Choosing children (or not) – real women weigh in

Monday, Danielle shared why she gave her daughter up for adoption. Wednesday, I shared why I’m childless by choice. For today’s post, we asked real women, from their early 20’s to their early 50’s,  why they decided to have children. Or not to have them. Or, if they’re still deciding, what’s influencing their decision. To breed or not to breed, that is the question.

(That little cutie up pictured above is Morgan, btw. I mean, if that didn’t convince me to have kids, nothing could.)

Courtney L.
I always pictured myself with children even when I was a girl. I was certainly in no rush, however, and decided to travel the world, spend my time finding the right man and building a career before having them. Now with two, I still consider a third. I grew up in a family where we all get together at holidays and many weekends in the summer – 30 people and I would love to have that sense of family for generations to come. I feel I should add that once we had kids we did NOT stop world travel or chasing our dreams. Our kids are 2 & 4 and have been to the Akropolis in Athens, the Byzantine ruins in Turkey, the fjords in Norway, the Tatra Mountains in Poland, etc., etc, …I refuse to give in to a “traditional” lifestyle because I have kids.

Mandy S.
I don’t want kids and never have. I actually told my mom when I was 7 that I was never having kids. I’m 26 now and have stuck to my guns. I can’t really explain the decision other than saying it’s never felt natural to me. I see other people instantly connect with children and I just don’t have that ability. I didn’t even like other kids when I was a kid—I’d always hang out with the adults or the oldest kids I could find. Maybe it was because I was the only kid in my family and I was raised by older people (my mom was 31 when she had me). Maybe it’s biological and I’m missing some material gene. I don’t know, but I can say that I’m extremely happy and fulfilled in my life.

My partner and I do what we want, when we want, and have time to do all the things we love. We simply don’t have room in our lives for children and we’re perfectly happy not to. We don’t feel like we’re going to miss out and we don’t fret over who’s going to take care of us when we get older. (That’s what nursing homes are for—duh! But you’d be surprised how many idiots will ask that.) His sister has a baby and he has a godson, so we get to be the cool aunt and uncle. That’s all we want and we’re perfectly happy with that.

Susan B.
I think I’ll end up having them, but I guess you could say I’m still deciding. I’m really caught up in timing at the moment. I worry about having them and then wishing I’d done more things I wanted to do before having them, and I’m also worried about putting it off too long. I worry about having them at the “right time” in my career, how it will affect my career, etc. I know I’m not ready yet, but I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever feel “ready.” Also: I have severe emetophobia, so I’m absolutely terrified of morning sickness. I have no idea how I’ll handle that. To most people that probably seems like such a small part of the process, but it’s huge for me.

Rebecca S.
I never felt the urge to have them. …or be around them. I always gathered from family, tv and books that I would hit a certain age and have this overwhelming feeling to reproduce. But I’m almost 31, my biological clock is ticking but I still don’t feel the need to continue this species. I always thought that this “need” had to be a fact because of how a species evolves to continue its line. But it still hasn’t hit me. I sometimes wonder what it’ll be like when I’m older and don’t have anyone to take care of me, because in theory that’s the kids’ job, but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.

It’s funny because I’ve talked to my dad about my not wanting kids and he says that I’ll regret that decision. It’s funny because my brothers and sister and i aren’t particularly great kids and actually some gave my parents a particularly hard time in life. So that has always made me wonder as well.

Mia P.
Wanted zero kids, have two, often still want zero. BUT, now that I’m finished parenting (and I am DONE!!) I can enjoy them. From afar. Most of the time. Usually. I love them.

Amy S.
I really have no idea yet if I’m going to have them or not. I’m a teacher, so I spend my day influencing and shaping minds. And I really love the idea of raising children with my husband, but I also really like sitting in my pajamas all Saturday playing video games with my husband, and I know I can’t do that when I have kids. Add to that the fact that I spend 50 hours a week at work with other people’s children and during tech week and competition weeks spend 80, and I’m just not sure it would be fair to a child to have so much of my attention on my job. But we have a few years before we decide anyway because I live in a right to work state and so–while they can’t technically fire me for being pregnant– they don’t have to give me a reason to fire me before I get tenure.

The other thing I would add is that I think my decision is being colored by a lifetime of societal training. Our society has raised young women to believe that her life is not complete until she has reproduced and raised a child. So if I were to say that no, I’m happy just being a teacher and letting the family lines on both sides die with me and my husband, there’s always going to be this little itch at the back of my brain afraid that I’m missing out in the meaning of life. We live in a world with an unsustainable population and consumption, but if I don’t leave my DNA behind to carry on, will I regret it?

Sherri R.
I’ve never really wanted children, but knew that if it happened on accident, I would be ok and love that child with all my heart. But I have always protected against having children. I waffle back and forth on that sometimes, but not enough to get off birth control or seriously entertain the idea. I’m thankful my husband feels the same way. I love children and am really a child at heart and enjoy playing with children a lot but, like Amy, I enjoy spending all day in my pajamas lounging and playing games or napping and I can’t do that with children. I think I may be too selfish for children, but I’m also not a selfish person, so I’m not quite sure how to reconcile that statement. I’m almost 42 now so I’m pretty resigned (and ok) with the fact that I will likely never have them myself naturally. We’ve thought about adopting because we do have a lot of love to give and there are so many children who need a chance in a loving home, but again, I’m not sure I’m ready to give up my lifestyle. I also think about who will take care of me when I’m old, but I also married younger so I’m hoping it will be him. Or the nursing home. lol! I’m not terribly worried about it. I don’t feel, however, that I’m missing out on anything by not having a child. I know ‘they’ say NOTHING compares to the love of a child and the love you feel for a child you have, but maybe because I’ve never known it, I don’t know what I’m missing. And I’m ok with that. I have a life full of love and I have so much love to give – and that I do give – that I am completely full and happy without one. And I get so much love in return from friends and family that I don’t feel I’m missing anything. But I am happy for those who want to be and are mommies. And for those who don’t want to be and aren’t!

Jessica F.
I never wanted children when I was younger. After watching my sister give birth twice… I do not want to experience that personally. I do think as I get older I will adopt. Still the rewarding experience of parenting without the process of birth. Win win!

Melissa S.
I never really wanted kids. I was always super focused on career and travel. I waffled a little bit over the years, but I always circled back to feeling “Not right now, and I’m not sure if or when.” Then last year, I found out that some health problems I have mean that it’s likely I won’t ever be able to have children. That hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean, I wasn’t sold on the idea, but I thought it was a decision *I* would get to make, not one that would be made for me. I was devastated. I think I’m still mourning it. But maybe the reason is because I am meant to focus on career and travel. I don’t know. It’s so complex, and I’m still working on how I feel about it all.

Anne P.
I love my daughter and would never wish for a different life, but I have had to mourn the loss of my freedom and individuality as a mother. I can never get that back. I can imagine a parallel universe where I chose not to have kids, or I couldn’t have one, and I dusted off and carried on. In many ways, that alternate life is better than the path of a mother.

Heather M.
So many thoughts.

  1. Society drills into our brains that having children is to complete one’s destiny. It also tells us that children bear the responsibility of taking care of aging parents. I disagree with both notions and see plenty of examples where this isn’t the case.
  1. Having children is a guarantee for nothing… except maybe stress and love. But it doesn’t guarantee fulfillment nor care for when we’re dying. Having a child or children is a gamble (God, I sound heartless…)
  1. Why can’t jobs, friendships, nephews, public service, volunteer commitments, husbands, wives, art, travel, etc., provide a fulfilling life, as much as a child?
  1. Children should never validate a human being. I refuse to subscribe to that notion too.
  1. Should I become pregnant? Awesome. Should I not become pregnant? Equally awesome. I’m humored by how we struggle with this idea. Even as I type that sentence, I too have that weird ‘itch’ Amy referred to.Yet, I know rationally, it’s okay either way.

Amanda H.
I’ve never wanted kids, ever. Even in middle or high school when all the girls my age would talk about how many kids they wanted and what their names would be, I was in the corner like, “I want to travel and ride a motorcycle around town and be the cool aunt who gets to go home when the kid(s) act up.”

Nicole D.
I’ve never been pregnant (to my knowledge). This is 99% okay by me! When I was a teen, I spent a lot of time “raising” my baby sister (10 years younger than me) so I understood firsthand the challenges and frustrations of taking care of an infant, toddler, and pre-teen. I decided at 16, no kids for me!! Also, I didn’t want to have a child suffer through what I had with my anxiety disorders, depression, and chronic pain from an autoimmune disease. I wouldn’t wish those things on anyone, especially someone I was told I’d love more than anyone, ever. And now unless I decide to adopt, it’s a done deal. Do I regret not being a mother? No, because I’m an animal mommy and an Aunt and I love that! And raising a child to be a happy, well-adjusted adult is an incredibly heavy responsibility and should never, ever be taken lightly. A child is not a toy, a pet, or a status symbol.

Mary E.
When I was young, my dream was to become a flight attendant and to travel the world. I didn’t play with dollies very often, and I never really thought about having kids until after I was married. I did fulfil my childhood dream and was a Flight Attendant for several years. Do I miss it? Everyday. I am now blessed with three sweet kids. Even though I miss my Flight Attendant days, I wouldn’t exchange being a mom to them, just to go back. Perhaps one day I’ll travel the world again, but for now, I’ll be caring for them until they’re ready to spread their wings and enter the world of adulthood.

Audrey A.
I was never a fan of children, and I’m still not. I’m awkward around them and don’t really know what to do with them. My mother is the same way. She was always clear, however, that while she did not like children, she loved my brother and me more than anything. She said that she had children because she wanted to raise the companions she longed for. I think she would say she did.

When my friends started having babies, I did get “the itch.” I have one son who was born a few months before I turned 30. From the moment I laid eyes on him, I loved him more than I could have imagined ever loving anything or anyone.

When he was about 5, his dad left us, and I was a single mother. I took him everywhere I went, including several foreign countries. Because I am not “good with children,” I was probably not the most conventional mother, but I always remembered what Mama said and raised him to be the companion I wanted.

My son is now almost 18, and my best companion will be leaving for college soon. I don’t necessarily feel like being a mother completes me or somehow validated my existence or that my identity is tied to being his mother, but I will say this: having that kid is the best damn decision I ever made.

Karen K.
When I was a young adult, kids always got on my nerves in restaurants and stuff when they’d cry. I never knew if I’d be able to stand having them one day.

When Jeremy and I started talking about having children, I just didn’t know how to take that leap and make the decision to try. So, God did it for me. I found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day 2005. We still have no idea how it happened.

After staring at that pregnancy test for a few minutes, I told Jeremy that I needed to cry and mourn the loss of my life as I knew it. Let’s face it pregnancy alone is a BIG mountain to climb. And then giving birth. And then raising a child. The thought of all of it was TOO much for me in that moment. So, I cried and cried and cried. Little did I know that motherhood, next to salvation, was the greatest gift I would be given. My daughter will be 11 on Wednesday. My son will be 7 next month. And our middle baby is in Heaven, and we will meet one day. I am no more of a woman than anyone else because I have given birth. And I doubt I am more fulfilled either. Everyone’s life is her own to live, and the idea of “fulfilled” is subjective. This applies to so many things in life.

But I do count my children as blessings. Plus, they’re funny as all get out!

Anne P.
I always wanted to be a mother, and I’m sure that my own mother, society, and my own personal make-up are all equally responsible for this deep seeded desire to procreate. As I floundered through my young adulthood, it seemed as each year passed that I would never find a partner to have a child with. At some point, I started trying to imagine my life as a single woman without a kid. I started to like the idea, but unfortunately did not have a great career or any money to travel or do anything special with my life. I struggled to find myself for a number of years, and when I finally found myself, I realized a simple truth- I was ready to fall in love and find a life partner, and become a parent. I believed in my early 30s that was indeed my purpose in life. I had failed at everything else, but I would be good at this… And then I found him, my best friend was feeling exactly the same way at the same time, and he surprised the hell out of me by telling me he loved me. Here we are 6+ years later, with a beautiful daughter, and I love my life most of the time. HOWEVER… I posted this next bit for Melissa, but wanted to share it in my larger response to Stephanie’s post: I love my daughter and would never wish for a different life, but I have had to mourn the loss of my freedom and individuality as a mother. I can never get that back. I can imagine a parallel universe where I chose not to have kids, or I couldn’t have one, and I dusted off and carried on. In many ways, that alternate life is better than the path of a mother.

Luann C.
As a teen, I never thought I’d have kids. To say I was raised by wolves with no instincts beyond self-preservation would be an understatement – so nurturing another human was just not something I thougth about. But (I guess luckily) I got married really young (and stupid – the marriage ended) and had two lovely boys before I thought better of it. And thanks to the universe, several people came into my life to show me how to be a parent in a way I never thougth I’d be capable of. My boys are grown now and both are lovely, creative, funny and responsible humans. I LIKE them both. Not just LOVE, I really like them as people. I’ve failed at many things, but feel very lucky to not have screwed that up – because every indicator in the book said that I would NOT be a good parent. And even though I did well with them, I still don’t think I would be able to get it together to parent someone elses children. I was very careful not to date anyone with kids of their own. Maybe that was selfish? but I think I knew my limits. I loved my children because they grew inside me but I’m pretty sure I would have failed as a step parent. But we’ll never know.

Kristie D.
I have a daughter I had late in life not because I decided to wait but because I also got married later in life. I wanted to have a child and now I’m not sure why I felt so strongly about it. Maybe it is society making us feel we should because we can and that’s only if we can. I don’t know. I love my daughter. It’s a love I’ve never had before. Being a parent has made me grow as a person and for that I’m grateful. I don’t know who I would be now if I hadn’t had her. I do have to say having a child changed my relationship with my husband. We’re not as close and that’s sad for me but maybe it’s inevitable. I think our love shifted towards her. I don’t think this happens for everyone but it did for us. We still love each other but the love is shared.

I did find out last year when I was going to get a procedure done because I won’t be having any more children that I might not have had her at all. It seems I have a goofy uterus that could have easily kicked her out but for some weird reason she was fully developed and very healthy. I’ve tried to figure out how I feel about that and it leaves me wondering if I was supposed to have her for a reason. Who knows.

I do have to say I think parenthood is not for everyone and I think if one decides not to have children that that’s their choice and probably a good one for them. To each her/his own!

What about you? What’s influencing your decision to have kids? Or how did you make your decision. We’d love to hear from you. 

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One Comment on “Choosing children (or not) – real women weigh in”

  1. In my 20’s I swore I didn’t want kids, not because I didn’t like them, (you can’t be a good scout counselor and leader if you don’t like kids) but because I wasn’t sure I would be a good parent. My mom tried her best but she had emotional problems, and I didn’t want to repeat her mistakes. By my 30’s I knew I could be a better nurturer, but by then, I’d married someone who didn’t want any more children. Now that we’re almost at retirement age, do I wish we had made different choices? On the whole, I think we made the best ones for us. The one thing I’m glad about is that we made a conscious decision on this instead of “letting fate take its course.” There’s too much at stake here to make a passive choice.

    Kids are brilliant, fantastic, and often our only real legacy to the future but they are also draining, painful, and an uncertain bet. They won’t “complete you” or “save” your marriage (those responsibilities belong more to you) and, if everything goes right, they leave you to make lives of their own. And things don’t always go right. So, I’m not advocating for either option, but I am saying, “Make a Choice.” Make a plan with contingency options and be flexible enough to change. Understand what you’re undertaking. And don’t worry about dying because we all die alone in the end. Choose the life you want to live.

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