So… why have kids?

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Why? (by: Emran KassimCC BY 2.0)
I am at the point in my life that I want to decide whether to have kids.

In a logical sense, I am able and capable of having children. My husband and I are in the fortunate position that we are both healthy, and fertile, and have good careers, and supportive families. But I’m not completely satisfied with having kids merely because I can.

When I asked my OB/GYN about it, her advice was to start taking a prenatal vitamin.

So I am curious how people, who had the luxury of deciding, decided on having kids? Any good books on the subject? Why should I grow my family? -Cass

OMG THIS QUESTION! Truth time: I had even thought of asking this question to the Homies, myself.

I know that I don’t want to have kids. On a daily basis I seem to come up with so many wonderful wonderful reasons to not have them. But I haven’t really ever come up with, well, any reason to go ahead and have them. I am extremely curious about the motivations behind having/birthing/adopting/raising children.

All that being said, I’m really excited to present this question to all y’all and to read your answers. So guys… why have kids?

Comments on So… why have kids?

  1. My dad is convinced that educated child-free people like myself are destroying society, because we are not reproducing. (I think mostly he’s kidding.)

    But in all seriousness, someone really smart told me once “If you have to talk yourself into doing it…don’t do it.” Meaning, if you aren’t sure, if you think that there is any possibility that being a parent isn’t something that you want to do, if you’re at all doing it for the “wrong” reasons (family pressure, spouse pressure, societal pressure), and if you have to really really think super hard about whether it’s right for you to procreate…it might be a good idea not to. Because being a parent is hard, and life-consuming, and it can’t be taken back. So, if you do it and find out that it is REALLY not what you wanted after all…that’s a long period of your life during which you will be mostly unhappy. And, it’s not fair to a child either really. Not saying this applies at all to your situation, just something to consider.

    In my first marriage, I was pretty sure that I was committed to be child-free, which I’d been determined to be mostly since I was about 12 years old. I was facing lots of spouse and his family and societal pressure to “grow our family” and I spent months reading parenting websites and books and yadda yadda trying to force myself into sucking it up and doing it. That piece of advice…given by someone who has children but who hadn’t necessarily planned on being a parent at all and didn’t find it easy after the fact…was really helpful to me at the time.

    TL;DR be really honest with yourself about what you really want even if it means asking yourself some really hard questions and facing the judgement of others.

    • “If you have to talk yourself into doing it…don’t do it.”

      Ditto a million billion times. My husband & I briefly tried to talk ourselves into it, due to external pressure. A lot of friends were popping out babies & certain family members were asking questions. But a year or two of soul-searching let us stick to our original plan of no kids, cats only. We have better things to do with our lives together, & we each want to leave our creative marks on the world 🙂

    • Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? Your dad’s point is pretty much the plot of that movie.

  2. Well, I can’t speak very precisely because I don’t have kids at the moment, and we aren’t even trying yet. So I have no idea what the future holds that could change my opinion (infertility, finances, adoption… who knows!!)

    But at the moment, one of the (maybe weird/depressing) reasons I want to have kids is because I don’t want to be alone in my old age. I know, you can have friends, you can have other people’s kids or nieces or nephews… but it just doesn’t seem the same to me. I see a few of our parents’ friends who have been left by their spouses, and never had kids and they just seem… so alone. Having kids… I mean, for sure it doesn’t guarantee anything… but at least it gives you a good shot at having someone around, for a very long time, even if your spouse passes away… someone to come visit me when I have Alzheimers or something.

    Depressing? Yeah, kinda. But I love having people around me, I always have, and I love a sense of community. Having kids to build on that is what I know, and it’s what I (personally) want.

    • Well, recent studies have shown that people who never had kids usually feel less lonely in their old age than those who have. In theory, they would have expanded more effort into keeping close relationships with friends, other family, mentorees, etc. They would also have developped more hobbies and interests, and be more comfortable being by themselves. On the other hand, people with children often fall into the not-so-healthy pattern of closing in on their own family and not maintaining other relationships as regulary. Because they expect visits from their kin (and some, think they are owed attention), they feel much more lonely when it doesn’t happen as often as they’d like, which is all too common. Plus, having kids is no guarantee that you will like the adults they’ve become (and vice versa) or that you will enjoy their company.

      What I’m saying is that, while it is not impossible that children will play that role for you, if that is your main concern, your best bet to not feel so lonely is to look somewhere else.

      • Can you point me in the direction of these studies?

        Of course having kids is no guarantee you’ll like them and vice-versa – there’s painful estrangement among a handful of my own family members – but I have yet to meet any senior citizens who are being truly taken care of in their final years by people who are not relatives and not paid professionals/community service volunteers.

        But I’m happy to stand corrected if there’s data proving otherwise.

        • I seem to remember reading it in this book : L’envers du landau
          I’m really not sure it was ever translated though.

          Moreover, all that was mentioned in the previous comment was the loneliness and the lack of community.

          “but I have yet to meet any senior citizens who are being truly taken care of in their final years by people who are not relatives”

          That, indeed, would require paid care in most cases. But again, having children does in no way ensure that they will be willing or able to care for you in that way, and in most cases you will need paid/institutional care anyway.

          • Not to be little Debbie Downer…but my husband was, several years ago, forced into assuming a caretaker role for his abusive mother. Which meant that I assumed that role, because I didn’t feel that he should have to expend any more energy than necessary caring for someone who had been a negative force in his entire life and from whom he had been voluntarily estranged for years. That estrangement didn’t stop anyone (other family, her friends) from just assuming that since she had a son, it should be his responsibility alone to deal with her end-of-life care. And I’m not trying to imply that I changed her diapers or cooked her meals. We live 600 miles away from her…I spent time on the phone setting up the best quality care we could afford for her and managing the caregivers. But that care was given by strangers, and I’m sure they did a better job of it than we would have been capable of.

            My husband and I, though we joke about our best friends’ son picking our nursing home, are realistic about the fact that our choice to be child-free means that we have to set that stuff up for ourselves if needed. My own parents are adamant about the fact that they don’t want my brother or me taking care of them when they are unable to take care of themselves. They have spent the last 10 years taking care of my grandma, and it has been burdensome to them, so they have already set up arrangements for themselves should they ever need it. Of course I feel like this is stupid and unnecessary and think that since they took care of me I should take care of them…but in the end it’s as much up to them as it is to me. And, I have the luxury of having had an awesome set of parents who I have a great relationship with. Not everyone has that.

            Just the idea that you’ll need someone to take care of you when you’re old is not a great motivation to have a child. Yes, sometimes I get the sads when I think about myself in the home without grandchildren to visit me…but even if I did have kids that would be no guarantee that my end of life care would be any different than it will be as a child-free person.

          • ‘Having children does in no way ensure that they will be willing or able to care for you in that way, and in most cases you will need paid/institutional care anyway.’

            I will NEVER say that children of abusive parents should maintain relationships that are ultimately toxic. But our youth-obsessed culture’s tendency to speak dismissively rather than practically about where we’ll be and what we’ll need toward the end of life is largely responsible for the crisis of loneliness among elderly people – and disabled people! – in the West today.

            Not being able to live 100% independently shouldn’t be automatic grounds for institutionalization – for spending most of your time in the care of strangers running on shifts. I lived in a hospital for five months as a teen and my happiness level went through the roof when I was allowed to transition to outpatient care and live with my family again. This is why, despite the difficulties, I totally understood how important it was for my mom’s parents to move in with us for the last three years of their lives, and how important it is to call and visit my last surviving grandparent. She is still vivacious and mostly independent, but her social life depends on her kids and grandkids, as she has outlived her husband and every friend and sibling…

            It would be lovely to see more people developing mentoring relationships with younger people who can then be there for them both physically and emotionally when they’re in need of care (whether due to old age or sudden illness), but a relationship that can handle *that* much commitment might as well be called familial, no? 🙂

          • @Emily Sullivan Sanford
            “Not being able to live 100% independently shouldn’t be automatic grounds for institutionalization – for spending most of your time in the care of strangers running on shifts.”

            I think that is besides the point of having children or not, as it is a societal problem.
            I am all for multigenerational homes and the benifits they have on all generations. I’m just saying: that is not a good solution for everyone, even if you are related by blood, and that is certainly not (in my opinion) the best reason to have kids, although a nice advantage if it can be arranged, if it is your main reason.

            Also, there is a BIG difference between living with someone who’s not 100 % able to be independent (as you seem to describe your grandmother) and people with heavy disabilities. My own grandmother was completely paralized in bed for years; she had Richardson’s syndrome. No eating, no talking and barely blinking. Believe it or not, my grandfather did manage to keep her at home until her very last week. But that required extensive help from nurses, aids AND his 3 daughters. But still, yes, paid help.

            As a person who will not be having children I plan for my end-of-life requirements because I had very direct experience of what they actually might be (although thankfully, Richardson syndrom is not hereditary). But everyone should plan for that, regardless of their family situation, because you just never know what kind of situation you will be in.

          • @Aldbrana

            Regarding the two grandparents who lived with us for the last three years, one had dementia and the other had full-blown Alzheimer’s which is absolute HELL. Nurses needed to drop by regularly to handle a lot of the care, but my parents’ commitment to keep them both in our home, surrounded by familiar faces was very inspiring to me, and something to bear in mind as they research whether or not Alzheimer’s is hereditary.

            I met a lot of quadriplegic young adults at the hospital I lived in whose parents had decided they didn’t want to provide 24-hour-care. So obviously family bonds are not unbreakable. But in talking about this with a childfree friend, we observed that if someone’s children don’t end up helping them out toward the end of life, it’s *very* rare to see anyone else in their social circle step up to the plate. (The same goes for a lot of severely disabled people.) Of course, when it does happen, it’s beautiful to see. But we concluded that the longer you’ve known someone, the less likely you are to abandon them when things get tough. And family members tend to have known each other longer than anyone else.

      • Definitely. I don’t speak to my biological father at all because he’s a terrible person. He thinks that now that he’s old and dying, we should contribute to him financially or visit him. But he abandoned our family and never paid one red cent of child support, not to mention the many promises of visits and family vacations he broke. nopenopenopenope…. I’m not going to put myself through the pain of being near him just because he is struggling. We were struggling too, once, and he was nowhere to be found.

        So I guess in a nutshell, if you don’t actually want kids but do want to have someone to take care of you, DO NOT HAVE KIDS. Do. Not. Have. Kids!!!!! Kids may not take care of you when you get old, but the odds they will are inversely correlated with how shitty a person you are.

  3. I want to have a kids because I love my family- my original, mom, dad, sister family. We had such an amazing time as a family, our vacations, our dinner table conversations… everything about my childhood, I just loved it so much. I want a kid so I can do it again with my own spawn.

    • When I think about having kids, the only part that appeals to me is Christmas. I loved Christmas growing up, and I still do, and it would be fun to give that same “magic” to another generation.

      But having kids the other 364 days of the year doesn’t appeal to me at all soooo…outvoted!

    • I really understand this…and I won’t lie and say that my decision to be child-free isn’t occasionally fraught with thoughts of my own super fun childhood and good parents and the idea that I should want to be like them and do what they did.

  4. I’m firmly child-free.
    Conclusion from observation: Contrary to child-free people who are constantly asked to justify why they DON’T want kids, people who do decide to have them are never asked why exactly. So I’m not sure you’ll find much literature about that. And from what I’ve heard from friends, that’s it: their desire to have children just “is”. There doesn’t seem to (need to) be anything rational about it. And it think that’s alright; it mirrors my feelings about not wanting kids. When it comes right down to it, there is no “why”, I just don’t.

    Maybe you’ll find something that resonnates with you in the answers here. But the only arguments thatw ill stick are the ones you’ll find in yourself, and a sincere “just because I want them” is a fine argument too.

    • I hear you. Like you, I just don’t want kids. When I envision my future, there are no kids by my side, at any time.
      I can rationalize that feeling by saying that I think having kids will hold me back (cf my previous comment). But really, I just don’t want them. And that’s fine.

    • I’m the OP and the only literature I have found is labeled as “pre-conception”. These books largely come from the perspective that the reader has already decided to have a child some time in the near future. Very few I have come across get into the psychological, emotional, or economic reasons to decide to have (or not have) a child.

      • Yes, that’s what I suspected. Maybe another avenue would be to read childfree books and take them a contrario?

  5. Let’s ask another question: Why have a significant other? Why date? Why get married? You have to compromise, you can’t always do or get what you want, you have to put up with crap you don’t like and someone else’s needs become as important as yours. Sometimes, it’s just plum annoying. And yet the majority of us want it and do it.

    I’m 32 and my wife and I have three kids five and under. It’s hard work. DAMN hard work. And you’re talking to someone who’s completely DIY renovated his home from the ground up over the last eight years and opened a retail store two months before the bottom fell out of the economy and somehow kept his small business afloat. So, I—like many of you—know “hard” intimately and this is harder. And yet, I’d do all over again in a heart beat.

    It’s difficult to explain why anyone would want kids. Just the other day, my three year old and five year old were in a screaming death match fight over who got to play with a plastic cup with a wet piece of paper in it. Seriously. A room full of toys and I had to raise my voice multiple times and give a time out over A PLASTIC CUP WITH A WET PIECE OF PAPER IN IT.

    But yet, parenting can be amazing. I do not love anyone more unconditionally in this world than my children and at least right now, that comes back around the other way. I didn’t know that kind of love and passion before I had kids. They do for one part of my heart what my wife does for another (and what pets do for others). Maybe it’s selfish, but they fulfill me. They make me feel like I’m doing some worthwhile and important. And, you know, I’d like to think I’m raising amazing, independent children that will improve the world or the people around them some day.

    They’re also ridiculously funny. When my six month old poops out of her diaper and up her back to nearly her neck and my five year old creates the name “poodeo” for that type of up-the-back baby poop, I find supreme joy and more laughter than I get from an episode of The Daily Show. (Non-parents might not understand the leap from poop to joy and laughter and that’s probably valid, so just go with me on that one.)

    As with any difficult challenge, there is a satisfaction with parenting. When your three-year-old uses the word “concur” accurately or you’re able to successfully navigate your son deciding that he’d be prettier wearing dresses and skirts and you realize he’s probably a stronger person than maybe even you are… The first steps, the first words, the hugs that seem to stop time, the “I love you soooo much daddy…” Watching them become fascinating, intelligent, passionate, independent human beings and knowing you helped them become who they are, there are no words to express how meaningful this has been to me. How FULFILLING it’s been. Then again, I haven’t slept in five years, so there’s that too.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m already planning a three month train trip across Europe with my wife in 18 years, when the last one has turned 18 and we are about as free as we’ll ever be again. I know I’ll enjoy the next phase of my life but right now, I can’t imagine my world without my little life companions. There are days I’d rather hang out with them than my adult friends. Plus, my five year old plunges a French press better than I do and I’m looking forward to the day he learns how to mix cocktails and delivers one to me on the back deck in my favorite yellow chair.

    We wanted to have kids for the same reason we wanted to do anything challenging in our lives. Emily and I like to push ourselves and grow from the experience. We like to create something from nothing, hike as far as we can go, see if we can build a deck or shed or renovate a whole kitchen on our own. We like to mount a challenge like a bull and ride that thing as well and as long as we’re able. And if we get tossed off, we climb right back on… Or have steak for dinner. It keeps life interesting, meaningful and sometimes, just darn full of fun.

    • I just want to thank you for sharing your perspective. It was beautifully written. 🙂

    • “A room full of toys and I had to raise my voice multiple times and give a time out over A PLASTIC CUP WITH A WET PIECE OF PAPER IN IT.”

      This reminds me of my dog who will be sitting in a pile of 15 overpriced toys and whining because I won’t let her tear up the cardboard toilet paper roll ;-P

      (Not to compare kids to dogs, but… well sometimes little kids are kind of like animals, haha.)

        • I often have to stop myself from following up a friend’s “my kid did X” story with one about my dog doing pretty much the same thing ;-P (unless it’s a really good friend, anyway, heh.)

          • I think that’s probably pretty wise. You can never predict what one of those sleep deprived parents will do… 😉

          • I do that too! My good friends understand, but with acquaintances I preface it with “Well, my dog is my baby, and…”

  6. We’re planning to have kids *someday,* but just not right now (as I’ve politely but firmly have told many family and friends in the year since we got married). For me, it’s just something in me that says “I was built to be a mom.” I’ve always been good with kids, wanted to have them, and loved the experience of being around them. For my husband, he has that same “I want to be a father” mentality.

    I don’t think it needs to be much more than that: do you feel like you want to be a parent (as opposed to “having kids,” which is sometimes more of a novelty to people than the “parenting” portion of it)? Are you emotionally, financially, and physically able to bear, rear, and support that child or children for the rest of your life? Then go for it. As long as you and your partner (if applicable) are able to say yes to both of those questions without having to convince yourself, then I think that’s all you need.

    • I really like that perspective, ‘do I want to parent ‘ rather than ‘ do I want a kid’.

  7. I guess in the most basic sense: biology. Why else are we here? To make more of us.

    I don’t have/will not be having kids, not that I don’t sometimes think about what it would be like. I think it would be awesome to try to raise a compassionate, creative, productive human being (no guarantee that will occur). I’d love to do things with a kid, they are pretty awesome. My SO would be great with a kid, and my parents would be over the moon. I have no illusions that a kid would be guaranteed to love or even like me, or would be there for me when I’m old, but it would be nice to know there would hopefully be someone there when I’m old. None of those are strong enough reasons to counteract my general response every time I ask myself, “Ok, how do you feel about having/fostering/adopting a kid now?” Answer: a resounding “Eh”.

    • I keep coming back to the biology argument. Often I find it quite compelling. But I’m not sure it’s fulfilling enough to me as an individual to make a decision simply because I’m a human and designed for it, because I’m also designed to be child-free, as I am currently.

      • I think I say biology because when you get down to it we’re pretty much programmed to make more of us. So if the only reason you have is “Because I want to” or “Why not?” it may just tie into that urge.

        Sometimes I think I don’t want kids because I am a contrarian.

        ETA: Several years ago I came to the realization that I may enjoy being a parent if I could be a dad. My observation of families has led me to believe that dad’s have different relationships with their kids than moms and it’s the kind of relationship I’d prefer (people in these relationships feel free to disagree with me).

        • If it’s helpful to think about at all, you can have whatever relationship with your child that you choose. Set healthy boundaries with your child and your spouse, and you can be happy too. Being “a mom” doesn’t mean just one thing, or a specific kind of relationship. You can just be “a parent”. And if you enjoy being a parent, on whatever terms, your kid will pick up on that and probably turn out okay.
          If you think that the “dad” relationship is somehow lacking, you may be able to find people who are more than happy to fill the “mom” role, be it a partner, grandparents, aunties, or a hired nanny.

          • Like I said, looking at parent/kid relationships (especially being able to watch this up close with friends in their variety of parental roles) there seems to be a difference between how moms and dads work in that dynamic (to me) that has nothing to do with boundaries. And I am not interested in the mom dynamic, in particular how it would end up working out with my partner (heck, I’d end up being mom and dad). Thankfully I don’t have to worry about it either way since I don’t want kids.

  8. I am currently asking myself this same question. My husband and I are enjoying successful professional lives, love to travel, and have two darling “dog babies” that we adore. I know that I don’t want to give up my career to have a baby but am also concerned about leaving a baby with another care provider. I don’t really like infants all that much and am not jazzed about the idea of being pregnant. My mom had very difficult pregnancies and births with both me and my sister and I think that greatly contributes to my fear of being pregnant. I love kids but before they are about 2 they just make me nervous! Still the idea of having young children who grow and shape the world sounds pretty awesome. I just can’t decide what to do!

    • What about adopting a child? The older they get the harder it is for them to find loving homes. If they’re school-age that helps with the daycare worries. No infants. No weird pregnancy… I’m in the “i don’t know” boat for myself so I’m not in favor of anything in particular, it just seems like that might be a perfect thing for you if you do decide you want children. 🙂

      • And if you decide you don’t want kids permanently, you could always do respite foster care. It gives you a weekend or a week with kids and gives foster parents a break. It’s kinda like a win-win 🙂

        • This is a thing? I’m intrigued, though I’m not sure this is a program that’s offered in my area.

        • Can you write a whole post about your experiences with the foster system? It’s really interesting.

          • A post on adoption would be great. Some things I’d like to hear about are: challenges associated with adopting children of different ages, do parents (male and female) bond as well to adoptive vs. genetic (sorry don’t know correct terminology) children, if you look for adoptive children that would fit well with your current family (be it other children or adults only) or you adapt the family to its new member.

        • My aunt’s mom (basically my grandma) has taken in almost 100 foster teens in the past few decades. She even gives lectures on the subject for the agency that she works with and sometimes the state has asked her to, as well. I have had the opportunity to meet so many different kids, it’s incredibly enlightening, in good ways and sad. I could seriously go on and on for pages about the things I have learned and the way they’ve shaped me.

          A lot of the foster parents she mentors are couples who for whatever reasons, are child free.

  9. I started out very firmly in the “no kids” camp and then while I was finishing up my bachelors degree I was diagnosed with PCOS at 24. For me, knowing suddenly that having or not having kids may not even be my own choice anymore was actually very shocking. I spent a lot of time re-assessing whether or not I really wanted kids, and if I did when and how became a big part of that reality.

    My husband on the other hand always wanted kids, so after I was done my degree we decided we actually did want kids. Maybe for me it was a bit of telling my body fuck you and your PCOS. But really, it was something that I ultimately decided I wanted. It wasn’t irrational, I enjoy kids, I was even nicknamed Mom in highschool because I was the person who looked after everyone else. I also knew that my husband would be a great dad, and that was something that I didn’t want to deny him of.

    But now after we had our daughter, I know that I’m done, I don’t want more than 1. I am admittedly too selfish to dedicate myself to more than 1 little human. My career is super important to me, I want to travel with my kid (and more than 1 it becomes too expensive), I want to share the important things in life with my daughter and I don’t want to have to split that time up.

    • Wow, your comment just really spoke to me. I’ve been reading through these comments, waiting for something to actually resonate and push me one way or the other.

      I was always firmly in the “I’ll finish uni, get a job, meet someone, marry, have kids” camp. And then I met my husband, who didn’t really want kids. We talked about it lots, and he’s come around to it now (in a, “yeah, I could envision some little mini-mes running around”, not so much a “YES OMG NOW” way). So now that I’m getting to the age where I really have to start thinking about whether I want to or not (I’m 31, and husband has 2 more years of study to go), I’m finding myself doubting more and more.

      I like kids, I work with them (child psyc) and I’m a great aunt. But do I really want them myself? Because of the way I did university, while others my age were jet-setting around the world and doing lots of travel, I was working and studying right through my 20s. 2 of my very good couple-friends are firmly in the no-kids camp, and every year they go somewhere really interesting, and I am beginning to think that maybe kids would hold me back from finally doing all those things I wanted to.

      But you know what? You’re right. I could do just one. I always thought 1 wasn’t fair or something after knowing some spoiled only children (and my Dad as an only child with his issues). But. I’m not their parents. I’m me. And I could probably do a damn spanking fine job of just one. Thanks so much for commenting. You’ve made my day 🙂

  10. When I was a kid, I was always the one taking care of other little kids and was told it was great practice “for when you’re a mom.” In my early 20s, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I told myself I would never want to bring a child into the messed up world we have. Now in my late 20s, I’ve changed my mind on that for what is perhaps a controversial reason. I want to have kids in order to bring more smart and caring people into the world.

    I had an advanced degree, and I consider myself a person of above average intelligence with a fair bit of common sense. My husband is one of the smartest people I have ever known. I believe that we need more smart people in the world in order to bring peace and order to society, and I believe that if we have kids, they will be pretty smart themselves. I volunteer many hours a month to groups that are important to me, and I plan on instilling that sense of duty of service into my children. We’re very progressive in our politics, and I hope to teach my children the importance of helping those around us who need help. I think we need more people like that in our world, and we’re going to make a couple of them. Perhaps that’s just the overly logical side of my brain trying to rationalize something that isn’t totally rational (since we’ve established that having kids is pretty irrational), but it’s honestly one of the top reasons we have for wanting children.

    • I’ve thought of this as well… but there is always a distinct possibility of having a child that is mentally/intellectually disabled, and would that be horrifically disappointing? Not that such people can’t be wonderful people, of course, but it’s different from having a high-IQ child that you can groom to save the world.

      • Of course there’s always a possibility of anything happening, and I don’t expect my kids to save the world (talk about irrational!). Having kids is a crapshoot, and you never know what you’re going to get. Look at all the conservatives who birth Marxists.

    • This. This is an argument I use all the time, that Idiocracy is coming true, and us smart people have a DUTY to procreate to save the world! 🙂

  11. I’m firmly in the “no thanks” camp and have been since I was 5 and asked my mom if I HAD to be a mom too. She said no. She said there were lots of ladies who chose to put all their energy into other things. I knew I wanted to be one of those ladies. It seemed so much more exotic to me. There was a kidless lady at my mom’s work I was in awe of. She traveled all the time, wore lots of jewelry, and silks, and walked like she owned the place. I thought she was pretty glamorous. Not like my friends’ bossy moms who were all up in my business, toting us around in their mini vans and telling us what to do. This lady couldn’t care less about what my doll’s name was, how long I grew my fingernails, or how much sugar I ate. I liked that!

    Anyway, I am now engaged and 33, and all my friends are having babies, so there is that biological and environmental pull, as well as my soon-to-be husband’s obvious love of children, but when I wake up exhausted every day, barely make rent late every month, hate cooking and cleaning, have barely even touched upon my true goals in life, and sometimes forget my cat even exists until I get home, I just don’t think it’s in the stars.

    If I were rich enough to afford to hire laundry help, kitchen help, and daycare at whim, then athletics expenses, cool sneakers, a car, college, and if I could pursue my goals on my timeline, instead of trying to squeeze them in as the sun’s going down after an exhausting day at work… I might think about it, but I cannot imagine putting myself in that situation anytime in the next decade, so…my answer remains no.

  12. I came to wanting kids gradually. Growing up and as a young adult I knew with no uncertainty that I never wanted kids. So what happened? Partly I met the right partner who wanted kids and never made any secret of the fact, but never ever put any pressure on me to have them. He always made it clear that if I decided that I wanted kids then that was great, but if I didn’t then that was fine too. Around two years ago I began to notice that during the fertile part of my cycle I was feeling quite broody. This progressed over time and the feeling got stronger until during my fertile period I knew I wanted kids, but then when I was in the rest of my cycle I still didn’t want them. I ended up getting quite upset about it because I began to enjoy the feeling of wanting kids and I actually missed it when I felt more like the familiar anti-children me of my youth. Things all came to a head just over a year ago when I was playing with one of our ferrets feet. I began imagining what it would be like to play with a baby’s feet instead and I just burst into tears at my rather shocked husband and howled ‘I want children’. We waited another two months (his insistence) to make sure that it really was what I wanted and then started trying to conceive. It’s been a long journey, with many ups and downs, but I’m now 14 weeks pregnant and I really couldn’t be happier.

  13. So I sort of jumped into having children; I got the baby fever and we just started trying. We wanted to wait to be more financially stable but understood that that moment never really arrives so we just took the plunge. I never really liked kids and had absolutely no baby experience when I had my daughter. She was a perfect baby, very relaxed and easygoing and was a lot of fun to be with and teach.
    And then, accidentally, we got pregnant with my son when she was seven months old. We weren’t planning on having two so close together and it was HARD. He was the complete opposite: cranky, colicky, codependent, and he never slept. It took a long time for him to become a tolerable person.
    So basically, what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t really think about having kids before I had them: I felt the call of nature and I followed it. I was unprepared and underskilled and now I read things like the “no kids” thread and I feel such jealousy! And then my daughter sings “Twinkle Twinkle” to me and my son gives me his favorite toy with a huge smile and I know that it was all worth it, no matter how many stumbles I take or how many times I sigh “what if..”. It is the hardest thing and the best thing I’ve ever done and even though I feel like I’m trying to mold two stable individuals with good values in the middle of a hurricane, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    well, maybe for a couple extra hours of sleep on a lazy Saturday.

  14. My reasons are definitely more rational. No kids yet for me. We’ve been off birth control for about 2 years with no results and had our first fertility appointment this past week. And I’m still not POSITIVE that kids will be a good thing for my life right now. Even though we’re 38, neither of us has a particularly loud “biological clock”. We both have a lot of experience with children: my mom had my youngest brother when I was 12 and i worked 2 years in a daycare right after college while my husband spent a year taking care of his infant nephew. So I think we both have a pretty decent idea how terrible and gross and hard early childhood can be.

    With that being said, my husband and I have both come to the conclusion that we’ll regret not having kids more than we’ll regret having them. We know that things will be difficult and money will be tight. But we come from pretty good, stable families and see how much our parents love us and still enjoy our company. If you need an egotistical reason, we feel like we’re smart, atheist, liberal, compassionate, offbeat people and we’d probably raise similar people and there need to be more of us! 🙂

    • Good luck as you start down the fertility path, as someone who’s gone down it.

  15. A very good question! And it makes sense that since we are in the sort of new place of making that choice carefully and thoughtfully as members of a modern society, that some might wonder how that choice gets made! I’m 32 and have twins, aged 1.5. My husband and I had been married 8 years before we started trying to conceive and 10 years before we had them. Here were my reasons:

    1: An adventure. Really! It’s one of the main reasons to have them, I think. I don’t mean to minimize the whole thing, but they are entertainment. It’s something to do, honestly, in this long life we have on this planet. I simply got tired of all the things we were doing all the time. Restaurant, bar, movie, weekend getaway, repeat. It was great for 8 years and it will be great to return to that life in a decade or two, but I honestly got bored. Some might say that looking at it this way is extremely trivial and demeaning to the child. But it’s not like I put a tutu on them and make them play the accordion for me. They’re entertaining to me within their environment. They’re naturally a great adventure. I think it’s a way to see the positives. And if you aren’t going to enjoy it, then you shouldn’t be having them anyway, right?

    2: A new way to see the world. The same reason someone packs up and moves to a new country. A change. A way to see things in a different light. It’s one of the many ways to open your eyes to new experiences. One of. Certainly not the only way.

    3: I like kids. It seems so simple, but I think that’s the main thing to consider. I have always liked kids. Toddlers, school aged kids, AND teenagers (gasp!). I look forward to all of these stages. I grew up around kids so it was easy for me to determine that I liked them. But anyone who’s considering it and can’t decide, go to kid places and see how it feels. You definitely do not have to like all of them. But if you like being around them generally and feel like one you have some influence over could be a great friend to you, then maybe a kid is a good choice.

      • I really love the “angry eyebrows” baby meme. When I babysit my nieces and nephews, I always have grand designs to draw on eyebrows with eyeliner. Though I think they’re starting to get a bit old for this.

    • “Adventure” is a good answer to the question actually. I think you’re spot on with kids being something to do. Granted, we don’t know how long we’re going to live on this earth but, consider a married couple lives 50+ years together…having kids would give them something to do for a nice chunk of their lifetime. Even more so if their kids have kids. That is not to say that there aren’t other adventures to be had because, there are.

  16. Both my husband and I were an ambivalent place before we had our son. We didn’t ever come to a rational decision to HAVE a kid, but we did come to a rational decision to NOT PREVENT having a kid. I guess we liked the game of Russian Baby Roulette and decided that if I were able to get pregnant without any interference and with the absence of ‘trying’ (like doing any fertility charting) then it was ‘meant to be.’ Welp, one time without a condom and slightly tipsy BAM there were were, knocked up.

    The second time around has been much harder. With one totally awesome kid, I find myself really asking the rational “do we want another?” question. Ugh, so hard. So hard that I went the totally opposite direction and got an IUD because I didn’t want the decision to have another child be so willy nilly leave it to the gods like we’d done before. Adding a second seems like a decision that needs more care and rationale than just drunken sexy times.

    But as for why have kids? It’s magical. It’s really really magical. Over the years I have gone from fundamentalist Christian to agnostic, but I resonate with the OBF post about finding spirituality in our kids. I see this tiny little human, with his curly blonde hair, and the way he scrunches his nose, and I’m like ‘whoa, dude, I made that. We made that. From nothing.’ As a terrible cook I don’t even make food from scratch, and here he is, a little person I made from scratch. He is my moving meditation. Like watching clouds float by I see and am attuned to his moods. It happens so slowly, like seasons changing, and he’s gone from chubby infant to toddler to little (presumed) boy. I delight in watching him say “I did it!” as he figures out how to climb a tree for the first time. So many magical moments that make me happy, even though I’m not really a kid person…don’t really like other people’s kids all that much unless they’re close friends.

    It’s fucking hard, sure. And some moments are way worse than others. But I love that I get to have choices in how I raise a little human I created from scratch. And only because of that mystical magical feeling would I ever contemplate having a second. Because diaper changes and puke and stuff isn’t really all THAT fun. 🙂

  17. When my husband and I first started dating he told me he really (really!) wanted to have kids one day. I was totally honest with him and said that I had never even considered the idea of kids. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them it was that I never thought about it. Later on in or relationship was now husband was ready to start expanding our family. We talked about it and i was like, “meh, why not.” Not the best reason to procreate but not the worst.

    My introduction into parenthood sucked (birth story: http://offbeatfamilies.com/2012/04/signs-of-preterm-labor ). Twins born at 27 weeks, 3 months in the NICU, 3-4 specialist appts per week for 2 years, etc, etc, etc. Because of all that my husband and I decided that we needed to spend serious time thinking about whether to have more kids or not. We did our research and talked to specialists to find out what we could expect from another pregnancy. Ultimately, after all the research we just decided that our family didn’t feel complete yet. So we tried for more. I’ve been asked a few times now what made us decide to try again. I always tell them we’ll keep trying until we feel like our family is complete.

  18. I never wanted children. A few of my reasons included: I grew up in a terrible family with a terrible mother; feminist inclinations kept me from wanting to share my life with a needy kid; I had strong feelings about overpopulation.

    In my mid-twenties, I got randomly knocked up by some dude I barely knew, and for reasons I still can’t explain (now many years later) I kept the pregnancy and became a single mother.

    I did not find pregnancy a beautiful, magical, or transformational time. I found it largely horrifying. I was grossly sick the whole time and the whole rigamarole eventually led to an induced labor that lasted from Sunday-Friday, when they finally had to cut her out of me.

    And these aren’t even all the reasons I expected to loathe parenthood. I also really don’t like most kids and I really, really don’t like most parents.

    But even for a crank like me, it turns out I love (with my entire being, and with an enormity I can’t describe) being my daughter’s mother. I didn’t love her the moment I set eyes on her – I loved her over time, as we grew together. She’s almost a teenager now, and I am delighted by her weird awesomeness pretty much every day.

    I’m almost 40 and recently got married. My husband’s younger than I am, and I’ve been surprised how much I do not want any more children. (That he doesn’t want any more either is just one of reasons we’re a lovely match.) Neither nearing the end of my, erm, fruitful years, nor being “properly” set up with a good partner has made me further inclined toward parenthood.

    And yet. It’s a cool sunny morning. My near-teenage daughter is curled up in an arm chair by the window. She’s lanky, bespectacled, eating toast and reading a graphic novel, and just looking at her makes my heart want to explode with love. I feel absurdly fortunate to know her and to be her mom.

    So, I dunno. I think it’s complicated. 🙂

    • Yes! I had the same feelings with my daughter, I did not fall in love with her instantly but grew to love her a little more every day.

    • HOLY CRAP! I’m currently on vacation with strict orders to NOT WORK or even open my laptop, but I snuck in a look at this fascinating thread and I just HAD to comment on this one. Em, you win for giving me the FIRST logical reason for people having kids. Seriously, this entire thread I’m like “eh, okay…” “maybe?” “That kind of makes sense…” BUT THIS!? The best one.

  19. If you are not actively wanting a kid, you probably shouldn’t have one. When I was in my early twenties, I was pretty sure I didn’t want kids. I love my nieces and a handful of other kids that I’m close to. But I never heard the biological clock nor got all weepy at births. I decided I would only have a kid if I hit a point in my life where I ACTIVELY wanted one. I wasn’t going to do it because it is what I’m “supposed” to do. Now, at 41, I’m married and still child-free. And I’m quite happy with it. If some day, I actively want a child, I’m sure I’ll find a way to be a parent. In the mean time, I think that there is a special role in a child’s life for adults who love them and don’t have their own kids. And I love playing that role for my nieces and a few of my friends’ kids.

    • Yes, this is so important! Being child-free doesn’t mean you never get to experience some aspect of raising children, in one way or another, if you want to. Tons of child-free people work as teachers or daycare providers or child advocates, or play the cool aunt/uncle, or help raise their younger siblings. It takes a village and all that.

  20. This is a great question which I’ve often asked myself. It seems that a lot of people have children as the next logical step after marriage and buying a home, but I always wanted to know if there was any other reason than “it’s just what you do”.

    Personally I’ve never had any maternal desire to procreate. I’m not saying I’ll never have them but I don’t currently feel that its something that’s important for me to do in my life. My main reason for not wanting to have children is that I’m concerned about overpopulation. And I know, not that one person not having kids is going to change that, and I certainly don’t feel that people who do have children are adding to that problem, I guess I just feel bad for the children who were brought into this world for the wrong reasons or through unfortunate circumstances and who don’t get the life they want because of that.

    I don’t personally care about “creating a human being” or having a “fresh start” – I’m more interested in how the kids turn out, what kind of humans they’ll be. Someone else mentioned that people rarely think about their children as adults, and I think it’s a great point; for that reason I kind of hate the phrase “having babies”. It puts the focus too much on the cuteness and the innocence and the infant-stage, as if that’s the only part they’re interested in. I feel like if you want to bring a life into this world, you should think about what kind of parent you’ll be when your kid is 30 or 50 – or even 70 if you live that long.

    I do think that I’d like to *raise* children someday, either through non-biological parenthood like adoption or fostering, or through a career in something like youth social work or even just teaching. That we are officially and legally “family” is not the motivation for me – I’d like to have an impact on making someone’s life meaningful, helping someone find their way and preparing them for the rest of the journey. So I don’t necessarily feel like I need to physically create or birth them to do that.

    Again, I don’t judge people who do have their own kids, I only judge people who expect me to, or who try to convince me that I’ll change my mind. Do you have a crystal fucking ball?

    Like I said, I’m not saying I’ll never want to have my own children – indeed, I might well change my mind later in life, but right now, in this moment, I don’t feel that my life would be incomplete if I didn’t procreate.

  21. While I don’t currently have kids, my husband and I are planning to start trying in a year or so. I see it as a way to learn about myself, about my husband, and generally about being human. As with most learning experiences, I expect it to occasionally (regularly?) be painful and challenging, but also to ultimately be deeply rewarding. This is the biggest reason, for me. Deeply rewarding learning and growth can happen through all kinds of avenues, for sure. Different life choices can result in different kinds of learning, I think, and while having children may open up a specific kind of self-discovery or insight into the human condition that might not be available otherwise, I also think that it blocks the opportunity to learn and grow in specific ways from the freedom and independence of living one’s life without children, which is equally valuable. But I do feel personally drawn to grow in this specific way. There is also the issue of wanting to give a person a great start in life, and the creative side of researching and planning how to craft as ideal a start as possible. Similarly, I want to contribute a human I helped to shape to the world, as egotistical as that is. I honestly think the world could use more people like my husband and me, and I expect (or hope for?) a child of ours to show us our failings and surpass us in ways we can’t possibly predict — this touches on the issue of personal growth — so such a person, I think, would be a great addition to the general pool of humanity.

    • I like that idea that choosing to become a parent could help you learn about what it is to be human.

  22. My fiance and I have chosen to not have children, and I don’t foresee anything that would change that. I have a solid list of reasons why I don’t want them, some logical and some emotional. But I do have a few reasons in the pro-kids column.

    The not-so-good ones, because they’re selfish and based on fear:
    -Kids include you in a different social circle. You make new friends. You bond over being parents. As someone choosing to remain childless while most of my friends have plans to have children, I’m afraid of losing time with my friends and having a difficult time making new friends/connecting to people who are parents.
    -Children are usually the ones who look after their parents in old age. I don’t know what will happen as I get older.
    -I hear so much about how children make you grow as a person. When I’m 50, will I somehow be less interesting, less knowledgeable, less valuable of a person because I was never a parent?

    The seriously good one:
    -My relationship with my mom is one of the most rewarding, cherished bonds I have with another human being. I’ve always been close to her, and as I’ve grown into an adult we’ve become good friends as well as mother/daughter. I know she loves me and cares for me beyond all words, and we enrich each other’s lives. It would be fulfilling to have that bond with a child of my own. Children still aren’t the right choice for me, but I think I’ll always feel that void a little bit.

    • I had the same fear of losing my circle of friends when I was the first to have a child. It didn’t happen. We all adapted. Most of my close friends have stuck with me, and most of them still don’t have kids. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but our lives don’t have to be the same to stay close.

  23. Rebecca Walker has a wonderful memoir about choosing to have a child “after a lifetime of ambivalence”: http://www.rebeccawalker.com/work/baby-love

    On the other side of the conversation, Molly Peacock has a wonderful memoir about, among other things, choosing not to have children: http://mollypeacock.org/books/paradise-piece-by-piece/

    As a mother, I will say that parenting is not necessarily the greatest love, the most important work, the most significant relationship, or any of the other superlatives you’ve probably heard, but it is absolutely unlike any other thing I have experienced.

  24. Honestly I kind of feel like, if you don’t passionately want kids on an emotional, non-logical level… you’re probably better off not having them. (Even if you DO want kids on an emotional, non-logical level you might be better off not having them, for that matter.) But I’m a pretty big proponent of fewer-people-having-babies in general 😛 If you don’t feel that pressing need inside to reproduce, then why look for reasons to do it anyway? Save your energy for something that you do feel passionately about.

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