Thinking Aloud: Having Children

A certain online magazine is accepting submissions from its readers about the reasons they are childless/childfree. Reading through the first published submission (and the comments) was an exercise in eye rolling.

Do people really care if other people don’t have children? Or, for that matter, why we do have children? Or because the majority position is to have children (is it, still? I don’t have numbers here), there is so much askance directed toward the childfree/childless?

I have to think long and hard about why I have children, but that’s not because I regret having them. I love my kids more than my own life. I’m just trying to remember what lead me and Dan to having them.

Throughout most of my 20s, I was pretty much staunchly against the idea of being pregnant. I never felt strongly about having children until I was pregnant with Gabriel.

The biggest thing that changed was my marriage to Dan. Going in, I knew I was choosing to love and marry a man who had as a goal of his life to become a father. He didn’t hem and haw about it. I mean, I don’t remember him declaring, “I want children”, but through dating him and beyond, I pretty much knew his position on the subject: Very pro-kids.

I think if I didn’t want to have children, I would have either not married at all, or not married Dan. And it wasn’t that I was ambivalent about being a mother or having children. I was, frankly, heading into marriage, more than open to the idea.

Both sides of the childfree/parenting debate sling the word “selfish” at each other. It doesn’t strike me as more selfish to not want to have children than it does to have them. Making a choice about one’s life is inherently selfish, isn’t it?

I guess the argument could be made that once people have children, they should be less selfish. The children, especially when they are infants and young children, do need to come first. As a small illustration of this, there are evenings I don’t eat until after 8 p.m. because I’m feeding and otherwise tending to the kids. Makes me cranky, though, not really feel self-less.

But choosing not to have children doesn’t automatically mean that you are incapable of being selfless.

I don’t know. I just don’t understand why this is such a hot topic. Now that I have children, I know why I have children. They are the embodiment of joy and love. Yeah, kids have some messy downsides, and I don’t have teens yet. But what they have given to me is so very delightful. Like anything else, parenting has pros and cons.

I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong in deciding not to become a parent, though. I wish the conversation was less fraught with judgement and defensiveness. Ultimately, why do we care about other people’s choices again?

If you have kids, why do you have kids? If not, why not? And either way, do you feel judged or criticized for your choices? What do you do in those situations?