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.
Comments on Choosing to move beyond your past to become a parent
This resonates with me. My husband grew up in a family where there wasn’t a lot of open affection, and his father was a tough, tough, disciplinarian (I don’t want to go into detail out of respect because they’ve been model grandparents thus far and my husband has forgiven them), so I think he’s had to deal with a lot of demons himself. Thankfully, he hasn’t rebelled from that to the point of being totally spineless; he does believe in discipline, but he believes even more strongly that our children must never feel unsafe in their home. Our oldest is four and he has been a wonderful daddy and for that I respect him all the more. I wish you guys the same strength.
Thanks! It’s a tough line to walk, really. Trying to find that balance between what you “know” and what you want to be.
Thanks for sharing and congrats on your newfound mommyhood. Anyone who puts that much care and thought into parenting is on the right track for sure.
And yay for your hubby’s Bonnaroo tee 🙂 ah, the memories!
I’ve heard that from many, that putting any thought into it has got something going for them. It’s nice to hear again, for sure.
And yes, we are huge Bonnaroo fans!
Thank you for posting this – I just wish the article hadn’t ended there! How do you think your perspective has changed so far, with having a child? Caused a paradigm shift? Now that you are on the “other side,” do you think you were correct in being hesitant to become a parent? I just have so many follow-up questions! 🙂
So far, parenthood has just reinforced my inability to understand how anyone could abuse and neglect their children. I was told that I really couldn’t imagine how much love I could have for someone else, and that is so true.
I think the hesitation was good, because it really made us think through immediate choices, and choices for our future as parents. We actively thought through things like discipline (in the spirit of the word – learning) and guidance, and also how we’re going to pay for cars and college.
I think our hesitation just reinforced the idea that we were meant to be parents together and that we would be good ones! At least, we would try really hard to be good ones!
I was one of those people who never really thought about having kids…I was a painter, and that’s all I wanted to do. Now that I’ve been married awhile, my husband out of the blue seriously discussed children, and I gave it some SERIOUS thought for the first time in my life. We also agree that parenting is a HUGE responsibility, and I’m not so sure most people take every decision as seriously as we do. My advice: be open about EVERYTHING (age-appropriately, of course).
Oh, by the way, I have a 16-month old now,and she’s absolutely amazing…congrats on mommyhood. YOU are the expert on your baby, even if you feel like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing…
That’s good advice, I’m sure! Thank you!
Wow, it totally sounds like what I am going through right now. 🙂 Thanks for the post! Aside from the past, I have to deal with the present in order to be ready for our future. I have a feeling that you’re analytical, too. I don’t feel so alone in my nerdness! 😀 <3 Congrats on your baby, also. 🙂
It’s really good to hear that others have gone through this as well. It often seems that people just enter into parenthood without much consideration, but that was something I was just incapable of doing.
You’re definitely not alone in your nerdiness!
Ooohhh, weird, really oddly similar to my story. I wanted kids (even read “What to Expect” at 21), then realized I didn’t HAVE TO and decided not to. When my man and I had been together 12 years we started to reconsider. He’s 4 months next week and just so very wonderful.
I really wish there was more open and frank discussion about how difficult it can be for people who have come from disfunctional families to become parents. I know it took me a really long time to be ready to have a child, and it has still been really difficult at times when issues from my past come up. I hope more people can be honest about the challenges that many of us face.
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