Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Having Or Not Having Kids


Yesterday, my friend posted an article on Facebook about things people say when they hear somebody does not want to have kids. It's humorously written, but it brings up a serious issue - people find it so impossible to respect another person's decision that they feel the need to lecture them on why they are supposedly wrong. One of the most common arguments the author of this article hears is: "But what if you regret never having your own kids?" To which she responds: "I'd rather regret never having children than have children and regret it." 

Incidentally, just a few hours later another friend emailed me a blog post from a Slovak blogger, called: "Leave Mommy Alone! She Is Writing an Article About How She Didn't Want to Have You." If you can read Slovak, I recommend you check it out. Glancing at the title, I assumed it was about one of the two things - either this lady did not want a child, but had one anyways and is now the most fulfilled person in the history of the world, or it's about sharing too much on the internet without thinking about how your child will feel one day when he or she will read old blog post about Mommy struggling with her feelings (good luck, Kai).

It turned out to be neither. She writes about having a child and regretting it. Now before you get all worked up about this and call social services, this is not one of those women who leave their children locked out on the balcony when the temperature drops below zero because they spilled milk on the carpet. Neither does she try to escape the family life by running away or getting drunk. This is an educated, intelligent woman who left her job to be a stay at home Mom. She loves her son. She can't imagine not having him at this point. What she can imagine is turning back time to that moment when she and her husband were deciding on having a child, and instead choose not to. She never felt the need to have a child. She never wanted one. Yet she ended up with one. And now she often feels regret about that decision.

I have not regretted having children, but I have also never felt my ovaries vibrating from pure need to replicate. I made an educated guess. Which is the same thing people who don't want to have children do. It is true that motherhood brings me some of the highest highs I ever got to experience. My heart bursting into pieces from joy so concentrated it could almost kill me. At the same time, it brings the lowest lows with it, and we are only three years into it. We didn't even make it to that stage when they yell they hate you, they roll their eyes at you, they are ashamed of you and you have to watch them making stupid decisions you know could ruin their lives.

I fight with Kai every day. I don't want to. I want to be his best friend. I want to go through one day without having to say "no" to him, but I can't even make it through one hour, because he insists on pinning down the cat, throwing books and other heavy and/or breakable and/or sharp objects, shoveling big lego pieces right into the TV screen, climbing up a bookcase, sticking his fingers into openings from which he may not be able to remove them, using knives, running with a fork in front of his face...you get the idea. I could go on all day. I do go on all day - telling him no. Which makes him mad. Which makes him scream at me or hit me. Which is not how I imagined my daily life would be. Call it parenting if you want, to me it mostly feels like fighting. Fighting with a person I love the most.

I often wonder how I ended up being the responsible one. I am not talking about the philosophical "responsible for someone's life". I am OK with that. I am fine with being in charge of a human being, keeping him safe and raising him the best person possible. I am talking about the fact that I still feel like a child myself most of the time. I get scared and I don't know which decision is the right one, but now I am expected to make one. 

Kai tells me to go ask a lady at the museum front desk a question, and I don't want to, because I am shy and I don't want to impose, but his question is relevant, plus I don't want him to grow up afraid to ask questions, because that is what I struggle with all the time, so I have to do it. He does not want to go himself, and I understand, because I feel exactly the same way as he does, only I am the Mom now, so I have to do it.

I don't want him to learn that I am scared of spiders, because I don't want to instill the same fear in him. I have to pretend they don't bother me in the slightest, while going through a full blown panic attack inside. He thinks Mommy can fix everything, while Mommy feels she needs her Mommy half the time. Just because I have kids, I don't feel any more mature, or wise, or competent.

Sometimes I wish I could have back those weekends when I didn't have to get out of the bed before noon and had nothing else to do but look forward to the evening dinner plans with friends. I can't do that anymore. Yes, I could get Grandparents or friends to watch the kids, but that's not the point. I'd miss the kids. I want to be with the kids. I don't need a day without my kids - I need a day from before I had them. 

I know having children was the right decision for me. Other people know it is the right decision for them not to have children. Just as I would never have anybody talk me out of having kids, I can't talk them into having them, nor should I feel the need to do so. They are perfectly capable to decide for themselves.

2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed your post, and the article about what silly things people say. This hit home for me as me and my husband struggle through the kid question. I like how u pointed out how u would like a day before you had your kids and not just a break from them. Gives me points to think on.

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  2. I have many friends who don't want to have children. I can totally get it. I always loved the life I had before children. Even though there was personally never a question for me: I absolutely wanted children- I could not even say why. Besides the fact that I love everything about kids. I have one advise for mothers or perhaps-mothers: you don't have to put yourself or your life in second line. Well, in some cases (many moments in fact) of course you do. But I believe it's the ambitious want-to-be-perfect mother who struggles most with having children. They feel nobody else can replace them, nobody else is doing it right and their kid(s) are only happy with the mommy around. They have a bad conscience when they choose to not spend time/hours/evening/day/weekend with the kids. I (who had to be absent every now and then for a work trip since the kids can remember) personally think it feels really good to spend time apart. It's even important for everybody involved: for you as mother because you realize you continue to exist as the person you were before. for your kid(s): to experience that they are able to be without the attachment to only 1 person, that life continues just fine without that center- they become more self assured and have often a better confidence I believe; they also experience that you always come back- with more love and patience then before usually; they also find it super interesting to spend time with other people and to tell you about it; for the husband/boyfriend/father/partner or whoever takes care of them while you can be the person you have been before: they feel important and capable. Only then they are really able to bond with the kids (away from the critical eye of the judging & caring mother). My husband and I often take turns of sleeping in on the weekend. It feels great to stay in bed, reading or shopping with friends and to know that your kids have a great time (without you!). It might take time & some tears for the very young child to say goodbye to you for the first times- but only because it's not used to and not because it can not. I wish every mother the confidence and courage of letting it happen/letting go at some point- to increase everybody's happiness and decrease the frustration levels and maybe also regrets. Eva (2 boys at age 3 and 6)

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