We got married because we thought it was about time to get hitched already. Full stop. We’ve always been pretty darn sure that we DO want kids, and we had the general sense that we’d like the wedding before the kids, but that was as far as we’d thought it through. So when after the wedding I realized lots of people around me were thinking BABY,* instead of wedding, I got… a little unnerved. Even if you do have a baby right after a wedding, they are two totally discrete events, yes?

Because here is the thing: I think a good reason to have kids is that the time feels about right for kids (or you have a happy accident), and a good reason to get married is that the time feels about right to get married. I think we make a mistake (and I’m including myself in this) when we read marriage as pressure to have kids. Because really? They are two very different things.

So. When do I think it’s the right time to have kids? Since I haven’t done it myself yet, I’m only offering relatively well-pondered thoughts, but I’ve got them in spades (of course).When the pressure is on for kids, you suddenly hear a lot of people saying, “There is no right time,” and “you’ll never feel ready.” Maybe. But I’m going to say this: while there might not ever be a perfect time, there is definitely a wrong time. If you don’t feel ready for kids, for goodness sakes – happy accidents aside –  wait. I’ve found over the course of 30 years that when it’s time for a big life transition, you start feeling little whispers and nudges from the universe/subconscious/God/whatever. It doesn’t feel perfect, but it usually feels good enough. If your subconscious is telling you, “Um. No. Check back in a few.” Go have some beers, or a dip in the pool, or some graduate school, and then check back.

Beyond that, I thought I’d take on an adage that I’ve heard A LOT. I’ve heard it bandied about by smart women in the comments, and smart women in my life, but I’m not sure I agree. It’s the, “You’ll know you’re ready to have kids when you can’t think of anything else. When all you can think of is BABY BABY BABY, then you know. That’s the kind of person that is ready to be a mother.” This sounds so wise, right? Yeah. But I’m not so sure it’s true.

When I was 16 my baby hormones turned on, HARD. I had a case of baby obsession unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I mean, I’ve always loved kids. I’ve been slinging them on my hip since I was big enough to carry them (literally). I’m a baby person. But being a baby person is totally different from entering the land of baby hormones. When my baby hormones turned on I would get dizzy when I saw a baby in the street. I could not talk about anything but the baby until they were out of my sight. I am not joking about this – BABIES MADE MY OVERIES HURT. You know that thing that was said in the comments about how one day you wake up and you want a baby so much it feels like it’s a chocolate cake in the fridge and you would claw through the fridge door to get it? Right. The day I woke up like that I was 16 years old. And it lasted for ten years, right till I was 26. And then it turned off. I still love babies. I mean, I adore babies. If you bring your baby to my house, you get the night off. I will carry the baby, calm the baby down when it fusses, and feed the baby. No joke. But I no longer would claw through a fridge to get the baby like it was chocolate cake. I no longer think baby baby baby. Babies no longer make my ovaries hurt (thank God). That was hormones.

I have friends that had babies in their early 20’s, to feed their baby obsession. Some of them would make different choices if they could have a do it over. It’s not that they don’t love their kids, it’s that the timing of their kids turned out to be really hard. I didn’t have a baby during my baby obsession period, and I’m pretty d*amn glad about it.

What am I saying? I’m saying that one day, you might check back in with your psyche, and your psyche might say, “Huh. Baby. Yeah, that might be a good idea. That’s something I’d rationally consider.” But there might be no, “BABYBABYBABYBABY AHHHHHHHH!!!” Ladies. That’s fine. The calmly planned motherhood and the oh-my-god-oops motherhood can be equally as good as the I-would-kill-for-a-baby motherhood. I know. I’ve seen it for myself.

And you know what? You might check back in with your psyche and it might say, “No baby!” Or maybe you didn’t even read this post because you already knew that you were a no baby kind of girl. That’s fine. That’s awesome. Because no matter how often the media says, “wife and mother,” like the two always go together, they are two totally different things. Being a wife doesn’t mean you have to be a mother. Just like being a mother doesn’t mean you have to be a wife. And being a mother is not the same as being a wife, even when you are both. Pinky swear.

Oh, and P.S. –

All week I kept rolling the sentence, “I’ve heard so many women (and men) claim that they want to travel and see the world before settling down with kids.” in the rock tumbler of my brain. You know, while I was traveling. And it just didn’t sound right. And finally I realized, we’re not waiting to have kids so we can travel, we’re traveling because we know we want to have kids one day (and we want to get in to the habit). And those are two totally different things. Travel should never been your excuse for waiting, because waiting needs no excuse. In fact, lets stop calling it waiting, and just call it, “Yeah. We don’t have kids right now.”

*Just to be clear, our families have never pressured us for kids. This is sort of the collective “people around us” not the specific “our family.”

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  • I think this question is a complicated one, that no “other” person can answer for you.

    As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I’ve been working with preschool children (most with special needs) for 4 years… and the “baby” urge has never been stronger.

    I agree with Meg, although you might know when is a “better” time, I really don’t think there is any lightening strike as to YES!! Baby now!

    What I have learned is that waiting until the child will have a stable, emotionally healthy and financially stable home is essential in producing a happy well balanced child. I say this from professional experience. It is horrendous to see what an unstable, unhappy and financially struggling household can do to a child. I’m talking about seeing the results of neglect- which often can result in children who demonstrate as having Autism Spectrum Disorder. No joke.

    Children are precious, they are vulnerable and they are *not* something to begin just because you got married and you’re almost 30.

    That being said, I have also seen what happens the longer women wait to have children. As someone who knows all the things that can go wrong with pregnancy, childbirth and afterwards, the longer you wait the more at risk you are for having a child with special needs.

    There is nothing *wrong* with having a child with special needs, and I have learned the MOST from the families of some of my favourite clients about love, acceptance and grief. That being said, we all picture our children (if we picture having children) as being healthy- cognitively and physically.

    I strongly do not believe that as women we should treat our bodies as ticking baby-bombs. My body is mine and definitely NOT a baby making machine that has an expiry date. However. It is simply the reality that the longer women wait, the more risks.

    So needless to say, this comment is long because the answer isn’t straightforward. I truly believe that if you consider Your life, Your new family’s life, Your situation- that You will make the right decision for You and Your Family.

    • (ps- I do not want to imply that being financially unstable will result in neglect, or that being unhappy will result in neglect. I just wanted to make the point that instead of waiting for a nebulous “now is the right time” feeling that perhaps we should consider factors such as healthy family life and financial aspects.)

    • What a brave comment. And true. It really is worth factoring in the kind of “world” we offer our unborns when deciding about children.

    • Jamie

      I’m a special ed teacher and I feel like your comment was coming out of my brain.

      We know we want kids. We just don’t know when. And in the back of my mind I keep thinking “Well, I shouldn’t put it off too long, I know what can happen sometimes if you do.” Then I feel like a gigantic hypocrite because I love my job and I love working with people with disabilities and I know there’s nothing wrong with it but I also know just how hard it can be on the families of my kiddos. Many of the families have come together and become closer. But I’ve seen many that have been driven apart from the stress. I’m worried that I would be such a neurotic pregnant woman that I’d drive him away with all of my fears.(Though, I’m pretty crazy now and he’s signed up for long haul already.)

      I have a friend who thinks the only reason we exist as women is to have children. She told me I should go off the pill now so that I’ll definitely get pregnant right after the wedding. When I tell her I want to be just a wife for a while before adding another job to my list, she rolls her eyes and tells me that’s stupid and I should just have babies because “that’s why we’re here. That’s why women exist, you know.” And then I roll my eyes back into my skull so far that it takes hours to retrieve them.

      • I know I am going to be a bonkers pregnant lady… and afterwards (did they look at me, are they pointing yet??? SHOW ME JOINT ATTENTION!!!” sigh). but then, knowing in advance helps reason through the panic moments. :)

        too bad about your friend. but then, I have stopped trying to change people’s minds when it comes to gender equality, it’s just way too stressful since I feel so strongly about it.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I’m uncomfortable with this line of thinking. There are two things that bother me-

          1) Why are we not allowed to have ups and downs? Isn’t the “for better or worse” part of the vows supposed to cover this? I know my husband was in a bad place after there was a death in his family and he was hard to be around, but I tried to help him. I knew it wouldn’t last forever. Why wouldn’t he do the same for me?

          2) Why is the woman the only one susceptible to pregnancy craziness? I imagine my husband will be a crazy pregnant man. He’s more likely than me to freak out, panic, and get irrational in everyday situations, I don’t know why that would be different when we’re expecting. It will be as much his child as mine and I’ll be the one tolerating his nuttiness. Why don’t we worry about that?

      • Amy

        “I just want to be a wife for awhile.”

        YES. THIS! I feel the exact same way!

        • Liz

          Awesome! This is totally how I feel, and have always felt, regardless of being in a relationship or not. I know I want to be married at some point, and I know I want kiddos, but I want to be married to be married- I want some time (an undefined amount of time- people keep pestering me, “one year, two years, surely not three years!”) to just be a wife, enjoy being married to my partner, and to build our married life together and our baby family of two for awhile before we add more family members. I am utterly confident that we would be perfectly happy and capable of having a child sooner than that, and also that we would be happy in our marriage without children (although disappointed, for certain), but it feels crazy to have to defend the simple concept of married without children, even with the acknowledgment that children are in our future. What about people who want kids but are unable to have them? Does that make their marriage meaningless? Oy.

  • Rose

    Two things:
    1. When I first starting working I had an ephiphany when I finally met smart, working women – OMG marriage and kids are not the same thing! Yes, obviously, but this realisation was huge for me (and not tied to my own marriage and/or kids plans).

    2. I feel there is huge cultural noise that you must have a baby or you’ll regret it when you’re old. And I wonder how many people have kids because of that cultural peer pressure and a fear of some nebulous time in the future and not because they truly, deeply desire kids (and obviously I’ve never had the BABY BABY BABY feeling myself). I know you said you’ll discuss this later, but a conscious decision not to have kids even though you could seems like a huge cultural taboo. Just thoughts that rattle around in my head….

    • I cannot “exactly” your #1 enough.

    • meg

      Yeah. Re #2 that cultural noise is such BS. Because REALLY? We want to convince people who don’t want kids to be reluctant parents? That makes no sense for anyone: parents, kids, society.

      • or the planet…

      • Krista

        I don’t think the cultural noise notion is BS… I think she means that while people may NOT be telling you that you will regret not having kids in the future, most of them are thinking it. It is more of a subconscious notion, where society believes that women should have children once they are married. When a person says that they do not want to have kids, it seems like most people hesitate, and are taken aback, as they cannot understand that… unless perhaps they feel the same way and don’t want children themselves. I think things are slowly changing, and people & society are understanding more that the choice of not having children is entirely acceptable and people are entitled to their own life decisions, and if they feel that not having children is not for them, then this is a-okay. That being said, there is still plenty of pressure from society about having children, and being “childless” certainly has a negative association.

        • meg

          Ah, I don’t think you read me very closely. Of course the cultural noise around regretting children exsists. It’s HUGE. It’s also bull sh*t. That’s what I was saying.

  • Get out of my head today, Meg.

  • Cat

    Personally, I have no words of wisdom on this one. My brain is 100% happy being a ‘wife’ for another couple of years, while my ovaries slam me in the stomach with a hormonal baseball bat. Throw in the potentially-lengthy medical assistance we require to conceive and I’m totally torn. My partner is (both wonderfully and infuriatingly) totally supportive and ‘ready whenever I am’ since I’m going to be the pregnant one. Man would I love for the baby hormones to turn off… or for someone to just tell me what we should do. Any takers?

    • Sarah

      I’m with you Cat. For us it’s not so much about when or if we want children… It’s HOW. We have a lot of reservations about all of the options available to us and making the decision about which path to take is incredibly difficult. We asked a good friend to be a known donor, but he turned us down. Now we feel at sea. We want kids now… But we don’t know what path to take.

      • Cat

        I totally feel you on the pressure to work out the ‘how’. We do have a tentative known donor (still ironing out details) but I’m slightly terrified at it falling through. Where I live, we legally can’t adopt or access anonymous sperm… all of this is only adding to the ‘now when we know we can but aren’t in a great place’ or ‘later when we might be better financially, but might not have the options’ dilemma. Though I can see that having those options available wouldn’t make decision making any easier.

        I really hope you guys works something out soon. Oh, for a ‘happy accident’, right?

        • Ashley

          I’m also dealing with the “how” with my partner… which ultimately impacts the “when.” We both feel strongly about adoption, since we both have beloved family members who were adopted, and there are just so many kids out there who need loving homes. But I have the baby fever terribly, and I just don’t know if I could be completely happy down the road if I don’t have the experience of giving birth and nursing a child. My partner worries about this route, thinking that if the child is biologically mine but not hers, she won’t feel as involved as she otherwise would.

          My baby sister is about to give birth to her happy accident baby, and I can’t say how jealous I am that she didn’t have to weigh all of these factors against each other. I feel ridiculous for that, because having a baby now, when she’s 21, in college, and not in a long-term relationship with the father has all sorts of other complications. At the heart of it, though, I can’t help but look at her and think, “Why can’t we have that?”

  • What’s funny is, lately, I’ve been asking my recently married friends when they plan to have kids. Why is this funny? Because *I* don’t want them. That ovary-hurting thing, Meg? I get that when I see a puppy (no, really, I’m not kidding), but when a woman brings a baby into my office, I suppress an eyeroll and pretend to be engrossed in work. I know. I KNOW. I hate myself for having that visceral anti-baby reaction, but I can’t help it. I HATED babysitting as a teen, it was by far the worst way to make money (but I did it, because I needed money, and apparently I was good at it even though I hated it!). Babies (and kids) … annoy me. Now, babies of loved ones? That’s different. But it can’t just be any ol’ baby, it has to be one who belongs to someone I love. And, even then, I’m glad that I can give them back.

    Any ol’ puppy, on the other hand, and I might faint on the street … and I never want to give them back!

    *Ahem* Back to my point. The two women in particular that I’ve asked about it, happen to be women who I know both want kids, and want them soonish. (i.e., they’ve indicated in the past that they want their first kid before they turn 30, and that’s looming close for both of them.) There’s another woman who got married a couple years ago, who I was SURPRISED to hear was pregnant (and it was planned), because she said she wanted to wait [insert indeterminate amount of time here]. So, for me, the questions go to those I know who want them SOON, and they go to women who I feel an intimate connection with, and not, say, a random coworker. Because, really, unless this is a woman who you would discuss your sex lives with over wine (and we all have women like that in our lives, and if you don’t you need to get some, stat), then you shouldn’t be asking that question.

    • so with you RE puppies :) hubs-to-be has been known to grip my arm when we pass a particularly cute one. just to ensure I wont consider scampering off with it.

      • Someone was selling paperless puppies in the park a couple of weeks ago. I had to call my husband to come drag me away before I bought one. Babies on the other hand? I’m so uneasy around them that they usually cry after a few minutes. I’m just not the mothering type.

    • Alyssa

      You are SO like a good friend of mine.
      Put a baby in her face and she’ll look like she smells something bad and it’s not a dirty diaper.
      But put a cat within 30 feet of her and she’s all “KITTY!!!!” and immediately has to try and snuggle.

      (Seriously. Babies dying on TV shows doesn’t faze her, but if an animal gets hurt she’s wrecked. Grey’s Anatomy? When Denny died? We were both sobbing and almost needed to take a personal day from work, but whereas I was all “I can’t believe they killed Denny!!” she was, “Oh my God, I can’t believe they put Doc the Dog down!!”)

      What I find funny is that out of most of my friends, she’d make one of the best moms.
      Oh well. That just makes for some lucky cats. :-)

      • I feel validated that others feel the same way about puppies (and kitties!) that I do! And, you know that Pedigree commercial with the shelter dog? OMG, it made me SOB. So, yeah, I, too, get emotional over animals in pain on TV, but not people.

    • CaitStClair

      One of my very good friends is like this. She very nearly falls to pieces when she sees a puppy (and usually makes the owners quite uncomfortable with her cooing and gushing over it. :-D) But has already said she will probably just be “favorite Auntie Maya” to my (future) kids and won’t have any herself.

    • Jen

      Totally understand the puppy thing. I have been going through severe puppy desire for 2.5 years now and my husband still says we have to wait. I’m not in any hurry to have kids (though we want them eventually) but puppies? Yes please. Unfortunately we’re in an apt that doesn’t allow them, but I’m hoping that will change sometime soon. I’m totally ready to take care of some furry kids, but real kids can wait another 4-5 years.

    • peanut

      YES! I totally hear you on the puppy vs baby thing! We’re getting a puppy right after we get back from our honeymoon…and not having babies for a (long) while. My friends tease me that when I finally have kids I’ll give birth to a puppy!

    • Nina

      I feel bad that we are turning this into a thread about puppies (quite telling I would say) – but oh my god puppies!! I’m exactly like that as well – when a baby shows up and everyone else coos over it, I feign a smile while thinking “please don’t make me hold it!” But a puppy, well my higher brain basically ceases to function when a puppy is around. Luckily in our case marriage has immediately led to puppy – we’re getting our furry baby in a couple of months! :-)

    • I am absolutely the same way — never really liked babies or children and have never really wanted one for myself. I am so in love with puppies, however…

      I’m glad this post popped up when it did because 2 nights ago my husband actually said the dreaded “C” word (children) and I freaked out a little. Never mind that he said he wants to start having kids in 3 YEARS, and I’ve always thought that I had at least 5 years to postpone making such a big life decision.

      This gives me more to think about…

    • Vee

      Not to add yet another voice to the puppy vs. baby thread, but my husband and I have a deep, deep passion for dogs. I really do believe I feel for dogs the way some women feel for children. I have an overarching desire to improve the lives of all dogs – not just mine! We are the couple that picks up stray dogs when we see them on the streets and take them to the SPCA. Some (many, in fact) women feel that children are their calling. I really feel that our call-to-nurture is to animals. And shouldn’t I just accept that instead of waiting for the baby hormones to hit me and getting pregnant because I think I should?

    • Clare

      We have two pups and they are so. very. much. our kids right now. We call them our ‘practice babies’. Seriously, they’re pretty much like kids except you can leave at home alone all day with a dish of water and a chicken neck and noone will call the authorities.

      The only friends we have that have babies are sweet enough to factor our fur-kids into joint plans in the same way they work out baby-logistics (“let’s go do brunch at a local park instead of dinner. It means you can see Baby awake and playing for a change, and the pups can be off-leash and having fun.”)

      That said, we will have the human kind of baby one day. Just not yet.

  • Sarah

    It’s interesting. I am planning a summer wedding for next year. I’m 32. I’ll be dress shopping in two weeks (at appointments that were made before I knew.) I just found out I’m unexpectedly expecting and am due two months before the wedding, which I still very much want to happen. So I suppose I’m feeling the opposite pressure — that the extended family will somehow assume that this was part of some baby-obsessed Machiavellian plan, or that somehow I’m so “crazy and bohemian” I did everything in the wrong order. But we are financially stable, happy, and in a place to have a baby. Just trying to figure out how to express that to my fiance’s more traditional family. It’s odd, as they’re not religious, but I have been sternly told by them in the past that “Marriage comes first.” Well, sure. Ideally. But we are already a family, own our home together, and have been rock solid for over 6 years. Why the societal angst? Which, to be fair, I can’t quite escape myself. I also have a hunch they’ll say “Call off the wedding” and expect that we’d do a courthouse number just to make it “legal.”

    • LPC

      Speaking as an old mom here, it’s possible they were just telling you, “Marriage comes first,” because they wanted to make sure you didn’t become a single mom. It’s also possible that once they see a grandchild on the horizon they will magically surmount their biases.

      • Sarah

        Thanks…and then there’s the practical questions — ARE we nuts to pay for a wedding with our very own infant party crasher and all his or her needs coming up this year? If anyone has a two month old — am I nuts to think I could have a low key but still festive party at that stage in the game? Some mother friends seem totally overwhelmed at that phase, but I’d like to think I’ll be mobile and able to get into the spirit of a party even with a little one.

        • meg

          Eff THAT, lady. I really really have a gut level hatred of this (new-ish) American idea that when we become parents that is our identity, and our only identity that matters. That with kids we must sacrifice everything to the altar of CHILD, money, dreams, lifestyle.

          I call BS. The altar of CHILD isn’t good for kids. What’s good for kids is having healthy well adjusted parents with their own sense of self that live fulfilling lives. That gives them a role model instead of a hover-craft parent.

          Which is a long way of saying have your WEDDING! Your wedding is about something different (though related) to your baby. I mean, be sensible, but have a wedding. (See Offbeat Mama here) but babies don’t have to be expensive when they are small anyway. You’ll make it work. Throw that party. Eff it.

          • Bridette

            YES YES YES – Being your own person teaches the kids to be their own person – Create their own happiness, not wait for someone else to create it for them. Have your wedding and go back to this link from Meg for the ridiculously perfect wedding invite.


          • If I were doing this wedding thing the same year I was having a baby, I would save the big wedding shindig for six months or a little later. Let your family settle in first, and find out who you are now that you are also a mom. This is not to say that you give up yourself when you become a mom, but you become a different you. Whether you like it or not, your life has just had a major change, and you need to plan realistically for that change.

            Speaking as someone with two young children, I WAS overwhelmed when my children were two months old. There is absolutely no way I would have wanted to be worried about major life events during those first two months. Here’s a laundry list of reasons why:

            1. When the baby is just two months old, unless you are one of those lucky, lucky, lucky women for whom pregnancy is a cake walk, you are likely to still be getting back on your feet physically. I’m not just talking about losing baby weight, I mean physically capable of moving around with ease without your legs swelling to the point of massive discomfort. If you have a c-section, the edema (swelling) and soreness are amplified and take a lot longer to heal. There is a reason that maternity disability leave is 6-8 weeks, and it’s not just about bonding time. Your body needs to recuperate from a major trauma.

            2. If you plan to breastfeed, you are likely to only just be getting that all figured out with your baby. Breastfeeding is not easy in the first 6-8 weeks. It is totally worth sticking it out if you can, but those first 6-8 weeks are a very difficult time. Your breasts will be sore. Your baby most likely will be feeding around the clock for days at a time (and I do mean around the clock) because during that first two months, the baby experiences several different growth spurts.

            3. Your breasts will be leaking like mad, especially if this is your first baby. Breast pads smell and slip around. You won’t need them forever, but for the first three months, you can count on leaking like crazy (unless your milk never comes in).

            4. Babies at this age are highly susceptible to germs, and illnesses in newborns are risky because they are still very fragile. My doctors recommended keeping the baby away from large crowds (even well-meaning family) to avoid spreading germs that, in an older child would result in just a common cold but could send the newborn to the hospital.

            5. Babies at this age tend to freak out and be overwhelmed in large crowds. Also, many babies this age don’t like being held by someone who is not their mom. They can’t see past their noses yet, so their sense of safety is based on a sense of smell. If they can’t smell mom near, they start to scream.

            6. You will be EXHAUSTED in a deep-to-the-core way that you have never experienced before.

            Babies are lovely and wonderful, but those first two months, you really need that time to focus on healing yourself, getting to know the baby and getting your new family into a routine. Somewhere around the baby’s third month, everything gets a little bit easier. The baby is less fragile, you’re feeling more spry, you’ve figured out breastfeeding and your breasts have adjusted so that you’re not constantly leaking gallons of milk the second you put on a clean shirt, you’ve figured out how to function on cat naps instead of nice blocks of hours of sleep, and you’ve lost a lot (if not all) of the baby weight.

            Around the six month mark, the baby is starting to get fun — and this is when it becomes easy to be yourself again. At this point, the baby is alert and may be crawling. The baby is curious, which makes it much, much easier for you to bring the baby along to whatever it is that YOU want to do, instead of living your life for the baby.

          • Agree 100% – but there are SO, SO MANY examples of the altar of child. On mommy-blogs alone I could find a million, not to mention people I know who had kids and lost all identity. It’s terrifying and real. That’s a whole other thing that’ll take work to avoid, you know?

        • A couple I know got married this past June after having a baby in May. I wasn’t at the wedding, but in their pictures they look radiant, happy, and relaxed. You might be a little crazy, but you might also say, “Hell, I just had a baby! This wedding s*** is a breeze!” (This is coming from someone without kids, so I really don’t know what I’m talking about.)

          • Meg P

            I wanted to say thank you to Sarah for being so honest and open about the havoc that pregnancy and motherhood can play with your body. Not in a foreboding sort of way but in a “genuinely caring for people’s well-being” sort of way.

        • meg

          Even with all the downsides Sarah gave, I’m going to stand by the fact that you need to have a wedding when you need to have a wedding. I’ve seen so many couples that put it off and put it off for a better time, and then it never happens. Or they have something “small for now” and then later realize “Hey that was the real thing, I wish we’d realized that.”

          Make the wedding what you need it to be, don’t wait for the perfect time.

        • meg

          And HECK YEAH use that up up creative invite. AND THEN SEND PICTURES.

    • Sarah, without any pressure from the other side, I really hope that you WILL have the wedding you want. All of that “first comes love…” crap can put a sock in it. Your baby is just another piece of your commitment, it doesn’t cheapen that commitment!

      Get a day-of-baby-carer, like people have people in charge of other things on the day. That might help alleviate some of the concerns about practicality. But the idea of your wedding with your two month old numkins makes me so happy I can’t stand it!

      • Sarah

        The few people I’ve told have all been like, “And you’re going to have a WEDDING??” and wear a wedding dress??? And register???” A few have even said, well you should postpone the wedding since you’ll have baby weight to contend with and be nursing and so on…

        Part of me thinks, well, this is the party we wanted to have, the deposits are down, the save the dates are out, I don’t think I should have to skulk away and do it “quietly and privately” out of some sense of shame. But the comments I get lead me to believe that many people think of getting married as the Oscars or some kind of performance for which I should be perfectly turned out. As though I’d be letting down our guests by being a baby-weight-carrying, nursing mom instead of a “blushing bride.” But yes, I think we’ll have the party regardless.

        • I don’t think you should have to skulk away and do it privately for shame, either, but there are practical reasons why a wedding with a 2-month old might be hard on you.

          • Sarah

            I hear you. We’re talking about having a baby nurse for the first couple of months, and I wonder if that will be a help in all of the above. I realize this is a luxury but it sounds so worthwhile.

    • Tally

      My sister was legally married only a month when she got pregnant and they were planning a wedding ceremony for a few months later. The celebration was actually really sweet and laidback so everything worked out fine even if they didn’t plan it that way. My nephew was only a month old at *my* wedding but he was happy and well-behaved. My sister was probably a bit stressed out being a new mom and the maid of honor but luckily her husband helped a lot. Best of luck!

    • We did the wedding when our little girl was four months old and it rocked! Granted it was fairly simple, and not huge, but that was honestly what we wanted anyway. We wanted to have a full on wedding despite lots or pressure to get married sooner. We made some minor adjustments in order to make it all work, but coming from experience it can definitely work.

      • Liz

        Dude. If you and your partner want to have a wedding, have a wedding. And have it on your terms. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to say to your family-in-law “We get where you’re coming from, but that’s not how we roll. We’re doing this thing our way, and we most definitely still want you there and hope you will support us as we build this family.” Stick to your guns, lady. With any luck, it will be a chance to open some peoples’ minds to a different way of doing things, and a little bit of proof to them that happy loving families occur in all scenarios, not just when marriage comes first.

        • meg


  • Meg: your postscript about practising travel as a couple so that it’s something that comes easy to you as a family is EXACTLY the life philosophy we’re trying to live out. “Start today the way you want to continue…”

    Lately I’ve been plagued by another niggly thought: grandparents. We’ve decided in principle that we’re going to [try] breed. Everyone is thrilled. His parent’s are marvellous grandparents to their 6 existing grand-spawn. Mine will also be superb. However, all 4 were born in 1946 (gosh! I wonder what was happening in 1945?!) and they’re not getting any younger. I am becoming acutely aware that in order for our kiddie-links to enjoy an active relationship with their grandparents, they need to actually meet their grandparents fairly soon. I’m the product of late breeders: my parents had me when they were in their mid 30’s and they were the youngest in their families so my grandparents were properly old (or deceased) when I was old enough to have a relationship with them. It makes me sad that my children might similarly never know how amazing and dynamic their grandparents are.

    It’s just a thought. We’re still getting on that boat and are going to sail the Pacific without baby in tow (for this trip at least). But it is almost enough of a thought to encourage a prompt return at the end of our (self-)allotted two years of adventure.

    • Lor

      Oh my gosh, I have thought the same thing. My parents had us at 32, 35 and 38 (I was the one born at 38) and though they didn’t plan it that way, it worked out great for them because my Dad was more established in his career and my mom was able to stay at home and when all 3 of us were in college at the same time, it didn’t break them. I want that for me, but then at the same time I think, gosh, my parents had us old, if I have kids old, how old will they be when I finally have kids, GOSH. will they be able to run with them, or be healthy enough to enjoy them, but in the end, we have to do what is best with us.

      • Gosh indeed! Sometimes I get really really really selfish and imagine myself as an ancient grandmother and how sad it will be for me not to run around and enjoy MY (thumbs crossed) future grandchildren! I almost ditch the pill and go home to shag immediately (ok, not quite)… But sorry for that: we’re still not changing our plans, especially when the time spent childless now is so blarry important to the family we want to have in the future.

    • EA

      yes to this. this is what makes me anxious to get the baby making going sooner rather than later.

      “It makes me sad that my children might similarly never know how amazing and dynamic their grandparents are.”

      i can’t imagine my kids not having relationships with my parents. and, while my parents were late breeders (33 and 35), his parents were early breeders (19, 21). it makes me sad and a little jealous that odds are his parents get the most of grandparenting (and they will be wonderful at it, i just want my parents to have ample time too.)

    • meg

      I think about this, but the bottom line is that for me, that’s not enough for me to have a baby before I’m ready to.

      • peanut

        yeah, seeing my dad playing with the little kids in our community is honestly the only thing that makes me want to have kids now – I know he would be so happy; but if he knew that was why we had them, he would think we were nuts!

    • This is precisely the issue I’m having. My MIL is fantastic with children. She comes alive around her great-nephews, and she raised three wonderful sons. The older two, for various reasons, are clearly never going to breed. Which leaves the youngest. Who’s my husband. Which means that her sole option for biological grandchildren is me getting knocked up.

      In a perfect world, we’d manage to have kids when she’s young enough and healthy enough to help with the hard stuff and enjoy the fun stuff and give the kids lifelong memories of their amazing grandmother. But as guilty as I feel about it, we’re not ready. And the longer we’re married (we’re in year 5) the less ready we feel.

      As people around us have babies, we love being surrounded by children. We’re both quite good with kids. But we also both love to come home to our cat and our books and the quiet… and each other without interruptions.

      Every time I see a beautiful baby, it makes me pine for more nieces and nephews, weirdly. Perhaps I’m just built to be a really fun auntie. I think I’d be OK with that. But I know my MIL would not (even though she’s so nice she would never say that aloud! Augh.)

    • In 1945, people were throwing bombs at each other in Europe and the South Pacific, and when the soldiers got home, they were pretty pent up, that’s what! :)

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      This weekend I heard a friend who is in a rather unstable relationship say she was thinking about getting married sooner rather than later because she has two great aunts who she’s close to who are in poor health. She can’t imagine them not being there to see her wedding.

      I was like, well at least they won’t have to live to see your divorce, which is more than I can say for myself. I was really harsh with her (we have that kind of relationship). I think most people would side with me pretty hard that you can’t make the decision to get married based on who will be around for the wedding. There is only one timeline that matters and that is your own.

      I’m not sure why this opinion doesn’t carry over to baby-making. The idea that we “owe” our parents grandchildren is strange enough, but whose interests are we looking out for when we factor this into our decisions? Certainly not the child’s – having a relationship with her grandparents will not outweigh being raised by parents who weren’t quite ready for her. Seriously.

  • This has always been a Big Discussion around here because my mister told me when we met that he didn’t want to have kids. I freaked out. That was a deal breaker. But we’ve talked about it and talked about it, and he’s realized that his reasons for not wanting to have kids were founded in worries, rather than an actual desire to not have children. And he’s since admitted to me that he was just terrified of having kids young (which I don’t want either) and also that he’s excited to have someone to watch The Iron Giant with someday… But still, it is an ongoing discussion, and I think it should be that way.

    As far as the travel thing goes, I think there is some element of having kids that changes how travel can be. It gets more expensive, suddenly you have to carry around a car seat or a stroller, nap time has to be scheduled in, etc. I’m not saying I can’t wait for traveling with kids too, because honestly, I’m so excited to show my future children the places where I went when I was younger, to expose them to different cultures and languages, and explore new cities and countries, but I do get it. It will be different/harder in some ways.

    And lastly, I assume some people have seen this, but this post made me think of the Nutrigrain Bar commercial. I love it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Co5DZl50OeQ

    • meg

      My point was less “we want to travel with kids” and more “we’re traveling because we know we WANT kids, not traveling to put off having them.” We’re not putting off having them. We’re not having them now, and we know we want them, so traveling now is smart.

      Traveling with kids would be great, but it’s complicated, as you point out. So we’ll see how that goes.

  • I always kind of knew I wanted to have kids eventually. It wasn’t until I was with my Fiance that I started really WANTING them (maybe it was a subconscious his-genes-are-perfect-for-my-genes kind of thing). And so we decided to get married a little earlier than we had originally planned because we agreed that we wanted marriage and then babies. We also feel like we need to be more financially stable first (darn those student loans) and that pushes back our baby time table a few years. Being the obsessive planner I am, I’m constantly trying to cram our finances, time, careers into a spreadsheet to try and find the perfect time to have a baby, the thing I want most in life (the fact that I have only recently allowed myself to know this about myself because I feel like a traitor to liberated women is another story). But of course, life can’t fit into a spreadsheet. And then I start thinking that I don’t want to rush it because once I have children that mysterious “I wonder if they’ll have my nose” stuff disappears and they either have my nose or not. Before I know it I’ll be 50 with a certain number of kids with certain noses and a certain career. I’d like to hold onto the ‘what if?’ for a little longer. But that incredible ‘I can’t think of anything else’ that Meg talks about still gets me.

  • Kristen

    The baby hormones kicked in for me a couple of years ago, I have the intense baby want but I also have this intense baby fear. The thing is I know having a baby is so so very wrong for us. At the moment we are a one income family while I’m back at school, we’ve got a cat we can barely keep up with and we’re just lazy folk. I don’t know what it is about the baby hormones, but I know for sure without a doubt that however much I “want” a baby it would likely be the wrong decision for us. I’m kind of scared the baby want will overpower the rational side of me and end up causing issues in the relationship. The husband doesn’t want kids… soon anyway. We always said we’d re-approach the subject in 10 years or so, and I know he’s right that this is just not the time but I find myself getting a little sad that he doesn’t share the baby madness with me. Anyway I totally relate to the crazyness of the baby want and think there’s nothing wrong holding off, that’s what pets are for.

    • ElfPuddle

      I so hear you. I’ve had baby fever since…forever. Seriously.
      Then I turned 30 and was still single. My rational brain convinced the uterus and hormones to step aside. “I’ll be too old by the time I’m married.” “I have a wonderful nephew.” “I teach. What name could I possibly come up with that doesn’t remind me of students?”
      Then I met fiance. We don’t have a date yet (long story). He has two wonderful kids from his first marriage. They treat me like a mom, even though we’re still learning about that.
      I’m 38, and the uterus and hormones have taken back their territory from the brain.
      I want a baby NOW. RIGHT. NOW.
      But it sure wouldn’t be a smart thing to do.
      So, we’ll wait and see.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        My husband and I met when he was 35. He’d never been in a relationship he could see lasting and had come to terms with the fact that he’d never have his own children. He loves kids and has nieces and nephews he cannot get enough of. And then he met me and I was like, I don’t care how old you are, I’m gonna want some babies and I’d prefer to have them with you.

        Now he’s almost 41 and we’re still at least a year from starting, but situation changes everything. We’re both so excited about having kids (you know, when the time is right for our relationship) and we know that there are a lot of ways to get them. The first step is just both of us wanting them at the same time.

  • Lor

    “Yeah. We don’t have kids right now.”

    Yup, that is the best way to say it.

  • Sarah

    First, I’m so grateful to people who know for sure they don’t want kids, or at least biological ones, because, well, I’m a confirmed breeder, and have major environmental-overpopulation guilt. So, for those of you – thanks.
    Second, I get all twisty-turny about this “wait til it makes sense” idea. I’m 27, and getting married, and it makes sense to wait

    • Sarah

      [technical difficlty cut me off]
      My career doesn’t leave a ton of room for kids. As of now, I’ve moved away from my family, and I’m not ready to move back just yet. And, yes, my favorite way to travel is completely on my own, getting lost in unfamiliar places.
      But. My parents and all their friends had kids when they were young and poor, and the majority of them raised smart, funny, fascinating people with no more issues than everyone else. So I don’t support this idea that you have to be logistically ready. Does it make some things easier? sure. But biology does have a say in things, and older parents have their drawbacks, too.
      I think it has a lot to do with the culture of our generation. We’re taught to achieve – reach for the stars – invest in your career! And I am so for all those things. But in that viewpoint, children can seem like a distraction, or a side project, or a burden, or a cop-out. For my parents, they were happy just to leave their hometown, and happy to call children a gift more important than anything else. Not the only important thing, but the most important. That gratitude and “take-what-the-world-gives-you” attitude are what I believe made them ready to be parents – not their ability to pay for my college.

      • I know exactly what you mean about the environmental-overpopulation guilt! Also, I am trying to hold myself off a bit before starting to try to get pregnant and my mind keeps saying, “But people make it work in all kinds of situations that are way worse than mine!”

        • I totally agree about the over-population guilt and still wanting kids. I’m absolutely fine with other ladies not wanting them, less guilt for me! But I am also waiting because 1. Financially we are far off from being ready. I don’t believe that you have to be rich to have kids, but being able to pay my rent would be nice… 2. I’d also like to be married and we’re not quite there yet. 3. I don’t think I’m done being selfish yet, that’s not to say you should bow at the Child altar, as Meg succinctly put it, but being a parent is a big responsibility that I’m not sure I’m ready for yet. All of that being said, I still get a little sad when that time of the month comes. I guess I’m secretly wishing for a “happy accident” to force my hand a little. My hormones certainly are ready for such an event. Luckily, every time I see a baby or a pregnant lady I think “aww, I want one!” and then remember I need to take my pill because I don’t want one YET.

      • Meg posted a while back about the ludicrous-ness of waiting to get married until it was “perfect” financially, and I have a little bit of the same feelings about having kids. Now, I intend to wait until I’m a little bit stable, but I also know that I grew up in a poor, financially unstable family and I don’t regret that one bit. It stinks because I think there is no over-arching answer: we have to decide the timing or even the IF for ourselves.

      • meg

        I am NOT promoting a “wait till you have lots of money and are totally settled” mindset (at all). I am promoting a “wait till you want to have a baby and feel kind of ready” mindset (excluding happy accidents, of course).

        • Liz

          My partner and I have come up against this in our future talks regularly. He grew up in an affluent, suburban family with a father who places a GREAT deal of importance on money and financial stability, and made sure the family could always take fancy vacations, cruises, go to private schools, etc. I grew up in the woods, and until I was 13, my family lived off of $10,000-$15,000 a year. I was not really aware of our financial situation until I was about 19. You know why I was never aware of it? Because my parents managed their money very well, made sure we were provided for, and that we had everything we needed. I have heard a few people say it is negligent to raise kids without a solid financial setup, but here’s the thing: money determines very little. How you manage what money you have, and how you manage your child’s wants and needs, and how you love your children and care for them are what matters. You can be just as negligent when you have a million dollars as when you have a hundred (it is also entirely true that you can be just as wonderful a parent either way, of course).

          I have had to do a decent amount of convincing my partner that not having a ton of money does not negate the possibility of raising healthy, happy children. I have never had a doubt that I could raise a child well on whatever resources I had available, and he was taught that money determines your quality of life (which is so evidently not true, yes?). In my view, if I want to buy property anytime soon (which I do), and considering the fact that I will be in grad school for the next two years (and after that will still be working in the public service sector), the chances of me having enough money and little enough debt to be considered financially stable in the next fifteen years are pretty slim. And I have absolutely no qualms about having children during that period (especially since 15 years from now I will be 41) and I also don’t believe it would be at all irresponsible.

          • ElfPuddle

            Thank you. My fiance’s dad is the same way as yours. It sure is frustrating and different than how I was raised.

  • Erin

    While we were engaged, I was really excited to be starting our baby family — in part because I knew it would someday include babies. And I had a timeline (3 years) which was urgent (at least in my head). Since we’ve been married (4 months), the urgency has been replaced by a sweet curiosity about how our marriage is changing and growing us.
    Most of my closest friends who are having babies, or planning to have babies soon have taken their time to start. So while my best friend tells me they think they’ll be ready for kids in a few more years (they’ve been married for 4 already), she’s also delighted for us that we’re newlyweds, and exploring the territory she remembers so fondly.

    We don’t have a checklist of things to tick off before we start growing our family, but our reasons for waiting include saving, investing, and building side-project income so that someone can stay home with our kids when they’re really leetle. We have time and energy to do that now, so we want to take advantage of it. And also, if someone is going to stay home to raise children, we want him/her to be able to continue to grow as a person through work or education or whatever.

    We’re also having the best time just being married and living in the same state (finally). We’re firm believers that a healthy family deserves a healthy relationship between the parents, and so developing our marriage seems like the best gift we can give our future children. As for knowing the ‘when’, I don’t worry about it right now, because like Meg mentioned yesterday, right now taking care of my marriage means taking care of it for today. Some other “today”, it might just make sense.

    • Jennifer

      I’m the Jennifer from the question to Meg. Your comment is the first comment that I feel really connected to what I wanted answered. You hit it exactly on the nose for me when you said “developing our marriage seems like the best gift we can give our future children”. For me, that is all I need as a reason to wait. Thank you for your wonderful brain!!


    • I read this article a while back and showed it to my husband (I do that with a lot of thoughtful OBB and APW posts actually and he seems to get a lot out of them too!) — spot on.

  • I’m really happy about this post and the comments. Everyone is so…civil. This really hasn’t been my experience in life.

    Short background: I’m engaged, I’m in medical school; all of my collegiate mentors were 3rd wave feminists (who I love dearly). My mother was a stay-at-home mom for most of her life. I feel like all of my female role models have deep regrets due to the presence or absence of children.

    I don’t mean to suggest that any of them are not satisfied with their lives, but the Baby Boomers seem to have entered into adult hood with some very extreme notions about marriage and babies and careers. Now I’m just confused. I’m not the sort of girl who ever, ever, ever sat around wanting babies…or planning a wedding. My FH on the other hand loves kids and definitely wants them. It was a sore spot in the relationship for a while, until I realized that my avoidance of the baby plan was based in the fears and uncertainties handed down to me – “have a baby, and your body changes, and he won’t love you anymore” or “you are a horrible person for wanting a job too, and your children will suffer” or “you entire life is over because it is all about the baby” et cetera.

    My peers have divided into two groups too – absolutely pro-baby and anti career, pro-career and totally antibaby.

    So reading this post was great. It solidified my newly formed opinions. I’m at peace with it now. I can have a baby (or two) when I’m ready to. If I end up not being fertile, I’ll happily adopt (which I want to do anyway). I can have a job and be good at it. I can do what *I* need to do to feel fulfilled, and everyone else who came before, everyone who offers opinions now, and everyone who will like scream BABY at the wedding can just figuratively hush. They can have their ideas, but I’ll do what I want and need to do when I’m ready to do it.

    Thanks, ladies.

    • Sometimes, feminism can be very black and white. This highly opinionated division is all around me right now, but about marriage. I read APW a lot because it is so civil, because women here have a lot of different views, but mostly, we appreciate choice.

  • When I was twenty-five I had no desire for children, I started thinking maybe I wouldn’t have them.

    I felt that to be a mother, you need to be ready to put the baby’s needs first and be selfless with your time and your life and I was so not ready to do that.

    Three years later, suddenly I am ready. Whatever my subconscious was waiting for happened and I’m excited to start trying for a child.

    My cousin was married for ten years before they decided to have a child.

    These things are so hard to predict. It is too bad that society pressures us to do it just for the sake of doing it. Terrible reason to bring a person into the world!

  • Lauren

    I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot, lately. My fiance and I are getting married in just under a month and while part of me would really like to enjoy being married to each other for a couple of years with no larger familial obligations than caring for our cat, we’re both 35 and the reality is that if we want to have a family, we need to start trying soon. I have been really fortunate, through school/work/my own adventures, to have traveled extensively, and while there are still more places I’d like to explore (and places to revisit with potential children), I don’t feel like I need to do these things before I can “settle down.” (Although I do know a fair number of people who had children before the age of 30 who have confided in me that they regret not having traveled more before they were parents, so I get that). Rather, my regret, I suppose, is that my soon-to-be-husband and I don’t have the luxury of time that younger couples have of just reveling in each other before starting a family. And given how many of my married and parented friends have told me that their marriages have come to take second place to the needs of their newborns (understandably), it all makes me a little anxious! But life unfolds as it does, and I am so happy to be marrying the person I am marrying.

    Oh, one other thing, my sister (who was married for 8 years before deciding to have children in her mid-30s) worried that she might not be a good mother because she never felt any maternal pings. Well, she just had her third child two months ago, and she is, hands-down, one of the most caring parents I have observed.

    • I don’t know if you’ll be able to answer this, but I was intrigued by this line “my sister who was married for 8 years before deciding to have children in her mid-30s) worried that she might not be a good mother because she never felt any maternal pings.”

      Do you know what made her finally decide to have children?? Because I am completely lacking maternal “pings,” yet somehow still on the fence about having kids. :-P

      • Clare

        I have never felt maternal pings. I am just moderately awkward around babies and small children (my partner, on the other hand, somehow makes friends with every kid in the park). But, I have always wanted children. I want that crazy, messy chaos in my life, and I want to know what the experience of raising a child is like.

        Also, my mother had me rather late in the game (perhaps less so for gen z kids, but certainly late for my generation). And that has some not-so-fun aspects. So I decided sometime in my teens that I would have a kid at 30.* No matter where my life was at, what was happening. No putting it off for the right time or the maternal ‘pings’ to kick in. Luckily for me I have found someone, seem to be settled, and have five years left to enjoy ‘being married’.

        So, um, I guess in short my answer is – I’ve just picked an arbitrary time, and will stick with it to make sure I don’t accidentally end up not being a parent.

        * Okay, I can’t be sure I’ll get to conceive and have my own child at 30. But 29 is when I start sorting that s*** out and trying, anyway.

    • ElfPuddle

      and, if I can be “unladylike” how old is she now?
      Curious 38 year-olds with baby fever want to know.

  • Lindsey M

    I love this discussion, ,and I think it is an important one to have. My husband and I are in the “married and both of us are unsure about having kids” camp. This is actually a scary place to be. Of course, we’ve talked about what will happen if one of us becomes SURE and the other still doesn’t know (no bullying/pressure is allowed), but that’s easy to say before it happens. Anyone else in the same boat? Does it give you anxiety?

    • Meredith

      I am in a similar situation. I am not engaged, but in a relationship that is definitely headed that way. One of the major stumbling blocks is our mixed views on having children: I don’t think I want kids, ever. But I’m only 23 and it is easily conceivable that my views and wants will change. Maybe when I’m 30, I will want kids. I don’t know. Right now though, I can’t say that I’ll ever want kids. My boyfriend on the other hand, definitely wants children. I think it’s foolish for him to marry me without at least accepting that I may never want children. And if one of us doesn’t want them, then we probably shouldn’t have them.

      So it’s complicated. What if we break-up over the kids issue and it turns out that in 10 years, I totally do want kids. I guess I could argue the opposite, what if now he wants kids, but in 10 years he doesn’t? That’s not something you generally worry about, but in this instance, it can literally break a marriage. There are very few things that are deal breakers once you’ve decided you want to get married. The kids issue, I feel, is one of them. And it scares the crap out of me.

      • Michelle

        At the age of 24, I ended an otherwise absolutely wonderful relationship with the man I wanted to marry because he wanted kids – soon – and I was unsure leaning toward “probably none but maybe one someday far in the future.” The advice I got was that you can compromise if you want 1 child and he wants 4, but there’s no compromise between 0 and 1. In the end, that decision was right for me. I asked my now-husband on our third date if he wanted kids and was so delighted when he said, “Probably not. Maybe one.”

    • Absolutely in this camp–when asked, I usually describe us as “deeply ambivalent,” and yes it’s a VERY uncomfortable place to be, getting worse as I get older. I find myself envying women who are “babybabybaby!!” or know with conviction that they never want children. Because… one day I think “maybe, in like 5 years…” and the next I think “no way, no how, not ever.”

      And from our discussions, my husband is on the same page–right now. I think he grew up vaguely assuming that he’d have kids one day, since his older siblings both did. But he really hasn’t spent any time with actual kids, and now that we’ve babysat for his nieces and nephews, he sees how exhausting it can be… I grew up with 5 younger siblings, though, so I’ve lived many years with the 24/7 reality of kids… which sometimes makes me feel like the best candidate to have children, and sometimes makes me feel like I’ve… seen too much firsthand/been there, done that.

      I’m freaked out that one of us may change our minds… or that we’ll sort of wander into “no kids” by default (since no choice IS a choice, in this case) and later regret it.

    • Bethany Mc

      My husband and I are in a similar boat. When we were dating (7 years) neither of us thought we wanted kids, but weren’t willing to rule it out. Now, we have several friends with kids and I can’t get over how much we enjoy spending time with their kids, watching them learn and sharing traditions with them. My husband loves them too, and is so great with them. It has convinced me that I want kids. I am also fortunite that I curently have a great job that pays reasonably and is less than full time, which would make it perfect for splitting the difference between “stay at home” and “working mom”.
      However, my husband is sure he’s not ready to have kids. He won’t rule out changing his mind in the future, but he is not ready for all of the work and changes that would be required for him to be happy with himself as a parent.
      Its a fine line to walk for me, since I want to talk about kids, names, baby stuff, etc., and I know if I push too hard it will become a wall. I don’t want the issue to become a fight over who wins, or to force such a responsibility on him, since I know that kids are stressful enough even without resentment over being forced into it adding to the mix.
      My answer (for now) is that we have time. I am only 33 and we are probably going to adopt so there is less than ususal biological pressures. I will keep on enjoying my friends kids. I have vowed to only bring up a positive comment here and there, so he is not unduly under pressure. I’ll see where we end up in a couple of years…

    • That’s the boat my fiance and I are in as well. We don’t want one right now, or immediately after our marriage. We *might* want one five years down the line, but we also might not. Right now we really don’t know. At this moment right now, we both say NO WAY. But we’ve both sort of envisioned situations where that could change.

      We’ve talked about it a lot, and it does give me a little worry what happens if we reevaluate in a few years and one of us REALLY wants a baby, and one REALLY doesn’t. But right now we both really feel like that’s not going to be the case. I just feel like it’s not something that’s going to blindside us… I think if one of us starts to want a baby, we’re going to see it coming, giving time for us to figure it out together. And that’s the most important thing: figuring it out TOGETHER.

      I don’t have a good answer of what will happen if one of us wants a baby and one doesn’t, I guess. I just have to hope we can somehow end up on the same page and not throw away our marriage for someone who doesn’t even exist. Right now we’re on the same page, and that’s what matters.

    • meg

      Our rule is basically “no opinion is off limits.” So days I think I don’t want kids, our rule is that’s ok. I’ve seen a lot of couples rush or push each other into it “I know you’re not sure you’re ready but it’ll be fine go go go.” And I want to have a relationship where each of us can honestly explore what we want (at any given moment). That attidude has really helped as we’ve talked it over.

      • lou

        this is so healthy! my finace and i are in the same boat, and also usually me who is saying ‘babies?!!! are you freaking crazy? no way man!’. i know that he is ready in the next couple of years and he is happy to wait for me to get to the same place with him. and i have a feeling i will. i was always the person who said i wouldn’t have children, but over time this has softened. so my freak outs are less and less – although i still have them!

        it’s also another interesting thing that for me (and many other women) the idea of a happy accident is very unlikely to happen. i have been on the pill for many, many years and barring a freak problem with the contraception it would take a conscious decision to stop taking it and start trying to make it happen. which can somehow make the whole thing more difficult! as my fiance and i are big believers in the ‘let’s just see what happens’ school of thought and this is one area of our lives where we actually can’t ‘just see what happens’.

        • meg

          You could always just switch to something less reliable (seriously).

          We also have decided that we love each other kids or no kids. Our relationship is not contigent on kids, even though we’re both pretty sure we want them. That helps take the pressure off.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            This is a hilarious good bad idea. In the context of doing what is good for your marriage today, you could try and get pregnant on Tuesday and try not to get pregnant on Thursday and let the fates work that out for you.

            My sisters-in-law have all struggled to get pregnant and the amount of work they put into it was admirable, but unglamourous. That whole routine sometimes pushes me off the “let’s get pregnant!” wagon. I know that there is a chance that I could end up in the same situation, but it seems like way more fun to at least start in the gambling camp. You know, after we’re in a place where a pregnancy would be a welcome turn of events.

  • I had to stop before I read the comments and thought more insightful things and say:
    a) I love you Jennifer! I love that you put out this question and that you’re thinking so awesomely about something that I just discussed last week.
    b) I love you, Meg! Your answers are always so awesome and multi-faceted and yay! Thank you so very very much for acknowledging that hormones are vicious (I’m a baby person too, everyone used to call me “Little Mama” instead of my name. Willpower alone walked me through some of those days!) but that they won’t be the final answer. YES!
    And I plan to travel the shit out of my child. Lucky, lucky child to have that adventurous upbringing!

  • LPC

    My kids are now 20 and 23, born when I was 30 and 33. My daughter was born 19 months after I got married. I always wanted children, and my biology wanted children so bad my ovaries literally hurt. It’s called Mittelschmerz, by the way. It’s a named phenomenon.

    With that as background, and therefore speaking to those who might now be similar, here’s all I know. Kids need an infrastructure that can survive their honorable demands and address their selfish demands. The two are separate. They need you to know what you believe, and to have thrashed through at least a good part of your psychology and your own need structure. They need you and your partner to have thrashed through a joint understanding of child-rearing. They really need you and your partner to have developed a shared position on the value of primary care-giving and its role in family finances.

    Travel doesn’t really matter all that much, per se, except as a proxy for all the adventures of your imagination and your body. Are you are now willing to put other adventures aside to answer a baby’s needs? For a time. Maybe your kids will travel well. Maybe they won’t. But by the time you have a baby you have to be willing to listen to them first, before the siren call of much of anything else. And, you need to have found a way for you and your partner to listen to each other, over the siren call of those same, chubby, smooth, biteable babbikins.

    • LPC, I will copy this down somewhere. Because this is a very true bit of it that often gets overlooked. Thank you for your having-been-there perspective.

    • I agree entirely with this. I am currently working through some pretty serious family therapy with my ex. One of the things that really did our marriage in was our inability to parent together. If you can’t agree on child rearing, you’re really setting yourselves and your children up for heartache and failure.

      If it is at all possible, work this out FIRST.

    • Thank you! Can I just express how calming it is to have the perspective of someone who has dealt with this years ago and can share some perspective with those of us who are right in the middle of it? I love the spirit of commiseration amongst the 20 & 30 somethings at APW, but a different perspective can be really refreshing.

    • I love this comment so much. Thank you!

    • Lady, you are wise.

      • LPC

        It warms my heart to feel that my comments are heard and helpful. We want to help, us older women, but sometimes we don’t know how to do it because you guys are so cool. We weren’t as cool as you are, so we wonder how to engage. We want to tell you what we’ve learned, but we aren’t quite sure how much has changed in the past 20 years and whether, as a result, our knowledge is useful to you now. Thanks.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          We’re not cool. We never have been. It’s all an act. We just do the best we can, like everyone who came before us and everyone who will come after us.

  • Sarah M

    By the time I was 10 I had been to places like England, Scotland, France, China, Thailand, India, Malaysia, and Hawaii with my family (2 parents, 2 brothers). When my parents took us to Europe we were 4, 6 and 7.

    SO, as a child of parents who certainly didn’t put off traveling because of kids, I would just like to encourage everyone to travel, travel, travel with their children. Yes, it’s more expensive, and yes it’s a different sort of traveling, and sure maybe I don’t remember every little thing about England since I was only 4, but I KNOW that being able to see so much of the world at such a young age shaped who I am. I am so glad that my parents opted to take us places like that rather than buy me brand name clothes or a car when I was 16 (we weren’t super rich by any means, my parents made a conscious decision to do this traveling and took out loans so we could go). I would not replace those experiences for the world. DO NOT be afraid to take your kids traveling with you.

    • Lauren

      I agree that traveling with children is one of the best gifts you can give them. My parents took my sister and me to many places when we were young and it definitely shaped who I am, including my love of travel! Not too long ago, I hung out with a couple at the bottom of the Grand Canyon who hiked down and back up with their two-year old son and another couple who brought their toddler on a camping trip in the back-country of Alaska, and I thought that these were two of the coolest couples I’d ever met. So, yes, it can be done, but I think LPC paints a more realistic picture. Maybe your kids will travel well, maybe they won’t. Or maybe they will have special needs that preclude you from taking them to some of the far-flung places you had hoped to go. I guess my point is that while exploring the world doesn’t have to stop when one starts a family, you do have to be okay with the possibility that exploring the world may take a very different form than the one you had imagined pre-kids (e.g. coddling your baby because she’s sick vs. hopping on a plane to Africa) because an infant’s needs do have to come first.

      • Sarah M

        Oh absolutely!! When we did these trips every detail was planned down to the minute and things could go wrong (I’m sure a lot more things went wrong than I remember). I’m just saying, don’t use children as an excuse not to travel. It takes a lot of effort to pull off (again, probably more than I even realize) but I’d say it’s worth it for the experiences you will have with your children, the family bonding, and opportunities for learning.

    • Ellen

      I am with you that travel is wonderful and world-expanding. But before you urge people to do their world travel with three children, you might consider what a small percentage of people can afford world travel, or any international travel. Doing so is an enormous privilege, one that most children won’t have access to. Airplane travel wasn’t something my family could afford. I ended up getting to travel outside the country before my mother ever did, and that’s something I was painfully aware of.

      • Sarah M

        I am fully aware that not everyone can afford to travel and I would like to think that the commenter’s on this site are smart enough to know what they can and can’t afford and would interpret my comment accordingly. I was simply suggesting that those who WANT to travel and have the funds to do so should not look at their children as a reason not to go. Perhaps I should have been more clear.

        • Allison

          my boyfriend and i are fortunate enough to be able to travel a few times a year. on a trip earlier this year we ended up sitting next to two couples with small children at the pool. we got to talking about traveling with children and they said something that really struck home: “they can never be good on vacation if you never take them” (meaning, you can’t assume they’ll be bad/difficult). i really liked that and i completely agree with the above comments. if you have the means, children shouldn’t be an excuse as to why you can’t travel.

          and “my ovaries hurt” has been a favorite saying among my friend group since college. its so true :)

      • meg

        I think we’re all pretty aware of that. As someone who didn’t leave the state I was born in till I was 14, I am VERY aware of that. I just have tried to shape my adult-hood in a way that I could try to snatch at some of the things I couldn’t get when I was small (and I’ve been lucky enough to make that work). This post and the comment above are not about pressuring everyone to travel even if they can’t afford it. We’re all aware…

  • Joanna

    When it was announced that three of my book club members were engaged at the same time, talk turned to marriage, specifically thoughts from those there who were married. Kids inevitably came up as well, and I mentioned that my fiance and I aren’t planning on having kids.

    One of the members actually said “Well, honestly, if I don’t have kids, I have no idea what I’ll talk about with my husband in 5 years.”

    It makes me sad to think that women would find children to be filler for their marriages. I’m marrying a person that shares with me an infinite list of possibilities for our life together, and I could never imagine us having nothing in common or anything to talk about five years down the road. Or even ten or twenty. I think it’s important that we realize that kids aren’t a fix to a problem or filler for emptiness. They are precious gifts, but so is marriage.

    • Jennifer

      That train of thought just blows my mind. I have a hard enough time when people say that marriage is primarily for procreative purposes (this comes up a lot from marriage equality opponents, saying that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry because they can’t accomplish the primary function of marriage — I mention in a comment below my grandfather, who married again when he and his wife were in their 60s; do these people really think he and his wife should have been deprived of all of the benefits of their longer-than-many marriage just because she’d already gone through menopause?). And obviously everyone knows couples who have drifted apart over time and now all they have in common is the kids — but to be planning/anticipating that?

  • “In fact, lets stop calling it waiting, and just call it, “Yeah. We don’t have kids right now.””

    Best. line. ever. (and I apologize from the start for a long winding comment that follows….)

    Oh thank you for this post – and I am even more excited for next week’s “No baby” post. I have spent most of my life on the no-baby train. I could write a book “The 2048 reasons not to have children”. It just didn’t seem to be “me”. Fortunately I found a partner who felt similarly, tho a bit more on the fence, leaning over to the baby side. But together we both have always said “Never say Never” – bc I know that me at 27 didn’t feel the same on many things as I did when I was 23, same for 30, same this year at 32.

    I have six nephews, one niece and became an aunt when I was 12. I’ve grown up with children and have been able to see what really goes into the day to day, how it impacts a marriage/relationship, the really wonderful tender loving moments, the Get me Away Before I Shake the Baby moments, the moments full of guidance and teaching – and those filled with “what the hell am I doing”. So I do feel fortunate in this – especially now as more of my friends begin to have babies and able to remind myself not to get caught up in the new clothes, nursery items, the showers, the cute little bundle of joy – bc it’s more than the pregnancy, it’s more than those first few months – it completely changes your life. forever. (I’m not saying that as a bad thing just as a matter of fact) And it should change your life – and I have feelings about how I would want to be as a parent and I know to be able to be that type of parent, it would require patience, grace and definitely a change in lifestyle.

    Then there’s the whole “oh my god how could we even ever afford it!” terrors that run through my head. It’s not about putting off the travel…I would be all about bringing the child with us – opening their mind and experiences from an early age, it’s what I believe in. But that also means the extra $$ that goes with it – along with clothes, food, shelther sports/arts/music fees, school/college, and long after…

    And yet, after saying all of this, in the past several months I’ve gone from 100% no/0% yes, to what feels like more 50/50 in how I feel about having children. And that freaks me the F out. the fiance gets it, and so we have decided to reassess the situation in 2 years, see how we feel then (don’t even get me started on the fears of age and fertility though…)

    But as Meg said, and I originally repeated – it’s not about “waiting” to have them or “waiting” to see if we want them. What we do know for certain is that we don’t have them now, don’t want to have them right now because that’s not part of our “right now” life. And for sure, certainly, wife and mother are not the same thing and my hope is to be more comfortable in the first new role in my life, before then deciding about that second role.


    • Michele

      From my brain to your fingertips. Damn, you summed it up perfectly!

    • Clare

      I have a couple of friends, dear, close friends, who were always in the ‘no kids’ camp, until ‘they met the right guy’, and now suddenly they definitely want those kids.

      And it’s such a stereotype, the most infuriating comment “You don’t want kids? Oh, you just haven’t met the right guy yet.” But it’s held true for a few people around me. So I’m trying to work out to fit this this annoying, annoying opinion into my undertanding of things that can be true… I’m struggling (but I reckon these people will be the greatest parents, so I’m thrilled).

  • I am 33 and have been married for one year now, together for 5 years. Our decision to have children now was shaped by both my age and our time together. I have never had my ovaries hurt. I don’t really drool over children. I like my life as it is now.

    BUT, we knew we wanted children someday. And the more we thought about it that someday is now. It wasn’t a decision based on hormones or pressure, just one we came to as we looked at our lives as a whole.

  • Michele

    I think I must be one of the few “lucky” women who hails from a familial/friend community where whether or not we’re going to have kids is a complete non issue. Someone might ask what are thoughts on the subject are early on – out of curiosity more than anything else, but no one ever pressures us, tells us we should do it, or otherwise tries to make us feel as if we’re strange/selfish/something else for not really wanting to.

    This is excellent 99% of the time, especially for someone like me, who tends toward a ‘mind your own beeswax’ frame of mind and doesn’t take kindly to people telling me what I should or shouldn’t do. BUT, there are times when I wish people WOULD bring it up, because it would enable me to think/talk through it a little more. Because while we’ve always been pretty sure kids aren’t for us, we’ve never been 100% convinced (and you’d never hear me say ‘we’re never having kids’ because a: I hate to eat crow, and b: shit happens)

    And lately, I HAVE been thinking about it. I’ve been thinking about what it really means to be a parent in general and what it would mean for us, specifically. I’ve especially been thinking about parenthood as it pertains to the long-haul, because while I know I love babies, and I know I love teenagers, I also know that I really, really do not enjoy KIDS, which babies very quickly turn in to.

    So I’ve approached this unknown the same way I would approach any other unknown: With research. I’ve been reading anything and everything I can get my hands on about how other people have approached the decision of whether or not to procreate, and you know what? There’s just not very much out there! While I have no doubt that there are millions of other couples out there who are trying to decide if parenthood is right for them, the truth is that those people aren’t the ones writing and talking about it. Instead, the people who have already decided one way or the other are, which lends the idea that somehow everyone else in the world already knows what they want, and we’re the weird ones for being unsure.

    And another thing, I’m not sure parenthood is something that lends itself well to “research,” because it seems that the more I learn about the reality of parenthood: the physical and emotional toll, the stress it places on a marriage, the exhaustion, and most of all, the expense (all of this NEVER-ENDING by the way), the more I kind of can’t believe anyone ever decides it’s a good idea, and realize the world would be a much less populated place without all of the happy accidents. Because the truth is that having children is a rather irrational act – one often sourced in feelings rather than logic (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    So I decided that I need to stop THINKING about having kids, and instead get a handle on how I FEEL about having kids

    • Yeah, research is my #1 way of dealing with … everything. ha. But here, it hasn’t been so helpful. Because parents will almost never say that their child “wasn’t worth it,” or that they regert having him/her. Which is great, but doesn’t make the decision any more clear-cut to me.

      And logic seems firmly in the don’t have children camp. So then there’s just feeling… which doesn’t seem to be helping me either.

      • Ashley

        First of all, I have about 1 million and 5 things to say in response to all of this. I love APW

        In short – I’m pre-engaged (that’s the new term coined a little while ago right?) In a totally committed lovely co-habitation relationship with my best best friend. I absolutely want to spend the rest of my life with this man. Lovely right? – this man also happens to not want to have kids. I just happen to be, even after nearly two years of (intense – I’ll admit it) thought – firmly on the fence. I could go on and on about my reasons for and against and his reasons against and the conversations, and how i refuse to give up this amazing person for something i might someday want. The reality is it can be a really complex issue. On top of that I feel a ton of familial/ societal pressure. Anyway I turned to research to help guide my thinking and decision making. I was really surprised at the lack of it that I found until I found out about the book “Maybe Baby – 28 Writes Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives” It’s edited by Anne Lamott. I’m from Canada, so I ordered it on Chapters online (which I think is the same as Indigo for you?) regardless it’s widely available I’m sure. It’s a really good look at both sides of the fence and also what being on the fence is like. It’s not perfect, but definitely the best I’ve found yet.

        Hope that helps. I can’t say it solved things for me, but it was great food for thought, which was exactly what I was looking for.

        • Michele

          I totally read that book. :) Loved it.

          • Ashley

            If you’re the same Michelle from below with the post about all the thinking, I just posted a yes yes yes to your post. I think it’s safe to say we’re on the same wavelength :)

        • meg

          F*ck yeah, Anne Lamott.

    • meg

      I thought Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book “Committed” contained a really excellent trajectory of her thought process of deciding, in her case, not to have kids, but it tracks her whole back and forth. I thought it was super helpful.

      • Michele

        I read that book, and I see what you’re saying, but I also had the distinct impression that while the book presented it as such, the reality was that she’d already made up her mind to NOT have children and was doing her research in an effort to gather up all of the reasons why people decide to have kids, so she could better argue against them and/or to stock her arsenal with ammunition in the form of all the arguments against becoming a parent.

        • That was sort my impression, too, although I did enjoy the chapter. From my foggy memories of EPL (I only skimmed it, so forgive me if I’m way off base), I think her desire not to have children was partly involved in the disintegration of her first marriage.

          Not that that chapter wouldn’t still be helpful for some people… it just didn’t give me the answer I was looking for. But I’m beginning to suspect that no one can, or rather, that “the answer,” the piece of advice or argument that will make my mind up for me 100%, seal the deal one way or the other, doesn’t exist. I think the questions may never go away completely, no matter what we decide.

          And because I loved what she wrote, I have to add the words from http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/2010/08/on-children.html:

          “Because life is not a choose-your-own-adventure book, where if you end up in the quicksand, you can flip back to the previous page and choose the other option. The trick is to embrace your choices, but I finally realized the importance of mourning the ones you didn’t pick. And that felt incredibly liberating, and very real.”

        • meg

          Donno. I WANT kids, and I thought her reasoning was fantastic (and helpful). I know she was coming to it from a place of not wanting kids (though she was describing a thought process that had gone on for 15 odd years, well before she did know), but I still thought everything she was saying was both vaild and very true.

          • Roisin

            I also found that chapter – and, indeed, the entire book – very helpful. I come from a position of spending most of my teenager-hood categorically stating I wasn’t getting married or having any kids. But then I met my fiance, and for a little while, enclosed in a perfect bubble of falling in love, I started thinking I perhaps decided in haste.

            At the moment, my position is ‘I’m terrified. And I have no idea’. But I’m not yet 20, so have many years to make up my mind. One thing I find wonderfully helpful is honesty, and that – along with many different perspectives – was what I found in the book. It was such a comfort to know that other people have mixed feelings about children, yet they come to a decision anyway, and for the most part, it seems to be a decision that’s right for them. Since one of my biggest fears is making the wrong choice, whether that is not having kids and regretting it, or having them and resenting what happened to my life, I found the statements from conflicted but generally satisfied women to be immensely comforting.

            The book really encouraged me to look underneath the fear to see what I really want. Still no idea what that is, but I’m prepared to wait for the answer.

    • Marina

      I use research to narrow down how I feel about having kids. Because that is a ridiculously big question. I use research to get a better idea of some of the things that come up in the course of having kids, so I can ask myself how I feel about colic, or co-sleeping, or telling a 4 year old what death is, or telling a 12 year old when I think they should have sex, etc etc. Research doesn’t answer my questions, but it helps me formulate better ones.

  • Oh, here’s a subject I know well… on several levels.

    When we got engaged and started planning a 14-months-out wedding, it came as a surprise to much of our extended families. (We’re both from far flung families, so it’s entirely possible we’re behind a year in family gossip at any given time.) MANY of them asked if I was pregnant … completely ignoring that our wedding was WELL past the time frame of “shotgun.” We literally had to wait a full 12 months (people can’t count) before the rumors died down.

    It happened again at our wedding. I’m the very proud godmother to one of the most adorable little boys I’ve ever seen (bias notwithstanding). Who I happen to live across the country from. So a large portion of our reception was spent holding/cuddling/sharing baby kisses/dancing with him. (Proof: Go click my name.) The new husband’s family started asking him if 1. it was my son and I was just passing him off as my best friend’s (um, EXCUSE ME?) and then telling him, 2. I was going to start pressuring him for kids, since I was clearly so baby-crazy. (My family asked us repeatedly when we were planning on it.)

    To me, this is so far out-of-line, it’s crazy. Beyond the “you’re married, now have babies” adage, this type of pressure (and some fear-mongering) has no place at our wedding, or really, in our lives. I had to spend a good part of my reception explaining who this tiny boy attached to my hip was, how I never get to see him etc etc etc … and sadly, it didn’t stop all the “knowing” looks.

    It’s amazing to me how deeply the “wife = mother” “mother=wife” mantra has been carved into our collective subconscious. On so many levels, it’s so, so unfair to those that choose to deviate from that “norm.” Like me (wife long before mother), my best friend (mother long before wife), my godmother (wife, not mother), my boss (mother, not wife) and, I suspect, many many of us here.

    • I was at my partner’s family reunion a few weeks back, meeting a bunch of his family for the first time. Of course, some old aunt brings over someone’s newborn and says, “This is what happens next! Just so you know!” As if we weren’t aware? Not to mention the baby’s parents weren’t married and eschewed that narrative themselves.

      I work in childcare and I love my job in that I can play with the kids for a few hours and then go to my office when they need to be changed or 15 kids need help getting in swimsuits or it’s naptime. For now, that’s great for me. At some point I’m going to want my own children, but for now… we’re both happy with our little cousins and hopefully one day, nieces and nephews.

    • Yes. That is SO FAR beyond it’s not okay. I’m sorry that people think that “sense of humor” is okay to have.

      When I finally moved to the same state as my long-distance partner, his grandmother’s fifth conversation with me EVER was “when are you having children” and she hasn’t really left it alone since. Thankfully, neither of our parents are that way.

      • The worst part was, they weren’t joking.


        He warned me about the rude extended family. I just had no idea how rude! At least we can commiserate now…

  • Jennifer

    This topic always brings two anecdotes to my mind: First, my 5-year-old godson asking very-very-unattached-at-that-point me “When are you going to get a baby?” in the exact same tone he had asked me “When are you going to get a car?” Which, of course, made me think of going down to the baby dealership and test-parenting the different models. (My response to both questions was pretty much “Sometime between tomorrow and never. We’ll have to see what happens.”) But the silliness of his question does kind of underscore that when it comes to becoming a parent, it’s not just a matter of deciding “okay, now” — you can decide this is the Perfect Time to have kids, and then go through a decade of miscarriages, or get pregnant with your first child easily and then struggle through years of unexplainable secondary infertility, or have two birth mothers in a row back out of the adoption process at the 11th hour. And those are just examples of people who expected to be able to become parents fairly easily. And many couples decide No Kids Now (or No More Kids Now) and find themselves unexpectedly expecting – the accidents aren’t always happy. The unpredictability is always just hanging around waiting to throw a wrench in the When question.

    The other anecdote I always think of is from the luncheon before a family wedding, when my young cousin asked the happy couple how many babies they wanted to have, prompting spit-takes all around the table. The groom was my 68-year-old grandfather, the bride her 64-year-old grandmother. (They did not in fact have any babies together but did have a fulfilling 24 years of marriage before death did them part.)

    • “Which, of course, made me think of going down to the baby dealership and test-parenting the different models.”

      This made me laugh so hard! I have this vision in my head of a baby dealership now… Thank you for making me laugh this morning.

    • FM

      Thank you for bringing up another reason those questions about when you’re having babies can be very tough for people. One kind of tough for people who don’t want them. Another kind of tough for people who are ambivalent. And a third kind of tough for people who would have them yesterday if they could, but they haven’t be successful at getting it done yet. A 5-yr old kid who thinks wanting a baby is enough to get you one is cute and funny, but adults (like our families, who to their credit do not know we’ve been trying) who seem to think you can go down to the dealership and get that baby once you decide you’re ready make me want scream. Yeah, stop f-ing asking me when I’m having babies, thanks, because unless you have some magic baby-making pill to give me, I apparently don’t control that timing.

  • My fiance and I have always been that couple that would babysit for you. We both love little kiddos.

    “Aww…looka the wittle outfit.”
    “She/He’s so darling!”

    We have hit the pressure from both sides of our family…hard. And when I mean hard, it’s pretty much every time we see our families. It’s probably due to the fact that we’ve been together for five years, have steady jobs, bought a house with five bedrooms (“look you can have four kids!”), and the fiance’s sister just had her first little one.We are getting married in October and the questions of “honeymoon babies”, have already been asked. However, we have both decided to take a year and honestly, be selfish. We want to be able to enjoy being newlyweds and being able to do whatever our little hearts desire. In the end, this will give us enough time to ‘be ready’ to settle down to our future kiddos.

    Selfish? yes. But do we think its a good idea for us? yes.

    • I think that sounds lovely, and I don’t think it’s selfish at all!

      (I would love to remove the “it’s selfish not to have children” line from the whole “kids vs. no kids” dichotomy, since, in mind, it’s equally selfish to procreate. :))

    • Definitely not selfish! I used to always say I was too selfish for children, because of all the things my fiance and I want to do for US. But I don’t think it’s selfish anymore… it’s just living our lives to the fullest, however we see fit. And everyone deserves that – whether you’re a parent or not.

    • Michele

      I HATE the argument that choosing not to have children is “selfish.” Perhaps it is, but SO IS HAVING KIDS. Honestly, make a list of all of the most commonly cited reasons for having kids (outside of sheer accident), and you’ll quickly see that the overwhelming majority of them are also “selfish.”

      Want your family name/lineage to continue? That’s selfish.
      Want to create something with your partner? That’s selfish.
      Want someone to love, teach, show the world to? That’s selfish.
      Want to relive childhood through your kids? That’s selfish.
      Want an heir? That’s selfish.
      Want an insurance policy against loneliness in old age? That’s selfish.
      Don’t know why, but know you WANT a child? That’s selfish.

      All of these things are selfish by virtue of the fact that they’re things the parents want(ed) for themselves. Their children simply helped them have them.

      • THIS. It’s ALL selfish. It’s choosing to do what is best for us. And while that’s selfish, it’s also not–happy people make for better families, make for better societies.

        While I’m a total fan of the love-child or the unexpected-bundle, if I have the choice, I’m going to take a while to build my relationship with my partner. That could be seen as selfish, or sane, or whatever from any number of perspectives. It just IS to me.

    • meg

      Yes. I HATE the selfish line of thought (though it’s so ingrained in us that it’s hard to stop it from surfacing, I find). I think it’s related to the idea that I talked about above somewhere that being a parent should mean the ultimate sacrifice of self to child. I think that’s bad for everyone. Yes, kids take a lot of time and energy. No, *hopefully* they do not require you to give up your self. Change? Yes. Sacrifice? No.

      So, yes. I really really really don’t think not having kids is selfish. I’d argue it’s a heck of a lot worse to know that you’re not ready and do it anyway. That’s not good for anyone.

  • As someone who has been married for two years and we both want to wait several years (6 or 7?) before having kids, I can’t help but get annoyed at the automatic question that follows “You’re married?” which of course if “Do you have kids?” I guess like you say “there seems to be a powerful tie in our collective (even our indie collective) brains between being married and having kids” and so socially people feel like its a natural question to ask. I cringe a little when I get asked that.
    I think another good reason for not having kids that wasn’t specifically addressed already is being financially stable and what I’ll call “life stable”. I am currently finishing school after years off, and my husband is about to do the same, having found his passion and career calling after we got married. Then he may have grad school. We still want to travel solo, and we may move to a few different places to see what fits for us and also where we would like to settle down and possibly raise a family. When and if we do have kids, we want to be able to financially provide for our children, raise them in a stable home where they won’t be uprooted and moved constantly, and be able to send them to private school if we choose. And we want to do all of this only after it feels right for both of us. I feel like that’s a legitimate and responsible consideration (especially in these stressful economic times).

  • I definitely appreciate this post (specifically the part that punches holes in the Chocolate Cake Theory). However, my biggest issue within the entire “when to have a baby” conundrum isn’t touched on, so I thought I’d babble about that for a moment…

    My husband and I are unsure about whether we want children. We were unsure before we got married and, of course, getting married didn’t have any effect on that uncertainty. Before the wedding, I had this monumental anxiety stemming from the notion that we both needed to know what we wanted for our future NOW. All of this was, of course, the direct result of my overarching fear: That he might eventually decide he wants kids and I might decide I don’t (or vice versa). And then what do you do? I have this vision of one of us yielding to the other and ending up resentful and sad.

    A lot of this anxiety has died down, essentially because I have faith in us as a couple and we’ve gotten really good at openly discussing the issue. Not to mention, there’s no way we can realistically tackle the baby-conundrum at this very moment anyway, because regardless of what the future holds we’re both certain that we don’t want kids right now.

    But I still wonder: What happens if one of you wants kids and the other doesn’t? Is it the case that you should both know what you want kid-wise before you enter into marriage? I know that being a wife and being a mother are two different things and that we shouldn’t conflate these roles. But when you get married, you are committing yourself to the would-be father or mother of your kids. So, yeah. It gets complicated.

    • tirzahrene

      My experience over ten years of marriage between two codependent people who love each other very much:
      Year One: We want babies, but not now…when things settle down and his five kids from his previous marriage get used to things.
      Year Two: I want my own kids and he’s not so sure he wants any more.
      Year Three: I want my own kids, he definitely doesn’t want any more, it would be a dealbreaker for him, and I’m scared to lose him.
      Years pass in which he adamantly continues wanting no more kids and feeling overburdened by the ones he has at times…I want kids and convince myself that I want him more and that my stepkids are all the kids I really need. Even though they HAVE a mom and I really never get to be in the mom role except in very limited fashion.
      Year Eight (roughly): I recognize that he has been settled in NOT wanting kids for years and give consent to a vasectomy.

      Which brings us to Year Ten, in which a lot of codependent issues came to a head and I got kicked in the teeth with 1) how much I always have and still do want to BE A MOM. It’s not “baby baby baby” as much as I’ve been a parent for years now. I know what it takes firsthand. And I want it. I want to raise a child or two of my own; and 2) how much my wonderful stepkids can never and will never substitute for my own.

      So while we are working out a lot of other issues through counseling, this one is the big one and we don’t know what to do yet. I love my husband very much and he loves me…but I wish I’d known myself well enough, and he had known himself, that we could have come to the table from the very beginning and I could have said, “I want to be a mom as much as I want to be with you. Raising children is a very deep part of my identity,” and he could have responded with whatever his response would have been.

      • Michelle


        No advice, just a big hug for you. I hope the counseling helps your family sort through this complicated and difficult topic.

    • Angela

      I’m nowhere near married/kids yet, I just wanted to talk a bit about my Aunt and Uncle. My Aunt was always into kids – she’s the Favourite Aunt in our family, because she always played with us; she has a PhD in Early Child Development, etc.

      She married my Uncle when I was 13, and he was sure that he NEVER wanted kids. He was an only child, and his parents had been only children, so he’d never really had any experience with young kids and he was freaked out by babies. Even dealing with neices & nephews was something of an ordeal for him (the youngest of us was 11 at that time).

      Three years later, my cousin happened as a “happy accident”. It took some time(a couple years, actually) for my Uncle to warm up to him, but now 8 years later he is the best dad you’ve ever seen and I would venture to guess that he doesn’t regret it at all… maybe when the younger one is keeping everyone up until midnight, he might regret things a little, but I think he actually enjoys being a dad.

    • Marina

      I think this is a totally personal thing to think through, but:

      When I got married I promised not to be with my husband forever and ever and ever, but to put my best self into working through whatever issues came up. One of you wanting kids and the other not wanting kids is absolutely a big deal, but I think it’s one of many big deal questions. What if one of you gets their dream job in a place the other doesn’t want to live? What if one of you has a religious epiphany the other doesn’t share? What if you end up homeless, or taking care of aging relatives, or seriously ill, or celebrities who don’t get a second’s privacy? (Hey, it could happen…)

      By getting married, I committed to working through the big deal issues if and when they come up. Working through them might mean compromising, or finding creative win-win solutions, or one of us changing our minds, or even splitting up. But still working through them for a solution that’s right for both of us at that point in time.

  • Mary L

    In addition to this being a wonderfully smart conversation I was happy to hear that I was not the only one who had a bad case of the BABIES BABIES BABIES hormones kicking in as a teenager. People attributed it to the fact that all three of my younger siblings were at that point where they were past the toddler and cute little kid stage and I missed that, but it was my body doing its own thing.
    Now that it’s gone from BABIES BABIES BABIES to more of a babies?… babies… babies! I feel that my brain, body, and fiance can all have an adult conversation about children!

  • Emily

    Thank you so much for posting on this and I hope nobody minds if I engage in free online therapy here… We’ve been married a year and I’m about to turn 35, which creates its own angst. Our parents are the least pressuring people you can imagine–my dad finds babies completely uninteresting, my mom is pretty actively anti-baby, which is a little disturbing (I think she must have gone through post-partum depression with me and my sister) and my mother-in-law is baby-mad in the extreme but too polite to say anything about it to us. I like babies fine, and I love my friends’ kids and my little neice, but I am perfectly happy to hand them back when they start to cry.

    But I’m getting crazy pressure from my friends, most of whom have have under-5s. They can talk about all the logical reasons not to have babies (no money, no sleep, no time, less interest in your career–which we’ve all worked hard for; most of my friends are physicians like me with yearsof training and serious debt invested in getting to where we are) and then they say I shouldn’t worry! Because once I look at the baby everything will magically CHANGE and I’ll stop caring about things like money and sleep and sex and career advancement because I will love the baby so unbelievably much!

    And all I can think is (a) but what if that magic moment doesn’t happen and I am stuck sacrificing all those things, probably not very graciously, for a baby who didn’t exactly ask to be here, and (b) but what if I don’t want to? I like my job and I’m just getting to the interesting part, and I like my husband, and I like spending the time away from my job with my husband, doing fun things.

    But (did I mention?) I’m turning 35, and my husband and I have noticed that none of our friends want to do fun things with us because they all had kids and everything CHANGED, which left us with time on our hands to discuss whether or not we should have kids too, and whether we would regret it later if we didn’t. So we are officially Trying now, and of course the anxious competitive part of me thinks that if I’m going to Try I had damn well better Succeed, so now I am starting to obsess about babies a little but I have no idea whether it’s because I actually want one or because of everything else that is swirling around in my head. Argh. And if anyone knows how to resolve these feelings, please tell me.

    • LauraB

      “I am starting to obsess about babies a little but I have no idea whether it’s because I actually want one or because of everything else that is swirling around in my head. Argh. And if anyone knows how to resolve these feelings, please tell me.”

      I’m obsessing too but about not having a baby. As in I feel myself becoming very anti-baby.

      Like you, I wish I knew how to separate my own feelings from all the other crap floating around. But then again, maybe all that other crap should be part of the decision making process. Biological clocks, families, hormones, money considerations, careers – should it all be part of the decision? It just seems s overwhelming.

      • K

        I envy those who simply want. babies. And then have. babies. Maybe us others think too much. Though something tells me if I stopped thinking about it I’d find myself ten years from now with still no babies wondering if I made the right choice to stop thinking about it and just live.

        • LauraB

          Yes, yes and yes again.

        • McPants

          “I envy those who simply want. babies. And then have. babies.”

          YES. (Although possibly for different reasons.) Just to hold it down for the homos for a second, being in a same-sex couple adds a whole ‘nother delicious layer of complexity to the whole thing. Just like everybody else, we’re struggling on deciding the right time (luckily, we’ve settled the “if” question already) but also have to consider the added expense and extra time of insemination or adoption. Right now, we’re just not financially stable enough to support the costs of just *getting* a baby, much less raising him/her, but then again we’re not getting any younger. So, balancing the “financially ready” with the “physically capable” is tricky. (Also, my partner is the child of older parents, and consequently thinks I’m a little nuts for being worried about giving birth after 35, but I can’t help thinking that my mom had a 4 year old when she was my age, and she was the one in our family who “waited”.) So yeah, I’m a little jealous of women who can just stop taking a pill or have a “happy accident”.

          The other weird thing to me is that (some) people seem *surprised* that we want kids, and that we want them relatively soon after we marry. Like, somehow b/c one of us lacks a y chromosome we just wouldn’t want to be parents? All my married straight friends get annoyed when they get asked about their plans for kids; sometimes I wish I got the chance to be annoyed by it too.

          • Jennifer

            At the risk of pointing out something that may be too obvious, a lot of heterosexual couples envy the couples who can just stop taking the pill or have a happy accident, also — you’re not alone in that. (And as my married male friends who recently adopted pointed out, the one small advantage they had was they knew from the start they’d need to adopt, no years of frustrating attempts to grow their own only to then jump in to the frustrating adoption process.)

      • meg

        My suggestion would be to just give yourself permission (or an order, depending) to NOT think about babies for six months. No debating, no thinking about it, totally free. Then see how you feel.

        • But I think those of us who are about to turn 35 don’t feel like we HAVE 6 months to stop thinking about it. And that’s usually from the pressure from medical professionals! You would not BELIEVE how insensitive doctors are about it.

          • Agreed. I had my kids when I did because I knew I wanted them, I knew I was reaching a point where phrases like “Advanced Maternal Age” were going to soon attach themselves to me, and I had seen too many women in my profession suffer miscarriages, fertility problems, and worse from (a) the strains of the job combined with (b) the problems inherent in waiting until late 30s, early 40s to have children.

            This was, admittedly, a selfish decision on my part, but I would not trade them for the world.

        • K

          That’s basically where I end up each time. A conversation with a friend, a post like this :), or something else triggers me to think about the topic, but I never come to a conclusion. I get so sick of it, that I file it back into my “later” cabinet and forget about it.

          It’s getting harder and harder though with so many people around me having babies. I sure hope it’s like weddings where I’m in the period where “everyone” is doing it and in a few years, “nobody” will be. I’m starting to hide my Facebook friends who are pregnant or mothers from my news feed because that’s all they post about: their kid(s).

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            High fives for blocking kid-heavy facebook postings. I do this all the time. Partly because any mention of babies makes me start having the whole debate in my head, and partly because the people who are writing those posts aren’t the kind of parents I want to be. I mean, I don’t think they are bad parents or wrong in any way, I just don’t see myself adopting that model.

            I really want to have kids (in a year or two) but I never want them to take over my life. I mean, they will in a lot of ways, but I want to be more like my own parents. They did a great job, but they always had lives outside of being parents. They dropped my sis and I off with relatives for a week in the summer every year and did their own thing. They took a few nights off a month and went out with friends, sometimes together, sometimes separately. We traveled (lots of roadtrips – 18 hours in the minivan anyone?) and we socialized and we spent a lot of time with grown-ups. I can’t imagine any point in my life where my mom or dad would’ve been interested enough in my sleeping habits to report them online. I don’t even have a baby book. I do have really close, healthy relationship with each of my parents though, and I’m pretty sure that is because they didn’t see having kids and having a life as an either/or decision.

          • K

            Abby — yes, that’s exactly what those posts do to me. Kick the internal debate up again. It’s not easy to determine what YOU want with all that external input.

    • Sarah

      Emily, part of me thinks it’s like jumping in a freezing cold pool. There are plenty of logical reasons NOT to. It will be cold, and uncomfortable. But once you’re up in the air, the decision is made. And it will (fingers crossed, um) be fine.

      I think everyone worries a bit about the “end of fun.” But I don’t think it’s the end of the world to have a biological clock sort of force your hand. It’s like being pushed into that cold pool. Perhaps that’s a terrible analogy, I don’t know. But yes, age is a factor, and I think the chances are pretty strong that when you meet your kid, it will make a bit more sense.

    • meg

      “Because once I look at the baby everything will magically CHANGE and I’ll stop caring about things like money and sleep and sex and career advancement because I will love the baby so unbelievably much!”

      I think, thank god, this dosen’t have to be true if you don’t want it to. If you don’t belive me go read it from someone who’s in it right now: http://www.projectsubrosa.com/

    • Sarah Beth

      “Because once I look at the baby everything will magically CHANGE and I’ll stop caring about things like money and sleep and sex and career advancement because I will love the baby so unbelievably much!”

      This is my mom’s attitude about (my) kids. I’ve never had the slightest iota of maternal instinct of draw to infants. I’ve seriously thought about adopting older kids when we’re married, but have never wanted to be pregnant and raise and infant. And at this point, even adopting is a distant “maybe”.

      But my mom is like “Oh, but with your kids it will be different!” I don’t buy this for a minute. And somehow I am now the selfish one who won’t give her five grandchildren. (or any).

    • Emily

      Thanks everyone–hearing what other people are thinking is very grounding and will give me much to think about tonight (as I take my prenatal vitamin and wonder if I have any clue of what I might be getting myself into :)

  • Amanda

    I have to admit, this comes at perfect time! im recently engaged, and now that we are talking wedding, the next question is “so when do the kids come?”. a few friends of ours have had babies, and my younger sister is due in october this year. scary and exhilarating. i love babies-fun and so easy to amuse!
    but the thought of carrying a child scares me. something about it growing inside me-it just eeks me out. FH and I have talked about kids, and we think we would be good parents, and i know our parents would be AWESOME grandparents. but we adoption would work for us. i was raised by my dad and stepmom, and my stepmom is pretty much my best friend. why should we bring a child into this world when there are children out there looking for a family? we could help someone, and i could avoid the pregnancy thing.
    and going through US adoption process is a long journey, something that i think would be more rewarding than a pregnancy, something that we would both need to get through to get the next member of our family. he wouldnt feel left out (i mean, the man doesnt have to feel the constant pain, leaky breasts, big tummy, extra clothes) either.

  • Michele

    I’m one of the many ladies who emailed Meg in hopes that she’d start a conversation on this topic, so for shits and giggles, I’m going to just straight up post what I sent to her, because I think i was in a very special head space that day and nailed exactly what I was thinking/feeling, and I don’t think I could ever articulate it as accurately again:

    Long story short: My husband and I are grappling with the biggest big-picture issue of all: Whether or not to have children. We’ve been together for nearly five years, married for one, and we’ve had many-a-discussion about this topic both before and after our nuptials, always ending in the following refrain: We’re not planning to have kids. Not in a “but we’re open to the idea” way, but more of a “we’re not interested, but we hate to eat crow, so lets not jinx ourselves by saying nuh-uh, absolutely no way, because shit happens.’ way. I tend to look at it this way: no form of birth control is 100% effective (though ours is as close as it gets), and I’m not naive enough to believe that I’m above the influence of my hormones and I might wake up one day feeling as though I must have a baby RIGHT NOW.

    And while I’m not there (biologically speaking, I feel the same as I always have, which is ambivalent), I find myself thinking, thinking, thinking. Thinking about WHY I feel so ambivalent about motherhood, thinking about how much I love being around certain friends’ children, thinking about how much we’d be giving up, thinking about how much we’d be gaining, thinking about what I’d be like as a mother, thinking about what my husband would be like as a father, thinking about what our lives would like like at age 40, 50, 60, 70 and beyond, both with and without children, thinking it’s irresponsible to have children given the gene pool from which I sprung, thinking it’s ridiculous to let fears about what I may or may not pass on to a child guide my decision making process, thinking we “owe” it to our parents to provide them grandchildren, thinking that’s not our problem, thinking I LOVE babies, and I LOVE teenagers, but I HATE kids, thinking I’ll love my own, thinking that’s a pretty big gamble, thinking we can’t afford it, thinking people far poorer than us have kids every day, thinking we’re too young to worry SO MUCH about all this (me 32, him 37), thinking we’re to old not to, thinking maybe we’ll regret having kids if we do, thinking maybe we’ll regret not having kids if we don’t.

    Thinking, thinking, thinking, and more thinking. On one hand, I know that this is a decision too heartfelt to THINK our way to a conclusion, but on the other hand, I know it’s too impactful to FEEL our way.

    So what’s a couple to do?

    • I want to “exactly” this 100x.

    • K

      Ugh, amen to everything you said. My fiance and I are right there with you guys.

    • why thank you for clearly and intelligently writing for me as well. Yes, all of the “thinking” , oh I do so much “thinking”
      constant thinking about all of those very same things you wrote. And to echo K’s comment earlier, sometimes I simply envy those who know they want babies, and then have them. I stare at them, and get lost in my head (thinking again, damn it!) about “wow, must be so easy if you are just THAT sure”.

    • ddayporter

      “thinking it’s irresponsible to have children given the gene pool from which I sprung, thinking it’s ridiculous to let fears about what I may or may not pass on to a child guide my decision making process…”

      uhh yep. feeling THAT. well, the first half is kinda where I am, the second half is kinda where my husband is. but I’m really both at the same time.

      both of us do want children, and thankfully we agree in terms of when – basically, if we have an oops we can handle it and be totally happy but ideally let’s wait at least another 2 years before we start thinking about trying. we shall see if that stays true for the next 2 years.

    • Ashley

      Yes Yes Yes – all the thinking! I couldn’t agree more.

  • Eat Broccoli

    We are still 6 months away from our wedding and over the summer, our FRIENDS (none of whom have kids) and family started the baby pressure. I gave the we are waiting answer, cuase we really are, cause we still aren’t 100% convinced kids are for us. It changes daily because we see and remember that kids screaming at the grocery store and we are not sure if we want to deal. I think “yeah, we don’t have kids right now.” is the best response ever. Its quick and sums up the situation. I would like to share this link with everyone its from the globe and mail newspaper up here in Canada. Its an interesting perspective. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/i-really-regret-it-i-really-regret-having-children/article784948/

    • dev

      Yikes, that article was a little terrifying. I just sent it one to one of my good friends. We’re both in our early 30s, got married within the last year, and not feeling the “BABY! BABYs!” I always assumed I’d have kids, but I anticipated I’d be a lot more ready by now.

      • Eat Broccoli

        I know the article is a little extreme, it always gives me a pause to think about the long term effects of having kids, sure babies are cute toddlers and preschoolers can be fun, but what about the rest….I for one want to have a pretty good handle on being a wife, before I decide to add another role into my identity as mother.

  • i really feel like the “we want to travel (or what-have-you) before we have kids” is founded in an irksome attitude that you have to have a good excuse to not want kids. and it needs to be an excuse that expires (as in: after we’re done traveling, we will have kids). i’m sure it’s very true for some folks, but i also feel like it’s one of the only things you can say to not get some sort of cultural lash-back – though generally polite – for not wanting children (right now, or ever).

    on the pro-children side, i think it enforces a strange perspective on children, namely: you will never be able to do any of the fun things you like after you have them. there’s truth inside that: children make things harder. but they are not prison guards!! you can do awesome things with kids! sometimes they give you an excuse to do things that you totally forgot were awesome. and sometimes they make it harder to do awesome things, but they don’t prohibit them.

    here’s the thing – i think when people say “we want to travel before we have kids,” they don’t mean exactly that. or, not just that. for the most part, they’re not saying, “when (if) we have kids, we’ll never be able to travel again,” but rather, “when (if) we have kids, it will be harder to travel.” which is only an example that is easy to say and culturally understood. it is like shorthand for “when (if) we have kids everything will be harder” (and different, and maybe better!) and we’re not ready for that yet. which is fine!

    but it is really hard to say, and really hard to have understood and validated. because having children is supposed to be exciting and never scary, but, really, i can’t imagine it not being both.

    • meg


      Though I maintain, we’re not traveling to put of kids. We don’t have kids now, and we’re traveling. Which is different.

    • Jennifer

      This is a total EXACTLY. I feel a lot better about the “travel excuse” now that you put it in these terms. I guess I should have read a little deeper into what they were really saying. Because, yeah, shit is gonna get HARDER and the simple life just feels too good right now. I’m not looking for an excuse to expire, there is no definitive time limit on baby waiting, there is no turkey thermometer that pops up in your bedroom, or countdown widget on your computer’s desktop. But in the meantime, I will say “We don’t have kids now” which is a current fact, not an opinion on future plans, and also what Erin had said earlier “developing our marriage for our kids’ future”

  • Shelly

    I’m not sure if anyone will make it down this far in the comments, but it seems like most people’s comments, as well as those that I know in real life are mainly in set camps: 1) we want kid(s) soon/now; 2) we want kid(s) sometime in the future; or 3) we don’t want kids. Does anyone else fall in the very awkward territory of “I always thought I would have kids, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m not sure what I want anymore?” Neither my fiance or I imagine our lives without eventually having children, but I’m not sure how much we actually *want* them (well, at least in the foreseeable future)

    • meg

      Yep. I think this is more normal than people let on (especially because I’d guess many people in this camp go on to have kids, and then they feel like it’s awkward to admit that for a while they were not sure they wanted them).

  • Rhiannon

    Hmmm. I haven’t read ALL the comments so I may be repeating someone else.

    I has my son when I was 19 and daughter when I was 29. I was not married to either of their fathers.

    Thus the decision to have them (i.e. to continue with my pregnancies rather than to conceive) was mine alone. It came down to this:

    “Well, things could be worse.”

  • Since it seems most are in favor of putting off having kids, which I can certainly understand, I want to give the side of not waiting. Our little daughter is one of those “happy accidents” that Meg references, or as we like to call Lucy, our little love child. We conceived her unintentionally when we were engaged. Before finding out I was pregnant we were more of the we’ll put off having kids for a few years.

    Although our plans changed quickly as we rushed to throw our lives together in preparation for our unplanned edition, we were able to talk about a lot of ideas and plans we had in regards to our lives. We got married four months after she was born despite pressure from our families to do it sooner.

    Anyway, I’ve done a lot of thought about the good things about having a baby early in marriage/life. The thing that has been great for us, is that in many ways we started out life together, or at least married life together with a baby. We knew going into it that it is very important for us to learn how to balance being married with having a child. I have seen many people who as soon as they have kids that it is their main focus. Their marriages appear to exist only in relation to their children. I realize this does not happen to everyone, but it can. Our marriage comes first even when Lucy is grouchy, or needy, we know that we must put each other first, even if that just means volunteering to change a diaper for the other person. We make lots of couple time, even if it just means going on a date in the basement after she goes to sleep, when we cant’ get a babysitter. Our creativity in romance has soared.

    Another plus of having a baby early aside from learning to balance, is that our marriage is growing up, we are growing up with a baby. We are learning how to be a family with a kid in our marriage. We are learning to fully live our lives while having a baby. I’m developing a career that allows me to mostly work from home, and we are learning how to travel with her, go camping with her. She is just part of our lives, not a far off phantasm or dream. We haven’t been tempted with the, “things will be better once we have a baby” mentality (not saying that is true for you guys, but I have heard this line of thinking before).

    So although I respect the idea of waiting for readiness (that was my plan afterall!) I think there are some huge advantages for having a baby earlier.

    • Michele

      I totally agree with you on the virtues of having children young. My own parents were rather young when I was born (20 and 23), so growing up, I always had the youngest parents out of all of my friends, an in some ways, this also made them the FUNNEST parents out of all my friends. (I know, I know, “most fun,” but “funnest” worked better here).

      This is one of the factors in why I’m SO all up in my head about whether or not to have kids at the moment, because at 32, I FEEL like I only have 3 more years in which to do so (if that’s what we decide). I KNOW that’s not the case, because women can and do get pregnant after 35 every single day. But I FEEL like 35 is the cutoff for me, partially because of everything we know about fertility, but more so because even if I DO decide I want to be a mom, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be an “old” mom, sending kids off to college at the same time I’m trying to retire.

      This is a notion I’d probably be wise to unburden myself of…but there it is.

      • Yes! I think we are fun parents partially because we are young. We have tons of energy and have no problem with scooping up the babe and going camping for the weekend randomly, whereas our older parent friends seem tired, and scheduled all the time. I realize that a lot of factors could contribute to tiredness, but I feel so energetic as a parent and I think it will be a good thing for Lucy to have young, adventurous parents!

      • Liz V.

        My parents were much older than all of my peers’ parents in school. My mom had me five months before turning 38. Because of the complications with my own birth (I apparently wasn’t very nice coming out) I also grew up an only child. I think because of this I’ve always wanted to have kids in my late twenties/early thirties. And what you said about retirement is true. My parents are at retirement age, but I have been in college and we are all going through this ugly recession, so the likelihood that they will retire soon, if ever is slim.

      • I’m 34, so I know how you feel, but whoa! You don’t have to be an old mom! Let em keep you young!!! Heck, I’ve even considered starting to lie about my age… :D

      • DamnGina

        I had a young mommy too and it’s been a big factor in our decision to try for kids as soon as we reach a baseline level of stability – probably 1-2 years after we get married. It’s not just youngest, funnest mommy aspect; a huge motivator for trying to have kids soon is looking at her lifestyle now.

        She had me in her early 20’s, spent her 30’s when I while I in school building up her career, then I was out of the house when she was in her mid 40’s. I was gone and she had a career she loved, tons of free time, disposable income, and was still young and healthy enough to really make the most of it. Now she’s jetting ’round the world and learning belly dance and rescuing dogs and going to alternative theater festivals and generally leading a far cooler life that we are. My fiance and I would both really like to sign up for that.

      • kc

        For the flip side of the young parents discussion: I had young parents too (24 when they had me and I’m the 3rd kid) and I actually think that made our relationship more difficult. At 24 they had no idea who they were individually, much less as a couple. They hadn’t had any time to experience things or grow. They also had the tendency to treat us like peers instead of parents, and while that makes for fun TV it’s unbalancing. I never really felt like I had parents. They had a messy drawn out divorce when I was 16.

        • ddayporter

          Yes. that’s my experience with young parents too – at least a young mom. except my parents were doing their messy divorce when I was about 1.5, drawn out through my whole childhood. definitely feel you on the “treating us as peers” problem.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Definitely unburden yourself of all that baggage. Much like I believe Stacey and Clinton when they tell me to dress the body I *have* not the body I hope someday to have, I think I should make decisions based on the life I have now.

        I will never be a single 20-something with a cool NYC apartment. I won’t have a serious relationship with a woman. I’ll never have a child with a young dad. These were all options at one point in my life, but I made decisions at the time and now I’m a 20-something with a 40-something husband in Virginia. I don’t regret any of those decisions, and now when I make a choice, I don’t think “I used to think I’d settle down with a lady instead of a man – What am I giving up or gaining by having a kid with a man?” I try to think “If we have a child, what will our lives look like in 5, 10, 20 years? What will they look like if we don’t? Which version am I happier in?” I have to make my decisions based on things that *can* happen, not on things that already have not happened.

    • Beth, I just really wanted to say how much I agree with you. My parents had me young, accidentally, and had to put a lot of creative imagination into making things work, practically and financially. But I had the best childhood growing up with them. And to this day my parents says they wouldn’t have it any other way. They are fond of suggesting that couples who do wait a long time after marriage to have kids can get so comfortable as just a two that throwing the mess of a baby into that can seriously destabilise things. I’m not sure I agree 100% with them on that, but I’ve not been able to follow in their footsteps, due to the life I’ve chosen, and that makes me kinda sad.

  • Emily

    My hormones started screaming BABY soon after we got married. It didn’t help that a couple friends had just had adorable babies.

    But the thing is, are my hormones going to be screaming TEENAGER in 13 years? Um, no. I think the baby excitement helps us get past all the scary, overwhelming things that come with motherhood, but we can only let the hormones take control when we’re at a time in our lives where it’s feasible, when we’ve had a rational conversation or two about WHY we want kids, and we can honestly answer something beyond, “They’re so cute!” I don’t know yet what that answer will be, so I’m going to content myself with babysitting for awhile.

    • Jennifer

      I have to say that I come around to that idea everytime the BABY BABY BABY feeling starts rushing into my brain. Starting a family now sounds nice, a little baby to play with, but they grow so quick, am I ready to deal with a rebellious teen (or 13 year old college grad genius?) Those are the thoughts that stop my BAB-…… in their tracks. BIGGER PICTURE…puppies cute, but they quickly become full size dogs as babies are adorable, but soon they are walking, talking, thought provoking, garbage disposals. Like I said, I want them, but am i ready now? heck no. I would like to enjoy the company of my walking, talking, mows the lawn, takes me on dates, husband :)

  • Laura

    I’ve always been pretty ambivalent about whether or not I want kids, and my ambivalence is causing me a lot of stress because my husband is MEANT to be a father. He loves kids, he is fantastic with them, and he definitely wants his own. On the other hand, I’ve never really had any sort of active baby desire let alone the BABYBABYBABY desire. When it comes to kids, I *think* I’d be perfectly happy having one, but I *know* I’d be perfectly happy without. And where would we be if I ultimately decided that kids weren’t for me?

    I think my ambivalence is partially because my parents raised me to see a good marriage and a stellar career as of the utmost importance but kids were totally optional. So when I was a little kid imagining my life as an adult, I imagined a career, friends, a husband–but no kids. Add this to the fact that as one of the youngest in my family, I’ve never been exposed to kids who weren’t my own age, which made the idea of kids very foreign to me.

    As more and more of my peers begin to have children, I have begun to see kids—the concept—as something feasible for me and kids—the people—as actual individuals instead of as a collection of screaming, ill-behaved annoyances hell bent on ruining your perfectly lovely dining experience.* Interacting with kids on a one on one basis has made realize that I like kids as people. I like playing with them and reading with them and teaching them new things. I like hearing what they have to say. And I like having them around in general.

    Unfortunately, these first good experiences with kids haven’t been enough to counteract my ingrained ambivalence or, even more importantly, the fear I feel about having kids. When I think about kids, every bad story I’ve heard about parenthood gone wrong—from screwing the kids up to kids ruining your life/career/marriage—and every negative message society puts out there comes back to me. I worry I’d be an awful, awful parent who screws up her kids. I’m worried that I might want kids at one point but end up resenting them later. Or that the kids would be fine but my relationship with my husband would be inextricably altered by resentment caused by parenting conflicts. There is absolutely no basis for these fears in my personal life, but the fears seem to be confirmed by countless studies and articles I’ve read as a women’s studies major. When you have literature to back up your irrational fears, it’s harder to dismiss them.

    Actually, sitting down to type this out has seriously helped me figure out that it’s not that I absolutely don’t want to or shouldn’t have kids. It’s that the lack of experience combined with a whole lot of fear has made me wary of the whole enterprise. I’m so clearly not ready for kids now, but I definitely could be in the future and I know what issues I need to address beforehand, which is a huge relief. Especially since I’m only 24 and my husband is 25. We have time to wait and work through this together.

    *I know, of course, that not all kids are screaming or ill-behaved and that sometimes kids have good reason to scream or be ill-behaved, but prior to a few years ago my ONLY exposure to kids was when they were misbehaving LOUDLY in public. Not a great introductory course.

    • Roisin

      Oh gods. The ‘Exactly’ button was not enough in this case, though I did click on it.

      That is so very much me. I like kids a lot, but my mother went through horrible post-natal depression, and my aunt finally had a kid at 41 after years of trying…who is so spoilt he’s a complete terror who, to be perfectly honest, is the only human being I’ve ever considered strangling. I feel awful saying that, but he really is a screaming, wilful, unpleasant, selfish, horrible child. I know small children can be selfish and difficult, but I spent some years volunteering at a holiday club for primary-school age children, and I adored most of them, even when they got a bit stroppy.

      I suppose I’m saying I’ve seen when it can go wrong, and I’m so afraid I’ll not being able to handle life with a child/it’ll break up my marriage/ruin my sex life/end my career/etc, that it gets in the way of whether or not I actually want children.

      So confused. It’s good to hear someone who’s on the same page as me. I think, perhaps, the only way to peer underneath these fears is to talk, a lot, and try to figure out how my fiance and I would fire-proof our marriage, so to speak.

  • I’ve been with my fiancé since we were in high school. We have a progression of responses from family friends— “Who’s this guy?” turned into “She’s still with that guy?” to “Really, she’s STILL with the same guy??” to “So, are they gonna get married?” to “Seriously, why aren’t they married yet?”. Once graduated from college (year six of our relationship), the Marriage thing hit high gear, which we thankfully tamped down with “he’s in school, just be patient.” But now that we’re engaged, and will be married in less than a month… And I’m nervous about the Baby Talk.

    We want children. We definitely want children; we’ve been talking about it since WE were children (heh). But not yet.

    It doesn’t feel perfect, but it usually feels good enough. If your subconscious is telling you, “Um. No. Check back in a few.” Go have some beers, or a dip in the pool, or some graduate school, and then check back.

    Ohhhh, yes. YES. Because I feel the itch, like crazy. I love little baby feets (oh my GOD, the TOES), babies in Red Sox hats absolutely send me into conniptions, but I also feel that strong voice in my head going “ARE YOU CRAZY?!”. So I have the ache and the push, both at once. Our practical side (never far from the surface, of course) definitely says it’s time to wait. My fiancé just started a PhD program in chemistry that will take another four to five years. Personally, I made the choice to wait until after the wedding to apply for graduate schools, so I could very well be starting a Masters program next fall (FINGERS CROSSED). So, yeah. I’ll grab a beer, start grad school, and wait, thankyouverymuch.

    The only kink that makes me sad—my grandmother. She’s 94, she just had a MAJOR heart attack this month (and is recovering really well, thank God), and is desperate for great-grandchildren. I’m the first among my cousins to get married, and a small, sad part of me wishes we could give her great-grandbabies before she dies. I don’t think we will. And it’s heartbreaking.

  • Sarah Beth

    In our families, “wife & mother” might as well be one word. It’s pretty much expected that you will be pregnant within three years of marriage. If you aren’t, women start whispering behind your back about whether someone’s plumbing is broken. (No joke.)
    We aren’t even married yet (and for us, that’s a pre-requisite for kids) and already my future in-laws and my mom and step-dad are making references to the arrival of grandchildren…even though I have never in my life expressed a desire to have kids. EVER.

    But you should never have to come up with some contrived reason about why you aren’t having kids, or why you haven’t had them yet. That decision belongs to you and your fellow parent. I just wish I had the guts to tell my future mother-in-law that they can go ahead and sell their home when she retires, and that she doesn’t need to plan her retirement on the imminent arrival of grandchildren. Because I’m not pregnant. And I might never be.

  • Bridette

    yay! Babies!!! You know how dogs see a tennis ball and lose all ability to focus on anything else – My fiance calls babies tennis balls. I get it, they are awesome. I actually used my baby wanting to find me a good guy – OK before you guys go bonkers – listen to my logic.

    I like to fall in love…Love to love. I grew up in a crazy home but we love the pants off of everybody. So I had a hard time dating because I was taught to treasure people’s differences and idiosyncracities. (sp?) and then its hard to see those “unique qualities” aren’t always a good match for your “unique qualities”. Finally, I realized that if I asked myself – what if my kids turn out just like him? I was HORRIFIED! Like break up the next day, horrified. Apparently I have bigger standards for DNA provider than I am a dater. (Again, I realize the crazy here but sometimes you just have to know who you are!)

    Anyhow, I got a lot pickier with who I was dating (and I don’t mean looks, just personality, adaptability = fatherhood stuff) and suddenly, I meet the guy. And facing life’s challenges suddenly seems easier. And guess what, having kids is on both of our lists in a big way – but Im not living for it. I’m older so we will probably have to start right away but I realized for the first time in my life, I like the guy more than I like the (future) babies. If it didn’t happen for us, Im not going to break up with him or slowly let our marriage deteriorate. He’s the only person I trust to hold my hand and tell me its going to be okay.

    AND if it does happen, I hope my kids are more like him – He’s Awesome! So, for us anyway, we can’t completely separate the two – We want to have a family. But if it turns out that our family is made up of two – That will be great too!

    Oh and we plan on traveling – all the time constantly with or without…cause travel is great!
    Funny enough, my friends think having kids shuts the door on that but I grew up going places about once a month and sure, its not easy but once the kids are older and the parents get that routine, its not that bad.

    • meg

      Yes. The wonderful Maggie Mason has a line that, “You shouldn’t marry a guy unless you’d be proud to have your sons grow up and be just like him.” I think that’s probably a pretty good measuring stick whether you plan to have kids or not.

    • FM

      Totally agree about this advice (which I also saw first on Mighty Girl) – if you had kids that grew up to be just like him, how would you feel. And also totally agree that this is a good step-outside-your-usual-perspective type of measure of a partner whether or not you actually want to have kids with that person. I also think it’s kind of an interesting test to think about your partner applying to you, to help you see yourself from a different perspective.

  • Alyssa

    What always gets me about people inquiring about kids is that unless you KNOW the couple wants to have kids, it’s a question that could have a horrible answer. I watched a friend have to answer that question after suffering a miscarriage shortly after their wedding day. The askers always meant well, but UGH it was bad….

    I too did the BABY BABY BABY as a teenager, but Meg is totally right. That was hormones. I’m in the midst of another BABY BABY BABY, but it’s different.
    It’s not any baby, as it would have been at 16, it’s OUR baby. It’s not an indistinct thing and it’s not satiated by holding someone else’s baby anymore. I want the whole thing, the pregnancy, The Boy’s hand on my belly, the midnight “The Baby wants pistachios, please go get me some,” the backaches and the swollen feet and the ability to say, “I grew a lung today, what did YOU do?” when The Boy complains about not having any clean laundry. Then the 4am feedings, the not having the ability to leave the house without 6 different bags, soft kisses on squishy little baby necks, finding Cheerios in my shoes, and having to say, “Don’t put your finger there!” and “WHAT? Why would you DO that?!?” 14 times a day.

    But for health reasons we’re waiting a little bit and it’s killing me. But it’s what we have to do. Even if it BLOWS.

    So yeah, it’s definitely different this time. I still want the chocolate cake, bad enough to claw through the fridge, but now I’m grown-up enough to know I need to wait until I’ve had dinner first.

    Is there anyone out there who is thinking of (or who has already) cut their waiting time for kids short and are dealing with family/friend backlash? I went through a “no kids” phase, but at the time I knew it was only because I wasn’t with someone who could be a father and I wasn’t willing to consider being a single mom yet. And when we got married we said we wanted to wait at least two years. But now that we’ve changed our minds, it’s like they think we’ve been brainwashed by the masses. Because how could we think of doing something as bougie and pedestrian as pooping out a baby??
    Their derision is more of a statement on their own personalities than ours, but JC-on-a-raft is it ever annoying…

    • Jennifer

      I can’t answer you on the last one because we never told anyone we were planning to wait, or that we were not going to wait. Other than with my ob/gyn, if the issue comes up in conversation it’s always “if we have kids then ___.” And since I am already past the age deadlines many commenters mention, we can get away with leaving it open like that because people seem to be polite enough not to push as to whether that “if” hinges on choice or on ability to conceive.

      But as far as that goes, I hear you on that first paragraph. Also, sometimes people who publicly say they are waiting aren’t actually waiting. Even though some people find “oh no, we’re not ready yet, maybe in a few years” to be an unsatisfactory answer, it’s still a much easier answer than “we wanted to already have two kids by now, but unfortunately I’ve had 3 miscarriages in the last two years/we’re struggling with impotency problems/our doctor cannot for the life of her figure out why I’m not pregnant yet.” (And vice versa, unexpected pregnancies are rarely publicly announced with a “crapcrap, we really wanted to wait five more years before starting a family but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to terminate this, although I’m still not 100% sure we made the right call.” Which is smart.)

      So really, it all boils down to, leave the couples alone and just joyously welcome any children they do create/acquire, should that happen at some point sooner or later.

      • Alyssa


        I know there is a button for it, but it needed to be said.

    • Oh, my god, your BABY BABY BABY paragraph kills me. KILLS ME. I’ve been dating my guy since high school, we’re getting married next month, and we’re in our twenties (26 and 25). We both definitely want kids, but I’m so with you with how it’s changed. We talk about baby names and what they’d look like, I know the energy I’m doomed to endure (holy cow), the brilliant moments, the curly hair and dark eyes. And I’m so ready for all of it, with him.

      I still want the chocolate cake, bad enough to claw through the fridge, but now I’m grown-up enough to know I need to wait until I’ve had dinner first.

      YES. We are not financially or emotionally ready for kids just yet. We’re excited and starting to think about it, but we gotta eat our veggies first. That means he finishes grad school, and it means I start AND finish (PhD vs Masters, heh). We wrap our heads around life as a married couple, and we really solidify our own grown-up selves. And then, when we’ve finished all our peas and cauliflower, we can head straight to the chocolate cake.

      • Alyssa

        Definitely. The Boy would have been happy if I’d gotten pregnant on my honeymoon. (Probably before that, but we want Grammy to be able to hold her head up in church….) I took a little longer and I’m all, BABY. NOW.
        But we’re getting things situated, and when the time comes I’ll go off birth control and see what happens. Making an effort to have a baby without knowing if you have to make an effort is silly. Takes all the fun out of the makin’ part of baby makin’….

  • Nicole

    I’ve always been on the fence about having kids, leaning towards not; so many examples of bad parenting/difficult or special needs children and just a lot of dysfunction around me has always made me wary, and I never really felt the strong urge. To me, it’s just so much work and responsibility for something that can go horribly wrong at every possible juncture. Then the other day my fiance did something, I forget what, but it was very cute and boyish and I had a momentary flash of seeing him as a child, then seeing a child that was OURS, and something clicked. All of these years I’ve been thinking of parenting other people’s children–friends’ kids, young family members, screaming hellions blocking the aisles at Target–but had never really considered the fact that if we had a child it would be ours, us, half me and half him. There is something about that which is really appealling, and softened me up a bit. Still not a definite; when (nosy) people ask I say “It’s not OFF the table, it’s just not necessarily ON the table either.”
    Maybe a comment better suited to next week’s post about whether or not to have kids, but my .02

  • Laura Carlson

    Let me try to organize a few thoughts I’ve had while reading these amazingly insightful comments.
    When I met and fell in love with the man I’m going to marry in 10 days, my mind went baby CRAZY. Like, immediately. Before meeting him, I thought I’d get married late in life and have a few kids in my late thirties. Then, all of a sudden at 23, I became obsessed with babies and pregnancy and the whole process so much that I shifted my career towards becoming a prenatal massage therapist and labor doula. I think I’ve always been fascinated by these things, but it was just buried down deep until he/our relationship dug it up. (Someone mentioned something about feeling like a traitor to feminism and I think there’s something like that in all of this with me as well…)
    Another thing that I thought of/remembered while reading the comments was how many people asked/hinted that I might be pregnant when we got engaged. Maybe this isn’t the right thing to say, but I was reeeaaally irritated and almost insulted by this. I don’t mean to suggest that I’m above anyone who’s life included a “happy accident”… I guess I’ve just always taken my birth control very seriously and for someone to doubt that really pissed me off. It suggested to me that they thought the only reason we should get married is because we were having a baby. It’s so presumptive and plus, it’s private! I loved the comment that we should only be asking women about their baby plans if we’d talk about sex with them over a glass of wine.
    Anyway, at this point I’m 26 and feel like I’m on the world’s largest teeter totter when it comes to having kids and when. There are days when I do feel the Mittelschmerz, (love that there’s a word for it!) very very strongly. I think there’s a lot of beautiful, pure, honest, raw feelings that directly correlate with how much I love and adore my future husband. I want to create a baby. With HIM. I want to experience pregnancy and birth. With HIM. I want to raise children. With HIM. At times it feels like the beautiful reasons and how strongly I feel them should be enough. But then the teeter totter slams me back down to the days when someone asks me when we’ll have kids and my knees jerk and I say, 10 years! Get off my back! I’m terrified! The more you ask, the more I want to say, never!!! …Then the little “ticking time bomb” starts ticking in the back of my head and the teeter totter goes up again… Anyway, I guess my point is that I’m swinging back and forth here. I love the women who are 100% or even 97% sure one way or the other, even in their present moment, knowing that their reality may change and shift. I’m at 50/50 as to when, which as I’m writing this, feels like some kind of crazy baby purgatory.

  • We reached the point where we felt “good enough”, three years and change after the wedding, to start trying. I don’t feel ready, but I’m literally “as ready as I’m gonna be”, which is exactly how I felt about moving to a new state (and now I love it!), getting a third dog (can’t live without him now!) and getting married in the first place (BEST! THING! EVER!).

    I’ve given up on big bursts of inspiration for major life changes.

    • meg

      Exactly. I’d actually really like to get to that “good enough” place. Because seriously, when does the sky open and a beam of light hit you and words whisper “Get Married Now!” Ok. I’d argue that stuff DOES happen sometimes, but way to often that’s just wacked out brain chemestry talking. I’d really like to get to that rational quiet good enough place.

    • Yes, yes yes!

  • Jamie

    I went to a wedding in June where a big portion of the wedding talked about the two of them having babies. “Will you accept children freely….” “These hands will hold your children” “With your children all around you…”. These weren’t from readings, these were from the officiant. Then at the reception, the groom’s father’s entire speech was about how proud he was of his son and about much they love their grandchildren and would really love to have more grandchildren right away. I thought this was really repulsive. I didn’t think a wedding band was a fertility treatment. Honestly, the subtext of the whole day was “Congratulations. Now get in there and knock her up immediately.” What if the two of them can’t have children? Does that make their wedding vows a sham because they promised to have kids in their vows? Are their families going to be less proud of them if they don’t have children? Because that’s what it seemed like.

    Perhaps I’ve never thought wife=mother because it wasn’t a part of any wedding I’d ever been to before. Maybe that’s why that wedding was so shocking, because the vows I’m familiar with don’t mention children. My family is protestant and I’m sure my grandmother would’ve had a heart attack because talking about people having babies was the same as talking about S-E-X and you just don’t do that (I can see gran saying this with clutched pearls and hushed tones).

    • Jess

      I know that the “Will you accept children freely?” part was part of our Catholic wedding service. I don’t know if the service you went to was Catholic, but I am pretty sure it’s fairly standard in that particular service. If it was Catholic, it isn’t so much part of the vows (or it wasn’t with ours), but it is along the same lines of “Did you come here freely and without reservation to marry?” type of question. Every wedding I’ve ever been to has been Catholic so I never really thought it was odd.

      That being said, I never thought of it in the way that you mentioned. It’s interesting to get a different perspective. I never really associated wife = mother, but I always assumed we would want to have children (and thankfully his assumption was the same) some time after we married.

  • Liz V.

    I’m 24 and have been in the same committed relationship for approximately eight years (not all of them good, but most of them pretty awesome). My almost-fiance and I don’t plan on having kids until we’re about 30, and though I’m not sure of his reasoning I’m sure of my own. It has taken me a long time to find myself, to edge away from peer pressure and the “shoulds” of society to figure out exactly who I want to be and how I want to express myself. I’m not ready for all the little (and indescribably large) acts of selflessness being a mother would require of me. Which of course makes me feel like a b*tch, because don’t we all want to do good and be considered selfless and nurturing, etc? Like we’re taught that self-sacrifice is the ultimate measure of goodness? Maybe that’s just me…

    But then there’s also this tiny little voice inside me that goes, “But you’d be a great mother. You love babies. You can’t wait to see the flicker of creativity and the spark of knowledge in your child’s eyes. You can’t wait to share the world with this beautiful little person that your love made. SO WHY ARE YOU WAITING?!?” The voice has gotten progressively louder this year- so much so that I even mentioned it to my boyfriend who looked at me incredulously, not understanding my confusion, a little worried that I might have gone crazy.

    I’m not really one of those people who believes everything will eventually fall into place, because life seems to be a series of chaotic events, one right after another. Waiting for the day when things are less hectic, more profitable, less confusing, more settled and so on, seems like waiting for death instead of enjoying life. It’s never gonna be perfect, a car or an air conditioner or a washer will break. The dog might eat something it’s not supposed to. The cat might send a favorite vase crashing to the floor. In other words, unless circumstances are perennially dire, that’s not enough to say “We’re not going to have a baby” or even “We’re not going to get married”.

    So how to deal with my confusion? The worry that I will always want children, but may never be completely okay with the sacrifices involved? How to deal with wanting one and not wanting one at the same time? When it’s not something tangible telling me I’m not ready, or that I am, but instead an internal fear of losing myself by having a child or never feeling complete if I wait or never have one?

  • Margaret

    I sometimes want a baby so bad my whole body hurts. And I still get annoyed when people hassle us about having one (both mothers are incorrigible) or assume that I’ll quit my job (even if I do end up doing so, I hate the assumption).

    We are just not financially or physically situated for a baby yet and my husband wants to enjoy a bit of time to be married without children because once we have kids, there’s no turning back. I feel like I have to be conscious of all the good things in our life now and enjoy them thoroughly but not let having children slip too far out into the future. I definitely want to be able to try to start a family by 30 and I just turned 28.

  • I so agree with this post.

    I didn’t have a lightning strike about getting married — no big moment when I suddenly knew he was the one. The idea just kind of grew and kept knocking at my door.

    I expect the same will be true about kids. Actually, through my teenage and college years, I didn’t think I would ever want kids. I can’t identify a moment when that changed, but quietly, it did. I now think that I probably do want kids.

    I still go back and forth, just like I did when considering proposing to my now-husband. Some days the idea scares the bejesus out of me, because I don’t think I’m up to it; I don’t think I could handle the stress, the sleeplessness, the daily irritations. I can’t stay on top of the housework now; what kind of horrorshow would my house be if I had a kid to take care of? Just like some days, the idea of getting married scared me. What if I can’t do this for the rest of my life? What if the argument we had today proves that we’re fundamentally incompatible? What if the fact that there was no lightning strike, swept-off-my-feet moment proves that I’m just settling? You know — all those fears that pop up.

    But in between those times, the idea of raising a child just seems to make sense to me. Just like the idea of getting married just seemed to make sense to me. It seemed to fit, to be the right shape for my life. I wanted the quiet day-to-day stuff about getting married. And that’s how I feel about having a kid. Except that I do want to finish my degree first.

  • Carbon Girl

    Four of my best friends are pregnant right now. It caused me to do A LOT of thinking. We just got married in January and I still have 2-3 years of a PhD left. My friends keep saying the whole “there is never a good time,” as they suggest we jump on the baby bandwagon. But I don’t have that urge at all and feel rather detached about the whole thing. I was never a girl who loved babies and was always rather intimidated by them. But animals, well that was a different story, I loved and bonded with them immediately. Rationally I like the idea of having kids, but not now. But I worry that my lack of a maternal baby instinct will make me a bad mother. I do like older children (9 and up, yes even the teenagers!). But I have friends who never want kids and they still go gaga for babies. I am beginning to think that something is wrong with me and have even indicated to my husband that kids are no longer a sure thing in our future.

    • Carbon Girl

      And many of these posters keep saying “how they love babies.” Anyone who doesn’t love babies but still wants children want to chime in?

      • peanut

        me! I don’t get that visceral reaction to babies at all, but I enjoy older kids – like when they can talk, make jokes, have hobbies, and gain some independence…

        • Angela

          I’m pretty sure I never want to have a baby, in the sense that I get squicked out at the thought of being pregnant, with someone inside of me. I like babies, I just don’t want one coming out of me. I think I’d be a pretty good mom, though, and I’ve always leaned towards adoption since I want kids, I just don’t actually want to be the one giving birth to them.

        • Another Thea

          The advice columnist Carolyn Hax once wrote that most people have a stage of childhood that they can’t stand–it’s just that for the people who don’t like babies, that stage comes FIRST, and it’s scary as hell. I like babies myself, if there’s a baby in the room, I’m usually making friends with it, but I’ve never really felt that overwhelming NEED that people talk about.

          • Jess

            Eh, I don’t really like most stages of kids. I don’t really care for babies or older kids. I never know what to do with them or say to them or…yea, anything. Kids make me kind of uncomfortable. Occasionally, a particularly smart and friendly and adorable little kid will put me at ease but I can’t say that I can spend much more than 15 minutes interacting with them. I flipped through some pictures recently of my mom and my little cousins (ages 10, 8, 3 and 9 months) along with a few of my Aunts/Uncles and didn’t really say anything, just put the pictures away when I was done. My mom was APPALLED that I didn’t comment on how cute/big/whatever the baby was. To be honest, I barely noticed there was a baby in the pictures. I can honestly say my ovaries have never hurt.

      • Shelly

        Ha! Yes! I keep thinking that I’d like *children* but not *babies* – as in I’d like offspring for most of the reasons that people do. But I’d like to skip that part where you’re sleep-deprived, up to your eyeballs in laundry, etc.

      • FM

        One of my friends who has a baby doesn’t like kids when they’re other people’s. I mean, I think now she has a baby she feels more interested in other people’s kids, but before that, she was icked and annoyed by them more often than not. But she loves being a mom to her own baby, and wants to have one or two more of them.

        • FM

          Oh! Also want to add another. A family member has a kid who is 2 now. She said that she was never very into babies and in fact wasn’t that into her own baby until he was about 9 months or so and started having more of a personality and communication skills (starting to become more like a kid than just a baby). She loved him very much and took good care of him, but just wasn’t that impressed by his babiness like it seemed all her mom friends were about their own babies. And she felt really bad about that at first and was relieved as her “liking” her kid grew as he got older. She says now that she wished she had someone to tell her at the time that it was ok to feel that way and that her feelings could change over time (probably in an out), and the loving and caring don’t always have to be accompanied by liking (as her awesome kid shows – he certainly wasn’t hurt by it).

          • Nina

            Thanks so much for sharing this story – very few people seem to say this out loud but I think the experience of not instantly bonding and “liking” your baby might be a lot more common than people let on (even while you love them madly). It’s a tough thing to admit when the whole world seems to tell you otherwise. A friend of mine also admitted to me that the bonding didn’t happen right away – it’s like she had to get to know this “stranger” in their midst first.

      • Chelsea

        I *like* babies, in that I think they’re cute and I make faces at them when I’m in line behind them at the grocery store, but as far as actually taking care of one? Meh. I like babies that I can hold for a few minutes and then give back to their mom when they start crying.

        BUT when I was 13, my mom gave birth to my little sister. Because of the age difference, my feelings about her tended more towards the maternal than the sisterly (and still do). I love my sister, and adored her when she was a baby – I would have done anything for her. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I was so very familiar with her. There’s a huge difference between babies you understand and ones that are basically little strangers; I would happily watch my sister but hated babysitting.

        So, while for now I’m not obsessed with babies, I also know that when I have my own it’ll be a whole different ballgame (and not because of any genetic attraction, simply because of the familiarity factor). But (aside from showing me how lovable babies can be)living with a baby was the best birth control I’ve ever received, so I won’t be having my own till I’m sure I’m ready for that.

        • Carbon Girl

          Thanks for that story Chelsea. I was 10 when my little brother was born and I remember taking care of him and how wonderful I thought he was as a baby. Those memories just seem so distant now that I somehow doubt I would still feel that way about a baby. But when I think about a baby created by my husband and I, well I just get this lump of emotion in my throat.

      • I don’t really care for babies, though I can see why other people do. I’m always a little scared when holding someone elses baby in case I break it!

        I’ve always thought that I’d love my own baby though, and definitely want to have one at some stage.

      • Roisin

        I think that’s probably the thing about having kids that terrifies me the most – babies. Because, er, I don’t like babies. They’re…messy. And they cry and stop you sleeping, and pregnancy would so make me a weepy panicky mess (all forms of the Pill with oestrogen in them put me through hell. I phoned my mother every night convinced I was dying of some horrible disease and had regular panic attacks and crying fits over nothing. No idea how the poor fiance put up with me), and wreak havoc with my body, and all the women in my family have had fertility issues, and what if I didn’t even like the baby once it arrived? What if I get post-natal depression like my mother and grandmother? What if I find myself exhausted and stressed and wishing I could take it back to the shop?

        My mother, I think, dealt with all of those things. She’s always said that once I turned 6/7 I became much more ‘interesting’. And having taken care of many of them, I know I adore school-age children. And if my mother got through, perhaps so could I? Because I’m pretty sure I’d be a good mum, and the fiance would be such an awesome dad. I think I just have so much fear about the early stages, even pregnancy, that perhaps it’d almost be worth it to adopt a toddler. I looked after a toddler once, and he was adorable. But on the other hand, my cousin was a terror I couldn’t wait to get rid of, so who knows?

        I guess I just have this big fear – would I love my child? I couldn’t bear the idea that I’d have any resentment towards them.

  • Pamela

    Hooo boy. Thank you for this. My almost -husband and I were just having this conversation the other day. It was prompted by something we received in the mail – a birth announcement from a couple whose wedding we attended just last summer. Actually the last two weddings we’ve been to have been followed very closely by baby announcements, which is awesome – just not quite what I expected.

    We’re getting married in early October, and I turn 30 at the end of October, so I feel like I should be on the BABY BABY BABY train…but I’m not. I like kids, I want kids, but I just don’t feel that pull yet. However, I also feel like it’s a now-or-never thing, but I feel like I need more time because it’s such a huge decision.

    Also, I grew up in a world somewhat similar to what you see on the Duggar show (seriously, homeschooled, in chuches where families had 5, 8, 10 children). Some women had baby after baby after baby and seemed addicted to their pregnancies and their babies and not so enamored of their older children. On the flip side, I also saw women who desperately wanted babies and children who would sadly have miscarriage after miscarriage. So, to me, it seemed like you could never win.

    For me, it’s really important that I feel ready not just for the omg-baby-so-cute stage, but also the older stages. Again, because I saw women who loved babies but didn’t really like older children (and who kind of ignored them), I want to be at least somewhat mentally prepared for having a toddler too. The baby stage doesn’t last that long, after all, and I don’t want to wake up when my kid is 6 months or a year old and think “ok, time for a new model” just because the new baby smell has worn off. Also, since I am “older” I obsess about my fertility and worry that I won’t be able to get pregnant when we’re ready, and then we’ll need to look into adoption – which is really expensive. Also, I know it’s harder to adopt infants, so we’d need to be prepared to adopt an older child.

    And then of course there’s the money issuse, the career issue, the travel issue…etc.

    Clearly, I have a lot more thinking to do on this subject :)

  • tupelohoney

    I’m getting married this October and yes, we’ve both gotten the baby questions. We’ve even had our families ANSWER those questions for us (e.g., my future mother-in-law answered for me saying, “They should wait 3 years. I know she wants to focus on her career”)

    My main point for commenting is that something I’ve said to my fiance about having kids is that I’m not ready to share him yet. I know he’ll be an amazing father and I can’t wait to see him grow in that role as we continue our lives together, but right now, I just want him to be my husband. Maybe that’s selfish, but I know one day I’ll be ready to share him :-)

    • Kim

      I feel you on this 100%. It’s not just about two people wanting to spend time together as a couple, it’s knowing that once a child comes along, you’ll never be able to think about just each other again. Which is kind of awesome, when I think about it, but I’m not ready for that ‘giving’ attitude. Yet.

  • peanut

    We’re both in grad school, which has the wonderful and confusing psychological effect of convincing us we’re still kids; hence our mindset that “we’re waaaaay too young to have kids! That’s for grown-ups!” even though we’re close to 30. Like, I know we want them – but later, when we’re adults; it’s the exact same feeling I had when I was babysitting at 16. Plus I think the fact that I visibly cringe when I hear babies cry is telling me now is not the right time …

  • I think ESB is the one who suggested the best response I’ve ever heard to “When are you having kids?”

    ::wait for it::

    “Maybe we’ll make one tonight!”

    On a more serious note, though, I would like to propose the subtopic of “childless not by choice” and/or adoption for a future post. La Belette Rouge has some wise perspective on the first topic. I don’t know if she’d want to do a guest post, but perhaps? http://www.labeletterouge.com/2010/05/16-things-you-shouldnt-say-to-cnbc.html

  • Ah! This is exactly what I needed! I’m 23, getting married in 3 weeks and have had the BABY BABY BABY thing for over a year now. I have never heard of anyone who has been through the same thing. Sure, I know plenty of people who want kids and love babies but not NEARLY on the same level. I have dreams about babies, I can’t keep my eyes off babies I see, the most peaceful time during my whole engagement was when a friend of ours had a baby and I held her while she took a nap on my chest.

    Since I’ve never heard of this before, I had serious thinking to do. Does this mean I’m ready to have a baby? Does this mean I’m pregnant now? (No, by the way) My head kept telling me, as well as common sense, that my fiance and I are no where near ready to have kids, but boy do I want them.

    I finally realized that it was completely hormonal, coupled with the fact that I’ve been around kids and taking care of kids my whole life until I moved to college. I wasn’t dreaming of being a parent, of having a 10 year old, of Lord knows a teenager. I don’t even want a 10 year old right now, and rationally I know that babies grow up. It was just the BABY, just the innocent helpless they need someone to meet their needs and I was the only one that could do it, baby. So that helped call me down. And now that I know I’m not alone, that this is normal (because for a long time I wondered if I had some mental issue I was unaware of), I can breathe a sigh of relief. And that is amazing.

  • Other Katelyn

    I’m in the “want kids pretty soon” camp – I don’t just want a baby, I want a toddler and a 4th grader and a teenager and a grown-up (not all at once, you understand). I’m down for the whole lifelong motherhood thing. And though I’m relatively flexible on timing, I’d like to get started sooner rather than later. My boyfriend, on the other hand, moves a little slower than I do. It took him ages to tell me he loved me (but I knew he really meant it), I’m guessing it will take him ages to propose (but he will propose with his entire heart), and while he’s 100% on board with having kids someday, right now he’s enjoying just being in his late 20s with enough money and time to do what he wants when he wants.

    It’s not a big conflict with us at this point, I guess. I trust that he will at some point feel ready to take on parenthood with me at some point after we’ve decided to take on being married grown-ups in the world together. We have enough friends who are married and waiting to move into babyland that I don’t too pressured by the wife + mother assumption.

    Meg, I’m SO GLAD you mentioned something about the Alter of Child. My philosophy is very similar to yours. While my mom sacrificed a great deal for us, she maintained her own identity all the while and gave me a great model for strong womanhood. I just refuse to be the mom-martyr. It’s unnecessary and unhealthy for everyone involved.

    • CAMinSD

      We should tag team this whole motherhood thing! I actually *am* interested in the experience of pregnancy and babies. It’s the whole raising-a-citizen that I don’t think I can hack.

  • Just like there are people who go “AHHH! WEDDING!!!” and people who go “AHHH! BABY!!!” there are just as many people who go “ah, wedding” and “ah, baby” with no fridge clawing to get to the wedding/baby cake.

    I’ve been asked when we’re going to have kids. And I answered by asking if they wanted to help.

    People who ask when you are going to have kids don’t realize they are actually asking about your sex life. Pointing that out to them makes them feel awkward. And hopefully they’ll stop asking because it’s none of their business! You don’t need to give them an “excuse” just start asking if they can recommend any positions you might not have tried yet.

    • meg

      “I’ve been asked when we’re going to have kids. And I answered by asking if they wanted to help.”

      You are the best.

      • Chelsea

        Ha! This reminds me of my husband – he’s always skeeved out when people announce that they’re trying, so he’s decided that his new thing is to ask if there’s anything he can do to help.

    • Pamela

      Awesome response!

      And yeah, count me as one of the people who thinks that one’s birth control (or not) chocies should be private to the couple, or else shared with the girlfriends over wine thing. I’ve had co workers tell me that they’ve ditched the birth control and are now trying to conceive, and that just icks me out. Actually, the worst is the co worker who told me *all* about her daughter and son-in-law’s decision to procreate. I don’t need to know about the sex lives of people I work with, much less the sex lives of their kids!!

    • K

      To your third paragraph: YESSS! And it also makes me feel very awkward when I have conversations with people about them “trying” to have a kid. It’s like they don’t realize they’re announcing that they’re actively having sex, etc. and that’s just WEIRD to me. TMI.

      To your first paragraph: That gives me a new perspective to consider. Perhaps lack of wedding and/or baby madness doesn’t mean a lack of desire. It’s so hard to be one of those when everyone else seems to have the madness.

  • Tally

    I’m inching towards my 30th birthday and my husband his 40th so we don’t see too much reason to wait forever to have more children (he has a nine yr old son from a previous marriage). We don’t feel like it has to happen tomorrow (which is impossible anyway, as I’m still stuck in the US waiting for a visa and he’s in the UK), but sometime in the next couple of years.

    Other factors influencing our decision: I’ve already been to grad school, we’d like my stepson to have siblings and there’s already going to be a huge age difference, and we’re not getting any younger. The main issue I have is how to balance wanting a career and wanting to stay home with my future babies – at least while they’re really young, at least part-time. Our children will be forced to travel with us back and forth from the US to the UK to visit family on both sides. Babies can travel too!

    I’m only kind of baby-crazy though, I don’t think every baby I see is drool-worthy. But my 4 month-old nephew, who I see all the time, is absolutely amazing and the cutest little guy EVER! That’s probably got something to do with me wanting to have one of my own soon : )

    • Jess

      I’m also American and in an LDR with a Brit, who I’m planning to marry this winter so I can make the move. In the event we do have kids (not sure, I lean towards no since I don’t really like kids and don’t have any good reasons for having them but never say never) I HAVE decided that they will spend several weeks in the summers in the country in which we are not living from the age of 5 or 6 onward. That means flying alone, in all likelihood, which means we better get them used to flying at an early age. I think it’s important for them to have a real relationship with the family that they don’t see all the time, that consists of more than birthday cards and a maybe once a year week’s vacation where we try to squeeze a million things in. I also think it’s important for them to have a familiarity with the country where they don’t live full-time and its culture, etc, since they would be as much American as they’d be English.

  • Mayweed

    We want children. (He’d have them right now if he could). I’m 34, so we need to get a move on unless we want things to be extra difficult – all, and I mean all, my friends from school have had traumas with pregnancy and conception because none of us started till we were after 30.

    But. Six months ago we bought our first house. In six weeks we’re getting married. I’m just managing to persuade my male-dominated work room that actually, I’m smarter than most of them and I do have a lot to offer.

    Me and him have been together a long time, and we’ve travelled, a lot, and done a lot. But part of me worries that I won’t get much chance to be a wife before I’m a mother. And although I have no idea if “wife” will feel different to “cohabiting partner” , I think I’d like a chance to feel the change!

    But then I also don’t know if that’s just a manifestation of the fact that the whole thing scares me. I mean, that’s your life, changed. And your body, changed. And your day to day “hell yes, let’s just do dinner in another city” changed.

    I have *no* doubt that I want to do it. I just wish I’d met him earlier, so the pressure from doctors saying “your fertility declines EXTREMELY RAPIDLY after you’re 33” didn’t exist. But then, on the other hand, I’m pretty sure I’ll never feel “ready”. So we’re just going to have to take the plunge….

    • Um, exactly. Except no house. But wedding in 6 weeks, I’m 34. He’s 27. I want a MARRIAGE, not a baby. But I know we need to try, now, & I’ve already had 2 surgeries on my uterus. I don’t know how it will turn out but I’m extremely nervous about becoming a mother. I know many, many women who haven’t had the chance to fully flourish in their own skin before turning into caretakers for tinies. This scares the crap out of me, for sure.

      • Jessie

        I also suffer with fertility issues and sometimes get so nervous that if I wait (like I’d like to), I’ll miss my window or end up too old once all of the trying is out of the way. But, I say, let what happens happen and don’t do anything you aren’t ready for.

  • So “recreation not procreation” is my new mantra for visits with my grand-child ravenous in-laws!

  • Katie

    I’m totally all for people having kids when and if they’re ready (whether it’s before of after the wedding)

    BUT I hate the idea of getting things like traveling out of your system now before you “settle down” with kids… Why not travel with kids? Or do whatever you want with them? Honestly, my fiance and I have an adventurous streak like no other… so why wouldn’t we want to nurture that in our kids… in a way where we can teach them to be adventurous responsibly…

    One of our favorite things in the world is to see our favorite band (Phish) in concert… you bet you butt we’re gonna take our kids to phish shows! (within reason… indoor shows can hurt little ears but lawn amphitheaters are good!)

    • meg

      Right. That was sort of my point.

    • Marina

      I went to my first Grateful Dead show at age 8 months, and reportedly slept through the whole thing. I have vague memories of being at another Grateful Dead show when I was maybe… 6 or 7? and being grumpy that it was so loud, but still very much enjoyed looking at all the crazy people and wearing my favorite tie-dye clothes. :) But anyway, my parents took me to a bunch of live shows at various ages, and I loved it and they’re now some of my favorite childhood memories.

  • Erin

    Ooo, this has been swimming around in my head all day, and I’m glad I finally found the words, so here goes:

    Just the other night, my husband got a little wigged out by the perfectly normal event of people we know deciding to try to have a baby, as in someday it would be us trying to have a baby. I think for him it’s the conscious effort that goes into trying to make a baby, and making the decision to flip that switch echoes many of the comments floating around here: how do you know when?

    I’m going to tell him this later, but I think it’s also possible to look at it another way. Instead of deciding “now” is the time to have a child, I want us to think of it more as being ready to stop trying to not have a baby — finishing a phase of life. I like graceful endings, and it seems like I could more readily identify when I’m content to close that chapter. Not necessarily by tallying events and milestones, but the same way we were able to close the chapter of dating, and open the one about starting our marriage.

    • meg

      Oh yes. I didn’t mention this because I don’t tend to get into this stuff in detail, but I’m a fan of the “stop trying to prevent it” plan. If there are problems, you’ll find out sooner or later, and you can worry about them if/when they come up. But just stopping prevention I think eases up on some of the neurotic tendencies that can arise with conception, and eases some of the rush. Instead of “Oh my god it’s been two cycles and nothing.” It’s more, “Hey, we’re on the play and pray plan, whatever.”

      We live in a culture where we (at least we the overly educated) have gotten used to this idea that we can PLAN things. We can have it ALL. We can make decisions and take actions to make things we want happen. We are AMAZING WOMEN WHO CAN GET THINGS ACCOMPLISHED. But, yeah. Parenthood is about not having much control, just having to roll with things, embracing chaos. So I figure you might as well just get on board with that right away. I mean, you don’t get to pick your kids personality, and you don’t get to approve their life choices, and you don’t get to pick when they show up. So you might as well just jump head first into not knowing.

      (Disclaimer: None of this is talking about infertility. Once you know you’re infertile it becomes a very different calculation. And for my LGBTQ friends, I know you don’t have this option. Sniff. Sigh.)

      • Sarah

        Ha! meg, this is how I got into the situation of having a 2 month old at my July 2011 wedding (above.) I think that once we were engaged I got more blase about birth control, figuring that we were committed for life and that nature may or may not have cooperated if I threw out my pills on my honeymoon. I didn’t go off the pill, I just got a little more casual about taking it, i.e. if I missed a day, I missed a day. It wasn’t really a major decision per se, but I think my head was in that place already and I guess my uterus agreed.

      • Shelly

        I’ve never thought about the “stop trying” as being a healthy way to approach the decision to start a family. The only way I’ve ever heard it described is when my friends say “well, we’re not *trying,* but we’re not NOT trying.” Which to me sounds like you’re trying. And we’d better pack in our girls’ nights now because your drinking days are numbered.

      • To comment from a lesbian perspective…

        When my wife and I got engaged (3 years before we got married), neither of us thought we wanted to have children. Then my biological clock started ticking – loud, and her brother had a baby, and our friends started having babies, and I took a day job as a nanny… which has put us squarely in extremely ambivalent territory. At the moment, we’re settled on “We might want one or two maybe someday, but definitely no sooner than five years from now” and debating the pros/cons of getting pregnant vs. adopting. Which will have its own lengthy debate, no doubt. (Especially since she spent the better part of her childhood getting tossed around the foster care system. Um, and last night when I found out some friends of ours are expecting *triplets* I may have taken a GIANT step into the adoption camp.)

        However – I do want to highlight the amazing positive we gays have in regards to baby-making: we can’t. Which means that there are no unhappy accidents, and if we end up with a baby, it’s because we really, really, wanted a child and we’re absolutely ready to have one.

      • K

        If we decide to be open to parenthood, this will be what we’ll do. Stop the birth control and go about life as normal. If it happens, it happens. Any other way seems very foreign to me.

  • ‘In fact, lets stop calling it waiting, and just call it, “Yeah. We don’t have kids right now.”’


    I love babies, I think they’re freakin adorable with their little pudge, I think you can travel with kids. BUT we don’t have kids, we don’t want kids immediately, and I’m not entirely sure we’ll ever want kids. Cheers to not waiting, as in marriage sans kids rather than marriage before kids!

  • Meredith

    This is the first time I’ve commented on a post – it seems like everyone posts way before noon! Now I feel like the late-arriving awkward kid at the party that no one is sure who invited.

    I’ve been in several long-term relationships and I never wanted kids. In hindsight, I have realized this was something inside me saying “these are not the people you should have children with.” I come from a very unhealthy childhood (I was raised by a psychopath incapable of empathy), so it took me a long time of “practice” relationships and very intentional self-reconstruction before I could even get to a place where I could be in a healthy relationship that kids could survive in.

    Now I’m in that healthy relationship, with a man 6 years younger than I am (I’m 29, our wedding is in 11 days). He is the only person I have ever met that I would want to have children with. He will make a great dad if he chooses to be, but I don’t want to rush him because he’s young. But logically my clock is ticking if I want to have a kid.

    And I am terrified of a few things.
    a) First is that my life really has been a struggle to learn to be a human being. I am much better than I was, and I will probably be absolutely fine raising a kid, but that doesn’t mean I feel any confidence in my ability to do so.

    b) I am terrified of childbirth. I don’t want things to rip, and bleed, and stretch, and leak, and reshape. I have had a lot of injuries in my life, and I am very, very well versed in pain. And I already have some minor body self-confidence issues. My fiancee is also worried about this. We have amazing sex right now, and we don’t want that to change for physical reasons or post-baby “you never have as much sex afterward” reasons.

    c) I have worked hard to make my life my own. I don’t know that I want to make the kind of sacrifice that seems necessary to have kids.

    But I find myself thinking about kids – about how I want there to be more people in the world as smart and funny as myself and my husband; about how I want to have the adventure of raising a child with him. I’m not sure if there will ever be a time when I reach the point people have talked about here, where they aren’t certain but are at least confident in having a child.

    I’m afraid I don’t have any answers to share, other than – in my early relationships, there was a very deep desire to build a family. I had never had one before, and it seemed like I could make up for things by having my own. But that’s what really stopped me, because I knew how wrong it was to have kids for any selfish reason, like compensating for something you personally have missed or lost. And something inside me knew that the men I was with were not good enough to have children with (as the ends of those relationships would prove).

    I still don’t know if I’ll ever have kids, but at least I know now that I would be having them with a good man, and not for the wrong reasons (even if I’m not sure what the right reasons are)

  • Chelsea

    This might seem like a shallow reason for wanting to wait to have babies, but right now, in the earliest stage of married life, one of the things that my husband and I are unexpectedly enjoying is being total slobs.

    I know from experience that we have it in us to keep a clean and tidy house, but right now snuggling on the couch watching Mad Men is so much more inviting than vacuuming and putting away laundry (I mean, it’s just as clean when it’s on a pile on top of your dresser, right?). While I don’t expect to hold myself to impossible standards once there’s a baby in the house, I know that with a baby will come a lot more chores, and that the beer bottle top that fell under the couch won’t just be something I forgot to pick up, it’ll be a CHOKING HAZARD. And I’m happy to put that time off for a while longer.

    • This doesn’t sound shallow AT ALL. I hate chores with a burning passion and would gladly put them off to snuggle with 30 Rock instead. And I’m tired enough as it is now, without running around after a baby and quadrupling the laundry and cleanup.

      My baby planning budget includes a maid. Really. I am a miserable housekeeper. He’s a bit better than I am, but regardless we have to force ourselves to find time now. We won’t force ourselves to find time with future baby. Having someone clean up twice a month will be entirely worth it for us.

    • Kibbins

      I think about the places cat fur gets on/in now, and just imagine what kind of crap – ack(!), literally, crap – and snot and plastic toys and God knows what else, would get every-freaking-where if a tiny human entered the household. eeesh – I’ll be two weeks shy of 29 when we get married in October, and I don’t know if this girl’s biological clock will ever tick. For so many reasons, and this is (shallow or not) one of them.

  • Liz

    my emotions about the baby thing are so conflicting.

    it reminds me of the name-change issue. i changed my name, after working through a ton of internal conflict over the matter and thoughtfully coming to a conclusion. and i feel that outsiders look in and have a flat assumption about me- that i’m apart of a herd or i just catered to societal expectation without any thought or intention.

    similarly, Baby came right after marriage. i hadn’t intended it to be that way and am still facing some internal conflict and concern over the sudden surprise of it and the accompanying (according to my timeline, premature) changes.

    all of those folks who told me, “you’ll see…” when i said i wanted to wait 5 years to have kids… i feel them all staring at me with self-assured grins. i feel like society as a whole looks at me with a new assumption- there she goes, catering to the “supposed to”s again.

    so there’s that.

    not that it has much to do with jennifer or the 200 comments after her.

    but just sayin.

    • Christina

      Oh man I totally feel your pain. It’s frustrating to Do Your Thing when you know you’re satisfying I-told-you-so-types. But that’s just what you have to do…. Do Your Thing. They don’t know and they don’t really matter. Easier said than done, but that’s what people keep telling me.

    • EXACTLY!!

  • Christina

    A little off topic but I would like to add that it’s a little tough being both a ‘bride’ and at the same time also being seen as a “mommy-to-be.” For me, living in a very liberal town, I felt I escaped a lot of traditional expectations of women. They never really entered my life in any way. I was a college-student, then a business owner, and never felt pressure to do traditional womens’ stuff…. then all of a sudden i’m a ‘blushing-bride’ and i’m completely and utterly drowning in sexist expectations with the wedding but also including the pervasive “when are you going to pop a few out?” question. I should have expected it, but I was in fact completely shocked by how people treated me and I’ve not really figured out how to deal with it yet (except to read this blog which is so soothing….)

  • Michele

    Strangely, the one aspect of having kids that I AM interested in, the one I probably WILL regret not experiencing some day – is that of being pregnant and giving birth. I’m endlessly fascinated by it.

    It’s everything that comes afterward that I’m so ambivalent about/afraid of.

    • meg

      Wait! Why don’t you be an open adoption surrogate for a gay male couple? That would be the biggest mitzvah of all.

      • Michele

        Belieeeeeeeve me, I have thought about it. A LOT.

        I’ve also thought a lot about fostering teenagers at some point in my life. If only I could get pregnant, give birth, hang with the baby for about a year, pass it off to someone else for the next 14 years, and get it back when it’s 15. Oh, and then maybe pass it off again at 18, so someone else can pay for their college education.

        Basically, what I need is a baby timeshare!! haha

        • Alyssa

          A baby timeshare might be the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard of….

          • Rose

            My husband and I have a running joke when people ask us when we’re going to have kids. We say that we’re waiting for the concept of fractional ownership of kids to catch on.

        • I have to timeshare my babies. It’s better than constant fighting; it’s better than the child(ren) losing a parent; but OMG is it hard and exhausting and frustrating. I think it would be that way even if things weren’t toxic and tense between me and my ex, just from the fact that it’s hard to make sure that everyone is always informed and available, that the rules are always consistent, that clothes and toys you bought get returned and homework and library books are passed along when they need to be.

  • Kathryn

    To my great relief, I realized the other day that I’m old enough now that if I did get pregnant it wouldn’t be “the end of the world” even though I’m not married yet. No, Mom would not be pleased, but I live with the wonderful man I will marry someday soon, we make enough to support a family, and I’m done with grad school! Don’t get me wrong, kids are in the approx. 5 year plan, but it’s so nice to know that a “happy surprise” would really be a happy one (although initially traumatic for Grandma).

    As a surprise baby myself (mom thought she was done after 6), I’m a fan of the “stopping prevention” method. If you end up with a baby, he or she might be the love of your life, like me! ;) If it doesn’t happen and you find you’re still ambivalent about the whole thing, you can say, it just wasn’t meant to be. Or you may realize this is what you really want and adopt etc. which is SO wonderful. (Bro #3 adopted 3 kids who are such a joy!)

  • CAMinSD

    Very early in my relationship, I had this crazy vision of myself looking at a photo of my boyfriend on the couch with our future baby. I just opened up the kitchen pantry and BOOM! I saw this image in my head like it was a memory.

    It was weird. Basically, from the time I realized as a kid that not all adults have children, it has never seriously occurred to me to have any of my own. And for a variety of good reasons, I still don’t believe that kids are the right choice for me. So you wouldn’t think I’d be miffed that my boyfriend isn’t really sold on the idea, either.

    But sometimes I am.

    The reason that weird un-memory was so powerful was that it signaled to me that I had met someone with whom I could make the most serious of commitments. And that’s the crux– for whatever reason (NB, cultural noise: I’m on to you now) I still consider having a child to establish the utmost responsibility to someone. Times two! So when boyfriend says he’s not into kids, I sometimes hear he’s not into me. Which is absurd, because I’m not into kids and we are way into each other. This kids stuff should be a piece of cake!

    In next few years — guess who just turned 30 — I think I am really going to have to work on separating the ideas of kids and commitment (read: work on being rational). I’m lucky that my boyfriend, outside of and prior to any discussions of children, has declared marriage to be his ultimate commitment.

  • My parents had me young. Mum was just out of school, Dad was away on a training course for most of her pregnancy. They had to move towns for Dads first placement literally the week after I was born. They lived to the last cent of their wages and the limits of their credit cards every month.
    We were dirt poor, but Mum is very Scottish with money, and they made it work. By the time I was old enough to realise about money, things were much more comfortable.
    My brother and I turned out fine. We had parents who were willing to try really hard to make sure we were ok. We always felt loved. Our parents shift worked, so a lot of the time we had at least one of them home before and after school, or regular sitters.

    Basically I’m saying: You CAN have a kid when you have no money. You CAN not want that kid until the day it is born (my parents had the adoption papers all ready, but couldnt sign them. Yes, as a teenager this caused a lot of angst for me, but I was an anxious child anyway. Now, I can see it as a sign of love that they kept me). and after all this, you CAN have a child who develops well.

    FH comes from a completely different demographic. His parents are 10 years older than mine (and we are both oldest children, with him only 6 months older than me). They were established by the time they had him. He keeps talking about things he grew up with that I never had. I often have to remind him just how poor my family was when I was growing up, and he just cant fathom it.

    Our kids wont have to either. He’s a prodigious saver, and we are financially stable enough to start a family now if we want.
    BUT first I want to take a long holiday in Europe (we are in NZ, it takes 24 hours to get there, so a long holiday is the only option), because this is a trip that really isnt that feasible with younger children.

    I worry constantly that I will regret having kids. But at the same time, I now regularly have daydreams about seeing FHs face when he sees his child for the first time. I want to give him that. I think I want kids. I’m planning to go with “well, we’ll stop trying not to get pregnant and see what happens – if we dont get pregnant, we just arent meant to have kids”.

    • Christina

      “Kids don’t need money, they need happy parents.” That’s what my friends mom always said. I haven’t decided if I agree or to what extent I agree… but there it is.

    • meg

      OF COURSE you can have kids without money. I hope you didn’t get anything different from the post.

      • I don’t think the question is whether or not you can raise healthy, well adjusted kids with no money, Of course you can, there are enough of us here that were raised poor to know that. Happy accidents happen all of the time, whether or not we’re financially ready. I think the discussion about money centers around when we are CHOOSING whether to stop prevention or not, and I think we can all agree that our parents might have had a few less fights and a lot less worries had they been more financially stable when us happy accidents came along!

        • Jessie

          My parents had me without money and while I was raised in a wonderful loving home, I have to say that my relationship with money is complicated to say the least. Starting from a young age, I recognized that money rules everything that you do (at least in a child’s eyes who is seeing money and lack of for the first time) and now, I’m terrified of spending a dime. So, while happy parents are important, I’m going to throw in my two cents that financially stable parents are also important.

        • meg

          I donno. While we were not broke (we knew the bills were going to get paid and there would be food on the table), we didn’t grow up with a lot of money. Apparently, but the upper middle class standards that now surround me, we grew up POOR. So, it’s all in perspective, I guess. Anyway, not a lot of money, and my sister and I were DEFINITLY not happy accidents, and I never heard one fight about money growing up. Not a one.

          Now, we all have our own issues, and because of my childhood I am both a super saver, and unwilling to choose to be broke-ish (I’ve done it once that’s enough!) But I had a stable childhood as far as money goes. In fact, I mostly think THANK GOD I grew up the way I did. Because I expect a lot less fancy stuff, and get really thrilled by what I get. My kids might not be so lucky ;)

          • Jessie

            Excellent point, Meg. In a way, the understanding and appreciation of money is more of a blessing than a curse. :)

    • K

      My fiance and I were discussing babies and money the other day. We ended up deciding that children do cost money, but not nearly as much as our consumeristic society makes it seem. Just like with weddings.

      We also considered the possibility that the same idea might extend to the time and energy children consume. One might feel like free time went to zero if one creates a circle with the child at the center of it all. Likewise one might also just have a slight shift of free time if one creates a circle with the child as one link in it.

      I know that when I focus on a hobby with 100% of my energy and time, I need a serious break from it. Like weeks. But if it’s just one part of my life, albeit a big part, my energy actually increases from partaking in it. Even though it’s not my 100% focus doesn’t mean I don’t give it the necessary attention. Not that a kid is a hobby, but…

  • Um, I think I’ve exhausted all I have to say on the topic of readiness by now.

    But I’m glad you’re going here. You know I can’t wait for A Practical Family, right? Right.

  • Oh Meg.

    I am STILL in my BABYBABYBABY phase. I have SERIOUS baby envy of all my friends who currently are expecting or have children. Like you, I have literally carrying kids around since I could physically do so.

    I guess I still may have a few more years to go before I turn off. Or maybe I won’t turn off… hm.

    I am excited to get married and have babies, but that’s not a bad thing is it!?

    Bah. Life.

  • Marina

    As someone who’s sure I want kids, and soon (I mean, scared shitless, but sure) I just want to add that I am SO GREATFUL that I have friends who want kids but not for a loooong time, and friends who do not want kids ever, period. I have friends in the first category who have told me they’re looking forward to babysitting duties and knitting little baby clothes, which, oh boy, I would be a LOT more scared about having kids if I didn’t have that kind of community around.

    And my friends in the second category, who do not want babies, who will never want babies–I am so thankful for them. I don’t want to get lost in my child(ren), and I feel so lucky to have people in my life who I know I will be able to hang out with and talk about things that are NOT related to babies.

    So all y’all who are decidedly against babies, or ambivalent, or all the other messy permutations of decision-making–I’m glad YOU’RE part of my community too. I know having lots of smart sassy women I can read at a moment’s notice will make me a better mom, and is already making me a better person.

    (Also OH YES to “waiting needs no excuse”. It doesn’t. It really, really, REALLY doesn’t.)

    • meg


    • Marina

      Oh, and one more thought–one of my coworkers has the best rapport with teenagers I have ever seen. Her job is basically a case manager for at-risk youth, so the kids she’s working with tend to have plenty of stuff going on, but I have never heard her once say anything disrespectful about any of her clients. She disagrees with their choices all the time and is very clear about that, but she still respects them as people, and of course they respond amazingly to that.

      And she is not a parent. She is not drawn to being a parent, and is now past the age where a “happy accident” is an option. But she has contributed so much to so many kids.

      Point being, the choice doesn’t have to be kids vs no kids. It’s really more like full time parenting vs part time parenting vs teaching vs mentoring vs no kids…

      • meg

        Indeed. I’ll have more to say on that subject in the future…

  • LPC

    Just to weigh back in. I’m lying on my sofa, my 20 year old sitting on the other end. Both of us with laptops. I told him I’d started reading “Logicomix,” a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell, mathematics, and logic. “Go Mommy!” he said, ironically and fondly at the same time. I’d complained before that I had trouble with graphic novels, that perhaps I was too old.

    You can’t predict either, why you will love having children.

  • kc

    I’ve never felt compelled to have kids. In fact, until I was about 28, I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen for me. This could be because I’m one of 5 children. Or because my mom ran a preschool when I was growing up, meaning I was constantly surrounded by 4 year olds. 4 year olds are overwhelming to a 10 year old who is really just looking for a quiet corner to read a book. It could be because mental instability runs in my family and the thought of having to deal with it in my own child is…terrifying.

    Still, we’ve been talking about babies a lot since the wedding. We’ve agreed we want a family and since I’m 33, we realize that time may not be on our side. Ideally we would wait another few years but my body and lady doctor are telling me that we may not have that big of a window, especially if we want to have more than one. So. I guess I’m saying sometimes life chooses for you.

    We are, however, giving ourselves a year to just be married, talk about it and get used to the idea.

  • kelly

    Sometimes the thing that kills me about the whole kid thing is how there’s this huge expectation that you have a set position on the issue. Why is, “I’m still deciding,” not a viable answer?!

    Or, as one of my besties has recently found out, when you have been in the “Not for me” camp and switch….that’s met with almost instant “Really? But you had decided against it…” or people snark behind your back, “she’s certainly changed her tune.” Well, really, people – haven’t you ever changed your mind about something in your life? You’ve had the freedom to do so – to not like that move to the suburbs (or the city or the country), to not like your job and go back to college, to think “he/she was the one” to think maybe he/she isn’t….so what makes you think a woman’s choice of procreation isn’t something that can change? (Disclaimer: I’m not advocating having kids then saying, “Oops. This really wasn’t for me.” Even though that’s been known to happen. II hope most of us recognize a certain notion of responsibility is part of the territory for some of life’s bigger decisions.)

    And another one….if you do say, “We are leaning towards not having children,” it seems like so many people leap to a conclusion of “they don’t like kids.” That is so unfair. It is completely possible – and even sane – to love and adore children (and I mean in general, not specific children of friends and family) but not feel like your life is a good place for them. And you don’t have to confide that in anyone unless you choose to do so.

    In general, I wish we would all respect other’s right to choices just as much as we feel entitled to make our own.

    • I didn’t know I wanted children until suddenly one day, I did. It was such a sudden change that it felt like a light switch had been flipped. Yes, you get to change your mind about whether you want kids (at least you get to change your mind before you have them).

  • I’ve had babies on the mind lately, and this post has been swirling in my head all day. We’re not ready. I’m not ready. But we want babies and age and health is going to make us ready sooner rather than later. I’m only 30, but with a few non-fertility related health scares recently, I don’t want to wait until 35 (when my mother had me.)

    And so, I’ve been thinking about the traveling question. And it’s actually an important one. I love traveling and I’ve explored backcorners of developing countries and Europe alike with a backback, a map and a sense of adventure. That’s my favorite sort of travel. Yes, we can and will travel with children (I grew up with amazing roadtrips and occasional home-exchange European vacations) so I know it can be done and it’s very important to me. But. The way I love to travel most will have to be put on hold for a very very long time.

    And as for the financial readiness questions… I’m genuinely scared about that. I want to be blithe and say it will all work out because it’s happened a million times before for people with less than I have. But. I want to fund our retirement. I want to pay for their college fund. And I have to think about childcare. Which, right now, is frankly terrifying me. I’m a planner by nature and I’ve started pricing out options and HOLY F*CK it’s terrifying. It’s not terrifying enough for one of us to stop working (um no. Not for us.) but it’s terrifying nonetheless. The lack of money, time, and autonomy scare me to my bones. I know in my deepest soul that I want babies, but it’s the fear that whispers “But not yet. Please, dear g-d, not yet”

    • It is relatively easy to travel with one baby. It is when you add a second child that it gets exponentially more difficult (for some reason, it is not just twice as complicated, but lots more than that. I’m still not sure why; it just is.).

    • meg

      We had no college funds, and we were fine (and went to top schools). My parents paid for a third out of their earnings, I got a scholarship for a third, and paid for the other third with loans (except my grandmother unexpectedly helped with that). So, worry less, if you can. I’ve found the upper middle class list of financial expectations pre-baby is… um… nuts (no, you’re not nuts, just reminding you of the other ways :)

      • I made my own way through undergrad and grad school with the help of scholarships, jobs, and a small amount in student loans. While it is noble to be planning for kids’ college funds, this should not be done at the expense of your ability to pay for your retirement or your kids’ ability to learn how to provide for their own adult needs (including education).

        • Oh, I don’t expect to pay for ALL their schooling. I paid for half at a top school with a scholarship and jobs, and I think that was and important part of growing up. And retirement definitely wins over a fully funded college education for the kiddos. But still. I usually feel that upper middle class expectations are a giant crock of poop, mainly because I do math pretty well and don’t see how it works out. It doesn’t, when you include all the standard expectations and the utter lack of support in the United States. And we’re okay with dumping a lot of those expectations, but I still think I’d be less terrified about having children if I lived in the Netherlands, where my girlfriend is getting a free midwife and paid leave and college doesn’t cost more than the average annual salary. Oh. A free midwife would be nice.

      • Class of 1980

        I’d be willing to bet that aside from paying for a third of your schooling, you parents talked to you about college and were actively helping you to plan.

        I think parental involvement is really the biggest indicator of whether a child makes it into college.

        • meg

          Oh, of course. And both my parents have graduate degrees and my dad went to a jaw dropingly good school. We were never not going to good schools. Which is totally my point. When there is a will there is a way, so I think all this stuff like, “Don’t have kids if you can’t fully fund a top school and private K-12” is hogwash. Besides, how many people can do that? Not too many.

  • rose

    is it weird that i have been thanking god for every year that goes by that i haven’t gotten pregnant? whether or not this sounds early, its been happening for 12 years (i’m 28), and only a few years ago did i finally start thinking…”ok, well if i get pregnant now, i’d be ok”.
    i think i’ve always known that i want kids, but its just a matter of actually feeling like its the right time, and that i will really want/be able to handle the changes that will occur. my brother has two kids, and they are the loves of my life. my fiance and i adore them. but they are always asking us when we are going to have kids and i am always tempted to say, “i don’t need to have kids right now because i live vicariously through yours!” and then they inevitably say that annoying “you are never really ready, just go for it” type of comment. or worse, they say “don’t you want your kids to grow up with ours?” my answer is usually something like, no, i want your kids to teach mine everything, so keep parenting.
    anyway…i actually trust that there will come a day when i think “ok, lets go for it” – because i know me…when i’ve been waiting on something, the timing does usually line up and things seem to be hinting/whispering and urging a change. but for now, i am really content to just be. and since parents are allowed to just be with their kids, why shouldn’t us non parents be afforded the same pleasure?

  • cely

    I am getting married next month, at 39. I am not a BABYBABYBABY person but one of the reasons marriage is important to us is that we do want to have a child. It scares the crap out of me, but when I imagine our future it includes the joy, heartbreak, challenge and exhaustion of raising a child.

    I want us to have some husband/wife time before we become Dad and Mom, but realistically…we can’t wait too long. We may have already waited too long. And part of me lives in fear of the “what if” of birth defects or other complications.

    I am grateful to have a partner with whom I can talk about all of this.

  • First: WOW! I have never seen a blog receive so many comments…I feel a bit like mine will be lost in this sea of people!

    Second: Since my youngest niece was born (she is now 2 years old), I have had baby fever. Big time. Not only was I completely obsessed and in love with the cutest baby EVER (my niece, of course) but, to quote Meg, I wanted my own so bad “my ovaries hurt.” That lasted for just over 2 years. It ended exactly one month ago, while on a family camping trip with both of my nieces (2 and 9 years old), when I realized how utterly demanding kids are. My sister and brother-in-law’s life revolves completely around those two little girls and their never-ending needs. And they are both so drama! Haha!

    I guess I thought after getting engaged (just over 2 months ago) that I would want to get to that part of my life even more, but now I am second-guessing whether or not I even want to have a child at all (although Craig suddenly has a bit of baby fever!) Really, it’s a serious lifetime commitment, I am a bit scared to take that on. In many ways is more intense and demanding than a marriage; which itself will be such a massive step to forever-dom. As nearly 30 year old undergraduate students, Craig and I have enough commitments to honour already (never mind my plan to attend graduate school and a PhD).

    BUT, a very close friend of mine waited to have children (until she was 36) and then found it incredibly difficult to conceive. Only now, after two years of trying, tests, and IVF is she finally pregnant. Obviously I feel nothing but joy for her, and sympathy with what she has gone through, but she keeps telling me not to wait too long, not to put it off or it may be too late. Knowing that by the time I finish grad school I”ll be 32 or 33, and that I fully intend to reach for that PhD, when IS a good time? I obsessed over this for pretty much the last 6 months. I don’t want to have to try to write a dissertation and take care of a baby, toddler or small child…but do I want to sacrifice having children for my career? My Mom thinks not. She thinks I could not be happy without children. But really, I don’t know. I guess you just can’t plan everything.

    • Mayweed

      If it helps, my ma did her MBA after the four of us were born and I have a friend who did a phD when her unexpected daughter was only a few months old. Not that you’d necessarily want it that way, but I think you don’t have to choose… I hope not anyway!

    • Vmed

      It depends what field your PhD is in. I’m beginning my 3rd year of grad school at a large public university, in neuroscience so that’s what I can speak to.*

      Lab science takes a TON of time. It is difficult for me to even have a dog. My labmates mostly have cats because dogs are too needy to be at lab at all hours, and on weekends, and I have a hard time imagining being in the data gathering phase of grad school (first 4 years) with a baby.

      But even in wet lab biology, your dissertation is actually not a bad time to have a newborn cause then you write at home.

      And I know plenty of mother or mother-to-be grad students (though not as many as father grad students hmm patriarchy). The tradeoff is that usually your advisor will (unofficially of course) see a pregnancy as either a way to get you out fast (so you’re not their problem anymore) or keep you for another year (so they recoup some lost productivity). Same with weddings- they expect another 6 months of work to make up for what was “lost”.

      My unsolicited opinion/advice?

      Having a family the way you want it is way WAY more important than grad school. So if you want kids, have them. And if you want to go to grad school too, have your kids in grad school.

      * Full disclosure: I’m leaving with a Master’s in part because academia is so harsh on mothers seeking tenure and in part because there are too many biologists graduating from the phd factories to get good jobs. It’s the same as has been happening in the humanities for ~10 years now- no jobs but crappy ones. I’ll take my chances elsewhere, thanks.

    • FM

      I’ve known lots of people who had kids in grad school, and most of them said it actually was at least as fine as any other timing choice they would have made. Some of the parents I went to law school with seemed to be better than the other students at dealing psychologically with school – just a more healthy perspective and better time management (and I know a few women who had more than one baby during the 3 years of law school). I would try to talk to someone in your field about it who has a baby/kid.

    • I am currently finishing my Honours BA in Literature, I hope to attend the University of Victoria for my MA. From what I have been told by professors, you can’t take a Mat leave during your MA or your PhD. You’ve got to squeeze those kids in between somewhere. Talking with married friends of ours this weekend, my decision wavers back to having a baby after grad school, if it works. I guess we’ll see how things work and focus on getting through this crazy year of school and wedding planning! Lucky for me, I love planning and thrive under stress!

      Thanks, ladies for your feedback and support! :)

  • Suzanna

    Funny how so many of us pray fervently, “oh holy crapballs, please do not let me get pregnant” for our entire adult lives. And then we suddenly wake up one day and instead go, “oh holy crapballs, I am officially of ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE and now all my childrens are going to have 5 eyes and just run around with buckets on their heads!”

    Well, that’s what I did anyway.

    I guess my .02 to Jennifer who wrote the email is: You don’t need an excuse to not have babies! If you feel like waiting, wait. No big whoop. Enjoy your life and your husband. Just beware: that dang biological clock is kind of in charge (adoptions aside, of course).

    • Marina


      You win the internets for that mental image.

      • suzanna

        Why thank you! But I can’t take credit–it’s from the movie Parenthood, which is actually a phenomenal discussion on overthinking vs. happy accidents. And features Keanu Reeves’ sage observation: “You need a license to go fishing, you need a license to have a dog. But any a**hole can be a father.”

        Running around with buckets on their heads is actually my favorite fantasy of my future children.

  • LC

    ALSO: I’ve noticed that many of the wedding blogs I was reading last summer have now morphed into baby planning blogs. I suppose such a transition is fairly natural and the nature of blogs in themselves begs the comment- “It’s THEIR blog”… but with a few exceptions, this bugs me and I’ve stopped checking in on them. This is a relevant observation, no?

    • Marina

      I’ve seen that change as well. And also the wedding planning blogs that just sort of trail off and stop. I think the transition from wedding blog to marriage blog is a difficult, uncharted one, and honestly this one is the only one I’ve seen do it gracefully. We’ve got plenty of roadmaps for how wedding planning is supposed to go, and for how baby planning is supposed to go, but so very few for how new marriage is supposed to go…

  • this is the thing, last year, when the hubs and I were in pre-marriage counseling, I was FREAKING OUT about when we were going to have kids. I would say, ” we need a plan”, and “you’re never going to be ready like I’m ready”. Fast forward to now, two months from our one year anniversary, and my mind has changed completely. I’m not ready for a kid at all. I don’t think I’ll be ready for a few years.

    Our marriage isn’t ready for an extra hurdle either.

    Going back to a few other’s comments about being selfish for not wanting a kid – that is exactly my reason for not wanting any children right now. We don’t have enough money (thank you NYC real estate prices) to move into a bigger place and I do not want to give up my office and make space for a baby. I want ALL of my husband’s attention and I want to give him ALL of mine. I don’t want to gain weight. I want my boobs to stay MY boobs and not the feeding source for a little one.

    Yes, it’s selfish. For right now, we are perfectly happy just us two.

    • meg

      NO THAT IS NOT SELFISH. I’m banning the word selfish from the conversation.

      Because what? Wanting to add another person into an overcrowded world just because they will be half us and half the person we love is NOT selfish? This is like OBB and weddings and tacky, “It’s all tacky. None of it’s tacky.” But this time it’s, “It’s all selfish. None of it’s selfish.”

      The point is to find a way to live our lives that makes us happy, and makes those around us happy. That’s it.

      • Thanks Meg and Michelle for that one. My aunt accused me of being selfish for saying at age 16 that I didnt think I would have kids – because I’d done the maths and didnt think I would ever be able to afford to give them the lifestyle I wanted them to deserve.
        Its hung over me ever since, and I still struggle with whether I am just being selfish on the days I decide I dont want kids, or am I so selfish that I will resent the kids for stopping my life…??
        We can never know I guess :)

  • LM

    We married at 33 after a mostly long-distance relationship, so it was important to us to take a year to settle in to living together in the same city before trying to start a family. Happily for us, we bought a house just before our first anniversary, and immediately got pregnant with our daughter, born when I was 35. HOWEVER. The year we turned 30, almost all of my friends had a baby. When I hit that invisible deadline without a partner or children on the horizon, I had to do some serious soul-searching about the assumption I’d always had that of course I’d be a mother someday. For me, it meant grieving the possible loss of that dream, and becoming willing to imagine a future (of teaching, of travel, of nurturing other children in my life) without my own kids. (It also meant giving myself a break, and deciding to re-assess the situation at 35, realizing that if I really wanted to be a mother, I could adopt or have a child without a partner.) When I did meet my husband and we talked about whether or not we wanted to have kids, I struggled with this again. Having come to peace — and even excitement! — about what a life without children might be like, I wasn’t sure I wanted to jump on the “baby train.” We had some serious discussions about our desire to raise children together, particularly that he needed to be fully on board as an equal parent (which he has been, in an amazing way). I was definitely past any notion I’d had about needing to be a mom in order to prove I was an adult, or to “fulfill” me as a woman, to give me something to do if I got frustrated with my career, or to default into parenthood because that’s just what you should do. If we were going to be parents, it would be a project we were both fully invested in.

    I also want to affirm Meg’s comments about “planning.” After easily conceiving our first child, we went through two heartbreaking miscarriages/ectopic pregnancy. Having children should, I think, be a thoughtful, responsible, shared decision. . . but it’s never fully under our control, either.

  • Hmmm. I think a lot of the time that it isn’t so much that people associate marriage with babies, just that they associate maturity with being ready to have a baby. And a lot of people from older generations would assume that, if you’re mature enough to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone, then you’re mature enough to have children.

    This isn’t at all the way that I think, though.

    I am nowhere near ready to have children. I don’t want to yet. I worry that I’ll never get to the point where I reallllly want it. I hope I do, because I’m not the sort of person who does things by halves.

  • Oh the “when are you two having children” question. I feel like I could write a book about the various ways I’ve been asked that and the reasons why I was told “I needed to.”

    Just to give an example of why you have to do what feels right to you, here is one of my stories. To set the scene, this was before I started my own business and I was working retail. A woman came in and was buying monogrammed coasters from me when her phone rang. (Let’s not point out the fact I was working in a place that sold monogrammed EVERYTHING please :) ) From what I gathered from her end of the conversation-they were selling their house, her husband hadn’t made the bed before leaving for the day, the Realtor was coming over in 10 minutes and she was really really angry about it. I started filling out the forms when she saw my ring.

    “When are you getting married?”
    “In about 2 months”
    “Does he pick up after himself?”
    I knew this wasn’t going to go well so I tried to keep it short “He does his part.”
    “Well just wait, as soon as you have kids he will turn into someone you hate.”
    Uhm whoa. strong word. Hate? I could really see this going badly, but I couldn’t say “yea, probably” because I don’t believe that so I just said “I hope not”
    She was really ticked and got a very demanding tone “Yes you will. Kids change everything.”
    Not really how I prefer telling people this, but I had to stop this conversation.”We aren’t planning on having children.”
    “Oh.” It was like I told her Santa Claus wasn’t real. There was hurt and anger in her eyes.
    So then, feeling REALLY uncomfortable, I tried to hurry up and finish up her order. Somewhere between “and would you like script or block lettering” she says
    “God. Your life is going to be so much better than mine. You’ll be able to do everything I can’t.”

    I can’t remember what I said to this. I was so uncomfortable and couldn’t believe she was saying this to me so I think I just mumbled something about how stressful selling a house can be yatta yatta yatta. SO uncomfortable.

    I have plenty of friends who couldn’t wait to be parents. (And they will be and are wonderful parents!) They waited until it was right for them and truly love their choices and their little bundle. But then I have friends who just don’t see themselves having children (which to me, is also a completely valid option.) So my opinion is to wait until you both are ready and know what you both want. Enjoy being a wife, a friend and a lover and let yourself explore the possibilities. Society places a lot of “steps” that we apparently have to achieve in order to live a fulfilling life (college, marriage, house, baby) but those just don’t work for everyone. Follow your heart and live the life that makes you both happy. Eventually your choices will point you in the direction you need to go.

  • holy cow. I did write a book! Sorry for that being so long…

    • Actually I found myself thinking, “HOLY COW!!! That woman is insane!” Because really, I think she might be.

  • LBD

    I’m glad to read the comments and see other people in the “I’m not sure if I want babies or not” category (though I too am in the OMGPUPPY camp). I feel like there are so many women I know who are “YES that is something for me” or “NO BABIES EVER.” Black or white, no grey middle ground. No room for indecision. I’ve always felt this pressure to choose one way or another, when I simply don’t know. I can think of so many reasons to have a kid, and just as many reasons not to. People talk about having a discussion with your significant other before committing seriously, but really, what if neither of you really have strong feelings when you start off? And what if when we finally decide, we decide something different?

    My fiance and I have been together 11 years, and we’ll finally be making it official next year. We’ll also both be turning 30 next year. And the deadline of my biology weighs on me so hard. The pressure to make a decision YES or NO looms, and I really wish I could wait another 10 years without worrying about the difficulties that brings. And it comes down to, that I really like my life. I love my boy, and both of us worry about whether we really are willing to make the sacrifices having a kid seems to take from your time for each other and your time to do non-work things you enjoy. I love the flexibility of my life. In a long-term look at my life I think, yes, I do want a kid, and honestly, I’m much more excited about having adult children than I am about kid-like children. I think about the relationship I have as a younger adult with people my parents’ age in my life and I think I want that when I am their age too.

    I’m jealous of men often, that they aren’t so limited by their biology for making this decision. I mean, it seems men fathering children in their 40’s isn’t frowned on in the medical world like a woman trying to have a kid then.

    • Audrey

      Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      I am also turning 30 next year and my husband will be 34 at the end of this year. I always thought I was in the “No” camp when I was younger, but my life looks a lot different from what I thought it would look like. I can see where a kid could fit in… and I can also see where I might never want a kid.

      The idea is scary, we’re stuck in a house in a kind of meh area with bad schools, we’re low energy people… but at the same time we have really supportive family nearby and I’ve occasionally gotten a little “babybaby” from my ovaries as I watch my friends interact with their kids and I play with them.

      So ambivalent but I also want to know NOW because this would be the right time (biologically) to know rather than 10 years from now. Auuuugh.

  • Giggles Mom

    I am the mother of three grown children. I’ve had some rough days, but far more great and wonderful ones. For my husband and I, we made the right choice.

  • I love people who get married but don’t have kids… for a while or at all. Those people are good for marriage. They remind us it’s not all about family.

    I consider myself very lucky that I had that strong urge to have children from a young age. I really was ‘waiting’ – not that I wasn’t having a great time and accomplishing plenty in the meantime – for the time when it was sensible to do it. (Which for me meant: married, husband was ready too, some financial security/own home, mid-twenties. Doesn’t look like that for everyone.) It must be a more difficult decision if you know you want kids but don’t have that strong urge to get on with it.

    I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if this has already come up, and I don’t say this to be controversial (I know it can be a difficult subject for many women) but I know few women in their mid-thirties who are having difficulties now, or who would have liked a second or third child but just feel they have left it too late. I hope Jennifer and others will consider in their decisions when is the healthiest time *for their bodies* for them to have children. Because, get this: your life does not stop when you have children. Delaying it will give you more of one thing, but less of another. The former isn’t ‘living’ and the latter ‘being a mum.’

  • wey

    my fiance and i got married and enjoyed each other’s company for a year. then we figured we would enroll to be on an adoption waiting list since we planned to adopt and have a kid, or adopt two and have two. we know it will take awhile to get through that list but we’ve committed to it when the time comes, whether we have a kid in the meantime or not. i think it’d be great for them all to learn to love and accept each other.

    the funny thing is, when we explain this to relatives or wait, in this position, ourselves, all my worries or concerns have fallen away and i’m really happy and peaceful. i don’t think i’m completely ready- in some ways, i know i’m not, i have no idea how i’ll react to some situations or even if i want to. but i know i will.

  • “If your subconscious is telling you, “Um. No. Check back in a few.” Go have some beers, or a dip in the pool, or some graduate school, and then check back.” You answered my own issues right there, nailed it, thanks! I want babies theoretically and I’m of an age where I do need to get thinking about it, but I doubt I’ll ever feel claw through anything to get there? But then, I wouldn’t do that for cake either…

  • I am one of those woman who has a baby-radar. My husband jokes he has to stop talking every time a pushchair goes by with a baby coz he’ll just have to repeat it anyway. I am like Meg – when I meet a friend with a baby, they have an automatic babysitter coz I cuddle, comfort, feed, change. It feels very natural to me.

    But we’re not planning on having children for a few years yet and although that’s right for us, I think it confuses people. I hear “you’d make such a good mother”. I truly hope so. But I think I’ll make an even better mother in a few years once my husband and I have enjoyed this marriage adventure for a while longer…

    Thanks for this post, Meg. The lines between marriage and parenthood feel very blurred here so it was nice to hear someone talk about it from this clear perspective!

    • meg

      “The lines between marriage and parenthood feel very blurred..”

      Right? Right. That’s the perfect way to put it into words, and I think it’s scary. I mean, even if… no ESPECIALLY if you are a parent right after getting married, I think we owe it to ourselves not to blur these things. In fact, I think for me it’s self, marriage, and parenthood. If you don’t keep each one distinct from the other, you can get into trouble. Because yes, you are a mom and/or a wife, but you are not ONLY a mom and/or a wife. And mom and wife are not the same role.

  • Karin

    Lemme introduce myself! My name is Karin, I am planning a fabulous wedding to my best friend of 5 years, and we have a 14 month old monster, (ahem) I mean son.

    Our plan was to be married before we had children but like Meg says, we had a ‘happy accident’ That being said, as soon as we knew we were expecting, all things wedding fell by the wayside. I concentrated on being pregnant, being healthy, and giving birth to a healthy child. I was a new mom and I wore that title proudly. I still do. Although I wear it with some spaghetti in my hair, my date book in one hand, and APW in my back pocket!! =)

    Planning the wedding didn’t happen until our son was almost a year old. Yes we set the date prior to that and there were alot of things to consider. We wanted a June wedding, our son is a June baby (the 2 are not related) and I made sure to keep it that way. We could have easily gotten married this June, but in my mind that would have taken away from his 1st birthday, as a parent, that was important to me. So we decided on June 2011. It was good. It gave us time to be together as parents. It gave us that room to work with each other and adapt to this new life we have created. I think that’s important for everyone who decides to embark on any journey together, whether it be fur-babies, human babies, moving somewhere new, or buying a house together. We all need time to adjust to each other and how we live in certain environments.

    That being said, I think, FOR ME, having a child is helping me keep wedding planning and a budget within reason. Do I need $25 worth of fancy napkins with our names on them that will just go in the garbage anyways? Nope! Plain red & yellow napkins that I bought on clearance after Valentine’s Day work just fine. That $25 is a box of diapers. Do I need a dress that costs $850? Yes. That is my dream dress. It looks great on me. Did I search high and low to find the dress cheaper? Yes, I did. And I found it. For $200. I’m very proud of that find. Never know what you’re going to find online or in a thrift store.

    I guess what I’m getting at is, it’s very possible and very do-able to be mother & wife at the same time. It’s very possible to keep the 2 seperate as well. Priorities are important. Seeking individuality is important when it comes to these 2. At the same time, while we work so hard to be mother & wife, we need to remember to be US. We need to rememeber that even while we are part of a team, that there is an individual person here too. Who we were before mother & wife, who we are during, and who we will be after. Remember that you love to blog, remember that you love watching the lighting break over the lake, and remember how you used to style your hair before you had a toddler pulling on it all the time!! If you can do that, you can be an awesome mother & wife team, when the time is right for you of course.

    (Sorry so long, guess I’m a bit passionate about the 2)

  • Morgan

    It’s funny – we are putting off kids for travel, clearly and specifically. Not because I don’t believe you can’t travel with kids – so many examples here of how it can work. But this trip is 3 weeks staggering around Europe, and I’m hoping the next one is 2-3 weeks in Egypt and Jordan, and I can’t see taking a small child down the Nile in a boat without a real toilet.

    We want kids. Dave’s also getting broody, and we’re talking about how soon. But not until Paris. Not until we’ve done one the last mega trip, before settling in for years of smaller trips. Not until we’ve finished dumping money constantly in to the house. Not until we’re a little more settled, and more willing to share each other with a new member of our family. I am grateful that medical science has give us the ability to put it off another year. I plan to travel after we have kids, but totally know we can’t travel the same way we do now. And that’s fine. I’m just not ready for this phase of my life to end yet.

    • Vmed

      I know this may seem outrageous… but… what if you went on trips without the kids?

      My parents left us with close friends or aunts or older cousins in charge for a few weeks when they had to travel (they were scouting out the next work transfer but I think if they needed to take a trip just for them it would’ve been fine, too). I don’t know what kind of compensation they ended up working out.

      I mean, sending your kids to live with another family for a week or two isn’t torture, it’s educational. It made our families closer. It made us flexible, and appreciative when our parents came home.

      And as a result, I certainly am open to the idea of housing my future nieces and/or nephews in case my sister and her husband need to see Egypt (how cool!). And not too proud to ask (temporarily foist my putative progeny on) her either.

      • meg

        Dude. We’re totally planning on doing that. It’s called ‘summer camp’ and ‘grandparents.’ But it takes you 7-10 years till they are really old enough for that. So.

        • kc

          Why 7-10 years? I know a number of couples who have left their kids to travel when the children are as young as 1. Granted, the kids are usually well acquainted with their sitters and the longest they stay away is a week or two, but it seems to work out fine (and is usually a much needed break I’m told). Of course, I don’t have kids yet, so what do I know. :)

          • meg

            In my rather extensive kid experience I’d say, all in all, they get pretty sad being away from both of their parents for long stretches of time before around 7. Unless you have grandparents to take them… but I’m not sure even the best grandparents want a toddler for two weeks. They have, after all, raised their kids and earned their rest. I just feel like until they are a little easier and a little less emotionally fragile, I’d want to take them with us, or leave them with one parent.

  • *Breathes a sigh of relief*

    This post made me RELAX about the thought of having kids. Meg, you touched on so many of the pressures/anxiety related to having children, especially in close proximity to the wedding. But the reason to try for children is that you want to be a parent, that you’re ready to take on that massive commitment, and isn’t your marriage a massive enough commitment to take on at one time?

    I know that others (re: MYMOTHEROMG) expect us to start trying right away, but now that there’s a definite timeframe on things, I don’t know if I see myself mature enough to try for babies in a year.

    And that’s OKAY.

  • Lauren

    I feel like sometimes, we don’t really discuss what happens when you have a miscommunication with your SO. Like, a big one, about a subject you thought you were totally in sync on. I spent a good deal of the time we were dating with my BABYBABYBABY hormones going full speed ahead, and it got to be something of a joke that I would reference the hormones, and Zack would say “No babies!” For real. It was funny, and got laughs from everyone we knew. And I was fine with no babies. I mean. My hormones weren’t. But I was.

    Then some friends of ours had a baby, right before our wedding, and in a conversation about them one night, I said something to the affect of, “If everyone waited to feel like they could afford having a baby, no one ever would.” I wasn’t trying to say that WE should have a baby. There is a difference between feeling like you can afford a baby and feeling like you can afford to support yourselves. We’re still in the struggling to support ourselves stage, where jobs are uncertain and wages are, in all honestly, far too low to really make me comfortable. I knew that was how Zack felt, and it was how I felt too, despite my hormones telling me BABYBABYBABY.

    I don’t know for sure if me saying that determined Zack’s feelings on the matter. And so you all know, our method of protection has always been the pull-out method, which has a fairly high failure rate in comparison to every other form of birth control out there. It was what worked for us, and we both knew the risk we were taking. But, well. There was another area of misconception between us, too.

    I thought Zack said “No babies” because we weren’t ready yet. But apparently, despite being very adamantly non-religious, he felt pretty strongly about being married before having children. So we got married, 10 weeks ago Saturday. And as of next Tuesday, I’ll be 10 weeks pregnant. Not because our method of birth control failed, but because we (he) didn’t use it. Because he thought that was what I wanted. Because my hormones told me that was what I wanted. And because we hadn’t discussed what would be the right time for children. He said “No babies”, and I felt the same, but I never told him that because I assumed he knew I was just hormonal.

    I know we’ll be great parents. I wouldn’t give up this baby for the world. And we have since discussed that we might not have been clear with one another about exactly what we wanted in this area. It hasn’t had a terrible impact on our relationship. But… it’s made me think. About what I might have really wanted, if my hormones hadn’t been gratified. About the grad school we couldn’t have afforded for me this fall anyway, but might have been able to consider for the spring. About the health insurance we still don’t have. About the house we could have started saving for sooner. About the jobs I probably won’t get now, because employers don’t want to hire a pregnant woman.

    I don’t hate being pregnant. I don’t hate that I’m having a baby. But… well. I’ll probably always regret the timing. And that’s hard, because I’m supposed to be happy. This is supposed to be a joyful time. And it isn’t.

    • K

      I suppose you might wish you felt happier about it, but I don’t think you’re supposed to feel anything specifically. I know know know know how hard it is to actually do this, but try just feeling what you feel and say that that’s okay, that you’re okay and try just focusing on the present, because worries are almost always about things that don’t exist and would happen in the future anyway if they ever become reality.

      I know you didn’t ask for advice, but I couldn’t help but offer some in the off chance that it’d help you feel better.

      And thank you for sharing your story. Everyone’s stories on here make me not feel so alone with all of my crazy emotions on the whole topic.

  • KAM

    This comment got me thinking about something I read — I find it curious that people often feel guilty for not wanting to have children… Or sometimes even the word SELFISH comes up…

    But what about feeling guilty for wanting to have children?? I mean, really, what is the purpose of having children — to pass your genes on to future generations. I think that’s a little selfish right there. But not many people guilty for overrunning the planet with their children.

    To be clear, I’m not saying that having children is a bad decision — it is true that the only reason that I exist is because my mom decided to become a mother. For that I am grateful and feel very loved. But creating the next generation is a personal decision. I’ve got one life, and it’s up to me to live it and to become the person that I want to be. That could involve children OR no children and both decisions would be equally right.

  • Coming from a family that included diplomats, the “travel before kids” mentality always makes me laugh. Going into the same career, it’s not even a question – our kids will be going everywhere we do. Hell, there are some trips I’m putting off until after we have kids, because I know how much they’ll love them!

    • meg

      Well, I don’t think we’re really promoting the travel before kids mentality…

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Thanks for this great post. I always feel like I have a safe space here to express ideas that are not always mainstream about marriage and motherhood. Yes, the cultural noise and pressure is amazing. Me and my husband are constantly asked by our friends and family WHEN we’re going to start a family (ahem, we ARE a family and oh yeah, let’s not overlook the assumption that we will have them at all) and WHEN we are having children. It is a tad frustrating because while my husband desires children, I am not really sure I do and I do not feel entirely comfortable disabusing people of the notion that I may not want motherhood.

  • Sara

    I would just like to say that: (1) reading through these comments with a glass of wine has been a great way to spend some of my rare time off; and (2) To all the people who like the idea of babies, but not older children: You are thinking about it in the abstract, but your babies will be real. By the time they are children, they will be actual people with their own individual personalities, and you will appreciate and love them on their own merits, regardless of their developmental stage.

  • Gwynnie

    I’ve read through a bunch of the comments above (but admittedly not all of them, so I apologize if there is any overlap!)

    First off, I have NEVER been a baby person. I’m not a fan of the shrieking, the inability to communicate fairly instantaneously, and various other things. And while many people (some of my family and future in-laws included) have said that this may just be a phase and that “you might change your mind!” I am fairly skeptical about this.

    But I do understand that some people genuinely adore the thought of raising kids. So despite my lack of BABYBABYBABY thoughts constantly running through my head, I would suggest you wait for a couple of reasons. One, make sure you want the baby, the toddler, the child, the teenager, the college student. Some of my friends seem to have not realized that babies don’t stay babies forever, and this probably seems totally obvious, but it never hurts to think long term.

    Also, babies are a significant financial investment. This might not apply to Jennifer’s situation, but I recently calculated out approximately how much I would have to save per month to raise one child to age 18 (excluding college). It works out to around $1200/month, which I would rather put toward trips volunteering around the world or paying off the mortgage. So my second piece of advice is to think about finances and mentally prepare yourself for that.

    And lastly, but maybe most importantly, my fiancee and I decided early on that if we were having kids, it wouldn’t be until at least 28, maybe 29 (I’m 20 right now, and my fiancee is 22). Our reasoning is that we want to have time to enjoy ourselves, to enjoy being married and not having to worry about kids interrupting our privacy. Also, having some time to live with each other is going to give us a long time to adjust to living with each other and figuring out how to run a house jointly. The last thing I want is to be waking up to take care of the baby at 3 AM, walk out into the kitchen, and find that there are ants crawling around because dirty dishes were left overnight.

    In some ways, it’s like a chick flick: the whole movie is about the anticipation of getting together, the build-up of excitement as you get to know each other. The movie ends once the couple is together. But when you get married, while you might not change drastically as people, the dynamic is different. So I would take some time to enjoy it, because you’re at a great part of your life now!

  • BG

    The right time to have a kid is when you feel like having one. I was also one of those people who felt the need to do a lot of stuff before even considering in settling down. and at 28 I had my first baby. It was the most wonderful thing in the world when I first held him in my hands. And I guess the maturity I had with taking care of my child is because I know I am ready and really wanting to have him in my life.

  • Marissa R.

    One thing I struggled with before I got married is that I’ve had so few role models of successful, happy women with children, I didn’t know whether it would be possible to have a family and still retain any sort of personal identity or happiness. All the women in my family skipped educations and got straight to marriage and having children. And complaining about it. A lot. That being said, I don’t mean to imply that the women in my family aren’t amazing, resourceful, and otherwise fantastic people that I admire in a multitude of ways. But over the past few years, I’ve begun to have a minor crisis about whether it’s even possible to be a woman and to be well-adjusted as a person after getting married and having children–in my world, I haven’t seen a lot of that. However, I’m just now getting out into the world at the beginning of a career of my own (my husband and I are both under 25 and I’m just about finished with school) and I’m starting to see a few examples of women who are married with children that don’t seem to feel they’ve sacrificed their whole lives for The Cause of family. That doesn’t mean they don’t get stressed out or that their lives are perfect, but it’s reassuring. What still remains scary is that I can’t distinguish why these women have adjusted better to having children than the women in my own family. What separates us? Any ideas?

  • I’m having the ‘BABYBABYBABYBABY’. It’s sort of the first time. (I’m 24)
    When I was like 13, I had it. But I wasn’t stupid and I knew it was hormones and I fought it and it went away.
    But since then I’ve had the desperate ‘I WANT KIDS’ but this is the first time it’s ‘I WANT A BABY’. I always liked kids, you know, ones that can have a conversation for you. I liked watching ‘Adoption Stories’ on tv, and didn’t understand why people would watch like ‘Baby Diaries’ and stuff instead (there are exactly two adoption shows on cable, and they only get like two new episodes a year it seems like. There are like two dozen baby shows, and I never understood why. I mean, adoption is all the good emotions without the screaming and the blood.)
    But the reason why it’s BABYBABYBABYBABYBABY right now is because my friends are starting to have babies for the first time. I did have a 16 year old friend in high school, but that didn’t set anything off. But since then, none of my CLOSE friends (tons of my peripheral friends, if you know what I mean, but none of my it’s not weird to call up for no real reason friends). But two of my friends just had a baby Friday. And one of my two very best friends is two months along. And my best friend from high school is four months along. And my other best friend’s older sister is three months along.
    And all I can think is BABYBABYBABYBABYBABY. And WEDDINGWEDDINGWEDDING, actually. Also HOUSEHOUSEHOUSE. Hahaha. But the wedding and the house were already there. Actually, I confess I’m not engaged. I have BEEN engaged before, and found I liked reading wedding sites and planning. And I’m in a relationship that I am 98% positive will result in marriage. He and I talk about it like every other day, as like a foregone conclusion. But we’re not rushing it (from our perspective). But when you say, yeah me and my boyfriend of less then a year were discussing wedding invitation styles and baby names, people stare at you. But I’m one of those people who thinks about things wayyy before they happen, and in a lesser way, so is he. Actually, the other day he was asking if I was going to be in the delivery when my friend delivered and I said no, probably the first time I’ll be in the delivery room will be with my own kids, and maybe the next would be if we had a daughter and she was having a baby and he started laughing and said, ‘oh, so you’re thinking about grandkids already?’ hahaha (he thought it was cute)

  • It’s been a few days, but I still felt compelled to post a comment. Because, omg, Meg, you get me! This is a post for me. Holy cow, have I had baby fever for most of my life. I, too, love babies. And even more than babies, I love little kids. I mean, bring your 3 year old to the park with me, and you can go have a manicure, get a latte, go have happy hour, whatever. We’re chill.

    But recently I’ve been wondering and thinking. My hormones aren’t quite as a raging. I’m 28, and a little part of me goes “woah, kids are a big commitment!” I still want them . . . but it’s not so overwhelming.

    And, yes, my ovaries used to ache too. They still do at the right time of the month. But mostly I just genuinely like kids, look forward to having them, and am no longer so rabid about it.

    Oh, and regarding traveling: you can still travel with kids. and they will remember it! My first trip abroad was when I was 6. My brothers were 8 and 4, and our parents took us to Guatemala. We slept on my uncle’s floor and only brought two suitcases between 5 of us. Heck, we drove from Omaha to Houston to save money. It was a budget trip. But it was awesome! I distinctly remember a lot about that trip. I learned Spanish in our two weeks there (and still speak it, though not as well). And even my little bro remembers bits and pieces. We went back again when we were 6, 8, and 10 (I was 8). Still awesome! And none of us have stopped traveling since. My parents have taken the occasional trip on their own, and we travel on our own, but every five years or so we try to do a big family trip. If you love to travel, truly love it, you will find a way to make it work with kids.

  • I don’t usually say this, although this post is outstanding. I have been browsing Yahoo and google all day for a respectable post on the toxic dump of duplicated and thieved information that the Web has become and then I finally come to this, this website is the breath of refreshing air that I needed this morning.