Monday, October 19, 2009

To Procreate or Not to Procreate: The Great Child Debate

Most people who know me in a real-world, not-voodoo-magical-internet context know that I have long declared my desire to remain childless, but - perhaps inevitably - I have been thinking about babies quite a bit the last couple of years ... okay, let's be honest - it's not been "quite a bit" but something more along the lines of A FREAKING BLOODY TON!!  I say inevitably for several reasons: I'm getting older and know that the amount time I to actually make this choice is quickly dwindling, my family has accepted my childless state and therefore no longer gives me anything to rebel against by remaining so, practically every woman I know is or was recently or is actively trying to be pregnant, I'm making major life choices right now and need to decide if having children is indeed a desire ... you get the picture.  Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm pining away on the couch hoping for the pregnancy fairies to fly through the window, it's not even that most of the time I think about the possibility of having children I actually want it to happen; I haven't made any kind of decision here, but rather I'm just thinking about the decision a lot.  Do I or don't I want to have children?  Honestly, most of the time I don't see it happening - not that I don't necessarily want it happen, but I just don't think it will.  There are those times, however, that I seriously want nothing more than to get pregnant right this instant dammit!  Luckily those are few and far between, and after several days of moping, crying in the shower and imagining how beautiful my child could be while she sleeps, I'm infinitely grateful that I'm a really consistent birth-control taker!  There are simply so many reasons not to have kids (in no particular order):

1) Financial: children are really bloody expensive!  And once you have 'em, you're in it for the long haul!  I would want some sort of financial security if I were to have children, and let's face it - that isn't happening anytime soon!  The hubs has at least 4 more years of school, and I have at least 2 more starting next year.  Being two full-time students doesn't equate well to making/having/saving money!  Nor does it leave much time to be a parent, which is my second point.

2) Time: Obviously, as mentioned above, being in school for several more years doesn't leave a lot of time for feedings, sleepless nights, changing poopy diapers ... you know, the general being-a-parent stuff.  At this point neither M nor I are willing to give up school and career goals to raise children.  This issue isn't settled once school is done however; this might sound selfish, but I really like my me-time and our us-time, and I simply don't know if I'm willing to give that up.

3) Environmental: A child brought up in America today will consume a disproportionate amount of the world's finite resources while at the same time creating more non-degradable trash than most people in the world.  This is also tied with Overpopulation (which I'll call 3, subcategory A): America's population continues to increase, making it one of the only (the only?) "developed" country to do so.  Most of Europe has reached replacement population growth (1 child per 1 adult), or negative growth!  Additionally, there are SO many children in the world who need loving homes and parents - can I really justify bringing another life into the world, thereby increasing the population, when there are already so many children?

4) Biological: Everyone is born with a biological history - my child would be born with a fairly substantial history of  severe depression on both sides of the family.  This isn't to say, of course, that they absolutely would inherent this trait or tendency, but the chances are actually pretty good, and do I really want to be responsible for passing that down to a child?  Perhaps a greater deterrent for me is the possibility of postpartum depression and my fear that my child will be raised by a depressed mother.

5) Auntie-hood: I really enjoy being an auntie - I have 3 nephews and 1 niece and feel pretty fulfilled by those children in my life.  I usually don't feel like I'm missing children, because it's easy to go see them if I do, and of course I can give these children back when I'm exhausted or they have a dirty diaper.

Regardless of all these reasons to not have children though, sometimes I really want them!  Chalk it up to an evolutionarily lagging biological clock, societal pressures and personal expectations, and pure damn curiosity, but regardless of how much I go over the reasons to not have kids, I usually picture my future with children in it, I catch myself saying, "when I have kids" and have to qualify it with a "I mean IF," I am occasionally torn in half, rather painfully actually, when I get my period - I'm happy because I know it's not the right time, and also mourn the loss of a child that never existed and have to consul myself with cake ...


I don't expect answers, but I am curious about other people's decisions.  Do you have children?  Are you planning to?  Why or why not?  Is this is a decision made purposefully or did it just seem like the natural thing to do?  


  1. Emily, I just wrote an essay about this for a Christian feminism publication: about how I came to my decision to adopt my boys, and about how my decision has influenced my life as a Christian feminist. At the risk of sounding somewhat self-promotional about my writing, can I send it to you? (I am posting anonymously just because I don't have a profile. But it's me, your old professor, Melanie Mock.)

  2. Hi Melanie! Haha - I'm all about self-promotion, I do it frequently! ;o) I'd love to read your article though, please do send it my way. I think this topic is pretty interesting, and I'm sure you have some great insights!

  3. Hey Emily. I normally dont read blogs but yours struck a cord with me as I am a mother of a wonderful two year old little boy.
    My perspective on it comes from a harsh reality and a way of it happening as far from what I envisioned in my life. I became pregnant with Logan out of wedlock, as a big NO NO in my highly catholic family, but has been accepted. He is a miracle child in my life. I was on the road to destruction. After my relationship of seven years came to a screaching halt, I found myself getting into all sorts of trouble that made my mind and body a mess. I fell into a lifestyle I will NEVER be proud of. When I met Logan's dad, it was the feeling of love again. An attraction to a man that should not have been there...nothing but TROUBLE. But I felt at the time that anyone to love me would fill the void that was killing me. So in thus, when I found out I was pregnant I was devestated as I knew my family would frown apon me and the distance between Logan's father and I was growing. Two weeks into finding out I was pregnant, Logan's father left me (looooong story behind that and water under the bridge). Now battling the single mom, with no stable place to live and no job, I was in a panick. I didnt want to become another number in the welfare system but I needed the help. But here comes the up side to this: Not wanting to be another statistic and a welfare mom, I picked myself up off the ground, dusted off the kick marks and got back up. I realized my life was no longer my own and I needed to make a life for my son. Now I am in my 2nd yr of College, engaged to a WONDERFUL man who treats Logan and I like gold, and looking foreward to a future. If it wasnt for Logan, I wouldnt have anything and possibly still be on the road to destruction. Logan is my blessing in disguise and I wouldnt trade it for the world. He is an amazing child and I have so much love in my life and in my heart, I couldnt be happier. Children are amazing and I think God blesses those when the time is right. If children are meant to be in your life, no birth control or our powers can stop it :)

  4. Ashley.
    I really wanted to have a baby. I just woke up and felt the need. We'd talked about having our own kids and adopting kids. I didn't always want kids, bur as I got older I started loving children and needing them in my life.
    The other day I was holding Shira and looking at his hands. Someday those hands will help me down the stairs (I hope). I admit I have been struggling with the decision to have more kids or not. It is likely that I will have to have surgery with every baby just because of my bone structure. I love my son. I'm gonna keep him. But more? So when I was looking at Shira's hands I realized how tiny they are. If he is my last baby then I may nevergwt to hold little hands again. I will never get to nurse another baby. I am not sure why we decided to have Shira when we did. But I am so glad we did. Even with Ben being in school, and me working. And I loved being pregnant. That experience is a good enough was the birthing part that got spooky.

  5. Hey Em! I have many of the same conflicts... of course, as a single person, this is more of a hypothetical discussion with myself.
    What are Mike's thoughts about this? Is he thinking the same way you are?
    We should talk about this on our girls retreat, if we can ever get our act together! :)

  6. Thanks for sharing your story Brooke - that sounds like it was a pretty trying time! I like to look at the pictures you post of Logan - he's an absolute doll! I'm glad that things are going well for you now!

    Ash - oh, how I remember the time! ;o) It definitely seems like you and Ben have been able to work your schedules out well for child-raising activities! Sometimes when I'm around babies, it makes me really want to have one, but sometimes not. I had a fabulous time with Shi this last weekend, but while I was there I thought - on several occasions - "I really couldn't do this full time!" Which is one reason I suspect that auntie-hood might work out well for me! Do you think, now that you have your own biological child, you will adopt?

    Hi Kenz! Good to hear from you! It's interesting you asked what Michael's thoughts are - we talked about it some after he read my blog last night. He said he feels pretty similarly - most of the time when we talk about our future together, we talk about children but it's always something that's going to happen WAY in the future, the problem being, of course, that eventually WAY in the future stops being an option at some point, but neither of us see it happening in, I don't know, the next 5 years at the very least ... we keep waiting for the perfect time, but of course there is never going to be a perfect time! There will always be a reason not to have them, which is why I kind of doubt we ever will. I also tried to explain to him what the biological clock FEELS like (for lack of better terms, I'm sure most people know what I"m talking about though), how truly devastating and painful it can feel when you get that confirmation that you're not pregnant (even if you know you're absolutely not to begin with!) ... I mean, it's so confusing being really happy that you're not, but grieving that as well ... I don't know - does anyone else ever feel like this? Surely I can't be the only one!

  7. Really great blog entry!!!

    I stumbled across this web site promoting human extinction recently. ( And I know that sounds terrible, but they aren't in favor of genocide or anything like that -- they just want people to stop reproducing. While there may or may not be hope for humanity to get our act together and stop trashing the planet, the questions they asked about why people are motivated to have a kid really bothered me (see "reasons to breed." I had to conclude I had a child out of essentially selfish reasons. I love my child dearly nonetheless and have long had a strong desire to have another one, but I also believe that people can choose powerful and meaningful life experiences that have nothing to do with biological parenthood. In keeping with that thought, I also think you can be a parent of many things, such as an academic or career calling. And I think it's natural to doubt many major life choices, like the choice to have kids or not to have them. It's just really hard for parents like myself to admit that sometimes we think about that. David wishes we had waited longer to have kids, but obviously now it's a choice we can never undo. -Ann

  8. I have to leave another comment after reading some of the comments on here. It is a 50/50 thing as now I am engaged to a wonderful man who has stepped up to the plate and it an amazing father to my child. Granted Logan is not his own and there is the family battle that I should have another child with him. Mik does want a child of his own to pass on the family name. A proud thing for a man especially if it is a boy. I do find some people do this out of selfishness...and others out there such as me enjoy being a parent and raising a child into a society that is destructive and teaching the child the rights and wrongs, raising an upstanding citizen. I guess I take the positive side of having a child than the negative. Its a super touchy subject for a lot of people.
    Emily~ I feel everything happens for a reason. Some people are blessed with children and other due to life reasons arent. If God has his will, no amount of birth control and contraceptives will hold back the way of God. Live your life as you are and be happy and know that if it will be, it will be. Life is what you make of it. :) Oh and thank you for the compliment on Logan. He is my pride and joy!

  9. i don't have any babies, but man do i want them!! i'm that girl that answered the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" with "a mommy!" and now that i'm starting to grow up (or at least i like to think i am?) the want for mommy-ness is growing stronger everyday.

    oh. and. when the time comes, i better have a girl!

  10. Sorry I've been radio silent for a few days - studying for the GRE is taking pretty much all of my time!

    Ann - I've heard that of that group before, it's a pretty interesting concept. Can you imagine what would happen in the world if just one generation of people decided not have their OWN children, but rather adopted the children that are already born but have no families? This would have far reaching implications! Not only would it have major environmental impacts, but social ones as well! Wow! I think that would be absolutely amazing! Anyone else with me?!

    The biological imperative to have children is interesting - it really is a "need" kind of feeling, but like with anything else, one certainly doesn't have to give into it. I often feel the "need" for licorice and root beer, but don't give into it nearly as often as I would like - okay, not exactly the same thing I know, but the point is - yes, most people will at some point in their lives feel the "need" to have children. Why is this one need that we give into so quickly without really thinking about it? It's been my experience that most people who have kids (biological children) cannot give me one good reason for having children expect that they wanted to. Are there other reasons? Or am I looking at this the wrong way - is the biological imperative a good enough reason?

  11. I'm happily married but we're firmly on the fence with this question... luckily I don't feel as if I had to decide yet! On the one hand, I know I'd be a great mum, but on the other hand I like my life as it is now, and the freedom of being able to do as I like and go where I like. At the moment, I'm not ready to give that up. In the future? Possibly. It probably depends on where else my life takes me. I love the idea of adoption or fostering, because it breaks my heart that there are children who aren't loved.

  12. Emily - I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum. I KNOW I want children, but I'm just not sure when, or if, that's in the cards for me. Chalk it all up to one huge quarter-life crisis?! :)

    You might enjoy my blog:

    Best, Suzanne

  13. After reading all your comments on this subject I wondered if some of those posting even had children. I'm very much so with Brooke; if it's meant to be it will. And yet, at the same time, there is no shame in having a child. It's how you raise them that matters (or can bring you shame!).

    I knew I always wanted children; it's something that is taught to you when you're a Christian. God says to have a family and raise them "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." But it's not a sin if you don't either.

    My husband and I had to spend a long time apart shortly after marriage. Upon his return we talked about children. I LOVED how our little life was, we spent every moment together and did whatever we wanted and it was perfect. But my 'clock' was ticking and I was uber emotional. I didn't know if I could make the sacrifices necessarily for raising a child. Then it hit me... "What ARE the sacrifices, really?!"

    Good question... umm... getting up out of bed before you want to? Finding a baby-sitter if you want to date? Not dating 7 days a week, but maybe 1? Doing more laundry or house cleaning? How can we afford it? Mommy will have to work since daddy doesn't make enough! Not having children the sacrifices seem all about yourself. I can't do my hobbies, I have no alone time, blah blah blah... They are all selfish!

    Then I found out I was pregnant. My husband celebrated, and as bad as I wanted to, I felt really weird about it. Shocked that it was happening, and am I really ready?! After a month or so, I just gave in to it. And just enjoyed the amazing transformation.

    I loved pregnancy. I learned a lot about me and my husband even showed a different side of himself too. Birth sucks, seriously it does, but when you're holding this little being that formed in your womb, you don't care. You'd do it again even!

    All the sacrifices I thought that I'd have to make, all the giving up of my time with my husband... none of it matters. Most of it didn't leave anyways. Sometimes I wake up earlier than I want, but it's not a big deal. I do more laundry, change a lot of diapers, and have to get a baby-sitter to date. I even stopped working and we lost over half of our income, but somehow we're still making it! Things are tight, but I don't mind. And time with the hubby, it's even sweeter now. We're not 'alone' as much, but we make our time family time, and it so much more fulfilling! When my son looks at me and smiles or laughs, it reminds me how wonderful this is.

    I THOUGHT my life was PERFECT before. I truly did. How can perfect get better? Oh... it does. My life before was nothing compared to my life now. Even my husband is always telling me how happy he is, and how thankful he is. We remember our days of, 'can we do this?' and laugh, because it's not that hard! Most everything you need to do and be comes naturally. There are small hurdles to get over here and there, but family and friends are always nearby to lend a helping hand.

    I've learned a lot about myself through all of this. And I'm changing the bad to become a better person.

    Children? Oh yes. But you never are truly ready (mentally or financially), because you don't realize how ready you already are!