Why We (Probably) Won’t Be Having Gaybies

two women walking into city hall

I always assumed I’d have kids—I love kids, I’m good with them, I was a nanny, and I have very strong opinions on how I would want to raise them. My wife, on the other hand, never necessarily assumed she’d have kids, but wasn’t opposed to it. If I really, really wanted to, she would have been okay with it, but she didn’t have really strong feelings either way. That’s where we were coming from in the beginning. Whether or not we’ll have children is a conversation we’ve been having for the past six years or so.

Since we’ve been together, we’ve handled some pretty big life things: four years of law school for me while we both worked full time; major changes in her employment situation (commuting fifteen minutes became commuting two hours each way); wedding planning and wedding; and most recently, unemployment for both of us at the same time—just after the wedding. All of that is to say that it was definitely the wrong time to have kids, if we were going to do it. At the same time, that never stopped me from looking at baby things or cooing over cute kids. Sometimes I would (and still do) get a twisted wringing-out of my heart at seeing a child holding its mother’s hand.

Here are some of the reasons that we “should” have kids (some good, some…not so good): We would be great parents, we could get rid of our TV, I could test my parenting theories on my own kids instead of someone else’s, my mother-in-law would have another grandchild (she has seven already, which she adores), we could buy tiny clothes for it, we could have Christmas and holiday traditions that are hard to create without kids, we could hang out at playgrounds without people thinking we were weird, we could prove wrong the people who think that two ladies can’t be good parents/raise great kids, we could create more people who were raised as much as possible without gender expectations, we wouldn’t have to grapple with the what-ifs of not having kids.

But there are also some significant issues. The first is logistics—how would we make it happen? The ideal way for us, I think, would be to not use birth control and “see what happens.” Of course—I’m not on birth control and haven’t been since we got together, and the answer to what happens when two presumably fertile ladies have unprotected sex is…oh, right—NO BABIES FORTHCOMING. That sounds obvious enough, but I just always assumed that when I was ready to have kids I would go off the pill and take what came, and it actually did take quite a bit of processing, and some grieving, to truly internalize that my unexamined and unacknowledged idea about how my childbearing would progress was physiologically not a possibility.

So crossing out the “whatever happens” option means turning to some sort of assisted reproduction. From my point of view, there seem to be two broad options—the less expensive version (which could be a one night stand, a friend/relative who’d be willing to donate, or a sperm bank, with home or minimal medical assistance) and the more expensive version (her eggs/my uterus? Her male relatives’ sperm and my eggs [which I’m not so comfortable with]? Some other combination?).

Second, we have no idea whether either of us are even fertile or could carry a child. We’ve never been tested for fertility. Although hardly “old,” it’s pretty much a certainty that neither of us are at 16 and Pregnant levels of fertility—she’s thirty-eight and I’m twenty-eight. I charted for a few years using Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and man, it was eye opening. My cycles range from thirty-two to fifty-four days—that’s my “normal.” So getting the timing right if we did want to do it would be a challenge. And I would be the one carrying it—she has zero interest in actually being pregnant (which is a shame, because she’s the one with the reproductive system that runs like a Swiss watch).

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned adoption—when I was with my ex (a dude) it was definitely something I wanted to do, and it was possibly my preference. But now that I’m with my wife, the fact that I can’t have biological children with just her makes it feel like that’s the only thing I want to do. And if we did decide to adopt, that would bring up its own set of logistical and financial issues.

Third, we live in Florida, which is not exactly the friendliest state for same-sex couples or parents. Although at least the gay adoption ban is no more, that’s far from saying there would be no headaches. It wouldn’t be possible for both of us to be on the birth certificate, we’d have to do second parent adoption, and we can’t be legally married in the state. The paperwork alone to make sure the children were legally protected would be expensive, exhausting, and time-consuming—and it still wouldn’t guarantee anything.

The fourth issue is that I’m prone to depression and have a significant family history of it. Stress, lack of sleep, and lack of security/stability/control all contribute to this for me. Adding a child to the mix would, I’m fairly certain, trigger much deeper and more serious depression for me.

Against all of these very good reasons not to have a child, I weigh the fact that sometimes I really, really, really want to hold a child that is ours. The idea that we won’t have kids to spend time with and raise and teach and go on vacation with, and won’t have a big family is very painful at times, especially when we are spending time or vacations with my wife’s giant family. But these wantings that come up every now and then are not worth the resentment that, it has become clear to me, I would have for a being that would inevitably insinuate itself into and change our life as it is right now.

The thought that I would resent a child has to do with some relatively recent events involving our cats (we have four—three girls and a boy). This may sound unrelated but is really quite relevant. The issues we’ve had this year have really clarified our thoughts on the responsibility of children. In brief, we switched from free feeding to timed feeding because they were getting fat. They let us know their displeasure by crying, peeing on the couch, and not letting us sleep past two in the morning (i.e., they turned into demon cats). We’ve resolved a lot of this now, but there are still some issues. If we’re hugging in the kitchen (not a euphemism), the boy will come and insinuate himself between our feet and meow until we pay attention to him. Oh—and at night, they all climb into bed with us. So I can’t cuddle with her like I once did. I resent them and the time they take from us. Sometimes I sit in the car reading for an hour just to get away. I don’t want them to die, but I do regret having them. The memory of the four years of fun we had with them is quickly being erased by the four months of hell so far this year.

And these are just cats. Children are more work and more responsibility. You can’t leave them alone with a bowl of food and a clean litter box. This is not to say that the cat situation made us decide not to have children; but dealing with their issues has really clarified for us just how much we’re willing to rearrange our lives for the needs of someone who is totally dependent on us. How much, you ask? Not very much.

A post from Lauren a few years back helped me come to terms with the idea that every choice you make also means that by necessity other choices are off the table (e.g., if I choose to take a vacation to Paris I can’t take a vacation to Hawaii at the same time), and that it’s okay—and often necessary—to mourn those things you can’t have. It’s a fact that we can’t both have and not have children. And Lauren’s post this year further contributed to our conversation and our thoughts on the subject of children. Over the years, I think we’ve both come to a point where we’d rather mourn not having children than have children out of the fear of missing out and then a) resent them or b) regret it. I can deal with my own grief and regrets, but I refuse to bring a child into the world and put that burden on its shoulders.

Some people have said that we don’t want to have children because we’re “selfish”—but that implies that being selfish, in this particular context, is a bad thing.  The decision not to have a child just affects you and your partner, and your family, and your friends—okay, obviously it affects many people, but they are all existing people. The decision to have a child affects all of the above and the child that you are choosing to create. I’m not willing to play with a non-existent person’s future and feelings and life like that.

Of course, we also agree that the conversation remains open, and feelings can change. We’ll love the hell out of the children in our lives—nieces, nephews, friends’ kids—but for us, for now, and I think probably for the future, the decision is no.

Photo from Liz’s personal collection

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  • Alice

    It’s funny how frequently people use the “selfish” slam for couple’s that decide not to have children… when honestly I feel like going through the process of having a baby has been the most narcissistic endeavor of my life. Not necessarily in a bad way but I can’t lie. It’s not some charitable act to the world or even to my child. It’s all because I (okay we) wanted a baby and we wanted one now. Really thinking about the implications of a baby prior to committing to actually having one or not is the polar opposite of selfish…

    • K

      I never understand the “selfish” comment, either! I hate that comment the most, more than “you’ll change your mind” or any of the rest!!! How is it “selfish” to think critically about a big decision, and then make the best decision for yourself and your partner?? I think people have a tendency to just spit out the first thing that comes to mind sometimes without thinking about what they’re saying… I chalk it up to that when I hear things like the selfish comment, try to brush it off and not to say anything like that myself. Selfish… honestly.

      • Class of 1980

        AMEN. I think it’s one of the stupidest comments on earth. There is zero logic being employed by those who say it.

      • Hannah

        I’ve gotten told I’m “selfish” for not wanting kids and it cracks me up. THERE ARE 7 BILLION PEOPLE ON THE PLANET. I’m SELFISH for not wanting to make another one? Mmmmk. I think people just feel judged by others making a logical decision not to procreate, as if it is a judgement on their decision to do so. Which it totally is not; I just don’t want the financial or emotional responsibility of children. I guess you could call that selfish if you think it’s every couple’s responsibility to procreate even to the detriment of their own happiness… but I just don’t see the logic in that!

    • Agreed. Presumably the reason you’re having a kid is that you want to have a kid. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s selfish. If you decide not to have kids, you’re presumably making that decision based on how having children would affect you. That’s also selfish. So why can’t we acknowledge that all decisions regarding one’s reproductive choices are equally selfish?

    • Diane

      Yes! Like it would be so unselfish of them to have kids that they don’t really want/aren’t prepared to parent? Or like the global population is plummeting? Or like children born in this country don’t, through no fault of their own, consume vastly more than their “fair share” of resources? Or like it’s any of their G-d business anyway? Good thing I don’t feel too strongly about this one…

      My (male) fiance and I really do want babies and will probably “pull the goalie” (sex + hockey analogies = I always crack up) in about a year but there is nothing fundamentally unselfish or generous about that decision. We want to have kids. We want to raise messy, adorable, silly, tall (barring odd genetic coincidence), carbon-producing, kids because we think it sounds like a great adventure and because, frankly, we like us. I would hope that by now the idea of obligatory parenthood as protracted martyrdom would have gone the way of the dodo bird but alas, there is still huge pressure. I guess all I can say is rock on, you wise ladies!

      • Class of 1980

        Not bringing children into the world that you feel you might shortchange is the LEAST selfish thing in the world.

    • Paranoid Libra

      I feel like all children deserve to be wanted. That is not to put down those oops children, and most often their parents do want them even if the initial reaction is ahhh crap. If you don’t truly want children then things like difficult pregancy I imagine are even more difficult than what it could be. I don’t understand how feeling like you could not be able to handle the responsibilities to raise a child and decide parenting isn’t for you is selfish….It’s damned responsible. So the woman who got pregnant in hopes of keeping the guy around are giving, but someone who chooses to be childless is selfish? No not sharing candy is selfish, but totally understandable as I don’t share sweets well.

      And on another note:
      I get really confused by women who take motherhood to equal martyrdom. You biologically are set up to be the one to give birth. Yes it’s a crazy thing and can be beautiful, but it still is basic biology (for hetero couples especially). In this day and age where women rarely die in childbirth(sad it still happens though), its not so risky to have a kid in that sense. And yes you can be proud to be a mom and you might sacrafice things here and there, but you do that for those you love. My husband wouldn’t be a martyr if he sacraficed a job he loved so I could get out of one that was killing me. People are willing to sacrafice for their loved ones, not just moms. Kids might have to sacrafice getting brand new jeans and instead get 2nd hand so mom and dad can pay the electric bill. Now if you birthed a legit unicorn, that would be something to brag about, but I still wouldn’t consider you a martyr, just really awesome.

      The paragraph I just wrote here just helped me to understand why Meg didn’t think it’s necessary for people to congratulate her on being pregnant (i don’t remember her exact words but that’s how I’m remembering it). Pregnancy is just us reproducing. Yes it’s cool to think we made a person. And actually congrats when pregnant is premature as the end goal I’m sure is to be able to hold that little human in your arms, not just be pregnant the rest of your life. I am pretty sure everyone would rather have the human in arms than forever in their belly.

      Sorry for the book…I am good and being long winded : /

      • Class of 1980

        To be fair, I don’t think people are literally congratulating someone for the condition of being pregnant. They are congratulating that a new person is on the way.

        At least that’s the way I’ve always understood it.

      • If I birthed a unicorn, I…..

        I don’t even know, but I’m pretty sure that would be my MOST SPECIAL DAY EVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR.

    • Emily

      I totally agree–I thought *having* kids was selfish before I had one, and I think so even more now. I spend time with my kiddo (in general, not each specific moment :) because she makes me really happy, not because it is part of my plan to build a model world citizen, and even if she doesn’t become a lifesaving neurosurgeon/social worker/refugee camp improver or other redeeming-social-value type person I will still love her to bits. She is (and I say this in the most affectionate possible way) a massive time suck, and I’m sure I could have served thousands of soup kitchen meals or tutored dozens of neighborhood kids just in the hours I’ve spend on diaper changes and trying to get her down for naps. I am hoping to get the more selfless part of my life back in the future (she’s 1 now, so probably not for a few years yet), maybe even through activities we can do together, but right now I’m just happy hanging out with her.

      And BTW, I had a really neurotic cat with serious pee issues and for years my reply when people pestered me about having kids was ‘My cat is on Prozac. Do you really think I should parent?’ It turns out that in my case, a kid is actually easier (and less smelly) than a cat. I can’t even imagine what four cats with those problems would be like. Just a thought…

      • Re: the “selfish” comment (or people who don’t say it, but imply it). I’ve realized that it can actually come from a place of love – as hard as it is to feel that way at the time – the people saying it really do think we would be awesome parents. In a way, I guess, it’s a compliment – better than saying “thank God, I always thought you’d be a terrible parent!” At least that’s one way I try to look at it.

        Diane – I LOVE that reason – “because we like us.” Fantastic people generally make fantastic kids.

        Paranoid Libra (hey! I’m one too! :)) – Totally agree that love involves sacrifice…but I don’t think it’s supposed to be the soul-sucking, never-showering martyrdom that FB makes it seem like. We actually just had a conversation with my in-laws the other night about this, and it’s their (and our) opinion that that brand of parenting is definitely a modern trend.

        Emily – Can I just tell you how happy this makes me? “I’m just happy hanging out with her.” YAY for kids you want to spend time with.

        • KEA1

          You’re a lot more gracious than I would be about the “selfish” comment. If someone thinks I would be an awesome parent, they can say that–or, at least, can say something that isn’t both a) flat-out wrong and b) spectacularly insulting.

  • K

    GREAT post!!! This really resonated with me and the logic I’ve used to come to my choice to remain child free. I also love that you mentioned Lauren’s old post, which I now always think of when making a big decision like this! Thank you for posting! Wishing you and your wife the best.

  • I’m feeling somewhat humbled by this post. Sometimes I forget how privileged being a girl in a relationship with a dude makes me particularly in the reproductive arena. Even if the easy way doesn’t work at least I have the option of trying that.

    It sounds like the two of you have thought out your decision not to have children really well. I have a feeling the two of you are going to make awesome aunties to all the other kids in your lives.

    • Taylor B

      Exactly. I grew up always knowing that I wanted to adopt, raised in a very pro-adoption family, but it wasn’t until I was an adult, and both of my siblings committed to same-sex partners, that I realized the power of that as my choice. I plan to also try to get pregnant when we’re ready, but given that I’m already into my 30’s and being ready is still a few years off, I’m pretty much planning on the adoption route. It’s embarrassing that it took me so long, really until my brother and his husband began officially saving for their adoption process, to get that they have fewer choices, and none that are as free and potentially easy as my going off the pill would be. Humbled is right. In my family, we do so much battle for marriage equality, where progress can be made and equality achieved, but I’m realizing that it’s been too sad to contemplate that the choices for becoming parents just aren’t the same for my brother and sister.

      • I think part of what makes it so raw and sad is that there’s literally nothing we can do about the biology at this point in time. We can send letters and sign petitions and vote and protest about employment inequality and identity discrimination and marriage equality, but unless you’re a scientist, you can’t do anything about changing the reproductive reality. And it sucks to run up against a barrier that is really impassible (insert birth control/sperm joke here. Hahaha). Blerg.

        • Danielle

          One thing I love about being queer is that it expands possibilities too. Like, one-night stand with that hot guy me and my lady partner are both crushing on? Yes, please!

          But that’s just me ;)

  • We probably are having gaybies, but I SO FEEL YOU on the ‘why can’t I just go off the pill and see what happens?’ feelings. I can’t help but resent that I am going to have to find hundreds to thousands of dollars that may or may not be covered by my health insurance (NO ONE WILL GIVE ME A CLEAR ANSWER!!) and sit down with a doctor to hopefully get pregnant.

    • Yes, this. I also went through my own “mourning process” when I realized that falling in love with and subsequently marrying the love of my life– who just so happens to be a lady– meant that I would never be able to get pregnant just by seeing what happened. Instead, it has to be a giant process with more than just the two of us involved. I realize that is true for some heterosexual couples as well, but for us is has to be. I think that’s a hard thing.

      We’re almost definitely having some gaybies of our own, eventually, but we have talked a lot about how if that was something that didn’t end up working for one reason or another, we would both be okay with being a family of two (plus cats and probably eventually a dog, a goat, and a llama– all of which my wife has told me she wants someday!)

      If nothing else, it will be an interesting journey.

      • It does take away a bit from the intimacy – “you, me, a bottle of wine, and a nice doctor.”

        Christina – hey, at least there’s a “may” in there! Best of luck getting clear answers!

        Helen – Llamas are awesome.

  • Shawna

    I would actually say that having children is a selfish decision (and I sometimes feel guilty, because I want children, but think I’m being selfish). Because, really, the planet has plenty of people, so you’re not doing any good there. And, there are lots of children who already exist and need good homes, so you don’t need a new child when you could give a loving home to one that already exists. Really, I think making babies is really for your own entertainment in life. Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. And it does seem to be “just how it works”. But, I just don’t think that choosing not to have children means you are being selfish.

    That’s my two cents.

    • Adi

      Yep yep yep. I want children to an enormous degree, and while I hope to foster/adopt someday, I want to be pregnant, also, and this comes with a HUGE dose of guilt because I know I would love a biologically not-mine child just as much as one I carried. But, selfishly, that’s what I want.

      • For what it’s worth, I definitely don’t think that choosing to have biological children over (or in addition to) adopting or fostering is a selfish decision at all. Different choices for different people and situations – all valid. Babies are awesome entertainment, though.

  • Chanel

    Aside from the fact that I am not married to another woman, I could have written this post. I’ve actually been struggling for a while now with the fact that I have always assumed I would be a mother and desperately love children. I get baby fever whenever I’m around a friend’s child. But I recognize that having children would be extremely difficult (because of my body), and very disruptive to the way I see myself living my life. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to have all the things in my wonderful, childless life AND have a baby or two, but just knowing there are other people out there like me – who love children and decided deliberately not to have them – helps.

    • I’m glad it made sense to you! Some days it’s even hard to explain to myself.

  • man, through all of our conversations about kids, i have been so jealous of the idea of people accidentally having babies. which is stupid on two counts: being accidentally pregnant is at best a very nasty shock that turns out well, and is often drastically awful; and being pregnant is one of my biggest fears (not an exaggeration), so that is not something i would ever *actually* want to happen to me (it’s hard for me to even write that).

    what i’m actually jealous of is that some people don’t have to plan this stuff so thoroughly. deciding to have kids was one of the hardest things i’ve ever done (and it’s going to be that hard all over again when/if we decide to have a kid of our own). having kids has not been hard like that. and i knew that going in, so i desperately wanted to skip the part where i had to make a decision (again with the stupidity of the jealousy above, it’s not as if there aren’t decisions to be made in other, more spontaneous situations!)

    also: “If we’re hugging in the kitchen (not a euphemism), the boy will come and insinuate himself between our feet and meow until we pay attention to him.” it is just like that!

    • CarbonGirl

      It is a weird thought, but I have had it too. The decision is agonizing. An “accident” means the decision would be made for me.

      There is actually a line in an old No Doubt song (A simple kind of life) that always resonated with me:
      “I always thought I’d be a mom
      Sometimes I wish for a mistake”

    • Amanda

      I sometimes wish for a “happy accident”, also. That said, true accidents (failure of the pill) rarely occur, but other incidents of “accidents” (not taking the pill at the required time consistently, forgetting to take it, no back-up during antibiotics, etc.) aren’t true accidents, in my mind. To me, that’s more like being irresponsible. And I’m not irresponsible. So a true accident? Not likely to happen in my (hetero) world. I don’t mean to sound harsh, it’s just that I’m very Type-A, so I would have to make an active decision to be late with taking/forget to take the pill in order to precipitate an accident. And then it’s no accident.

      All this to say – why can’t the stork just drop babies on our doorstep when it saw fit?!?!

      • Yes to this: “Why can’t the stork just drop babies on our doorstep when it saw fit?” I would totally sign up for a stork baby. Then I could avoid the whole scary pregnancy/birth thing, which is the single reason I have to not want kids.

        • Exactly – I have been lucky enough to never have a *real* pregnancy scare, but oh my giddy aunt, I would have PANICKED if it had happened and we weren’t in the “let’s see what happens if we…” stage.

          Amanda – I definitely feel you on the pill “accidents”. I was on it for five years and it was the first thing I thought about every morning when I woke up. There’s not even a possibility that I would have forgotten, absent some sort of head trauma or amnesia.

      • Anon for this

        I’m currently in this exact situation. We had a baby 3 years ago (which was WAY irresponsible, but luckily it turned out pretty well for all 3 of us). My current job is a stay at home mom to said 3 year old. We aren’t in a prefect place to add another child to the mix, but something as trivial as remembering my pill in the morning has become really hard. Some mornings I wake up to “MOM! MY BED IS WET!” and my first thought has to be change the sheets, wash the sheets, shower kid, make breakfast, blah blah blah. Then on the worst days I lay down at night realizing f&%! I never took my pill today! As a result of a couple of those days in a row with mildly reckless lovin, I am currently waiting for my partner to get home from work to take a pregnancy test. For the past week my partner and I have been in this weird limbo where one part of us is excited at the thought of another baby, while the other part of us is terrified because of the reasons we aren’t having a baby on purpose.

        All this to say that it isn’t as black and white as you might think it is right now. There are really irresponsible accidents, “honest” failings of birth control (the true accidents that you mention), and the kind of accidents when sometimes you realize a little too late that perhaps you weren’t perfect taking your pill.

        • Anon, I hope it didn’t sound like I was saying that people who forget are irresponsible :/ I didn’t mean that at all. I tend to be on list-y, compulsive side of things anyway, and an unintentional pregnancy was the most terrifying thing I could think of, so it was always on my mind. I also had a partner who was as terrified as I was, so he would always be reminding/asking me. AND I had no distractions in the form of kids, serious illness, financial troubles, etc. All that to say that everything in my life lined up to keep it very, very easy to be regular with the pill, whereas for most people it doesn’t shake out like that. Obviously, I was super lucky that it worked out that way.

          I wish both of you the best, whatever the test came/comes out to be!

  • Bubbles

    Great post, Liz! I have a lot of respect for people who think critically about having children and make the right decision for themselves and their families.

    As for your kitty problems, have you tried reading The Way of Cats? (http://www.wayofcats.com/blog) Pammy has a lot of experience with cat behavior, and she has lots of great tips for getting along with your feline companions.

    • Thanks! And YES – we read Way of Cats and then got the book – Cat 911 – I swear, it saved my sanity. The part where she says “pretend to be asleep” was genius. Once I had some backup for what I thought I should do, it was a lot easier to do it. She’s brilliant.

  • Cindy

    “I just always assumed that when I was ready to have kids I would go off the pill and take what came, and it actually did take quite a bit of processing, and some grieving, to truly internalize that my unexamined and unacknowledged idea about how my childbearing would progress was physiologically not a possibility.”

    Beautifully written. This seriously opened my eyes to something I took for granted.

  • Susan

    Fabulous post to celebrate National Coming Out Day! Thank you for sharing your story with us, Liz.

    • Thanks Susan! I actually forgot that until I saw your post. Serendipitous timing!

  • Maize

    Great great post. I can relate to how your wife feels about having kids and my fiance loves them and wants them. It’s a really tough decision and I for sure can relate to this post even though I am not married to a woman. We are still undecided and when I make the list in my head sometimes I think the reasons why I would want to have a child seem ridiculous. I also suffer from depression and anxiety and have a HUGE fear of what will happen during preganacy and afterwards. Again, great post thank you so much for sharing

    • Thank you! I definitely don’t think that depression and/or anxiety should be considered a deal breaker when it comes to having kids, but it deserves serious consideration and your own knowledge of how it might affect you. Of course, I guess you can never know until it actually comes up, but it’s good to know your triggers and try to figure out if kids would hit those buttons in a way that couldn’t be handled.

  • Marina

    I kind of have an issue with the cat analogy. The things you talked about are the big reasons I do not have cats or dogs and will probably never have cats or dogs. The time, energy, and money required would make me hugely resentful, I am sure of it down in my soul.

    Buuuuut I don’t feel that way at all about my daughter. Yes, in a lot of ways I’ve rearranged my life around her, but it feels much closer to the way I’ve rearranged my life around my husband. If he was depressed and/or ill, I don’t think I’d want to sit in the car feeling resentful and regret having married him. I’d probably be super stressed and exhausted, and spend some good time crying on a friend’s shoulder, but… it feels different somehow.

    And maybe it doesn’t feel different for you with cats/kids, I definitely don’t want to tell anyone else how they should feel. But I guess I just wouldn’t assume you’d feel the same way about a baby being dependent on you as you do about cats being dependent on you.

    • Jeannine

      I recognize the distinction you’re making Marina, and I hope I’m not putting words in Liz’s mouth, but I strongly identified with her analogy (I have 1 dog, no cats, have decided with my partner not to have children) because of the depression piece of her post. I also struggle with depression and one of the ways in which having a dog showed me definitively that motherhood was probably not for me was that, when I’m having a “bad spell,” as I like to call it, I can barely get myself showered and out of bed, and making sure I take my dog on a walk and let him out in the yard to pee feels like a really big issue. From time to time, I can shaft him on his daily hour-long walk, but with a baby (or a toddler, or a young child), you can’t just say, hey baby–mama just can’t get out of bed today, feed yourself ok? you just can’t.

      Given that I have a partner who, like myself, is not too keen on being the primary caregiver, having a dog made it really clear that I didn’t want that kind of responsibility x1000.

      I should note, this by no means indicates that people with mental health issues shouldn’t parent, it just means that my relationship with my mental health and the strategies I’ve developed for it don’t have room for a baby, and for me, it’s not worth to try to figure out a new system in order to do so.

    • Everybody will feel differently about things, but when I was staying home with my daughter during my maternity leave, there were definitely days when I would leave the house to do some stupid errand as soon as my wife came home just to get a little break. There was, in fact, even a day when I drove to a local parking lot and read in the car for an hour. So that part of Liz’s post certainly resonated with me. (I am very happy to have our baby – but a small change she was not).

    • The difference to me about kids versus pets is that kids are only toddlers for a couple years or so. Pets are kinda like toddlers for life. Sure you may sometimes resent your baby and all the time they take and all the sleep they deprive you of, but they’re not going to be a baby forever.

      But I’m not really an animal person so maybe that’s why the analogy doesn’t work so well for me personally. But I do get what Liz is saying and it’s real — parenthood is not a decision you can take back, and there are people who do resent being parents. And that really really sucks for everyone, parents and children.

      • Class of 1980

        Well, a child is a minor in your care longer than many dogs and cats live. And there is infinitely more to worry about, because human life has more moving parts.

        Children grow up and become independent, but the worry doesn’t end at age 18 or when they graduate from college. You will still worry about your children when they are grown. You will worry about them when they are middle aged!

      • I have long joked that the reason I wanted kids instead of pets is that, eventually, kids deal with their own poop. Dogs? You’re touching poop forever.

        • But my dog was potty trained in three days and I NEVER had to do diapers.

          So pretty much anyway you slice it there’s an upside. :-)

          • Class of 1980


        • Class of 1980

          How did you make a word in italics?

    • Class of 1980

      Marina, I think Jeannine hit it on the nail. You have more leeway with a cat or dog than a child.

      I hope the cat analogy doesn’t bother you because you don’t think people SHOULD be as attached to cats as they are to people. There is so much shaming that goes on over that issue. People lose a pet and are told they should not be grieving so much because it was “only a cat” or “only a dog”.

      Many animals have the intelligence of a five-year-old and are capable of far more communication and emotions than people realize. They just do it without words.

      I did not want children and I am past having them now. That was the right decision for me when I was younger. But having a cat that I dearly love as much as a person has actually opened me up to the idea that if I remarried, I would not mind being a grandmother one bit if my husband had grown children. Strange as it may seem, my cat was the doorway to those thoughts.

      She is a Ragdoll cat and they are known for their extremely affectionate personalities.

      Taking care of a rather emotionally needy and hilarious cat has only increased my desire to give of myself. Seeing the cause and effect of my actions on another living thing is rewarding. Watching her figure out how to get me to do something she wants is quite interesting. OF COURSE a human child is more complicated and intricate and exhausting, but love and devotion work for both.

      Society makes distinctions about the strength of love between humans versus between humans and animals. It rings false to many of us. Humans are only more highly developed animals anyway and I can fully love a being with less reasoning power than myself.

      • Class of 1980

        Also …

        I had two cats and lost one this past April. It didn’t stop him though. He came back as a ghost several times.

        Love and attachment have no boundaries, people.

      • You know, in a very specific way, having the cats is harder for me than having a child would be. I’ve been dealing with and caring for children all my life, and I have very clear practices around children, how to handle them, etc. All tried and tested. I know what generally works and what generally doesn’t, and I know what things I try in different situations. But cats are a big mystery. It’s only in the past year (since the horribleness started) that I really started learning about them and how to deal with them. If it were kids, at least I would have a place to start with screaming and waking up at night and peeing on the couch. With the cats, I was just baffled, which is part of the reason I was so frustrated. I don’t like not having any kind of (however vague) blueprint for attacking a problem.

      • One More Sara

        I have an aunt who is childless by choice, and she has had many furbabies over the years. When her first dog died (that she and her husband got early in their marriage), she was supposed to have jury duty the next day. She told the judge (or lawyer? I don’t know who decides these things) that she didn’t have children, but her dog just died and she was really emotional about it. She was allowed to go.

    • Jaime

      The cat analogy did not resonate with me either but for a different reason. While I have suffered through depression on and off for many years, when I was at my lowest, my cat was actually the reason I did not commit suicide. Knowing that even when she annoyed me (or I annoyed her) that her love for me was unconditional actually helped me because in my darkest hours, she was there right beside me trying to make me feel better.

      • Class of 1980

        Yeah, cat’s have a grownup side to them too. They try to bring us back to normalcy. Mine taps my face if I sleep too long, “yells” at me if I stay up too late, and looks at me a certain concerned way if I am upset.

        • Marina – There is definitely a distinction, and cats and kids occupy very different places for me. My experience doesn’t make me feel (or say) that the cats are my “children” (although for many people I know that is their experience – and totally valid, of course). When I need to take care of my wife, like you said, I don’t resent it. Even if she’s whiny and irritable, I still don’t ever want to throw her out a window (good sign, right?). Sacrificing comfort isn’t an issue – I mean, I don’t like it, but that’s part of what I signed up for, and it’s OK. But I just don’t have that knowledge or desire to give in that way for a child, so far.

          Jeannine – EXACTLY. If I don’t scoop the litterbox for a day, although I do feel guilty, it’s not the same as not changing a baby’s diaper for a day. And sometimes it is just that hard. My wife would pick up any slack, no doubt, but that’s not the way I would want it to be.

          Carrie – Car reading is awesome. Also, car napping = win.

          Ruchi – Yeah, and apparently black cats (which all of ours are) live longer than average. Like 20 years. That’s two years longer than a kid would be in the house, darn it!

      • There is that side of it, too. Since I wrote the post, things have improved and I can enjoy them again, to a degree. Their little faces are adorable, and they’re all snugglers, in different ways, which is nice.

  • Adi

    I loved this post. As someone who wants children unwaveringly and unquestionably, I approve of being a parent by CHOICE and not situation. I’m not saying I would be a better mom than Liz, but I do feel (hope!) that my ferocious desire will carry me through the harder parts of parenting, whereas Liz would only have that ambivalence and the thought that she could have been happy (perhaps happier) without kids. So, go Liz, for making the right decision for YOU.

    • YES! Exactly what I’m saying. When know without a doubt you have the desire to be doing it, you can handle the crap parts much better than when you are second-guessing your decision. Thanks :)

  • I hear you loud and clear on the cat issue. We had the same problem with rearranging feeding times due to one cat becoming overweight. It gets better, I promise but it takes time and there has been many a night where I didn’t get more than three hours of sleep because of his whining. Both cats insist on sitting with us whenever they can, that means sitting on us, between us, etc. Drives me crazy sometimes. We had to institute a policy: no cats in the bedroom and while it took a long time to train them, it works and we have a fur-free room all to ourselves. Good luck.

    • OK, how did you retrain them to not sleep with you (and perhaps more importantly, was it hard to convince your partner/spouse/whatever that it was OK?)? This is the remaining point that I’m absolutely desperate about. I would love to hear more if you care to share – if you like you can email me at proofitgood@gmail.com.

  • Class of 1980

    The cat example counts as REAL. I’ve learned a lot about myself from having a very clingy affectionate Ragdoll cat who wants love and attention almost every minute she’s awake. She follows me everywhere. Yes, people, affectionate cats exist.

    I love her. I really really love her nap times. Especially since I work at home. ;)

    Can’t even figure out how to go on a trip without destroying her world, except to get a cat sitter! So, yeah, considering that a child would be a far more extreme investment of time and effort, and asking yourself if you’re up for it makes sense to me. Heck, my cat tries to control my bedtime! She “yells” at me if I stay up too late in front of the computer. No lie.

    (Also … put your cats on canned food and eliminate the dry, and they will lose weight. Turns out all the vets who recommended dry were wrong. Their bodies don’t absorb the dry food very well and it has lead to recent generations of cats with more diabetes than ever seen before.)

    • I was working from home today and I had (at different times) two cats napping in my lap. It’s like a little space heater, which is lovely. We also have to get a cat-sitter when we go on trips, although they still don’t like it.

      We actually did just that at the beginning of the year – I read the page http://www.catinfo.org/ extensively and became convinced that canned food was the way to go. So far, the fattest one has gone from almost 19 pounds to a svelte 13, and is able to run and jump and groom herself. Go figure.

    • This was the best piece of advice I’ve picked up after working around dozens of vets in a vet hospital for the past two years. Wet food all the way for my cats. It was a pain in the butt to switch them over from dry, and it means a mandatory cat sitter when we’re out of town, but they are happier and healthier these days.

  • I’ve come to some of the same realizations lately — I have problems with anxiety that would only deepen if I were to add a dependent to the mix, and I don’t do well when my life gets rearranged for any reason. Though my husband and I haven’t made the firm decision to not have kids, we’re certainly leaning that way. I revisit Lauren’s posts on a regular basis (it made me so happy you linked to them!) as a reminder that whatever I choose, it will be OK to mourn whatever I don’t choose.

    • Paranoid Libra

      I’ve have heard for some, kids wound up helping with mental health problems, but there are definitely those it would hurt. I have my own fear of having a child with an extreme mental health problem that involves suicide as there are bad mental health histories on both sides. I’ve realized though that we can just make sure we help our future kids develope healthy coping mechanisms for when life is hard and since we are aware of the possibility maybe we would catch it early and early intervention will help it all too. It makes me feel a little selfish to think I might bring someone into the world that winds up in a lot of mental anguish and torture. Mental health is such a tricky beast, but I think we (hubby and I) can handle it, but it’s still a scary though. I also fear being to over protective.

      These decisions aren’t easy but I wish more people would really think about it all before becoming parents or not parents no matter the background because it is a big damn deal to be responsible for someone beyond yourself.

      • Class of 1980

        Family mental health issues – great point. I’ve wondered about that myself.

        • I think that knowing your own triggers and how serious the resulting issue are has a lot to do with the analysis. Mine include a) not having money (which is why not having a job has been hard); b) not being able to control things, or having plans change abruptly; and c) not getting enough sleep. It’s not terribly severe (although the unemployment has been really, really difficult to cope with) and can be handled for the most part. But given that having kids necessarily involves being flexible and not necessarily getting 9 hours of sleep a night, those are things that I consider.

          Like everything else, it depends on where you are. If you are able to face your own issues, and have a safety net (whether it’s meds, talk therapy, friends, whatever) to both alert you to things you might not recognize yourself and get you to a place where you can do something about it, I think that kids can actually benefit from having parent(s) who can be open and not raise them with shame around mental illness/issues.

          What really scares me is people who have issues but refuse to think about what the impact might be, on themselves, their partner(s), and their potential children, and just assume that everything will be OK. It totally could be fine, but having a contingency plan is never a bad idea.

  • My god! The cats! I use the cat – kid analogy thusly:

    I loooove cats, they are so cute, cuddly, I had a cat growing up that I loved dearly. Every time I see one I squeal and start making out with it. I’m pretty much the same with babies (babies, not kids.)

    – BUT –

    I do not have a cat. I have never had one as an adult, and I never seriously considered getting one. I don’t want the responsibility nor do I want cat hair all over my stuff and I’m certainly not interested in dealing with cat shit.

    In my vacillations on the subject of kids, I keep trying to extrapolate whether or not my not owning a cat is a clear indication that really, I don’t want kids.

    I can’t believe you had to escape to the car! That must’ve been bad.

    • Yeah, it was bad. They just wouldn’t shut up. I don’t like constant noise, and being interrupted while reading was the really horrible part.

  • thursday

    I think we’ve both come to a point where we’d rather mourn not having children than have children out of the fear of missing out and then a) resent them or b) regret it.

    Oh I needed to read that. Thank you. That helped me translate a few things into language.

    • You’re welcome! I’m so glad.

  • Molly

    THANK YOU for this! We have four cats and people look at me like I’m crazy when I cite that as the biggest reason we probably won’t have kids. At least you can bring kids with you when you leave town. We have to get a twice-daily cat sitter.

    • Us too! Once a day was doable when we had them on dry food, but it still wasn’t ideal because they don’t like not having people around. Let me tell you, those last minute bargain trips are a whole lot more expensive when you have to factor in $50 a day for a cat sitter.

  • You guys, thank you so much for all the amazing comments and support. (Just in case anyone was wondering, my wife read the post and agreed with everything, so it really does reflect the views of both of us.)

    I’m so glad that others can relate – I think the process applies just as much to opposite sex couples, although the specific reasoning clearly might not always be the same.

  • Amazingly insightful post!

    A suggestion on the cats (My qualifications: I’m a zookeeper and I’ve gone through the same sort of transition with my cats at home) consider switching to a higher quality food, specifically one that has meat as a first ingredient. I feed Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance and don’t have issues with my cats being hungry. I have a friend who’s also making this switch and her cats are on Science Diet and exhibit a lot of the behaviors you’ve described. Maybe you’ve already done this, you may want to try upping the amount a little bit. If you want them to loose weight, you only want them to loose 1% of their body weight per week, which is a teeny tine amount, if you’re a cat.

    Anyways, sorry for the unsolicited animal advice, and again, I loved your post!

    • Not at all – I appreciate it! We’re feeding three of them the best food we can afford right now (Authority) and one of them is getting a no corn/wheat/etc. food from Blue Buffalo (due to some other issues we’re trying to work through). First ingredient chicken! I feel guilty that I can’t afford better right now, but I know it’s much better for them than even the best dry food was. We tried to keep in mind all of the information about calorie count, measured weight loss, etc. I think we did OK – the heaviest one lost about 6 pounds over nearly 10 months. It’s so complicated at times, but it’s definitely been worth it.

      Do you have any opinions on trying to do a raw meat (+ supplements or whatever you have to do) diet? We’re definitely NOT there, but it’s something I’d like to know more about.