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. I wrestled with this question a lot over the past few years. It wasn’t that I didn’t WANT kids exactly, it was more that I had so much fear and so many questions about what having kids would do to my life and identity. I wasn’t sure if it was worth it to me. After lots of soul-searching, I decided that I did want to be a parent and our first child will be born next month. And, honestly, I couldn’t be happier. I’m also overwhelmed and sometimes terrified, but ultimately so excited and happy that we made this decision.

    I read a lot about pregnancy and parenthood before deciding to do this and also found myself wishing that there was more info out there for people who aren’t sure about having kids. It’s a huge decision and I KNOW there are a lot of people in that boat, even if they aren’t necessarily talking about it. I think that being open about the fact that you’re not sure about kids is really important. It shows people going through the same thing that they’re not alone and makes it less of a taboo subject. And hopefully it’ll inspire conversations like these that may actually help in your decision-making process!

    Two books that I did find and love were Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti and Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence by Rebecca Walker. Valenti’s book inspired me, pissed me off, and was ultimately very freeing. It reiterated that a lot of what I was afraid of (like losing my identity in motherhood, the “most important/fulfilling/hardest job in the world”) was not in fact inevitable, but something that we’re told to think and believe because it serves society’s interest in not having to provide government resources for parents, keeping women in traditional roles, etc. It’s been much longer since I read Walker’s book so I don’t remember it as well, but I found it beautiful, honest, and thought-provoking. When I finished it years ago, I always told myself I’d go back to it if I was ever pregnant. I look forward to picking it up again in the next few weeks.

    • Wow those books sound great! I just added both to my reading list. My local library only has Walker’s book, so I think I’ll start with that. But I love that Valenti’s book is likely a feminist expose on motherhood, so I may buy it.

  2. I’m in the I don’t think so camp, and here are a few thoughts I’ve had about this:

    1. Having kids to complete an ideal you have is a lot of pressure for something not even born yet. Like what if your kid doesn’t like you and doesn’t WANT to take care of you in old age or sing carols around the Christmas tree/Menorah/Festivus pole? Maybe you’re a crappy person or maybe your kid is… it could happen.

    2. What if your kid has some sort of major mental, physical, developmental issues? Then what? How do people even handle it? Bless them all.

    3. Regression toward the mean is a real thing. My IQ is no guarantee that my kid will be smart, too. That would be a fail on the contribution to the smarter population thing.

    4. I think the only way I could talk myself into having kids was if I felt like I could support them being whatever kind of best human they wanted to be AND the child is an inspiration to keep being the best version of myself I could. I think if I felt up to raising an awesome human being and continue to growing myself into someone my kid would WANT to hang with when I’m old, I could make a person.

  3. A bit of background on me:

    Growing up I was in the hardcore never getting married, never having kids camp for as long as I can remember. I eventually changed camps on the marriage thing when my life became intertwined with my spouse. I have grown so much from sharing my life with him. I was still in the solid no kids camp when we married and he was indifferent. Life circumstances changed and he decided he wanted kids so our life plan re-evaluation began.

    I realized that I had grown rather indifferent to children, not in the solid never having kids camp anymore but rather in the I’m never going to be the one pushing to have kids camp. Additionally, my experience leaving the never getting married camp and adding another human to my life was super rewarding for me. Finally, my experience with my partner tells me that we should be able to balance our lives and the care of a child in such away the we can still achieve our other life goals. That was when I realized I could probably survive having a kid, maybe even two.

    So my reasons for having a child are as follows:
    – I love my partner, he wants a kid, and I don’t have a solid no stance on the topic
    – I have enjoyed growing by incorporating a new person into my life and find that I am actually excited to see how I will continue to grow with another addition to my life.

  4. Sigh. All I can say is that I’m newly single after a 5-year relationship and about to turn 35 (aka “the advanced maternal age birthday”) and this thread really isn’t helping my current funk. πŸ˜›

    I grew up thinking that I did NOT want kids. I LIKED some kids — I babysat from age 13 onward — but just couldn’t imagine myself getting pregnant or actually meeting anyone I wanted to procreate with or actually feeling “maternal.” I was honestly puzzled by my friends who were already talking about having families and babies and whatnot!

    Well, around age 25 I started feeling like, “oh dang, I think I understand the whole wanting-to-have-kids thing now.” It’s like a light switch turned on. I was suddenly interested in the idea of making babies and being pregnant… with a good partner who’d help me raise them, of course.

    Then at 28, my sibling’s first child was born and when I held her in the hospital it shook me to the core. My sister was recuperating from her C-section and was in a lot of pain, so she handed my niece over to me so I could hold her. I just… I just wanted to make one right then. That baby even looked like me, more than she looked like my sister, which made it extra painful. I wanted to protect her, I wanted to watch her grow up, I wanted to play with her… I wanted to be a mom. I stared into her face for about three days straight, madly in love, and when I had to leave that baby with my sister and go back to my own life, it killed me. Same thing happened when I met kid #2. I still look at them now and get choked up thinking about how much I love them.

    And as much as I love my “niblings” and adore being an aunt, I want to have my own. I want the daily experience of being a mom. I want to share that with another person. God, I hope it’s still possible. I hope I meet someone to share it with soon.

  5. I want kids, always have wanted kids. My husband wants one (we’re often joking about our future 1.5 child), preferably rather soon (he’s 10 years older than me). So we wonder more about “when do we want kids” than “do we want kids”.
    For a long time it felt like what I would do because that was part of life, like going to college, getting married and living in my own home. It wasn’t a huge urge for a long time (it’s getting to me these couple of months).

    My strongest (and probably best) reason now is that I want kids. Apart from the unrationality, I think that desire/love will keep me sane when I try to raise a child that cries all the time, barfs everywhere, worries me to death when it’s sick and takes all my time, because that’s why, on a smaller scale, adopting two cats was one of the best decisions of my life.

    Among the less good reasons, I want to teach my kids so many wonderful things, and I want to give them good values and to raise them to be good people (yeah, I have the fantasy that I’ll be a good mum and THEREFORE my kids will grow into decent people and make the world a better place. Yeah, all thanks to me).

    But I’m also growing more and more environment-conscious and I very often feel that making kids isn’t a very good decision. Too many people for the world to feed, global warming, upcoming extinction of fish and probably of many fish-eating species, etc. I would make more sense to adopt.
    Still I want to make them myself.

  6. I’m not a parent yet, but my husband and I are trying to conceive. Why?

    Because in my head, my children already exist. I don’t know how many they will be, what they will look like or what they will be like. I don’t know if I will bear them from my own body or become their parent in another way.

    But they exist, and I love them with everything I have, and I’ll do whatever I can for them… including bringing them into the world. Not because of what they’ll give me, although I do look forward to the rewards of parenthood: they joys of childhood and growth and discovery and learning. Because they are their own people, people I love, who need me.

    I hope that they will share characteristics and values with my husband and I because I believe my husband and I are awesome people and that our way of life should continue. But I can’t know that they will. I think my genes are pretty good genes and should continue, but having children (even your own biological ones) is no guarantee of grandchildren. If I’m lucky enough to grow old, I like to think that my children will still have a relationship with me, come visit me, but I don’t know that any of that will happen.

    Having children is a gift I’m giving to my children, because I love them.

    Maybe that makes me sound crazy. Oh well.

  7. I didn’t have a reason for my first — I’d just known that I always wanted kids. When I was pregnant with my second, a childfree friend (possibly the only one of my friends who could get away with saying this) said, “Why on earth would you have MORE children?” I said, “Because my first kid is SO AWESOME, and I know how awesome another one could be. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.” I was right. My kids are such awesome people, and I really, really love being their parent, and I love parenting with my partner.

  8. Why NOt? If because you feel each part of your life is full, and you have not desire to procreate, then don’t! I waited until I was 30 to think about it. I always thought maybe 1-2 because that was “normal”; But when I left my “career”. For something more, it took a near death experience to knock me over the procreation edge. I had aways thought it would happen, and death has a way of saying now or never beotch! I then lost a baby full term, and had horrible guilt from questioning my motives… But 3 years later I now have my perfect, imperfect 1. My boy completes me, in every sense of the word…. I just knew it in my soul. That’s why.

  9. Am I the only one who’s gotten to age thirty in a long term relationship (married just over a year and a half but together for over ten years) without ever having felt the hormone induced baby fever? I sometimes intellectually think it would be good and satisfying to raise somebody to be a decent human, my husband is obviously good with babies and toddlers, and I even know what I’d name my theoretical daughter, but the strongest positive emotion I’ve ever felt upon seeing a baby is “That looks like a cool baby.” I don’t necessarily think that means I shouldn’t have a kid unless my hormones do start screaming at me; my parents describe the decision of having had me as basically being along the lines of “Well, if we’re going to do this I guess now would be the time,” and I have no complaints. On the other hand, it seems like even the other women in my social circle who definitely do not want to get pregnant any time soon are being told by their ovaries that they should, and my ovaries don’t speak to me except occasionally to try to crawl up and hide somewhere behind my lungs when I hear about particularly unpleasant aspects of pregnancy.

    • I’m 28, married, and all my ovaries do is scream “AAHHH fuck that hurts!” when an egg pops out of ’em. Otherwise, silence. I don’t really know what people mean when they say their bodies want to have babies… I’m pretty sure mine does not. It mostly just clamors for sleep and refined sugar.

      But, I’m two years out, we’ll see what happens by 30.

    • You’re not the only one. I’m in my 30’s, been married 8 years and never felt even an inkling of “baby fever” .

  10. Good question! I’ve enjoyed reading through the comments here, as the subject has been weighing heavily on my mind for the past several years.

    I often feel guilty and sad, because I know the responsibility of having kids (and a dog) is a strong need for my husband of 8 years. Neither are for me.

    I’ve never wanted kids or a pet. He does. We were both aware of each other feelings on the subject of children before we married and, there’s never been any pressure from him to have kids. For that, I am thankful.

    Still, it hurts because, I believe my husband would be an amazing father and I feel like I’m denying him that. When we talk about it, he’s always understanding and on my side.

    I just don’t know how to absolve this guilt I feel.

    Like Cass, the idea of having kids just because I can is not a satisfying one. Neither is having kids just because my husband wants them.

  11. Someone needs to keep the human race going, but why not let those who can’t imagine life without babies cover that? We’re heading toward maxing out the earth’s carrying capacity (about 7bn people now, doubled since the 70s, with 10-11bn estimated as the most that the world can support). Somebody needs to have babies, yes, but some of us need NOT to. If you’re not dying to have kids, why not follow your instincts?

  12. I didn’t know I wanted to have kids until I found out I might not be able to have any. I have endometriosis, and my husband might have some fertility issues, and upon finding all of that out, I knew that having a family containing little ones was something I wanted. We’re still being responsible about the decision making process, and I’d still like to adopt, even if we do have a biological child. But as previously said, it’s all about what you want. I want to be a parent, and try to help mold a being that will do good in this world.

  13. Ya know, I don’t even know. We never talked about, never daydreamed about it. The kids were just accidents because we’re two adults who really really like sex and couldn’t waste time worrying about birth control. But they were happy accidents. With my son we threw around abortion just because my hyperemesis was so severe I didn’t know if I could physically handle anymore. But even then we never talked about why or why not to have kids. Something just felt right about being parents.

    I know a lot of people who aren’t satisfied with “when it feels right” or gut intuition, but it has never steered my husband or I wrong. We had known each other off and on for 5 years before dating. 2 weeks of non stop spending the night we decided to elope. It just felt right, and even when we were having the marriage talks, kids never really made it into the conversation.

    And even as I try to think about it now, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just blinded by the ridiculous and sometimes scary love I have for my kids. Who knows? Im usually very methodical about decisions, but it seems like the largest, most world altering two (kids&husband) were solely based on what my guts told me. They didn’t even include my brain. Haha. I hate to be clichΓ©, but when it’s right, it’s right.

  14. I always figured I’d have kids *eventually*, and it wasn’t until I met my adamantly childfree fiance that I began reconsidering things. The fact that he’s my fiance should tell you a lot: I’ve come around to his way of thinking, after lots of reading and thinking and soul-searching, and we are very much looking forward to a childfree life of work and travel and whatever-the-fuck-we-want together.

    Here’s the critical point for me: having kids is not just about becoming a parent. It’s about creating a whole new human being. Outside of your own desires to have a baby, to be a parent, to experience awesome parental love, watch that baby grow up into an adult…you are creating a WHOLE NEW PERSON. That person comes with his or her own personality, wants and needs, expectations about life…separate from just being your child. It’s difficult to articulate, I guess, but I see a lot of people becoming parents simply because of their own biological instincts to reproduce, and then expecting their children to fulfill something that it may be impossible or unreasonable for a child to fill.

    It’s so important for parents or potential parents to recognize that they’ll be raising little humans, not just an offshoot of themselves.

  15. I never had that “feeling” from when I was little that I was destined to be a mom, so I never really knew if I’d be able to recognize it in myself when the time came to decide to have kids. And I was terrified that I would make that decision to become pregnant and then regret it or freak. I got married at 26 and loved my life with my husband, living just “for us”. When the thought of having kids would enter my mind, it always came with a negative tone: so many responsibilities! Another person to care for (when I can barely keep my head above water just thinking about us)! I will never be able to get up and go! The list is never-ending. Then one day when the thought of having kids crept up in my mind again, I realized that I was (unintentionally) having positive feelings: I imagined our family, I felt more settled, I thought about how it might be. I actually felt calm. And then I started paying more attention to how I felt when I thought about it when I let my thoughts relax. Of course there is a lot to THINK about. But for me it wasn’t until I stopped thinking and paid attention to how I truly FELT that the answer became more clear.

  16. This is definitely something that I have struggled with myself. I have definitely come to the point where I am sure that I want kids even though it kinda scares me at the same time. I can say that I am glad that my soon to be ex husband and I didn’t have a kid right away because it would make the situation now so much worse than it already is. I always have wanted kids and had thought that I would follow in my parents footsteps and wait at least a couple of years before starting to try to have a baby.

    They were married 3 years before having me and then 3 years later my brother.

    Now that I am going through the divorce I’m glad we didn’t, but am afraid that I may never have that. I’m only 33 but it still is a thought that creeps in periodically.

  17. At around age 30, I was at a point in my career, which had developed out of a hobby, where I had to decide whether I wanted to give it my all and make this my profession or stay at amateur level, just having fun and not depending on it financially.

    This is when I realized that choosing that particularly career (performing arts) would, for various reasons, not allow me to have children, which in turn made me realize that, in fact, I DID want kids.
    This was a surprise to me! I could imagine being happy without kids – I already had a fulfilling life – but I’d rather have the version WITH kids. Before, I had swayed between ‘unsure’ and ‘I don’t want any’.

    So for me the answer was imagining a life without the possibility of children and asking myself if that was what I’d prefer.

  18. Lots of useful things are said already. I have a few things to add, because ultimately, everyone’s journeyis different.

    – I struggled with this decision and found this Offbeat family thread helpful (3rd comment in that thread is mine πŸ™‚ ): http://offbeatfamilies.com/2012/05/baby-changing-life

    – In the end, my decision to have a baby, was 95% hormonal / biological. I acknowledged that and decided that was good enough. Deciding to try to have kids is not rational, I decided πŸ˜€ .

    A reason that have not been mentioned yet:
    – I was afraid that I would experience regret when I was 40 or 50 and did not have children (I missed out on an important life experience). Of course, this is on its own not a valid reason, but coupled to others (when leaning to the ‘yes, let’s have kids’-side), it is in my opinion.

    My pregnancy was awful (I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum) and I spent many hours crying over the worst mistake of my life (that is how it felt). Now that our child has arrived, it has taken me by surprise how awesome it is. I agree SO MUCH with the comments about fun. I would add ‘joy’ to that (really cheesy, I know, but it does feel that way). And I am a lot like my mom: I do not like kids in general, but my own kid… I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoy her and love her.

  19. I’m single and have no kids currently. I also have the fears: invasion of space, body changes, responsibility. But I also hope that fears would never stop me from doing something good and that I wanted. So I like the idea of looking to the positive of why to have kids.

    On a community rather than personal note. The book children of men by P.D. James (also made into a movie but haven’t seen it) depicts a world where everybody suddenly becomes infertile. That world is frikking scary. She paints a really realistic picture of how society breaks down without children. In a weird way because children are a responsibility, they also motivate us to want a better world for them. They motivate us on a personal and social level to maintain our societies. Children bring renewal and life. Without children societies just start dying.

  20. A little late to the discussion, but I would love if there were more people here with the same hold-ups as me.

    I’ve always wanted children, for as long as I can remember. As the time drew nearer to this becoming a possible reality I started freaking out. I still feel the urge and need to have children but I’m so scared I’ll repeat my own unhappy childhood.

    I wouldn’t say I was abused as a kid but I was definitely unhappy. My father was never diagnosed but probably has some kind of autistism spectrum thing which means he was at best disinterested and at worst he would fly off the handle for the smallest of things, sometimes physically violent but usually verbally vicious. Being emotional was not acceptable, sadness and anger were ignored or reprimanded, and even outright happiness was sometimes punished.

    I’ve had years of therapy and I’m happy now, but how do I keep myself from repeating those unhappy patterns? Or from overcompensating and then fucking up on the opposite side? I’ve read a (very) little on ‘Repetition Compulsion’ and it sums up my fears. Just like kids who grew up in a home with domestic violence have a greater chance of becoming an abuser themselves, I have a greater chance of becoming a shitty parent.

    It would break my heart to take a step back fifteen years from now and see the same depressed teenager I have been myself for so long πŸ™

    • You should read Freakonomics. The writers have this theory supported by economic theory that goes something like: if you care enough to try to be a good parent (do things like buy books on parenting) then you are likely already a good parent, simply because you care enough to do better.

      • I’ve actually read that book! Years ago, when baby making wasn’t so much on my mind. It’s a comforting thought and I think there’s much truth to it. And an excellent excuse to buy some books (yay!).

        And yet… surely everyone starts out with the best intentions? I know for a fact my mother was unhappy as a child as well and was determined to do better with us. However, I realize I’ve got two advantages my mother didn’t: Years of therapy and an awesome, caring, gentle husband. These will have to be my saving graces πŸ™‚

  21. Kids – kids were something I’d grown up expecting for my life. I was raised by a painfully self-sacrificing SAHM, and this weirdly backfired. Seeing and hearing her talk about how kids were a huge sacrafice and we should be grateful and she had wished she’d done all these things kinda scared me off when I hit my 20s. So I’ve been struggling with wanting a kid (I think I can make time for ONE at least) and being afraid that my art career will end – despite being in a theater community with examples of successful artist-parents.
    My partner and I came close to separating, however, and possibly the biggest potential loss to me was the non-existent baby. What.

    I want this kid because I’m really mad at bad parents and think I can do a better job, which is delightfully arrogant of me, but eigh.
    I adore my partner and want to see something of them get passed into the future, as well as the things I’ve cultivated in myself. This is selfish. Having kids is weirdly selfish in many regards. This is OK.
    FOR SCIENCE. But seriously. I love great art projects that can enrich the world, and developing another human being could be a wonderful work of art to send out into the universe. It could also suck. It’s a huge gamble, but the potential for great things is tantalizing.
    I think the kid might like me as a parent. Sometimes. I have this plan for a Halloween tree and teaching autonomy and feminism from age 2 onwards….

    So we’ll see. Project kid is on my big list of TO DO BEFORE DEAD – hopefully I’ll figure out a non-totally-shitty-time to work on it. πŸ™‚

  22. The decision to have a child was never really an actual decision for me….just something that I always ASSUMED I would do….go to college, get married, have a family…done. The alternative was never really something I ever thought about….though I do think that the people that question it, probably shouldn’t have kids. If the desire to have a child isn’t within you, then it’s not really something that something outside of you can change, in my opinion. The people I know that knowingly have made the decision to not have a child, are people that have always said “I don’t want children”. There’s no changing their minds.

    While my 4 year old drives me INSANE 55% of the time, I imagine life would be rather boring and lonely without him. Sure, I’d have a lot of extra money to throw around at vacations and material things I don’t need, but I wouldn’t really have anything to get out of bed for in the morning. And I wouldn’t have ever known how it feels to love someone so much it hurts. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. Now, we are faced with fertility issues that have us questioning how much/if we want another child…. If we are meant to have another child. Issues I never imagined would be a reality for myself. And now I look at the future very differently…I think about my old age, I think about my grandchildren, or lack there of should we not have another child, and it makes me sad…makes me sad for me and more so, for my son.

    There’s nothing wrong with not having children, but I don’t think it should ever be a true choice a person has to make. And if it is, then that should probably answer the question.

  23. A friend of mine and I had a similar conversation about a year ago. She said the decision to have children is a decision you make with your heart, not your head. If you start making lists of the pros and cons of having kids, then every same person would decide not to reproduce. But of course plenty of mentally stable people do have children, because it’s ultimately an act of love. It’s not a decision one can make in a rational fashion.

    For the record, she decided to never have children. I’m currently pregnant with my first.

  24. I’ve always been on the no kids bandwagon. Then I met a wonderful man who shared my love of adventure. He always wanted children but knew that I was ambivalent…negatively skewed. A few years ago, I realized that my life could be very nice if I continued to live the way I currently do: in an expensive urban area, on my own schedule and taking fabulous vacations every year. However, raising a child (or children) is another life experience/adventure in and of itself…and that’s what skewed me in this direction. I’m now 5 months pregnant and definitely not as enthusiastic as other mothers-to-be but it was a conscious decision to force new experiences and adventures from a perspective beyond just that of my own and my husband’s.

    • I really like this idea that having kids is an adventure! I love trying new things and traveling because it is hard and challenging. I’m leaning towards having kids in a year or so and I think raising them may be the biggest challenge in my life.

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