First published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name Elizabeth Rose in December 2018. Link below is via the Amazon Affiliate program, which means I earn a commission at no cost to you. (It’s my favorite book – I hope you enjoy it!) Thank you for being here!
The question weighed on my mind: Why have kids? Besides meditating on the subject, I did what good a journalist would do. I asked questions.
After speaking with a range of women and men of different ages, the answers were pretty enlightening:
• A 36-year-old woman who does not want kids: “I think many people have kids thinking it will immediately make them happy. Many kids are raised with this unfair expectation to be responsible for their parents’ happiness.”
• My mom: “I knew since I was 10 I wanted a family, a Leave It to Beaver life. My mother worked several jobs to keep us five kids fed, and it was hard. I made a vow to myself that I would be the best mother possible. The type of mom that my mother didn’t have the chance to be.”
• An 18-year-old woman: “I am an only child, so I feel the pressure to have kids and carry on the family name.”
• A mom of two in her early 40s: “I guess I felt some familial and friend pressure. I didn’t want to be left out by the people I relate to. And basically, it’s just what you [do] after getting married.”
• Almost 60, dad to three adult children: “Because my wife wanted to.”
• A spiritual practitioner, dad to two adult children: “The experience of children is a great practice of self-control.”
• A spiritual practitioner, mom to three adult children: “To fill a maternal need.”
• A mid-40s woman, artist, no kids: “I wanted to give myself more room to create. Age 35 and up is a precious time for a woman to harness her creative energy.”
• A 30-year-old mother to a 1-year-old: “To feel needed. To have someone who literally depends on you for survival.”
•A 28-year-old pregnant woman: “We talked about it, and both agreed we wanted a family.”
•A 31-year-old woman trying to get pregnant: “I think it boils down to wanting a reason, motivation, or inspiration to be the best person I can be. To love someone more than I ever dreamed possible and to have my heartache from that love. Also, I just f*cking love babies.”
All valid reasons, but the last one got me thinking: Why do we need kids to encourage us to be the best we can be? I mean, I get it. Nothing will keep you accountable like keeping another human alive. But the thought of “doing it for ourselves” almost seems impossible at times, which is strange considering the only person we can control is ourselves. We are, in a sense, born human, then left to figure it out the best we can.
Speaking of being born, thank God for parents. I have MUCHO respect for those who raise good people to make the world better. (Thank you, parents, for your service!) And a shout out to those who choose not to have children but strive to be the best aunt, uncle, friend, godparent, etc., and set good examples to stick for life.
And we can’t forget those without a choice – those who aren’t able to conceive. May we hold a big space in our hearts for them.
But maybe living without kids is taxing in its own way because there are fewer distractions from working on yourself: you have more freedom to deal or not deal with personal challenges. To some, that sounds freeing or debilitating or a little of both. (Maybe it’s all the above.)
For me, I decided not to have kids. After seeing my sister, sister-in-law, and friends dominate the Mom game, I learned you gotta have passion for pushing through when it’s rough. And that burning desire to procreate does not exist the way moving to California or becoming a professional writer did.
Not even close.
I’m confident with my choice and accepted that I will never understand the joys of bearing children or creating a little one who resembles Chris and me. Do I wonder about it? Of course. But I feel there’s a sense of “What if?” no matter which door you choose – if you have kids, you wonder what life would be like without them. If you don’t have kids, you wonder if you’re missing out. This reminds me of my favorite quote by Sylvia Plath:
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
We are indeed progressing into a new society that normalizes the “non-traditional” life and is more accepting of individual choices. Hopefully, we’ll become more compassionate towards one another through this process…and find compassion for the child within.
Ladies out there, how many can relate to the decision to have kids or not? I’d love to know what helped you make your decision. Please leave in the comments below!
If you liked this, the night that made us question kids is here in Why Have Kids? Part one!