The Future Children We *Might* Have Are Visitors In Our Home

We have the home field advantage; they have tiny sweaters


Eric and I have a running joke about the ongoing sporting match in our house between the “home team” and “the visitors.” We are the home team. Our future children are the visitors. We are unofficially keeping score.

Every time we see a tiny cable-knit sweater, the visitors score. Every time one of the dogs throws up in the middle of the night, it’s a point for the home team. It started off as kind of a “We’re so not ready for kids!” joke but… now we’re starting to realize that the only thing in the visitors’ column is tiny sweaters. (And maybe tiny glasses and also tiny Halloween costumes because omg!) The visitors may score some fun superficial points here and there… but the home team is still winning by a lot.

For most of my life, I’d use the phrase “When I have kids some day…” but I said it without really meaning it, the same way I might say, “When I’m an astronaut…” or “When I’m working in the White House…” It was one of those future things that wasn’t real, but that I figured could be at some point. I took my lack of real interest in making this a reality as a sign of youth, of immaturity, of having other priorities.

After I met Eric, there came a point when I thought, Oh, okay, I can see why people want to have kids when they are in love. I love him so much, so the idea of having a tiny him who we raise together is kind of awesome! But even though planning a life with him made me want kids more than I did before, it didn’t actually make me want a kid. It did make me think that I might want one eventually though so… that was a start?

In the spring of 2012, I learned I needed to have surgery to have a bum Fallopian tube removed, effectively cutting my fertility in half; based on the persistent portrayal of women my age as fertility-focused maniacs, I was surprised I wasn’t more upset about it. After the surgery, I was told that my damaged tube was actually just had a few cysts, which they had removed, leaving my fully functioning tube there. And at that moment, I felt…well, a little disappointed. I didn’t realize until then that I was kind of hoping that the decision would be (half) made for me. And that’s when I started to realize that, for me, perhaps the home team was a lot further in the lead than I had originally thought.

Eric and I have had a lot of conversations about this, but the problem is that the dominant conversations on the topic portray all adults as being on one of two teams: Team I Always Knew I Wanted To Be A Parent or Team I Always Knew Kids Weren’t For Me. Neither Eric nor I can join either of those teams, though we’re comfortable with both of them. That makes navigating this considerably more difficult. After many conversations about this in the three years we’ve been together, here is what we do know:

We both feel like we have the personalities and skills that lend themselves to good parenting… but we’d prefer to use them to nurture people who aren’t kids. Eric said during one of these conversations that in an office, every team needs someone who basically helps keep everything together and reminds everyone to eat their broccoli. We’re good at reminding people to eat their broccoli… we just prefer to remind adults. We think you need people in a community who can help the caretakers take care of themselves sometimes. I will happily babysit your kids so you can have a date night, or whisk you away for some grown-up conversation when you need it. (I will also happily hang out with you and your kid sometimes!) But when Eric and I think about things like mentoring or just cheering people on, both of us agree we’d much rather do that for older teenagers or adults than kids. 

It’s not about money, work, or logistics. To pretend it is would be unfair to the great parents who don’t have a ton of money and to the working parents who love their kids and make it all work. While not feeling like we can afford kids is certainly a part of it (and not having any family around is too), when we ask ourselves, “What if we had a combined household income of $200,000? Okay, what about $500,000?” and the answer is still, “Meh,”… well… it’s pretty clear it’s not about the money.

That makes it seem like it’s pretty clear where we stand. But I’ve never been comfortable saying so definitively because I know that as soon as a woman says she doesn’t want kids, there are a million people there to say, “Oh, you’ll change your mind!”

In this friendly competition between the home team and the visitors, these spectators? Are not helping. Look, I understand that they are psychic and want to show off their psychic powers every chance they get, but they’re really just running interference. (Also, if changing your mind about having kids is so incredibly common, why they aren’t telling everyone who says they want kids, “Oh, you’ll change your mind!”?)

I’d love to shut them down with a straightforward, “No, we won’t” but I can’t… because I can’t deny that these psychic womb-watchers may be right. I may change my mind. Eric could too. We really don’t know. I’m twenty-eight; I’m perfectly aware that there is still plenty of time for my mythical biological clock to turn on. I don’t want to make any bold declarations now… but Team You’ll Change Your Fickle Womanly Mind has left me wondering when it’ll ever be okay to make that call.

(And what does making the call even look like? It’s hard to feel like you’ve really made a decision when you haven’t actually done anything. When Eric brought up the idea of getting a third dog a few months ago, I told him that it was not reasonable for us as a couple to have three dogs and a child. But what do we do at that point? Name the dog “Barren” and tell everyone it’s because he was a post-vasectomy gift from me to Eric?)

When I think about the future, I worry that even though the home team is winning right now, the visitors are playing the long game. I’m worried they are planning a sneak attack. One day, I’ll just be going about my business and this roving gang of adorable brown babies in hipster glasses and tiny sweaters (and HATS! oh god, BABIES IN ADULT MAN HATS!) is going to capture either Eric or me and we’re going to be helpless against them. I imagine one of us being held in the clutches of a giant baby like Ann Darrow in King Kong, while the other is making rescue attempts, knowing all the while that once someone gets The Baby Fever, there’s no saving them. And maybe no saving our relationship.

Not knowing is hard. Every time I see a cute baby, I look at it really hard, willing myself to feel something that tells me which way to go, that it’s time to call it. Thanks to the belligerent fans who have effectively gotten in our heads (who knew that “Heyyyyy batter-batter-batter” shit actually worked?), I’m ready for this game to be over.

Photo from Rachel’s personal collection

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  • Violet

    Rachel, eloquent and funny, as usual. I can’t help but feel like we (meaning people with reliable access to forms of birth control or people who will use adoption or modern means of conception) are totally being set up here. Waaaaaay back in the day, when human’s brains were being hard-wired, people didn’t have a choice! If two people with specific body parts got it on, there either was a kid or wasn’t. Maybe some of those people always KNEW they wanted the resulting kid, maybe some always KNEW they didn’t. But what they knew they wanted was mostly irrelevant, ’cause you got what you got (or didn’t, as the case may be). It frustrates me that all of a sudden 100% of the population is supposed to have a strong opinion on this thing that wasn’t *really* a choice before. Technology moves much faster than the repitilian part of our brains. Again, not discounting the people who KNOW how they feel one way or the other (cool for them), I’m just saying, how do we know that’s the most common response? Yet as you point out, lots of spectators seem to think Everyone Knows.

    • Granola

      THIS. Sometimes a petty part of me is irritated that I have to make all of these momentous life choices and just wants an accident to happen or “fate” to decide.

      • Helen

        I’m totally on the fence here too, and always assumed/hoped that I would get pregnant by accident and then be really happy about it. But now I’m marrying a woman, so there goes that dream.

    • Meg Keene

      YES THIS. Also, I think it’s driven this cultural idea in America that kids are some sort of… luxury fashion accessory? I’m writing about this next week, but I find that there are times people won’t even open a door for me when I’m carrying a baby because, “You chose to have a kid, your problem.” (Kids as problems is another issue worth exploring).

      And I’ve written in the past about the fact that I think the idea that to have a kid you need to be 110% sure is… bullshit. We’re not wired that way. And by that I don’t mean SO EVERYONE HAVE A BABY (because obviously, no). But just that being unsure and settling on one or the other is totally normal. I also think it’s perfectly possible to be happy with OR without kids, though I know that’s not really going to get out there as a more relaxing cultural narrative ;)

      • ” I’m writing about this next week, but I find that there are times people won’t even open a door for me when I’m carrying a baby because, “You chose to have a kid, your problem.” ”

        ^Wow, really? That comment made me really sad and disappointed in humanity :( I hope people aren’t like that. Whatever happened to manners and opening the door for someone regardless of whether they have a baby, a zebra, or nothing. I like the idea of everyone having that deep innate respect for mothers, as people that are doing something magical and are kind of other-worldy. Like, they’re helping re-plant seeds in the universe and it’s our job to bring as much water and sunshine to the plot. Sigh.

        • Meg Keene

          Yeah. Wouldn’t that be nice. We (or I, at least) certainly do not live in that culture. Sadly.

          Though if I’m carrying a zebra, I really will expect more respect. I’m just saying.

          • lady brett

            i will open any door for anyone with a zebra, for the record.

            but also, i might guess that this is somewhat locational? because here in a small city in the south i can’t do any damn thing myself when i have the baby. which is both nice and hard.

          • Class of 1980

            You took the words out of my mouth, Lady. This has got to be a location thing. It’s not happening in the south. No way.

        • Katie

          So not entirely on topic, but this reminded me of “The Host” by Stephanie Meyers (the book not the meh movie-version)… In it, the “alien” basically explains that for her kind, to be a mother requires one to give up herself (her existence) in order to create a new generation and in their culture, this is seen as this amazing (but rare) sacrifice…. basically mothers were held in the highest regard even though most never became mothers and they effectively died in order to be mothers.

      • Lauren from NH

        If it makes you feel better…
        When I was out shopping on Black Friday, my guy was trying on clothes in the handicapped dressing room (because it was free). I was “supervising” outside the door. After five minutes or so a lady with a stroller was next in line and the clerk said she could wait for the bigger room to free up if she preferred. I jumped up and said we would be happy to switch and my guy hustled right out to the smaller space to accommodate her.
        All mom’s deserve a hand!

      • J

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: “And I’ve written in the past about the fact that I think the idea that
        to have a kid you need to be 110% sure is… bullshit. We’re not wired
        that way.” I’ve been thinking about it because I’m 8.5 months pregnant (!!), after having gotten to a point when my husband and I were at a point when we just kind of picked a date (about six months out from the initial conversation) after which we’d start trying. I’d say we were pretty sure we wanted kids, in the abstract, but neither of us was having an overwhelming urge that NOW was the TIME. (We were 30.)

        But here’s the interesting (to me) thing – I think that one of the major reasons I didn’t have a stronger visceral urge to have kids is because of the extreme lack of babies in our lives. I love babies, but I spend time with them like once every month or six weeks – neither of our families is local and only a very small number of our friends have babies so far. Every time I spend time with a baby, I get a strong “Oh, yeah, I want one of those!” feeling, but then I don’t hold another baby for weeks and I forget about it. That’s not at ALL to say that there aren’t plenty of people that don’t want a baby, or aren’t sure if they want a baby, for any number of reasons or just because. However, in addition to now having to make a CHOICE about whether we have kids, I wonder if our current social structure, with young people moving away from families, delaying having kids, not being part of tight-knit, family-driven communities, etc. might also have an impact on how we feel about this.

        (I feel the need to add that I’m now very excited about the baby we’re about to have and sure that I want him!)

        • Meg Keene

          First, you don’t even have to add the disclaimer. I think it’s totally normal to be completly unsure while you’re pregnant. So, if anyone is feeling that way, just, fist bumps.

          But anyway. YES. I think the fact that we don’t live in a multi-generational society shapes so many things, in ways I think are not particularly healthy at all.

  • Teddy

    Thank you – every. word!

  • loxy

    A great read.

    I feel very much the same way, with one caveat – I’m five years older. That time constraint is the most difficult aspect to deal with. Might I want one, one day? If so, one day is actually in the future time period I need to be considering.

    I figure time will just run out before I decide and the decision will be made for me.

    • Me too, but almost 10 years older and now minus a husband. I am trying not to worry about it and assume it will work out one way or the other. Not much I can do about it I guess…

    • Jacky Speck

      If you do make up your mind and decide on kids later in life, you could adopt or become a foster parent. So it doesn’t have to be “game over” just because it would be difficult to have biological kids. Of course, not becoming a parent would be fine, and so would never deciding– just saying it doesn’t have to be a high-pressure decision!

  • Rachel

    This is great. The home team is currently kicking ass in our house. Because we both *think* we want kids someday, the visitor’s sneak attack is more something we are curious about than afraid of. We hope they get it together at some point, because if they have no long term game plan they will never win! And I think I want the visitors to win.

    • Lauren

      Yes! This is how it is in my house too. For us, it’s my partner who is leaning towards the visitors right now. But it turns out I think I’m hoping for a sneak attack too. Luckily, there’s time.

  • LC

    Thank you for this! You articles are always so well-written and clear, especially when dealing with things that are not so clean-cut. I’m more solidly in the “We don’t want kids” boat, and the spectators have surprised me. A couple years ago, I mentioned it to a friend and her friend when we were out to dinner. The two other women were shocked, and one just looked at me and said, “Well, talk to me in ten years.” I kind of wanted to explode. Yes, lots changes between twenty-three and thirty-three, but thanks for telling me that my decisions aren’t valid before a certain age. My friend then spent a good portion of another night trying to convince me that my reasons for not wanting children were just obstacles, and my fiance and I should definitely have kids. I kept thinking, “Why is this such a big deal for you?” It was really strange to have people trying to talk me into motherhood, and makes me feel like if we ever do decide to have kids I’ll hear some random “I told you so’s”.

    Thanks again, Rachel! I always love reading your work.

    • Jacky Speck

      “Why is this such a big deal for you?” … YES. THANK YOU. My fiance and I are mostly undecided about kids, but we still get the “Oh, you’ll definitely want them in a few years!” thing all. the. time. I understand when it’s coming from family, because they want cute little grandchildren/nieces/nephews to play with. But why on earth do so many random people outside the family care whether we have kids?? We’ve gotten it from his coworkers, friends of our parents, even relatives’ neighbors, none of whom would seem to have a vested interest in our desire to procreate.

      • KEA1

        And, um, even from family it’s not okay. If they want you to take on the overwhelming, life-altering, all-influencing-if-not-all-consuming mantle of parenthood just so that THEY can have cute little grandchildren/nieces/nephews/whatever to play with, they need to get a hobby.

        • Jacky Speck

          Yup, it’s not ok… Just easier to understand where they’re coming from.

          When the “Are you having kids?” question comes from family, I always respond with, “That depends- are you going to sign up for unlimited babysitting whenever I don’t feel like taking care of them?” Usually they just laugh and the conversation ends. Pretty sure they don’t realize it’s actually a serious question.

          • My husband jokes that every time someone asks us that he is going to give them a cat. He figures they’ll stop asking after two.

      • Gina

        Ugh THIS. I work in an office with several older, well-meaning women that, since the DAY I got married, have been sizing up my stomach and commenting on my caffeine intake. It’s infuriating. I told them all I don’t want kids (just to get them off my back, which I realize was not the most mature way to handle it because I definitely do) but I just feel like it’s so inappropriate that they care about, basically, my sex life. The crazy thing about all of it is that, if I did get pregnant in my current job, my boss would be pretty pissed. I just want to scream “it is none of your damn business!”

        • Jacky Speck

          Sizing up your stomach and commenting on your caffeine intake?? Wtf! Just think about how much more annoying they’d be if you were actually pregnant. It’s widely considered rude to comment on people’s bodies or health in a public setting, but for some reason that all goes out the window when it comes to pregnancy.

        • M.

          Ugh, please say something to them if you can do it without damaging the work environment. Because..ugh.

        • I feel like pointing out that they are asking you about your sex life is crucial! That seems like the thing that these types seem to disregard…like, have they seriously thought about exactly what they are asking you!? It’s reallllly inappropriate and I feel like it needs to be called out more often!

          • Gina

            I SO agree that it needs to be called out more often! Lol you guys have convinced me it’s sufficiently inappropriate of them to merit an answer of “are you asking about my sex life?” the next time I’m asked.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            I’ve only gotten the comments from one person, a stranger. I just started explaining the problems with our sex life.

          • ItsyBit


        • Alison O

          Yeah, you can definitely tell them it’s none of their business without screaming it. ;) Google it if you want to see examples of wording others have used.

        • Alyssa M

          This bothers me A LOT. It really really really is none of their business, and I’ve been there. Can’t get a stomach flu without raised eyebrows. I think I may have to employ the “sex life” response…

      • Jennie

        What is hard for me is the constant questions. We’ve been married for just over a year and the visitors recently won (yay no more IUD, even if it takes a while to get knocked up). But this was a quiet decision between my husband and myself & no one else knows we’ve stopped preventing pregnancy. At Thanksgiving, my best friend waited until everyone (read: my mom & his mom) was there to loudly ask when we were going to have a baby. I jokingly said 5-11years. But really, I’ll let you know when it happens, I’m not going to surprise you one day with a 3 month old you didn’t know was coming.

        I feel like where ever you are on the babies/no babies spectrum, the people around you will get the information they need. If you have no baby/child, then right now, you don’t have one. If you are pregnant, adopting or fostering people will know when you’re ready to tell them. Why the need for such personal questions unless you start the conversation yourself?

        • Alyssa

          This is pretty much where we are — we just stopped preventing. Coincidentally, Warner Chilcott stopped making the only birth control pill that’s ever effectively regulated my cycle and I’ve tried several in the past 10 years. Without the pill, my cycles are bonkers, anywhere from 10 days to 150 days long. So it may take awhile to actually get pregnant.

          Even though I’m pretty close with my mom, I have NOT told her about Warner effing Chilcott not making my pill anymore. She’d think I was pregnant every time I called to ask about her day, and it would be exhausting for both of us.

          “But really, I’ll let you know when it happens, I’m not going to surprise
          you one day with a 3 month old you didn’t know was coming.”

    • Anna

      LC, as a fellow childfree woman, I completely understand. For some reason at my age (25) I’m considered too young to know I don’t want children, but not too young to know I do want children. How does that work?

  • Sarah E

    I get you on the not wanting kids front. On paper, I’d probably be fine as a mom- my babysitting charges always asked for me to come back, anyway. But I really don’t have any interest in raising kids. Like, at all. For me, it’s not tiny sweaters, but the thought of my partner as a dad residing by itself in the “visitors” column. But he’s not overly interested in kids either. Considering all of my cousins who got married in the past three years are now all pregnant or have a newborn . . .I think the pressure is going to grow on me after I get married.

    I was thinking about it the past couple days as I visited my conservative Catholic family (I’m imagining they don’t often hear “I don’t want kids”), and I think my standard response is going to be “I don’t feel called to it” and upon the change-your-mind warnings, I’ll do my best to give a polite “Well, anything can happen!” Which ti me, acknowledges that I can’t predict the future and yes, I can change my mind anytime I damn well please, but I’m not planning on it.

    • Meg Keene

      Aw. I really love, “I don’t feel called to do it.” I mean, hi, religious. But I love that. Because we’re called to do a lot of things in our lives, and if you’re not called to raise kids, that gives you space to do a lot of other really meaningful things.

      <3 <3 <3 Favorite response ever. If someone said that to me, I'd definitely tear up. In the good way.

      • Cathi

        Yes yes yes. “I don’t feel called to it” really resonates with [religious] me. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to frame it in that way–especially since a huge part of the premarital counseling through Husband’s Catholic church was focused on understanding God’s calling for us as spouses/parents.

      • Helen

        Yeah! And also shows that you’re not AGAINST having kids, necessarily. It’s just that it’s not at the top of the list of all the millions of amazing things you can do with your life.

      • Grumps

        And this is also exactly how I feel as an atheist childfree lady. Brilliant.

        I’ve often said, in discussing my choice and feelings with people, that (in our society where it is now comparatively easy to make reproductive life choices our grandmothers couldn’t) the decision to have children should only be done with a sense of calling, vocation, commitment, joy – you have to want to have a child because you want to parent, and because you want to LOVE. It is a calling.

    • Erin E

      Sarah, I love “I don’t feel called to it” as well – and I’m not religious. That phrase just really captures the idea that we can be “called” (or not) towards many things in our lives… jobs, charities, cities, to name a few. I like that this phrase acknowledges the idea that we can trust in our own intuition and follow where it leads.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I was using that language earlier this week. For a lot of religious people I know, being called to marriage is the same as being called to parenthood. I know lots of honeymoon babies! I imagine it’s similar for non-religious people, too. I definitely read lots of stories about people marrying when they reach a point where they also have a timeline for parenthood.

      And I thought that’s how it would work for my husband and me. Also, everything others have said about being ambivalent and having fate decide. Then I got married and learned that with our biology, we would never get pregnant accidentally-on-purpose. Only on-purpose-purpose will work. So now I have to discern a possible calling to parenthood rather than just “seeing what happens,” and that’s hard.

    • Alaina Bos

      I love this response “I don’t feel called to do it”. I feel like it sort of takes the pressure off you as an individual who may be “choosing” not to have kids but also leaves the door open for what could be.

  • Rebecca

    You know, babies become older kids and then teenagers and adults. Deciding to be a parent isn’t deciding to have a BABY, it’s deciding to create a PERSON. I personally think that smart, quality people should make more people, so that the world will have more smart, quality people in it.

    • TeaforTwo

      I think your first two sentences are seriously important. (Although I would stop short of encouraging other people to make people, because it’s still a personal decision.)

      The conversation about having kids often turns into how much people you like kids, or how much you like babies, or what have you. And that’s a big part of having kids, for sure. But my partner and I are both from big families, and the thing that makes me want a big family is the sheer joy of sitting down at a dinner table of 12, with parents, and five adult kids and their five adult partners. And then grandkids. Babies are cute, but when I think about having them, it’s more because I want to make a family than a toddler.

      • Jacki

        Heartily co-signing *your* first two sentences, Tea for Two! And, your second paragraph is the only reason I might consider having a child … the eventual outcome. The grown-up family that my hypothetical baby would become.

        My partner has a son who will be five this month, and we always said if he got to 8 or so and we hadn’t had a child, that was that. And for me, regardless of this relationship and this child, if I get to 35 and haven’t had a child, my plan has always been to have a tubal ligation and officially close the door. Being a mother is not something for which I long – as much as I love being an auntie, and love my partner’s child.

        It’s entirely likely that I’d be a good mom, and really enjoy the person my hypothetical baby grew up to be, but making people is a HUGE decision – an intensely personal one that really can’t be taken lightly or “talked into” (which, holy shit, tell someone you don’t want kids only if you want to get your ear chewed off about why you don’t possibly mean it, why you’ll change your mind or have an oops, why you JUST SHOULD HAVE THEM BECAUSE BABIES, etc. Even my mother rolls her eyes and laughs at me over this, which is pretty discouraging!).

    • I can’t help but feel a tinge of shaming in this comment. In part because it seems to discount the idea that Rachel and her husband (or anyone not sure they want kids for that matter) aren’t aware that having a baby doesn’t mean a baby for life but in fact means creating a person. And honestly, to me personally, its the part where they become people that frightens me about parenthood, not the baby years.

      People who want to have kids, good on you/us. People who don’t, good on them too! I was born to parents who shouldn’t have been parents and obviously didn’t want kids. I applaud adults who take the time to ask themselves the tough questions about parenthood and decide its not for them. All the things that make Rachel and Eric potentially good parents, makes them good people right now.

      • js

        Yes to all you said but that’s not what Rachel said. She wants to mentor teenagers/adults/people not wearing tiny sweaters, when the whole point is to make that tiny human into the kind of person you would be proud to know. The focus, while maybe not Rachel’s, of any kids convo is about how you’ll never sleep again, have sex or a normal conversation if you have a baby and that’s just not true. Rebecca, I think, is pointing out that a lot of this conversation about babies, while hard, is also temporary. I’m not saying either side is correct, but I personally think so much of this commentary is so self-indulgent that it’s clear some people just should not be parents. And that’s okay, too.

        • Fair enough. Though I’d argue that mentoring and parenting are two VERY different beasts. One can give an awful lot to mankind without procreating. And in my opinion, its people like Rachel and Eric (who choose to dedicate time and energy to mentoring and helping people who are not their own blood relations), are extra special and wonderful people. To me, its a lot easier to love and cherish your own child (or so I’ve been told) than it is to love and care for a stranger.

          We need all kinds of people in this world, people who want to be parents and who will work hard to raise loved and caring people and those who make the conscious choice to help their fellow humans outside their homes, to help those who maybe didn’t get the good parents. You’ll never convince me there is a right and wrong choice on this matter but I think a lot of people feel there is a right and wrong choice. That’s the shame of this kind of conversation, too many people actually think there is only one way to be.

        • This thread makes me think that in considering this, we should change the question from “Do I want to have a baby?” to “Do I want to be a parent?” Because that’s what Eric and I are really discussing, and I think that helps avoid putting the focus onto sleep/sex/normal conversations and the ways babies interrupt your life.

      • “And honestly, to me personally, its the part where they become people that frightens me about parenthood, not the baby years.” Yes, thank you for this. This post did focus on my thoughts on kids, but for the most part when I say “kid” I really mean “offspring.” I didn’t mean to imply that babies aren’t for me but I do desire to have an offspring who is a teenager or adult…because they would still be *my* child even if they weren’t *a* child if that makes sense. And so the relationship is just completely different than it is to other teenagers or adults.

    • I think maybe I should have framed this as not wanting to be a parent, rather than implying that my/our hesitation has something to do with a child’s age. While I would probably *rather* remind teenagers or adults to eat their broccoli, I think that ultimately, I don’t want to remind *my own offspring* to eat their broccoli…no matter their age. I suppose I’d prefer parenting an adult child to parenting a toddler, but creating a person and parenting said person just doesn’t really appeal to me (or us) in the same way that supporting adults does? So I think it’s actually more about the nature of the relationship than the ages of the person.

    • Meg Keene

      I was just having this conversation with Maddie, and I wanted to jump on the train. I don’t want push people to procreate (because not procreating because it’s not right for you is probably the best thing ever). But that said, I find the way we think about it a little bit skewed. We’re taught to ask ourselves, “Do I want a baby or not?” and we’ll spend years debating the question. The funny thing is, babies last for… a year. I’m moments away from not having a baby anymore, in fact. And the reality is, almost everyone likes one stage less than another stage. As much as I loved having my own brand new person, in lots of ways, I’m not really a little baby person. I really love kids from about 18 months to five, and then teenagers. Those are just my ideal ages, and that’s fine.

      But my real point is that, if you’re working over this question, and trying to figure out what you want, I’d urge you to reframe it as, “Do I want to be someone’s parent (for forever)?” Because you’ll have a baby for a hot second, and a toddler for two hot seconds, and a kid for a few years. But you’ll have a lifetime of a relationship with a person. That’s not me SELLING it: you might or might not want that. But the baby thing is gone in a snap (sniffle). It’s the relationship, and whatever bigger family you end up building through those relationships, that lasts forever.

      • Rachael

        YES. And this is the part that, for me personally, is so so scary. And really, I think it might partially be because past the cute toddler stage is somewhat unknown to me, outside of relatives (which, at least in my family, are not big self-reflective sharers of feelings and thoughts). My friends have babies and toddlers and they are all smitten with these cute little beings wearing cute little sweaters. They all tell me how much they love being a parent in an attempt to talk me into joining in on the fun. I get that, little kids are cute and fun. But that is only a tiny fraction of parenthood. Talk to me in 5, 10, 15, or even 30 years and give me the real scoop on what it’s like to be a parent and nurture and shape a human life.

        • Meg Keene

          See. That’s interesting to me. Because yes, tiny cute baby in cute sweaters is amazing (and hard). But to me, I think the selling point is the long game. Having a relationship with this person forever. Seeing them grow into the person they were meant to become. (Hopefully) having family gathered together 30 years from now. That’s the good stuff. The fact that I get to be this persons mother FOREVER?? That, my friends, is where the magic is at.

          • lady brett

            everything about the idea of parenting was (and lots of it still is) scary to me, but one of the reasons fostering makes so much sense to me is that the forever part is *by far the scariest* (of course, scary and magic often go in hand). although i suspect we will get there someday, it was essential (i think) for me to be able to separate parenting and parenting forever into two different options in order to be able to handle the idea at all.

          • Meg Keene

            I love this. And also: scary and magic do so often go hand in hand.

            I also like this part of what Rachel’s saying: she can parent people without being a parent. Right? The world needs more of that.

          • M.

            This was something that really surprised me during my student teaching. How many “my kids” (~14yrs old) sought or seemed to need parenting from teachers. Just extra love and support and high expectations and interest. (Younger) adult mentors are definitely in demand.

          • Meg Keene

            YES. Says the woman who’s mom is a elementary school teacher. I particularly love mentoring high school girls. And being an auntie to friends kids. Let’s be for real. A parent isn’t enough. You need adults that are NOT parents too, as a kid.

          • M.

            Some of the sweetest and most rewarding moments of my life so far were in my interactions with my 9th grade girls. Aw, I miss them. :’)

      • Kestrel

        See, and this is what I realized that started tipping me towards the visitors.

        I don’t like babies. Infants are ugly and no fun at all. I don’t want to be woken up in the middle of the night, I don’t particularly want to be pregnant, I don’t like the sticky hands that small children inevitably have.

        But I absolutely love showing people things they haven’t seen before. I love watching people learn and grow. I love being a part of that growing, and I love (and am terrified) that I can have an actual part in someone’s life.

        Kid stages happen. And will pass. Humans, however, are fascinating.

      • Aubry

        Absolutely! I always have said: pregnancy and childbirth a big, huge NO THANKS. Babies I can take or leave, 2 – 6 is Terrifying with a capital “T”, 6-9 can be good or Bad, but 10+ man – I am so on board for that. People say teens are scary but I love them. I connect with people that age (and I know several hundred children very well because I run a dance studio).

        That is what brought me to maybe foster, as C is on board for that too. But I also feel the same way I do about dogs as kids(and please forgive the comparison of dogs and kids, I do it all the time and some people get offended) in that I want a puppy rather than a rescue adult so I can train it right the first time and not have to deal with someone else’s mistakes forever. Also C totally rocks at babies and little kids. Maybe we can tag team.

    • Jess

      I struggled for a while with how to say what I want to say here. I had a very painful and angry reaction to this comment and found it very hurtful, similar to the “you’ll change your mind” statements Rachel talked about.

      I felt like you tried to take what can be a very difficult, emotional decision to raise a person and make it very light and essentially say “Well, if you’re a good person, why wouldn’t you want to have a child?! Everybody does it, it’s such an easy decision!” I felt like you made some assumptions that people who don’t want to raise kids are selfish and don’t care about increasing the smart, good people in the world. I felt like you discounted a lot of very good reasons people may not want to parent, but still want to find ways to help others.

      “Deciding to be a parent isn’t deciding to have a BABY, it’s deciding to create a PERSON.”

      You’re right – having a child isn’t having a baby. It’s being responsible for a person and their needs, actions, and feelings over the course of their life. That’s the biggest commitment someone can make, more than getting married or buying a house or taking a new job. It is permanent and cannot be undone. That is a HUGE deal, so weighty, so much responsibility and pressure to create the “right” person. Shaping a person throughout their life is a big, emotional, and personal choice. If somebody doesn’t really want to do that, they shouldn’t be asked to/forced to by society’s expectations.

      It’s not hating to change diapers and not wanting to deal with waking up in the middle of the night to feed a screaming baby that make all people not want to parent, sometimes people don’t want to shape a person over the course of their entire life. The amount of resources – both physical and emotional – that go into creating a person are enormous. Someone becoming a parent through whatever means (conventional, IVF, adoption…etc.) should be willing and able to give up those resources, wanting to for the sake of this mini-human. Not everybody is, or is sure that they are, and that doesn’t make us bad people or uncaring. It just means we don’t really want to be a parent, not that we don’t want to help society or that we don’t care about others.

      While I like the idea of having more good people out there, I don’t think that asking smart, quality people who don’t want to raise a person to adulthood to do so is the way to get more smart, quality people. Maybe there is a gene for that and we should only allow smart, quality people to reproduce… but I think a better way is having children who are raised in a loving home where they are wanted and enabling and encouraging them to be smart, quality people. I think we can find ways to encourage all teenagers and adults to become smart, quality people regardless of the home environment they come from.

      • Yeah, I also had a lot of feelings when I read the original comment above. What rubbed me the wrong way was actually talking about “smart, quality” people. While I appreciate the compliment, there is something in it that made me feel like…I don’t know, being educated and middle class means I’d automatically be a good parent (and, conversely, not being educated or well-off means you wouldn’t)? And the implication that there are currently too many “low-quality” kids being born so that I need to help offset that with some good stock makes me very uncomfortable.

        • Jess

          I definitely think this was a part of what got me and I couldn’t figure out how to address it the right way. I kind of meant to talk about it with, “Maybe there’s a smart, quality people gene…” (I don’t think there is) and getting everybody to be good people regardless the home environment or history at the end, but didn’t hit it.

          People from all walks of life can be good parents or bad parents and good parents and bad parents can end up having really great kids. I know a lot of examples in all directions.

          I definitely couldn’t figure out how I felt about the “low-quality” assumption.

          I think part of me is like, “Hey, there are a lot of kids out in the world that don’t have opportunities! I want kids to have opportunities!” and then I realized that I really just want people to have opportunities to become the people they want to be.

          There are a lot of people out in the world who aren’t where they want to be in their life, or don’t do the things that others think they should, but I don’t think that makes them inherently bad people. If maybe they feel like they are, or the people they are around think they are, they don’t have to be. People change at all stages of life.

          It was such a small comment, and I think it was meant well, as if to say, “Having kids is a great choice for me and makes me happy! I want you to be happy! I want there to be people that are growing up to be happy!” I felt like it missed that sometimes that choice isn’t for everyone and had a really strong response to it and felt like that needed to be out there. I guess if we go back to feminism month, this is my fight.

        • Alison O

          Some rambling thoughts this got going… Thinking about who is fit and who is not to become a parent is definitely dicey. Hello, scary eugenics. Though I do think most everyone has opinions of people’s choices to bring children into the world. I find that mine have little to do with demographics. Three families that immediately come to mind as exemplars of who would ideally shape the humans of the world (which feels weird to even say because I am not the arbiter of human goodness) are all, or at one point were, of low enough income to receive government assistance, and they were of different racial and educational backgrounds, but all were very loving, intentional, and responsible. One of them is my partner’s family.

          I was also reminded of one of the couples from MTV’s Teen Mom. They were the only people on the show I’ve seen (though I’ve only seen maybe 5 episodes) that opted to put their child up for adoption, despite parental pressure to keep it. I do not think it is a coincidence that they also appeared to be the strongest, most mature and considerate couple/individuals. I walked away thinking, wow, these people might be great parents if and when the time comes.

          So I think for me it boils down to thoughtfulness in terms of what does “smart, quality” get at, though I would not use those terms. Not simply going along with the flow of the crowd’s customs and expectations requires thoughtfulness. Not having children in our society, physiological reasons aside, is going against the current, which requires a certain kind of strength. If this kind of strength and thoughtfulness are part of one’s definition of good parenting, I can see how someone might lament that those people are not shaping the next generation as parents and the irony that what is leading them not to have children are the same qualities that might equip them well for the job.

          This is super squishy territory that is more of a thought experiment than an actual useful perspective on the world, unless it leads us to make change so that 1) people have the resources and information and freedom from social and economic pressure to consider and make choices that are the best for them as individuals, and 2) one way or another all children grow up with love and support to become their best selves.

          As an aside, two conclusions that should not be drawn from the above:
          1. Teen parents cannot do well. No…one of the families I mentioned above had kids as teens.

          2. People who choose not to have kids are more thoughtful and strong than those who do. Obviously, no.

        • EmLeMat

          Yes to this. My father is a social worker. He often talks about the idea of “good-enough” parenting, which I think this was in vogue a lot in the late-80s. The basic idea is: yes, parents can certainly screw up their kids, and a certain amount of emotional intelligence really makes a difference. But above this basic threshold, the “quality” of the parenting doesn’t actually matter that much. You don’t need fancy books and toys and curriculums…you just need to be invested in your children’s emotional lives.

    • Alison O

      Indeed. My issue at this point is I’d love to have a baby or small child. At about eight I’d be fine with them hitting the road. If I end up having kids and this feeling hasn’t changed substantially, it’ll be on faith that I’ll love them enough as they grow up to still want them. :)

      For now I have a Maltese. He is like a permanent newborn, snuggly, soft, 8 lbs, learns to do cute new things, without any of the less pleasant stuff, no diapers, no tantrums. However, he costs a lot to fly with, while babies are free. And he doesn’t even get to sleep in my lap. What the f.

    • Kathy

      Yes, Yes, Yes to the concept that someone is becoming a parent, not having a baby. But smart, quality people can make meaningful and significant contributions to the planet in a form that is not necessarily creating another person. There are many ways in which to do this, one of them parenting and many, many more that aren’t.

      Please also consider that if someone is embarking upon parenthood by conceiving that it’s important they are realistic about the possibilities of what could happen. I work in Special Education and there are no guarantees about who your child will be, one part of that being their cognitive abilities. I have worked with children and their families and have seen parents grieve about autism, deafness, and severe cognitive. motor and developmental delays. I do not know if that is what you were referring to by “smart” and by no means does being anywhere on the spectrum change the quality or inherent specialness of a person. But I think one of the natural tendencies when someone is embarking on parenthood and thinking about conceiving is that they form images in their mind of this little person-that-will-be, the family around the table, and the lifelong relationship they’ll have with this person. But none of us has any way of knowing what is to be. So if you are wanting to become a parent and have a child, it’s important to be ready and know that there are many possible outcomes and that may not be at all the movie you have in your head.

      Like many things in life, having certain expectations can take away from the the beauty and what there is to gain from taking the experience purely for what it is.

  • Margi

    Thank you for sharing. As a almost 33year old woman, I ‘ve known my whole life that I didn’t want kids. I know I’d be an awesome mom, but that doesn’t mean I should have kids. And I am so tired of the “you’ll change your mind.” I also secretly hope that my fertility disappears so I don’t have to make that choice. Thank you for articulating my feelings.

    Thank you for giving me hope. My five year relationship ended because of the kids issue. Reading about you and Eric gives me hope that I will one day find someone I can be on the same page with.

    • KEA1

      Margi, I could have written every word of your post, including the 5-year-relationship ending (in part) over kids, except that I’m 38. %) Solidarity fistbump to you, and I am totally in your corner on hoping for you to find someone awesome!

  • Kendra D

    Oh my gosh, I love this analogy. Right now our home team is so far ahead that it might take an act of god or faulty birth control to give the visitor’s even a chance.

    As a teen, I was on Team I Always Knew I Wanted Kids. And then I lived with a friend, her husband, and their two kids under three for six months. Don’t get me wrong, I love those kids; but that was when it finally clicked for me that kids are a 24/7/375/rest of your life commitment. That experience bumped me to Team Could Go Either Way

    Since meeting and marrying my husband, we’ve found we’re both on Team Could Go Either Way. We agreed at the start of our marriage to wait five years to make any permanent decisions. I went and got an Implanon and effectively tabled the conversation. That just came out, which reopened it, until I got an IUD put in. We’re now sitting at 5 years again before we have to really think about this in a permanent or long lasting way.

    We’re both much more on the Team Never than anything else, but neither of us wants to fully close that door. I guess we’re waiting to see if lightning strikes and convinces us that kids are definitely for us. So far though, no dice.

    • APracticalLaura

      “Oh my gosh, I love this analogy. Right now our home team is so far ahead that it might take an act of god or faulty birth control to give the visitor’s even a chance.” AMEN.

  • I sincerely feel for Rachel. I spent about 15 years of my life sure I did not want kids and there were so many offensively sneering remarks that I would “change my mind one day”, that it made me never want to talk about it with anyone. After a late in life change of heart, I realized I did actually want kids. It could have been really embarrassing – I’d spent years telling everyone I knew, that there was NO WAY I’d ever have kids, that I didn’t like kids, etc. There were people in my life at the time who made fun of me and other nasty things because I’d changed my mind. Luckily, I was in a good place with myself when I came to this realization and I knew I had nothing to be embarrassed about. People change, life changes, you can’t predict what you will want or how you will feel in the future. I changed my mind. So what? I embraced fully what I knew would make me happy and I never looked back.

    Rachel, you may always lean more towards not having kids or one day you may change your mind and decide its for you. But I don’t think it has to be a worry – not if you don’t want it to be. Maybe it could be an acceptance of the truth – we don’t know what the future holds, but we can work hard to be happy in it. If one day you change your mind, (though I see no reason you will) you’ll be ok with it because you’ll have decided that having kids is what will make you happy. There are no losers on either side. Because as a strong and intelligent woman, you’ll make choices based on what makes you happy, so you can’t make the wrong one. That’s my hippy dippy way of looking at life at least.

    • Lauren from NH

      I am personally a big fan of the hippy dippy ways of looking at things ;)

    • C

      Not that it’s any of my business, but do you know what changed your mind regarding kids?

      I ask because I’ve been mainly in the “meh” camp regarding kids for the past 10-ish years, but lately I’ve found myself absolutely certain that I want to be a parent. I’ve attributed my change in heart to the way I feel about my fiance (and my desire to be a parent WITH HIM as opposed to wanting to be a parent generally) but I also wonder if the flip is related to the fact that I’m now 30 and that infamous biological clock is ticking.

      I guess I’m asking the question because I want to understand if my change of heart is actually related to wanting to be a parent or if it’s just weird hormones going out of control. I’m not sure that I can tell the difference at this point, or if the difference even matters.

      • I think for me it was a combo of two things you mentioned yourself – so I think you’re on the right track: Hitting 30 felt like turning a huge corner in my life, one I wasn’t prepared for. Once I turned it though, I realized that life was going to keep going whether I was happy or not. I ended up getting rid of a bad partner (who I had to parent an awful lot) and once he was gone and I was focused on what I wanted for myself, having kids became a positive thing instead of something to fear. And an awful lot of therapy honestly. ;)

        • C

          Thanks for responding. It feels good to have these feelings affirmed by someone else who’s been there. Although maybe this IS something to discuss with my therapist too. :)

      • Meg Keene

        It’s so interesting. My biology told me to have kids from about 16-26, and then it turned right off. I will say that for me, biology feels physical. It’s not “really wanting to be a parent,” so much as it’s your ovary’s actually hurting when you see a baby, and a full body physical keening.

        If your absolutely certain you want to be a parent, that’s a different thing. And an awesome thing. I’m far from alone in thinking that parenthood is awesome, and if you think it’s something you don’t want to miss, then, I’d advise not missing it, if you can. It’s just not LIKE anything else. Which is awesome.

        Also, to hell with people who give you shit about changing your mind. People who don’t change their mind are boring ;)

        (That is no way me pressuring people who don’t want kids to have kids. I always feel like I have to disclaim that.)

        • So weird about that physical thing you speak of. I’ve always wanted to be a mother but have always been scared of the being pregnant and labor thing (I hear that’s normal?). I’m engaged now (to a woman) and I feel like I swing back and forth before between “waitttt why am i craving baby??” and then being kind of terrified. I am pretty young (23, I know – I feel weird saying that because I feel like it gives people a certain impression of me when I really don’t identify with my age) and I know it will be in a few years, but my partner is older and for her sake and my parents sake (their old age) we’d like it sooner than later. I guess what I’m saying is I can’t tell if that craving is real or just a whim or if I should trust it. I’m kind of taken aback when I feel it.

        • SLW

          More on this bio/physical baby yearning topic, please. It is extremely interesting. I have never experienced anything like this before and also consider myself to be in the “meh” baby camp.

          Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but are you saying that when I subconsciously want a baby I’ll feel it in my ovaries? So perhaps I’ll know it’s “time” and I’ve “made up my mind” when my ovaries start to hurt when I see a baby? (In other words, when I see babies I’ll feel the same way I currently feel when I see dogs, haha.)

          • Meg Keene

            Whoa. No. I’m saying the opposite. I’m saying that for some of us, we have periods in our life where we have hugely strong hormonal urges to have kids. That’s just a chemical thing. You might have it, you might not. I’m not sure it says much about if you could/should/might/wanna have kids. It’s the same as being really depressed during pregnancy: chemicals. It’s not subconscious or conscious, it’s just science.

            I’m saying making a decision to have kids (should you make one, instead of having it thrust upon you, which god knows there is nothing wrong with), can really be about logic. For many of us, you’re never going to be 100% sure, and your hormones are just sending to chemical signals, attempting to get you to continue the species. If you decide to have kids, I’d argue it’s not a bad idea to have it be a logical decision. And it’s probably one you’re not going to be 100% sure about till later. You just have to decide, “We’re going to do this,” and jump in.

            None of that is an argument that everyone should have kids, obviously. It’s just saying that deciding to have kids isn’t some magical crystal ball moment. It’s just a decision: like who to marry, or where to go to college, or whether to move across the country for a job. A really big decision that you choose to make, and then roll with.

        • Jessica

          I had a similar experience where my body wanted a baby when I was 19-23, starting immediately after I met my partner. I thought it was biological (I would literally get turned on thinking about getting pregnant…?!) until literally the moment I got accepted into grad school and then my mind was like SHUT IT DOWN. Something about pursuing an intense career path overrided the biological response, or maybe the desire for a baby was really the desire for a backup plan in case my career stuff didn’t work out. Now, the longer I live in New York the less and less I want a child (is it the fact that I meet so many women here who have their first kid at 38? It is sheer terror at the thought of the financial and logistical challenges that come with having a baby here? Is it the close proximity of many screaming, non-stop-talking children with their strollers on the train and their tired parents spending their commute talking in simple sentences and disciplining rather than getting to enjoy a book or some silence?).

          • Kestrel

            Huh. For me it was kind of the opposite. I’d always assumed that I’d totally be the career women. If I had kids, it would be an afterthought. When I was really young, I did think about being pregnant a lot – I thought it was fascinating and exciting and scary – particularly because I never saw anyone who was pregnant or was ever around small babies (I’m the youngest).

            But once I got into grad school, I realize that this just isn’t all what I want out of life. First, my love of teaching got kickstarted again when I was a TA, and that’s something I’ve always really, really enjoyed – showing people parts of the world they haven’t experience before.

            While I’m still certainly going to still be an engineer, it’s considerably more likely that I really do want kids. Although, to be fair, it could be those hormones talking. I’m 23 and getting married next year, so this is about when they supposedly kick in, right?

        • SamiSidewinder

          Mine turned off too! I spent my entire youth dreaming of being a mom, then poof. I still sometimes think it would be nice, but mostly REALLY scary. I kept thinking that it was just that I found stability and happiness in my life that made the big change of kids more profound.

          Mostly I think I’ll end up having kids at some point b/c I’m pretty sure I’ll regret not doing it. But for now, we are sitting tight until it feels right.

        • Laura

          I agree. I once had to deal with some obnoxious person who thought that I had to justify to her why I wanted kids. “TELL ME WHY YOU WANT KIDS,” she thundered, “AND YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO SAY IT’S BECAUSE YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED THEM.”
          But really, why is that not a valid explanation? I have always wanted them. I still want them. The thought of not having sends my body into full-blown grief mode. It can’t be explained because it’s not rational. But then, procreation in general is not rational – it’s a deeply rooted urge that words cannot do justice to.
          If people choose not to have kids, that’s totally fine by me! I won’t give them any shit. I just wish that we didn’t live in a culture where people feel like it’s okay to give others shit about whether they choose to parent. Or how they choose to parent, a whole other can of worms.

        • Aubry

          Mine too! But from 16 – 24 or so. Then, poof! No more baby longing. I look at babes and think “yeah, that’s kinda cute. I could maybe deal with one of those” but my body says nothing. I have mostly settled on the idea of not having kids, but with a very open mind to any changes of heart I may have. Who knows right?

          Meanwhile, I feel like I have pulled the old slight of hand on C. We went into our relationship discussing early that yes, we definitely wanted kids. Now were engaged and I’m changing sides. He is OK with it, cause he already has one, but really wants more. He said if he didn’t already have a child, it would be a deal breaker for him – that is how important it is.

          I feel like I want to find a reason to want kids. Like, I want to want them, but I don’t actually want them, you know? I’m looking around at every silly post on line and stuff my friends who are pregnant/have kids say, but I’m not coming up with anything. It all just looks like lack of sleep and having a harder time doing everything from shopping to having sex. No thanks.

          But, I actually love children. I run a dance studio, and I cry because I am so proud of my little dancers at competition. I get to teach them and help them become people. So maybe I don’t need kids of my own, I already have 200 of them!

          • Meg Keene

            While I am not here to tell you to have kids if you don’t want them (because rad, don’t have them), if you’re really looking for answers, lemmie tell you. Having a kid is magic. Yes. Obviously there is less sleep at first, and obviously it’s harder to shop and have sex at first. But that stuff passes. But it’s also this mindblowing relationship unlike any other. It’s learning a new kind of love, but it’s also experiencing BEING loved in a way that like nothing else ever. Plus, all the shit I couldn’t possibly put into words. Watching a new person learn things, being so proud you cry, being someone’s parent for life. It’s seriously good shit.

            I don’t think having kids is for everyone. I think the fact that people are pressured to have kids is enraging. But I also wish our cultural nonsense would chill for five seconds, so people could make decisions without all the garbage. You don’t have to give up everything to become a parent. You don’t have to fill your house with stupid plastic toys. You don’t have to give up your career if you don’t want. It’s not harder than coal mining. Plus, it’s magic. So. There is that too.

            BUT SERIOUSLY NOT HAVING KIDS IS AWESOME. That’s just my response to your searching Facebook status updates.

            Pregnancy though. That was some bullshit. Thank god it isn’t for everyone.

    • Alison O

      I don’t want to take too long finessing my words, so I’ll just say flat out that this is not supposed to sound like a criticism, or if it is it is one I would also direct at myself as a fellow self-described hippy dippy person. Your ending made me think, “don’t qualify or discount yourself [by labeling your thoughts as “hippy dippy”]!” Understanding, reasons, quantification are in vogue in society, science, psychology. They are considered more ‘serious’ and ‘real’ than spirituality or wisdom, broadly understood. However, they are not inherently more valuable or rational, and the hippy dippies out there certainly do not need to support this myth by discounting our own perspectives. As a hippy dippy and a woman and basically a relativist, I am trying to be better about not providing disclaimers!

      At the end of the day life is a mystery, relationships–their beginnings, changes, and endings–are mysteries, and everyone is doing the best they can as their imperfect, “now I know in part” selves. We can try to make decisions about the future (e.g., wondering if you should have kids now because while you don’t want them right now you might want them in the future), but as I waffle over applying to grad school, wondering if it’s the right choice for the long term, I keep reminding myself, YOU CANNOT HEDGE YOUR LIFE.

      You can try, but you are no more likely to arrive at a place in the future where you want to be than if you focus your energy on shaping your life how you want it to be NOW, and each day on. Maybe someday in the future I will realize that I am called to be an Olympic athlete. Maybe that will not be feasible, and I’ll experience loss about the dream I didn’t know I had (because I didn’t have it yet), and that will be life, which is often painful. People change careers, partners, styles, interests, abilities. It cannot be predicted. Being in a muddy spot where your soul doesn’t know the answer (yet, or ever) is fate, too.

  • Amanda L

    Neither my husband nor I were on Team I Always Knew I Wanted To Be A Parent or Team I Always Knew Kids Weren’t For Me… But I had that ‘switch’ flip as soon as I fell in love with him and luckily his switch flips both ways.

    I really loved your well-thought out points, and wish less people would tell other people what they should do with their uteruses! I do envy you with the long amount of time you have to decide (or not decide!) without that biological clock ticking. And I second other poster’s that say that they wish more intelligent, thoughtful people would have babies. You’ve put more thought into it than A LOT of parents out there, so you’re already a huge leg up!

    • BreckW

      “luckily his switch flips both ways.”

      I love when people bring up that “going with the flow” is an acceptable position to have when it comes to the baby-making discussion. I’ve always been kind of meh about the whole thing, but after falling in love with my boyfriend (who wants kids), I’ve warmed up to the idea. I wouldn’t say a switch has flipped–I can’t define it as something so binary for me–but, if we’re going with a lighting metaphor, the dimmer has turned a little more towards having kids. Although if he wasn’t into procreating, I think I’d be fine living a child-free life. It’s a weird thing, having an “either way” attitude. If we have kids (I think we will), will I be a bad parent because I’m not All About It? I hope not.

      • Lauren from NH

        Making merry wherever you end up in life, I think, demonstrates an awesome attitude. Especially with people who know they would make good parents I think it is often confusing because they know they could be happy either way, but which way to they WANT to go? I am sure, should you choose, you will be a great parent.

      • I like your dimmer metaphor. :)

      • jashshea

        Hope not, because I’m the same way – Team Lifetime Meh that will probably become Team Has Kids. Solidarity from my side!

        • Peabody_Bites

          I feel so relieved by that – because I am TLM, who (by definition) never felt strongly either way, and is now Team Pregnant. And I’m happy and excited, of course I am, and this is definitely a wanted baby but I am also gently mourning the road not taken and it is so not OK to say that out loud.

          • afdp

            Yes! Mourning the road not taken!

            Our oldest was very much a surprise (thanks a lot contraceptive failure) and though I now love him with every fiber of my being, it took me a long while to get there. All pregnancy and then some. It was so hard to go out pregnant in public, because everyone kept asking “are you so excited?” and what the heck was I supposed to say except for the only acceptable answer “of course!” (especially to strangers)?!?

            I was TLM and my husband was Team Wants Kids, so I knew kids were probably in our future, but it was (and is still, sometimes) definitely hard to adjust to the actual reality of kids. My husband was awesome, listening to me and holding me as I grieved and waffled, but I rarely felt comfortable being honest with anyone else. (Mostly because I was pregnant and my complicated feelings were about a specific baby, not the hypothetical future.)

            I don’t know that I would have felt comfortable sharing honestly with (very many) people even if it was more ok to talk about a wider range of emotions regarding wanting/not wanting kids, but I never had the opportunity to find out because such discussions are so polarized.

          • BreckW

            The way you describe how sweet your husband was made me tear up a little.

      • Amanda L

        I think you sound a lot like my husband. He would be fine never having kids, but also knows how strongly I would like to, and is open to trying. It’s been 17 months of TTC, so we may still end up on Team No Kids anyway!

      • M.

        “If we have kids (I think we will), will I be a bad parent because I wasn’t All About It from the get-go? I hope not.” Absolutely not!!! (Though I suspect you know this!)

        You have your own life that you are living, and having kids shouldn’t change that. There’s room for you to be independent, thoughtful, critical, and make measured decisions, and to love the result of those decisions either way. Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids does a great job of addressing this particular point.

        • Caroline

          I loved Why Have Kids.

        • BreckW

          I also loved Why Have Kids. Perhaps it’s time for a reread.

      • BD

        I think this is a great attitude to have, and it’s a lot like my own! For a while I felt guilty about my “meh” attitude, but I’m cool with it now :)

      • Meg Keene

        Dude. No. If you think that most people with kids were 100% sure, you’d be… very wrong. Also, some of the best parents I know never wanted kids, got knocked up, and kept the babies. You just have to love the kid you get, if you get one. It’s that simple.

        • afdp

          This. I was more TLM than Team No Kids, but my unexpected pregnancy is now two and a half years old and very loved. Parenting can be hard work, but like a lot of things that are hard, you can learn to do it and learn to do it well.

          • Meg Keene

            “Parenting can be hard work, but like a lot of things that are hard, you can learn to do it and learn to do it well.”

            This is something I find really missing in the whole conversation. Yes, parenting can be hard. (Also: some of the really hard bits, like very little sleep with a baby, are really hard, but really short.) But LOTS of things are hard. Parenting isn’t harder than all things that have ever happened ever. Plus, unlike a lot of shitty hard stuff I’ve done, it’s unbelievably emotionally rewarding and life changing (in the awesome way, not the scary way). That was not true of say, the shitty job i had where I had to work 30 hours shifts 8X a year.

      • AustenNut

        I can second this idea. While dating I knew I could go either way on the kids issue. I fell in love with a man who wanted kids. We got married, and now a little over three years later, are expecting our first human child. I’m looking forward to being a parent (including the older child and adult child phases), and particularly, of raising a child with my husband. If he wasn’t such good father material, there would be no bun in the oven.

  • Bird

    I haven’t been here for a long time or felt the need to speak up for awhile, but I love love love love love this post. Thank you. This is a decision my wife and I came to a long time ago, but as more of my friends are having babies (even the ones who swore they wouldn’t), this is becoming a more isolating side to be on. And I love kids! And my wife loves kids! And it’s just so nice to hear someone else saying these things: that you can love nurturing, that you can like kids, and that you could perhaps have the skills to be good parents – and that it’s okay to then not be parents. Thank you for writing all of this so eloquently. It’s exactly what i needed this morning.

  • Rachael

    Yep, this discussion is right on target for me. My husband and I score our “chances” of having a child in percentages. It’s a bit complicated for us because he wants children (though is willing to not have them, we discuss this at length regularly). I’m having a hard time getting on board. I’ve never thought that I would have kids until I saw my husband play with his nephews, and then I had that same kind of realization Rachel described of understanding why people would want to have children in the first place. I even went through a very brief baby-crazy phase for a couple months before and maybe a month after our wedding. But now I think it was more just misplaced emotions brought up by the wedding because I quickly reverted back to being disinterested. I’m not completely shut off to the idea of a child, but I just can’t commit to the idea either.

    I also do the same willing myself to feel something about babies that Rachel described. And I too feel like I want the game to be over and I want a final decision to be made. We’re in our early thirties, I’m trying to navigate a transition in my career, and I feel really unnerved that this big decision is still unmade.

    • Rose in SA

      THIS. 100%.
      I’m so tired of the uncertainty of this whole situation, but as Rachel says, it’s hard to feel a sense of closure if the decision is not to actually do anything.

    • jashshea

      “I want the game to be over and I want a final decision to be made”

      Oh hell yes. I’m 35, he’s 33. Without kids we could probably retire in 10-12 years. With kids? I don’t know about money and retirement and other life stuff. Confusing times.

      • Stacey

        Oh I hear you loud and clear. I used to calculate my net worth on a monthly basis. Now that we are married and own a house together it’s more complicated. When our baby arrives in 5 months, all my spreadsheeting is out the window, I’m sure. This is hard for an OCD type like me, but we made a commitment to throw our conservative risk-avoidance out the window when we married. I am ready to embrace a messy life, because a crazy perfectionist one hasn’t always served me.

    • Stella


  • Parsley

    So, I have always wanted kids and still do. Being a lesbian, though, I’ve also had this decision examined minutely by the people around me (along with my desire to get married) because it is something that will have to be very carefully planned and prepared for. And I can’t really tell you why I want kids. I just do. When someone asks me why – or when I ask myself – I get to this place of, “I don’t know. I just do.” So, I wonder if some of that spectatory unhelpfulness is actually about the discomfort of wondering why the spectators did make the choices they did – or why they want to do what they want to do. For me, anyway, it sometimes seems messy and illogical and therefore maybe I’m missing something, and that can be uncomfortable, so maybe for some of the spectators it’s easier to just reassert that everyone will eventually be in this impossible to explain place with them. Not that it makes it okay. So, as a spectator by way of reading this post who is on another team, go Home Team in your house (and Visitors in mine)!

    • afdp

      I could see that, I guess. Spectatory unhelpfulness is very probably curiousity (and wanting validation for their own life choices to have kids?).

    • “When someone asks me why – or when I ask myself – I get to this place of, “I don’t know. I just do.”” I think this a really damn good gut-feeling-based answer. Not that you need to hear that from me (or anyone).

  • Sara

    This is a well-timed read for me. I’ve always been firmly in team Always Knew I Wanted Kids, and same for my fiance, but right now all I’m focused on is getting my career off the ground, saving up some money and enjoying my youth. I want to travel and sometimes just eat chips for dinner when I feel lazy and own pretty objects with sharp corners. The older I get, the more that I begin to understand the scope and expense of my bucket list, and the less interested I am in starting a family in my twenties. We need to have freedom to move for a job, to take risks, to start businesses, to stay out all night building friendships and networking and forming a community for ourselves. Not to mention that we need to have a pile of stories and adventures to tell our future kids about! I know that it’s possible to do all those things as a parent, but it’s undeniably harder. Right now we have no pets, we don’t even have any delicate houseplants, and I couldn’t love it more.
    I always thought that wanting kids meant that I’d want them young, and I’ve been shocked to discover this well of ambivalence in me. It’s not really a message that women hear — that you can want to be a parent without wanting it ASAP.

  • Lauren from NH

    This is so well put! But I think for some of us, some of the time, it is the money, work and logistics. I feel like I hear so many women admit on APW that though they don’t quite agree with it, they do most of the housework! (also guilty here btw) So imagine adding a baby and I think the WORK is a very legitimate reason (even if it is not Rachel’s). Also with kids you have to go through the working-mom vs. stay-at-home-mom conundrum, and many of us in the US and other places don’t have especially mom supportive employment options. Then there is parent shaming because you are never doing it right. Sounds like a party right? Of course with cute sweaters!
    On the other side, a week or two ago I spent a hour meeting with an old couple for my job, and I had somewhat of an a epiphany about why some people have kids. These were the proudest grandparents. They happily showed off their family reunion pictures and the whole “to have someone to care for you when you get old” (and someone to care for yourself) reason, made a little more sense. Meeting with this couple marked a major tally on the side of “your family are the ones who will always be there.” Their family brought love and community and meaning to their lives. All the birthdays, graduations, vacations, reunions, and weddings were the events that filled their lives. I admit I found it compelling yet I am confident there are other paths to love community and meaning, and hey, I always have been one for the paths less traveled by.

    • Jacky Speck

      Well, the existence of more smart, successful, non-judgmental people with kids could help to end the parent shaming. And if some of those people happen to be business owners, or at least in positions of power, maybe they would advocate for changing parent-unfriendly work policies!

      • Lauren from NH

        Hear hear!

    • “…yet I am confident there are other paths to love community and meaning,
      and hey, I always have been one for the paths less traveled by.”
      I think so. I have thought about the long-term implications of having kids (ie. being grandparents, family holidays with multiple generations, etc.) but the fact is….we can’t control much. Even if I had a kid, that kid could grow up and not want kids. Or could move across to another country and rarely come home or whatever…..I might not get the future I was envisioning anyways. So, for me, I decided I would have to know I wanted to have a child, even if there was no long-term “pay-off”…just to want a child because I wanted to raise a child. That feeling hasn’t come yet. But I am convinced that there is a way to build family and community and love in ways that don’t involved kids, or even blood ties of any kind.I have experienced much “family” these last 5 months, and little of it has any blood ties to me….

    • js

      I think, while your points are valid, this is some of the dialogue that drives me personally crazy about parenting and kids. I feel the idea that “having kids so you’ll have someone to take care of you” is remarkably selfish and immature. Not that you are any of these things, with all due respect. It just reminds me of teenagers having a baby so that someone will love them. Also, while not having to do more housework is valid, those are the kinds of conversations we should be having all the time with our partners, before and after marriage, kids, etc. How will we split up household chores? Who gets up with the baby at night? Should we circumcise him? What church should or shouldn’t we go to? How do we handle both of us working? The thing that continues to amaze me is how little people discuss with the people they chose to build a life with. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to offend you or go off on a tangent.

      • Lauren from NH

        No, no, no! No offense taken, I am with you on all of that! Just giving voice to other aspects :)

      • Emilie

        Whoa there! I don’t think leaning on your children for care is “remarkably selfish and immature.” Nor do I it’s selfish to desire and make plans for that kind of family. I think relationships are always a two way street, even in parenting (once kids are grown ups of course). Obviously I don’t think people should have kids for strictly utilitarian reasons, but I do think those hopes are completely valid.

        • Lauren from NH

          I think it is the utilitarian reason dominating all others or being the only reason that can seem negative.
          But in positive family/nonfamily relationships, I am all for leaning. My mom just broke her knee on Sunday, after a slip in a parking lot. I am super thankful for my siblings who live closer and have rearranged their schedules and driven around like crazy to be with her. I am flying in tonight finally, thank goodness!

        • malkavian

          It’s selfish and immature if you expect it no matter what. My parents were bad parents. I prefer avoiding them when I can. There is no way that I’d ever be able to mentally deal with being a caretaker for them, or spending large amounts of time around them again.

    • BD

      The first point you brought up is a major concern for me! I think I’d be more enthusiastic about having kids if I knew for sure that my husband would totally meet me half way on everything, cuz yes I intend to keep working full time. I don’t want to end up like my own mother, completely overworked and often taken for granted. Maybe it’s an unfounded fear (my husband is actually really great about helping me out and doing things I ask him to do) but it’s still a real one for me.

      • HannahESmith

        I can totally relate to this. My husband is great too, but he has told me that he does not want to stay home to take care of future kids. The problem is I make significantly more than him, and I don’t think we could survive on his salary alone. I had always thought I would probably do some combo of working part-time/staying home, but I just don’t know if that will be possible. It definitely plays into my decision of whether or not I want kids. I also have a Mom who does everything for everyone and is under-appreciated. I worry about that being my future too.

  • Jacky Speck

    I loved reading this, and always felt that my fiance and I were virtually alone in “Team Maybe-Kids-Maybe-None.” We both love kids and the idea of raising them, but we also like the way our lives are now and MAN, parenting is a big committment! Another commenter said it best: you’re signing up for a whole new person, not just a baby. We wouldn’t be able to “try it out and see if we like it”– we’d have to be sure. Neither of us can really say we’re SURE at this point. All I know is that when I see my fiance play with his nieces, the idea of him being a dad to our own little girl just makes me melt (I guess it could be a boy too, but I would really want it to be a girl for some reason). My fiance has made similar comments about seeing me interact with kids.

    Also, I think we’d be signing up for at least 2 kids, because I would want a “little copy of us” and my fiance would want to adopt. I’ll admit that my “copy ourselves” desire is mostly motivated by vanity, because I imagine a combination of both of our features would be really, really cute. But my fiance really took to heart something that his sister, a single mom, once said about whether or not she’d have more kids in the future: “My daughter doesn’t really know her dad, but some kids out there are orphans without a mom OR a dad. So I would try to adopt a child who doesn’t have his/her own family rather than give birth again.” Anyway, doing both of those things means 2 kids, which sounds exponentially more difficult than having just one.

    • A good friend told me that the jump from 0 to 1 was way worse than 1 to 2. (And now she has 4.) That surprised me, because I had always thought that the 1 to 2 jump would be harder. But for her, it was change from not being parents to being parents that was the biggest life change.

      • K2

        And I’ve heard that the biggest change is going from 2 to 3 – when 2 parents are now outnumbered by 3 kids, or, as my dad said “When you have to go from playing man-to-man to a zone defense.”

        • Caroline

          Yup, I’ve also heard that 2 to 3 is a huge jump, but compared to it, 3 to 4 is almost negligible, in that once you have 3, you have a big brood and chaos and probably need a van, and the 4th doesn’t add to the chaos so much. I imagine it’s not quite as big a change as from 0 to 1 though. It’s one of the reasons I’d really like to have four kids. I want at least three, but I think in terms of friendships, threesomes lead to one person being left out so four seems better, and if the chaos difference is negligible, why not? (Of course, for some the answer to why not is, because we don’t want more kids. For me, I come from a culture where more children are usually considered a good thing (avg number of kids for people with kids in my community is probably 2.7 or 2.8, and unfortunately, there is some stigma for childfree folks. in my metropolitan area, it is 1.2), and that is something I feel deeply, that for me, more kids/a fairly large brood, is a good thing.

          I also really appreciated this article as a way to understand how someone might feel very differently than I do about kids.

          • K2

            Yeah, I’ve also heard that if you can handle 3, you can handle any number – which is a little funny, because I also feel like the transition from 3 to 4 is when people start doing double-takes and saying you have “a big family.”

          • Lizzie C.

            Yes to this- I think of kid numbers in terms of interpersonal dynamics too. I once read in a book that having 3 kids is better than 2 “in case one turns out to be gifted or handicapped, so the other 2 have each other” (paraphrasing here…the actual wording was probably less PC). A blunt point, but I get it. Multiple kids are more work, but for siblings they’re backups and buffers. And sometimes that goes a long way.

      • Kendra D

        I’ve heard that any number larger than one is negotiable, but there’s no compromise between 0 and 1.

        • Kina

          Ah, but there is! At least, I hope so, because I want 0 and my husband wanted 1 (possibly more). After after lots of talking (over years), he decided that we would rather be with me than have a kid. And now we’re married. Not to say I know our future, and I’m sure this will come up again, but. I think it’s possible to stay together even if you started from different places.

          • Kendra D

            I never meant that you couldn’t stay together and be happy as a couple with different ideas on having children or not. I meant that where if he wanted 3 kids and you wanted 1, you could compromise at 2, but you can’t reach a number in between 0 and 1 when it come to kids.

          • Kina

            Gotcha. I didn’t take offense! Just read it differently.

          • Kendra D

            I just wanted to clarify is all. Because I also am willing to close the door (we’re both neutral but I am more neutral-child where he falls more neutral-no child) for my partner. He is much more important in my life than some possible maybe someday person.

          • Rachael

            This sounds like my husband and me. I don’t want children, he does, but we decided to be open-minded about it either way. He is okay with the idea of us not having children, I’m keeping the possibility of having a child open, and we both agree that it would be okay to have a single child.

            Has anyone else noticed the single child issue generates a very, very strong response amongst people? I will admit that I was on this wagon for a while too. The argument I hear, and the one I used myself, is, “I love my siblings so much that I want my children to experience that.” Don’t get me wrong, my siblings are two of my favorite people. But I don’t know that if I had one child that I would automatically want to have a second child just for that reason. Research really doesn’t support all of the single child negative connotations, either. I get this judgy vibe from even my close friends when I mention maybe having a single child, it’s really interesting. Something a friend said when people were hounding her about when she would have a second baby when she was still pregnant with her first: Let’s see how this one goes.

          • K2

            I’ve always wanted a biggish family, and I don’t think I’d want to stop at 1 child, but I also believe it’s a completely futile exercise to put numbers/limits/expectations on how many kids you’ll have before you have any. It would be like trying to decide how many pieces of pie you want when you’ve never tasted pie before in your life. It might be amazing! Or, meh, you might be more of a cake person. And I think this works both ways – imposing limits on how many kids you’ll have is silly when you don’t know whether you’ll actually hit those limiting factors (“Yes kids are expensive – but what if we’re rich by then?”/”How can you know you don’t want more than 2 kids? You’ve never tasted the pie! Maybe 2 kids from now, you WILL want more!”) as is assuming you’ll have at least X number of kids (Yes, I want “a big family” – but let’s see how my body handles pregnancy and labor once before I sign up to do it again).*

            *These are not, by the way, things I say to other people about their desired family sizes – mostly things I say to my husband when we’re trying to plan for the future and I want to point out that the future is unpredictable.

          • Rachael

            Exactly! It sounds like how my husband and I talk about it also. In terms of children (and most things, I guess) we talk about what we want (or think we want, without having tasted the pie), what we would be okay with, if there are any deal breakers. I just hear so often that you must have more than one child – and now that I’m in my 30s this often accompanies, or is followed by, the “time is ticking” conversation because if you want multiple biological children you need to consider the timing of things more as you get older. So I end up getting a lot “if you’re going to have kids you better get moving!” Neither my husband nor I are chomping at the bit to get on that just yet, so while my husband thinks he would like multiple children, the reality may be that one may be it for us, if any. And I think we’re okay with that.

      • HannahESmith

        I remember seeing this article awhile back about how three is the most stressful number of kids. The logic seemed a bit strange, but I can say growing up in a family with three kids was very chaotic at times.

    • afdp

      As the parent of two, it’s been my experience that going from 0-1 is much different (and therefore harder) than going from 1-2. Going from no kids to kids was a much more monumental shift than going from one kid to more than one kid for me.

  • leah

    oh my god thank you for this. share share share share.

  • Anna

    LOVE this article, and it’s rare to see this issue written about with the right amount of nuance. As a teenager and young(er) adult, I KNEW I wanted 5 or 6 kids. At 25, I now KNOW I don’t want any children. What you “know” can indeed change (so there you go, Team You’ll Change Your Fickle Womanly Mind) but when it comes to child-bearing and -rearing there’s a huge variety of choices you can make. So, maybe you and Eric will change your minds about having kids and… adopt a preteenager. So you still won’t have the pregnancy, birth, newborn, and toddler experiences TYCYFWM wants you to have (from what I can tell, so you’ll have something to bitch about together).

    And, there usually aren’t any big, blinking neon signposts about the change, what it is, or when it’s coming. You have to make the best choice with the information you have on hand– and if things change in the future, you adapt the best way you can.

    For me, the desire to have children dwindled over time from 5-6 to 2-3 to “maybe one” to “probably don’t want kids” to “can’t imagine having kids.” I met my partner when I was already in the slide from “maybe one” to “probably don’t” and yes, he was the biggest factor in completing the slide to “can’t imagine” because he doesn’t want any kids and I want to spend my life with him, so… there you go.

    • Sheila

      I love that your comment picture is of you with a kid, and presumably not your own since you just said you never want kids. Just another example of how you can have no children yourself but still have children in your life who you care about and who are important to you.

      • Anna

        Haha, I didn’t even think about that! Yes, this is my awesome nephew in the picture with me. And, I completely agree with your last sentence – you are absolutely right.

    • Crayfish Kate

      “And, there usually aren’t any big, blinking neon signposts about the change, what it is, or when it’s coming.”

      No obvious signs?! Really?!

      ….Damn :-(

  • js

    I think it’s important to talk about what a luxury it is to have the privelege of choice when it comes to children. Some women don’t have the choice, whether it’s because of their environment or nature. For me, it took a very long time getting over the childhood I had and was an epiphany that I didn’t have to grow up to be my parents. I also hear a lot from people about the work of having kids. I think you have to work for anything worth having, whether it’s your relatonship, career or a family. I also think there is very little dialogue about the rewards. Not the trite, heart-walking-outside -your- body dialogue. The smart people having smart kids part. People pay too much attention to what other people say. The Fickle Woman Team is not you, not living your life. A child should be wanted and loved, even if it comes as a surprise to you how much you love and want them.

    • Meg Keene

      Just all of this. All of it. Particularly the conversation being about the work part, and not the non-trite rewards part. But ALLLLLLLLL of it.

  • Granola

    So I come for a “quick hit” of APW this morning before I get down to my work and of course there’s a great post with lots of interesting comments. *shakes fist*

    I love hearing how other people approach these decisions and feel about them, especially as my own feelings have been a bit of a surprise. I always figured I’d get married and have kids eventually. But then I met my husband in college, got married on the young side (for the Northeast) and was one of the first of my friends to tie the knot. Now I’m so viscerally baby hungry I’m shocked. Sure I’m still a bit scared at the idea and conflicted in the intellectual sense, but I never expected to so desperately physically want to have a child. And yet for me there’s this kernel of “you should wait” that seems just as other-sourced as the “You’ll change your mind.” While that’s a different beast, it’s still tricky, trying to sort through the chorus of “just enjoy your life now. You’ll never have a free moment again. Why are you rushing?” and figure out what is actually helpful and what’s just noise.

    Kudos to you Rachel for being brave and exploring and owning your feelings.

    • KC

      Just to warn you that the external chorus of “wait to have kids! enjoy your life now! build a solid marriage first” and whatnot tends to switch directly to “doom and gloom! it’ll be too late! you should have tried to have kids earlier!” without any break in between. No, it doesn’t make sense (either literally or practically; there is not one millisecond precisely in your life when everyone knows you ought to conceive so as to maximize the ideal Way of Life, and pressuring people with “you need to be having all the fun for life now!” or “you’re late!” both result in unnecessary stress). But people are… yeah. People.

      I guess: ignore external choruses wherever possible.

    • Peabody_Bites

      Not at all to deny you, or query you, but just from my experience which I think is quite rarely articulated – I have been viscerally baby hungry twice in my life. Once when I was hopelessly in love with someone with whom I couldn’t have a long term relationship for various reasons, and a baby would have cemented that, and once when I was completely exhausted by my job and just desperately needed a change and a baby would have bought me some time to think and a new focus. In neither case did I have a baby, and both times looking back I am so glad I did not.
      I am now having a baby – and was broadly speaking on Team It Will Be Nice if We Have Kids But Lets Not Get Crazy About It, and not at all in a viscerally hungry place when I made the decision.
      Good luck sorting through the various noises, both self imposed and external.

      • Granola

        It’s a good point, and I’ve also been thinking about it actually. My professional life is in upheaval at the moment and I think that’s a large part of it. I want a project and a purpose. Which is the major reason I’m not actually seriously making baby plans at the moment. I remind myself that boredom is not a good reason to have a baby.

        • Sarah S

          YES. I actually told my husband, never let the reasoning behind us having a baby be that I’m depressed about my career prospects and want something to DO with my life. Because that’s hit me strongly before, and “I’m never going to find a job, might as well have a baby” was a definite thought/feeling, but it makes no logical sense (oh, financial times are tough? Let’s add a major expense that basically never stops costing money!). And it kind of equates having a baby with failure…which is not the kind of terms under which I want to bring a child into the world.

      • Meg Keene

        I was viscerally baby hungry for ten years. When you know, I was a teenager and OBVIOUSLY shouldn’t have had a kid. Hormones are crazy fucking things, I’ll tell you.

        Which isn’t to say having kids young might not be awesome for you. It’s awesome for people. But that visceral thing can be a tricky beast. I think my thoughts on that are: make sure that your logical mind is backing up your viscerally hungry brain. If it is, awesome. If it isn’t, just think about why that might be a little before you jump.

      • Helen

        Oh yes. Nothing like a soul destroying work life to make babies seem like a brilliant alternative. I’ve had that twice – now I take it as a sign that I need to change up my work life!

    • Stacey

      I’ve been viscerally baby hungry twice. Once when I turned 30 and it seemed like ALLLL my friends were having babies and I hurt my shoulder and started “feeling old”. Biological clock, big time. But my husband (boyfriend at the time) wasn’t ready, and I respected that. The other time was when I went off my birth control and I became a sex-crazed lunatic. I truly believe that your hormones have as much to do with it as your intellect, and the two can even confuse or interfere with each other. If anybody has doubts about their libido and is on hormonal BC, I’d recommend going off of it to see what it does to your mental and physical health. My internal medicine doctor actually ordered me off of it to help with my adrenal fatigue, because estrogen is part of the hormonal cascade. At that point, I also discovered that I should never have been on it anyway, as a sufferer of migraines with aura (due to risk of stroke).

      Once my husband and I both got to the same place (Team Still Not 100% Positive but Let’s Stop Preventing For Now, Anyway), we got pregnant within two months. I was shocked. I had had so many friends who had had losses and fertility issues that I sort of just assumed I only had a 50/50 shot at it (I’m 36 years old), and even if we did get pregnant it would be SEVERAL months. And if we didn’t, we’d accept being child-free at some point in the future. And now that I’m pregnant, I’m good with it. I’m excited. I know I’ll be a great parent. But it’s been a LONG road intellectually, and I’m glad my husband and I both had the space to get there mentally. And oh boy, did the sex get better when we didn’t have to worry about anything other than just loving each other! I feel like I sort of got a glimpse into the lives of parents who have a ton of kids and still have an active sex life.

      Unfortunately I had to nearly alienate my mom in the process – for a while she kept asking me on a daily basis when we were going to give her a grandchild – YEARS before we were even engaged. I finally told her that if she couldn’t have a conversation with me without asking, then I couldn’t talk with her anymore. She kept her silence for YEARS (although our phone calls dropped from every day to once every two weeks) until my wedding day, when she snapped that she’s “never going to have grandkids” to another family member right in front of me. It hurt, and she had no way of knowing we had already decided to stop preventing pregnancy. But that’s part of making your own family with your chosen spouse, and I wouldn’t have done it differently.

  • VictoriaS

    Rachel – Thank you so very much for writing a post that absolutely in every way describes how I feel right now (I am the same age as you). So many points that you made I have tried for a long time to verbalize with my friends, family, even my husband. I’m sending them this post :)

    The “oh you’ll change your mind” always gets me. Sigh.

  • Kayjayoh

    This resonated with me quite a bit. Before I met my fiance, I was always in the “I’d really like to have kids. I really don’t want to be pregnant!” camp. But I figured at some point I’d get together with a guy who wanted to have kids and I’d be talked around. Or else, at some point, my birth control would fail and I would need to decide what to do next.

    What happened was that I met and fell in love with a guy who vehemently did not want kids (and made that clear from the start). And then I turned 35 and realized that, in all my years of being sexually active, I have *never* had a pregnancy scare. Not even once. And I realized that maybe the Universe was telling me that I was off the hook. That it was perfectly ok to be the best auntie ever to all the kids in my life (including my beloved nephew) and be the adult to loves kids, is good with kids, and isn’t directly responsible for kids of her own, so as to help out all of my friends who were parents and keep them on an even keel. I can be part of the village.

    Sure, there will always be a small twinge of alternate universe sadness, that there are specific things I will never experience. At the same time, there are specific things I will never experience, thank goodness! :) And I am good with that.

    • Antonia

      I, too, made it to 35 without a pregnancy scare. In fact, I was the only 35-year-old I knew who hadn’t had a child, a miscarriage, a termination, (or some combination thereof), or was battling infertility. I got my IUD out in September, and seven weeks later I was pregnant.

      Your choice not to have children in 100 percent valid (and I didn’t want kids myself until very recently). But if you DO decide you want them, you may just be very good at not getting pregnant! :-)

      • Antonia

        And I don’t mean to come off as “you’ll change your miiiiind,” Kayjayoh – it sounds like you’ve made your decision and are a peace with it, which is fantastic. My comment was more directed toward those women in their mid-30s who’ve been conscientious about birth control and worry about fertility should they decide to go the kid route. In my (personal and singular) experience, birth control works extremely well when you’re committed to it. But not having gotten pregnant up until the point you decide you want kids isn’t necessarily indicative of any fertility issues. Just want to to throw that out there for all the mid-30s women who may be considering becoming parents!

        • Leila

          Umm… yes and no. The thing is with fertility, it really is a lottery. Or like Forrest Gump said, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”.

          We struggled with unexplained infertility for almost 3 years before managing to get pregnant with ICSI, after 6 unsuccesful attempts with IUI (bless social health insurance), but there was nothing, not 1 risk factor in both of us that would have led us to believe / expect this would happen. We were both healthy, I had regular cycles, we both had no pathologies, no contact with toxic substances, smoking, alcohol, drugs…. you name it, nothing, and all they tested came out fine (and believe me, it was a lot of testing). We were also young-ish when we started trying (me 30, him 29). I do not want to ring all the alarm bells, and be that fertility maniac obsessed… but from a physiological / medical point of view, if you are on the unlucky 10-25 % of people who will randomly experience this (and there is no way of knowing if this will be your case until you start trying), and you do *know* that you want (biological) kids someday, I would say, better try earlier than later, because should you need fertility treatments, the chances of success do get lower with age. So, there are no guarantees, and if it turns out to be the case , your mid 30s (after 35) is when your chances of success really do get a lot lower.

          Sure, you can always adopt (but that is no easy / light / cheap choice), and it involves the mourning of what could not happen naturally.

          Or you can know that you are on team “we don’t know if we want kids yet or if we ever will be”, but you have to realize / be ready to accept that if it does happen that you change your mind x time later, then you should also be ready to face that things might not go how you planned and that you might have less options or different options than otherwise. (Which is not to say that you can not be perfectly happy with different alternative lifes, like travelling the world, doing all kinds of meaningful things, being the perfect aunty / mentor / support / fostering / etc…, )

          • Antonia

            @Leila: True, you can never be sure about fertility unless you’ve been definitively diagnosed. I am really sorry you and your partner struggled with fertility issues, but glad it turned out well!

            I wasn’t sure about my fertility (or my spouse’s), but waiting until we were in our mid-30s was a risk we were willing to take. If having biological children wasn’t in the cards for us, we were OK with that – we were open to being child-free or adoption. (And we had decided that unless it was an “easy fix,” we weren’t willing to pursue fertility treatment.)

            I guess my point is this: If you’re 100 percent sure you want biological children but aren’t 100 percent sure on the timing, you may want to try sooner rather than later. But if you’ve made it to your mid-30s and don’t have any known fertility issues, you *might* just be very good at preventing pregnancy.

            Also, did you know the oft-cited statistic of one out of three women over the age of 35 will not have conceived after a year of trying is based on a 300-year-old study?
            Again, I’m not saying “Yay, everyone’s fertile forever! Look at Halle Berry, conceiving at 46!” But the situation may not be as doom and gloom as we’ve been led to believe.

          • I know the often cited statistic is based on an old study, but I was not referring to that one.

            I was alluding to the more-recent studies that show that for IVF / IUI the success rates are significantly lower after 35, which is why I wrote: “should you need fertility treatments, the chances of success do get lower with age. So, there are no guarantees, and if it turns out to be the case (that you need/want to pursue treatment), your mid 30s (after 35) is when your chances of success really do get a lot lower.” For a woman under 35, the chances of a live birth after IVF are around 40%, whereas at 40 the chance of success is 11.5% (according to the CDC). (And I am not saying this is something that everyone should want to pursue, just saying it is something to take into account)

            Anyhow, as a medical professional I know that there are other risks associated with maternal age (trisomies, difficulties at birth, higher chances of miscarriage…), even if you do manage to get pregnant.

            Like you, what I am saying is if you wish to have biological children, it is may be wiser to try earlier than later. and like you’re saying, what I wanted to convey was that if you decide to wait longer, you should maybe be open to other options (like you and your partner were). For us, call it irrational, visceral.. having “our” own children was something that we felt really strongly, and I am not sure we would have been capable to adopt, I think it is something you have to “be called for”.

      • Stacey

        Are you me? I got pregnant 7 weeks after stopping the pill, at age 35, with no hint of a prior scare ever. I was SHOCKED, based on my friends’ experiences.

        • Antonia

          @Stacey: How funny! Hope your pregnancy is going well, or your baby is happy and well if you’re done with the pregnancy stage! :-)

    • afdp

      “A small twinge of alternate universe sadness” – yep! I have that, but for the opposite reason.

  • BD

    Oh boy, you sound like me. My husband is more in the “I want kids – just not right now” camp. I’m up in the air – I know that having kids would be awesome, and I think we’d both make great parents, but I’m also not feeling any strong urge to have kids… that said, I know I have the potential to really really want kids some day. Husband and I have talked about it of course, many times, and we have decided we will try to conceive in the next few years, but if it doesn’t work out (which at my age, is a possibility) then we’d both be fine with the small family we’ve already created. Kinda like letting the universe decide, ultimately. I don’t know if that’s a good idea for everyone, but it feels right to us.

  • Caitlin

    31 and still waiting for that clock to start ticking . .. I am beginning to think it won’t.

    • Caitlin

      I also just wanted to say that it is great to hear all these comments from people who are also on the fence. The undecided voice is not one we usually hear from in blogs or the rest of media. It just sucks to be in an in between position and waiting for clarification to happen, which seems as rare as a lightning strike.

      • Meg Keene

        You guys? Secret. I think most people are probably on the fence. At some point you jump or don’t jump, but it’s not as simple as a clock starting ticking, or a switch flipping, nor is it something you have to be as sure about as a face tattoo. It’s just something you make a decision about, at some point. (Or make five decisions about: since you really only need to make a decision about right this second.)

        • Kina

          Though it’s interesting, right, because it seems like for some people, it IS like a switch flipping (at least that’s what some of the commenters today have said). It’s just not ALWAYS like that – or at least that’s the impression I’m getting.

          • Meg Keene

            It may be that simple for some people (though I’d bet even people who use the term “a switch flipped” would elaborate that it wasn’t really that simple, though I’m SUPER CURIOUS so someone please weigh in). But for a lot of people, it’s not, and not ever going to be.

            My point is, I think our cultural dialogue is selling us short. We’re taught that both relationships and parenthood are something we should magically fall head over heels into with love. Which sure, ok, if that happens and it works for you, cool. But with both parenthood and relationships, I think thinking about it as a logical decision that you make, knowing you can never be 100% emotionally sure about something before you’ve done it, is maybe more helpful.

          • Kina

            Totally agree.

  • Lindsay

    oh, rachel…you made my heart burst with happiness and a song about “yay, someone else gets it and said it perfectly”! i always wanted kids…and my husband and i talked about wanting to have kids together for most of the almost-three-year period before our wedding day. we had a plan to start trying three months after the wedding. and then we were married….and switch flipped immediately. suddenly we just wanted to be us, as married people being a family of two…maybe it was our nephew havnig meltdowns every time we visited b/c he didn’t have a nap that day….maybe it was spending last thanksgiving w/friends and their 3-yr-old daughter and 1-yr-old twins who cried pretty much the. whole. time. we were there…maybe it was waking up at noon on a saturday last summer and spontaneously deciding to make the five-hour trip to chicago…whatever it’s been (or maybe it’s been all of it), the switch hasn’t flipped back. we are firmly on the “no baby” team…hell, we practically celebrate my period every month. and i guess what i’m really trying to say is THANK YOU for this post…it meant everything…i know i don’t need justification for my feelings but it’s really nice to hear from someone who’s on the same bench in the dugout.

    • Kendra D

      We totally celebrate my period each month. And my birth control alarm says “Yay! No babies!”

      • Lizzie C.

        Same here…the hubs and I high-five and congratulate each other for another month of not getting knocked up. Which is totally a celebration since my two sisters both got pregnant accidentally when they were young. Make me feel good about my birth control skills. (Or that I’m secretly infertile, which would be fine.)

  • This is exactly how I feel about having kids. I’m petrified of the sneak attack, like part of me changes and I become someone I don’t know who wants babies and tiny hats.

    • Jess

      I think that’s a big part of the us vs. them description that people in the comments struggle with.

      It’s maybe not so much Us vs. The World or Us vs. The Babies. Maybe it is like that, because maybe “Us” doesn’t want babies, but the world wants Us to.

      The more private, internal, we-don’t-talk-about-it part is that it’s the “Who I Think I Am” vs. “Who I Turn Out to Be, but Didn’t Expect!” that is the scariest part. It’s the part I’m afraid of. What if the people on the away team are right, and it turns out I’M on the away team?! Who am I? People change and what they want changes and that’s ok.

      When the something changing is fundamental to your life and there has so much pressure from people who are not that way or do not believe you could possibly be that way and you spent a lot of time trying to explain that, “No, I don’t want that. Yes, I’m still an ok person.” How do you deal when one day you wake up and that isn’t the case anymore.

      Change is hard to deal with, and it’s harder when you’re changing the way you see yourself.

  • Katriel

    After nearly 6 years of conversations about baby/no baby, we decided to reject the false dichotomy to hop straight on the crazy train and become foster parents for older children. So – no baby. Also, potentially no permanent children, though we are open to adopting. Just wanted to offer the idea that there are more than two choices!

    • This is definitely something we’ve discussed! It’s something I’m so open to doing in a few years and I think about a LOT.

      • Meg Keene

        OMG YES. Just yes.

      • BreckW

        This is something I’m super interested in, as well. I’d love to read about someone’s experience with fostering (both from an emotional perspective, as well as a logistical one).

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      PLEASE talk about your experiences. Michael and I have just started having small, quiet conversations about fostering, and I want to hear from other people who are starting the process themselves.

    • Barbra

      Thank you for this! We were also struggling with the kids/no kids issue, then ended up unofficially adopting a teenage boy this summer, totally unexpectedly. And just like that, all of my questions about what to do about kids were answered! Definitely not easy (that’s like the understatement of the year) but wonderful and the right thing for us.

    • COT

      I love this article and all of its comments. I think I’m in the same place as you are: pretty sure I’m not interested in babies, or even permanent children of my own, but completely open to fostering teens when the time is right. Why on earth that immense challenge sounds appealing is beyond me, but it’s always good to hear I’m not the only one drawn to it.

    • lady brett

      yes, yes, yes. we’re fostering little bits, but opening the discussion up to really include *all* of the options makes for a drastically different conversation (though for us it wasn’t really about opening up to the idea – neither of us wanted to be involved with the “making a baby part”, and fostering made the most sense to me *immediately*, so our conversations kind of started there).

    • Lindsey d.

      Yay Fostering! I’m literally sitting here filming a training on permanency for older foster children. The presenter and her husband started fostering teens when they were TWENTY! Creating connections for pre-teens and teens is so important!

    • HannahESmith

      I also want to hear more about your experience with this. It’s always been something I’ve thought about.

    • Katriel

      Well, we’re licensed and in the match process for one or two 5-10 year old boy(s) who are anticipated to need long term placements. So, we’re in a freak-out-and-wait stage at the moment! At least we’re past the classes-and-paperwork stage and on to the fun(ner) part.

    • Lizzie C.

      Thanks for bringing this up! My husband and I want to foster or foster-to-adopt, and I have such a hard time finding blogs about the process that will help us explore it before we officially dive in. All our friends are talking about having their own kids and there’s no space for the conversation I want to have instead. Hats off to APW commenters for making me feel not-so-alone!

  • Jo

    oh my god, hi soulmate. yes. this is us. thanks for writing it in such a funny, honest way. i will now share this with everyone i know. :)

  • Gina

    Although I do eventually want kids, your post still really struck a chord because this: “We think you need people in a community who can help caretakers take care of themselves sometimes.” I think people who are solidly trying to convince you to have kids forget that there are a multitude of ways you can be a mentor and nurturer without having biological children. I really enjoy giving my parent-friends a night off to enjoy themselves. I love that I have the extra time right now to volunteer at an animal shelter. I’m sure that when I become a parent, for a period of time at least, I won’t be able to give back in these ways.

  • SarahG

    Great post! Brings up many different feelings :) I have had a few friends in their thirties (like me) who just could not decide about having kids. Being straight, they decided to take the “let’s let fate decide” approach and be a bit lax with birth control and see what happened, with the general idea that if they got pregnant, they would stay pregnant (i.e. no abortion). On the one hand, I totally get and share that ambivalence. It’s a scary thing to deliberately bring another life into the world. How could you ever be sure? Or, sure enough? On the other hand, I have watched each of them struggle after the kid was born with the fact that they didn’t really plan or talk out how it was actually going to work, and they all underestimated the impact it would have on their lives. They are all great parents, and I’m not saying people who plan it are less exhausted or unsure of themselves, but I guess I wish there was some kind of parenting course we were all required to take before actually deciding to have a kid, that forced us to actually make it a deliberate, conscious choice. Maybe I am actually saying everybody should go to therapy…

    • malkavian

      Not to mention that some people can’t just take the ‘let fate decide route’, for example same-sex couples or people who have chronic illnesses and take teratogenic medications for them.

    • ugh, yes, i so with my fiance and I could do the let fate decide thing. we’re both female, so we can’t! exactly like you said – it’s scary and huge to DELIBERATELY bring a life into this world.

      • lady brett

        making the decision to do it was the single hardest part of parenting for me (so far). admittedly, i was coming from being certain i would never have kids, so it was a long path decision for me. but i used to joke with my wife that i wished someone would just drop a baby in a basket on the doorstep (because *of course* we would take care of it) so we didn’t have to have all those conversations.

        • Helen

          Yes – all of these comments! My future wife and are super career-focussed with a skew towards Changing The World. I feel like getting accidentally pregnant would take all the pressure off. Then we could *shrug* and talk about fate. Instead one of us has to say to our causes, clients and colleagues “we’re actively choosing something other than you and are making this career-limiting decision ourselves. Off to the sperm bank – hold my calls”.

          • Helen

            I just had an epiphany actually – I feel like I would be
            *embarrassed* about this even! Like for me, choosing to have babies would some kind of irrational, aren’t-women-emotional decision to make aka “silly woman just wasted her career”. Huh. Who knew I’d internalised *that* piece of rhetoric. Off to soak my head.

  • Jackie D

    I completely respect the authors opinion and choice/non-choice.
    I do slightly take issue with the us vs. them theme. Maybe that’s the difference though, between “team always” and “team never” is that I feel strongly that it’s not a competition or a question of “who wins” but rather that the babies/kids/adult children are ALL on the SAME team. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be a parent either if I thought it was a proposition to do battle with “invaders.” Rather, I’m looking forward to welcoming children and teaching them how our team plays together; us against the world vs. each other.

    • Meg Keene

      You know, very much this. In that, I totally get where Rachel is writing from, because that’s EXACTLY how I felt. What I learned was, for me, it turns out kids are on the home team. I just didn’t know that would be true for me.

      • Jess

        Meg, have you written about that? I made a comment lower down that maybe it’s not 100% Us vs Them, but a little bit Who I Am vs. Who I Turn Out To Be, Only I Didn’t Know It, and Now I’m a Liar Even to Myself.

        It’s a really big fear of mine that maybe I only think I know what I want when it comes to kids, but I don’t really know… and then I won’t be me any more because suddenly this is something I actually do want. It would be interesting to hear from where you started and ended and how you got to be ok with that.

        • Meg Keene

          I think I might have to have you clarify the question, for me to give you a good answer.

          I think though, that who we are really doesn’t have to do with what choices we make or if we change our minds about things. I’m ME, and I was ME before I had kids, and I’m ME after I kids. I’ve grown and changed because I’ve had new experiences, but that’s to be expected, and that’s life.

          It’s tricky business to define yourself around “I’m a person that wants kids” or “I’m a person that doesn’t want kids.” Because end of the day, that’s not who you are. I can want, I donno, short hair or long hair, to work full time or to work part time, to live in a city or to live in the country, and I’m still me. Those are just desires that change over time, not who I am.

          • Jess

            You answered the question underneath the question of “How did you deal with what you wanted changing, and how did you come out being ok with it with respect to your sense of self?” (Look, I rephrased it! Words are not my strong suit.) by saying that it’s hard to define yourself by what your desires or ambitions.

            There is me and there are the things I want and the things I want aren’t part of the definition.

  • malkavian

    My husband really wants biokids, whereas I’m ambivalent toward kids but actively terrified of pregnancy and childbirth. The ambivalence is from growing up in a broken home and being terrified to mess kids up the way my parents messed me up. And pregnancy is scary enough, but I have a chronic illness so it would mean major shifts in my meds and the possibility of my illness relapsing. My poor body has a hard enough time taking care of itself, I don’t know how it could ever take care of another person on top of that. Plus, like some other commenters, I prefer older kids to babies.

    We’ve discussed adoption (which I’m a lot warmer to than biokids), but I’m still terrified of effing everything up and being a horrible parent. I’m also really open to fostering/mentoring. Luckily neither of us want kids RIGHT NOW so we have time to work things out.

    • Meg Keene

      Have you done therapy to work this out? Super, super, super recommended, for anyone with childhood stuff.

      • malkavian

        I have a bit, but the last one I saw was awful and I’ve yet to find a replacement.

    • Caitlyn

      You’ve really described my situation pretty closely (and biokids is a great term FYI). My partner wants biokids, I am TERRIFIED of pregnancy and childbirth. We both want kids. I would be okay with adopting… but mostly to avoid pregnancy, not because I feel called to do it – I kind of want biokids too. However, a couple years ago his best friend had a son and I was asked to be in the delivery room at the last minute (NO warning – but I was too timid to say no to a lady in labor – something I now regret). And it was devastating. She had a hospital birth with as many interventions as possible, she done very little of her own research and just went along with whatever the SOP was. It was awful to see the way she was treated the entire time. Like she was an afterthought or a machine. She had NO control. She no longer mattered, only the baby. And I left thinking there is NO way I can ever do that. I feel stupid calling it this, but I almost feel like I have PSTD regarding childbirth now. I also have an anxiety disorder and becoming pregnant would mean having to go off my meds… while experiencing something that makes me extremely anxious. So yeah. And I have tried to talk to people about it, but mostly the reaction is “as soon as you see the baby, it’s all worth it” (least helpful statement ever). I even tried to brooch the subject with my doctor (who I normally adore) and she was extremely dismissive. I think her response was “what are you afraid of?” with a look of utter disbelief. I feel so alone in where I am at. It is really helpful to hear other woman share the same fears and desires. I suspect therapy is the answer or at least the starting point, but I guess after my Dr’s reaction I’ve been a bit afriad of being dismissed (also I’ve had some crappy therapy in the past).

      • lady brett

        no advice, just wanted to say something in solidarity. i suppose it’s not how women are “supposed” to feel about pregnancy, but i don’t think it’s as totally unheard of as folks are made to feel (there is even a word i can’t remember for pregnancy phobia).

        • KH_Tas

          Me too, I’m terrified of pregnancy/childbirth. And annoyed that people forget how dangerous it can be when things go wrong (my grandmother who I take strongly after physically nearly died giving birth, so it’s often close to the top of my mind)

          • Caitlyn

            It does help a lot to know other women feel this way. I do think part of the problem is that it seems to unacceptable to say this out loud. It seems like the conversation is “do you want kids or not?” (and of course if not WHY NOT HOW COULD YOU NOT WANT KIDS??), but rarely is it “how do you feel about pregnancy/childbirth?” That really doesn’t seem to be discussed. Other than mother’s gleefully comparing horror stories (which they seem to particularly enjoy doing at baby showers. WTF is up with that?), it seems that it just isn’t something that people talk about. The choice to be pregnant or give birth isn’t really discussed – only the choice to become a parent. Which shifts the entire conversation to parenting issues and away from a discussion of family planning options or alternative childbirth methods, etc. I think it would be a lot less intimidating if it was more common to say “this is scary. I’m not sure about this. But I really want kids.”

      • Jennie

        It is valid and possible for you to have PTSD regarding childbirth after watching your friend’s experience – as someone who works with birthing people, I can tell you that you are not alone in feeling the way you do. IF you ever decided that you wanted to try being pregnant, I would recommend finding a therapist through Postpartum Support International ( they mainly focus on perinatal mood disorders, but have referrals to therapists who are trained to deal with fears regarding pregnancy and birth (they could also support your anxiety disorder during pregnancy).

        That isn’t to say that you should ever get pregnant though. Not having kids is an option, it is possible to have biokids without carrying the baby (surrogate), and there are many ways to have non-biokids.

    • Kristie

      I’m in a similar situation and I’m glad I’m not alone. We’re unsure about kids, but if we do decide to have some, he definitely wants biokids (love that term!) but I’m completely terrified of pregnancy and childbirth and want nothing to do with it. I’ve just stopped talking to anyone about it because I always get the same “oh you’ll change your mind” or “it’s all worth it” replies which are totally unhelpful and super frustrating. I was beginning to think that I was alone in the “meh” baby camp, so it’s really reassuring to know that I’m not!

  • I love Rachel – she’s the best. Though I am in “want children” camp, I love and totally respect those who don’t or are unsure. One of my very best friends is firmly in the “no kids” camp and I think it’s awesome that she is owns this belief (that’s what wrong word, but opinion doesn’t really work either?). Because sure, I know I want children (and so does my husband), but that doesn’t mean I’m not TERRIFIED! I think there’s this perception that because you “know” you want them, that means you aren’t scared or apprehensive.

    Not to make it seem like a small decision, but I change my mind about plenty of things during every day life. And I keep the same opinion about some things . . . so to each their own! So long as you and your partner are open to the same “sides” and can have mature, respectful, and loving conversations regarding the topic, you are good to go. In my opinion I think something marriage prep is lacking in the reproductive conversation is with regards to HOW you exactly go about having children outside of intercourse/luck. I think it’s important for couples to not only discuss the yes/no to children but what are you willing to do to accomplish that goal should you struggle with conception.

  • Sara

    I have always been on team kids, but funny enough I’m the only single friend in a sea of married ‘team maybe never” friends. (It also doesn’t help that one of my friends is aggressively on team ‘all my friends should have kids’ lately even though he’s in seminary and won’t have his own kids. But his aggressiveness is turning everyone more towards the ‘never’ team. Its been a bizzare year.)
    But my point is, my friends in your mindset don’t really talk about it often and its nice to read and understand why they may lean that way.

  • Cathi

    I have never seen Baby Ambivalence described so perfectly. Though I am a baseball nut, so a sports analogy goes a long way to things clicking in my head. Thank you for this! So simple, yet profound.

  • Jess

    Rachel, thank you for saying this and saying it very well.

    Since I’m all about sports analogies… I often feel like as, a mid-20’s fan of the home team who knows that maybe they could lose and I’m not sure how I feel about that, the home team is playing at the away team’s stadium. The away team has a lot of voices, and they are a loud and proud fanbase. The home team fans act more like the minor league, with a quarter the numbers – and they only showed up for the beer.

    Also? “Name the dog “Barren” and tell everyone it’s because he was a post-vasectomy gift from me to Eric?” I died. Totally died. If you don’t do this, I might. Or we could both have dogs named Barren. Nobody says we can’t.

  • HannahESmith

    Anyone else have parents turning up the pressure, which makes the whole thing even more confusing? I feel like I have a natural tendency to want my parents to be proud of me, but then I worry that I would be only having kids for them, which makes me really worried. It is so hard for me to separate my own feelings from the pressure I feel surrounded by.

    • Kendra D

      Definitely. I thought I had escaped this pressure when my sister and her husband announced that they were expecting. But then my Mom started pushing me about my un-born (at the time) nephew needing cousins. It led to hurt feelings all around, but finally a good discussion.

      I truly believe that the most selfish thing I could do is have a child when I don’t want one. It’s a life time commitment and if I’m not willing to make it, than I have no business having a baby just because my Mom wants another grandchild. Framing it that way for her, helped her to understand that I have seriously thought this through and right now my answer is no.

  • Moe

    I didn’t know there was someone else in the universe that felt the same way about these decisions as me. Thank you Rachel, and yes babies wearing anything orginally designed for an adult is too damn cute.
    This post and the insightful comments are helping me to articulate ideas and questions that my husband and I need to ponder. I would love to hear this conversation from another woman who is 40-ish like me. The question “should we have children?” feels even more complex and daunting when I ask “should I even try?” Trying to have a baby at 41 feels risky and it’s beginning to put an urgency on the conversation because I sometimes feel that my eggs are dying as I type.
    So yeah, babies in your 40’s…anyone?

  • lady brett

    this is wonderful in every respect. although, perhaps especially this: “We both feel like we have the personalities and skills that lend themselves to good parenting… but we’d prefer to use them to nurture people who aren’t kids.” that is so important, and i think people get so caught up on the idea that raising kids is important and worthwhile (which it is) and forget that that does not make it the only thing that is.

    well, that and the dog. you should definitely do the dog thing.

    i just wanted to say, as someone who “changed my mind” about having kids, that the simplicity of that idea is infuriating (like acting like everyone falls into a definite yes kids/no kids category). there is very little about kids i have changed my *mind* about, but my *circumstances* have changed drastically, and that is the part that actually changed my decision. and i love having kids, but that doesn’t have much to do with this conversation either – ’cause i loved not having kids too.

  • tess

    I really appreciate this discussion about being on the fence. I am someone who has always been pretty darn sure she wanted to be a parent, just like I was pretty sure I wanted to get married, but am finding the prospect of actually making the plunge into “trying” pretty terrifying.

    How have others pushed through and decided to go for it? I know that deciding to start trying won’t be all that different than deciding to get married–you know you want it, you believe in your partnership, it’s still scary, but you push through and accept all the unknowns and potential for failure and say yes–but for some reason this life change is giving me a lot more nerves. Maybe it’s because of all the cultural messages out there about how hard parenting is (especially parenting babies) or too many friends confronting infertility, but it’s scary stuff. How did others tame the fear?

    • KH_Tas

      I’m afraid I can’t help – we’re looking at trying to figure that out in a couple of years ourselves.

    • Jennie

      We recently decided to stop preventing. For me this is a big difference there, rather than starting to try. I’ll admit that waiting for my period after my first cycle without birth control was a bit nerve-wracking but if it does take a while to get pregnant that’s fine, we’re not in a rush; and if it doesn’t happen we can adopt (which is also the plan if we decide for more than one). I work with pregnant and newly parenting families, so I think I have a more realistic view than many about what parenting a baby looks like and while I know it will be hard, I also know it isn’t what our culture often portrays it as. I guess to answer your question, my/our fear isn’t tamed, but we’re going for it anyway!

  • Audrey

    If it helps, despite generally being on the “home team” (I love it!), I do get little swells of babylust when people around me are pregnant or have just had a child. Even if you do start feeling a little baby fever, personally it’s not the all consuming fire that you always hear it is. When I start imagining life past the first week of “I made a little person!” I realize I don’t want to *raise* a child.

    • That is generally how I feel too! “Little swells of babylust” is the perfect way to describe it…but, like you, I tend to get over it when I think about it for more than five seconds.

  • Lauren Fitz

    As I read through this, I kept thinking “ME TOO” at every other line – for a long time I thought that you automatically knew if you wanted to be a parent, but at 32 I finally understand that for many, it’s a choice that might be based on little more than a slight inclination. Neither my fiance nor I are sold on becoming parents, but we’re not ready to take the option off the table, either.

    Part of the conflict is genetic – Muscular Dystrophy runs in my mom’s side of the family; all 3 of her sisters have had a son or grandson die of MD. My mom doesn’t know if she’s a carrier because she’s never been tested and had 3 girls – they decided to go for it and hope for the best. I am not willing to take that risk (which does make me feel like a sort-of horrible person) and I think it may be clouding my vision on the question of wanting kids. But sometimes I ask myself what I would think if MD wasn’t a concern…and I’m still not so sure becoming a parent is for me. One of my genius friends hit me with a dose of obvious logic: get tested, because no matter the outcome, at least I’ll know. So that’s what I’m in the process of doing.

    Also, it blows my mind how many people automatically assume that you’ll have kids. Blows. My. Mind. And how it’s presumed that a woman will change her stance (“Team Your Fickle Womanly Mind”), but a man’s opinion is fixed? Geez. Let’s get our act together, society.

  • z

    I always liked and wanted kids, but now that I am a mom I have to say it’s a lot easier and more fun than I expected! To my great amazement, I ended up getting a good sleeper and overall easy kid (she takes after her dad!), the relationship and job stuff has worked out well, even the birth was, of course, hurt like a mofo but easier than I expected and a really incredible experience that I’m eager to repeat. I really think our bodies and brains change physiologically to allow us to function on low sleep. And I’m high on snuggles every morning and night. Never thought I’d be one of those moms taking a million pictures and being a big sappy goober all the time, but I am. So I don’t try to convince people to have children, or tell them that they’ll change their minds (I think that’s obnoxious), but I do try to make them aware of the possibility that it could be better than they expect.

    The hardest thing for me, and I’m kind of surprised this hasn’t come up yet, was the possibility of a special needs or seriously ill child and the heartache, career sacrifices, marriage strugges, and financial issues that would bring. I still feel like becoming a parent is a big roll of the dice in that way, because I would quit my job and spend all my money in a heartbeat if my daughter really needed it. For me, that’s the hardest thing about trying to get pregnant and about being a parent. Other than that, I think it’s super!

    • Kathy

      You make a great point, z, and I posted about it farther up in the thread but long after those were recent posts, so I’m guessing it got easily missed. I’ll repost here and I’m glad you brought up the possibility of a special needs or seriously ill child, as I think it’s an important piece in the consideration puzzle as people figure out the right choice for them about parenthood. I’m so glad your experience has been wonderful and that you are enjoying motherhood and your little one!

      In response to an earlier post: Yes, Yes, Yes to the concept that someone is becoming a parent, not having a baby. But smart, quality people can make meaningful and significant contributions to the planet in a form that is not necessarily creating another person. There are many ways in which to do this, one of them parenting and many, many more that aren’t.

      Please also consider that if someone is embarking upon parenthood by conceiving that it’s important they are realistic about the possibilities of what could happen. I work in Special Education and there are no guarantees about who your child will be, one part of that being their cognitive abilities. I have worked with children and their families and have seen parents grieve about autism, deafness, and severe cognitive, motor and developmental delays. I do not know if that is what you were referring to by “smart” and by no means does being anywhere on the spectrum change the quality or inherent specialness of a person. But I think one of the natural tendencies when someone is embarking on parenthood and thinking about conceiving is that they form images in their mind of this little person-that-will-be, the family around the table, and the lifelong relationship they’ll have with this person. But none of us has any way of knowing what is to be. So if you are wanting to become a parent and have a child, it’s important to be ready and know that there are many possible outcomes and that may not be at all the movie you have in your head.

      Like many things in life, having certain expectations can take away from the the beauty and what there is to gain from taking the experience purely for what it is.

  • Reading this brought to mind my memories of growing up with my childless aunt and uncle as well as family friends through church who were unmarried or didn’t have kids. They were important people in our lives because they did what you described above – they stayed with my brother and I when our parents couldn’t, or particularly as the age difference was a little more significant for my brother and I these people stayed with me when my parents needed to be with my brother and I couldn’t logistically tag along.

    There was never any question (that I was ever privy to at least) as to why these people didn’t have kids of their own – it didn’t matter – it only mattered that they were kind and supportive adult friends/family who participated in our lives. As an adult I still don’t know why my aunt and uncle never had kids, I don’t know if they ever made a hard and fast decision or if it was “home vs away” until the age of fertility passed.

  • Alexis S.

    This all over the place. Perfectly articulates all the feels and thoughts I’ve been having about the Kids/No Kids? question. Also, the Home Team vs. the Visitors metaphor is perfect, and I’m totally referring to those “you’ll change your mind”-ers as spectators from now on – because that’s exactly what they are. Sure, they can heckle the batter all they want but they’re not the ones scoring the runs, know what I mean?

    • Caitlyn

      Ha, I love that “they can heckle the batter, but they’re not the ones scoring the runs” I will have to file that away for the next time my future MIL starts the baby talk.

  • We are at the point we know we want one kid. I expect to get a small break from the “when are you having a kid” while I’m pregnant and the baby is a baby and then go straight into “when are you having another kid” and stay there (with all the judgments) forever. It is funny how society accepts two or three kids, period. Anything more or less is selfish.

  • tiffany

    This is exactly what the hubs and I are going through right now! We were just married in October, we are in our early thirties and are under the gun from our families to have kids. He already has two of his own (they live with their mum, visit us once a month), I, never having been married, have none. I have been pressured since I was eighteen (even before then), by my mom to have kids (“but you’ll make such a great mom!” and “don’t you want kids?” -the two most common arguments), never mind that she already has three grandsons from my younger sisters. In her opinon, it was completly ok to get knocked up by some random guy at a bar and conceive a kid, nevermind that was not what I wanted, nor did I want to raise a kid with out their father in the picture (I could do it, but didn’t want to). I always told her I was waiting to get married, now, I don’t have that excuse any longer, and she has started in on the hubs. It’s not that we are exactly against kids per se, we just REALLY like to be able to do things on our own time how ever we want. We enjoy knowing that we don’t have to plan anything more than making sure the pets are taken care of. We like kids, and we enjoy having them around, we like the idea of little us’ running around, but we really LOVE our us time. That us time, seems to be shrinking daily as it is, we are just not sure if we want to make it go completly away. We realize that in part it sounds like a sefish decision, but maybe it’s just our honest opinion and others seem to have a really hard time understanding it. On the flip side, I want off of the birth-control that I have been taking for 12+ years! We are thinking about tackling the question again after the first of the year, though we have had the conversation off and on since we knew we were going to get married. I want to leave it to fate, but that sounds like we’re backing out of an important choice as well.
    I guess there really isn’t an “easy” answer unless you know, and to be honest, we simply do not know. In the mean time, the biological clock is happily ticking away, and we feel very little personal pressure to make a decsion right now, and maybe the truth in that is the answer that we are searching for?