I grew up thinking that I wanted a family. When I was about 14, I had pretty much planned out my future: go to college, graduate, get married, start teaching, have babies, stay at home for awhile. I had decided that I would have 2 children before I was 25 — that seemed reasonable at 14.
I’m not sure what fueled this desire — was it the fairy tales all little girls are supposed to idolize? Was it the Disney Princesses? Was it the fact that my mother was able to stay at home with my siblings and me? I have no idea. I just know that for many years, this was my plan. I clung to my plan as a toddler clings to a security blanket. It was my comfort.
It was about the time I was 21 that I started rethinking my plan. Many pieces were the same — college, graduate, get married — but I started doubting the children part. As I grew in my university education, my eyes were opened to different life-choices. I met people who had actively made the choice to remain child-free despite what society had always told them. We don’t have to procreate to have a fulfilled and meaningful life — we live in an age when we can control the course of our lives as women, and our place in society isn’t simply to have and raise progeny. My eyes became open to the possibility that my life could be ANYTHING I wanted it to be.
The more I considered this possibility, the more I realized that there’s a lot of “ifs” that come with having and raising children. What if my child has special needs? Do I have what it takes to take care of that child selflessly, possibly for decades? What happens if my child dies from an accident or disease? Do I have what it takes to make it through that? What about what I want out of life –what is it that I truly want and need, and can I accomplish that with child(ren) in tow?
My husband and I have been together for 11 years now, so we sort of grew together with this view of our future. As we got older, and it became time to actually talk about having a family, we had to talk about very serious things. Instead of thinking of what might be “wrong” with the children, we became very aware that there might be something “wrong” with one of us.
With a history of alcoholism and abuse in my husband’s family, and a history of addiction problems in mine, our ability to parent came into question. In my husband’s case, it took many years to be able to shake what had haunted him and come to terms with his experiences. He had to actively work through that in order to know that he would be a good parent.
For us, the choice to be parents wasn’t a light one. It is a HUGE one, of course, for anyone, but I doubt that it weighs so heavily on a good portion of the population. We had to look deep within ourselves and actively decide that yes, we were ready to be parents, and make a conscious decision to avoid the paths of those that came before us.
My carefully made plans, however rose-colored are mostly true — I did graduate college and get married, and now I get to stay home with my son. Those were easily made decisions. There was a great deal more contemplation regarding becoming a parent than there was about marrying my husband. But I can honestly say, even just knowing my son for 6 short weeks, that it was by far the best choice we’ve ever made.