BY ALI DOWE
I’m a 32-year-old married lesbian. So is my wife. We have a decent household income, over four decades of combined education, and we like and love each other. We own our own home, car, and our student loans are (slowly) disappearing. We are INSANELY lucky. So please know that I realize how everything I’m about to say is a total first-world problem. But it’s a problem we’ve been wrestling with for years.
We can’t decide if we want kids.
I’m not passing judgment on anyone. Whether someone has 10 kids or remains child-free (rather than childless, which is an important distinction), I say you do what’s right for you. That seems to be an important theme in parenting: Do what makes sense for your family, for your happiness, for your sanity. The trouble I’m having is, I don’t know what’s right for us. And neither does my wife.
I’m a list-maker, pros and cons. I revisit my mental Should We Have A Baby?! pros and cons list daily. I see an adorable child playing in a park, and I mentally scribble in the pros column, Kids are adorable, and you like adorable things. But then I see a haggard mom dragging a screaming child from the grocery store, and I press in big block imaginary letters, OMG, KIDS ARE INSANE, DON’T DO IT.
It goes back and forth thusly, both columns filling up until I don’t know what to do. I scratch it all out and start again, thinking, this time, I will have clarity.
I blame hormones for a lot of my indecision. Sometimes I think my body is trying to trick my mind into wanting a kid like some sort of demented Austenian narrator, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a 30-something woman in possession of a not-zero amount of fortune, must be in want of a baby.” Shut up, body! Let the brains do the thinking…
Except sometimes my brain wants a baby, too.
SO, SHOULD WE HAVE A BABY?
Maybe this would be a good time to share with you some of the reasons for not wanting a kid that frequently appear on my mental cons list.
- Kids are expensive, and I just got to a place where I have some money. And I like my money.
- Kids are loud and chaotic and take forever to put their shoes on. I struggle a lot with anxiety, and there are days when even my boring, typical, adult life is overwhelming. People without anxiety issues might think this sounds weird or like a cop-out, but I promise you, it’s very real and very hard. Kids don’t seem like they would make my anxieties any better.
- Kids require constant attention. And you always have to do kid-friendly activities. What if I wanted to sleep until 10 am on a Saturday and then go see a gory horror movie? Not that I do those things now, but I like having the freedom to do them if I want to.
- A lot of people with kids seem to dislike having kids. I know, I know, sacrilege! But I’ve read so many studies that say that people with kids are less happy and less satisfied in their marriages than people without children. And many of my friends with kids go on about how stressed and tired they are, how they never have a moment to themselves. I know for them it’s balanced out with that wonderful, unconditional love they feel for their children, but since I don’t feel that love, I tend to focus on the stress and exhaustion.
- Having kids is hard work, and I’m lazy and selfish. Yeah, I said it. Being a good parent is one of the toughest jobs out there, and I’m not so sure I’m up to the task. I’m afraid I’d be resentful.
- I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in my life. Some people feel like kids have always been a key part of their lives, even before they had them. I am not one of those people.
- I don’t have any sperm. Didn’t expect that one, did you? Remember when I said I was a lesbian and so is my wife? Lesbians don’t make sperm. The prospective of getting pregnant is expensive, complicated, and, for us, emotionally draining. But that’s a blog post in itself.
This is why I say that my body might be trying to trick my brain. I never wanted kids, but then BOOM, the thought entered my brain one day, and it got stuck.
My “should we have a baby” pros list is shorter… it always is. But I think it’s cleaner.
- Children are little miracles who are born knowing NOTHING. I’d get to teach someone everything about being a person. This is very appealing to the know-it-all in me. I think of watching my best friend feeding one of her babies mango for the first time and how her little one’s eyes got wide as she opened and closed her mouth slowly, experiencing the new flavor. I remember her amazement, her sparkling eyes, her slow smile. I want that. I want to share that with someone.
- My mom is one of my best friends. And her mom was one of her best friends. I want that too. And I want someone who will take care of me when I’m old. Sure, there’s no guarantee your kid will take care of you, but that’s where guilt comes in! And I come from a long line of professional guilt-trippers.
- I think I could be a good mom. Maybe you don’t think so based on this post. But I think I have qualities that lend themselves to motherhood. And my wife would be an amazing mother. Definitely far better than me.
- I’m afraid if I don’t, I will regret it. We still have a couple of years left, but time is not a renewable resource. And I don’t want to miss my chance.
Reading this back, I sound so selfish. I even admitted it above! But I think this is one decision where it’s okay to be selfish because once you go down that path to have a kid, it’s got to be all about that kid. Putting your kids’ needs above your own. That’s how I was raised, and that’s the kind of mom I’d want to be. I just don’t know if it’s the kind of mom I’m capable of being.
Maybe the answer seems obvious to you having read this. If so, please tell me in the comments. I’m all ears.
Already made the choice to have kids? Find out what surprised moms most about having a baby.
Ali is a writer for a nonprofit in Chicago. She and her wife recently moved to the suburbs with their cats (Kevin and Steve), where Ali has learned the art of lawn mowing and snow removal. She doesn’t have her own blog because she would always forget to update it.