Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Love Lounge: What if you don't want to have children?

On Monday, to kick off Baby Week, we shared our baby fever stories, and I reminisced about three little boys who had a not-so-little effect on me and made me begin to rethink my future, if only just a little bit. But let's turn the table today because, well, despite my story on Monday, my heart didn't always swell every time I'd see a new mother with her newborn in tow or see a toddler's face light up as he pointed to animals from a colorful picture book. In fact, I was a metaphorical card-carrying member of that group at one time.

I didn't want kids.

It's not that I don't necessarily like kids or that I've never been around them; I'm one of the oldest cousins on my father's side of the family. The simple fact was that I just never envisioned having children of my own. Even now, I sort of cringe when I look at those words. A simple four-word sentence, and yet, it holds so much power. Think about this: We as humans are hardwired to want kids. It's supposed to come naturally -- this instinctual desire to have kids, have a family, have the the white-picket fence and everything wrapped up in the American dream. Don't get me wrong: Sometimes I do want that. And then other times? Well, it just terrifies me. Something tells me I'm not alone here.
Of course, I can't discount the role my disability plays in all of this. Maybe that's what's making me so fearful and unsure? There is a very high probability that my child would also have Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, and part of me doesn't want that for my child. As hard as I've worked to thrive despite my disability, I don't think anyone would ever want that for their children. That's sort of like saying, "Yes, I want my child to have lots of hospitalizations and have more than 20 surgeries." It just doesn't sound right. Does that make sense?

So what happens if you're wired a bit differently? What does that say about you if you're never bit with the baby-fever bug? What kind of person does that make you? Are you any less useful or valuable to society? Do you think society judges women who don't want children differently than they judge men who don't want children? Does your desire to remain childless make you any less of a woman? Did your womanhood somehow get tossed aside? And, does not wanting kids mean you lack a maternal side and instead have a heart of ice and stone?

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[Photos by Charles Gullung]

15 comments:

  1. some of my friends wonder when they hear me those 4 words. I do not know, as of, i dont have any thoughts about having my own children now, or even in the near future. dont worry you really are not alone in this dilemma. take care always! ^_^

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  2. This is such a wonderful post–and boy do I appreciate it! I told you earlier that I always feel like I'm on the fence, but more importantly, lucky that I found someone to love who's also on the fence! I love the idea of babies, the concept of bringing children into this world who can learn from John and I and the experiences of our families. But I don't really love the idea of losing my independence, my time alone with John, with myself, or poop. Maybe one day, one side will trump the other, but for now I think it's okay to be undecided!

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  3. Melissa,

    My husband and I decided against having children. At different times in our lives, we took in our nieces and nephews while our brothers and sisters went on vacation. It was a relief to send them back! Kids are a lot of work and very expensive. Not to mention destructive and selfish. I've encountered mothers who have questioned my decision to remain childless. But a handful of times, I've had someone admit they regret having children. My husband reports that a large number of men wished they were not fathers. He said half of the men cite expense and responsibility of kids and the other half said their wives changed not for the better.

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  4. Lena- I completely agree with your concerns about losing your independence! Everytime I'm out with my husband or my friends, or even by myself, I think, "I couldn't do what I'm doing right now if I had kids." Here's to us fence-sitters!

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  5. You're so right, Anonymous. It's so much worse to have kids just because you think it's what you have to do. I'd never want to have kids for the wrong reasons and not unless my heart was in it 110%...

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  6. And Lena -- yay for embracing being undecided!

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  7. My husband and I both have talked about kids and know we would like them eventually, but are luckily both on board with waiting until the time feels right. I'm still not someone who oohs and ahs over babies and never have been. My mother was the same way. She loves her kids but was never a "baby person." I think bringing another person into the world is such a huge commitment and responsibility that no one should feel pressured into it at all, or pressured about when to have kids or how many to have. People contribute to the world in all sorts of ways, not just through children. And I definitely want to feel at ease in my career before I have kids so that I don't completely lose who I am in the process of raising children.

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  8. Melissa, if more people took the time to dig deep down within themselves before jumping on the "baby bandwagon", the world would be a much better place. In your case, you'd have to take into consideration the limitations of your disability, as you said. Plus you currently do not have a partner to co-parent with and it certainly wouldn't be fair to your mother, as your main caregiver, to expect her to help you care for a child that you brought into the picture simply because you felt it was the thing to do. You'd have to work hard to support a child (they are very expensive) and it would not be fair to the taxpayers to burden them with the cost of feeding, housing, educating or providing medical care for your child. So kudos to you for realizing that some people just shouldn't attempt parenthood for their own self-gratification.

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  9. No, I absolutely don't think not wanting children makes a woman less feminine, womanly, or anything else.

    I think it's interesting that women (and men) who don't want children are demanded to justify that decision, but those who do want children aren't questioned. I mean, do you really need reasons, besides to just shut other people up? I'd think it's just a gut feeling.

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  10. And that is speaking as someone who does want children.

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  11. As a woman with a disability, I understand what you are saying. I don't have my own children but I am as stepmom to my husband's son. He's an adult now, but I've been his stepmom since he was three. So except for the first few years of his life and the "joys" (sarcastic quotes) of potty-training, I've experienced a lot of the parental ups and downs (money, space, time, privacy, career sacrifices). Being a stepparent is hard work, even on a part time basis, but it was still a joyful way to have a child in my life. Would you ever date and/or marry a man with children from a previous marriage or does your no kids policy exclude men with children too? Just curious as you have a lot of strong feelings about marriage, but you've never talked about whether you would marry a man that had been married before and had kids.

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  12. I was firmly in the "I don't want to have kids" camp, until I got (unintentionally) pregnant. I made the decision to go forward with the pregnancy, even though I was terrified at the prospect. I didn't feel particularly bonded to my child during pregnancy, and all of that stuff that people said I should feel. I feared I would be a horrible mother.

    HOWEVER...something changes - drastically - after you have a baby. Being around other people's children does not prepare you for the amazing bond and love that you feel for your own child. Call it genetic programming, but I grew to love my child with such an intensity that I finally got it. I understood that "look" between a mother and her child, how they could tolerate the dirty diapers and temper tantrums....Simply put, it's a love unlike any you'll ever experience.

    My second pregnancy was so much more enjoyable because of this knowledge, by the way. ;-) My kids have brought a sense of joy and peace into my life that no one (including a man) can touch. They're both grown now, and we're closer than ever.

    I completely respect a woman (or man's) choice to remain childless, but like most things in life, it's impossible to judge how you'll react to a situation until you actually experience it. While I'm sure there are moms who regret having children, there are many reluctant first-time moms who say it was the best thing to happen to them.

    Either way, your life can be filled with love and joy!

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  13. That's great, Barbara! You're right -- it must be so different when it's your child.

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  14. Thank you for writing about this topic. I have never wanted children. That doesn't mean that I don't love the children in my life (4 nieces, 2 nephews, and my friends' kids). Once I hit my 20s, people suddenly thought it was a bit strange. The only concern I ever had about it was whether or not my mother would be upset not having any grandchildren. She told me that whatever I wanted, she wanted too. :)

    http://mandycrandell.blogspot.com/

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