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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The best article about not having kids that you will ever read
Posted by Jill | 5:29 AM
Our society doesn't make it easy for people who don't want to have, or even adopt, children. I'm 54 now, so even people who thought my clock would start ticking ten years ago have finally shut up and realized that I meant business when I said I didn't want children.

When I was in my early 20's, before it was even an issue, I sometimes thought that I would have them, but that was always within a context of it not being an issue. I never particularly wanted children, nor did I ever see myself as a mother. The closest I ever came to marriage before Mr. Brilliant was a guy who wanted his kids raised Catholic, and that pretty much put an end to those plans. And even then, I didn't particularly even WANT kids.

When you're still in your fertile years, your choice is constantly questioned. It's assumed that you'll change your mind. Some people think it means you're a child molester and so you're afraid to have children of your own. I always knew I didn't particularly like children. I never played with baby dolls as a child. I loved dogs and cats, and was always able to care for and nurture them, but a child? Yuck. Some of it was that while most women think about having children and see a little bundle wrapped in a blamkie with little tiny fingers, I thought about dirty diapers. While most women thought of dressing up a little cutie on Easter, my mind went right to the sullen teenager with the pierced nose and the Mohawk who thinks you're a complete idiot and hates you. Then there's the fact that children just aren't rational. If you've ever seen a mother try to reason with an overtired 3-year-old in the cereal aisle of a supermarket, you know that trying to reason with a 3-year-old is like explaining to a Republican that just because something isn't forbidden doesn't mean it's going to be mandatory.

When I was 44, I went to an anniversary party where a cousin I hadn't seen in over a decade assured me that I would change my mind, that she'd had HER youngest at 44. It's amazing how well people think they know YOUR ovaries. I never did change my mind.

I know some great moms. One woman I know has two kids and would have six if she could afford them. Her greatest joy is spending time with her kids. This family skis together, her daughter does dog agility with her. This is a woman who finds her kids to be no end of fun, and did even when they were three and screaming in the cereal aisle at the supermarket. I know one mom who despite the fact that her daughter is a "glue baby" conceived in the hope of bringing the marriage closer together (it didn't) is a great mom. Her daughter is ferociously smart, speaks in complex sentences with 3-syllable words and she's not even three yet. One of my friends has managed to raise two kids who are confident, happy, and have never been in any kind of trouble. And if that stays the case in the next three years she'll have navigated adolescence without a hitch.

I've also known the people who don't seem to know what to do with their kids, who think their kids are an extension of themselves, who seem to not have wanted children so much as they wanted to shut up the parental yammering in their heads about grandchildren that they've heard since they started menstruating.

I have endless respect and admiration for people who are good parents. I wish, though, that people who just don't have the knack for it didn't feel they had to have children because society expects it, or their parents expect it. I wish more people were able to sort out their own feelings about having a family without this cacophony of expectations. I may have had crappy self-esteem for much of my life, but for some reason, this was one area in which I was able to tell the rest of the world to mind its own business.

So of course I made a beeline for "9 Silly Things People Say When They Hear You Don't Want Kids (And Ways to Counter Them)" over at Alternet. If you or someone you know is wrestling with this dilemma, pass this on. Because we need more great parents in this country...and those who just don't feel they can do it shouldn't have to.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Good for you! I absolutely agree with you. My sister also has never desired to have children, and I had so many arguments with our mother over it that I wanted to scream. And the saddest thing is the people that have kids because they're supposed to. I was one of those kids.

Early fifties, never had kids...the same images of diapers, drool and later bad behavior overcame teh cute. My folks are sad that I didn't 'give' them grandchildren, but that wish was just to meet their own emotional needs. Sometimes when I see my cousin's grown kids, I feel regret...then I remember the others that are in prison, divorce court or rehab and I feel better.

Anonymous Skepticat said...
From the moment I figured out that it was optional, I knew I didn't want to have children. I've never regretted that for a moment.

Blogger Barry said...
I'd say the broader point is that people should just mind their own business and respect other peoples' life decisions, whether it be the decision to have kids or anything else.

But there is, I've noticed, something about "the kid" issue that especially makes people want to butt in. FWIW, people who *do* choose to have kids get grief too -- the same busybodies are still all in your grill telling you how to raise them and offering all manner of unsolicited advice.

Anonymous AlphaHuskyAlpha said...
I have vowed to never say, "Oh, you'll change your mind someday," even though I personally did. Of course, my not wanting kids had nothing to do with me not liking children. I'm a survivor of multiple forms of child abuse- I lived with a strong fear that I would be unable to parent because of that, that I would be an abuser.

I also had a terrible experience raising- yes, I mean that- a 1 and a half year old on my own when I was 10 (step-sister hadn't wanted him, other step-sister hit him, so it fell to his step-aunt to take the reins- I can't tell you what this did to me emotionally, and then he was given up for adoption at 2 and I never saw him again- my heart was broken).

Then there are my 3 chronic illnessess. They may be inheritable or contractable. That causes me a lot of grief and guilt. They also made pregnancy suck. I also miscarried numerous times (including again this summer), which was hell on me emotionally and hormonally/chemically. These illnesses also make caring for a child more difficult- or challenging, as I would like to think of it. Yes, there are days my daughter stays in my bedroom with me- surrounded by toys, giggling and being read to, and napping at will.

Anonymous AlphaHuskyAlpha said...
Personally, I feel so blessed to have changed my mind, and I was given the gift of a child with Down syndrome, who is about the happiest, most cheerful and patient child I've ever known- and so far, she's not showing delays and she's skipped the big health problems lots of kids with Ds have. So I feel blessed. But my step-sister who had the baby she didn't want, and who was talked out of giving him up for adoption from the start- instead giving him up when he was two? She should never have had kids. And she had two more. And she is a crack addict. And her two kids have been brought up with absolutely no rules because she thinks kids should do what they want, or else adults deprive them of freedom. And one of her kids lives with a revolving set of friends. The other lives with a man who allowed her to live in his house for some time rent free. Mind you, the boy lives with this man without the mother, my step-sister. And he's already got contact with CPS.

Then there's my cousin, who adamantly did not want kids, who said in her teens she wanted to be an "alcoholic housewife," and would just have abortions if she got pregnant- she should never have had kids. Not only for reasons I will not go into, but because she really, really did not want kids. And she is a cocaine addict and alcoholic- maybe in recovery, I don't know. We lost track of her after her son was born. Because yes, she married someone who very much wanted kids (she told me she'd tell him she didn't want kids "later"), and got pregnant in the usual manner but I'm not sure it was not an accident or against her will. And she had the baby, she seemed to many in my family to have it together finally when she was pregnant. But I knew her. She's the closest I've ever had to a sister. And I looked into her eyes when she was talking about being pregnant at 8 weeks (and pouring herself a glass of wine) and I knew, I just knew, she hadn't changed her mind and this was a tragedy. And currently, she is divorced and her mother shares custody with my cousin's ex-husband. So things with my cousin got that bad, she's not even in the loop as far as custody is concerned.

If you don't want kids, if you don't like children, if you don't relish giving up things for yourself to give them instead to someone who will hug you and give you wet kisses today, but who will probably get those piercings and scream, "I hate you," somewhere down the line- don't have them! Please don't! And people who butt in and say, "You'll change your mind,"- just shut up, already. Maybe that person has an extremely good reason to not want kids, and maybe your pressure, especially if they happen to be emotionally not all together there, is not helping! It is hurting, because maybe, just maybe, then that person who should NOT be a parent decides they will get attention and love they feel they don't have if they do have a child. And maybe then you'll have to learn to shut your mouth when you see them at a Christmas party, drunk out of their minds, arguing with their spouse about who's turn it is now to change the poopy diapers. And you'll be totally heartbroken when they lose custody to a mother who abused THEM, and they drop out of sight completely.

Okay, rant over. Thanks!

Anonymous jb said...
I never saw myself as a parent, ever, not for a minute, even when I was a child contemplating what adulthood would be like. And thank goodness I'm not. Practically none of the choices The Mrs. and I have been able to make in the last 20 years would have been the same if we had kids. We've made plenty of mistakes over the years, but we're pretty sure not having kids isn't one of them.

Blogger Suzan said...
Thank you so much for your intimate look at this issue, Jill.

I remember when it took almost foolhardy courage to say that you didn't want children.

I felt the same intellectually but never had the nerve to say it.

You'll be a beacon of bright light to others.


Anonymous mandt said...
But, but, if ya ever (wink, wink) wanna run for Governor you're gonna need a stunt baby like little Trick (Trig?) (or what ever his name) to wow the crowds.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Always interesting to read the self-justifications of the self-centered.

Blogger Jill said...
OK, Anon, I'll take the bait. How does knowing that one isn't cut out to be a parent make one "self-centered"? Have you ever seen the psychological damage that ensues in children whose parents are emotionally or physical abusive or rejecting or emotionally absent? Or who refuse to set limits? Raising children isn't for the faint of heart. Don't you think that our society would be much better if people like some of the ones I cited who are great parents were the ones who had children -- and the ones who just can't hack it didn't?

Blogger Interrobang said...
I'm one of those women who doesn't want kids ever, and who never played with dolls as a child. I don't even think babies are cute. I don't like children, never have, really, and could seriously do without even being the "cool auntie." (Frankly, if I had to have kids, I'd be less concerned about dealing with the pierced-nose I-hate-you phase than everything else that comes before it.) Like Jill, when other women are thinking of perfect little fingers and tiny booties, I'm thinking of sleepless nights, screams that sound like radio static, dirty diapers, and vomit.

My parents don't bug me about kids; they had to have seen it coming when I was three years old and they took me to my dad's company Christmas party. Back in those days, all the girls got a doll (and all the boys got toy trucks). I opened my parcel, then turned my face to the sky and exclaimed, "Oh, yuck! A doll! Just what I never wanted!"

I think people who want kids are self-centred. They're the ones insisting that they're spayshul enough to warrant using up all those resources to make themselves feel good...

Anonymous ShortWoman said...
I can't imagine being so rude as to say things like "oh you'll change your mind," but then I can't imagine being rude enough to ask a newlywed woman when she's planning on having a baby!

True story, when I first got married I was asked that once (*once*) at a social gathering by a woman maybe 5-10 years older than me, married. My mother jumped in before I could even stammer a shocked reply and asked her "When are *you*??" Great conversation stopper!